Yi Sun-Sin. Pretty much all of this guy’s life was an epic twist. He joined the Korean military back in the 1500s when they were being invaded by Japan. He became a top commander and helped save his nation from being conquered by the Japanese. Then his jealous rivals had him framed, tortured, and imprisoned. When he was released from prison he re-enlisted in the military at the lowest rank, then was promoted all the way back up to commander and once again saved his nation from defeat against impossible odds.
Napoleon escaping Elba and sweeping back into brief power only to meet his Waterloo was a nice series of twists and turns.
3. “Oh shit”
It’s definitely Darius the Great’s ascension to the throne of Persia. Basically, he was caught literally red handed standing over his dead predecessor with a knife.
“Oh shit,” thought Darius.
“Oh shit!” said the magi. “Call the guards, this guy just murdered the emperor!”
“Whoa whoa guys, listen,” interrupted Darius. “I know what this looks like, but it’s not what it looks like. Not only did I NOT kill the emperor, but I can tell you who DID kill him. It was this dead motherfucker right here, who I realize looks quite a bit like the emperor but what you need to understand here is that he was actually a shape shifting wizard, right? So he killed the king and pod-peopled his way to the throne, and all you guys are just lucky that you had someone like me here to avenge the rightful ruler, who I totally miss dearly.”
The magi consulted, and with a chorus of “why would someone lie about something like that?” They unanimously decided to raise Darius the wizard slayer to the throne of Persia.
Squanto (or Tisquantum) was captured by early explorers around 1590 and taken to Europe as a slave. He escaped and spent the next 20 years or so earning enough money to get passage back to the New World.
When he finally gets back to his home village he finds that just about every single American Indian on the East Coast has either died of disease or fled west. His village is abandoned.
He lives a pretty solitary life for a year or so until he comes across these starving Englishmen trying to make a colony in Plymouth. Since Squanto can speak English he is able to help the Pilgrims and shows them how to grow native crops in his family’s abandoned fields.
The odds of a struggling colony landing in an almost completely depopulated land (disease ravaged just 2 years before landing) and also finding a Native who speaks English… astronomical.
During the 14th century, cats were killed en masse due to the belief that cats were in league with the devil and the cause of the Black Death. If the cats had remained alive to keep rodent populations down (the hosts of the fleas that were the actual cause), the plague would have had much less of an impact.
On June 28th, 1914, Gavrilo Princip’s group “The Black Hand” fucked up the first time when it came time to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His colleague was to throw a grenade under the carriage as the Archduke and his wife passed over. The grenade delayed and blew up as the next car came by. He panicked, swallowed a cyanide pill, and jumped in a nearby river. Except the cyanide pill just made him vomit, and the river was 6″ deep, so he was caught pretty easily.
Gavrilo Princip was pretty damn dejected and went to get some food at a local restaurant at this time. After the assassination attempt, Archduke Franz Ferdinand told his driver to head to the hospital where he and his wife could visit those injured from the failed plot on his life. Cars hadn’t been around for too long, so when the driver got lost and tried to reverse the car, it stalled…right in front of the restaurant where Princip was finishing lunch. He walked outside, saw the Archduke standing there, and fired into his neck.
The most revolutionary event of the 20th century was a do-over.
When King Louis XVI suggested the guillotine be triangular shaped, then the people used it to kill him.
Attila the Hun turning back from his conquests after talking with Pope Leo I.
After the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 the Germans proclaimed the birth of the German nation in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, the former palace of French kings, to humiliate the French.
Who would have thought that 40 years later in 1919 Germany would find itself back in that very same room signing the Treaty of Versailles?
Germany and France have a long history of humiliating each other by signing treaties in important locations.
After World War 1, France dictated the terms of armistice to the Germans. A mere 20 years later, after Germany had just got done with powering through the french in 6 weeks, Hitler set up a meeting in the same train car, in the exact same place as the armistice was signed after World War I. Except this time, he was making the terms for the armistice to the French.
And, even better, a few years later the Germans blew the train up while retreating so they wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of signing another armistice in the exact same train car.
At the start of the Cold War, Henry Murray developed a personality profiling test to crack soviet spies with psychological warfare and select which US spies are ready to be sent out into the field. As part of Project MKUltra, he began experimenting on Harvard sophomores. He set one student as the control, after he proved to be a completely predictable conformist, and named him “Lawful”.
Long story short, the latter half of the experiment involved having the student prepare an essay on his core beliefs as a person for a friendly debate. Instead, Murray had an aggressive interrogator come in and basically tear his beliefs to pieces, mocking everything he stood for, and systematically picking apart every line in the essay to see what it took to get him to react. But he didn’t, it just broke him, made him into a mess of a person and left him having to pull his whole life back together again. He graduated, but then turned in his degree only a couple years later, and moved to the woods where he lived for decades.
In all that time, he kept writing his essay. And slowly, he became so sure of his beliefs, so convinced that they were right, that he thought that if the nation didn’t read it, we would be irreparably lost as a society. So, he set out to make sure that everyone heard what he had to say, and sure enough, Lawful’s “Industrial Society and its Future” has become one of the most well known essays written in the last century. In fact, you’ve probably read some of it. Although, you probably know it better as The Unabomber Manifesto.
