After you've seen an awesome movie, played a great game, or just read an amazing book, sometimes you're inspired to ponder the secrets of the universe. And other times, you decide to do something really dangerous or stupid. Here are 12 science fiction and fantasy stories that have inspired the most mayhem.
We all either know or were the kid who tied a towel on and jumped off something high. There have been stories circulating since the 50’s of kids jumping to their death while imitating Superman’s flying. The article “Superhero‐related injuries in paediatrics: a case series” sums up the problem by saying the children ”were injured after initiating flight without having planned for landing strategies.” Fortunately none of the kids in the case study suffered more than fractures. With the release of Man of Steel we can look forward to a whole new generation of injuries.
Over half the kids in the pediatric case study throwing themselves out of windows were dressed as Spider-Man. The young daredevils that survive actually seem to develop more reckless behavior. Parkour founder David Belle was raised on tales of Spider-man and Tarzan. His amazing gravity defying urban stunts definitely echo the famous web slinger. Some talented real life wall climbers are not using their powers for good. The Spider-Man bandit in Sydney, Australia scaled up to 30 stories to enter unlocked balcony doors. It turned out that “Spider-Man” was actually a father and son team that racked up $6.5 million in theft. In 2011 a string of convenience store robberies in Wilmington, N.C. were committed by a man in a Venom mask. The robber had enough self-awareness to dress as a villain, but the media still insisted on calling him the “Spider-Man Bandit.”
3. Assassin’s Creed Series
Altair gave this video game generation a new cool, hooded hero with neat signature moves and weapons to emulate. Ezio gave the assassins style, and Connor . . . well, Assassins Creed III had beautiful trees and ship battles. Since the first game, YouTube has hosted the costumed antics of free climbers and parkour enthusiasts reenacting the acrobatic feats of the Assassins. It is unsurprising that free-spirited urban climbers might embrace the primary tenant of the Assassins, "Nothing is true; everything is permitted," as they flout local ordinances.
4. October Sky
In the 1999 biographical movie October Sky, the teen characters in the movie stole railroad spikes from train tracks to sell for money to finance their rocket experiments. Two teenagers in 2006 copied the idea and removed 157 spikes from the railway in Theinesville, WI. The damage they did might have caused a train derailment. The boys did around $6,000 in damages and caused significant delays in train schedules due to repair. Unlike the movie they weren’t even stealing to finance science.
5. The Walking Dead (and other zombie stories)
The Walking Dead has done several publicity stunts that unleashed zombies upon and unsuspecting populace. People overall don’t seem to panic when confronted with lumbering and professionally made up zombies in highly populated areas. This does not mean you should dress up as a zombie and chase people around your neighborhood while your buddy films you, especially if you live in a particularly rough area. A Miami teen harassing locals was almost shot when pulling this zombie inspired stunt. The commentary of the jaded newscasters covering the story is delightful.
The constant bombardment of zombie television and movies has actually led to the CDC making a public announcement that there is no coming zombie apocalypse. Of course they then put up a tongue in cheek zombie preparedness guide when they realized they had everyone’s attention and could teach disaster readiness on the sly. With a portion of the population being convinced of an oncoming zombie event it doesn’t take much to push the unhinged over the edge. Real fears were fanned in February when KRTV in Montana was hacked and broadcasted an emergency alert about the dead rising.
6. Doomsday Flight
The 1966 made-for-TV movie Doomsday Flight by Rod Serling created such a rash of copy-cat bomb threats and ransom notices that the Federal Aviation Administrator John H. Shaffer asked that television stations not air the movie. The movie, which seems to be the predecessor to Speed, was about a bomb hoax plot to extort money from an airliner. The terrorists in the film say a plane has a bomb on it that will detonate if it flies below a certain altitude, and they will only give up the bomb’s location for cash. It is a testament to Serling’s writing ability that the movie was so convincing, but Serling was devastated by the emulation and said in an interview, "I wish to Christ that I had written a stagecoach drama starring John Wayne instead."
7. The Matrix
The unique visual style and special effects of The Matrix has made it a landmark movie in science fiction. Youtube is chock full of people reenacting scenes and fights with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately The Matrix has given also inspired a lot of violent behavior. At least three murderers, including the DC sniper, have cited The Matrix as part of their defense. They believed they lived in the Matrix and their actions were not against real people but computer constructs.
It is unsurprising that psychotic villain Joker would appeal to other disturbed people. Some hypothesize that James Holmes, the Aurora, CO theater shooter, might have been acting out a scene featuring the Joker from “The Dark Knight Rises” comic book series. In less-horrifying crimes, a man dressed up as the Joker vandalized and stole movie memorabilia from a theater in Michigan and a teen dressed as the Joker burned down his high school in Ireland.
9. Fight Club
Police arrested a seventeen-year-old who set off a bomb outside of a Starbucks in 2009. The bomb was not very powerful and did little damage. Inspired by the movie Fight Club, the teen had set up his own fight club and “Project Mayhem." Discovering the culprit was not a challenge for the police. Prior to the bombing, the would-be Tyler Durden bragged to his friends about the plot and told them to watch the news. He obviously did not imitate the movie’s rule about not talking about the fight club.
10. Clockwork Orange
Nobody ever reenacts cheerful movies and good deeds, or maybe the happy stuff never makes the news. The disturbing movie Clockwork Orange, which is full of futuristic gang violence and rape, set off a string of imitation crimes. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography lists several instances of people dressing up in the droogs' iconic white jumpsuits and bowlers to commit copycat beatings and murders. A 17 year old Dutch girl was raped while camping by a gang of droog-imitators chanting “Singin’ in the Rain.”
In a publicity stunt, Disney recreated the flying house from the movie with a hot air balloon. They flew the replica house under the Tower Bridge in London. This feel-good publicity stunt was actually pretty dangerous. The pilot couldn’t see out of the inflatable house so a second balloon flew alongside and radioed instruction to blind flying pilot.
Several groups of people brought chessboards with the pieces glued to them on roller coasters and thrill rides to imitate an XKCD comic. In the grand scheme of things this is pretty goofy and relatively harmless, but hey kids — coaster operators make you store loose items for legitimate safety reasons! What if one of those things wasn't glued on perfectly? Getting a Queen in the face at 70 miles an hour has got to suck.