5 People Who Caused Massive Damage For Stupid Reasons

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by Pauli Poisuo

We all make bad decisions. It's human nature to have the occasional glitch that overrides your common sense and makes you think things like, "Surely, no one will mind if I try to pet this huge, striped, growling cat that is behind bars for some reas- AAAARGH!"

Most of the time, that kind of stupidity only ends up hurting the perpetrator. But sometimes, the sheer dumbness of the situation hits a sweet spot, escalates until it reaches critical mass, and becomes a Rube Goldberg machine of unexpected mayhem.

 
 

Man Tries To Make A Sword Like He Saw On TV, Sets The Town On Fire

As Brian and Jason will happily tell you, swords are as cool as they are dangerous. And that's just the finished product. When you start actually making swords, you just might accidentally burn down half of your hometown. If that sounds like an exaggeration, let me assure you that it's not. Just ask John Gomes, who tried to find his inner blacksmith in 2017 and did exactly that to downtown Cohoes, NY.

This was Gomes' first mistake: Impressed by a trick he had seen on the History Channel weapon-making show Forged in Fire, he decided that he had what it takes to do some swordsmithing of his own (spoiler: he did not have what it takes). He created a makeshift barrel-forge in the backyard of his apartment building and tried to use it to heat metal. However, there's a reason blacksmiths tend to use forges instead of random trash barrels: It's very hard to get a hot enough fire to work metal.

Gomes' second mistake: In an attempt to make the fire hotter, he attempted to shelter the barrel by moving it closer to the apartment building. Close enough, in fact, for the wind to blow some embers onto the building. Take a wild guess what happened next.

 
 

Gomes could only look on in horror as his home building caught fire, the wind working its magic to turn the structure into a massive firenado within minutes. Then, a second building caught fire from the embers from the first building. Then, the building behind that caught fire. Then, the building behind that one ... you get the idea.

Soon, the wind blew fiery bits all over downtown, as homes and businesses left and right succumbed to the expanding inferno like a pyromaniac's domino line. The column of smoke was so massive that it appeared on the National Weather Service's radar. When the flames finally died down, 28 buildings had been destroyed or damaged, including a church and the town library. Miraculously, no lives were lost, but 18 families were left homeless.

Instead of gaining street cred as a badass blacksmith, John Gomes found himself in the unenviable position of the least loved guy in the entire city. However, he'd also lost everything himself, and was thoroughly sorry about what he had accidentally done. Here's what the Mayor of Cohoes had to say about the incident: "As much as everybody wants to kill the guy, I feel bad for the guy. I don't think he tried to set our city on fire but he did."

John. Dude. You know that you've messed up bad when even the guy in charge of the town you just burned to cinders feels sorry for you.

Guy Urinates In A Water Reservoir, City Flips Out And Empties The Entire Thing

Sometimes, the avalanche of stupidity takes an unexpected left turn and veers in a completely unanticipated direction. Such was the case in 2011, when an unnamed 21-year-old man was caught happily peeing in Mt. Tabor Reservoir, a key water supply of Portland, Oregon. That's a solid B+ on the sliding scale of dumbassery, right there. Still, it's not like he killed anyone. The reservoir was huge, and the cops who caught him were comparatively good-humored about the whole thing. "He's not out of the water yet," they commented when asked whether criminal charges would be pressed (they were not). We can just hear the "Kids are kids, amirite?" chuckles that were shared all around. Sadly, the police were not prosecuted for their ridiculous pun.

And then, the municipality took one look at the situation and ... took the entire reservoir offline and dumped the water? All 7.8 million gallons of it?

Wait, hold on. That doesn't seem right. Don't they have, like, filtration systems and stuff for situations such as this? Especially when they're keeping their reservoir uncovered, in a place where kids can just wander for a pee break?

Holy crap, someone threw a whole castle in there!

See, that's the thing: The guy wasn't deliberately pissing in your glass of water. In fact, he said he thought that the reservoir was a sewage treatment plant, what with being an extremely uncovered pool of random water in the middle of nowhere. It makes sense why he'd think that, too: The officials in charge of Portland's drinking water freely admit that they keep having to fish dead animals out of the reservoir. They never empty it after such instances, though. After all, those are just dead animals.

The pee, however, caused the Water Bureau to completely flip out. "This is different," said the administrator of the Bureau. "Do you want to drink pee?" When confronted with queries about exactly what kind of biohazard do the contents of the average human bladder present in a 7.8-million gallon reservoir already rife with dead fauna, he just repeated the question and stated that it "has nothing to do with scientifically."

Yes, the actual official reason the city gave for dumping enough drinking water to make half the third world cry was, "Eww, wee-wee". We're not sure what happens when the Portland Water Bureau eventually finds out what happens to an animal’s bowels and bladder when it dies in, say, a water reservoir. The whole city will probably die of thirst within a week.

A Government Agency Has Virus Trouble, Deals With It By Wrecking Its Computers

Most people have had to deal with a computer virus at some point in their lives. At the very least, they're aware of the concept and know how to operate an antivirus program should the need arise. Then again, most people don't work for the Economic Development Administration, a government agency that you've probably never heard of until just now.

