Remember that kid in elementary school who would do anything for a laugh? He’d eat worms or roll in the dirt if it meant the attention of the class. Gross, right? Is there anything that could be more embarrassing?
Well it’s possible that budding clown had the right idea. It turns out human beings have a natural predisposition to be fascinated by the gross and disgusting. Psychologists have likened the phenomenon to the appeal of scary movies: we get a kick out of experiencing things that could harm us, without actually putting ourselves in danger. Rollercoasters and first-person shooters have a similar appeal. And those are so popular! Hence the appeal of all the most gross things on the planet. Maybe little Johnny Booger-Eater was right all along: disgusting is just interesting.
So it might be useful to think of this article like a rollercoaster. Sure, the practical side of your brain could be saying, “Stop! Why are we doing this???” But the thrill here is in exploring the far side: the things that we just don’t see every day. After all, how did humans first discover which foods we could eat, and which animals were harmful? Some pioneer had to try it out for herself. Therefore, as you watch, it’s fair to consider yourself as just another entry into the pantheon of great human innovators. Learning about the world of Ugh and Yuck so you might bring the knowledge back to your tribe.
42. If it doesn’t cure you…
Boiled toads were once thought to cure for rheumatism. Not salivating at the thought of ground up boiled toad? Try this: rotted mice were fed to children to cure bed wetting.
The next time you catch yourself complaining about the 21st century, take a moment to say a prayer for the poor child who peed the bed 400 years ago, and got to eat a mouse as a result. Maybe go thank you parents now. They may not have been perfect, but things could have been a lot worse.
41. Can’t leave your phone? Consider this.
A London study found that one out of every six cellphones has fecal matter on it. And if that isn’t enough to get you to put it down (or at least wash it), an Arizona microbiologist found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than toilet seats!
Now that we all know this, each of us is confronted with a pretty painful dilemma: is it still worth it to scroll the internet while we’re on the john? I mean nobody wants fecal matter all over their hands… but… it can get pretty boring just sitting there.
40. The grossest thing in your house?
Apparently it’s not just your phone spreading the nasty…
Kitchen sinks contain more bacteria than either garbage pails or toilets! How gross is that?
We all have that one sponge (it’s the one so brown it blends in with the dishwater) which should have been retired long ago. Maybe this fact is enough for some of us to finally put it out to pasture.
39. They do what on your food?
Flies eat feces and transport a wealth of bacteria, including typhoid and dysentery on their bodies. That’s not the worst of it. When they land on your food, they also vomit a mixture of saliva and enzymes to break it down so they suck it up using their tongues. And their eggs? They lay them on dead flesh to hatch maggots.
38. You can attract more with honey. Literally.
If flies didn’t bother you before, they almost certainly are about to.
Crime is a problem that has vexed rulers for millennia. After all, it seems some portion of the population is just always going to flaunt the rules. However can we stop the menace? Prison? The death penalty? Stern letters?
The ancient Egyptian King Pepys had a more… ruthless solution. He would slather a slave in honey and the flies would flock to smell. Eventually, they would begin to feast. Suffice to say, said slave never misbehaved again.
37. Who needs a pool?
As disgusting creatures go, the vulture comes in a close second to the fly. They live on rotted flesh – in fact they prefer it! And when a vulture is hot, they cool off by excreting (yes, pooping) on their own legs.
36. Gross by any measure
The hagfish would make a gross list based on looks alone. But it qualifies in other ways too. It is blind, toothless and feasts on dead flesh. Hagfish look for openings in carcasses and then enter and eat the corpse from the inside out. For defense, they rely on mucus: when attacked, they can project up to 17 pints of it at their attacker.
35. What’s in that spitball?
Most people have seen images of hippos enjoying a mud bath. But the balls of goop they appear to be playfully flinging at each other are actually a disgusting mixture of their own urine and feces. The idea is to mark their territory and perhaps to humiliate their foes at the same time.
34. Gross is where the heart is
Frankenstein author Mary Shelley had a pretty gross secret hidden away in her desk: her dead husband’s heart. When her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, drowned in a boating accident, he was cremated, but his heart remained intact. Physicians believe it might have been calcified due to tuberculosis. Whatever the cause, it was eventually given to Mary and discovered in her desk when she died a few years later.
33. Would the dentist still recommend?
Not crazy about the taste of toothpaste? Mint isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea…
Then again, it’s not terrible.
