Worst Places To Time Travel To In History

Let’s board the express train to the worst places to time travel in history.

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Whether it’s the Swinging Sixties or the construction of the Pyramids, we can all think of a few moments in history we’d love to time-travel back to. But what about the times and places a wise time traveler should always avoid? At certain points in Earth’s past, there was danger and horror at every turn. So, as a guide for any aspiring chrononauts, let’s board the express train to the worst places to time travel in history.

Europe’s Bubonic Plague

There’s a good reason we still talk about the Black Death so long after it emerged in 1347. In a mere five years, 20 million people dropped dead in Europe. The disease, caused by the bacteria Yersinia Pestis, spread at a blinding pace, transported by flea-carrying rodents.

If you happened to catch it on a visit to the era, there’d be no doctors to help you. Unless you count a handful of leeches and a bag of mint leaves as help. As disgusting buboes appeared in your armpits and crotch and you began bleeding out of every orifice, death would soon follow.

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Even if you could get back to the present, it’d likely be too late. Plus, your modern immune system (significantly weakened by the relative cleanliness of our modern world) would make you all the more susceptible to the disease. If that wasn’t enough, you’d also have to deal with the trauma of watching families abandon their sick relatives, including children, in boarded-up, forsaken plague homes.

While not often discussed, this harrowing time would be even worse if you were Jewish. Christian ministers throughout Europe, desperate for any reasoning behind the abject chaos, claimed Jews had caused the plague by poisoning wells and exterminated them in droves. But whether you’re Jewish or not, it goes without saying: avoid this period at all costs!

Exploding Heads at Herculaneum

Most people have heard stories of Pompeii and the horror that ensued there when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. But far fewer people are aware of Pompeii’s sister city, Herculaneum, which was even closer to the action.

If you were to park your time machine in Herculaneum on that fateful day, you’d be hit with a literally mind-blowing 900°F shower of ash and volcanic matter. Thanks to the difference in temperature between the human body and the volcanic matter, your head would rapidly boil and explode on contact.

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Those who didn’t explode were suffocated in layers of burning ash. While many of the town’s residents evacuated before the volcano erupted, over 400 people were caught during their escape. Today, most of Herculaneum’s architecture remains lost to history, with 75% of it still buried under solidified volcanic matter.

It’s not surprising when you consider that while Pompeii only received a 9-foot ash blanket, Herculaneum was buried under a whopping 75 feet. Unless a scorching demise is on your bucket list, avoid Herculaneum in the year 79CE.

Bombing of Dresden

Upwards of 85 million people died either as a result of battle or the surrounding chaos the Second World War brought about. Bombings were a terrifying everyday reality for many, even those away from the frontlines.

But the Bombing of Dresden, once one of Europe’s finest cultural centers, was different. Almost every one of the 35,000 people killed was a civilian, and historians still debate whether the attack was a tactical choice or simply a brutal display of power. All agree, however, that the Dresden bombing was Hell for those within the city.

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On February 13th, 1945, 800 British pilots dropped 1,400 tons of bombs and 1,110 additional tons of incendiary explosives on the city. Later that day, 300 more US bombers came in to obliterate the city’s transportation routes, and 200 more came two days later to level the city’s infrastructure.

Had you been there, you would’ve heard ground-shaking booms growing nearer and nearer. The buildings would begin to explode and collapse around you, shooting lethal debris in all directions and crushing anyone inside. Then the fire would come, in relentless waves of unimaginable heat, growing into a ceaseless inferno that would burn for days.

Needless to say, a trip to the city center at this time would mean instant death, in the most horrendous fashion imaginable.

WWI Trenches

The fighting conditions in the First World War were arguably the worst humanity has ever seen. New technologies like machine guns, tanks, and poison gas projectiles drove casualty numbers higher than they’d been for any previous war. 20 million were brutally slaughtered in this war of attrition, where each side aimed to “bleed out” the other.

In practice, this often meant grid-locks, where endless human lives were expended to see which side could hold out the longest. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers often died with less than an inch of advancement to show for it. But death would be the least of your concerns on the battlefields of places like the Somme and Verdun. The worst conditions awaited in the trenches.

These trenches were hastily-fashioned pits dug into muddy fields, to hold and advance the lines of combat. Stuck in the same spots for weeks on end, through all seasons, came with countless problems. In winter, your flesh would slowly rot from being constantly wet and freezing. In summer, you’d be dealing with millions of disease-carrying flies, attracted by the corpses that lined the pits.

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These corpses couldn’t be buried above thanks to the incessant machine-gun fire that met anyone who went over. Often, the bodies were buried in mounds, and when bombs struck these mounds, the limbs of your fallen friends were added to the list of projectiles you’d need to dodge.

The bombs were constant and deafening, and drove many insane with what was known as shell shock. We now understand shell shock as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, but at the time, those who succumbed to it were labeled cowards and put to death by their superiors.

The scenes were so chaotic and brutal that they’re said to have directly inspired the visual presentation of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. With death, disease, rot, and insanity at all angles, you’d have to be particularly brave (or just crazy) to travel back to the trenches of World War 1.

American Colonization

It’s often understated in high-school history lessons, but life for natives during the colonization of the Americas was Hell-on-Earth. The trouble began with the infamous expeditions led by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s.

