Let's get twisted, everybody.
There have been incredible advances in the field of artificial intelligence in past years, but at this point, computers can only learn what humans teach them. Computers learn indiscriminately, and can pick up some pretty bad habits. IBM created a supercomputer named Watson—famous for becoming a champion on Jeopardy!—and after the computer synthesized information learned from Urban Dictionary, an online compendium of slang, they found that Watson’s language was starting to run a bit blue. The computer was fed Urban Dictionary definitions to help it understand slang like “LOL,” but after it began responding to questions by saying “bullshit,” Watson’s handlers had to purge the bad language from the computer’s memory.
After Jaws came out in 1975, Americans were gripped by a panic of shark fear. But where is the movie about vending machine deaths? According to statistics, the risk of being killed by a shark is 1 in 250 million—not very likely. But the risk of being killed by a vending machine is 1 in 112 million, meaning you’re twice as likely to be die by vending machine than by shark attack!
Shirley Temple was an incredibly famous and popular child star, and, like all celebrities, was subject to the rumor mill. One persistent rumour suggested that she was not actually a child, but a 30-year-old “dwarf”—fed by her body type and the fact that she never appeared to lose any teeth. In fact, she lost her baby teeth regularly and wore a dental plate in her films. During the height of these rumors, the Vatican even dispatched an investigator, Father Silvio Massante, to verify that she was, in fact, a child. The Vatican.
A 2008 study uncovered some glaring misconceptions among British teenagers in their understanding of history. 47% of the 3,000 teens polled thought that Richard the Lionheart, a real English King, was fictional. 58% thought that Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, was real, while 20% thought that Winston Churchill—Prime Minister during the end of World War II—was made up!
In 1846, a desert snail was sent from Egypt to England, where it was glued to a card and exhibited in the British Museum. In 1850, after noticing some discoloration on the card, a museum staffer immersed the snail in a warm water bath, whereupon the little guy woke up! He had spent four years in hibernation in the museum exhibit before it was discovered that he was still alive!
Four years in a museum hardly compares to the conditions that a tardigrade can survive. The tiny creatures, known as “water bears” or “moss piglets,” can survive radiation, boiling water, and pressures up to six times that of the deepest depths of the ocean. Tardigrades can even survive for 10 days exposed to the radiation and vacuum of space!
Viking warriors are renowned for their strength and fury in battle. A sect of Viking warriors called “Berserkers” are thought to have worked themselves up into a trance-like state during battle by consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms, though other modern scholars chalk their vicious rage up to the emotional distress and post-traumatic stress they’d endure in battle.
Rock goddess Janis Joplin passed away tragically of a drug overdose on October 4, 1970. She must have known her hard-partying lifestyle would catch up with her—just before her death, she made changes to her will. She set aside $2,500 to pay for an all-night party, "so my friends can get blasted after I'm gone.” Such a shame to lay out for a party she wouldn’t be able to attend.
Many public pools won’t even let you swim without a bathing cap or hair net these days, but the YMCA actually used to require that all bathers swim in the nude. Nude swimming was the norm in the 1800s and first half of the 20th century, when swimsuits were made of wool and could clog pools. Even still, when parents in Menasha, Wisconsin petitioned to allow boys to swim in swim trunks, they were voted down because it was thought that swimming nude would “build a man’s character.” By the mid-1970s, nude swimming all but a thing of the past.
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Atlantic fishermen from Cape Cod to the coast of Brazil might get a creepy surprise if they catch a sheepshead fish and look in their mouths. The sheepshead—also known as the convict fish—are up to 90 cm in length and can weigh 20 lbs, and have three rows of human-like teeth! Like humans, the fish are omnivores, and use their incisors and molars for biting and chewing on smaller creatures and ocean plants.
Some parts of Laos were so heavily bombed during the Vietnam war that bombs are still being discovered 40 years later. Many people supplement their income by collecting and selling scrap metal leftover from wartime munitions and damage—and there is so much scrap metal from shrapnel and rubble that some people can rely on it for their entire income.
In Kasturba Nagar, India, a mob of 200 women attacked and killed serial rapist Akku Yadav. Five women were arrested for the crime, but they had to be released after every woman in the village came forward and claimed responsibility.
The Founding Fathers are renowned for their intelligence, their rationality, and their foresight in drafting the Constitution of the United States of America, the document that laid the foundations of one of the world’s great nations. But documents newly unearthed suggest they might have been a bit in their cups while drafting the famous document. A bar tab from one evening two days before they signed the constitution ran up 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight bottles of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch. All for only 55 people.
