People Share Epic Tales Of Plans Backfiring Spectacularly
Most disasters can be averted with a well-thought-out plan. However, not all plans are foolproof—sometimes, life throws a curveball so powerful that there’s really no escaping a less-than-optimal fate. Here are some epic tales of plans backfiring spectacularly, submitted by people from around the world:
#1 Get Rid Of The Cobras
When the British government wanted to get rid of the cobras in India, and they started paying a bounty for every dead cobra, which caused people to begin to breed cobras in order to end them and get the money. When the British realized this, they stopped the bounty, so the backyard cobra breeders just released them all.
#2 Defying The Pope
While Henry VIII was having his “Great Matter” and trying to divorce his first wife, the position of Bishop of Canterbury became open. At the time Rome was extremely concerned about what Henry was going to do and about how angry he had become. As a last-ditch effort to appease Henry, the Pope appointed Thomas Cranmer, a rumored Protestant, to the position.
Thomas Cranmer immediately defied the Pope, divorced Henry from his first wife, and acknowledged his marriage to Anne Boleyn. When the Pope was angered by these actions and tried to retaliate, Cranmer responded by separating England from the Papacy and creating the Church of England.
#3 Failed Intimidation Tactics
The Shah of Khwarezmia ended diplomats from Genghis Khan as an attempt to intimidate him into staying away. This led to his massive empire being invaded and completely absorbed into the Mongol Empire over a period of two years. On the other hand, any diplomat you sent to Khan was guaranteed absolute protection. He was a big believer of diplomatic immunity.
#4 A Bad Call
Microsoft had plans to make the Xbox One be online at all times and could not play used games. PlayStation mocked this at E3 and Microsoft reverted the changes ASAP. I was an Xbox 360 kid and when I was looking at getting a new console, this dumb decision by Xbox changed my mind. I ended up getting a PS4 instead.
#5 Disturbing The Food Chain
One of the initiatives of the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” in the 1960s was to end all sparrows in order to keep them from eating crops, thereby theoretically increasing food production. What the Chinese failed to consider was that the sparrows had previously kept the insect population in check, which when left with no primary predators, promptly ruined or consumed all or most of the crops, leading to a massive famine. The Great Leap Forward is full of other blunders like this, such as forcing most of the population to construct primitive iron forges in their backyards that had a tendency to explode.
#6 It’s Raining Money
Walker’s Crisps in the UK (similar to Lays) ran a promotion where for every packet of crisps you buy, you can go on a website and predict where it will rain in the UK at a given time. They split the UK into 21,000 individual squares and you just had to pick one… If 1 mm of rain fell there in three hours, you’d win £10. You can guess what happened next.
#7 Thwarted By Grandma
This one time when I was a kid, I was wrestling with my little brother and accidentally used him to make a hole in the wall about two feet in diameter. We tried to cover it up with duct tape, then a framed picture of two puppies and a note saying, “Please don’t take this painting down. We like it here,” right above it with an arrow pointing down at it. It worked for about two or three months until my freaking grandma decided she wanted to put a different picture up or something like that.
#8 Unwanted Attention
When Barbra Streisand wanted to suppress photos of her Malibu mansion but instead drew so much attention for the $50-million lawsuit against the photographer (who was documenting coastline erosion in California) that the photo was downloaded over 400,000 times compared to the six times it was downloaded before the lawsuit. Spectacular failure!
#9 Remembering Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor. The Japanese wanted to make sure the American Navy would not be able to challenge them in the Pacific when they inevitably got involved in WWII, but they failed to damage the American carriers, damaged but didn’t destroy most of the battleships in port, and left the dry docks intact so that the damaged ships could be repaired in Hawaii instead of being towed back to the mainland. So not only was the US able to fight in the Pacific, they were able to do it very soon after Pearl Harbor.
