“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle (Author of Sherlock Holmes)
Life really is bizarre. I mean, does anyone really understand it all? Any human being who’s ever lived has confronted that kind of existential confusion. As soon as we get old enough to really think about things, we start to realize just how much of life around us makes no sense at all. Maybe that’s why most teachers tend to focus on the basics: fundamental knowledge and well-known facts. Why make things complicated right? We start with our ABCs, move onto basic math, and try our best to steer kids clear of the really crazy stuff.
Lucky for us here in 2019, there’s never been more knowledge available to us then there is today. The internet isn’t just like a library—it’s more like every book that’s ever been written connected in an instant and available at any moment. And that means the power to learn and discover all the odd facts that our lives have to offer.
Here are some utterly bizarre facts that prove the world has been pretty messed up for a very long time. With any luck, you’ll find yourself sharing them with all sorts of people. Cheers.
During WWII, the Russians trained dogs to run under German tanks with bombs strapped to their backs. Unfortunately, the tanks the dogs were trained to run under were Russian, so they ended up running under the Russian tanks and blowing them up instead.
2. Rebel Party
When the Russian Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government and stormed the Winter Palace in 1917, their revolution was halted for a few days because the Bolsheviks got ridiculously drunk in the Winter Palace after finding the wine stores.
3. Thanks, Robert
Robert E. Lee’s Virginia estate, named Arlington House, was confiscated by the Union and turned into a cemetery during the war. The idea—supported by Lincoln–was that if Lee should ever return, he would “have to look at these graves and see the carnage that he had created.”
In 1877, George Washington Custis Lee sued the federal government for confiscating Arlington illegally, and the Supreme Court awarded the estate back to him. What did Robert’s son do with an estate littered with dead bodies? He sold it back to the federal government for $150,000.
Union Soldiers at Arlington House.
4. Immovable Object
Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname during the first battle of Bull Run. Soldiers stated he stood “like a stone wall” in the midst of battle. He was accidentally shot and killed by his own men.
5. And… Cut.
Amputation was the most common treatment for broken or severely wounded limbs during the American Civil War. There were too many wounded men for doctors to do time-consuming procedures like removing part of a broken bone or mending damaged flesh. More than half of leg amputations at the thigh or knee ended up being fatal. 83% of amputations were fatal if the amputation was done at the hip joint.
6. Biting the Bullet
Anesthesia wasn’t available on the battlefield. Sometimes, patients were given chloroform, but they often had to have their limbs amputated after a glass of whiskey while they bite down on a bullet.
During the American Civil War, a man named W.V Meadows was shot in the eye during the Battle of Vicksburg. Not only did he survive, but he coughed the bullet out of his mouth 58 years later.
8. Head of the Army
King Goujian of Yue (reigned 496–465 BC) placed a row of convicted criminals at the front of his army. Before the battle, the criminals would cut off their own heads to scare his enemy’s army.
The Bronze Sword of Goujian, King of Yue State.
9. Little Foot
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, a Russian scientist in the 1920s, conducted experiments where he tried to make a human-chimpanzee hybrid. Before you get any naughty ideas, he attempted to make this “humanzee” with artificial insemination.
10. Mad as a Hatter
Boston Corbett, the man who shot John Wilkes Booth, was totally insane from handling mercury as a hatter. Years prior to shooting Booth, he calmly castrated himself with scissors.
11. Dear Diary…
The Diary of Anne Frank was edited by her father because, quite rightfully, since he didn’t want some of the stuff she wrote published. He edited out writing about her period, discovering herself, learning about boys from a younger guy that was staying with them, and her father’s infatuation with fart jokes.
12. Horror Souvenirs
During WWII, propaganda created to dehumanize the Japanese was so successful that American marines in the pacific kept body parts of Japanese soldiers as souvenirs.
13. Burn, baby, burn!
Nero (emperor from 54 AD – 68 AD) is famous for allegedly singing and playing the fiddle while much of Rome burned to the ground during the Great Fire of Rome.