It can be incredibly hard to pest-proof your home, especially if you live in an older building. To ensure no critters sneak into to snack on your food, chew on your furniture, or nibble on your toes, be sure to seal off all cracks and crevices no matter how small. A tiny mouse can fit through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen! Mice are very flexible, and their size comes mostly from fur. The only limitation a mouse has is the size of it’s skull—if a little mouse head can fit through a hole, the whole mouse can squeeze through!
Eli Roth played Donny Donowiz, aka “The Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II flick Inglourious Basterds. To psyche himself up to play his violent and erratic character, Roth came up with a strategy to get in an “insane” headspace: he’d listen to the music of Hannah Montana to get to his “psycho place.”
In Strasbourg in 1518, a form of manic group hysteria broke out, causing townspeople to compulsively dance. Known as “The Dancing Plague,” the episode began with a single dancer who danced for four to six days. Within a month, 34 had joined the dancing, and after a month, 400 people manically danced in the streets. Up to 15 dancers per day died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion. Neither disease nor psychology were well-understood at the time, and modern scholars have blamed the episode on ergot poisoning (which causes hallucinations and hysteria). The cure recommended by authorities at the time? More dancing!
There are quite a few conspiracy theories floating around about Denver International Airport since it was opened in 1995 by the New World Airport Commission. One suspicious detail is the 32-foot statue of a giant blue rearing stallion with glowing red eyes that stands in front of the Rocky Mountain airport. Nicknamed “Blucifer” by locals, the statue hadn’t even been installed before it took its first life: a portion of the statue toppled on its creator, artist Luis Jiménez, severing an artery in his leg and killing him.
Sporting leagues exist for those with physical disabilities, with wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby (aka “murderball”) very popular amongst disabled athletes. The level of athleticism required is high, and competition can be fierce. The International Paralympic Committee had to ban the practice of “boosting,” wherein an athlete with a spinal injury would self-harm in order to raise their blood pressure and boost their athletic performance. Methods such as overly tightening leg straps, administering electric shocks, or even breaking toes aren’t felt by the athletes because of their spinal injuries, but noticeably improve athletic performance.
In 2007, a Bowhead whale was discovered with the head of an explosive harpoon embedded deep under its neck blubber. The 4-inch brass projectile was manufactured in New Bedford, Massachusetts in approximately 1890. The whale would have been at least 118 years old, but some whales can live to the age of 200!
2016 saw the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles in human history, let alone World War I. More than 3 million men lost their lives, and another 1 million were wounded. Among those who were not killed were some famous names: J.R.R Tolkien and Adolf Hitler both fought in this battle, on opposite sides!
Adolescent boys may think they’re uniquely scandalous when they draw graphic graffiti, but the urge to deface a wall with a drawing of male genitalia is almost as old as civilization itself. Archaeologists discovered graffiti carved into a rock on an Aegean Island in Greece that is almost 2,500 years old! The inscriptions included drawings of phalluses along with some choice racy poems. Said Dr. Andreas Vlachopolous, a visiting archaeologist, "They were what I would call triumphant inscriptions."
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people make up only 15% of the population of New Zealand, yet count for 50% of the island nation’s incarcerated population. Despite New Zealand’s reputation for social justice and harmony, the small country has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the western world.
Hawaii’s white sand beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But how did they get so white? Thank the parrotfish, a species that crunches up coral with its powerful beak. Parrotfish don’t have stomachs—the organic matter and nutrients in the creatures that live in coral are absorbed, and the coral’s hard shells are passed right through and excreted as, you guessed it, beautiful white sand. A single parrotfish can poop out 840 lbs of sand per year!
A researcher once played a recording of an elephant that had died to its relatives. The family went wild calling, looking all around. The dead elephant’s daughter called for days afterward. The experiment was never repeated.
Adolf Hitler is widely believed to have committed suicide by ingesting cyanide capsules and shooting himself, but a declassified CIA document revealed that the CIA received reports that Hitler survived and fled to South America. The document included reports by informants that Hitler was alive and living in Columbia in 1955—almost a decade after the war ended. One memo included a photo of an alleged Hitler that did strongly resemble the dictator. The CIA was skeptical of these reports at the time and, according to available records, did not attempt to locate the alleged Hitler. One CIA spokesperson commented on the release, stating that the chances that Hitler escaped were “about 5%.”
For those of you who still feel mentally stable enough to handle a bit more darkness, check out these statements that mess with your head.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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