A vacation can be a difficult experience, forcing you to spend time with your family and stealing time from your one true love: work. It may also result in pain, humiliation and death. Just take a look at the following vacationers, who wound up with severe cases of…
Spider Eggs in the Toe
Brit Colin Blake woke up one day on his French cruise with a purple toe. The ship doctor diagnosed the issue: A Peruvian wolf spider had bitten him. Blake had left the ship to picnic with his wife, and a spider must have exploited his foolish decision to wear sandals. Doctors now had to slice the infected toe open, releasing some material that looked a whole lot like spider eggs.
Weeks passed, and the ordeal was not over. A new pain emerged in his foot, which could only have been one missed egg hatching and releasing a live spider. Doctors prescribed antibiotics then gave the toe another slice to remove this foreign matter.
This story should leave you breathlessly asking, “Wow, can spiders really do that?” This answer to that, it seems is: no. No, according to various spider experts. That’s not how spiders work, that’s not how toes work, that’s not how anything works. Something happened to this man’s foot, but the doctors gave him inaccurate information, so outlets who initially shared the medical reports without skepticism now hurriedly updated their coverage.
This just reveals a new fear, one that’s more grounded but just as scary: Cruise ships are staffed by liars, and you’re throwing your life away when you put your trust in them. Hey, maybe Blake got some terrible toe infection from the ship itself, and the ship lied about it to cover their own asses. Has anyone thought of that?
Being Mistaken for Morgan Freeman
In 2007, a man from Switzerland was spending eight weeks in Italy with his wife. He’d just retired after 10 years with the same job, and they were cutting themselves off from the world entirely for a bit, staying in a cabin in the woods. In time, he figured he should go into town and buy a newspaper, to see if humanity had fallen to bird flu or something.
At the shop he visited, a group of men approached him. “Morgan Freeman, may I have an autograph?” asked one of them. This vacationer they had stumbled upon was not in fact Morgan Freeman, but he dutifully wrote “Morgan Freeman” on the paper they held out before leaving.
Most people might find it an honor to be mistaken for a Hollywood star, though that delight might be tempered by the discovery that Italians think two unrelated old Black men look alike. The situation was a little different for this particular vacationer, as he was U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and had first thought that they’d recognized him for who he really was.
Kidnapped by the CIA
Macedonian border officials in 2004 looked at one German guy in front of them and realized they had his name on file already, as appearing in the 9/11 Commission Report. They also suspected maybe the German passport he was holding was a forgery. The man was named Khalid El-Masri, and he was probably thinking, “If I was a wanted terrorist, why would I put my real name on a fake passport?” But arguing with border officials rarely turns out well, and he found himself detained in a hotel for the next month.
These officials then released him, because they discovered they had nothing on him. But they released him to CIA custody — and by this, we mean they took him back to the airport, claimed they were sending him for a medical examination and then CIA officials cut off all his clothes and put a bag on his head and spirited him away. This handoff had to go this way because it was not exactly legal. The CIA next flew him to a then-secret prison in Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit.
Over the next four months, the CIA subjected El-Masri to intense CIA stuff (sodomy, rectal suppositories, putting stuff in his butt, etc.). A few months in, they realized they had the wrong guy. The passport was real, his history was thoroughly documented and he could not be the man suspected of talking to the 9/11 hijackers. They kept him in the Salt Pit anyway. It took an extended hunger strike, during which he lost 60 pounds, for El-Masri to get higher-ups to pay attention and finally release him. He went on to try to sue the United States, unsuccessfully, and to sue Macedonia, which did result in a victory and a settlement.
Obviously, it’s terrible that the CIA did this to the wrong guy, and we could spend much more time than this describing everything that happened to El-Masri. But it’s also worth noting that if the CIA did have the right guy, doing all this would still have been wrong? If they really had evidence against him, they could have legally extradited him and charged him through normal means. As for the months of torture, even ignoring such matters as “the law” and “morality,” torture’s simply not a very effective way of opening up suspects. Even when a tortured suspect does give up useful intelligence, you get military experts later saying, “Hey, you would have gotten the same info faster through smarter interrogation techniques.”
If you’re wondering what happened to the other Khalid El-Masri, the “right guy,” well, 20 years after the 9/11 report, no one’s gone after him, or apparently uncovered any further evidence that such a person ever existed.
Crushed by Bed
The Murphy bed is a type of bed that folds up into the wall when no one’s using it. It was originally invented by some dude who wanted to have a lady over and didn’t want to overwhelm her with the immediate sight of his waiting bed. Folding beds present situations ripe for comedy. They also present situations ripe for tragedy.
In 2005, two sexagenarian British sisters went on vacation in Spain. Mildred Bowman and Alice Wardle were known as the “Gateshead Grans.” Their organized tour put them up in Levante Club Apartments, near a beach on the south coast.
Their room had a folding bed, and the task of lowering it fell to the women. In the process, the bed fell on the women. They were trapped.
This did not kill them instantly. Instead, it stuck them in place, while surrounding them with so much bedding, they had trouble breathing. Medical examiners eventually determined that they each took four days to suffocate to death. They spent that time struggling to escape, based on cuts and bruises on their hands.
Four days was also the length of time it took the hotel to discover them, a coincidence that raises a troubling possibility. Maybe, every day, the following exchange took place:
Maid: Hello. Housekeeping!
The Sisters: *Muffled cries*
Maid: Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow.
On the fourth day, the cries stopped. Only then did the maid key her way in. Only then did she see the truth.
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