It was later speculated that this account was false, and that it was propaganda created by the next emperor. A key piece of evidence: the fiddle wasn’t invented yet, and Nero wasn’t even in Rome at the time of the fire.
14. The Love of Contraception
Ancient Romans had an effective natural contraceptive: a plant called silphium. The shape of the seed is where we get the traditional heart shape that we all recognize as a symbol of love.
The Romans harvested so much silphium that it went extinct, and now we’re not even sure exactly what type of plant it was.
15. Too Lustful to Trust
The FBI ignored compelling evidence of the attack on Pearl Harbor because Hoover didn’t trust the Serbian double agent Dusan Popov, who was apparently a gambling, lustful drunk. His nickname was tricycle because of his love of threesomes. He was one of the inspirations for Fleming’s Bond.
16. Shocking Facts about Edison?
Thomas Edison electrocuted a lady circus elephant to death.
The elephant had killed three men over the years, including an abusive trainer. Over a thousand people came to watch her die, and Edison recorded it on video.
17. Shooting the Poop
Just because a conflict is absolutely barbaric in terms of lives lost, and blood shed, doesn’t mean that all sense of moral dignity is cast aside.
For example: an American Civil War code of honor forbade soldiers from shooting at men while they were pooping. After all, it’s one thing to be shot in service of a cause you believe to be righteous. It’s quite another to have that happen with your pants down.
18. This is Sparta!
The reason why the Spartans were able to be so focused on war was because of massive slavery. Every single Spartan male was a soldier. Every other job was done by slaves.
The Spartans beat their slaves… by law. To clarify, we don’t mean the law allowed them to beat slaves. The law required it. Most horrifically, as a sort of coming of age holiday, there was an occasion every year where young Spartan men would sneak around and murder as many slaves as they could.
19. X-Rated Creation
There’s an Egyptian creation myth that states that the universe was the result of the ejaculation of the god Atum.
To honor Atum, some Pharaohs would ceremonially ejaculate into the Nile.
20. Claim Your Dead
Mongols used to light the fat of the enemies they killed on fire, and proceeded to shoot it with their catapults onto other enemies.
21. Half-Blind Leading the Blind
A Byzantine emperor, Basil, captured 15,000 Bulgarians in battle and blinded 99 of every 100, leaving the 100th guy with one eye. He then sent them all home.
22. Vlad the Impaler
Vlad earned his name by impaling his enemies through the torso with large stakes and erecting these stakes in the ground. Sometimes thousands of prisoners would be impaled at the same time, and many victims lived in agony for days.
Harriet Tubman led a raid to free slaves during the Civil War. In 1863, Tubman and Union Colonel James Montgomery stormed into the Confederate interior with 300 black Union soldiers. They swept through nearby plantations, burning homes and barns. Slave men, women and children came streaming from the countryside, and more than 720 slaves were shuttled to freedom.
This was the first raid led by a woman during the Civil War, and Tubman liberated 10 times the number of slaves she had freed in 10 years on the Underground Railroad.
24. Joined at the Sternum
Two Siam natives, Chang and Eng Bunker, were American twins joined at the sternum. In 1839, they bought 110 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and settled down.
During the American Civil War in 1865, Union General George Stoneman raided North Carolina and drafted locals using a lottery wheel. Eng’s name was drawn. Unfortunately for Stoneman, Chang’s name was not drawn, and there was little General Stoneman could do: the brothers were not only joined at the sternum, their livers were fused. Neither twin served in the war.
Artistic Depiction of Chang and Eng Bunker.
25. What’s That Smell?
The 1 million horses used in the American Civil War would produce enough urine in one day to fill more than 12 standard sized swimming pools.
26. That’s Crappy
Diarrhea was the deadliest disease to plague soldiers of the Civil War. More soldiers died of diarrhea than in battle with around 1 in 40 cases being fatal.
27. Laundry Day
Because clothes were in short supply during the American Civil War, soldiers from both sides would commonly wear enemy colours and get fired at by mistake.