Columbus’ crews perceived the natives as sub-human, and consequently, their lives had little value. This mindset resulted in countless acts of unspeakable cruelty. These included, at best, cutting off body parts as punishment for minor rebellion and, at worst, genocide of entire tribes and cultures.

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When his patrons, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, learned of Columbus’ crew’s brutal treatment of the natives, Columbus was ousted from his position of authority. But that didn’t change what had occurred and would continue to occur as the Americas were colonized.

Imagine yourself as a native, as strange men from foreign lands invaded, forcing you to unquestioningly adopt a new religion and culture, abandoning your own millennia-long traditions. All while under threat from impossibly-advanced-seeming technology like guns.

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As a time traveler, you’d have to witness all of this. Not to mention the endless reams of corpses, most of which were victims of diseases like smallpox brought by Europeans, to which natives had no immunity. The era saw the death of up to 90% of the native populations, and unless you have a very morbid fascination with this type of thing, you’d best stay well away.

The Witch Trials

As a time traveler, decked out in modern clothes and riding a strange machine, you definitely want to avoid Salem, Massachusetts, and most of Europe between 1560 and 1630. During this time, Christian authorities throughout Europe and the American colonies sentenced tens of thousands of people, mostly women, to death for the crime of witchcraft.

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This trend had its roots in a growing fear of devil worship, but despite the number of people brought to death over these crimes, the accusations were rarely specific. Accusations of witchcraft were often leveled at troublesome neighbors, women perceived as being too liberal, or those not seen to conform, though anyone could be at risk.

A wrong look, an ill word, an unconventional hat, or any behavior deemed out of the ordinary could merit an accusation. That is precisely why a modern person like yourself, with your strange attire and mannerisms, would be at risk.

But at risk of what exactly? First, there’d be a trial, often based on shaky evidence and biased towards a punishing outcome. Then there’d be the punishment itself. More often than not, this meant being burned to death.

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This was, in fact, mandatory in the Holy Roman Empire, as their criminal laws dictated any witch committing sorcery was to be burned at the stake. Other punishments included being crushed under huge rocks, hanging, beheading, and being tied to machines designed to drown witches in rivers. With these outcomes on the table, it's best to steer clear of the pitchfork mob and travel back to a Sabrina the Witch-themed Halloween party instead.

The Ice Age

By the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, homo sapiens (that’s us, by the way) had begun to emerge as the dominant species of the land. But that didn’t mean life was easy. In this period, early humans were trapped in a constant battle for survival. A single day’s bad luck could mean death for an entire family.

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Being able to find shelter and to adapt to the environment was essential for hunter-gatherers all over the place, not just in the iciest regions. It might sound strange, but while much of the Earth was an icy wasteland at the time, many of the parts that weren’t were transformed into extreme deserts.

With global rainfall approximately half of what we receive today, once-lush, tropical regions became arid wastes, making sustainable food even harder to come by. With very few foods in abundance, having to forage and hunt for every meal would be a potentially-deadly daily challenge.

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As a visitor, you’d better have brought plenty of tins of beans, because hunting a mammoth for a fatty meal could easily turn into a deadly trampling. And forget about medical care or painkillers; humans hadn’t even developed agriculture yet, let alone medicine. And that’s assuming you can even find a food source to get trampled by, to begin with!

Many species, unable to deal with the spreading ice sheets of the era, died out, reducing the available food sources even more. With a global temperature average of around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you’d better wrap up too, or risk freezing to death in a land without a single radiator.

Only in relatively small regions of land like southern Europe, sandwiched between parched deserts and unforgiving ice sheets, could humans survive in any meaningful way. And that doesn’t sound like a very fun weekend getaway.

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Land of the Dinosaurs

Jurassic Park has made us all believe that encountering a dinosaur would be insanely cool, but would you actually want to? Think about it: bears and mountain lions are terrifying enough to encounter on a hike, but a 20-foot-tall, 50-foot-long Spinosaurus?

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An unbelievable array of truly terrifying giant predators lived between 145 million and 66 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. Exploring just a handful is enough to paint a pretty clear picture of why this period should be considered a no-go.

The aforementioned Spinosaurus, for example, mainly hunted fish, but may have also been partial to land-based creatures. With razor-sharp claws as long as 7 inches, it’d have no trouble pinning you down and ripping chunks off with its terrifying teeth as you tried to flee. Even more terrifying would be the similarly-sized Mapusaurus.

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These T-Rex-like beasts hunted in packs, making an escape almost impossible in the instance your time machine breaks down in the wrong neighborhood. From above, you’d have flying dinosaurs like the Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus to worry about.

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These were found in the skies all over the world, with some being larger than fighter jets, and could easily scoop you up at any moment if they took a fancy to you. Not to mention the 40-ft-long master huntsman, Kronosaurus, patrolling the seas, if you splash-landed in water by mistake.

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So, unless you’re okay with losing most of your limbs to attacks from all directions, you’ll want to cross the Dinosaur Age right off your time-travel destination wish list. But, in all honesty, if time travel was possible, I’m pretty sure we’d all go anyway.

So if you ever get your hands on a time machine, I hope you stay away from these worst places to time travel to in history. Thanks for reading!

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