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Have you heard about the psychologist who decided to raise his baby son alongside a chimpanzee? It didn’t go exactly as planned. This episode of The List Show is all about Experiments Gone Wrong, from the funny to the fatal.

Erin (@erincmccarthy) shares well-thought-out experiments that just didn’t pan out as originally envisioned, alongside some truly harebrained schemes that probably never should’ve been tried.

For more experiments with unexpected results, check out our article on 15 Science Experiments With Great Unintended Consequences:

In case you forgot, The List Show is a trivia-tastic, fact-filled show for curious people. Subscribe here for new List Show episodes the first and third Wednesday of each month:

Have you heard about Winthrop Kellogg, the comparative psychologist who nearly made his son go ape?

Hi, I’m Erin McCarthy, editor-in-chief of Forgive the awful primate pun, but in the early 1930s, Kellogg and his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy they named Donald.

The psychologist had grown interested in those stories of children who were raised feral — but don’t worry, he didn’t send Donald to be raised by wolves. He did the opposite — he managed to get his hands on a similar-aged baby chimp named Gua and raised her alongside Donald. Gua initially did better than Donald in tests that included things like memory, scribbling, strength, dexterity, reflexes, problem solving, climbing, language comprehension and more.

But she eventually plateaued, and it became evident that no amount of equal treatment was going to make her behave more like a human— for example, she was never going to be able to speak English. But when the Kelloggs ended the experiment, they did so abruptly and without much explanation, which is contrary to the meticulous records they otherwise took throughout the course of the study. While Gua wasn’t showing any signs of picking up English, Donald had started to imitate the vocalizations of his sister from another... species.

So, it’s not hard to speculate why the Kelloggs called it quits. And that’s just the first of 15 experiments gone wrong that I'm going to share with you today. You may have heard about the Stanford Prison Experiment, a social psychology study gone horribly awry in 1971.

The point of the experiment, which was funded by the U. S. Office of Naval Research, was to measure the effect of role-playing and social expectations.

Lead researcher Philip Zimbardo had predicted that situations and circumstances dictate how a person acts, not their personalities. To start, 24 young men were assigned the roles of prison guard or prison inmate, with some held back as alternates. Each was paid $15 per day for his participation in the study, which was supposed to last two weeks.

The prisoners were “arrested,” taken to a fake prison in the basement of a school building, then made to wear a dress-like prison uniform with chains around their right ankle. By the second day, the faux prisoners had revolted. Over the next few days some of the prisoners were so traumatized that they were pulled out of the experiment.

The experiment was disbanded on day six, after an outside observer witnessed the upsetting events taking place and sounded the alarm. Many modern-day researchers don’t believe the experiment can be replicated because it doesn’t meet today’s research ethics standards — namely, informed consent. After all, it’s hard to give fully informed consent when there’s no way to predict how events could unfold.

Beyond that, some psychologists doubt the core findings of the experiment and claim that the cruelty didn’t emerge organically, but was instead influenced by Zimbardo nudging the experiment in that direction. For his part, Zimbardo has defended his results and stated that these criticisms are misrepresenting his study and the experiences of the people in it. If there's anything to be said for Franz Reichelt, it's that he had supreme confidence in his own invention.

In the early 1900s, Reichelt crafted a parachute from 320 sq. feet of fabric, all of which folded up into a wearable aviator suit. He had conducted several parachute tests using dummies, which all failed — but he blamed the buildings, saying that they simply weren’t tall enough. In 1912, Reichelt planned to test his latest version by flinging a dummy from the Eiffel Tower — but when he arrived at the famous landmark, he surprised the waiting crowd by strapping on the parachute suit himself.

You can probably guess what happened... or didn’t. The parachute didn’t open, and Reichelt became a victim of his own invention as horrified onlookers watched him plummet to his death — although it has been reported that an autopsy determined that he actually died of a heart attack on the way down. Here’s an experiment with much, much lower stakes — though it’s disturbing in its own way.

A number of years back, McDonald's concluded that they needed to offer more nutritious options for children—which led one mad scientist in Ronald’s test kitchen to come up with bubble gum-flavored broccoli. Yes, you heard me correctly — saccharine-sweet cruciferous vegetables. The face you just made is evidently the same face the focus group of kids made, and luckily for all of us, this horrifying experiment never made it to a Happy Meal near you.

It’s an age-old tale: You’re attempting to create malaria medicine, but screw up and invent a color instead. This odd story belongs to chemist William Perkin,who, in 1856, was experimenting with ways to manufacture a synthetic version of quinine, a tonic water ingredient that also happens to treat malaria. At the time, dyes were only made from things like plant material and insects—but when Perkin was mixing up his latest quinine concoction, he accidentally produced an oily sludge that left a lovely shade of light purple residue.