In December, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security had bad news for the EDA and another agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: There was a suspected malware infection in their systems. Luckily, there are processes for this kind of thing, and NOAA followed them tout suite. They isolated their system, spent a few weeks checking and fixing the issue, and carried on about their business, malware free.

Meanwhile, the EDA took a more ... creative route. First, the agency cut their system completely off from the outside world in the stupidest way possible -- we're talking "shutting down the email server because some spam emails may sometimes have malware links" stuff, here. Then, they reacted with a witch-burning rage that would make the Spanish Inquisition proud: Since the computers were clearly tools of the devil now, they would have to fix the problem by destroying the computers.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

It creates a hole so the trapped demons can fly out. Technology is hard.

Yes, really. When an outside contractor found EDA's systems largely malware-free (and fixed what few bugs he could find by reimaging the affected computers), the agency's CIO immediately honed in on the word "largely", and interpreted it to mean that they were under attack by a hostile state. So he decided that the only thing to do was to physically destroy the computers. All the computers, including the ones that were certified malware-free. And printers. And mice, because they ... were plague carriers? Or were they afraid that a computer mouse might bite? We're having some difficulty getting into the mindset, here.

The ultimate bill for this wholesale destruction was a cool $2.7 million, straight out of taxpayers' pockets. Still, at least it caused a pretty severe audit, which found that what few viruses had been discovered were extremely common malware of the random, untargeted spam variety. To the surprise of precisely no one, they also noted that the EDA's whole IT infrastructure was so inexpertly managed that anyone who'd actually want to attack them wouldn't need anything sophisticated in the first place.

Woman Accidentally Poisons A Sewage Treatment Plant With A Remedy She Brought Back From India

In early 2018, the Department of Water Management in Upper Austria had a problem. A local sewage treatment plant's sensors had started screaming seven sorts of bullcrap, because they traced significant amounts of mercury in the sewage. This was a giant problem, because sewage can be processed into a fertilizer for crops, and no one likes their apple strudel with a side of mercury poisoning.

There was just one problem: They could not find the source of the contamination, no matter what they did. They tried to track the poison from industrial sewer pipes, but found nothing. They checked the sewer lines of various businesses and dental practices to no avail. Finally, they went "screw it", grabbed a portable mercury detector, and started walking around, hoping to find something. And boy, did they find something, all right.

The detector eventually went nuts near a house that featured spiritual decorations. It belonged to a 50-year-old woman who had decided to treat her cancer with natural methods. Unfortunately for everyone involved, said methods involved 22 pounds of assorted medicinal creams and powders that she'd hauled home from a wellness retreat in India, and she'd been using them for months. Closer inspection found that this "medicine" in the strongest possible quotation marks was not only snake oil, but also up to 36 percent mercury.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

We call this "The Moron's Shot Glass."

She had managed to unwittingly and single-handedly poison the sewage processing plant just by taking her treatment and going about her day. By the time she was found, her sewers had flushed nearly 9 pounds of pure mercury into the sewage system. We're assuming she was taking the medication externally and the mercury entered the system via a shower drain, but we can't rule anything out and at this point. We're too afraid to speculate. Not that it would make any difference, anyway: Mercury is an equal opportunity poison that can wreck your body through skin absorption, ingestion and inhalation alike.

The woman, who unsurprisingly had developed a big ol' case of mercury poisoning, was immediately rushed to treatment, and her apartment was decontaminated. The water treatment workers destroyed the massively toxic remedies, hopefully by shooting them into the sun. Of another solar system.

A Partying Guy Tries To Stop His Wife From Coming Home, Floods The Entire Area

James R. Scott from Fowler, IL was not a particularly nice guy. We know this by the way he liked to have affairs and party while his wife was working over in Missouri. We know it by the way he came up with a scheme to delay his wife's return home so he could keep having affairs and partying. But mainly we know this by the way his scheme involved flooding 14,000 acres of farmland and a huge chunk of a nearby town.

It was 1993, and the Midwest was already having massive problems with flooding. Scott's no-wife master plan involved removing several sandbags from one of the levees keeping the swollen Mississippi at bay. In his mind, this was probably supposed to cause a lower water flow, thus stranding his wife on the Missouri side and doing absolutely nothing else. That's not what ended up happening.

We're pretty sure there was a malicious genie involved.

Instead, he got a crash course in fluid dynamics when the water cascading from the breach he'd created promptly flooded a huge area on his side of the river. Apart from flooding the aforementioned 14,000 acres of farmland, Fowler's party animal instincts also destroyed "scores of buildings" in West Quincy, and rendered a vital bridge useless for a whopping 71 days.

Having single-handedly incapacitated the entire region, Scott tried to turn himself into the hero of the story, bragging to the media that he had noticed the breach in the levee and had in fact been trying to save everyone by blocking it. Ironically, this boasting is what got him caught: Scott already had an impressive rap sheet and a reputation as a troublemaker extraordinaire, so when the police saw the interview where he outright admitted being around the levee at the moment of the incident, they had little trouble putting two and two together.

Like this article? Check out "Criminals So Hilariously Inept, They Made The News" and "5 Legendary Excuses People Made For Their Bad Behavior".

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