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This episode of The List Show features some of the unluckiest people in history, from baseball grabbers to lottery losers. You'll learn why Roy Sullivan had a hard time maintaining a good head of hair and find out that inventing the saxophone was just one unbelievable moment in the life of Adolphe Sax.

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On December 22, 2011, the small Spanish  village of Sodeto transformed from a rural farming community into a suddenly wealthy  enclave, thanks to a lottery worth $950 million.

Everyone in the town shared in the riches. Well, everyone except for one man, that is.

Hi, I’m Erin McCarthy, editor-in-chief of, and this is The List Show. This tantalizing tale of a fortune  just out of reach is just one of the stories I’m going to get into today as  we look at some of the unluckiest people in history. We’ll discuss the man whose  backyard became a battlefield–twice—and an absurdly accident-prone instrument inventor,  among other unlucky tales.

Today's episode is brought to you by Curiosity Stream. Grab your  lucky rabbit’s foot and let’s get started. Spain’s Christmastime lottery, known as  El Gordo (or the Fat One) isn’t exactly like the Powerball you may be familiar with.

The  government prints out multiple series of tickets with the numbers from 0 to 99,999 and distributes  them to local offices throughout the country. Anyone can purchase a single ticket for 200 euros,  and it’s common to then break the tickets down further into tenths or even smaller fractions for  people who didn’t want to pay the full freight. Each year, Sodeto’s local housewives’ association  would buy a collection of these tickets and knock on every door in town to sell them off  by a quarter of a tenth of a full ticket.

It was basically a way to raise money for town  functions—you would pay 5 euros to get in the game and throw in an extra euro for the association’s  community efforts. More money got you more entries, and by extension a larger share of any  hypothetical winnings. For the 2011 drawing, as a piece in GQ explained, a woman named  Carmen from the housewives’ association chose to buy 6,000 Euros worth of tickets  all marked 58268.

Everyone in the village participated in the yearly tradition, knowing  that they would probably all lose the lottery, but enjoying the dream of cashing in together. That year, they cashed in. In a big way.

When the village’s number was drawn, word spread quickly  throughout the town. People flooded the streets in celebration, waking up Costis Mitsotakis, a  filmmaker from Greece who had originally moved to a barn on the outskirts of the village to be with  his girlfriend. That relationship didn’t work out, but you’d be hard-pressed to say it was the  unluckiest moment for Mitsotakis in Spain.

It seems that the housewive’s association simply  forgot to reach out to him that year, leaving him on the outside looking in as the massive winnings  were eventually split between 70 households. Prizes ranged from $130,000 to a few million  per household, depending on the amount of full tickets or ticket fractions a person bought. Mitsotakis explained to The New York Times that it would have been nice to be part of the  winnings, but he didn’t seem to hold a grudge.

He even plans on releasing a documentary about the  impact the lottery had on the village some day. It’s bad enough having unwanted guests  come over—but what about an unwanted army? How about TWO unwanted armies?

That’s the fate  that befell Wilmer McLean, who lived on a farm in the Manassas area of Virginia. If Manassas  sounds familiar, it’s because it was the site of the First Battle of Bull Run, the 1861 military  engagement that was the first major land conflict of the American Civil War. The violence took  place pretty much right on top of McLean’s land, with Confederate forces using his home as their  headquarters.

At one point, a cannonball broke through the house and landed in the kitchen. McLean, a former member of the Virginia militia, was apparently fine with the ordeal  at first, though he probably wasn’t looking forward to the cleanup afterward. Then, the very next year, it happened all over again—Union and Confederate soldiers  squared off for the Second Battle of Bull Run, again on McLean’s doorstep.

In all, the battles  racked up around 20,000 casualties, leaving McLean no other choice than to sell the land and move his  pregnant wife 100 miles south to avoid having his property used as makeshift army headquarters. Unfortunately, he just so happened to wind up moving to the community of Appomattox Court House,  Virginia. In 1865, the war found Willy again.

This time, his home became the scene of General Robert  E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, leading a most-likely exasperated McLean  to allegedly say, "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor." After the surrender, soldiers on both sides cleared out McLean’s home of  anything they could get their hands on.

Art, furniture, and clothing were all taken as  souvenirs, and all McLean could do was sit back and watch. One Union soldier went so far as  to steal one of McLean’s daughter’s dolls. One group of seriously unlucky people we are  not going to cover today is the roughly 2,000 residents of Pompeii whose lives were cut short  in the year 79 CE.