28. Years Before Elmo Wanted Tickles…
Foot tickling was used in the Muscovite palaces and courts for centuries as a means of arousal. Many of the Czarinas (Catherine the Great, Anna Ivanovna, and others) loved it. In fact, it was so popular that eunuchs and women were employed as full time foot ticklers.
While the ticklers performed their task, they often told bawdy stories and sang obscene ballads. This was done to get the ladies into the mood for liaisons with their husbands or lovers.
29. The Rubber Police
In the 1880s, Anthony Comstock started confiscating people’s dildos and other sex toys in the United States. He referred to them as “immoral rubber goods,” and in 1882, he confiscated 64,836 pounds of illicit material.
30. Early, Condemnable Pimping
Christopher Columbus prostituted pre-pubescent native American girls.
31. Founding Father
Ben Franklin visited brothels almost every night. Also, in 1998, while renovating his home into a museum, ten bodies were discovered in the basement. This led to speculation the Ben Franklin may have been a serial killer, but further analysis has revealed this is likely not the case: the bodies were more likely cadavers used for the anatomical studies of William Hewson, one of Franklin’s friends.
32. Unit 731
There was a biological and chemical warfare research facility called Unit 731 that undertook lethal human experimentation during the occupation of China.
They specialized in vivisection, germ warfare, and weapons testing on prisoners. The researchers didn’t even refer to the Chinese people as humans: they called them “logs” and often bragged about how many logs they had cut that day. After WW2, the leaders of the unit gave the United States their research data in return for amnesty. Many of previous members of Unit 731 became part of post-war politics, academia, business, and medicine.
33. A2 + B2 = Death
The mathematician Pythagoras, who discovered the Pythagorean theorem, killed people who didn’t agree with him or disproved him. He convinced people that facing the sun when you urinate is a punishable sin. He also didn’t believe in fractions, or decimals.
Confederate general Stonewall Jackson did not eat pepper because he felt it made his leg weak. He made sure to always stand upright, thinking it helped “naturally” align his organs. He would raise one arm when under fire so blood would flow down his body and re-establish his equilibrium.
Robert E. Lee (left) and Stonewall Jackson (right).
35. Lucky Lincoln
Lincoln was almost killed two years before he was assassinated. Late one August evening in 1863, Lincoln rode alone by horse to his family’s summer residence. A private at the gate heard a shot ring out and, moments later, a bareheaded Lincoln clinging to his steed galloped into the yard.
Lincoln explained that gunfire at the foot of the hill had sent his horse into a frenzied gallop, running so fast that it knocked his hat off. Two soldiers retrieved Lincoln’s hat, which had a bullet hole in it. Lincoln asked the guards to keep the incident quiet because he didn’t want to worry his wife..
36. Age Gap
The youngest active soldier to fight in the Civil War was an 11-year-old boy from Mississippi. An 80-year-old man from Iowa was the oldest.
37. Malcolm XXX
Malcolm X was bisexual. He was also sex worker for almost ten years.
38. Don’t mess with King Pilip
The Tour de Nesle affair was a scandal amongst the French royal family in 1314, during which the three daughters-in-law of King Philip IV of France were accused of adultery, the accusations apparently started by Philip’s only daughter, Isabella, Queen of England. The Tour de Nesle was a tower in Paris where much of the adultery was said to have occurred. The scandal led to the imprisonment of Blanche and Margaret, and the execution of their lovers. Having been tortured, the guilty knights Gautier and Philippe were then killed; most histories agree that they were first castrated and then either drawn and quartered or flayed alive, broken on a wheel and then hanged.
39. The Saw
In the middle ages, one of the punishments for being gay saw torture. The offending person was hung by his ankles and sawed in half.
40. The My Lai Massacre
Approximately 400 unarmed civilians were killed during the Vietnam war by United States soldiers. 26 soldiers were originally charged with war crimes. One served time. He was given a life sentence, but in the end, he served less than four years of house arrest.
