Some time ago I posted on this site an essay titled, "The Scariest Horror Stories of All Time". This was a collection of scary non-fiction stories. Although reaction was mainly positive, I was surprised when some people told me that the essay was not remotely scary. Oh, well, I guess you can't scare all of the people all of the time. So let me have another try.
One of the greatest true life horrors of all time was, of course, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party. The Nazis committed atrocities undreamt of until that time. But I am sure that you are already well versed in the horrors of The Holocaust and the other human rights violations that the Nazis committed (if not, check out my poem on this site, "The Holocaust"). So I will restrict myself to an incident in Nazi Germany three or four years before World War Two even started.
It was about 1936 when a young German comic (I read this in a book twenty years ago, so I cannot remember his name after all of this time), we'll call him Hanz, started to do a one-man stage show in Berlin, in which he spoofed the hell out of Hitler, Goering and the rest of the Nazi leaders. Usually he performed before a small audience, since the venue was not in the main part of town and most Germans were too afraid of the Nazis by that time to attend such a revue.
One evening he arrived at the club to be informed by the manager joyously that he had his first ever sell-out. A single party had booked the entire venue for the night. Going onto stage, Hanz did his act, spoofing Hitler and co., unable to see his audience in the glare of the floodlights. Throughout his act there was stony silence. No-one booed or jeered, but no-one laughed or applauded either.
When he had finished his act, the audience area was lit up and there in front of Hanz sat Adolph Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess, Himmler, and all of the biggest name Nazis staring wooden-faced at him.
Although the Nazis made no threats to him, and said nothing about his act, very wisely Hanz emigrated to the U.S.A. as soon as possible and did not return to Germany until years after World War Two had finished.
I believe this is an example of what Hitler regarded as dry humour. I was raised on Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges, but even I do not get the humour here!
Apparently Hitler was known for his jet-black sense of humour. Even throughout World War Two Hitler would host private movie showings of his favourite films, mainly American westerns. Since the films were in English and Hitler only knew German he needed an interpreter. Rather than hire one though, Hitler would simply nominate one of his entourage: Himmler, Hess, Herman Goering, Gobbels, and demand (under pain of angering one of the two most insane men of the last one hundred years) that they translate the film as he watched it. Of course, most of Hitler's generals did not understand English either, so they would struggle along describing what was obviously happening, which the Fuhrer did not tolerate for long before shouting that was not what he wanted. He wanted an exact translation!
No? Oh well, here I go again.
I don't want to bore you with World War Two stories, there are new documentaries on every aspect of WWII springing up every month, so I will move on to another subject.
One of my earliest memories of life is seeing a cretinously stupid advertisement on TV and deciding it had to be the stupidest ad. in television history. Only days later I was proven wrong when an even more stupid commercial appeared. Over the last fifty years since my childhood in the early 1960s this has been my repeated experience. It seems that just when you think the stupidest ad. possible has been shown, an even stupider one appears [although AAMI's current (March 2011) "Give Me a Deal That's Fair" commercial, using a blatant rip of the theme from the musical "Hair", must come close to being the stupidest advertisement that has ever or will ever be made for Australian television!] I'm sure that we all have memories of unbelievable stupid or lying ads making patently untrue statements, such as the absurd ranting raving chemist advertisement. This ran for two or three years on Australian television. A man dressed as and claiming to be a real chemist ranted and raved for a full minute, without ever telling you what he was trying to advertise or what the point of his advertisement was supposed to be.
Another Aussie classic is: "You wouldn't buy bread from a butcher shop, so why buy a muffler from a service station?" Apart from being false advertising, this long-running commercial (over a decade on Australian TV) is a classic example of a false analogy, where you have two simple statements. The first is patently true (why would you even think of buying bread from a butcher shop?) The second is not - since car service stations deal with cars, and car mufflers go on cars, it is only logical that you would buy a car muffler from a car service station [in the U.S.A. I think you say garage]. The hope with false analogies though is that the patently true first statement will distract you from how absurd the second statement is.