He had unwittingly discovered a way to produce mauve. The color was a smash hit, especially after Queen Victoria donned it for her daughter’s 1858 wedding. In the end, the experiment went wrong — but the result was all right, especially for fashion mauvens.

Er, mavens. Another happy failure is the Michelson-Morley Experiment. The experiment was supposed to detect ether, a substance that carried light waves, according to some scientists.

The working theory at the time, in the late 1800s, was that ether was motionless, so the motion of Earth through space would alter the speed of light depending on what direction you were facing. This was popularly known as “ether wind,” which sounds like something Ghost Hunters would search for on a basic cable TV show. Anyway, to test the ether wind theory, scientist Albert Michelson invented a device that could theoretically measure changes to the speed of light, thus detecting the supposed ether wind.

The device was perfectly accurate, but it didn’t detect any changes in the speed of light. What Michelson and his collaborator Edward Morley discovered — or rather, didn’t discover – eventually led to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, and the realization that the speed of light is a universal constant, and there is no absolute space or absolute time. All that from a failed experiment.

Thanks to YouTube commenter Luke Hill for writing to us about the Michelson-Morley experiment. If you want to be featured in the next List Show, leave us a comment with your favorite fact about priceless things we’ve lost forever. That’s less “the Tamagotchi you had in 6th grade,” and more “the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” Now, let’s pivot from a scientific experiment to a marketing experiment: that time the Cleveland Indians tinkered with a new promotion to increase fan attendance in 1974.

The MLB team’s big “Aha” was that giving fans the opportunity to purchase an unlimited amount of beer for 10 cents a cup was... not the best idea. The game against the Texas Rangers was an eventful one, and we’re not talking about strikeouts or runs. Memorable events of the evening included a woman running into the Indians’ on-deck circle and flashing the umpire; a naked fan running onto the field and sliding into second base, and a father and son who ran onto the outfield and mooned the bleacher section.

Things took a violent turn when fans launched fireworks into the Rangers’ dugout, and the whole thing eventually turned into an all-out riot, fans against players on both teams. Players were hit with folding chairs, there were numerous fist fights, and some players were injured when they were pelted with rocks. The Cleveland Indians sort of learned their lesson—they kept ten cent beer nights, but limited the promotion to two drinks per person.

Yay, progress? After hearing this tale, you’ll think that Stubbins Ffirth had been drinking a lot of Ten-Cent Beers, but as far as we know, that’s not the case. At the turn of the 19th century, Ffirth was a medical student who believed that yellow fever wasn’t contagious.

To prove it, he tried some awful, awful experiments on himself. He cooked vomit from yellow fever patients on his stove and breathed in the vapors1. He dropped the vomit into his eye2, into an incision he had made in his left arm3, and put drops of a patient’s blood serum into his left leg4.

Eventually, he was basically drinking shots of black vomit . . . straight. He described the taste as “Very slightly acid,” by the way, which is a statement that will haunt me for the rest of my life. How did he Ffirth manage to ingest all of this without falling ill?

Well, we now know that Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes. So maybe Ffirth was vindicated? Is this just a disgusting experiment gone right?

Not exactly. We also know now that yellow fever can be spread from human to human through direct bloodstream contact, and Ffirth was deliberately introducing samples to his bloodstream. So how’d he avoid contracting the virus?

It’s been proposed that he may have had an immunity from an unrecorded bout of yellow fever earlier in life. Or maybe he just got extremely lucky and the samples he used were virus-free. Either way, if you’re chugging vomit and cutting open your arm to introduce a potentially lethal virus, I think it’s fair to say something has gone wrong.

In the early ‘90s, eight scientists sealed themselves into a 3.14-acre structure in Arizona. The highly publicized, $200 million experiment was known as Biosphere 2, and, and according to one of the scientists involved, its goals included “education, eco-technology development and learning how well our eco-laboratory worked.” The scientists ran into a number of problems that required outside interference in order to continue the experiment, including a lack of sunlight that affected crops, a cockroach infestation, an injured crew member who had to temporarily leave for treatment, and, oh yeah, insufficient oxygen. In recent years, however, the success of Biosphere 2 has been re-evaluated, with some scientists believing that the base message — that humans can live in harmony with our biosphere — was a win in and of itself.

And even if the vast investment was viewed as a mistake, the underlying idea remains solid: similar experiments have been recently conducted to see if we can sustain human life on Mars. Although basketball was originally played with soccer balls, the game has been played with a leather ball since Spalding began manufacturing sport-specific balls in 1894. The ball was tweaked here and there over the years, but the modifications apparently went too far when the NBA experimented with a microfiber ball in 2006. “The New Ball,” as it was commonly known, was cheaper to make and was supposed to have the feel of a broken-in basketball right from the start.

