Don’t blame yourself too hard the next time you do something wrong! The history abounds with bad, uninspired, and damn right foolish actions.
Prepare to laugh or take notes on the misfortune of other, as we explore the 17 biggest and most embarrassing mistakes ever made. The last one hurt like hell!
1. Austrian Army Loses 10,000 Men by Attacking Itself
The Austrian Army claims one of the most embarrassing moments in military history.
For the incredible story, we will have to travel all the way back to the night of 21–22 September 1788. An army of approximately 100,000 was preparing to defend the town of Caransebeș in modern-day Romania.
It all started with the uninspired decision to split the army in two, for improved chances of spotting the advancing Ottoman forces. It continued with most of the troops quenching their thirst with schnapps sold by local gypsies.
Soon enough, drunken soldiers began fighting over the remaining stash. It’s hard to say who fired the first shot, but chaos and confusion soon engulfed the entire Austrian camp.
Commanders attempted in vain to stop the escalating friendly fire. “Halt! Halt!” was mistaken for “Allah! Allah!” and things got even bloodier.
10,000 Austrians died that fateful night. The Ottomans did come, but only two days later. It’s pointless to say they had no troubles in thrashing the troops that survived the carnage.
It’s hard to find a modern-day equivalent for the hilarious battle of Caransebeș. It would be like the Austrian football team scoring five own goals in a single match.
Do you still think you had a bad day at the office? Check out the next incredible mistake and its jaw dropping cost!
2. $300 Million Fat Finger Error on The Stock Exchange
Having fat fingers can be disastrous if you trade on the stock exchange market.
For one broker working at Mizuho Securities, 8th December 2005 was a dark day. Instead of selling one share of J-COM Co. Ltd. for 610,000 yen, the unfortunate soul did the unthinkable. He sold 610,000 shares for 1 yen.
It could happen to anyone! Mistakes make us human. Yeah, right! Tell that to the owners of Mizuho Securities, who lost almost $300 million with that simple typo. It equaled the company’s net profit for the previous year.
You will be surprised to know that this was not the first time something like that happened at Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). In fact, such heart-stopping incidents are rather common in an environment where buying and selling at a blink of an eye are mundane.
The Japanese government took measures. No, it did not reintroduce ritualistic hara-kiri for distracted stock brokers. Instead, it offered companies to undo transactions that are obviously too boisterous to be real.
The next unbelievable mistake will turn you into a hoarder!
3. Man Throws Away $181 Million Lottery Ticket
Winning the lottery has no glory attached to it if you fail to keep the lucky ticket.
For one English woman, such a preposterous scenario turned painfully real when her husband threw away the ticket that later proved to be a winner. Even seven years since the incident, the women can still be seen scavenging the local landfill. Seagulls departing with a piece of paper in their beaks make her heart race.
Just joking! The woman only attempted to convince the clerks at the lottery agency by showing the notebook where she kept all the combinations she ever played. The unlucky wife gave up her dreams of greatness and accepted the cruel twist of fate.
You see, that was not the only time her husband laughed at her belief in lottery providence. The grumpy man has been dumping tickets into the bin for decades.
Check out the biggest mistake of ancient history!
4. Trojans Accept Wooden Horse As Gift
Trojans proved to be fearless warriors that successfully opposed the besieging Greeks for ten years.
However, the brave Trojans committed one incredible mistake, one that turned out to be decisive. They welcomed into the city of Troy a giant wooden horse left behind by cunning Odysseus and his fellow countrymen.
Under cover of night, the elite troops hidden inside the creepy animal opened the gates for the remainder of the Greek army to take the city. The foolish fall of Troy taught us all a valuable lesson.
Never steal the wooden toys others left behind! If someone gives you a present, burn it first! If a horse approaches you, gut it and see what’s inside. It might contain enemies.
As for tourists visiting Greece, now you know why they behave so cautious inside souvenir shops. Even thousands of years since the events of the Iliad, the Greeks have retained the same appetite for schemes and treachery.
Check out the next incredible story of blunder that cost its authors dearly!
5. 8 Publishers Reject “Harry Potter”
Don’t let yourself fooled by the formidable success of the “Harry Potter” series!
There were many rejections before the boy wizard became the biggest literary phenomenon after the Bible. Just go ahead and ask J.K. Rowling!
The poor female author had to see her masterpiece rejected eight times before the adventures of Harry, Hermione and all the other characters reached children worldwide. You can probably imagine the heartbreak that engulfed the editorial offices that responded with “no.”
Those guys had a diamond in their hands and took it for a glass shard. Not only did they failed to see literary genius, but they tossed away hundreds of millions.