Luckily for you—and for me, actually—today’s sponsor, Curiosity Stream, has  a great documentary on exactly that subject. As you probably know by now, I am a sucker for  anything related to morbid history, and seeing the body casts at Pompeii is *absolutely* on my  bucket list. But the film Pompeii: Disaster Street actually provides *more* access to the ruins than  any regular visitor could get at the site—among other things, it takes us behind the scenes with  an excavation team to reveal how new forensic analysis rewrites our understanding of history.

It is super-interesting, slightly haunting, and just one of the roughly five kajillion  documentaries Curiosity Stream has available. Please don’t quote me on that number, which is,  in fact, not a number at all, but seriously: it’s a great service with a ton of content about  history, science, food, technology, true crime, and a whole lot more. It’s the Netflix for  Nerds, and if you click the link down below and use the code MentalFloss, you get access to all of it for an entire year for just $14.99.

Somewhere on the Mental Floss YouTube page it  says we’re a channel “for the curious,” which I believe is legally binding, so I have  no doubt that if you enjoy our content, you’ll find a ton of stuff to watch and enjoy  on Curiosity Stream. It’s a great platform for people who want to know more, and I consider us  lucky—yes, she can tie it back to the theme of the video!—that they sponsored our episode today. Let’s move now to World War I, which raged from 1914 through the end of 1918 and claimed a  morbid total of up to 20 million civilians and military personnel along the way.

After  more than four years of constant conflict, an armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, that  signaled the end of hostilities. The agreement was signed around 5 a.m. and didn’t officially go  into effect until 11. That left six hours for the message to reach the front lines, and plenty  of time for a few final shots to be fired.

Enter: Henry Gunther, whose time in  the trenches was riddled with bad luck, even by trench standards. First, the Baltimore  native was demoted from a Sergeant to a Private after military censors read a letter  he wrote to a friend complaining about the war and urging him not to enlist. Then,  upon hearing about the demotion, his fiancee allegedly decided to call off their engagement. Gunther eventually took on the role of a runner, carrying messages back and forth between  units on the battlefield.

To put it mildly, it’s not the cushiest of gigs. In the waning days  of the conflict, he was stationed in France when word of the Armistice reached his squad and the  German machine-gun nests at a nearby hilltop. But there were still 16 minutes until  the hostilities officially ended.

Then, at 10:58 a.m., shots rang out from the  German position. The details are a little foggy: In some accounts, the U. S. troops were ambushed  by German machine gun fire; in others, the Germans were simply firing warning shots before the end  of the conflict.

Whatever the reason, it led Gunther to charge one of the nests, as soldiers on  both sides pleaded with him to halt—to no avail. Gunther was gunned down at 10:58 a.m., making  him the last American officially killed in the war. His exact motivation will never be  known—some speculate he acted on his own, while other historians believe it was  a direct order from his superiors.

Gunther wasn’t alone, though. It’s estimated that  as many as 3000 soldiers died in that six-hour window waiting for the armistice to become  official. And as we mentioned in our episode on misconceptions about World War I, the fighting  actually continued for weeks outside of Europe.

Soldiers typically only fight for one side  during a war—it’s kind of the whole point of a war. But according to legend, Yang Kyoungjong,  a Korean native, eventually found himself fighting for both sides during World War II. And the  whole time, he was fighting against his will.

His strange journey began in 1938, when he  was forced into joining Japan’s Kwantung Army, which operated mostly in Manchuria. A year later,  he fought in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, part of the undeclared border conflicts between the  Soviets, Japanese, Mongolians, and Manchurians. There, he was captured by the Soviets and sent to  a labor camp.

During the height of World War II, he was forced by his captors into the Red Army  to help in the war effort against Germany. As bad luck would have it, Yong  was captured again in 1943, this time by Nazis during the Battle of Kharkov. But his stint in prison wouldn’t last long—soon, the Germans slapped a uniform on him and made  him one of their own.

Now fighting on behalf of the Axis powers, Yang was sent to France. He  fought against the Allies until—you guessed it—he was captured yet again, this time by the  Americans. He was sent to another prison camp—this time in Britain—before being sent to the U.

S. After the war, he settled down in the States and lived out his days in Illinois, where he kept  hush-hush about his military past. Apparently, having served the Japanese, Soviets, and Nazis  isn’t something foreigners like to brag about in Uncle Sam’s backyard.

