14. The Silent Menace in Lobbies and Offices
What scares humans the most about death is all the dramatic and torturous ways that it could happen—a plane crash, a terrorist’s bomb, a shark attack—to themselves or to their loved ones. However, it’s more likely that something mundane will do the job, like a machine full of chips. According to research, you are two times more likely to get crushed by a vending machine than to be attacked by a shark.
13. May the Force be With Your Head
“Off with their head!” is a cry associated with olden days of more simplistic and brutal modes of punishment, and in particular with the French invention of the guillotine, a device that held a person by the neck until a blade slid down to sever their head. As archaic as this sounds, France was still using guillotines until 1977—the same year Star Wars came out.
12. A Clever Ruse (and Fashion Statement)
When the United States outlawed alcohol under Prohibition in the 1920s, many “entrepreneurs” sprang up who aimed to fill the demand for booze with their own homemade or smuggled liquor. With intense police surveillance, some of these bootleggers wore “cow shoes” to throw the law off their trail. With carved toes and heels, the shoes left a print of a hoof instead of a footprint, baffling the police and letting the flow of forbidden booze continue.
11. A Kingdom United by Wet Beards
Pub culture is one of the defining elements of life in the United Kingdom; everyone has their “local” and people of all ages over 16 can be found chatting over a pint. However, researchers from Guinness have recently unearthed some data that beer-lovers will find, ahem, dispiriting. Apparently upwards of 93,000 litres of UK beer are lost per year in beards and other facial hair. Pick up a razor and save the ale!
10. A Nod to Texan History
When it comes to theme parks, Six Flags has a reputation for being one of the biggest and the best. What exactly is the meaning of the six flags that the company’s name references, though? Apparently, it goes back to the first theme park the company built in Texas. At various points through the state’s history, six different countries have occupied Texas: Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States. Apparently one can mess with Texas sometimes.
9. A Book-Hoarder’s Excuse
Are you one of those people who can’t resist bringing home armloads of newspapers and magazines, big bags of just-released novels and boxed sets of biographies, and then just let them sit and collect dust? Instead of rambling defensively to your roommates that you fully intend to read your piles of books and out of date magazines, just simply state that you’re practicing Tsundoko—a Japanese word describing the act of acquiring books and not reading them.
8. Did You Get the Memo?
In 2007, Google sent an urgent email to employees informing them that there was a python snake loose on the company’s NYC premises. There actually was a python prowling around, but because the email went out on April Fool’s Day, not everyone took the warning seriously.
7. Just One More Glass
Feeling guilty about your drinking habits? Gloat over the fact that Vatican City consumes more wine than any other country in the world per person. Each citizen of this teeny-tiny independent state consumes an average of 74 liters of wine per year. It’s currently unknown how much of this wine is being consumed in communion or other religious rituals. But surely not all of it, right?
6. Russian Olympic Problems
Russian athletes have faced many issues in the past few years when it comes to competing in the Olympics, from accusations of doping to political wariness about the country’s government. Most embarrassing perhaps of all was the 1908 Olympics in London, when the Russian team showed up a tad late for the games—12 days to be exact. The reason? Russia was going by a Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar—the latter being the accepted civil calendar in 1908.
5. A Whole New World of Bathroom Cinema
Ever since filmmaking was invented and popularized, filmmakers have been pushing boundaries for what can be shown on screen. In 2018 this relates to more to nudity and revisionist portrayals of problematic historical figures, but in the earlier days of Hollywood, movies had to abide by a very strict code of decency for even the most mundane human activities. Psycho, perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film, came out in 1960 and was the very first American film to show a toilet being flushed. The Swinging Sixties, indeed!
4. Not so E-asy
The French author Georges Perec managed to write an entire novel (called La Disparition) without once using the letter E. The novel was later translated into English, but translators couldn’t keep the translated title of The Disappearance because it contained two letter e’s. Instead, it was named A Void.
3. Dead in the Saddle
Some athletes complain that they’re dead on their feet after a big race, but jockey Fred Hayes takes the cake in that category. In 1923, Hayes was competing in a race through Belmont Park in New York when he suddenly had a massive heart attack and died only halfway through the race. His horse, however, powered through and carried the rider to the finish line first—making Hayes the only man to win a horse race while dead.
2. Horton Hears a “WTF?”
Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? He’s even appeared on this list! Yet this beloved children’s author has something of a dark past: while Theodor Geisel’s wife Helen was ill with cancer, he carried on an affair with another woman. Helen ended up committing suicide in 1967, whereupon Geisel then married his lover less than a year later. Oof. Childhood ruined.
1. Tickled Pink
Moscow’s palaces during the time of the Tsars were imposing, hallowed places. They were also, truth be told, kind of kinky. The Russian rulers reportedly developed something of a foot fetish—to be precise, a foot tickling fetish. Female rulers like Catherine the Great and Anna Ivanovna were so sexually aroused by this play, they often employed full-time foot ticklers to satisfy their cravings.