The Wise Men of Gotham, 13th Century
It is difficult to determine the veracity of tales from such historical, murky depths as 13th Century England yet there’s likely truth to a tale which first surfaced mentioning Gotham village’s ‘foles’ (fools) or later ‘wise men’. The villagers gained this sobriquet by displaying such cunning they warded off the attentions of the most powerful man in the land.
The story goes that King John I wanted to pass through the village and have a royal highway established in his wake, or that he wanted to build a lodge nearby - both needing the locals to contribute for its upkeep. Faced with a stark choice between increasing their financial burdens or defying the king’s will, they took a third route; to dupe the King and his henchmen into believing they were a village of fools, or rather, infected with insanity. It was common belief at the time that madness was contagious so the notion of a village populated by lunatics was perfectly feasible.
So, on the day a royal herald turned up at Gotham’s bucolic locale in advance of the king, Gotham was ready for him. Wherever the man went, he saw the rustics engaged in some absurd task. He first came upon some villagers embroiled in trying to drown an eel in a pool of water. Bewildered, he then observed others dragging carts to a large barn to shade the wood from the sun. His unease heightened as he then came across others tumbling their cheeses down a hill, that they might find their way to Nottingham for sale.
The king’s man recoiled at being in the midst of such imbeciles and the last straw came; he watched as villagers hedged in a cuckoo which had perched on an old bush: ‘The Cuckoo, as soone as she perciued her selfe incompassed within the hedge, flew away. “A vengeance on her!” said they “We made not our hedge high enough”’.
The king’s official withdrew. He reported that the settlement was brimming with lunacy and to avoid it like the plague, and so the ruse worked. “There are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it.” Gotham’s ‘Wise Men’ boasted triumphantly. The later Merrie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham, inspired 18th Century American writer Washington Irving to label New York ‘Gotham’ and further gets referenced in the Batman comic book series.
Ancient Law Causes Queen to Drown, 1880
The protocol around royalty which governs how they interact with commoners is usually ancient, rigid and ensures royal family members’ inviolability. On one occasion however it caused an entirely avoidable tragedy for the Chakri royal dynasty of Siam, modern day Thailand.
Queen Sunanda Kumariratana was just 19 years old when she travelled to see the newly built and bountiful Bang Pa-In palace be opened by her husband and King — Rama V., but reaching the palace required crossing the Chao Phraya River. She made her way down to the water’s edge.
Squawks and cries of life rang out sporadically in the thick heat that beat down in the surrounding jungle, and dangerous currents whooshed and sploshed water downstream after heavy rains. A boat was waiting to ferry the vulnerable young queen, her two year old little princess and unborn child to the other side. The boat would be towed in turn by a larger one which would ferry the queen’s retinue.
What should’ve been a joyous day for the King and his family was struck by tragedy; as the boat was hauled across the strong current, it capsized. The Queen and two year old infant daughter were dumped in the river and flailed their arms as they attempted to stop from sinking under.
Her entourage, horrified and aghast, failed to act however. A no contact rule in the Kingdom of Siam forbade any commoner from touching royal family members under any circumstances and under pain of immediate death. So, with no rope, the head guard felt he could do nothing except look on as the queen slowly drowned.
For this absurd episode, the King imprisoned the guard who did nothing to rescue the favourite of his three queen consorts, yet the poor servant was guilty of merely scrupulously sticking to the laws of his king.
Death Row Escapee Can’t Outrun Grim Reaper, 1980
Such is the antisocial, troublesome character of some people you meet that you just know they’re destined to be either dead or in prison by the time they reach their fortieth birthday, and so was the case for a man named Troy Leon Gregg - despite his best efforts otherwise.
Convicted of murdering two men whom he had hitched a ride with in order to rob them, Gregg was clearly a nasty piece of work. For that he’d become the first man to end a de facto moratorium on the death penalty imposed four years prior. Four years later on death row and it was 1980 and his long awaited date with the Grim Reaper was looming imminently, yet Gregg had plans to give him the slip and make a flight for freedom.
On the eve of his execution date Gregg, with three other condemned murderers, sawed through their cell bars, walked along a ledge to a fire escape and, after altering their prison clothing to resemble correctional officer uniforms, left in a car parked in the visitors’ parking lot by one of their aunts. Success! Gregg and his companions pulled off the first death row breakout in Georgia’s history.
Yet Gregg just couldn’t keep his nose out of trouble. He wound up that night roughhousing it at some biker bar and getting hammered. He started harassing a waitress and hit her when she turned down his advances. One biker didn’t like what he saw and this guy was the kind of bad-ass, greasy biker who didn’t screw around; Gregg was beaten to death. A number of patrons then helped dump his body in the lake round back. So, the grim reaper caught up with Gregg regardless. The other escapees were recaptured three days later.
Waitress Sues after Winning Toy Yoda, 2001
How would you feel to be told by your boss that you had won a Toyota, yet then get handed a little green figurine, that is a toy Yoda? This couldn’t happen in the UK but, due to America’s rhotic pronunciation, -ota and -oda sound almost alike. Jodee Berry was absolutely furious.
A ‘brand new Toyota’ was promised for whichever server won a beer sales competition. So when Jodee Berry came out top she was thrilled with anticipation as her boss blindfolded her and led her out to the parking lot. Then, to the whoops and cackling from her colleagues, she removed her blindfold and was presented with a boxed toy Yoda figurine. It was a prank; whilst her boss laughed it up, Berry was humiliated and she wasn’t going to stand for it.
The restaurant’s manager said the whole contest was an April Fools’ joke, yet it backfired on him when Berry quit the restaurant to file a lawsuit. She took Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., the restaurant’s corporate owner, to court alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. She won; her attorney said he could not disclose the settlement’s details, although she now had enough money to go to a local car dealership and “pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants.”
Police Officer Rampage Smashes Dozens of Cars, 2016
Prague’s Vinohrady neighbourhood, Cz Rep: One Spring afternoon, above the gentle hubbub of city life, a loud noise broke the city’s normal calm indicating the chaos which had broken out in some quarter near; the blare of dozens of blaring car alarms echoed down Vinohrady’s elegant, tree-lined avenues of fine, old, Austro-Hungarian terraces. The distant wail of sirens soon chimed in.
On Šumavská street a drunk and dishevelled out-of-uniform police instructor named Karel Kadlec was handcuffed and led away from the trail of carnage he’d just caused which disgraced his name and dealt a serious dent to his career in the process.
Wrecked automobiles on both sides of the street lay at odd angles and glass and bits of vehicle body parts littered the road; Kadlec had gotten boozed up and careered his SUV down the street, smashing and ramming as he went, to damage a total 51 vehicles. He caused over 2,000,000Kč (£70,000) worth of damage but thankfully no casualties.
So what caused this cop to go haywire? Shamefully enough, he was actually on leave at the time due to a drink-driving accident the previous year, and on that occasion he was caught driving without insurance too. Kadlek had told reporters after that: “This is something I’d never like to experience again.” Just months later however he realised his career was about to come to an ignominious end and he wanted to go out with a bang.