How can such a traumatic experience shape you as an editor? Let’s just say those folks will now publish you even if you send them over a dirty joke scribbled on a piece of napkin.
Check out the next awful mistake! It cost thousands of lives.
6. The Unsinkable Titanic Crashes into an Iceberg
The sinking of the Titanic, one of the biggest tragedies of the last century, was the result of a huge mistake.
History might have made a hero from captain Edward Smith, but that doesn’t spare him the merit of trashing a ship thought to be unsinkable. The reckless sea dog kept the giant ship traveling at top speed despite the many iceberg warnings that radioed in.
The pride of piloting the biggest ship of its time must have weighed in decisively. The sheer size of the Titanic gave everyone a false sense of safety. Apparently, those folks haven’t heard of David and Goliath or about Achilles’ Heel.
Some go as far as to say that today’s global warming is humanity’s payback on icebergs like the one who stormed into the Titanic. Whatever the case, those that survived the tragedy learned their lesson of humbleness – no ice cubes in their whiskeys!
Check out the next mistake that still haunts. It’s painful just to read!
7. Not Buying Google for $1 Million
The biggest mistake an investor can make is failing to see the future value of a company.
Let’s go back to 1999, a time when your life was less dependent on the all mighty Google. Hell, the search engine was a mere toddler with nothing but a funny name and a colorful logo to make it stand out from the crowd.
Back then, Yahoo! had the chance to buy the recently launched Google for $1 million. Yep, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were ready to hand out their technological wonder in exchange for the chance to be able to finance their Stamford Ph.D. studies.
You will be surprised to know Yahoo! was not the only organization that turned down such a promising takeover. “Excite” was another unlucky company that thought $1 million was too much.
Today, Google is the world’s most valuable brand, standing at a whopping $110 billion, and managing to depose Apple.
The next incredible mistake will make feel less ashamed of your high school math grades. Even the big guns occasionally misfire.
8. NASA Looses Mars Orbiter after Metric-Imperial Blunder
It was not a stupid math error that made the guys at NASA loose one of their space probes – the Mars Climate Orbiter.
Instead, it was a mistake that highlights once again why it is important to have only one units system for the entire world. The spacecraft flew too close to the Martian surface and therefore disintegrated.
Now comes the funny part. NASA collaborated with Lockheed Martin for building the Mars Climate Orbiter and failed to do one basic check.
People hate using imperial units for an obvious reason. They are counterintuitive, and it is so easy to get them wrong. So easy, that even NASA forgot to make the transition to the metric system.
The blunder occurred in 1999 and cost NASA not only the famous mission control “papers in the air” celebration, but also $125 million. Please note we are gracious not to adjust that sum to inflation.
We can only hope the disasters of SS Columbia and SS Challenger had different causes!
Check out a disastrous mistake that at least taught a valuable lesson for the future.
9. Controlled Burn Becomes Devastating Wildfire
Playing with fire never ended well.
Back in 2000, some wise guys decided to set on fire sections of vegetation around Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. Don’t get us wrong. They didn’t do it as a way of mocking Smokey Bear, but rather as a preemptive strike to prevent future wildfires.
It proved to be a huge mistake! Strong winds and the dry vegetation turned the isolated patches of fire into a blazing furnace that devastated the area.
Wildfires are natural, and there is little we can do to prevent them. The guys that provoked the Cerro Grande fire did nothing but speed up the process.
Their mistake was obvious, and the fire they set went as far as to affect the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the cradle of the atomic bomb. Not to mention the scores of wildlife roasted alive.
See how great military leaders committed the same mistake centuries apart!
10. Invading Russia in Winter
Russia was never a welcoming host in the winter.
Numerous blizzards batter the endless steppe that stretches all the way to the Ural mountains, and temperature can plummet far below the values that make you wanna put some extra socks.
However, the idea of invading Russia was so tantalizing that two great military commanders simply couldn’t wait until spring to launch their offensive. Napoleon (in 1812) and Hitler (in 1941) both ventured east in the hope of slaying and conquering the barbarian Russians.
Both came back defeated, and their campaigns would cost them the war. Historians agree that in both cases the Russian winter played a vital role in the failed offensives.
No, it was not the White Walkers that did most of the harm. Instead, Napoleon’s Grande Armée and the Wehrmacht faced a shortage of supplies after their advancement put them well into enemy territory. The scorched-earth strategy meant there was nothing to plunder in the countryside.
The next mistake made its authors wish someone would invent the time machine. They want to go back and change it!
11. Decca Records Turning Down The Beatles
“Guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business.”
Those are sentences the managers of Decca Records regret even today, decades since the label shut down its operations. They had the fertile Beatles in their studios for one day, and they let them out on the back door.
