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Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty
Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty

6 Crazy Things That Happened During the 1972 New Hampshire Primaries

Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty
Senator George McGovern (right) and running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton // Getty

The political world has once again invaded New Hampshire, the second state to hold primary elections and the frequent site of campaign endings and comebacks. As colorful as this cycle has been, it would take a lot of Donald Trump Twitter feuds or rediscovered Bernie Sanders spoken-word reggae records to make either party’s primary as bizarre and nasty as the one the Democrats endured in the Granite State in 1972.

Two candidates campaigned in the state, senators George McGovern of South Dakota and Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in the last election and the frontrunner. Using the then-novel tactic of dedicating most of his resources to early-voting states, McGovern had a surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, gaining 22.6 percent of the vote to Muskie’s 35.5. In a common dynamic, one candidate, McGovern, was cheered by liberals and activists while another, Muskie, was favored to win blue-collar, timecard-punching Democrats. But not everything about the primary was common. Here are six crazy things that happened.

1. McGovern Intercepted Factory Workers before Their Shifts.

Known for his impassioned speeches against the Vietnam War, McGovern had a reputation as a “peace candidate.” To broaden his support to blue-collar voters, he campaigned outside New Hampshire’s shoe, textile, and electronics factories. Gary Hart, his campaign manager and a future senator (who would go on to his own presidential primary debacle), recalls that McGovern and his staff arrived as early as 5:30 in the frigid morning, greeting the first shift. According to Hart’s book, Right from the Start: A Chronicle of the McGovern Campaign, the senator shook hands and robotically reiterated two sentences to each incoming worker: “Hello, I’m George McGovern. I’m running for president and I’d like your help.” They would repeat the routine when shifts changed in the afternoon.

2. A (Likely) Fake Letter to a Newspaper Claimed Muskie’s Staff Used a Racial Slur.

New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader practiced “a style of knife-and-kill journalism that went out of fashion a century ago,” writes political reporter Theodore H. White in his book The Making of the President 1972. Publisher William Loeb was a staunch conservative who often put editorials on the front page and savaged Democrats and moderate Republicans. (John F. Kennedy was “the No. 1 liar in the U.S.A.” and Dwight Eisenhower a “stinking hypocrite.”)

The Union Leader received a handwritten letter, full of spelling errors and supposedly written by Paul Morrison of Deerfield Beach, Florida. “Morrison” said he approached Muskie at a campaign event and asked how the senator could understand the problems of African-Americans given the ethnic makeup of Maine. A staffer supposedly said, “[W]e don’t have blacks but we have Cannocks [sic],” meaning Canuck, a slur for people of Canadian (particularly French-Canadian) ancestry. Muskie, the letter claimed, laughed and said, “Come to New England and see.” On February 24, the newspaper published the letter with an introduction announcing, “We have always known that Senator Muskie was a hypocrite. But we never expected to have it so clearly revealed.” It torpedoed Muskie’s standing among New Hampshire’s large Canadian-American population.

The letter was actually written by Ken W. Clawson, President Richard Nixon’s deputy director of communications, as part of a stealth campaign against Nixon’s political adversaries. In All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein claim that Clawson, though married, had badgered their coworker, Washington Post staff writer Marilyn Berger, for a date. Invited up to her apartment for a single drink, Clawson allegedly bragged that he’d written “the Canuck letter.” He would deny it to Woodward and Bernstein when they readied a bombshell report on Nixon’s “dirty tricks” in October of that year.

3. The Paper Then Went After Muskie’s Wife.

The following day, under the headline “Big Daddy’s Jane,” the Union Leader published accusations that Muskie’s wife, Jane, drank, smoked and used off-color language on the campaign bus. According to The Boys on the Bus: Riding With the Campaign Press Corps by Timothy Crouse, reports of Jane Muskie’s consumption habits and potty mouth were first mentioned in Women’s Wear Daily and then repeated in Newsweek and the Union Leader, becoming more vicious with every iteration.

4. Muskie Broke Down in Front of the Newspaper’s Offices.

In a now-infamous scene, Muskie appeared in front of the paper’s headquarters as snowflakes fell on February 26, speaking from the back of a rented flatbed truck. “By attacking me and by attacking my wife, [Loeb] has proved himself to be a gutless coward,” he declared. “Maybe I said all I should on that. It’s fortunate for him that he is not on this platform beside me. A good woman…”

Several newspapers reported that Muskie then began crying. He later said the facial dampness was due to melting snow. “Whether it was a choke, or a cry, or a sobbing — there was Edmund Muskie,” wrote White in The Making of the President, 1972, “a week before the primary, front page on the nation’s newspapers and carried on television, with snow falling on his curly hair … his voice breaking, emotion sweeping him.”

After the election, the senator blamed the hectic campaign schedule that had been peppered with flights to Washington for votes. “I’m tough physically but no one could do that,” he told White. “It changed people’s minds about me, what kind of guy I was. They were looking for a strong, steady man and here I was, weak.” His campaign never recovered.

5. Hunter S. Thompson Jokingly Accused Muskie of Being High on Psychedelics.

Hunter S. Thompson, covering the campaign for Rolling Stone, used the flatbed breakdown as a jumping-off point for a satirical article alleging that the senator was addicted to the psychedelic drug ibogaine. Thompson had a particular loathing for Muskie, likening him to a “vicious 200-pound water rat.” Thompson reported the “addiction” in April to see if his fellows in the press would run with it.

6. A Reporter Cussed Out Muskie and His Staff.

Even though he left with more of the state’s delegates than McGovern, the New Hampshire vote was seen as a setback for Muskie. As the frontrunner and senator from a neighboring state, he was expected to win heavily. The next day, Muskie held a press conference in “the dingy ballroom” of a Manchester hotel, recalls Crouse in The Boys on the Bus. Of course, reporters shelled him with questions about how the underwhelming results would affect his prospects.

“I can’t tell you that,” said the frustrated senator, who would bow out in April. “You’ll tell me and you’ll tell the rest of the country because you interpret this victory. The press conference today is my only chance to interpret it, but you’ll probably even misinterpret that.”

After the conference, Martin Nolan of the Boston Globe accosted Muskie and his aides in a profanity-laced tirade (for which he later apologized). “I’ve taken three and a half years of this kind of s--- from Nixon and those people,” he shouted, “and I’m not gonna take it from you pricks.”

Muskie, probably feeling like the Rodney Dangerfield of politics at that point, responded “Well, Marty, I guess you’re right.”

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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

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