From acting like the Queen of Hearts and yelling “Off with their heads!” to buying entire cities on a whim, history is filled with characters so bizarre that it’s hard to believe they really existed. Strap in and get ready: Here are the strangest people to ever go down in history.
Weird People In History Facts
1. Any Port in a Storm
John Mytton, AKA “Mad Jack,” inherited a large amount of money and a huge estate in 1798, when he was only two years old. This kind of gave him a license to go wild, or that’s how he saw it anyway. Mytton drank six to eight bottles of port every single day! And his, shall we say, eccentricities were not limited to staying inebriated.
2. (Forced) Favorite of the Masses
Following family tradition, Mytton chose to enter politics. And why bother to court the masses when you can just buy them? He gave each voter £10 to vote for him and won at the cost of £10,000. It took a single half-hour session at the House of Commons for him to decide that politics were too boring for him. With that out of his system, he proceeded to take his weirdness to the hunting grounds…
3. Hunting Shenanigans
Mytton was as passionate about hunting as he was for port. Naturally, he did that with a twist as well. He would get so caught up in the heat of the chase that he would strip down completely, even in the wind and snow. He got injured and unseated several times during such hunts but even that didn’t stop him from riding around in his birthday suit.
4. Like Seriously?
Mytton took his “Mad Jack” title seriously. One of the most bizarre things he did involved setting his nightshirt on fire to cure his hiccups. Why? He wanted to frighten them away of course. But that’s not even the weirdest incident. He also once came to a party riding on, of all things, a bear. I’m thinking he wasn’t invited to many parties after that.
5. A Cabbie’s Nightmare
Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers lived in Victorian England and had one strange passion: She liked to harass and sue cabdrivers. In the time of meter-less carriages that served as taxis, Prodgers had memorized the entire fare chart for any distance in London. Every ride ended in an argument. She took over 50 cabdrivers to court for unfair charges.
6. Gone and Forgotten?
Newspapers reported her passing as the end of “the terror of London cabmen.” One of them had been caught burning an effigy of “Old Mother Prodgers” when she was alive. She had been such a familiar face in court that a judge had even suggested that she might find it cheaper to buy a carriage to coming there so often.
7. Strong in Silence
William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, a British nobleman who lived in the 19th century, was known as the Prince of Silence. An introvert since childhood, he became a complete hermit after he was rejected by Adelaide Kemble, an opera singer. He spent the rest of his life in Welbeck Abbey, with no real contact with anyone in the outside world.
8. Taking it too Far?
The Prince of Silence was so averse to any company that he only communicated through letters. Servants were instructed to ignore him if they ever saw him outside and he too would “act like a tree” so no one would pay notice him. He went for walks in the pitch dark with a female servant carrying a lantern instructed to stay 40 yards ahead of him at all times.
9. Building Up
Although he spent his time in only five rooms, he had the whole estate renovated. He had secret tunnels built underneath to connect various buildings together and to the train station. He even had a ballroom, art gallery, and library built under the house. Everything was painted pink for reasons only known to him.
10. No Spendthrift
Hetty Green, AKA the “Witch of Wall Street,” was the richest woman in America in the Gilded Age, during the late 19th century. She was named as the “greatest miser” by the Guinness World Book of Records. Green saved and scrimped money on everything, including soap fuel and hot water. She wore the same black dress every day until it completely wore out.
11. A Penny Saved
Green’s penny-pinching ways had heartbreaking consequences. When her son Ned broke his leg she tried to pass herself off as a homeless woman to get him treated at a free hospital. She was recognized and ultimately paid to see a doctor, but the damage was done and his leg had to be amputated. Really Hetty? Your own son?
12. Frugal till the End
Green’s death can also be linked to her stinginess in a way. She was arguing heatedly with a maid about the benefits of skimmed milk, which led to apoplexy and eventual death. She had previously refused to get her hernia treated as well and preferred to use a stick to subdue the swelling by pressing on it.
13. Car-ried Away
We all know Henry Ford as an industrialist, the founder of Ford Motor Company, and the first person to make cars an affordable commodity in the US. It might not be common knowledge though that he bought 100 historical buildings in Michigan to create Greenfield Village. It was an outdoor museum demonstrating how Americans had lived and worked in the past.
14. The Wine Club
Cleopatra wasn’t just a powerful queen; she was also a party girl! She created a drinking club known as the “Inimitable Livers” with husband and Roman General Marc Antony. The club was dedicated to Dionysius. The couple would feast and drink heavily and then go out to play pranks on unsuspecting Alexandrians.