Back in 1962, no one knew about The Beatles and the four men of Liverpool were a bit desperate to struck their first serious gigs in the music world. Otherwise, nothing explains them driving all the way to London on January 1st.
Decca auditioned and ended up selecting another band the very next day. If “Brian Poole and the Tremeloes” rings no bell, you probably understand how disastrous the decision turned out to be.
You will be relieved to know that the Beatles did not play in vain in the Decca studio. Their 15 songs session was recorded, and the audition tape is now a highly prized collectible.
Try not to laugh as you read about the next incredible sample of poor judgment!
12. French Rail Company Orders Trains Too Wide for Platforms
France’s national rail company SNCF put ash on its head and admitted an incredible mistake.
The state-owned giant managed the performance of buying 2,000 trains that proved to be too wide for the station platforms. In layman terms, they didn’t fit!
Even a 2-year-old would have avoided such a mistake. SNCF ordered vehicles, establishing their requirements on new platforms only, the ones built in the last couple of decades.
The shameful blunder had to be repaired somehow. Therefore, the French paid $110 million extra for cutting the platforms to the needed width.
Below you can see a train mechanic testing to see if everything is ok before allowing the train to go any further. His rudimentary method showcases important budget cuts that need to be made.
Check out a mistake that wrote history!
13. Constantinople Falls after Gate Is Left Open
The fate of Constantinople was evident before the 53-day siege entered its final stage.
Nevertheless, history can’t overlook the foolish mistake that hastened the fate of the city. Reckless Byzantine defenders left one of the gates open, basically inviting the Turks inside the city walls.
Constantinople fell on 29 May 1453, stamping the death certificate for the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans ended up with a shiny new capital and with no one to stop them from invading Europe.
Even without that mistake, it is highly unlikely that the mighty forces assembled in front of Constantinople would have failed. Starvation and disease severely weakened the ones inside and time was certainly against them.
“My dear, who left the gate open?”
Try not to go nuts as you read about the price of the next mistake!
14. Facebook Fails to Hire Brian Acton and Jan Koum
Mark Zuckerberg might be one of the smartest guys in tech, but he made one mistake that later scorched his wallet.
In the summer of 2009, Facebook turned down at a job interview the man that will end up co-founding WhatsApp. Brian Acton was seeking a position inside the team of the social media giant where he could unleash both his creativity and programming skills.
“Facebook turned me down … looking forward to life’s next adventure.” Acton posted this on Twitter and went on with his wonderful journey in the tech world.
Together with Jan Koum, he created the app everyone now has on their phones. Facebook ended up buying WhatsApp for more than $19 billion. Now that’s a costly mistake!
Check out one of the most inexplicable decisions in history!
15. 15th Century China Becomes A Loner
Some centuries ago China committed a mistake that probably saved us all from speaking Mandarin.
Years of political stability under the Ming Dynasty made the country over confident in its superiority. Not only did the Chinese gave up their once mighty navy, but they also built a wall along their northern border.
Soon enough, the empire managed to cut all ties with neighbors, losing touch with the latest technological and cultural breakthroughs. Centuries later, the Chinese awakened from their slumber to see the world overran by colonial powers that were soon knocking at its door.
China turning into a loner allowed Western culture to dominate our modern world. However, change is on the horizon, and it’s never too late for the horrifying scenarios we talked about earlier to become a reality.
Prepare yourself for the next page and the mistake it brings!
16. NASA Accidentally Erases Moon Landing Tapes
The guys at NASA did it again.
When they are not busy crashing spacecraft due to messing up the unit systems, the engineers at NASA commit other mind-boggling errors that are inexplicable for the public. Remember the controversy surrounding the moon landings?
Well, add one more brick to it. NASA made an embarrassing press conference in which it admitted losing the original footage of the 1969 Apollo 11.
The story is hilarious. Some clumsy technicians taped something else on top, and we bring our hands to pay it was not an episode of “Seinfeld.”
Go to the last page for a famous mistake that wrote history!
17. Julius Caesar Ignores His Wife
Julius Caesar might have been an illustrious political leader, but he was first a man, and like all men, he failed to listen to his wife.
As you know, the Dictator of the Roman Republic died after a “For The Watch!” kind of execution. On the Ides of March, several Senators greeted Caesar with more than a handshake. Led by Brutus, they stabbed him 23 times, repainting the Senate floor in red.
The legend claims that Caesar’s wife Calpurnia had a premonitory dream the night before. She tried in vain to convince his husband not to attend the Senate meeting.
Caesar knew there is nothing worse than staying home with your nagging wife. His decision proved to be a mistake.