I should point out,  though—while it all makes for a fascinating story, there are many historians who doubt it ever  really happened. Either way, it has emerged as a classic example of the chaos of that war. Let’s leave the wars behind and move back into the world of lost fortunes.

In January 2022, Apple’s market value briefly hit $3 trillion. That’s trillion with a  t. The foundation of this mega-conglomerate was famously laid by two men: Steve Jobs and Steve  Wozniak.

But there was a third Apple founder who you probably don't know about: Ronald Wayne. When  Woz and Jobs decided to form a company together, they wanted Wayne to have a 10% stake in order  to solve arguments and guide administrative decisions. One early decision, from back  before Apple was officially incorporated, saw Wayne help Woz understand the importance  of Apple having proprietary circuits.

He also helped in more unconventional ways by  designing the company’s first logo. Unfortunately for Wayne, he wound up cutting ties  with the future world-beater before it took off. He sold his 10% share after 12 days.

For that, he  earned a cool $800. In a 2017 interview with Vice, Wayne sounded at peace with his decision, saying  he never regretted selling his shares because he wasn’t passionate about computers. He doesn’t  even have a cellphone, has never owned an Apple product, and doesn’t believe in investing in  anything dollar-related (he sticks to gold and silver).

Maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t  believe in the dollar, because he would have well over $200 billion of them if he could somehow  cash out on that 10% ownership in Apple today. This next story involves  pain of a different kind. During the afternoon of November 30, 1954,  people across parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi reported a bright red flash  in the sky—according to National Geographic, people suspected everything from a fiery plane  crash to the Russians could be responsible.

What those onlookers actually saw was a  4.5-billion-year-old meteorite that was on an incalculable collision course with  a 34-year-old woman named Ann Hodges. The incident took place around 2 in the afternoon,  when Hodges was jolted awake from a midday nap after the eight-and-a-half-pound chunk of  meteorite rock crashed through her ceiling, ricocheted off her radio, and made a beeline  right into her left side. The odds are hard to wrap your mind around—this was a piece of  space debris about as old as the Earth itself, and its journey inexplicably ended in a Sylacauga,  Alabama, living room while some poor woman was just living her best life on the couch.

The whole thing turned Hodges—and the gnarly black bruise on her side—into a minor celebrity. But  what kind of bad luck must you have to be hit by something from space? Astronomer Michael Reynolds  told National Geographic that "You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of  lightning and a hurricane all at the same time." Hodges's luck didn’t exactly get much better  after the whole ordeal.

Since Ann was renting the house she was snoozing in, the home’s  owner sought ownership of the meteorite and proceeded to sue the Hodges family to get  it back. The matter was settled out of court, with the home’s owner getting $500 and allowing  Ann and her husband to keep the rock. But there were no buyers and no profit  to be made from Ann’s ordeal.

Instead, the meteorite had a brief stint as the Hodges’s  new doorstop before they eventually donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. The odds of you being struck by lightning aren’t quite as minuscule as getting hit by  a meteorite, but it’s still pretty rare. In a given year, the chances are about 1 in  500,000.

The odds of getting struck twice in your lifetime? You’re looking at about 1  in 9 million. By the seventh time, though, you have to wonder if the universe just has it in  for you.

Maybe that was going through park ranger Roy Sullivan’s head as he entered the Guinness  World Records in 1977 as the person to survive the most lightning strikes in history. The first strike went down in 1942, and cost Roy the nail on his big toe. Not bad—you  probably don’t need your big toenail…but it is nice to have.

But Roy was in store for six  more strikes that went down in ‘69, ‘70, ‘72,   ‘73, ‘76, and ‘77. In that time, he suffered  injuries to his shoulder, ankle, and chest. The strike in ‘72 even caused his hair to catch  fire, and in ‘73, he was struck again, causing him to lose the very hair he had just regrown.

Adolphe Sax’s name lives on through his invention, the saxophone, but that’s hardly the only musical  instrument he put his name to. Using a very Batman-esque naming scheme, he also created the  saxotromba, saxhorn, and saxtuba. But his other claim to fame is far more absurd: Sax suffered  a comical string of near-death experiences that would be right at home in a Harold Lloyd movie.