15. The Queen’s Drink
Cleopatra also took her bets very seriously. Legend has it that the queen struck a wager with Marc Antony that she could spend 10 million sesterces on one meal. After a modest first course, she asked for a glass of vinegar. She dropped her pearl in it and drank it up when the stone dissolved! Clearly there was no messing around with this woman.
16. Dog Days
Muhammed Mahabat Khan III was the last royal ruler of India. He played a huge role in saving India’s lions from extinction. Very noble of him certainly, but he took his animal advocacy to extreme lengths. He actually kept over 800 dogs as pets, but that’s not even the crazy part. Each had its own room, servant, and telephone! Maybe they called each other when they were bored?
17. Canine Celebrations
Not content at giving them rooms and telephones, Khan held lavish birthday parties every year for all his dogs. His favorite two were also married with great fanfare. The celebrations cost him around $1.5 million in today’s money. I’m thinking “it’s a dog’s life” had a very different meaning around India at that time.
18. Who Let the Dogs Out?
Khan wasn’t the only rich dog-lover though. Leona Helmsley—AKA “Queen of Mean”—was a billionaire property tycoon who also adored her canine friends. Her kids weren’t too amused when, on her passing, they found that she’d left two grandkids out of the will and left $12 million to her dog, Trouble. She also left most of her charitable trust to help dogs in need.
19. Mean Girls
Helmsley got known as the “Queen of Mean” because she was a tyrannical employer. She once threw a cup of tea on the floor because there had been a drop of water on the saucer. But it gets worse—she proceeded to terrorize the waiter and demanded he beg for his job. She also refused to pay bills to certain contractors when she felt the work wasn’t up to her standards.
20. The Recluse with Questionable Hygiene
Howard Hughes was one of the most successful men of his time. He lived a lavish and social lifestyle, but later in life, he became a complete hermit. Hughes spent his days in a few hotels, refusing to make eye contact with his aides and stopped bathing completely. Even more gross? He only cut his hair and nails cut once a year.
21. Sweating the Small Stuff
Hughes’ eccentric personality would show up at the start of his career too. He would get hung up on small details while directing the film His Kind of Woman—so much so that his co-director Richard Fleischer thought that it would never get completed.
22. Pretty in Pink
While Hughes hated people, there was one thing he did like: the color pink. At one point he was living in a bungalow at the Beverley Hills hotel, where he would sit in his bed the whole day and night naked except for a pink napkin covering his private parts. His aide also revealed that during this time, Hughes watched Ice Station Zebra on a loop, around 150 times.
23. All Mine
Hughes decided his movie The Conqueror was terrible so he bought every copy he could find—it took $12 million to get it off the market. He moved to Las Vegas in his last days and bought the hotel he was staying in so he wouldn’t have to leave. He also decided Las Vegas should be more glamorous, so he bought several other hotels and casinos too.
24. Of Money and Men
Barbara Hutton was an heiress to the Woolworth fortune, but money can’t buy happiness—or it certainly couldn’t for her. Hutton had a knack for choosing the most terrible men as husbands. She married seven times, ending up a few million poorer and more damaged with each subsequent divorce—except one: Cary Grant, who was rich himself and did genuinely care for her.
25. Walking is Overrated
Let’s start with Hutton’s first husband, who called her fat and destroyed her self-esteem for life. She became anorexic, which had heartbreaking consequences—after having her first child, the illness made her infertile. She also became dependent on drugs and alcohol. Her health got progressively worse, to the extent that she lost her mobility completely and had to be carried everywhere.
She famously pronounced, “Why walk when you can pay someone to do it for you?”
26. Girl Power
Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart had 50 hereditary titles but was best known as the 18th Duchess of Alba. Another thing she was known for was defying social convention and living by her own rules. Born in 1926, the Duchess was a fan of flamenco and bullfighting when societal norms dictated women to live quieter lives.
27. Plastic Princess
The Duchess was also famous because of her several plastic surgery procedures, which unfortunately didn’t do too much for her. As if this wasn’t enough to keep her in the public eye, she went and married a man 25 years younger than her when she was 85. Her love for him did not extend to her purse though, and she left her billions to her children when she passed.
28. Don’t Cross Me
Sir George Sitwell became a baronet at the age of four when his father passed. As an adult, he moved his family to their family seat at Renishaw Hall. At the entrance there he put up a sign asking people who entered to never contradict him. The reasons why were as bizarre as it gets. He said as it “interfere(d) with the functioning of the gastric juices” and disturbed his sleep at night.
Probably getting a whiff of his eccentricities, his wife ran away right after the wedding but was forced to go back and lead an unhappy life with him.
