With advances in science in the 1950’s, along with the lasting effects of nuclear testing, America found that for every up, there was a down. The post-WWII decade saw an enormous spike in mutations that menaced many an American city, causing billions in damage and years of rebuilding. Fortunately for us, a good number of newsreels and documentaries, thinly disguised as B Movies, have kept a record of the human and financial costs associated with this destruction.
When the atomic bomb was first tested on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, it opened a veritable Pandora’s Box. Einstein’s concerns for the use of atomic energy for weaponry barely scratched the surface of horrors that America would face during the 1950’s. In 1953, testing in the Arctic revived a Beast that lived 20,000 fathoms beneath the surface of the ocean. It could not be stopped there and eventually ended up in New York City, where it caused destruction and disease. Who can forget the terrifying footage of the creature eating a police officer on the streets of the city? Finally, the beast was cornered on Coney Island, where it laid waste to many of the attractions, including the historic wooden roller coaster, the Thunderbolt. Luckily, the iconic Cyclone roller coaster was spared, but the Thunderbolt was closed for almost a year for repairs.
Many people who lived through the mid 1950’s will remember the film showing how genetic mutations occurred in New Mexico near the original test sites. “Them!” showed that even the smallest of creatures, namely ants, could become monsters when exposed to a nuclear blast. There would be no “Duck and Cover” here. Only conventional weapons could solve this problem, but not before many people were injured or killed. Some of the children left behind have undergone years of therapy, all without success.
But, this would not be the only problem to be faced. A giant octopus came from beneath the sea in San Francisco, due to the effects of the H-Bomb. The creature’s movements along the California Coast caused numerous communities to lose valuable tourist dollars. Many a business, especially those that rented boats and surfboards had to shutter their buildings. Due to damage caused by the octopus’ rampage most of these businesses were closed permanently. As well, the Golden Gate Bridge sustained structural damage that set economy of the entire Bay Area back twenty years.
Even Las Vegas was not safe, as in both 1957 and 1958, they were menace by a giant soldier, one Glen Manning, who should have been killed during a nuclear test, but survived to become a colossal man/beast. During his rampage through the casino district, several of the major hotels were damaged. Most notably, the Vegas Vic sign at the Pioneer Club on Fremont Street was almost completely destroyed. It was more than eight months before the words “Howdy Podner” were heard again on the strip. On the other side, the Hoover Dam, the site of Manning’s defeat, saw a 200% increase in tourist visits, making it the third most popular destination in Nevada, behind Las Vegas and the US Mint in Carson City.
Also in 1957, the Cold War heated up when nuclear tests around the polar caps unleashed a deadly Mantis. Although the test could not be tied to the Soviet Union, the fact that the mantis left the Arctic and ended up in Washington, D. C. seemed to point in that direction. For the record, the U.S. Government was silent on the beast and its attack on the Washington Monument. Off the record, many agents from the FBI and the CIA were dispatched to key locations throughout the country to maintain surveillance in case of another attack. It has even been rumored that there is a connection between the mantis’ presence in Washington and the death of Joseph McCarthy at the beginning of May.
With worldwide populations on the increase, and food supplies becoming more limited, some scientists attempted to develop a growth serum that could be used to help supplement the world’s pantry. In 1955, a lone scientist on the verge of a breakthrough accidentally set loose a test subject, a tarantula, which ravaged the Arizona countryside, killing cattle, horses and finally, humans. At great expense, the Air Force had to be called in to drop napalm on the creature. Although the sex of the spider was never determined, to this day, no other tarantulas have been noted.
In 1957, another scientist had success developing a means to grow larger than normal vegetables in a laboratory near Chicago. Sadly, care was not taken regarding the normal pests that can be found on vegetation, and grasshoppers became the size of elephants. Although it looked like the beginning of the end, a mating call for grasshoppers was used and lured the entire group into Lake Michigan, where they drowned. After the threat was neutralized, the U.S. Government took possession of all the research associated with study. Sadly, had Dr. Andre Delambre been allowed access to this research, his work on teleportation would not have ended tragically, as his genes mixed with those of a fly, with horrifying results.
As the decade ended, a couple of occurrences were noted that have defied explanation as to the cause. Another giant spider was found in 1958. Although there is evidence of the spider’s presence, many experts believe that this was a ploy by several parent’s groups to discredit Rock’n’Roll, as reports of the spider’s death were countered by reports of its being brought back to life by loud teenage music.
In 1959, giant leeches attacked people in the Florida Everglades and a giant Gila monster was reported in the Southwest. Although there are various theories, including the movement of nuclear fallout by air currents, none have been proven. The fallout theory does, in fact, hold more credibility, as experts cite the Scott Carey incident in 1957, wherein Carey was exposed to fallout, which incredibly caused him to shrink.
As one can see, the concept of the 1950’s as “Happy Days” is somewhat misleading. With atomic mutations and other failed experiments running amok in the United States, many Americans were at risk of being horribly injured or killed. Little wonder the TV series was set near Milwaukee, as it was city that saw little larger than a badger through the entire decade.
Ernie Fink is a Professor of Economics on loan from the University of Ifanyonecan (Yukon). He is the author of the paper “Godzilla and Reconstruction: The Fall of the Japanese Economy” and many other works whose title contain a colon. Currently, the University will not take him back and we at Bloody Whisper will entertain any reasonable offer to have him taken off our hands, including expired canned food. We are just that desperate.