But the most loathsome example of heartless false advertising on Australian television occurred in the 1980s. It was for a brand of liquid fertiliser which had been selling massively world-wide until claims started to emerge that the product was cancer inducing. To disprove these claims the fertiliser company made an advertisement showing a collection of young children in bathing costumes running around happily on the front lawn while a sprinkler sprayed liquid across them. The voice-over said, "Would we do this if our product wasn't completely safe?"
The answer, of course was, "Yes!" The fertiliser did cause cancer! The company knew it caused cancer! And every one of the small children in the commercial died of cancer within two or three years of the commercial being filmed!
Never overestimate the morals of big business. Big business has no morals at all. Murdering a dozen small children to sell a cancerous product is all in a day's work for big business in Australia!
If not, you are callous or jaded indeed!
Nonetheless let me try again.
In my early years from age three to eleven I suffered from an incurable form of kidney illness called Nephrotic Syndrome (no it was never cured, but by pumping me full of thousands of doses of anabolic steroids they managed to stop it). In the mid 1960s I started to notice some very strange-looking children being admitted to The Royal Children's Hospital, like something out of The Twilight Zone movie. Some with no facial features at all - merely slits to breathe through and to eat through. Others had flippers for hands or feet, or had hands and feet but no arms or legs, with their hands attached directly to their shoulders. And many too gruesome for me to describe even in this essay.
At the time (being only five to eight) I wrongly assumed that they were the victims of hideous car crashes. Although a car crash severe enough to cause such mutilation would, thank the Lord, also kill you.
You've already guessed, of course, that the "mutilated" children were Thalidomide babies. So no shock value there. I would be twenty-two, back at school as an adult student in 1979, before I discovered that's what they were.
And it would be another decade, circa 1989 before the dreadful truth came out that the Thalidomide disaster was not an accident at all! It seems that the drug company making Thalidomide had spent millions of dollars testing it before discovering all of the horrendous side effects. By that time they had two choices: release Thalidomide with all of its horrific side-effects, or go bankrupt due to the cost of the testing.
As a said above, "Never overestimate the morals of big business. Big business has no morals at all." So in reality, the drug company had no choice at all. With no moral scruples to govern their actions, and no conscience to make them even hesitate; they knowingly unleashed Thalidomide onto the world!
What amazes me is that people still talk about the evil things the Nazis did. On the evil stakes, the Nazis were complete tyros compared to the company that knowingly generated thousands of Thalidomide babies.
If not, let me add an addendum before moving on. Despite what you might imagine, Thalidomide was never banned, only taken off the market. Thalidomide is still a legal drug in most countries in the world and as late as the turn of the century it was one of the number one painkillers being sold in some Asian countries. Especially as a painkiller for pregnant women!
Let me say it for a third time: Never overestimate the morals of big business. Big business has no morals at all!
Okay, let's move on now.
I guess everyone has heard of a pre-frontal lobotomy? This was a procedure very popular in the second half of last century. The procedure was to surgically drill a wide knitting-needle-thick hole through the front of the victim's forehead and effectively kill part of their brain: the prefrontal lobes. This was intended as a means of pacifying violent criminals.
It did that all right, it turned the patients into passive vegetables content to spend all day every day sitting staring at a blank wall. Now I know already what most of you heartless so-and-sos are thinking, "So what? They were all violent criminals, murderers, rapists, et cetura." Well, even if that were true, the pre-frontal lobotomy would have been a barbarous, unjustifiable act.
As it was, though, most people to have pre-frontal lobotomies performed on them against their will in the United States at least, were children. As recently as the early 1980s it was legal, and quite common for parents to take their children to a surgeon to have pre-frontal lobotomies performed upon them, solely because the children (sometimes pre-school aged) were a little naughty and hard to manage.
