15 History Buffs Share What They Think Is the Greatest Real-Life Plot Twist in History

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Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, of course, and so if you’re someone who likes to see everything coming, you’re going to want to be up on the unbelievable, real life twists and turns.

I’m not promising that studying the past can help you predict the future, but – hey. It can’t hurt.

15. He must have been a lawyer in a future life.

It’s definitely Darius the Great’s ascension to the throne of Persia. Basically, he was caught literally red handed standing over his dead predecessor with a knife.

“Oh s**t,” thought Darius.

“Oh s**t!” said the magi. “Call the guards, this guy just murdered the emperor!”

“Whoa whoa guys, listen,” interrupted Darius. “I know what this looks like, but it’s not what it looks like. Not only did I NOT kill the emperor, but I can tell you who DID kill him. It was this dead motherf**ker right here, who I realize looks quite a bit like the emperor but what you need to understand here is that he was actually a shapeshifting wizard, right? So he killed the king and pod-peopled his way to the throne, and all you guys are just lucky that you had someone like me here to avenge the rightful ruler, who I totally miss dearly.”

The magi consulted, and with a chorus of “why would someone lie about something like that?” They unanimously decided to raise Darius the wizard slayer to the throne of Persia.

14. A great do-over.

On June 28th, 1914, Gavrilo Princip’s group “The Black Hand” f**ked up the first time when it came time to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His colleague was to throw a grenade under the carriage as the Archduke and his wife passed over. The grenade delayed and blew up as the next car came by. He panicked, swallowed a cyanide pill, and jumped in a nearby river. Except the cyanide pill just made him vomit, and the river was 6″ deep, so he was caught pretty easily.

Gavrilo Princip was pretty damn dejected and went to get some food at a local restaurant at this time. After the assassination attempt, Archduke Franz Ferdinand told his driver to head to the hospital where he and his wife could visit those injured from the failed plot on his life. Cars hadn’t been around for too long, so when the driver got lost and tried to reverse the car, it stalled…right in front of the restaurant where Princip was finishing lunch. He walked outside, saw the Archduke standing there, and fired into his neck.

The most revolutionary event of the 20th century was a do-over.

13. Maybe we should have seen this one coming.

I’m going to simply take the answer /u/beardedmessenger gave 10 months ago to the same question:

“After World War 1, France dictated the terms of armistice to the Germans. A mere 20 years later, after Germany had just got done with powering through the french in 6 weeks, Hitler set up a meeting in the same train car, in the exact same place as the armistice was signed after World War I. Except this time, he was making the terms for the armistice to the French. ”

And, as /u/hellsheep added:

“and, even better, a few years later the Germans blew the train up while retreating so they wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of signing another armistice in the exact same train car.”

12. This is almost too strange to be true…but it is.

At the start of the Cold War, Henry Murray developed a personality profiling test to crack soviet spies with psychological warfare and select which US spies are ready to be sent out into the field. As part of Project MKUltra, he began experimenting on Harvard sophomores. He set one student as the control, after he proved to be a completely predictable conformist, and named him “Lawful”.

Long story short, the latter half of the experiment involved having the student prepare an essay on his core beliefs as a person for a friendly debate. Instead, Murray had an aggressive interrogator come in and basically tear his beliefs to pieces, mocking everything he stood for, and systematically picking apart every line in the essay to see what it took to get him to react. But he didn’t, it just broke him, made him into a mess of a person and left him having to pull his whole life back together again. He graduated, but then turned in his degree only a couple years later, and moved to the woods where he lived for decades.

In all that time, he kept writing his essay. And slowly, he became so sure of his beliefs, so convinced that they were right, that he thought that if the nation didn’t read it, we would be irreparably lost as a society. So, he set out to make sure that everyone heard what he had to say, and sure enough, Lawful’s “Industrial Society and its Future” has become one of the most well known essays written in the last century. In fact, you’ve probably read some of it. Although, you probably know it better as The Unabomber Manifesto.

Edit: Thank you for the gold.



There was a samurai in Japan, circa 1600(?), named Miyamoto Musashi, who was frequently late to his duels. He was very skilled and world renowned as one of the most talented samurai to have ever lived.

One day, he decided to challenge the leader of the Yoshioka School, Seijuro to a duel. Seijuro agreed, and as always, Musashi came late. He struck Seijuro with a single blow, crippling his arm and knocking him out. Seijuro decided to pass ownership of the school down to Denshichirō, who immediately challenged Musashi back for revenge. Again, Musashi arrived late, disarmed and promptly defeated Denshichirō.