41. Nice Sideburns, Sir.
All great facial hair comes from somewhere. At some point in history, a truly brave pioneer had to think to themselves (while shaving) “you know what, I think I’m going to get weird with it”. Sometimes those bold experiments turn into truly monstrous follicle catastrophes… and sometimes, they change the world.
Sideburns, for example, are named after an American Civil War General: General Burnside.
42. Got Milk?
The Milky Way supposedly got its name because it was formed when the Greek goddess Hera sprayed her breast milk into the sky.
43. Filthy Composition
Mozart was surprisingly obsessed with feces and bathroom humor. Two of his songs actually talk about anlingus. He also wrote letters to his family members where he described his farts in great detail.
44. A Recipe for Compliance
During WWII, the Russians would have “barrier troops” that would be set up behind Russian army forces and shoot those soldiers that were trying to desert from the front line.
45. Eighteen Napkins
Each meal, Nikola Tesla would use exactly 18 napkins to polish his cup, plate, and cutlery.
46. A Man of Many Talents
Julius Caesar was once kidnapped and briefly held by Cicilian pirates and held prisoner. When the pirates asked for a ransom of 20 talents ($600,000 in today money), he scoffed at them and demanded they ask for 50 talents.
47. A Man of his Word
Whilst incarcerated by pirates, Caesar treated them like his subordinates and somehow managed to gain their respect. However, he told them that when he was released, he would return, hunt them down, and crucify them. Upon his release, Caesar made good on his promise, raised a private navy, and killed all the pirates, who hadn’t taken him seriously and didn’t even bother to leave the island where Caesar had been held. Caesar got his 50 talents back.
48. Alien Property
When Tesla died in 1943, the office of Alien Property seized his possessions. Though most of it was later returned to his family, some of it still remains classified. What did Tesla invent that we never got to know about?
49. An Eye for an Eye
In rural America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, citizens would settle disputes with gouging: an incredibly violent form of wrestling where opponents would try and gouge out each others eyes.
50. Royal Audience
On his wedding night, future king William of Orange consummated his marriage while Charles II watched from the sidelines and shouted encouragement.
51. Too Brilliant for His Shirt
Ben Franklin showed his neighbors his birthday suit 5.00am each morning while sitting near an open window writing. He claimed the air aroused his creativity.
52. Where’d they get the bears?
In the 1st century A.D., polar bears fought seals in Roman amphitheaters flooded with water.
53. Building like champions.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the technology to make concrete was lost for 1000 years. In fact, Ancient Roman concrete has withstood the attack by elements for over 2,000 years, which is considerably longer than the lifetime of modern concrete structures.
54. A bad way to go…
In Ancient Rome, the punishment for killing one’s father was the death penalty, consisting of being sewn up in a sack along with a monkey, a viper, a dog, and a cock. The punishment (called “poena cullei”) varied slightly depending on the ruling emperor. It seems some rulers preferred more snakes and others more dogs. Regardless of the emperor, a fair fight wasn’t an option: the person was first beaten with virgis sanguinis (“blood-colored rods”) and his head was covered in a bag made of a wolf’s hide.
55. “Brain-washing” in a Tub
Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, who patented more than 3,300 inventions in his 73-year-old life, got his creativity from sinking himself underwater for hours at a time. Point? “To starve the brain of oxygen. Zero-point-five seconds before death, I visualize an invention.”
56. Singing to the Powder
Sigmund Freud, cocaine addict, published his Cocaine Papers (1887), a “song of praise to this magical substance.”
57. The Interview
Researchers who wanted to work for Thomas Edison had to sample soup. If they seasoned it before tasting, they were fired, since it showed they were biased. Before we start thinking Thomas Edison is cool, let’s remember that he also electrocuted a circus elephant to death.
58. Isaac Newton, Super Cop
After becoming recognized as one of the world’s greatest minds, Newton was appointed England’s Warden of the Mint. His job was to find and build cases against counterfeiters, and he duked it out with one particularly well-connected counterfeiter named William Chaloner.