Thousands of American parents had pre-frontal lobotomies performed on their own children from the late 1960s through until the early 1980s by the same sadist surgeon. A surgeon, who was operating completely legally by American law when he strapped children to a table, sedated them and drilled a hole through their foreheads and killed part of their brains, turning them into vegetables. All done solely because many American parents would rather have lifeless vegetables for children, than have the hassle of having to discipline unruly children!
For people uncertain, a pre-frontal lobotomy is permanent. There is no reversing the procedure, and there is only a single known case of one of these American lobotomy children somehow recovering. Although it took thirty-plus years before he was mentally back to what could be called a normal human being.
The worst aspect of the behaviour of this American Doctor Mengele was that by the time that the authorities started to investigate his activities, he had already died peacefully in his sleep of old age. Therefore there was no chance of executing him for his monstrous behaviour!
Don't tell me that the thought of children as young as three, in the United States, having part of their brains burnt away to knowingly turn them into vegetables, just because they were a little unruly doesn't scare you!
You cynical bastard! Oh well, back to the keyboard … I mean drawing board.
Okay, a question to lead into my next segment: who out there has heard of degaussing?
There have been many conspiracy theories down the aeons, about who killed John Kennedy? Who killed Jim Morrison, what have they done with the aliens caught at Roswell in 1947?
But all joking aside, despite what the anti-conspiracy nuts insist, a handful of conspiracies are real. This segment is about a world-wide conspiracy which has cost millions of lives in almost every country in the world since the early 1900s.
This genuine world-wide conspiracy is the degaussing conspiracy, which by a conservative estimate has killed at least a hundred million people since 1900! But first let me take you back to my childhood in the 1960s again.
In Australia TV came into existence in 1956. Our family was one of the first in Melbourne's West to buy a large black-and-white set. I remember as a child lying on the floor close enough to the TV to be lucky not to be blinded by the glare as my parents were forever warning my brother John and I when we virtually lay under the TV set to watch it.
In those days before DVDs, VCRs, video-games, PCs or MACs, we would watch TV from when we got home from school until we went to bed. Even putting our dinner plate on the floor to keep watching TV while we ate, to the annoyance of our mother.
When the night's viewing was finish our father would walk over to switch off the TV set at the power point, and then unplug it from the wall. This occurred every night, until one day when I was about nine or ten, experimenting with the dials on the set, I found to my surprise that you could turn the TV off at the set, without turning it off at the wall, or unplugging it. I remember with excitement telling this to my father, only to be told, "I know, but it is safer to turn it off at the wall, and unplug it overnight so it won't build up electricity and shock you to death!"
Being the top of my class, and thinking I knew it all at the time, I remember thinking, "You superstitious idiot! How could you be so afraid of a natural wonder like electricity that you could fantasize a TV could somehow store up a charge even when it is turned off at the set!" Although I was careful not to say this aloud to my father.
Thirty years later in 1994 I bought my first personal computer. After installing it the delivery man ran me through some of the basic functions, including degaussing, which he advise me to do every day before turning my PC off. When I asked him what degaussing was, imagine my surprise when he said, "All electrical appliances store up electricity, even when switched off at the wall. Even an electric toaster can zap you to death if you never degauss it." He explained that some devises like PCs could be degaussed (in those days, today they auto degauss during the shutting down procedure), as do some TV sets. But all other electric devices -- toasters, TV sets (that can't be degaussed), microwave ovens, VCR players (and DVD or Blu-Ray players these days), fans, heaters, et cetera - should be disconnected from the wall socket for a minimum of fourteen-hours per day or they can build up tens of thousands of volts of electricity and literally zap you to death. So much for the farce of timer-recording on VCR, DVD, and Blu-Ray players, these devises should never be plugged in when not in use, let alone recording!
If you have your TV set in your bedroom, as I do, this is why sometimes you will wake at night to see the screen glowing blue-grey. This is 20,000-plus volts of electricity just waiting for you to touch it to zap you to death!
I remember at the time thinking I owed my father (who had died in late 1992) an apology for thinking he had been a superstitious idiot to think TVs could build up a lethal electrical charge.