29. Medicine Muddle
Sitwell was a hypochondriac who always traveled with a medicine chest. Apparently, he was also afraid someone might steal his medicines. To prevent that from happening he would mislabel all the bottles so no one else would use them—which they probably could still do if they really wanted to, only they’d be using the wrong medicine.
30. An Unusual Hobby
Sitwell fancied himself quite the inventor. If there was any doubt whether he was actually misguided or just ahead of his time, we can put it to rest now. Verdict: Definitely misguided. His inventions included a musical toothbrush, a pistol for shooting wasps (err…what?), and the “Sitwell Egg,” which was basically meat in the middle (the yolk) surrounded by white rice. Oh George, you might have been better off taking up painting.
31. God Wars
Emperor Elagabalus Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (Gesundheit!) was only 14 when he ascended the Roman throne. The power went straight to his head. He wanted to replace Roman god Jupiter with the worship of Elagabal, his own Sun God. Naturally, the Romans were not amused. To add fuel to fire, Elagabalus also married a Vestal Virgin named Aquila Severa so that he could father “godlike children.”
32. Party Animal
Elagabalus did not believe in holding back when it came to partying. He was the epitome of excess. In the four years of his reign, he married and divorced five wives and hooked up with several men. He also spent lavishly on physicians in hope of a sex change. Progressive!
33. Lady Bathory
Elizabeth Bathory lived in Hungary in the 16th century. She is best known as the Blood Countess, for reasons straight out of a horror story. Abused as a child and part of a Satanist cult, Bathory was obsessed with abusing young servant and peasant girls. Her husband built her a customized chamber for this. Probable a romantic gesture for a “Blood Countess.”
34. Bloody Mary, the Bathory Version
Bathory’s claim to notoriety is something even creepier than her torture tales: Her fixation with blood. She used to drink the blood of young, pretty girls, and some stories claim she would bathe in it as well. No one knows why, though one theory is that she felt it would keep her young and beautiful, and another is that she did it to cure iron deficiency. What the what?!
35. Self Love is True Love?
Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey Bt, was also called “Toppy”—perhaps because of his glitzy dressing and over-the-top behavior. His wife, Lilian, left him six weeks after their wedding. Needless to say, they did not consummate their marriage. He would just ask her to “pose naked” while covered in jewels. Noted historians did not think Paget was gay; he was simply a narcissist, incapable of loving anyone but himself.
I’m thinking Lilian made the right choice here.
36. The Greatest Showman
Paget was deeply obsessed with theater. He converted a chapel on his family grounds to a 150-seat theater and named it “Gaiety Theater.” He would stage lavish performances with himself always cast as the lead—of course—and requiring several flashy costume changes. His special “sinuous, sexy dances” earned him the name of the “Dancing Marquess.”
37. Life in the Fast Lane
Paget received his inheritance when he was 23, and it took him just four years to squander it all away. He was in great debt by the time he died at the age of 29. Probably doesn’t come as a surprise that he was considered the black sheep of the family by this time.
38. Child Wanted
Anna Maria Helena, or the Comtesse de Noaille, lost her only child at birth and found an interesting way to fill the void. She adopted another little girl after seeing a portrait of her. The artist had sold the painting, but undeterred, the Comtesse tracked down the child and convinced her dad that she’d have a better life with her; some gold might have helped in the convincing.
The Comtesse had set ideas on how to raise kids. Her ward was to wear loose dresses to help circulation and she was to have plenty of milk. Helena believed milk stopped kids from turning to drink later in life. She had her own herd of cows which would graze near her open windows because she felt their aroma and the methane they produced led to good health.
40. Ten-Step Routine
The Comtesse had her own health regimen which she followed very strictly. A bunch of onions were hung at her door to keep away infections, she ate huge amounts of herring roe for to prevent bronchitis, and she wrapped silk stockings filled with squirrel fur around her head to reduce wrinkles! She was the original crackpot health influencer.
41. Quirks Galore
Although she loved port, the Comtesse would only have it mixed with sugar and fresh rainwater. She only ate behind a two-feet-high screen, and her brass door had to be wrapped in blue silk so its glare didn’t hurt her eyes. She also slept with a loaded gun on her nightstand. Maybe she felt her quirks might bother someone enough to make them kill her?
42. Do Good, but Not to Everyone
A part of the Comtesse’s will was dedicated to building an orphanage for children of clergymen. However, only the “firm-spirited and conscientious” could attend and kids under ten could not be vaccinated or learn any math other than the multiplication tables.
43. Russian Dolls
Tsar Peter III of Russia was married to Catherine the Great, but had no interest in his wife. He spent the nights playing with his toy soldiers or making her dress as one, after which he would make her do military drills. Once, he caught a rat that had chewed the head off one of his toy soldiers. This made him so angry he “court-martialled” it and hung it on some tiny gallows for “treason.”
