How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)

By Gizmodo on at

In this infinite universe of ours, every event that occurs and every choice that we make continually splits away into countless individual timelines—alternate realities, if you will. So who's to say that Bigfoot, Kraken, Martians, even Cthulu himself aren't perfectly real but simply residents of a now divergent reality? Matthew Buchholz, author of Alternate Histories of the World illustrates just a few major alternate historical events of the last 6,000 years.

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)


The Great Chicago Fire - America 1871

The Great Fire of Chicago started on Sunday, October 8, and continued until Tuesday, October 10, consuming the downtown business portion of the city, a multitude of public buildings, hotels, interstellar trading depots, newspaper offices, railroad depots, and more. All told, the devastation extended over an area of five square miles.

Accounts of the incident vary, but it's believed the fire began when a group of Martians, feeling cheated in a business transaction, took to the skies in their flying saucer crafts and employed their Destructo-Ray on the city. Interstellar trading was suspended soon after the fire, and the event caused a massive wave of anti-immigration rhetoric, with Mayor Roswell B. Mason calling for stricter enforcement of the Alien and Sedition acts.

For years after, the fire was remembered in the children's rhyming song "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow":

Five nights ago, Mrs. O'Leary was surprised,

When she looked and saw the martians had arrived.

And when she got to the barn,

The cow was vaporized,

It'll be a hot time, in the old town, tonight!

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)


Rogers Pass at the Selkirk Mountains - Canada 1909

With the invention of portable rocket jet packs in the early twentieth century, numerous lives were suddenly changed forever. While the packs remained too expensive and dangerous for everyday use, daredevils and explorers saw great promise in the ability to quickly rocket thousands of feet in the air. Man mountaineers, like Canadian Ward Feeney and Colonel Marion Marshall (pictured overlooking Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains), quickly embraced the packs as a way to visit the tops of summits previously thought insurmountable.

Yet the jet packs had difficulty operating at high altitude, and the combination of ice and snow made for extremely hazardous flying conditions. Only two months after this photo was taken, Feeney's pack malfunctioned over Hermit Range, and the intrepid adventurer plummeted to his death. The worldwide outcry over this accident led to the jet packs being relegated to military use; today, civilian jet-pack licenses are almost impossible to obtain.

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)


The Signing of the Declaration of Independence - America 1776

John Trumbull's famous portrait of the signing of the Declaration of Independence has long been a source of controversy, due to its purported historical inaccuracies and knockoff lithographs and engravings. This is the first sketch of the portrait, featuring John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Magnificent Medwin the Mechanical Man, Charles Thompson, and John Hancock (seated).

Later drafts of the piece excluded Medwin, possibly because he was seen as a pawn of his creator, Franklin. Nonetheless, the Mechanical Man was instrumental in helping craft the first passages of the declaration, contributing the immortal "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and machines are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and/or Electro-Circuitry." Magnificent Medwin would go on to lead a distinguished military career and later serve his country in a diplomatic capacity.

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)


The Statue of Tyranny - America 1886

Officially titled Emperor Krgyyx Threatening the World, this grand statue at the entrance to New York Harbour has become known around the world as the Statue of Tyranny. A gift from the citizens of Mars, it was intended to dominate and subjugate the American people until Krgyyx himself would arrive for world domination sometime in the 21st century. The statue was delivered in one piece on the evening of October 27, 1868, and the mayor of New York received the dedication instructions the next day.

The statue was created long before the Martian Peace Accord of 1962, and the prophesied Coming of Krgyyx is a point of contention among many interstellar scholars. The fact that, as of this writing, numerous saucer crafts and heavy invasion cruisers were observed massing in orbit around Mars is probably just mere coincidence.

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)


Tokyo and Mount Fuji - Japan 1858

Unlike all of the other cities depicted in this book, Tokyo has never experienced a problem with monsters. Gigantic irradiated beasts have never crawled out of the ocean to lay waste to the town, nor have absurd flying turtles and moth-like creatures dropped from the sky, crushing buildings at will. Tokyo for centuries has been a peaceful refuge from all types of supernatural activity.

How Human History Could Have Turned Out (And Probably Should Have)

Alternate Histories of the World is available from Amazon. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books