Newton went full-on Dirty Harry and bribed crooks for information on Chaloner. He also leaned on the wives and mistresses of Chaloner’s crooked associates for intelligence.
Eventually, Newton gathered enough information to convict Chaloner, who was hanged for his crimes. Newton did not attend the hanging.
59. Farmer Newton
Isaac almost became a farmer. When he returned from school at the age of 17, his mother insisted that he take over the family farm. He was an awful farmer though, and soon after his uncle convinced Newton’s mom to send him to Trinity College.
60. The Mad Scientist and the Two-Headed Dog
In 1954, Soviet surgeon Vladimir Demikhov, revealed his masterpiece to the world: a two-headed dog. He created 19 more over the next 15 years.
Although Demikhov’s research has been (justifiably) called out for horrific animal cruelty, it did help pave the way to human organ transplants.
61. “What’s My Address?”
Einstein’s secretary once got an anonymous call asking where Einstein lived. The secretary declined to respond. The caller then admitted he was Einstein himself who had forgotten his address.
62. Only Two Words!
Richard Feynman, physicist, bet a friend he would be able to get more than two words at a time out of Paul Dirac, famed but taciturn physicist. After speaking to him for several hours with no success, Richard revealed his failure to Dirac. The latter smiled and said, “You’ve lost.”
63. Lock it Up
Richard Feynman, physicist, became a master of cracking safes after working on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos in the 1940s, where everyone was required to keep confidential documents in safes. It started as an intellectual curiosity: he wondered if he could figure out how to open these safes.
He became so good at his craft that he found himself — for the sake of cultivating his legend — carrying tools as a red herring and pretending that safe jobs took longer than they really did.
64. Star(k) Naked
Scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson almost became an exotic dancer. Having danced and wrestled through university, Tyson considered dancing at a Chippendale’s type club for extra cash.
Imagine the dinner-and-a-show you’d get from a male dancer who knew everything there is to know about the cosmos. Come to think of it… It’s kind of shocking that business doesn’t already exist. Get on it, Mr. Tyson!
65. Biggest Fan
The pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy stole his brain, and kept it in a jar for 20 years. We’re pretty sure that’s not legal, or useful.
Buuuuuuuuuut… It would make a for a pretty great conversation starter at dinner parties.
“Oh so this here is the painting my grandmother left for me… This here is my mum’s old hat-stand… Oh! And here’s Einstein’s brain in a jar!”
Einstein’s brain had a parietal lobe that was 15% larger than that of the average human. The parietal lobe is responsible for processing sensory information, as well as language and mathematics.
Now it’s starting to add up. That’s like cheating!
Marie Curie, the celebrated physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, was completely in the dark when it came to the dangers of radioactive materials. Though she and her husband both suffered from chronic pain, neither considered that it was their radioactive substance handling that was the cause. Some of their original lab equipment is still so radioactive and cannot be safely viewed or studied.
68. 84 Year Old Virgin
Either science doesn’t exactly attract the opposite gender the way you’d expect, or Sir Isaac was really, really picky…
Though Isaac Newton lived to be 84, he never married. Some even believe he never lost his virginity. Still, there’s no conclusive way to tell.
69. It’s Real To Me!
Newton was really into alchemy. What’s alchemy? It’s the pseudoscientific predecessor of chemistry that sought to transmute base metals into rare metals, create an elixir of life, and other wacky pursuits. He wrote 169 books on the subject, but none were published in his lifetime.
General Lee of the American Civil War was given a flock of chickens by a Virginia farmer in 1862. The soldiers ate all but one of the chickens, which had caught the attention of the General. This chicken became his pet, was named Nellie and laid eggs under Lee’s cot every day
71. Relative Politics
Albert Einstein declined the Presidency of Israel, saying he had no head for problems.
Albert Einstein, Summer 1939 Nassau Point, Long Island, NY, original and colorized photograph.