Here is where the plot twist comes in to play. The head of the Yoshioka school is now the 12 year old son of Denshichirō, Matashichiro. He (and his entire force of archers, musketeers, and swordsman) challenged Musashi to a final duel. Musashi decides that this time he is to arrive EARLY and hide nearby! Fantastic! So when Matashichiro and his army come marching by to the place where the duel is to occur, expecting a tardy Musashi as always. He springs from his hiding spot, and runs to Matashichiro, completely demolishing this 12 year old kid. He then escapes from the force by drawing his second sword.

TL;DR Samurai defeats an entire lineage of a martial arts school by changing from his usual routine of showing up late.

Edit: Circa 1600 and his name was Miyamoto Musashi, for those wondering.

Edit 2: Words

Edit 3: More words.

10. He beat the game twice.

Yi Sun-Sin. Pretty much all of this guy’s life was an epic twist. He joined the Korean military back in the 1500s when they were being invaded by Japan. He became a top commander and helped save his nation from being conquered by the Japanese. Then his jealous rivals had him framed, tortured, and imprisoned. When he was released from prison he re-enlisted in the military at the lowest rank, then was promoted all the way back up to commander and once again saved his nation from defeat against impossible odds.

Edit: fixed for accuracy.

9. What are the odds?

The real life story of Squanto.

Squanto (or Tisquantum) was captured by early explorers around 1590 and taken to Europe as a slave. He escaped and spent the next 20 years or so earning enough money to get passage back to the New World.

When he finally gets back to his home village he finds that just about every single American Indian on the East Coast has either died of disease or fled west. His village is abandoned.

He lives a pretty solitary life for a year or so until he comes across these starving Englishmen trying to make a colony in Plymouth. Since Squanto can speak English he is able to help the Pilgrims and shows them how to grow native crops in his family’s abandoned fields.

Thus Thanksgiving….

The odds of a struggling colony landing in an almost completely depopulated land (disease ravaged just 2 years before landing) and also finding a Native who speaks English… astronomical.

8. At least he was right about it being painless and humane.

When King Louis XVI suggested the guillotine be triangular shaped, then the people used it to kill him.

7. Huh. Wonder why nobody stopped him.

That a small time, strip club owner can walk into the Dallas police station and shoot the man who shot the POTUS 3 three days earlier in front of the entire police force.

6. The Vikings always found a way to win.

The English fought off a Viking invasion only to be invaded from the South by Normandy.

Plot twist: Normandy was under the rule of the descendants of vikings. So the vikings still conquered them.

5. France just couldn’t shake him.

Napoleon escaping Elba and sweeping back into brief power only to meet his Waterloo was a nice series of twists and turns.

4. They were only making things worse.

During the 14th century, cats were killed en masse due to the belief that cats were in league with the devil and the cause of the Black Death. If the cats had remained alive to keep rodent populations down (the hosts of the fleas that were the actual cause), the plague would have had much less of an impact.

Edit: For everyone saying cats would have fleas: Yes, and they would carry/transmit the disease as well, but due to predator to prey ratio (roughly 1:50 for cats), the density of the disease vector would be substantially reduced. Much like reducing the density of a forest can slow or stop the spread of fire, lowering the density of a disease vector can slow or stop the spread of said disease. It would have still existed but not in the same severity.

3. Let’s just have a little chat.

Attila the Hun turning back from his conquests after talking with Pope Leo I.

2. Spy stories never disappoint.

A man who was seriously considered to be the future leader of MI-6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) during the cold war with the Soviet Union was actually a highly effective spy for the USSR. If one of his mentally unstable friends hadn’t defected to the USSR, casting suspicion on him, he may have become head of MI-6. Name was Kim Philby, and he eventually defected to the USSR.

Another one of his friends from uni ended up as the royal art curator for the Queen, and was highly respected in academic circles for art analysis and he too was a highly placed spy. This was kept under wraps until Thatcher “outed” him in the early 80s

1. I’m not sure that was how they hoped it would work.

The treaty of Versailles.

Ends the the worst war known to man at the time, but sparks a Second World War, set up the modern day boundaries of the Middle East with no cultural considerations, and Woodrow Wilson denied Vietnam self-determination from France in order to get the treaty passed, eventually sparking the Vietnam war. T

he treaty that was expose to end all wars, sparked many of the current problems today.

History is pretty hilarious and interesting when you find the right stories!

Do you have a favorite straight-out-of-the-history-books tale? Share it with us in the comments!