12. What a prick
There was a samurai in Japan, circa 1600(?), named Miyamoto Musashi, who was frequently late to his duels. He was very skilled and world renowned as one of the most talented samurai to have ever lived.
One day, he decided to challenge the leader of the Yoshioka School, Seijuro to a duel. Seijuro agreed, and as always, Musashi came late. He struck Seijuro with a single blow, crippling his arm and knocking him out. Seijuro decided to pass ownership of the school down to Denshichirō, who immediately challenged Musashi back for revenge. Again, Musashi arrived late, disarmed and promptly defeated Denshichirō.
Here is where the plot twist comes in to play. The head of the Yoshioka school is now the 12-year-old son of Denshichirō, Matashichiro. He (and his entire force of archers, musketeers, and swordsman) challenged Musashi to a final duel. Musashi decides that this time he is to arrive EARLY and hide nearby! Fantastic! So when Matashichiro and his army come marching by to the place where the duel is to occur, expecting a tardy Musashi as always. He springs from his hiding spot, and runs to Matashichiro, completely demolishing this 12 year old kid. He then escapes from the force by drawing his second sword.
The treaty of Versailles. Ends the the worst war known to man at the time, but sparks a Second World War, set up the modern day boundaries of the Middle East with no cultural considerations, and Woodrow Wilson denied Vietnam self-determination from France in order to get the treaty passed, eventually sparking the Vietnam war. The treaty that was supposed to end all wars, sparked many of the current problems today.
14. Fooled ya!
The English fought off a Viking invasion only to be invaded from the South by Normandy.
Plot twist: Normandy was under the rule of the descendants of vikings. So the vikings still conquered them.
This Maginot Line is impenetrable, there’s no way the Germans would go through the Ardennes…
That all the gold that the Spanish claimed ended up wreaking havoc on their economy and contributed to their decline as an empire.
17. Entering phase 2
Battle of Stalingrad. “Think we’re out of people and ammo? SURPRISE, BITCHES! We have yo ass surrounded with hidden tanks and artillery, and we gon’ raze this place down!”
The excellent BBC Documentary 20th Century Battlefields actually portrays this epic battle in a very informative way.
Everything is going great for the european nobles when suddenly, Black Plague.
A man who was seriously considered to be the future leader of MI-6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) during the cold war with the Soviet Union was actually a highly effective spy for the USSR. If one of his mentally unstable friends hadn’t defected to the USSR, casting suspicion on him, he may have become head of MI-6. Name was Kim Philby, and he eventually defected to the USSR.
Another one of his friends from uni ended up as the royal art curator for the Queen, and was highly respected in academic circles for art analysis and he too was a highly placed spy. This was kept under wraps until Thatcher “outed” him in the early 80s.
Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, gets killed by a stingray.
Blockbuster opened their first store in 1985. A news article in a well-read financial magazine questioned Blockbuster’s business concept and saying there was no future in that business. By 1993, Blockbuster became a multi-billion dollar industry. At its peak, Blockbuster had up to 60,000 employees and more than 9,000 stores.
In 2000, a man frustrated with having to pay Blockbuster’s expensive late fees thought of an alternative to the video rental system and created Netflix. He approached Blockbuster to sell his company to them for $50 million. However Blockbuster denied the offer saying that there was no future in that business.
As of 2012, Netflix’s revenue is $3.61 billion with an operating income of $50 million. Earlier this month, Netflix expressed plans to premiere movies on the same day it opening in theaters. Meanwhile, Blockbuster is out of business.
The last movie rented from Blockbuster was, appropriately enough, “This is the End”. There has been no confirmation of whether the rental has been returned or if late fees will apply.
22. Trojans indeed
Greeks giving the city of Troy a pretty wooden horse that was secretly full of armored warriors.
People dreamed that the internet would be a tool for world wide knowledge, informed discussion, and communication. However, it actually developed into a sophisticated pornography delivery system.
I think one of the greatest plot-twists (sadly) was the response by foreign countries to the Rwandan Genocide.
50 years after the Holocaust, and The Nuremberg Trials, you have countries swearing off in the UN, publicly that nothing this atrocious would ever happen again, and in 1994, governments just bailed on Rwanda.
If you haven’t watch The Ghosts of Rwanda.
I think the single most bone-chilling thing is the UN peace keepers had to stand there, not allowed to use weapons and seeing people massacred on the streets and can only pacify with their hands and voices.
It’s the concept that literally the planes out are only flying foreign citizens, and locals being slammed the gates on while the murdering frenzy is going on.
In World War 2 (for the Nazis at least), they were so sure that the Allies were going to attack Calais, and that Normandy was a decoy. Then Normandy gets bombarded, and Hitler was like oh fuck they outplayed us.
When Jimmy Kimmel revealed that he was behind the twerk fail video.
Banks that got rich orchestrating a GFC that stole billions of dollars from the general population were bailed out using tax money from the general population.