The Romans, for their part, used powdered mouse brains.
So consider yourself blessed.
32. Imported mouthwash
Looking for a fresher mouth? The Romans would use imported Portuguese urine, yes imported pee. It was so popular that Emperor Nero had to tax it and it remained a popular mouthwash until the 18th century.
31. One more flavour of mouthwash
Looking for a different flavor of mouthwash? Tortoise blood was also once used to disinfect the mouth and clean teeth.
30. What’s in your coffee mug?
Bodily excretions are the things that creep people out the most but consider this: 40% of office coffee mugs contain coliform bacteria – feces according to several studies. Takeout it is!
29. Extra protein
Everyone eats insects. The FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook states allowances for dietary staples. Foods like broccoli, canned tomatoes, and corn contain “insect fragments:” heads, antennae, wings, thoraxes, legs – and even whole bugs. Fig paste is allowed 13 insect heads per 100 grams; canned fruit juices can contain four maggots per litre; and 10 grams of hops can legally contain 2,500 aphids. Let’s not get into the allowances for rat hair…
28. A side of larvae with that?
Fine… we’ll get into the rat hair. The FDA limits the number of rodent hairs that can be found in peanut butter to 5 per 100 grams.
27. Cannibalized airmen
In 1944, nine American airmen were shot down over the Japanese island of Chi Chi Jima. Eight were captured, chopped up, cooked, and served to Japanese officers in everything from gourmet stir fries to special skewered appetizers. The ninth man, who escaped, was George HW Bush who would eventually become the 41st President of the United States.
The Asian giant hornet is two inches long with a quarter-inch-long stinger. It can inject venom that dissolves human flesh and can paralyze the nervous system. But even grosser is what they will do to honeybees. If they encounter a nest, they mark it to attract other giant hornets. Then they attack, chopping up the defenseless bees by dismembering them in a frenzied massacre that can destroy up to 30,000 bees in just three hours. They leave behind a pile of heads and limbs.
25. Gross cures
History is full of interesting cures. Ancient Egyptians crushed a pig’s eye and mixed it with red ochre (a common dye). They poured the mixture into a patient’s ears as cure for blindness.
24. The ultimate gross revenge
When he discovered that his wife had cheated on him with another man, Peter the Great had the man killed. He forced his wife to keep her lover’s head in a jar of alcohol in her bedroom. The head, still in it’s jar, is now kept on display at the Kunstkamera museum in St. Petersburg.
23. Who loves jellybeans?
Who doesn’t love a good jelly bean!? Colorful, shiny treats that are full of sugar… You just can’t get better than that, can you? Even Dumbledore loved them (although the Harry Potter variety can get a little more nasty than our real world candies).
But perhaps our jelly beans don’t have as many differences from Berty Botts Every-Flavor Beans as you think. After all, their colourful, shiny exterior is actually covered in a shellac, which is a compound made from bug excretions.
22. The human snake connection
Before you read on, savor this moment. It’s the last time you’ll believe that you’ve got nothing in common with a snake.
Human beings can shed up to 40 pounds of skin in their lifetimes. Not so different from snakes really, just a lot more skin!
21. Twice in your life
It’s a common misconception that people never bathed during the Middle Ages. They did. But then the Christian church authorities proclaimed that public bathing led to immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases. In response, many curtailed their bathing. Queen Isabella of Castile proudly claimed to have bathed only twice in her entire life!
20. Where does it go?
Snot is gross. That much is a pretty universally accepted fact. Indeed, if you’re ever looking for an opinion to share with friends and family that is basically guaranteed to be met with agreement, you almost certainly can’t go wrong with saying that snot blows.
So what’s grosser than snots itself?
Maybe that humans produce 1 liter of snot every day.
19. It seems pretty harmless but…
What’s gross about a sneeze? Well, first it is composed of snot. Second, it’s hard to escape! The spray from a sneeze can travel up to 30 to 60 miles an hour and fly up to 30 feet in the air.
When you move beyond how utterly gross that is, it’s kind of amazing though, no? The things we’re capable of… Behold, the marvels of the human body! We’re so majestic.
18. Headless and still horrifying
Cockroaches can survive for a week without their heads, and a decapitated cockroach can still wiggle its antennae.
When the nuclear apocalypse comes, the roaches will be laughing all the way to the burned out ruins of the bank.
And the Jellyfish will control the seas.