Err… and this guy was going to rule the country?
44. A King of Glass
If you can have a Blood Countess, you can certainly have a “Glass King.” Charles VI of France was also known as Charles the Mad, because he became psychotic just a few years after coming into power—and the aftermath was utterly chilling. He started to imagine he was made of glass, and would be very careful not to “break,” especially when meeting other people.
He even had steel rods sewn in his clothes to prevent this from ever happening.
45. The Real Dracula
We all know Dracula was inspired by stories of Vlad Tepes, AKA Vlad the Impaler. He killed the ruler of Wallachia and became prince, and basically waged war on Turks and Ottoman sympathizers. Not only did he burn entire cities and villages, he also decimated thousands. It is unverified, but one story states he would dip his bread in his victims’ blood to eat it.
The Blood Countess and Vlad would have been a real match made in heaven, don’t you think?
46. Roman Inspiration
So, it seems like our boy Vlad had some Roman inspiration for his madness: Nero. Not only did the Roman emperor off his wives, he also got rid of hundreds of Christians, accusing them of setting fire to Rome. He had them doused in tar, impaled them on pikes, and set them on fire. Legend has it he would dance under the light of burning Christians, claiming their screaming was musical.
He certainly gave Vlad a run for his money.
47. Shifting the Blame
It gets worse. It’s likely that Nero set Rome on fire himself. Apparently, the Romans were sick of his antics, which included killing “traitors,” dressing like a woman to lure men, and holding wild orgies and musical concerts, which no one was allowed to leave, especially when he was playing his lyre. In fact, he supposedly played the lyre while Rome was burning.
Of course, he needed a scapegoat to explain that behavior.
48. China King
Zhu Houzhao belonged to the Ming Dynasty. He is unforgettable for two reasons: His obsession with women and his childish antics. At one time he had so many women in his harem that there wasn’t enough food for them and quite a few starved to death. Like, seriously? Another of his amazing decisions was to store a vat of gunpowder in his palace during the Festival of Lanterns. Needless to say, the palace burnt down.
49. Thrill of the Chase
I’m sure the sanity of men who surround the rulers is also questionable. At one time, the emperor led an army to fight a royal prince and was so disappointed that he’d already surrendered that his advisors suggested they free him, so Houzhao could catch him himself. They also set up a fake marketplace outside his palace so he could pretend to be a commoner and shop there.
50. Off with Their Heads!
Emperor of the Roman Empire, Caligula’s real name was Gaius Julius Caeser Augustus Germanicus. What a mouthful. Caligula got seriously sick once, and after that he started to go slightly crazy. For starters, he started executing people a lot more—do you sense a pattern here? Then he started believing he was God and wanted to fight the Sea God, Neptune.
51. A Temple of Me
Taking his being a God idea seriously, Caligula had temples made with statues of the old gods, whose heads he would smash and have replaced with his own. He tried to get his horse elected to some royal position as well and finally decided he would spend the rest of his days being “God” in Alexandria. The people were done though and he got assassinated before he could make that dream a reality.
52. A Sick Mind
Before Caligula, his uncle Tiberius was the Supreme Emperor of Rome. Although he too ruled wisely for a while, he started to lose his mind after his son’s death. Thereafter he allowed Rome to be ruled by Sejanus, his Praetorian Captain, and spent his time in Capri, staging orgies and doing some even worse stuff. He later killed Sejanus and named Caligula his heir, and was killed himself by another guard.
Most famous for his poetry, Lord Byron is also well-known for his love affairs. He began experimenting with his sexuality at a young age—but one crush eluded him, and it was pretty inappropriate. Byron fell for his cousin Mary, but his love remained unrequited. So, he wrote some poems to get over it though and went on to have several other lovers. Eventually he proposed to Anna Isabella Milbanke just to get away from it all.
54. My Home and Other Animals
Byron loved animals so much that he had a tame bear he would take for walks in college. He decorated his home by putting a coffin in his dining room, and polished skulls to serve as vases and flowerpots in his house. He hated sunlight and had dark curtains hung over his windows to escape it. Somehow, I don’t see this house featuring in the Home and Garden magazines, do you?
55. The Richest Man in the World
Forget the billionaires of today—the richest man in history remains Mansa Musa of Mali who lived in the 14th century. On a pilgrimage to Mecca, he had a caravan consisting of 1,000 attendants, 500 slaves, and 100 camels. Not a miser by any means, Musa spent so much gold on the poor in Cairo that he ended up causing mass inflation in the city. It took 12 years for their economy to bounce back! Too much of a good thing and all that jazz.