#10 An Almost Grave Mistake
It was a hot summer day. I was four years old and thought it would be a great idea to hide in the trunk of the car out front and scare people who were walking down the street, fully expecting them to run away in fear. I opened the trunk from the outside, climbed in, and shut it.
I quickly realized it didn’t just push open. It was pitch black in the trunk and back then, I don’t think they opened from the inside anyway. It was quickly getting harder to breathe, so I relied on prying at the rubber sealing of the trunk to breathe sips of fresh air. Frantically, I searched in the dark for a way to get out but resorted to pounding on the roof of the trunk. It was so unbearably hot that I couldn’t keep it up.
I don’t know how much time passed… it may have been as little as fifteen minutes to up to an hour while my mom searched inside before she ran outside looking for me, calling my name up and down the street. I heard her crossing within feet of me and I simply screamed as loud I could to get her attention. My mom said she heard a whimper from the trunk and ran to open it. There I was, as red as a tomato, on the verge of overheating to death.
I remember getting a cold bath after being brought inside and being scolded for going outside. My mom was crying while doing so. I knew I’d done a really bad thing and promised never to play in trunks of cars again.
#11 The Rest Is History
The Reichswehr trying to spy on the German Workers’ Party, which the state saw as an extremist danger they wanted to keep an eye on, undermine, and preferably eliminate. They assigned the task to a 30-year old WWI veteran, Adolf, who was actually ordered to join the party by his commanding officer. Well, the party took a liking to young Adolf, and the rest is history. Oops.
#12 The Gallipoli Campaign
The Gallipoli Campaign. The goal was to open the Bosphorus Straits for the Allies so they could supply Russia and maybe knock the Ottomans out of the war, and get Greece to join on the Allies’ side. End result: 302.000 out of 489.000 Allied casualties and Winston Churchill leaving politics (not definitively, off course).
#13 Practically Absent
The Theresa May snap election. That was pure incompetence, she would have won by a massive margin had she not announced all the policies that would be unpopular while the election was ongoing. I mean… she spoke to the public less than pretty much anyone ever. Her not appearing was very unpopular. Every appearance was very unpopular. I think she would have done better if she’d said yes.
#14 Ticking Warscore
Denmark declaring war on Sweden in the 1650s. Basically, the Swedish king Charles X was tied up fighting in Poland declared war. Instead of returning home to Sweden, Charles X had his army of 6000 do a forced march from Poland to Jutland (the Danish mainland). They sieged the fortress of Fredriksodde for two months before storming it and then seized all their army supplies to restock.
By the time Jutland was under control, winter had come, freezing the sea around Denmark and southern Sweden. Thus, on January 30th, Charles X marched his army of 9000 cavalry and 3000 infantry across the ice to Funen island: “The ice warped under the weight of the soldiers; on occasions, water reached up to the men’s knees. Close to the shore of Funen, a skirmish broke out with about 3,000 Danish defenders, but these were brushed aside quickly and the army was safe on Funen.”
Three more crossings took them to Zealand via Langeland and Lolland, and by February 15th, the Swedish army reached Copenhagen from the west, forcing a surrender and the Treaty of Roskilde, in which Denmark lost a third of their territory to Sweden, along with other concessions.
#15 The Two-Year Detour
I was 17 years old at the time and was about to finish up my two-year welding apprenticeship and get my first full-time employment contract. But the company I worked for had just hired a new CEO that decided to put new company policies in effect.
One of the new policies was to only employ people with at least gymnasium level education, which I don’t have since I started my apprenticeship at 15 years old straight out of high school. Anyway, he arranged a three-year apprenticeship gymnasium course for me and told me I either do it or get out. The two-year apprenticeship I did was just thrown out the window. I had no choice, had to start over.
So my plan to get a five-year headstart in my career turned into a two-year detour in a matter of minutes. I have never in my life been saltier. It was a bit fun to be the only kid in class with a welders license on the first day of school.