17. Gross defense
The regal horned lizard has a unique way of fighting off predators. It shoots foul smelling blood out of its eyes… straight into the attacker’s mouth. Don’t worry though, they seldom use this technique on humans.
16. Green is good. Or not.
The Prasinohaema lizard has green bones, green muscles and even a green tongue. It also has green blood that is extremely poisonous.
15. Supper anyone?
15th century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Dracula and had a uniquely gross way of dealing with his opposition. He invited hundreds of them to a banquet and had them impaled on long sharp poles. His contemporaries reported that he also had a penchant for consuming the blood that dripped from of some of his victims, hence the Dracula connection.
14. A grisly graveyard
There are over 200 corpses of climbers and Sherpas on Mount Everest. The extreme weather prevents their removal and preserves them, creating grisly reminders of their sad demise.
Astonishingly, the bodies are actually used by some climbers as waypoints (or landmarks) to help guide them in their quest up the mountain. This is because if a climber dies, they are likely on the well-trod path to the summit.
13. Where that smell is really coming from
Disgusted by something that just smells bad? Consider this – you are smelling it because the molecules of whatever it is are actually sticking to the inside of your nostrils. In the case of farts, it’s not poop you’re inhaling… it’s intestinal gas. Comforting.
12. Unwanted guests
Doctors in India recently removed a 6-foot-long tapeworm by pulling it through a man’s mouth. Which probably went down in his diary as a really terrible day.
Tapeworms can grow up to 80 feet long by some reports and are often caused by consuming raw pork or beef.
11. Chew your hair? Chew on this.
Another set of doctors removed a 14-pound hairball from a woman. The woman suffered from trichophagia, a condition in which people compulsively consume their own hair. Before they discovered the hairball, she suffered from severe pain and had lost 84 pounds.
10. The grossest of jewels
How about a jewel made from a bundle of hair, vegetable fibers, and food that forms in the stomachs of humans and animals? They’re called bezoars, and Queen Elizabeth had one in her crown jewels. Other royals put them in their wine glasses, and they were even believed at one point to offer protection against poison.
9. Murder for parts
Two men named Burke and Hare were responsible for a series of murders in the 1880’s. Their victims were used to provide body parts for surgeons to practice on. One of the men, William Burke, became a victim himself when he was hung for his crimes and his skin was distributed to collectors. Famous author Charles Dickens reportedly had a piece of Burke’s skin that he used as a bookmark.
8. What he could he do with a hammer?
A performer by the name of Brad Beyers who goes by the show name “The Human Toolbox” drilled through his head with an electric drill. He has also hammered a nail through his face and hung a wooden board on it and pushed an icepick up his nostril.
7. Frogs bring vomit to a new level
Vomit is always gross but it’s how frogs do it that makes it a whole lot worse. When a frog vomits, its entire stomach spews out and hangs out of its mouth. The frog then digs out the contents of the stomach and swallows it back down again.
6. But was it the chemicals or the smell that worked?
The ancient Egyptians used crocodile dung as a contraceptive. Early North American women soaked dried beaver testicles in alcohol and then drank the solution.
It sounds like a comedy sketch, but the snakehead fish is also known as “frankenfish” because of its predatory nature and long rows of razor sharp teeth. A voracious predator, the snakehead consumes everything it encounters and can even go on land if it runs out of prey in the water. It has pseudo lungs that allow it to breath and propels itself forward across land by wiggling. It eats everything from other fish to small mammals and birds and will even turn on other snakeheads.
4. Cat ladies be warned!
If you die and your body remains undiscovered, your dog will likely wait a long time before it resorts to eating you. Cats on the other hand will only wait a day before they begin to consume you.
And they’ll start on the most tender parts, your face for example.
3. Literally giving the finger
The women of the Dani tribe in Indonesia cut off parts of their fingers to mourn the death of a loved one. The finger is tied with a string to numb it, and the stump is burned to cauterize it.
2. Dancing with the dead
Once every seven years, the Malagasy of Madagascar unearth their dead to dance with them. The ritual allows the spirits of the dead to join the ancestors after the body has fully decomposed.
1. An evil twin?
You’ve probably heard stories of twins being consumed by the other twin, but here is the gross truth. Most are benign tumors called teratoma. Teratoma tumors have been discovered containing human hair, bone and even teeth! Some contain organs and are thought to resemble small humans. Teratoma tumors are often formed at birth, although people often don’t realize they have them until later in life.