It started as a young child, when Sax toppled down three flights of stairs, punctuating the  mishap by whacking his head on a rock and, as the story goes, ending up in a coma. There  was also the time he fell onto a lit stove and suffered burns across his body, and the episode  in which poor Sax nearly drowned in a river and was fished out by someone passing by. Sax also had numerous run-ins with poison, including the time he drank some mistaking it for  milk.

And then there’s the time a roof tile fell on his head and knocked him out. Oh, and the time  he was blown across a room by exploding gunpowder. These various calamities even led his mother  to allegedly say: “He’s a child condemned to misfortune; he won’t live.” Thanks, mom.

Sax miraculously escaped all of these near-calamities with just some bruises, a few  burns, and a reputation for being something of a klutz. And maybe that reputation would have  been all he was ever known for—if not for the fact that he just so happened to invent one of the  most popular musical instruments on the planet. If Sax’s slapstick shenanigans sound  unbelievable, the tales of Jeanne Rogers will probably be even harder to wrap your  head around.

They start at the age of 18, when—according to her, at least—she fell off a  cruise ship while trying to snap some pictures. She apparently kept backing up and backing up  until she toppled over a railing. Her friend tried to get help, but then she slipped on the wet deck  and knocked herself unconscious.

She eventually came to and wondered what happened to Jeanne. No  one knew what she was talking about—and Jeanne was left bobbing in the water on a life preserver  until the ship swung around and scooped her up. A few years later, while Jeanne was delivering  cosmetic orders in a Connecticut suburb, her young son looked up and said “Mommy, funny  bird!” Suddenly, she was under attack from a bat in broad daylight, which latched onto her hair and  refused to let go.

As she desperately went from door to door looking for help, she was greeted  by shrieks from the neighbors. This apparently led the distressed bat to dig its claws into her  scalp even harder and proceed to urinate on her head. Eventually, someone basically threw their  car keys at Jeanne, who had to drive herself—and the bat—to a local vet.

The vet, in turn, threw  a bag over her head and filled it with smoke to knock the bat out. In the end, the bat had  ripped a chunk of Jeanne’s hair out, forcing her to wear a beret for three months. But her plight was far from over.

According to Jeanne’s own accounts, she was  also mugged, fell into an open manhole, and was almost killed by her own husband in a drunken  rage. She was also struck by lightning twice, with one of the strikes blowing off her shoes. All of this ranges from absurd to really tragic and genuinely terrifying.

But the coup de  grace—the main event, so to speak—came one day when Jeanne was swimming at the local YMCA  in Hartford, Connecticut. While enjoying a rare day when no bats were attacking her, she  heard over the intercom that someone named   “Rogers” was being paged. Well, Jeanne decided  to lift herself out of the water and see what the message was all about.

But somehow—as with  most things in her life—things went sideways. She accidentally wound up tugging on a man’s  swimsuit as they both tried to get out of the pool, causing the suit to come down and  give bystanders an unexpected show. The man?

Another Rogers who thought he was getting  paged. It just so happened to be Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mister Rogers, whose entire Neighborhood  was out in the open for the YMCA to see.

When interviewed in the Bangor Daily News in  2007, Jeanne summed up her feelings perfectly:   “Dying doesn’t scare me. But  living scares the crap out of me.” After nine downer stories, let’s  end on a more positive note. It’ll just take some time to get there.

You probably know the story of Steve Bartman, one of the unluckier fans to ever attend a  baseball game. In short, back in 2003, Bartman was sitting in the seats down the left-field line at  Wrigley Field during a game that could have sent the star-crossed Cubs to the World Series. When a  ball was hit in his direction, Bartman reached out to grab it, but in the process, he interfered with  Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, who could have caught the ball and brought his team one out closer  to the pennant.

Instead, the Cubs lost the game and then the series, and their 95-year stretch  without a title continued. Bartman quickly became public enemy no. 1 in Chicago and basically  disappeared from the face of the Earth. Well, everyone’s luck changed in 2016 when the  Cubs finally won the World Series.

To make up for over a decade of abuse that Bartman suffered  after the 2003 incident, the team awarded him with his own championship ring, which he accepted  in private—no cameras, no reporters. He did, however, put out a statement that  everyone could stand to listen to:   “I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of  one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we  should treat each other in today’s society.” He continued, “Moreover, I am hopeful this ring  gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved.” Our next episode is all about battles that changed the world. If you can think of a military  engagement—especially one that’s a bit lesser-known—that changed the course of humanity,  drop it in the comments below for a chance to be featured in that episode.

Thanks for watching!