#16 Don’t Mess With Nature
For all those HAARP conspiracists and those who think we fly in storms and make them worse: I give you Project Stormfury. The government tried to seed hurricanes to make the eye spread out (weakening the winds around it due to angular momentum conservation) and eventually collapse the eyewall (where the strongest winds are). Then the eyewall reformed and contracted back. They found out hurricanes “replace” the eyewall structure on their own, and usually, if they have time over water, one replacement weakens the storm temporarily and can later become even stronger!
#17 Custer’s Last Stand
“Custer’s last stand.” The defeat of Colonel George A. Custer and his cavalry detachment by a large force of Native Americans at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Five of the Seventh Cavalry’s 12 companies were annihilated and Custer was eliminated, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law, among others.
#18 The Trump Effect
The Trump media circus and not taking his campaign seriously in the 2016 election… And in hand, The Clinton campaigns “pied piper” strategy of promoting Trump because he would be easier to beat in the general. These contributed to one of the biggest mess-ups in history. The media took him literally, but not seriously. His supporters took him seriously, but not literally. Not my formulation, but very succinct.
#19 The Daylight Savings Debacle
Where I live, we have never done daylight savings. The President at the time thought it’d be a bright idea to implement this all of a sudden to copy the USA. For a whole week, the country was havoc. People got late to work some even arrived hours later with the excuse that they thought it was a different time of day. Businesses had a lot of employees missing, traffic was a nightmare because every single person was out to go to work, school or college. It was also a mess to re-adjust sleeping schedules. Needless to say, it only lasted a week until it was reverted back.
#20 Prohibition Fail
Prohibition is probably the best example in US history. It not only creating networks of gangs and smugglers across the nation but it also ended hundreds of thousands of bottling and shipping jobs that could have cushioned the impact of the Great Depression… not to mention exposed the corruption of both local and federal law enforcement.
#21 A Company’s Downfall
I worked for a small marketing company for a year or so. Great job. We mostly consulted with a large amount of small regional businesses. Steady profits, meaningful work. One of the owners quit because of differences with the other owner (and a speculated affair with him). He decided to completely turn the company into something different.
Started courting big national companies. We started losing our reliable customers left and right. Within a year, he had to lay off all but four employees (I was laid off too). Within another two months, they were working at his house. Within a month, the company was no more.
#22 The Law of HIPAA
The original intent of HIPAA was to ease the sharing of healthcare information (the “Portability” part) as well as establishing standards (the “Accountability” part) for that sharing. The effect of the law was to make it nigh on freaking impossible to share healthcare information. It’s also shorthand for Vogons who refuse to help with anything in healthcare.
#23 WWII Bats
During WWII bats were briefly considered as a delivery method for incendiaries. You drop them out of a plane and they naturally seek out dark places like attics, then you detonate their firebomb backpacks and burn down the highly-flammable Japanese buildings. Unfortunately, during a trial run of the system one flew into a military officer’s car and that little campfire was the end of the bat project.
#24 Fueling American Outrage
In 1917, German Foreign Secretary Zimmerman sent a telegram instructing the German ambassador to Mexico to propose a German-Mexican alliance in case of war with the US, and the promise that Germany will fund the Mexican invasion into the US and help them to retake Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
This plan was designed to pre-occupy the US with a local threat to prevent them from intervening in the European theater in World War I. This telegram was intercepted by British intelligence and then given to American officials. The US declared war on Germany four days later. This telegram disturbed a war-leery American public that did not want to get involved in European affairs and fueled American outrage and support for US entry into WWI. This had the complete opposite effect than what was initially desired.
#25 Jellyfish Bloom
A place called Monte Hermoso in Argentina has a beach with a substantial jellyfish population. The military thought it would be a good idea to set some explosives underwater to get rid of them. They went ahead with the plan and explosions happened for a few days. This specific type of jellyfish is multicellular, meaning that the that didn’t die actually multiplied. It took many years until people could bathe there again.