72. I’ll Take That
A slave boarded and took over a Confederate ship during the American Civil War in 1861, then delivered it to the Union. He was then given the ship to command.
73. Alma Mater
During the American Civil War, the University of Mississippi saw almost its entire student populace join the Confederate Army.
They also experienced a 100% casualty rate. That’s hard to even imagine.
The University of Mississippi, Present Day.
74. Good Eats
Einstein’s chauffeur reported that Einstein plucked a grasshopper off the ground and ate it.
75. Angel’s Glow
During the American Civil War, soldiers from both sides began reporting glow-in-the-dark wounds after the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. Of nearly 16,000 wounded, those with glowing wounds seemed to heal faster. Later research revealed that the area was likely a breeding ground for P. luminescens, a luminescent bacterium that produces a natural anti-biotic.
Artistic Depiction of the Battle of Shiloh.
76. Smells Like Steel
The 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe lost his nose in a duel. Hey, it happens to the best of us. But what’s a 16-th century Danish astronomer to do when his sniffer gets blown off? Can’t go walking around with a big ol’ hole in your face, now can you?
Tycho Brahe (great name by the way) had a pretty wicked solution. He donned a metal one instead, designed to mimic his original schnoz.
77. Killed By Politeness
Speaking of Tycho…
Mr. Brahe didn’t want to excuse himself to use the bathroom during a royal banquet in October 1601, fearing it would be impolite. Result: a kidney infection, causing a burst bladder 11 days later… and his eventual death.
Too bad metal bladders weren’t a thing.
Tycho Brahe model of the solar system.
78. No Speak Language? No Problem.
The physicist Robert Oppenheimer was a polymath, fluent in eight languages. In 1931, he asked a University of California colleague to teach a class, giving the students a book as prop. Later that day, the colleague complained the text was Dutch. Oppenheimer’s response? “But it’s easy Dutch!”
79. Marriage Contract
Albert Einstein’s marriage contract included these conditions: “You will make sure that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order; that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room; that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only”.
You might think those rules were a liiiiiiiiitle bit onerous, but clearly his wife felt differently. She agreed.
80. No Take Backs
Because it was a powerful political entity at the time, Harry Truman’s political advisers suggested he join the KKK. While he did give the $10 membership fee, he demanded it back and claims he was never inducted nor initiated.
81. A Man of Letters
As sheriff of Erie County, New York, President Grover Cleveland twice had to spring the trap at a hanging. That’s right: Grover is the only US President to have ever held the job of hangman.
We bet nobody ever accused ‘ol Grover for not being tough on crime.
82. Proudly Serving the American People
Lincoln is the only president who was also a licensed bartender. He co-owned Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in Springfield, Illinois.
This is a man who also wrestled in high-school… and was apparently notorious for hurling insults at his competitors. Basically what we’re saying is: Abraham Lincoln was freaking cool. As if his honest and upstanding reputation as a leader weren’t enough…
It’s tough to host a big event: no matter how much you plan(hotdogs for the BBQ, drinks for all the guests…) things have a tendency to go exactly the way you don’t expect them to.
Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration was just that sort of event. In fact, it got so cold while the ceremony was going on, the canaries that were supposed to sing at the inaugural-ball actually froze to death.
84. He Shouldn’t Have Smoked All of Them
Ulysses S. Grant was an avid cigar smoker and after a brilliant war victory, a jubilant nation sent him more than 10,000 cigars.
Amazing! Nothing like the love and admiration a grateful people can show to its Commander-in-Chief.
He died of throat cancer.
85. Clinton’s Cuban Missile Crisis
Of course, this wasn’t the last time a cigar in the Oval Office hurt a president. During Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings, it was revealed that Bill used a cigar to pleasure Monica Lewinsky.
86. A Chip and a Chair
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams once traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the birthplace of Shakespeare and while there, they carved wood chips out of one of Shakespeare’s chairs as souvenirs.
Thereby making them the most presidential vandals in history.
