In Hollywood, there’s nothing more powerful than a crazy plot twist at the end of the movie that no one saw coming. Just think about The 6th Sense, Soylent Green, or The Usual Suspects. Sometimes our beloved main character gets caught up in an insane web of high crime or transported to a faraway land – only to wake up at the end and discover it was all a dream. One moviemaker has become so famous for his wild, unexpected twists that his name has become synonymous with shocking viewers at the end of a story – Getting “Shyamalaned.”
However, the following five greatest plot twists of all time are actual events – that really happened – and they altered the course of history.
5. The Most Revolutionary Event of the 20th Century Was a ‘Mulligan’
The plan was simple: In Sarajevo, 1914, Gavrilo Princip and his group known as “The Black Hand” would throw a live grenade under a carriage carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in a carefully plotted assassination. However, the grenade unexpectedly delayed, rolling into the street and exploding just as the next carriage rolled by. Princip was so overcome with panic that he swallowed a cyanide pill (poison) and jumped into the river nearby preferring to drown himself rather than face the ramifications of his mistake.
Plot Twist: Rather than killing him instantaneously as he had hoped, the cyanide only made him vomit. That, combined with a deceivingly shallow river (only about 6 inches – not very conducive to drowning) only made poor Princip feel even more like a failure. He decided to deal with dejection the same way many of us do – by eating his feelings at a restaurant nearby.
Meanwhile, Archduke Franz Ferdinand instructed his driver to take he and his wife to the hospital so they could visit the victims of the freak explosion earlier that day. However, the driver got lost, and when he put the car in reverse to turn around he accidentally stalled the engine out.
Where did the car break down? Right in front of the restaurant where our dejected would-be assassin happened to be grabbing a bite. Having his target served to him on a silver platter, he simply walked outside, aimed his gun and fired point blank – triggering the single most revolutionary event in modern history: World War One.
4. The Catalyst For The Free World Was An Escaped Slave
Around the year 1590, a Native American was captured by early explorers, enslaved and brought back to Europe. He eventually escaped and spent the next 20 years working to earn enough money for a passage back to the New World – during which time he picked up European customs and learned to speak English.
When he finally arrived back in his native village, he found that it had long since been abandoned. Every one of his people had either been killed by European explorers, died of disease or had fled to the West. Having come so far to find his home again, he decided to camp here anyway and lead a solitary life.
Plot Twist: One year later, while hunting, he happens to come across a group of starving young Englishmen. They had attempted to start a colony in Plymouth but having no knowledge of the land and no means to get back home they had lost almost all hope of surviving. Being the only Native in this unpopulated, deserted location halfway across the world – and also happening to speak English – Squanto helps them survive and even learn to thrive in the New World. He also helped invent Thanksgiving.
3. A Cold War Psychology Experiment has Unintended Side Effects
Early on in the Cold War, a Harvard University psychologist named Henry Murray was tasked with developing a personality profiling test as part of Project MKUltra. Its purpose was not only to crack captured Soviet spies, but also to prepare US spies for work in the field. As part of his experiments, Murray distributed the test to a group of Harvard sophomores, selecting one student who he deemed a “completely predictable conformist” as the control and nicknaming him “Lawful.”
This student was required to document his core beliefs as a person in essay form, under the guise of preparing for a friendly debate. However, Murray’s experiment called for an aggressive interrogator to come in and eviscerate the essay, mocking everything the student had written – and everything he believed and stood for.
Murray predicted the student would react “normally” either by arguing with the interrogator or shutting down and refusing to engage. It soon became apparent that this experiment not only caused the student to shut down – it shattered his entire core being. Not long after graduation, “Lawful” turned in his psychology degree and retreated into the woods where he lived for decades in desolate solitude.
Plot twist: “Lawful” never stopped writing his essay, the one Murray had prompted him to write. And he became so lost in documenting his beliefs that he began to believe if it wasn’t shared with the nation that we would all be lost as a society. Ensuring that his essay and beliefs be read by everyone in the nation became his sole priority.
He achieved his goal. Today, Lawful’s “Industrial Society and Its Future” is one of the most widely read essays in modern history. However, most who are familiar with it know it by a different name… The Unabomber Manifesto. Serial murderer Ted Kaczynski was, in fact, Lawful.
2. No Answers For The American Public
Everyone knows what happened in the streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963: Four gunshots from the rifle of a sniper silenced crowds of excited people in Dealey Plaza, and ended the life of one of the most powerful men on the planet at the time.
Less than an hour later, the prime suspect was in cuffs, and devastated Americans found some relief believing that the mysteries shrouding the sudden death of JFK would soon be answered.
Two days later, during a routine transfer from police headquarters to the county jail, Lee Harvey Oswald – the man with all the answers – was gunned down at point blank by another mysterious assassin before he had the chance to testify. The American public, still hoping for answers, were devastated again when Jack Ruby – the man who sparked some of the biggest conspiracy theories in history – succumbed to lung cancer while awaiting trial in 1967.
1. It begins and ends at The Dakota Hotel
The story that tops this list isn’t so much a plot twist as a series of shockingly connected events.
In 1968, The Dakota Hotel was the real-life filming location for the critically acclaimed horror film Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski. One year later, Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate was murdered by crazed members of the Manson family, who were followers of Charles Manson. Charles Manson famously proclaimed to have been inspired by the song “Helter Skelter” on The Beatles’ White Album. Specifically, “Helter Skelter” was penned by Paul McCartney and John Lennon in 1967 (one year before the release of Rosemary’s Baby).
Wait, where’s the plot twist? We’re getting to it: Years later, in 1980, John Lennon was gunned down on the shadowy steps of a famous hotel with which he had no idea he shared a fatal connection: The Dakota.
Did you just get Shyamalaned?