#26 Still A Mess
Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was supposed to be a quick campaign that overthrew Saddam Husain and established a western lovin’ democracy in Iraq within a relatively quick amount of time. The US didn’t do its homework on the region and just thought everyone would love us and get along together great once Saddam was gone. Well, 15 years later, after sectarian violence between Shia and Sunnis, and then Kurds, and then the ISIS, the country is still a mess.
#27 Crazy Or Smart?
Netflix tried to break up its streaming and DVD rental services into two entities. They genuinely tried to convince customers how it was going to be more convenient for them. Keep in mind that this wasn’t some whiteboard idea that never left internal memos. This wasn’t some crazy suggestion-box note that someone left anonymously and the CEO trashed. They actually developed and released the plans to the public.
#28 The Demise Of Blockbuster
Blockbuster not acquiring or buying Netflix. They laughed at Netflix. Look at where Netflix is now and look at where Blockbuster is now. Then again, at the time, Netflix was just a mail DVD service, so it wasn’t like Blockbuster gave up the chance to buy 2018’s Netflix. The real blunder was partnering with Enron to do the mail order service or the streaming service, I don’t remember which.
#29 All For A Video Game
Sixth grade. I was not a sportsman. So I hatched this plan: Join the basketball team at school, get cut from the team and use my parent’s sympathy to score a copy of Chrono Trigger. Unbeknownst to me, this was the year they spun up a junior varsity team, leaving me the only sixth grader on the third-grade team. Not my best moment.
#30 Unintended Panic
The 2007 Boston Mooninite panic. Adult Swim hid a bunch of LED placards around Boston to promote the ATHF movie that was coming out. Except, they didn’t tell anyone. People thought they were bombs and the city freaked out.
#31 Forever Depressed
While attempting to break out of depression, I visited some old college friends. I talked to this girl for two hours and it was nice to reconnect with a human. But I knew I was way too messed up to drag someone else down with my major depressive disorder. I left without getting her number despite knowing I would have it if I asked. A friend who used to have a crush on her gave her my number and now I have a wife… But I still have depression.
#32 The Zebra Mussel Problem
This water looks muddy… We should introduce a non-native species of marine life to filter it out and make our rivers and lakes crystal clear. Years later: This crystal clear water sure does let a lot of sunlight through, now the water is loaded with algae and seaweed. Also, if you wade barefoot, your feet will get cut up by this non-native species of zebra mussels.
#33 Fossil Hunting
I’m light on the details but there was an archeologist in Africa searching for remains of early humans. He paid local villagers a flat sum for every bone fossil or fossil fragment they brought him. This meant that whenever a villager found an entire bone or larger piece they would smash it to bits in order to collect more money.
#34 The Hillary Campaign
Hillary Clinton and her band of genius campaign advisors actively promoting the biggest buffoon in the Republican Party, Donald Trump, to ensure they could run against him. Their logic, however, was solid: only the worst politician in America could lose to Donald Trump.
#35 A Horrible Result
The agreement between France and Great Britain to partition the Middle East and break their promise to the Arabs after WWI, which lead to the complete mess that the Middle East has been since.
#36 Napoleon’s Return
After being defeated in the coalition by a bunch of other European countries, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba. Later, he lands back in France and the new French government sends an army to capture him. When the army arrives, they basically immediately defected to Napoleon, giving him an army for free effectively. That said, there’s a reason his return is called “The Hundred Days” and his return was quite short-lived.
#37 Bad Aim
The first assassination attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A man by the name of Nedeljko Čabrinović threw a bomb at the Archduke’s car but forgot to account for the bomb’s 10-second delay. The bomb bounced off the car and injured some civilians. As the motorcade sped off, he attempted to end himself by jumping into the river. Little did he know, the river was running low. He was then detained by police and later executed.
#38 Daredevil Antics
When I was a kid, I would do 180s with my mountain bike by squeezing the rear wheel’s brake and whipping around. I thought one day that I’d do a 360. I squeezed both breaks at the same time. It did not work.