I also remember wondering why most people have never heard of degaussing and most people do not know that the last thing you should do at night is not lock-up your house, but unplug from the wall your toasters, TV sets (that can't be degaussed), microwave ovens, VCR-, DVD- or Blu-Ray-players, fans, heaters, record- or CD-players, radios, washing machines, clothes dryers, et cetura, so they will not shock you to death when you casually touch them.
The answer is that there has been a world-wide conspiracy to keep the lethal nature of most electrical appliances from the general public since before World War One, because if people knew that even a small toaster could shock you to death (even when turned off if still plugged in), we might not be as obsessed with electrical appliances as we are! Certainly GEC, LG, Whirlpool, Westinghouse and all the rest would sell billions of dollars less each year if most people knew just how deadly most electrical items are.
In fact as an addendum to my experience with my first PC in 1994, a short time later I read an article about a VCR repairman in Victoria, Australia (where I live), being electrocuted to death while fixing a VCR player, which he had disconnected from the wall socket first - but obviously had not given enough time to degauss before reaching in to repair it!
Well, in case not let me prove to you just how deadly electricity can be. If you have been reading the current newspapers (in late March 2011) you will have read of a man who became the person to receive a full face transplant. A few years ago the man had been working a "cherry-picker" when his head touch the power cables. The charge was so great it literally melted away his face, making him look as I would imagine people looked in Hiroshima after the dropping of the atom bomb. A force that can melt you face away in a split second contact is scary indeed!
Scared now, then?
God, there's just no scaring some people is there.
Oh well, here I go for the final time in this essay. Let me tell you a little about witchhunts.
In this day and age when we say "witchhunt" we are using a euphemism for terrorising some person or group. Such as the Communist witchhunt in the USA in the 1950s and '60s, which was really a fascist uprising to attempt to enslave the working classes and outlaw the union movement.
But originally the term witchhunt meant literally hunting or persecuting people for being witches. Although despite the evil lies from both Vatican City and Canterbury, witches are really just harmless nuts. Some may fantasize that they engage in sexual congress with the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, or Lucifer, most witches are nothing but herbalists.
The most famous witchhunt in history was (probably) the Salem witchhunts in Massachusetts in the U.S.A. The Salem witchhunts started around 1697 when three girls (sisters aged thirteen and fourteen and their fourteen-year-old cousin) came forward and started accusing people of bewitching them. In those days the United States had a sensible law that you could not give evidence in a court of law under any circumstances until you were fifteen. Despite the fact that none of the girls were fifteen at the start of the trials, the judge heard their evidence and started trying, convicting and hanging people as witches (no Salem witches were not burnt!)
Over the next few years hundreds of people were convicted and hanged upon the flimsiest of evidence. Finally, returning to sanity, the judge announced that he was ending the trials because, "If this mania continues, we will end up executing every person in Massachusetts, if not the continental United States."
The crowd, incensed that their favourite blood sport was ending, charged the bar, grabbed the judge, dragged him outside and lynched him. So ironically the last person hanged in Salem, was the hanging judge himself.
Two short addendums: Firstly, a few years later the three girls, whose testimony had caused the deaths of perhaps a thousand people, came forward and admitted that they had made up all the stories against people. It was all just, "A bit of fun."
Secondly, the Judge not only ignored the age of the three accusers in holding the trials was not swayed by the ages of the accused. Women in their eighties were executed as were children too young to attend school. The youngest girl known to have been hanged was so young and tiny that when they tried to put the noose around her neck it would not reach. So they rigged a hand-operated rope, which they lowered to the girl and tied round her neck. Then the executioner tugged on the rope. But because the girl was so light instead of breaking her neck, they merely lifted her five feet off the ground.
So, to solve the problem, one of the executions went under the girl, grabbed her by the ankles and tugged with all his might.
Producing a loud crunching of bones as her neck finally broke!
Oh God, there's just no scaring some people, is there!
© Copyright 2011
Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia