10 Famous Acts of Vandalism

    August 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

    People have been vandalizing things ever since the night after the first thing was made. It’s human nature to destroy other peoples’ property for one’s own amusement, but despite the long, consistent history of vandalism, famous acts of vandalism are few and far between. People are great at ruining things on a moderate level, but every now and then someone (or a group of people) goes above and beyond their vandalism call of duty and really hits one out of the park. Far beyond simply spray painting a wall or smashing a mailbox, these are the most famous acts of vandalism in history:

    The Boston Tea Party

    Boston, Massachusetts

    boston tea partyThe Boston Tea Party is considered to be one of the most pivotal events in the history of America. It was, as Americans see it, the ultimate defiance of the King of England, and the act was intended to deliver the following message to the monarchy: “we don’t need your stinkin’ tea OR your stinkin’ taxes. We can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!” The problem is that, as American and patriotic as the act may be construed in history books, it was still a serious act of vandalism. In 1773, the British Government, utilizing the nationalized East India Trading Company, was placing a heavy tax on tea shipments that were sent to the colonies. Upon receiving three shiploads of taxed tea, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England, but the Royal Governor in Boston, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to return the tea. So, on the night of December 16, 1773, a bunch of colonists dressed up as Indians (who were the default “bad guys” at the time), raided the tea ships, and threw the entire cargo of tea overboard. Obviously England got pretty pissed about it, and two years later the Revolutionary War started. Yes, you read that correctly: the United States of America was founded upon vandalism.


    Hollywood, California

    hollyweedThe Hollywood Sign in Hollywood, California is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, and over its 88-year existence, it’s seen more than its fair share of vandalism. The sign was erected in 1923 by a real estate mogul who was advertising a new housing development in the Hollywood Hills, which is why the sign originally read “Hollywoodland”. It was not originally intended to be a permanent fixture, but with the rise of the entertainment industry in the Los Angeles area, the quirky sign quickly became a nationally recognized symbol of show business, and it was decided that the sign would become a permanent fixture on the Hollywood hillside, removing the “land” so that the sign represented the entire city of Hollywood. Of course, when you place a collection of 30-foot letters on an incredibly visible hillside, people are going to mess with it. The most famous act of Hollywood sign vandalism occured in 1776, shortly after California passed a state law decriminalizing marijuana. Mischievous weed-friendly vandal/furniture salesman Danny Finegood climbed the hill and altered the two O’s in the sign to look like E’s, so that the sign read “Hollyweed”, and stoners across the city rejoiced briefly, then instantly forgot what they were cheering about.

    The Shoe Tree

    Middlegate, Nevada

    shoe treeA shoe tree is a tree upon which, for some reason or another, people have decided to deposit their old shoes. Shoe trees exist all over America, but the largest shoe tree in the country was in a small town called Middlegate, Nevada, just off of the U.S. 50 Highway about 125 miles north of Reno. According to local legends, a quarreling couple unintentionally started the tradition when, in the heat of an argument, they threw one another’s shoes into the 70-foot Cottonwood tree. Over the years, thousands of travelers have visited the famous tree to hoist their old sneakers into its sprawling branches, which is a form of vandalism in itself. Then, the unimaginable happened on New Year’s Eve 2010. In a bizarre twist that not even M. Night Shyamalan could’ve predicted, a clan of vandals vandalized the famous shoe tree by chopping it down. The citizens of Middlegate held a memorial service for the fallen shoe tree, and then (we’re assuming) promptly moved out of Middlegate, Nevada, because without the shoe tree there’s really no reason why you should ever be there.

    The Blarney Stone

    Cork, Ireland

    blarney stoneMost people know at least a little about Ireland’s legendary Blarney Stone, which is situated just outside of the town of Cork, Ireland. According to local legend, kissing the Blarney Stone will endow the kisser with “the gift of gab”, or the ability to flatter people with your words. Basically, if you kiss the rock you’ll be able to pick up chicks. Naturally, millions of tourists from all over the world flock to Ireland annually to press their lips on the cold, inanimate bluestone slab. What these eager, conditionally superstitious tourists don’t realize is that, according to local gossip, some of the local residents make it a point to vandalize the Blarney Stone on a regular basis…by pissing all over it. Sure, its a subtle act of vandalism, but it must be really hilarious to watch a bunch of idiotic tourists kissing a rock that you pee on all the time, right?

    Bubblegum Alley

    San Luis Obispo, California

    bubblegum alleyIf you’re ever in downtown San Luis Obispo and you find yourself standing between 733 Higuera Street and 734 Higuera Street, then congratulations: you’ve just stumbled upon one of the most bizarre acts of encouraged mass public vandalism in the world. Bubblegum Alley is literally an alley. It’s about 70 feet long and 15 feet tall, and its walls are completely covered with wads of old chewed gum. The origins of Bubblegum Alley are sketchy at best, but it’s believed that it was started in the 1950’s as a bizarre manifestation of a school rivalry between the San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly, the two local schools. Regardless of the alley’s origins, by the 1970’s Bubblegum Alley fever was in full swing. Local schools and colleges began spelling out acronyms for fraternities and sororities in gum, and local inside jokes were written out in wads of chewed gum. Public opinion of Bubblegum Alley is (and always has been) divided: some residents think Bubblegum Alley is awesome, and others think that its the most disgusting thing they’ve ever seen. Nonetheless, numerous attempts to scrub the walls of Bubblegum Alley have been voted down by the city council, so it looks like San Luis Obispo has decided to embrace its famous, albeit totally disgusting, vandalism memorial.

    The Buddhas of Bayiman

    Bayman Valley, Afghanistan

    buddhas of bayimanThe Bayman Valley in the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan used to be home to two immense Buddha statues that were carved directly into a sandstone cliff side sometime in the 6th Century. The statues stood at an astonishing 180 and 121 feet tall and were painstakingly carved by hermetic Buddhist monks who have lived in the region for centuries. However, in 2001 the Taliban began cracking down hard on “un-islamic” activity in Afghanistan, and their first stop was the giant Buddhist statues parked in the middle of the country. The Taliban issued multiple press releases and memos stating that they considered the Buddha statues idols, and that they were proud to destroy them. Then they dynamited the hell out of the two 1500-year old statues. Obviously, many other governments denounced the actions of the Taliban-controlled Afghan government and vowed to help rebuild the ancient statues. The international effort to reconstruct the Buddhas of Bayiman is still underway but, y’know, the country’s is bogged down in an endless war right now, so it may not happen anytime soon.

    Jubal Brown’s Puke Fetish

    New York City and Toronto, Canada

    jubal brown pukeJubal Brown is a video producer and multi-media artist who lives in Toronto, Canada. He’s also a pretentious douchebag and a repeated vandal of classic art. Jubal’s acts of vandalism weren’t all that serious, but its his M.O. that gains the most recognition. Jubal likes to find classic works of art that he considers boring. Most of the time these works of art are hanging in prestigious museums because, well, they’re classic works of art. Then Jubal drinks some paint, goes to the museum, and pukes the paint onto the art. He’s vandalized two works of art so far, both in 1996. First, he visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and vomited blue gunk all over Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red and Blue. Shortly after, he visited the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and puked red goo all over Raoul Duffy’s Harbor at Le Havre. He’s also rumored to have planned a yellow puke attack on another work of art, but he never went through with it. The beauty of the plan is this: Jubal wasn’t charged with vandalism in either case, because he just claimed that he got sick. It was only after the fact that he went public, saying that this was his form of art. Puke vandalism. It seems weird now, but keep in mind that this guy drinks paint.

    Bijan’s Bugatti

    Beverly Hills, California

    bijans bugattiFor those few readers out there who aren’t super-duper rich mega-kajillionaires, let’s begin with a little background info: there was a famous fashion designer (I say “was” because he died recently) named Bijan, who was an incredibly rich man. Bijan owned a fancy boutique in the heart of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, which was considered unanimously to be “the most expensive store in the world”. Bijan also drove a tricked out $1.7 million Bugatti sports car, which he parked on the curb out in front of his posh store on Rodeo Drive, just to rub his extreme richness in all the other normal rich people’s faces. Bijan passed away in April of 2011, and in the months after, his family left the Bugatti parked in front of the Boutique as a sort of billionaire’s memorial. The car was already a famous and notable Beverly Hills landmark, and its reputation increased in the months after Bijan’s death. Then one day, in broad daylight, a homeless guy walked up to the fanciest car on the fanciest street in the fanciest neighborhood in America and blatantly smashed the window. Meanwhile, the two dozen people that were taking pictures of the car, the 100 or so people who were just walking by, and the 60 people in various tourist buses that had stopped to look at the Bugatti all simultaneously muttered “What the F#$!” The man was arrested immediately following the incident. Who’d have thought that a homeless guy yelling at a car would turn out to be crazy?

    The Little Mermaid Statue

    Copenhagen, Denmark

    little mermaide statueIn 1909, a super rich guy commissioned a statue to be built in the harbor of Copenhagen, the capitol of Denmark. The statue depicted the Little Mermaid, which was one of the rich guy’s favorite Hans Christian Anderson stories (yeah, that’s right: Disney didn’t write that story. The singing crab was all their idea, though). The bronze statue was unveiled in 1913 and has been a staple of the harbor ever since. Every year millions of tourists come to Copenhagen to see the famous statue, and every single one of them is surprised to see that it’s only about 4 feet tall. The statue sits on a rock surrounded by water in the harbor, but that hasn’t stopped numerous vandals from damaging the landmark, and over the past five decades the Little Mermaid Statue has fallen victim to numerous vandals. In 1961, someone spraypainted a bra on her. In 1964, vandals sawed off the statue’s head. The original was never returned, and a new head was made for the statue. In 1984, some kids sawed off one of the statues arms but returned it shortly after. In 1990, another vandal tried and failed to decapitate the statue again, leaving a huge gash in the Mermaid’s neck. In 1998, she was decapitated again. In 2003, she was blasted off of her rock with dynamite. In 2006, somebody attached a dildo to her hand and covered her in green paint. In 2007, she was covered in paint twice and dressed in a muslim dress. Since then, Denmark officials have been considering moving the statue further out into the harbor to make it less accessible to vandals. Perhaps they should consider a theme park or something, because people in Copenhagen clearly have nothing to do.

    The Toynbee Tiles

    toynbee tilesThis is a weird one. Since the 1980’s, mysterious tiles have been found embedded in sidewalks in over 20 cities in the U.S. and South America. Nobody knows who’s been creating the tiles (and illegally placing them on public sidewalks all over the world), but it’s commonly believed that the culprit lives in Philadelphia, as there are more Toynbee Tiles there than in any other city. The tiles are all of similar size (about the size of a license plate) and usually feature a similar message which reads something like this: “Toynbee ideas/in Kubrick’s 2001/resurrect dead/on planet Jupiter”. Many have speculated on the meaning of the cryptic message. Some suggest that it’s a reference to famous (and long dead) historian Arnold Toynbee. Others speculate that the message is partially a reference to a Ray Bradbury book that mentions Toynbee. The reference to Stanley Kurbrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is obvious, but the creator of the tiles, the motive, and the exact intent of the message remain a mystery. As for suspects, there are none. It’s clear that the tiles have all been created by a single person, but the best suspect the police ever had was a Philadelphia carpenter named James Morasco, who would’ve been in his 70’s when most of the tiles were laid. Morasco died in 2003, and new tiles have shown up since, so the mystery continues.

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