#39 Up Against The Romans
The Battle of Watling Street. An army of 320,000 Celts attacked 10000 Roman troops. The Romans ended up completely slaughtering the British, eliminating 80,000 of them while only losing 400 men themselves (the source of the number of casualties is not to be trusted 100% though).
#40 Cat Catastrophe
My cat was heaving and about to throw up. I tried to pick her up and move her two feet off the carpet and onto the bathroom tile floor. Instead, she bolted, leaving a long trail of puke down the hallway and the entire length of the stairs. It was disgusting but it was also one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen.
#41 No Instant Miracles
I was 13 years old and was interested in politics in the post-Watergate era. President Ford interrupted all the network TV channels to do a speech (very common in the day). Apparently, inflation was pretty high and he’d come up with a plan called “Whip Inflation Now.” He displayed three-inch pin-on buttons on the air that said, “WIN” that all of the Congressmen were supposed to wear. The Democratic Senate leader and most of the Congressmen had their pins on, but they were upside-down: “NIM.” It stood for “No Instant Miracles.” I never heard of the plan again after that night.
#42 The Ineffective Ploy
Britain and France colluding with Israel to invade Egypt in 1956. The US President Eisenhower threatened Britain with making the pound sterling a worthless currency over their cocked up involvement pretty much destroying what little global and colonial aspirations the Brits thought they still had.
#43 A Grave Underestimation
The Russian empire invading Van and Kars. It sparked the Crimean war. Originally, the Russians thought they would just be fighting the Ottoman Empire, which was falling apart at the time. But France and Great Britain in an unprecedented move formed an alliance with the Ottomans and invaded the Crimean peninsula. The Russian empire lost and had to cede parts of Oblast and Moldova that they controlled.
#44 One Way Only
The Maginot Line. The French built an impenetrable wall of outposts, artillery, and everything else. It was so heavily fortified, it would be damn near impossible for enemy forces to get through. The German forces realized this, so they simply went around by cutting through Belgium. Unfortunately, the line only covered the French and German border, and the artillery was cemented in to face forward only…
#45 The Yu Darvish Strategy
The Dodgers traded for Yu Darvish to bolster their starting pitching in 2017. In the World Series, he lost two games, with an era of over 20 in less than 4 innings pitched.
#46 Balloon Fail
The United Way of Cleveland released 1.5 million balloons as a publicity stunt in 1986. After hitting cold air and rain, the balloons came down and caused major problems with road traffic, the airport, and prevented the coast guard from recovering two missing fishermen. They lost a ton of money from lawsuits apparently from the families of the fishermen and horse farmers that said their horses received injuries after panicking from the falling balloons. It was basically a major fail.
#47 The Comey Confession
FBI Director James Comey broke protocol and announced he was reopening investigations into Hillary Clinton on the eve of the election. He did not mention that the FBI was also investigating the Trump campaign. He did so because he wanted the FBI to appear non-bias when Hillary inevitably won, but doing so cost her the election, and eventually his job.
#48 One Of Two
Donald Trump could have kept his millions in shady money and rode his presidential campaign loss into untold millions as a media tycoon. His base, having a taste for nonsense would have eaten it with a spoon. Instead, he’s probably going to be impeached or indicted in spectacular fashion for obstruction, RICO-level money laundering or, better yet, treason.
#49 Babies Are Not Problem Solvers
It didn’t happen to me, but a friend of mine was having relationship problems with his woman. They thought that having a child would help them grow closer. Nope. They weren’t compatible before the baby, and after they were still incompatible but with a screaming baby.
#50 The Architect’s Admission
Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, warned his superiors that if they attack the Americans they’ll be able to rule the Pacific for a year or two but then it’ll be game over for Japan. He also advised against putting too much value in battleships over carriers. The US valued it’s carrier groups making the navy very powerful. All that is less important than knowing Japan didn’t have the resources to fight the US, though.