Sounds good in theory, but players absolutely hated it. Shaquille O’Neal, Lebron James, and Dirk Nowitzki complained about the ball to the press. One issue was that the ball apparently became much more slippery than a traditional leather ball when it was wet, which happened frequently when sweaty basketball players were constantly handling it.

Some players even reported that their hands were getting cut due to the increased friction of the microfiber surface. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban commissioned a study from the physics department at the University of Texas at Austin. The study found that the ball bounced 5 to 8 percent lower than a traditional leather ball, and bounced up to thirty percent more erratically.

Feeling deflated, the NBA officially announced they were pulling the ball from play on December 11, 2006 — less than three months after its debut in a game. I think it’s safe to say that an experiment falls into the “gone wrong” category when it may have been responsible for producing the Unabomber. As an undergrad at Harvard in the late 50s and early 60s, Ted Kaczynski participated in a three-year-long study that explored the effects of stress on the human psyche.

After being asked to submit an essay about their worldview and personal philosophies, Kaczynski and 21 other students were interrogated under bright lights, wired to electrodes, and completely torn down for their beliefs. The techniques were intended to “break” enemy agents during the Cold War — and the students were never completely informed about the nature of the study. In short, the man who would eventually kill three people and injure over 20 more with his homemade bombs was subjected to repeated psychological torture.

Kaczynski later described this as the worst experience of his life, but of course, we can’t assume the study was solely responsible for sending him down the destructive and murderous path he eventually followed. But at the very least, the study is now considered highly unethical and likely wouldn’t pass current ethics standards for research. Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich managed to draw a straight line from human orgasms to the weather to well, alien invasion.

Influenced by Freud’s work on the human libido, Reich extended the concept to propose a kind of widespread energy he called orgone. To give you an idea of how scientifically sound Reich’s concept was, orgone has been compared to the Force in Star Wars. This energy was supposedly responsible for everything from the weather to why the sky is blue.

He believed orgasms were a discharge of orgone, and that through the manipulation of this energy you could treat neuroses and even cancer. As bizarre as this all sounds, Reich went even further in the late 1950s, when he became convinced that aliens were spraying the earth with a specific type of radiation to prevent us from using this powerful energy. In order to save the world, he and his son built Cloudbusters, a row of tubes attached to hoses immersed in water and aimed at the sky.

The water, they believed, would absorb the radiation. Did the experiment work? I guess we don’t know for sure, but the FDA didn’t think so.

They ordered his various machines and apparatus destroyed, and had Reich jailed for trying to smuggle them out of state. All dogs go to heaven. Or at least, that's what the darkest animated children's film of all time would have us believe.

But Duncan MacDougall didn’t think so. In 1901, MacDougall conducted experiments on extremely recently deceased people — and dogs — to see if their body weight changed immediately after death. A decrease in weight, he theorized, would be indicative of some sort of a physical soul leaving the body.

To test this theory, he weighed six people before and after their deaths, and concluded that there was a weight difference anywhere from half to one and a half ounces—so somewhere between one and three compact discs. He repeated the experiment on dogs and found no difference – and therefore, by MacDougall’s reasoning, dogs have no souls. Other scientists have been critical of this experiment from Day One, citing issues like small sample size and imprecise methods of measurement.

April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy. And that’s how Coke describes the failed experiment that was New Coke. On that day, the Coca-Cola Company debuted a new version of their popular soft drink made from a new and supposedly improved formula.

It was the first major change to the product in nearly a century, and it was one that was supported by overwhelmingly positive reviews in taste tests and focus groups. But once New Coke actually hit the shelves, fans were absolutely outraged. While the taste tests accounted for the actual flavor of the new formula, it couldn’t account for the emotional ties consumers had to the brand history.

Fans started hoarding “old” Coke, and complaints poured in to the tune of 1,500 calls a day. CEO Roberto goh-SWET-uh even received a letter addressed to “Chief Dodo, The Coca-Cola Company.” The message was received loud and clear. Coke announced the return of Old Coke in July, dubbing it Coca-Cola Classic — and they never experimented with the formula again.

Or if they did, they kept it to themselves, and we’re none the wiser. Here’s an experiment that didn’t go wrong: I cut my bangs! And only snipped my own fingers twice in the process, so I’m calling it a wine.

Anyway, don’t forget to leave a comment about a priceless thing lost forever for your chance to be featured in our next video. It’ll be up on June 3rd- be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it. We’ll see you then!