87. Classic Good News, Bad News
The first president to ever ride in a self-propelled vehicle was William McKinley. Unfortunately, it was an ambulance that was taking him to the hospital after he was shot.
88. Secure the Package
In 2009, a woman walked into the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. She had an acorn-shaped object in hand that was made of brass and had no inscriptions or markings. She said that one of her Confederate soldier ancestors used the device to smuggle secret messages, hiding it in his posterior until he reached his destination.
89. Bad Sushi
After Bush Sr. vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister, the Japanese invented a new word: Bushusuru. This means to “do the Bush thing” or to “publicly vomit.”
90. I Keelhaul You!
If pirates wanted to torture their foes, they would drag them from a rope behind the ship (a practice known as keelhauling), strand them on a desert island, or lash them with a whip.
91. Of Course
Jimmy Carter was the first president to go on record as having seen a UFO.
92. Blast from the Past
In 1996, famous pirate Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found off the coast of North Carolina. Thirty-one cannons and 250,000 artifacts have been recovered. One such artifact was a urethral syringe, which was used to treat syphilis with mercury. Ouch. Plot twist: mercury does not, in fact, cure syphilis.
93. Movin’ On Up
Thomas Jefferson had a 38-year long affair with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves, and he may be the father of her children.
94. Standing Really Tall
Every member of Teddy Roosevelt’s family owned a pair of stilts. They often walked around the White House on them for fun.
Just because you’re rich and famous (and incredibly powerful to boot) doesn’t mean you can’t have a little bit of fun with stilts. That’s just the law of the land.
95. He Couldn’t Bear It
“Teddy Bears” got their name when Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a small bear cub prompting a toy manufacturer to start making cute stuffed animals. Yay capitalism.
96. What Speech Giveth…
During his second run for president, Teddy Roosevelt was shot after a failed assassination attempt but, instead of going to the hospital, insisted on giving a planned speech with the bullet still lodged in his chest. The bullet was reportedly slowed by the thick papers in Roosevelt’s coat pocket on which the speech was written.
97. Gun Control
Andrew Jackson was apparently involved in over a hundred duels, most of which were fought to defend his wife’s honor. Why her honor was constantly besmirched is another story.
98. A Museum Piece
James Garfield was shot in the back with a five-barrel, .44 caliber pistol called a British Bulldog. When asked why he selected that gun, the assassin Charles Guiteau said he thought it’d look good in a museum someday.
99. Nail in the coffin.
During the 7th century B.C., ancient Roman “vestal virgins” were required to keep their hymens intact as proof of virginity until age 30. Vestal virgins who engaged in sexual conduct were buried alive.
100. Praying for a good poop.
The inhabitants of ancient Rome had a sewer goddess, a toilet god, and a god of excrement. The gods were said to frequent the latrine in large numbers and excrement was regarded as the food of the dead.
101. Dental hygiene matters.
Urine was used in Ancient Rome to wash clothes. The Romans also used it to whiten their teeth.
Statue of an ancient Roman, clearly upset about the fact that his society has started using pee to brush their teeth.
102. All is favour of the Free Carrots Bill?
The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula made his horse a senator. Caligula also allegedly committed incest with his sisters, fed prisoners to wild beasts and had conversations with the moon.
Caligula on his horse.
103. Ancient cook book: 100 Uses of Gladiator Fluids.
Ancient Roman women wore the sweat of Gladiators to improve their beauty and complexion. Romans also used to drink Gladiator blood because they thought that the blood of these strong and fierce beings had the power to cure epilepsy.
Spartacus, as seen in the popular TV series produced by Starz.
104. Ever thought about how much of a win the invention of toilet paper was?
Ancient Romans used a sponge on a stick called a “spongia” to clean themselves after pooping. Public facilities had a long marble bench with holes on top – for the obvious thing – and holes at the front: for the sponge-sticks. There were no doors or dividing walls. You sat right next to your friend and did what you had to do. Once you had done your business, you would rinse the spongia in the channel of running water at your feet and – without standing up or revealing anything –push the spongia through the hole at the front, give your bottom a solid wipe, rinse off the spongia… and leave it in a basin for the next person to use!
Proserpina Dam, Spain.
105. Well, Not All Love Is Welcome Aboard
Pirate code decreed that any man found “seducing one of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise, he shall suffer death.” Desertion was also punishable by death.
106. Well, if you’re going to brush your teeth with it…
In Ancient Rome, women would drink turpentine to make their urine smell sweet like roses.
107. Ancient drugs for ancient fun.
The Salema Porgy is a species of fish that can cause hallucinations when eaten. In Ancient Rome, it was consumed as a recreational drug. In fact, Salema porgies are regularly eaten without their consumers experiencing hallucinogenic effects, but in 2006, two men were hospitalized in the south of France after consuming them, one of whom was 90 years old. They both claimed to fall “ill” and experience auditory hallucinations along with lucid nightmares for several nights, until the “symptoms” finally and mysteriously abated.
108. We’ve been butchering the pronunciation.
Julius Caesar was pronounced ‘YOO-lee-us KYE-sahr’ in ancient Rome.
109. Interesting emperors.
Nero, the Roman Emperor, married a man named Sporus, a freedman who took the role of the bride. While it may be tempting to give Nero props for his forward-thinking stance on sexuality, it’s also important to remember his darker side. He castrated Sporus. If that wasn’t enough, during his rule, he murdered his own mother, Agrippina the Younger; his first wife, Octavia; and allegedly, his second wife, Poppaea Sabina. There also was that incident with the Great Fire of Rome that we’ll get to later…
Statue of Nero.
110. Take that, Cristiano Ronaldo!
Roman charioteers earned more than even the best-paid footballers and international sports stars of today, according to academic research. One charioteer, named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, amassed a fortune equivalent to $15 billion USD today.
111. We finally found the lost legion.
Inhabitants of the Chinese town of Liqian have blond hair and white skin. Historians have speculated they are the descendants of a lost Roman settlement. The most common theory is that Liquian features are linked to the legend of the missing army of Roman general Marcus Crassus. Basically, the Parthians massacred most the Roman troops Crassus sent into battle. 10,000 Romans survived and were captured. They were forced to fight for various rulers, eventually settling in China.
112. Cover up, sweetie.
After the wedding night, a modest Roman wife wasn’t supposed to let her husband see her naked again. Consequently, it may be no surprise that the philosophers who argued that a man shouldn’t have sex with anyone but his wife won few converts.
113. Arsenic for dinner, please.
Emperors poisoned themselves every day. From the end of the first century AD, Roman emperors had adopted the daily habit of taking a small amount of every known poison in an attempt to gain immunity, a practice called “Mithridatism.” Although effective against some types of poisons, it doesn’t work against all of them, and, depending on the toxin, the practice can lead to the lethal accumulation of a poison in the body. Turns out, it’s much easier just to label things “poison” and tell people not to eat them.
114. Mad as a Mobster
When Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion, he was found to have syphilis. Capone refused treatment because he was afraid of needles. After 11 years in Alcatraz, the disease had eaten away at his brain so much that he could no longer resume his life of crime. Before his death, he was often spotted casting a fishing rod into his swimming pool.
115. 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.
The vibrator was created to treat Hysteria. Why? Doctors were taking too long to manually stimulate women. Shortly after it’s invention, the vibrator became the largest selling household appliance.
117. A bit extreme, don’t you think?
Marcus Aurelius (largely known for his philosophy and humanitarianism) faced an interesting gladiator dilemma. His wife Faustina became aroused over one combatant and confessed her passion to her husband. His solution? Faustina was ordered to strip and have sex with the gladiator in question, who was then murdered while on top of her. Afterwards, she was obliged to bathe in his blood, do a quick cleanup, and then make love to her husband Marcus.
Russell Crowe killing Marcus’ son, Commodus.
For factaholics who love history, check out these historical myths that have been busted: