Weird and bizarre history facts

On this page, I present a collection of some of the various historical oddities I have come across over the years. Nearly all of the links are to Wikipedia, since it has long overtaken obscure blogs as the most comprehensive and accessible digital source for history.

If any of the information here is incorrect, well, correct it on Wikipedia please. And leave me a note.

We are all familiar with getting lost in Wikipedia and stumbling across random articles, but Wikipedia itself has a number of lists of obscure topics.

This one is very short and not too exciting:

The full list of Unusual Articles is much longer and worth looking through:

This list is much longer than the unusual history articles list, although I would say nearly everything listed here also counts as a matter of historical interest:

The Wikipedia "Did you know" section also features bizarre articles on occasion (although most of them are normal):

The Reddit subforum Today I Learned sometimes has history facts as well.

Despite seeing countless weird Wikipedia articles, it is admittedly quite difficult to find them again if you don't make a list of them. It also seems few others have collected their own lengthy lists. Most articles on this topic just copy-paste from a few of the Unusual Articles, without digging deeper.

Let's make our own list.

Charondas was a Greek lawgiver from Sicily, Italy. According to Diodorus Siculus, he issued a law that anyone who brought weapons into the Assembly must be put to death. One day, he arrived at the Assembly seeking help to defeat some brigands in the countryside, but with a knife still attached to his belt. In order to uphold his own law, he committed suicide.[4][5][6]

A politician who followed the rules? Now that is kind of epic.

According to Valerius Maximus, Aeschylus, the eldest of the three great Athenian tragedians, was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his bald head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that he would be killed that day "by the fall of a house".[10]:104[23][24][25]

The deacon Saint Lawrence was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian.[52][53] Prudentius tells that he joked with his tormentors, "Turn me over—I'm done on this side".[54] He is now the patron saint of cooks, chefs, and comedians.[55]

The not funny part is that he was murdered for doing what Jesus would have done:

As a deacon in Rome, Lawrence was responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.[8] Ambrose of Milan relates that when the treasures of the Church were demanded of Lawrence by the prefect of Rome, he brought forward the poor, to whom he had distributed the treasure as alms.[9] "Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church's crown."[5] The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it and had Lawrence placed on it, hence Lawrence's association with the gridiron.

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

—Matthew 19:21-24

In any case, the story about him being burned is likely false, but perhaps it counts as bizarre for the "Christian" church to kill someone who was following one of Jesus's explicit commands.

Historian Patrick J. Healy opines that the traditional account of how Lawrence was martyred is "not worthy of credence",[11] as the slow lingering death cannot be reconciled "with the express command contained in the edict regarding bishops, priests, and deacons (animadvertantur) which ordinarily meant decapitation."[11] A theory of how the tradition arose is proposed that as the result of a mistake in transcription, the omission of the letter "p" – "by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est ["he suffered," that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted]."[11]

Hans Staininger, the burgomaster of Braunau (then Bavaria, now Austria), died when he broke his neck by tripping over his own beard.[86] The beard, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long at the time, was usually kept rolled up in a leather pouch.[87]

German-language Wikipedia even has a photo of his beard in a museum:

Also, did you know Braunau is the town Hitler was born in? Did they teach him about ol' Hans in school?

And let's not forget about Hans Langseth, who had the world's lengthiest beard (over 5m or 17ft).

Langseth was born in Norway in 1846, but immigrated to the United States as a young man, settling with his wife in Kensett, Iowa. According to physical and forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunt, Langseth began growing his prodigious bristles when he was just 19 years old to compete in a local beard-growing competition. After the competition ended, Langseth simply continued the effort. Though beard hair can only grow about four or five feet before dying off, Langseth matted the dead hair together in a coil, like that of today's dreadlocks, to further lengthen and strengthen his beard. The beard itself, says Hunt, acts as a kind of timeline for Langseth's life—the brown parts represent his youthful hair color and lifestyle (wheat kernels, from the harvests on the farm where he lived as a young man, can still be seen flecked throughout the beard) while the yellowed parts represent Langseth's beard in his older years.

"You’d have to be a little eccentric to do this," Hunt says, explaining how Langseth would roll his beard around a corncob and carry it in a pouch around his neck or tucked into a clothing pocket.

Franz Reichelt, a tailor and inventor, leaped from the Eiffel Tower and fell to his death wearing a parachute made from cloth, his own invention. He was asked by friends and authorities to use a dummy for the feat, but declined, saying "I intend to prove the worth of my invention". Reichelt is known as the Flying Tailor.[137]

Perillos of Athens (circa 550 BCE), according to legend, was the first to be roasted in the brazen bull he made for Phalaris of Sicily for executing criminals.[33][34]

The Sacred Band of Thebes (Ancient Greek: Ἱερός Λόχος, Hierós Lókhos) was a troop of select soldiers, consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC, ending Spartan domination. Its predominance began with its crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. It was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.

And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?

—Plato, Symposium

Did you know that the US military argued fighting alongside your lover lowered morale and cohesion, providing a rationale to expel anyone from the military who happened to be romantic with someone of the same gender (even if their lover wasn't in the military)?

Perhaps their fighting force isn't as elite as they thought they were.

Ancient Rome had a giant hill made of carefully-stacked olive oil vases.

Monte Testaccio ... is an artificial mound in Rome composed almost entirely of testae (Italian: cocci), fragments of broken ancient Roman pottery, nearly all discarded amphorae dating from the time of the Roman Empire, some of which were labelled with tituli picti. It is one of the largest spoil heaps found anywhere in the ancient world, covering an area of 2 hectares (4.9 acres) at its base and with a volume of approximately 580,000 cubic metres (760,000 cu yd), containing the remains of an estimated 53 million amphorae. It has a circumference of nearly a kilometre (0.6 mi) and stands 35 metres (115 ft) high, though it was probably considerably higher in ancient times.[2][3]


The huge numbers of broken amphorae at Monte Testaccio illustrate the enormous demand for oil of imperial Rome, which was at the time the world's largest city with a population of at least one million people. It has been estimated that the hill contains the remains of as many as 53 million olive oil amphorae, in which some 6 billion litres (1.3 billion imperial gallons/1.6 billion U.S. gallons) of oil were imported.[5] Studies of the hill's composition suggest that Rome's imports of olive oil reached a peak towards the end of the 2nd century AD, when as many as 130,000 amphorae were being deposited on the site each year.


As the vessels found at Monte Testaccio appear to represent mainly state-sponsored olive oil imports, it is very likely that considerable additional quantities of olive oil were imported privately.[6]

Monte Testaccio was not simply a haphazard waste dump; it was a highly organised and carefully engineered creation, presumably managed by a state administrative authority. Excavations carried out in 1991 showed that the mound had been raised as a series of level terraces with retaining walls made of nearly intact amphorae filled with sherds to anchor them in place. Empty amphorae were probably carried up the mound intact on the backs of donkeys or mules and then broken up on the spot, with the sherds laid out in a stable pattern. Lime appears to have been sprinkled over the broken pots to neutralise the smell of rancid oil.[2]

The hill of Monte Testaccio, Rome, seen from the air.

Uncredited photo published by CNN (September 29, 2011).

Neatly stacked pottery fragments at Monte Testaccio, Rome.

Original photo uploaded by an unspecified user on the now-defunct site Panoramio (c. 2015 or prior).

Neatly stacked pottery fragments at Monte Testaccio, Rome.

Photo by alderium on Flickr (September 2009).

A collection of other photos can be found here:

Kaushik Patowary. (May 23, 2015). Monte Testaccio: The 2,000-year-old Garbage Dump in Rome. Amusing Planet.

I wonder how long the city was plagued by smelly rotting oil canisters before the government had to step in and organize a giant pile of perfectly-stacked and chemically-neutralized jars?

Can you imagine if today's waste disposal was just as orderly? Maybe the world wouldn't be covered in plastic.

Supposedly, Ottoman scientist Lagâri Hasan Çelebi conducted the world's first rocket-powered flight. His flight was recorded by contemporary Evliya Çelebi.

Evliya Çelebi also wrote that Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi had achieved some type of flight.

Maybe these accounts inspired the "legend" of Wan Hu, which was made up in the 1900s.

In July 1184, Henry VI, King of Germany (later Holy Roman Emperor), held court at a Hoftag in the Petersberg Citadel in Erfurt. On the morning of 26 July, the combined weight of the assembled nobles caused the wooden second story floor of the building to collapse and most of them fell through into the latrine cesspit below the ground floor, where about 60 of them drowned in liquid excrement. This event is called Erfurter Latrinensturz (lit. 'Erfurt latrine fall') in several German sources.[1][2][3]


All of the Nobles across the Holy Roman Empire were invited to the meeting, and many arrived on 25 July to attend.[5] ... King Henry was said to have survived only because he sat in an alcove with a stone floor.[5]

The grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania, USA. Her tomb stone reads:

In memory of Ellen Shannon Age 26 years who was fatally burned March 21, 1870 by the explosion of a lamp filled with R. E. Danforth's non-explosive burning fluid

It seems Shannon was not the only victim of Danforth's "murderous oil." In May 1870, the steamboat War Eagle, a train, and multiple buildings caught fire, and at least six people died in La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA, perhaps from Danforth's oil:

The following Twitter thread says "R. F. Danforth" patented his fluid in 1869. But it also says Ellen Shannon is buried in Nova Scotia and died in 1879, despite grave marker websites clearly showing the date as 1870 and listing the grave in the US. So who knows what to believe.

Bald–hairy (Russian: лысый — волосатый) is a common joke in Russian political discourse, referring to the empirical rule of the state leaders' succession defined as a change of a bald or balding leader to a hairy one and vice versa. This consistent pattern can be traced back to as early as 1825, when Nicholas I succeeded his late brother Alexander as the Russian Emperor.

The Curse of Tippecanoe (also known as Tecumseh's Curse, the 20-year Curse[1] or the Zero Curse[2]) is an urban legend[3] about the deaths in office of presidents of the United States who were elected in years that end with the digit 0, which all are divisible by 20.

The presidents elected on such years from 1840 to 1960 died in office: William Henry Harrison (1840), Abraham Lincoln (1860), James A. Garfield (1880), William McKinley (1900), Warren G. Harding (1920), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940) and John F. Kennedy (1960). These are seven of the eight total presidents who have died in office. Since 1960, the three presidents who were elected on applicable years have not died in office.

Since the US has clearly not learned anything or atoned for what it did at Tippecanoe, it seems the curse is merely a coincidence.

Still, pretty weird for this pattern to occur for 120 years!

The Gombe Chimpanzee War was a violent conflict between two communities of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in the Kigoma region of Tanzania between 1974 and 1978.

The thing that pushes this article into bizarre territory is how the article has a formal Wikipedia military conflict infobox:

Wikipedia military conflict infobox for the Gombe chimpanzee war.

Wikipedia’s “List of sexually active popes” is both useful and frivolous, impressive and incomplete. ...

The idea of collecting a list of popes who were sexually active at some point speaks for itself – it’s a uniquely Wikipedian way of categorizing history in the age of search engines.

But I’m really into the entry’s talk page. Since its creation more than a decade ago, this particular list has been argued over, corrected, and expanded with vigor. One user went after some pretty egregious errors when it comes to Catholic terminology. There are also substantial arguments over the neutrality of the entire concept of collecting sexually active popes – whether historically confirmed or not. One lengthy talk thread is titled “Encyclopedia or tabloid?” and several Wikipedians drop in to accuse the entire article of being anti-Catholic, while others defend it.

— Abby Ohleiser, The Intersect

The Man in the Iron Mask (French: L'Homme au Masque de Fer; died 19 November 1703) was an unidentified prisoner of state, arrested in July 1669 under the pseudonym of "Eustache Dauger" and incarcerated for a period of 34 years during the reign of King Louis XIV of France (1643–1715). Known for remaining unidentified throughout his time in prison, he was held in the custody of the same jailer, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, in four successive French prisons, including the Bastille. When he died there on 19 November 1703, his inhumation certificate bore the pseudonym of "Marchialy".

The true identity of this prisoner remains a mystery, even though it has been extensively debated by historians, and various theories have been expounded in numerous books, articles, plays, and films. Among the leading theories is one proposed by the French philosopher and writer Voltaire, who claimed in the second edition of his Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1771) that the prisoner was an older, illegitimate brother of Louis XIV. This assertion of a royal connection was echoed later by authors who proposed variants of this aristocratic solution.

What little is known about the prisoner is based on contemporary documents that surfaced during the 19th century, mainly some of the correspondence between Saint-Mars and his superiors, in which the prisoner had been labelled "only a valet" shortly after his arrest. Legend has it that no one is known to have seen his face, as it was hidden by a mask of black velvet cloth, later misreported by Voltaire as an iron mask. Official documents reveal, however, that the prisoner was made to cover his face only when travelling from one prison to the next, or in the final years of his incarceration; modern historians believe the latter measure was imposed by Saint-Mars solely to increase his own prestige at the end of his career, thus causing persistent rumours to circulate about this seemingly important prisoner."


King's twin brother

In a 1965 essay Le Masque de fer, French novelist Marcel Pagnol, supporting his hypothesis in particular on the circumstances of Louis XIV's birth, claims that the Man in the Iron Mask was indeed a twin but born second, and hence the younger, and would have been hidden in order to avoid any dispute over the throne holder.[7] At the time there was a controversy over which one of twins was the elder: The one born first, or the one born second, who was then thought to have been conceived first.


King's father

In 1955, Hugh Ross Williamson argued that the man in the iron mask was the natural father of Louis XIV. According to this theory, the "miraculous" birth of Louis XIV in 1638 would have come after Louis XIII had been estranged from his wife Anne of Austria for 14 years.[10]


Supposedly, the substitute father then left for the Americas but in the 1660s returned to France with the aim of extorting money for keeping his secret, and was promptly imprisoned. This theory would explain the secrecy surrounding the prisoner, whose true identity would have destroyed the legitimacy of Louis XIV's claim to the throne had it been revealed.

What do you think?

Why go through all that trouble to conceal his identity unless he was a relative of the King? On the other hand, was the mask even real, or just rumors? The jailer, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, could have just been a professional troll who enjoyed seeing rumors circulate among the royals while he was sitting in a fortress on an isolated island.

Mary Toft (née Denyer; c. 1701–1763), also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.

In 1726, Toft became pregnant, but following her reported fascination with the sighting of a rabbit, she miscarried. Her claim to have given birth to various animal parts prompted the arrival of John Howard, a local surgeon, who investigated the matter. He delivered several pieces of animal flesh and duly notified other prominent physicians, which brought the case to the attention of Nathaniel St. André, surgeon to the Royal Household of King George I.

St. André concluded that Toft's case was genuine but the king also sent surgeon Cyriacus Ahlers, who remained skeptical. By then quite famous, Toft was brought to London where she was studied in detail; under intense scrutiny and producing no more rabbits she confessed to the hoax, and was subsequently imprisoned as a fraud.

The resultant public mockery created panic within the medical profession and ruined the careers of several prominent surgeons. The affair was satirised on many occasions, not least by the pictorial satirist and social critic William Hogarth, who was notably critical of the medical profession's gullibility. Toft was eventually released without charge and returned home.

In the 1700s, a French gentleman had a most disagreeable digestive disease, giving him an insatiable appetite.

Tarrare (c. 1772 – 1798), sometimes spelled Tarar, was a French showman and soldier noted for his unusual appetite and eating habits. Able to eat vast amounts of meat, he was constantly hungry; his parents could not provide for him and he was turned out of the family home as a teenager. He travelled France in the company of a band of prostitutes and thieves before becoming the warm-up act for a travelling charlatan. In this act, he would swallow corks, stones, live animals, and a whole basketful of apples. He then took this act to Paris where he worked as a street performer.

At the start of the War of the First Coalition, Tarrare joined the French Revolutionary Army, where even quadrupling the standard military ration was unable to satisfy his large appetite. He would eat any available food from gutters and rubbish heaps but his condition still deteriorated through hunger. He was hospitalised due to exhaustion and became the subject of a series of medical experiments to test his eating capacity, in which, among other things, he ate a meal intended for 15 people in a single sitting, ate live cats, snakes, lizards, and puppies, and swallowed eels whole without chewing. Despite his unusual diet, he was underweight and, with the exception of his eating habits, he showed no signs of mental illness other than what was described as an apathetic temperament.

General Alexandre de Beauharnais decided to put Tarrare's abilities to military use, and employed him as a courier for the French army, with the intention that he would swallow documents, pass through enemy lines, and recover them from his stool once safely at his destination. Tarrare could not speak German, and on his first mission, he was captured by Prussian forces, severely beaten, and subjected to a mock execution before being returned to French lines.


and attempted to drink the blood of other patients in the hospital and to eat the corpses in the hospital's morgue. After being suspected of eating a toddler, he was ejected from the hospital.

Tarrare even had a similar contemporary serving in the opposing Prussian army.

Charles Domery (c. 1778 – after 1800), later also known as Charles Domerz, was a Polish soldier serving in the Prussian and French armies, noted for his unusually large appetite. Serving in the Prussian Army against France during the War of the First Coalition, he found that the rations of the Prussians were insufficient and deserted to the French Army in return for food. Although generally healthy, he was voraciously hungry during his time in the French service, and ate any available food. While stationed near Paris, he was recorded as having eaten 174 cats in a year, and although he disliked vegetables, he would eat 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.3 kg) of grass each day if he could not find other food. During service on the French ship Hoche, he attempted to eat the severed leg of a crew member hit by cannon fire, before other members of the crew wrestled it from him.

King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia had a special fondness for unusually tall soldiers. The unit's mascot was a bear, and the king apparently tried to breed supersoldiers by pairing them with tall women.

The Potsdam Giants was the name given to Prussian infantry regiment No 6. The regiment was composed of taller-than-average soldiers, and was founded in 1675. It was eventually dissolved in 1806, after the Prussians were defeated by Napoleon. Throughout the reign of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (1688–1740), the unit was known as the "Potsdamer Riesengarde" ("giant guard of Potsdam") in German, but the Prussian population quickly nicknamed them the Lange Kerle ("long fellows").


As the number of tall soldiers increased, the regiment earned its nickname "Potsdam Giants". The original required height was 6 Prussian feet (about 6 ft 2 in or 1.88 m),[1] well above average then and now. The king was about 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) tall himself.[2] He tried to obtain them by any means, including recruiting them from the armies of other countries. The Emperor of Austria, Russian Tsar Peter the Great and even the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent him tall soldiers in order to encourage friendly relations. Several soldiers were given by Tsar Peter I as a gift in return for the famous Amber Room.[3] Pay was high, but not all giants were content, especially if they were forcibly recruited, and some attempted desertion or suicide.

Frederick tried to pair these men with tall women, in order to breed giants. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin mentions this attempt as the only case of intentional human interbreeding: "Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers; and in this case man obeyed, as might have been expected, the law of methodical selection; for it is asserted that many tall men were reared in the villages inhabited by the grenadiers with their tall wives."[4]


The king trained and drilled his own regiment every day. He liked to paint their portraits from memory. He tried to show them to foreign visitors and dignitaries to impress them. At times he would try to cheer himself up by ordering them to march before him, even if he was in his sickbed. This procession, which included the entire regiment, was led by their mascot, a bear. He once confided to the French ambassador that "The most beautiful girl or woman in the world would be a matter of indifference to me, but tall soldiers—they are my weakness".


When the king died in 1740, the regiment consisted of 3,200 men. However, his successor Frederick the Great did not share his father's sentiments about the regiment, which seemed to him an unnecessary expense. The regiment was largely disbanded and most of its soldiers were integrated into other units.

Here is another bear associated with military service.

Wojtek (1942 – 2 December 1963) was a Syrian brown bear[1][2] (Ursus arctos syriacus) bought, as a young cub, at a railway station in Hamadan, Iran, by Polish II Corps soldiers who had been evacuated from the Soviet Union. In order to provide for his rations and transportation, he was eventually enlisted officially as a soldier with the rank of private, and was subsequently promoted to corporal.[3]

He accompanied the bulk of the II Corps to Italy, serving with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, in Italy in 1944, Wojtek helped move crates of ammunition and became a celebrity with visiting Allied generals and statesmen. After the war he was mustered out of the Polish Army and lived out the rest of his life at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.


Wojtek copied the other soldiers, drinking beer, smoking and even marching alongside them on his hind legs because he saw them do so.


As an enlisted soldier with his own paybook, rank, and serial number, he lived with the other men in tents or in a special wooden crate, which was transported by truck. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped his unit to convey ammunition by carrying 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-pound artillery shells, never dropping any of them. While this story generated controversy over its accuracy, at least one account exists of a British soldier recalling seeing a bear carrying crates of ammo.[10]

In the 1800s, the most obese man on Earth was a British jail keeper who was strong enough to fight a bear.

Daniel Lambert (13 March 1770 – 21 June 1809) was a gaol keeper and animal breeder from Leicester, England, famous for his unusually large size. After serving four years as an apprentice at an engraving and die casting works in Birmingham, he returned to Leicester around 1788 and succeeded his father as keeper of Leicester's gaol. He was a keen sportsman and extremely strong; on one occasion he fought a bear in the streets of Leicester.

At the time of Lambert's return to Leicester, his weight began to increase steadily, even though he was athletically active and, by his own account, abstained from drinking alcohol and did not eat unusual amounts of food. In 1805, Lambert's gaol closed. By this time, he weighed 50 stone (700 lb; 320 kg), and had become the heaviest authenticated person up to that point in recorded history. Unemployable and sensitive about his bulk, Lambert became a recluse.

In 1806, poverty forced Lambert to put himself on exhibition to raise money. In April 1806, he took up residence in London, charging spectators to enter his apartments to meet him. Visitors were impressed by his intelligence and personality, and visiting him became highly fashionable. After some months on public display, Lambert grew tired of exhibiting himself, and in September 1806, he returned, wealthy, to Leicester, where he bred sporting dogs and regularly attended sporting events. Between 1806 and 1809, he made a further series of short fundraising tours.

In June 1809, he died suddenly in Stamford, Lincolnshire. At the time of his death, he weighed 52 stone 11 pounds (739 lb; 335 kg), and his coffin required 112 square feet (10.4 square metres) of wood.


Although by his own account Lambert did not eat unusually large amounts of food, at about the time of his return to Leicester his weight began to increase steadily, and by 1793, he weighed 32 stone (450 lb; 200 kg).[5] Concerned for his fitness, in his spare time he devoted himself to exercise, building his strength to the point where he was able to easily carry five long hundredweight (560 lb; 250 kg).[10] On one occasion, while he was watching a dancing bear on display in Blue Boar Lane, his dog slipped loose and bit it. The bear knocked the dog to the ground, and Lambert asked its keeper to restrain it so he could retrieve his wounded animal, but the keeper removed the bear's muzzle so it could attack the dog.[10] Lambert reportedly struck the bear with a pole and with his left hand, punched its head, knocking it to the ground to allow the dog to escape.[11][n 4]

Despite his increasingly large girth, Lambert remained fit and active, once walking 7 miles (11 km) from Woolwich to the City of London "with much less apparent fatigue than several middle-sized men who were of the party".[7]


Sensitive about his weight, Daniel Lambert refused to allow himself to be weighed, but sometime around 1805, some friends persuaded him to come with them to a cock fight in Loughborough. Once he had squeezed his way into their carriage, the rest of the party drove the carriage onto a large scale and jumped out. After deducting the weight of the (previously weighed) empty carriage, they calculated that Lambert's weight was now 50 stone (700 lb; 320 kg), and that he had thus overtaken Edward Bright, the 616-pound (279 kg) "Fat Man of Maldon",[23] as the heaviest authenticated person in recorded history.[20][24]

I think the title of this article really says it all. Oh yeah, and he lived in a cave.

The 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf Who Challenged Slavery, Meat-Eating, and Racism

One Sunday, 18th-century Quakers living in Abington, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, were met with a strange sight outside their morning meeting. The snow lay thick on the ground and there was Benjamin Lay, a member of the congregation, wearing little clothing, with his “right leg and foot uncovered,” almost knee-deep in the snow. When one Quaker after the next told him that he would get sick or that he should get inside and cover up, he turned to them. “Ah,” he said, “you pretend compassion for me, but you do not feel for the poor slaves in your fields, who go all winter half-clad.”


Despite his ultra-radical leanings, Lay has been almost entirely excised from modern history books. “The wildness of his methods of approaching antislavery is part of it,” Rediker says. “He was extremely militant and completely uncompromising.” This level of abolitionist militance was unprecedented, and only began to become common after the 1830s. Lay sits outside of the standard narrative of the movement, and his disability and lower socioeconomic status make him difficult to place in a clear historical model. “He just didn’t fit the story,” Rediker says.

The snow protest was by no means Lay’s only performed, dramatic, nonviolent act of radicalism. Quaker neighbors of his kept a young “negro girl” as a slave, and continued to justify the practice, even in the face of his exhortations on both the evil of slavery in general and the “wickedness” of separating enslaved children from their parents. When the neighbors refused to listen, Lay invited their six-year-old son into the cave where he lived and innocently entertained him throughout the day. The boy’s parents panicked. The Village Record, a local newspaper, later described how Lay “observed the father and mother running towards his dwelling; as they drew near, discovering their distress, he advanced and met them, enquiring in a feeling manner: ‘What is the matter?’” The parents, understandably terrified, explained that the boy had been missing all day. Lay is said to have paused, and said: “Your child is safe in my house, and you may now conceive of the sorrow you inflict upon the parents of the negro girl you hold in slavery, for she was torn from them by avarice.” Taking the Bible as his model, he seems to have generated living parables to show people the evil of their ways.

He did not believe that humans were superior to non-human animals and created his own clothes to boycott the slave-labor industry. He would not wear anything, nor eat anything, made from the loss of animal life or provided by any degree by slave labor. Refusing to participate in what he described in his tracts as a degraded, hypocritical, tyrannical, and even demonic society, Lay was committed to a lifestyle of almost complete self-sustenance after his beloved wife died. Dwelling in the Pennsylvania countryside in a cave with outside entryway attached, Lay kept goats, farmed notably with fruit trees, and spun the flax he grew into clothing for himself. Inside the cave he stowed his library: two hundred books of theology, biography, history and poetry.[6]

In the 1800s, a blind man somehow travelled the entire Earth, alone. As a practical matter, how could he arrange for lodging in an era without online translators? Perhaps he wrote about it in his books.

James Holman FRS (15 October 1786 – 29 July 1857), known as the "Blind Traveller," was a British adventurer, author and social observer, best known for his writings on his extensive travels. Completely blind and experiencing pain and limited mobility, he undertook a series of solo journeys that were unprecedented both in their extent of geography and method of "human echolocation". In 1866, the journalist William Jerdan wrote that "From Marco Polo to Mungo Park, no three of the most famous travellers, grouped together, would exceed the extent and variety of countries traversed by our blind countryman." In 1832, Holman became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe. He continued travelling, and by October 1846 had visited every inhabited continent.


He again set out in 1822 with the incredible design of making the circuit of the world from west to east, something which at the time was almost unheard of by a lone traveller, blind or not - but he travelled through Russia as far east as the Mongolian frontier of Irkutsk. There he was suspected by the Czar of being a spy who might publicize the extensive activities of the Russian American Company should he travel further east, and was conducted back forcibly to the frontiers of Poland. He returned home by Austria, Saxony, Prussia and Hanover, when he then published Travels through Russia, Siberia, etc. (London, 1825).

In 2007, Jason Roberts published a biography of Holman, which included maps of his journeys:

How was he able to afford the time and money to travel so many places? Our socio-economic system™ barely allows me enough time and money to travel to the gorcery store.

Listed below appears to be all the major books Holman published.

Holman, James. (1834). The Narrative of a Journey undertaken in the Years 1819, 1820, & 1821, Through France, Italy, Savoy, Switzerland, Parts of Germany Bordering on The Rhine, Holland, and The Netherlands, Comprising Incidents, That Occurred to the Author, Who Has Long Suffered Under a Total Deprivation of Sight; with Various Points of Information Collected on His Tour. Fifth Edition. London: Smith, Elder, and Co., Cornhill, Booksellers, by Appointment, to Their Majesties.

Volume 1 of 1.

Holman, James. (1825). Travels Through Russia, Siberia, Poland, Austria, Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, etc. etc. Undertaken During the Years 1822, 1832, and 1824, While Suffering from Total Blindness, and Comprising an Account of the Author Being Conducted a State Prisoner from the Eastern Parts of Siberia. London: Printed for Geo. B. Whittaker, Ave-Maria Lane.

Volume 1 of 2.

Volume 2 of 2.

Holman, James. (1834). A Voyage Round the World, Including Travels in Africa, Asia, Australasia, America, etc. etc. from 1827 to 1832. London: Smith, Elder, and Co., Cornhill, Booksellers, by Appointment, to Their Majesties.

Volume 1 of 4. Madeira—Teneriffe—St. Jago—Sierra Leone—Cape Coast—Accra—Fernando Po—Bonny—Calabar, and other Rivers in the Bight of Biafra—Prince's Island—Ascension—Rio Janeiro—and Journey to the Gold Mines.

Volume 2 of 4. The Brazils—Cape Colony, and part of Caffreland—Mauritius—Madagascar, etc.

Volume 3 of 4. Cormoro Islands—Zanzibar—the Seychelles—Mauritius—Ceylon—Pondicherry—Madras—Bangalore—Masulipatam—Visagapatam, and Calcutta.

Volume 4 of 4. Andaman Islands—Penang—Malacca—Singapore—China—Straits of Sunda—the Cocoas—Van Diemen's Land—New South Wales—New Zealand—Cape Horn—Bahia—Flores—and return to England.

Colonel Richard Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, DSO & Bar, MC (2 December 1908 – 28 February 1974) was an officer of the British Army who saw service during the Second World War. He commanded the 3rd Parachute Battalion in North Africa and the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion in Normandy, Belgium and Germany. His troops, amused by the unusual applicability of his family name (soldiers were usually buried in simple pine wood coffins), referred to him as "Wooden Box".

The last Chinese emperor rose to the throne at age two, was deposed by age six, became emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo at age 28, was declared a war criminal after WWII, became a communist after being subjected to reeducation, and became employed as a street sweeper.

He also became an actor.

In late 1956, Puyi acted in a play, The Defeat of the Aggressors, about the Suez Crisis, playing the role of a left-wing Labour MP who challenges in the House of Commons a former Manchukuo minister playing the Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd.[258] Puyi enjoyed the role[259] and continued acting in plays about his life and Manchukuo; in one he played a Manchukuo functionary and kowtowed to a portrait of himself as Emperor of Manchukuo.[259] During the Great Leap Forward, when millions of people starved to death in China, Jin chose to cancel Puyi's visits to the countryside lest the scenes of famine undo his growing faith in communism.[260] Behr wrote that many are surprised that Puyi's "remodeling" worked, with an Emperor brought up as almost a god becoming content to be just an ordinary man, but he noted that "... it is essential to remember that Puyi was not alone in undergoing such successful 'remolding'. Tough KMT generals, and even tougher Japanese generals, brought up in the samurai tradition and the Bushido cult which glorifies death in battle and sacrifice to martial Japan, became, in Fushun, just as devout in their support of communist ideals as Puyi".[261]

Puyi came to Beijing on 9 December 1959 with special permission from Mao and lived for the next six months in an ordinary Beijing residence with his sister before being transferred to a government-sponsored hotel.[262] He had the job of sweeping the streets, and got lost on his first day of work, which led him to tell astonished passers-by: "I'm Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing dynasty. I'm staying with relatives and can't find my way home".[263] One of Puyi's first acts upon returning to Beijing was to visit the Forbidden City as a tourist; he pointed out to other tourists that many of the exhibits were the things he had used in his youth.[264] He voiced his support for the Communists and worked as a gardener at the Beijing Botanical Gardens. The role brought Puyi a degree of happiness he had never known as an emperor, though he was notably clumsy.[265] Behr noted that in Europe, people who played roles analogous to the role Puyi played in Manchukuo were generally executed; for example, the British hanged William Joyce ("Lord Haw-haw") for being the announcer on the English-language broadcasts of Radio Berlin, the Italians shot Benito Mussolini, and the French executed Pierre Laval, so many Westerners are surprised that Puyi was released from prison after only nine years to start a new life.[266] Behr wrote that the Communist ideology explained this difference, writing: "In a society where all landlord and 'capitalist-roaders' were evil incarnate, it did not matter so much that Puyi was also a traitor to his country: he was, in the eyes of the Communist ideologues, only behaving true to type. If all capitalists and landlords were, by their very nature, traitors, it was only logical that Puyi, the biggest landlord, should also be the biggest traitor. And, in the last resort, Puyi was far more valuable alive than dead".[266]

Skull Tower is a stone structure embedded with human skulls located in Niš, Serbia. It was constructed by the Ottoman Empire following the Battle of Čegar of May 1809, during the First Serbian Uprising. During the battle, Serbian rebels under the command of Stevan Sinđelić were surrounded by the Ottomans on Čegar Hill, near Niš. Knowing that he and his fighters would be impaled if captured, Sinđelić detonated a powder magazine within the rebel entrenchment, killing himself, his subordinates and the encroaching Ottoman soldiers. The governor of the Rumelia Eyalet, Hurshid Pasha, ordered that a tower be made from the skulls of the fallen rebels. The tower is 4.5 metres (15 ft) high, and originally contained 952 skulls embedded on four sides in 14 rows.

In 1861, Midhat Pasha, the last Ottoman governor of Niš, ordered that Skull Tower be dismantled. Following the Ottomans' withdrawal from Niš in 1878, the structure was partially restored, roofed over with a baldachin and some of the skulls that had been removed from it were returned.


After the battle, the governor of the Rumelia Eyalet, Hurshid Pasha, ordered that the heads of Sinđelić and his men be skinned, stuffed and sent to the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II. Upon being viewed by the sultan, the skulls were then returned to Niš, where the Ottomans built Skull Tower as a warning to non-Muslim residents contemplating rebellion.[6] The Ottoman Empire was known to create tower structures from the skulls of rebel fighters in order to elicit terror among its opponents.[8] Skull Tower was constructed on the road from Istanbul to Belgrade.[9] It was built of sand and limestone.[10] The structure is 4.5 metres (15 ft) high.[11] It originally consisted of 952 skulls embedded on four sides in 14 rows.[6] The locals named it ćele kula, from the Turkish kelle kulesi, which means "skull tower".[4]

In the years following its construction, many skulls fell out from the tower walls, some were taken away for burial by relatives thinking they could identify the skulls of their deceased family members, and some were taken by souvenir hunters.[13] Midhat Pasha, the last Ottoman governor of Niš, ordered that Skull Tower be dismantled in 1861.[9] He realized that the structure no longer served as an effective means of discouraging potential rebels and only fostered resentment against the Ottomans, reminding locals of the empire's cruelty.[14] During the dismantling, the remaining skulls were removed from the tower.[9]

After the Ottomans withdrew from Niš in 1878, the Royal Serbian Army scoured the town and its surroundings in search of the missing skulls.

In the images from the Wikipedia article, you can still see many of the skulls. Creepy.

Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991, starred in a commercial for the American restaurant chain Pizza Hut in 1998. Pizza Hut opened a restaurant in Moscow in 1990.

This commercial was not aired inside Russia, but used to promote Pizza Hut's victory in the Cold War elsewhere.

And, yes, it even has a Wikipedia article:

If you're a history nerd, you already know this, but the entire Western world switched their calendar system (over the broad period of the late 1500s to early 1900s). This resulted in over a week's worth of "lost" time.

This fact makes it kind of silly when people obsessed with pattern seeking decide to fixate on dates. The months and dates that existed hundreds of years ago weren't even the same as they are today! Let alone thousands of years ago, when yet other calendar systems were in use.

Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) indicate dating systems before and after a calendar change, respectively. Usually, this is the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar as enacted in various European countries between 1582 and the 20th century.

In England, Wales, Ireland and Britain's American colonies, there were two calendar changes, both in 1752. The first adjusted the start of a new year from Lady Day (25 March) to 1 January (which Scotland had done from 1600), while the second discarded the Julian calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar, removing 11 days from the September 1752 calendar to do so.[2][3] To accommodate the two calendar changes, writers used dual dating to identify a given day by giving its date according to both styles of dating.

In England in the early 1700s, the new year began on March 25th, rather than January 1st. Many other countries used January 1st. To "alleviate" confusion, a "dual dating" system was created.

An informal system of 'dual dating' had developed to help reduce confusion. For example, a date written as 21 January 1719/20 (or 171920) means both a date of 21 January 1719 (where the year began ten months earlier, on 25 March 1719, as in England) and a date of 21 January 1720 (where the year began three weeks earlier, on 1 January 1720, as in Scotland). These notations both refer to the same day in the real world.'s_Day

And today people get annoyed when different countries use day-month-year and month-day-year dating format.

For hundreds of years, there was a minority group in France called "Cagots" who were intensely discriminated against. But no one knows why, or how this group was formed, since they were no different ethnically or religiously from their neighbors.

The Cagots (pronounced [ka.ɡo]) were a persecuted minority found in the west of France and northern Spain: the Navarrese Pyrenees, Basque provinces, Béarn, Aragón,[1] Gascony and Brittany. Evidence of the group exists as far back as 1000 CE.[2]


Cagots were shunned and hated; while restrictions varied by time and place, with many discriminatory actions being codified into law in France in 1460,[25] they were typically required to live in separate quarters.[23] Cagots were excluded from various political and social rights.[39]


They were not allowed to enter taverns or use public fountains.[23] The marginalization of the Cagots began at baptism where chimes were not rung in celebration as was the case for non-Cagots and that the baptisms were held at nightfall.[41][40] Within parish registries the term cagot, or its scholarly synonym gezitan, was entered.[37] Cagots were buried in cemeteries separate from non-Cagots[42][23][25] with reports of riots occurring if bishops tried to have the bodies moved to non-Cagot cemeteries.[23] ... They were allowed to enter a church only by a special door[23][45] and, during the service, a rail separated them from the other worshippers.[23][45] They were forbidden from joining the priesthood.[11] Either they were altogether forbidden to partake of the sacrament, or the Eucharist was given to them on the end of a wooden spoon,[46][3][24] while a holy water stoup was reserved for their exclusive use. They were compelled to wear a distinctive dress to which, in some places, was attached the foot of a goose[16] or duck[27] (whence they were sometimes called Canards),[24] and latterly to have a red representation of a goose's foot in fabric sewn onto their clothes.[47] Whilst in Navarre a court ruling in 1623 required all Cagots to wear cloaks with a yellow trim to identify them as Cagots.[40]


A modern hypothesis of interest is that the Cagots are the descendants of a fallen medieval guild of carpenters.[60] This theory would explain the most salient thing Cagots throughout France and Spain have in common: that is, being restricted in their choice of trade. The red webbed-foot symbol Cagots were sometimes forced to wear might have been the guild's original emblem.

There was a brief construction boom on the Way of St. James pilgrimage route in the 9th and 10th centuries; this could have brought the guild both power and suspicion. The collapse of their business would have left a scattered, yet cohesive group in the areas where Cagots are known.[71]

For similar reasons due to their restricted trades, Delacampagne suggests a possible origin as a culturally distinct community of woodsmen who were Christianised relatively late.[87]

Khutulun (c. 1260 – c. 1306), also known as Aigiarne,[1] Aiyurug, Khotol Tsagaan or Ay Yaruq[2] (lit. 'Moonlight')[1] was a Mongol noblewoman and wrestler, the most famous daughter of Kaidu, a cousin of Kublai Khan.


Khutulun insisted that any man who wished to marry her must defeat her in wrestling. Winning horses from competitions and the wagers of would-be suitors, it is said that she gathered a herd numbering ten thousand.[3][4]

Riots between sports club fans escalated into a coup against Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

The Nika riots, Nika revolt or Nika sedition took place against Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople over the course of a week in 532 AD. They are often regarded as the most violent riots in the city's history, with nearly half of Constantinople being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.

The ancient Roman and Byzantine empires had well-developed associations, known as demes,[2] which supported the different factions (or teams) to which competitors in certain sporting events belonged, especially in chariot racing. There were initially four major factions in chariot racing, differentiated by the colour of the uniform in which they competed; the colours were also worn by their supporters. These were the Blues (Veneti), the Greens (Prasini), the Reds (Russati), and the Whites (Albati),[3] although by the 6th century the only teams with any influence were the Blues and Greens. Emperor Justinian I was a supporter of the Blues.

The demes had become a focus for various social and political issues for which the general Byzantine population lacked other forms of outlet.[4] They combined aspects of street gangs and political parties, taking positions on current issues, including theological problems and claimants to the throne. They frequently tried to affect imperial policy by shouting political demands between races. The imperial forces and guards in the city could not keep order without the cooperation of the factions, which were in turn backed by the aristocratic families of the city; these included some families who believed they had a more rightful claim to the throne than Justinian.[citation needed]

In 531 some members of the Blues and Greens were arrested for murder in connection with deaths during rioting after a chariot race.[5] Relatively limited riots were not unknown at chariot races, similar to the football hooliganism that occasionally erupts after association football matches in modern times. The murderers were to be executed, and most of them were.[6] However, on January 10, 532, two of them, a Blue and a Green, escaped and sought sanctuary in a church surrounded by an angry mob.


On January 13, 532 A.D., an angry crowd arrived at the Hippodrome for the races.[citation needed] The Hippodrome was next to the palace complex, so Justinian could preside over the races from the safety of his box in the palace. From the start, the crowd hurled insults at Justinian. By the end of the day, at race 22, the partisan chants had changed from "Blue" or "Green" to a unified Nίκα ("Nika", meaning "Win!", "Victory!" or "Conquer!"), and the crowds broke out and began to assault the palace. For the next five days, the palace was under siege.[citation needed] Fires started during the tumult destroyed much of the city, including the city's foremost church, the Hagia Sophia (which Justinian would later rebuild).

Some of the senators saw this as an opportunity to overthrow Justinian, as they were opposed to his new taxes and his lack of support for the nobility.[citation needed]


Justinian considered fleeing, but his wife Theodora is said to have dissuaded him, saying, "Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress."[11]


Justinian created a plan that involved Narses, a popular eunuch, and the generals Belisarius and Mundus. Carrying a bag of gold given to him by Justinian, the slightly built eunuch entered the Hippodrome alone and unarmed. Narses went directly to the Blues' section, where he approached the important Blues and reminded them that Justinian supported them over the Greens. He also reminded them that Hypatius, the man they crowned, was a Green. He distributed the gold and the Blue leaders spoke quietly with each other and then addressed their followers. In the middle of Hypatius' coronation, many Blues left the Hippodrome, while the Greens remained. Then, Imperial troops led by Belisarius and Mundus stormed into the Hippodrome, killing any remaining people indiscriminately, whether they were Blues or Greens.[12]

About thirty thousand people were reportedly killed.[14] Justinian had Hypatius executed and exiled the senators who had supported the riot. He then rebuilt Constantinople and the Hagia Sophia and was free to establish his rule.

Has anyone made a movie about this yet?

There was a medicinal tar called "mummia," which was later interpreted by Europeans as a tar-like substance which could be collected from mummies.

By the Renaissance, they realized the folly of their ways, but later began to grind up mummies into a brown pigment used in paintings.

Mummia, mumia, or originally mummy referred to several different preparations in the history of medicine, from "mineral pitch" to "powdered human mummies". It originated from Arabic mūmiyā "a type of resinous bitumen found in Western Asia and used curatively" in traditional Islamic medicine, which was translated as pissasphaltus (from "pitch" and "asphalt") in ancient Greek medicine. In medieval European medicine, mūmiyā "bitumen" was transliterated into Latin as mumia meaning both "a bituminous medicine from Persia" and "mummy". Merchants in apothecaries dispensed expensive mummia bitumen, which was thought to be an effective cure-all for many ailments. It was also used as an aphrodisiac.[1] Beginning around the 12th century when supplies of imported natural bitumen ran short, mummia was misinterpreted as "mummy", and the word's meaning expanded to "a black resinous exudate scraped out from embalmed Egyptian mummies". This began a period of lucrative trade between Egypt and Europe, and suppliers substituted rare mummia exudate with entire mummies, either embalmed or desiccated. After Egypt banned the shipment of mummia in the 16th century, unscrupulous European apothecaries began to sell fraudulent mummia prepared by embalming and desiccating fresh corpses. During the Renaissance, scholars proved that translating bituminous mummia as mummy was a mistake, and physicians stopped prescribing the ineffective drug. Lastly, artists in the 17–19th centuries used ground up mummies to tint a popular oil-paint called mummy brown.


The barber surgeon Ambroise Paré (d. 1590) revealed the manufacture of fake mummia both in France, where apothecaries would steal the bodies of executed criminals, dry them in an oven, and sell the flesh; and in Egypt, where a merchant, who admitted collecting dead bodies and preparing mummia, expressed surprise that the Christians, "so dainty-mouthed, could eat the bodies of the dead".[22] Paré admitted to having personally administered mumia a hundred times, but condemned "this wicked kinde of Drugge, doth nothing helpe the diseased," and so he stopped prescribing it and encouraged others not to use mumia.[23]

Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of ancient Egyptian mummies (both human and feline),[3][4] but also Guanche mummies of Canary Islands.[5][6] As it had good transparency, it could be used for glazes, shadows, flesh tones and shading.[7] However, in addition to its tendency to crack, it was extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colours with which it was used.[8]

Historically, demand for mummy brown sometimes outstripped the available supply of true Egyptian mummies, leading to occasional substitution of contemporary corpses of slaves or criminals.[1] In 1564, a mummy seller in Alexandria displayed forty specimens he claimed to have manufactured himself.[1]

Mummy brown began to fall from popularity during the late 19th century when its composition became more generally known to artists.[9] The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was reported to have ceremonially buried his tube of mummy brown in his garden when he discovered its true origins.[1][7]

Philip McCouat, an art historian, has a longer history of the pigment ... According to McCouat ... In 1964, the manufacturer who made Mummy Brown reportedly ran out of mummies to grind up. ““We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere,” the managing director said, “but not enough to make any more paint. We sold our last complete mummy some years ago for, I think, £3. Perhaps we shouldn't have. We certainly can't get any more.”

There were even mummy unwrapping parties:

The unrolling of Egyptian mummies was a popular spectacle in mid-nineteenth-century Britain. In hospitals, theatres, homes and learned institutions mummified bodies, brought from Egypt as souvenirs or curiosities, were opened and examined in front of rapt audiences. The scientific study of mummies emerged within the contexts of early nineteenth-century Egyptomania, particularly following the decipherment of hieroglyphics in 1822, and the changing attitudes towards medicine, anatomy and the corpse that led to the 1832 Anatomy Act. The best-known mummy unroller of this period was the surgeon and antiquary Thomas Pettigrew, author of the highly respected History of Egyptian Mummies.

Gabriel Moshenska. Unrolling Egyptian mummies in nineteenth-century Britain. The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 47, Issue 3, September 2014, pp. 451 - 477.

In 2016 Egyptologist John J. Johnston hosted the first public unwrapping of a mummy since 1908. Part art, part science, and part show, Johnston created a an immersive recreation of what it was like to be present at a Victorian unwrapping.

It was as tasteless as possible, with everything from the Bangles' Walk Like an Egyptian playing on loud speaker to the plying of attendees with straight gin.

The mummy was only an actor wrapped in bandages but the event was a heady sensory mix. The fact it took place at St Bart's Hospital in London was a modern reminder that mummies cross many realms of experience from the medical to the macabre.

Today, the black market of antiquity smuggling – including mummies – is worth about US$3 billion.

No serious archaeologist would unwrap a mummy and no physician suggest eating one. But the lure of the mummy remains strong. They are still for sale, still exploited, and still a commodity.

There are legends of mummies being used as fuel in trains in the 1800s, but this is doubtful and unverified.

13(*) During a railway expansion in Egypt in the 19th century, construction companies unearthed so many mummies that they used them as fuel for locomotives.

*Editor's note: A Discover reader wrote to the magazine saying this "thing" was not true. We acknowledge that this was probably a hoax perpetrated by Mark Twain in his 1869 book Innocents Abroad. No less an authority than the BBC repeats the claim, but as Heather Pringle points out in her book The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead (Hyperion, 2001), "No mummy expert has ever been able to authenticate the story, although several have tried and written about their frustration. Twain seems to be the only published source—and a rather suspect one at that, given his penchant for fiction and his own published disclaimer: 'Stated to me for a fact,' he observed of the train tale in a note to Innocents Abroad. 'I only tell it as I got it. I am willing to believe it. I can believe anything.'"

LeeAundra Temescu. August 31, 2006. 20 Things You Didn't Know About... Death. Discover Magazine.

The story isn’t that Egyptians use mummies to heat their food now, it’s that they used them in the 19th century to fuel their locomotives. We owe this wonderful conceit to Mark Twain, who in The Innocents Abroad (1869) writes, “The fuel [Egyptian railroaders] use for the locomotive is composed of mummies three thousand years old, purchased by the ton or by the graveyard for that purpose, and … sometimes one hears the profane engineer call out pettishly, ‘D–n these plebeians, they don’t burn worth a cent — pass out a King!'” Lest anyone fail to realize it’s a joke, Twain then adds, “Stated to me for a fact. I only tell it as I got it. I am willing to believe it. I can believe anything.”

Didn’t help. To this day you can find reputable organizations such as the BBC solemnly reporting this “fact” as fact.

Twain’s joke may have been inspired by a related yarn making the rounds in the mid-19th century, namely that American paper manufacturers were so hard up for raw materials that they imported mummy wrappings at a few cents per pound to use in their mills. But (the story continues) they failed to sterilize the wrappings first, leading to an outbreak of cholera among mill workers. Only slightly more believable than the railroad joke, this story is stated as gospel in several respected histories of papermaking.

Cecil Adams. February 21, 2002. Do Egyptians burn mummies as fuel? The Straight Dope.

You've probably heard that there is more time separating the construction Great Pyramid of Giza and Cleopatra than Cleopatra and the present.

This is actually true. The Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed around 2570 BC, while Cleopatra ruled from 51-30 BC. In other words, it was 2,520 years between the beginning of Cleopatra's rule and the Great Pyramid and around 2,052 years from the end of Cleopatra's reign to whenever you are reading this.

Egypt's first dynasty actually began over 3,000 years before Cleopatra came to power. It won't be until 3070 AD that Cleopatra will be as ancient to people living in the present-day as the first dynasty of Egypt was to Cleopatra.

In 1845, 79 people died in a bridge collapse which occurred because a crowd had gathered to watch a clown in a bathtub being pulled up a river by four geese.

During the Cold War, a West German teenager landed a plane in the middle of Red Square in Moscow.

In 1987 a West German teenager shocked the world, by flying through Soviet air defences to land a Cessna aeroplane in Red Square. He was jailed for more than a year - but a quarter of a century later, he has no regrets.

Exactly 25 years ago, the USSR Foreign Ministry announced that it had rejected an appeal by a German teenager against his prison sentence.

Mathias Rust, just 19, had single-handedly flown more than 500 miles (750km) through every Soviet defensive shield in a single-engine plane to land at the gates of the Kremlin.

The idea had come to him a year earlier while he was watching TV at his parents' home where he lived in Hamburg, West Germany.

A summit between the US and Soviet presidents in Reykjavik had ended in a stalemate, and the teenager who had a passion for politics felt he wanted to do something to make a difference.


The USSR had the largest air defence system in the world. Less than five years earlier, a South Korean civilian airliner had been shot down after straying into Soviet air space, causing the death of all 269 passengers on board.

Huh... I guess they won't be making an exciting biopic?

While doing his obligatory community service (Zivildienst) in a West German hospital in 1989, Rust stabbed a female co-worker who had rejected him. The victim barely survived. He was convicted of injuring her and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but was released after 15 months.[18] Since then he has lived a fragmented life, describing himself as a "bit of an oddball".[19] After being released from court, he converted to Hinduism in 1996 to become engaged to a daughter of an Indian tea merchant.[20] In 2001, he was convicted of stealing a cashmere pullover and ordered to pay a fine of DM10,000, which was later reduced to DM600.[8][18] A further brush with the law came in 2005, when he was convicted of fraud and had to pay a €1,500 fine.[18] In 2009 Rust described himself as a professional poker player.[21] Most recently, in 2012, he described himself as an analyst at a Zurich-based investment bank.[19]

A small county in Ohio is known for its upstanding community members George Washington Hitler and, his son, Dr. Gay Hitler.

Pickaway County is also known for its various places with the name "Hitler", including Hitler Road, Hitler-Ludwig Road, Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery, and Hitler Park.[30] They are not named after German dictator Adolf Hitler, but instead after a local historical family named the Hitlers, who have been described by a local paper in 2011 as "fine, upstanding citizens". The family included George Washington Hitler and his son, Dr. Gay Hitler, who worked as a local dentist between 1922 and 1946.[30][31],_Ohio#Other_notable_aspects

In 1919, a giant storage tank filled with molasses burst, killing many people in Boston, USA.

A large storage tank filled with 2.3 million US gal (8,700 m3)[4] of molasses, weighing approximately 13,000 short tons (12,000 t), burst, and the resultant wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150.[5]


The density of molasses is about 1.4 tonnes per cubic metre (12 lb/US gal), 40% more dense than water, resulting in the molasses having a great deal of potential energy.[9] The collapse translated this energy into a wave of molasses 25 ft (8 m) high at its peak,[10] moving at 35 mph (56 km/h).[5][6] The wave was of sufficient force to drive steel panels of the burst tank against the girders of the adjacent Boston Elevated Railway's Atlantic Avenue structure[11] and tip a streetcar momentarily off the El's tracks. Stephen Puleo describes how nearby buildings were swept off their foundations and crushed. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 ft (60 to 90 cm).

Jeremy Bentham, founder of the philosophy utilitarianism, had his body mummified and displayed so he could continue to generate utility even after his death.

He even thought families should place multiple generations of mummies along their driveway.

Bentham's wish to preserve his dead body was consistent with his philosophy of utilitarianism. In his essay Auto-Icon, or the Uses of the Dead to the Living, Bentham wrote, "If a country gentleman has rows of trees leading to his dwelling, the auto-icons of his family might alternate with the trees; copal varnish would protect the face from the effects of rain."[96]

His body remains on exhibit at University College London (UCL).

On 8 June 1832, two days after his death, invitations were distributed to a select group of friends, and on the following day at 3 p.m., Southwood Smith delivered a lengthy oration over Bentham's remains in the Webb Street School of Anatomy & Medicine in Southwark, London. The printed oration contains a frontispiece with an engraving of Bentham's body partly covered by a sheet.[17]

Afterward, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the "Auto-icon", with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham's clothes. From 1833 it stood in Southwood Smith's Finsbury Square consulting rooms until he abandoned private practice in the winter of 1849–50 when it was moved to 36 Percy Street, the studio of his unofficial partner, the painter Margaret Gillies, who made studies of it. In March 1850 Southwood Smith offered the auto-icon to Henry Brougham who readily accepted it for UCL.[97]

It is kept on public display at the main entrance of the UCL Student Centre. It was previously displayed at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college until it was moved in 2020. Upon the retirement of Sir Malcolm Grant as provost of the college in 2013, however, the body was present at Grant's final council meeting. As of 2013, this was the only time that the body of Bentham has been taken to a UCL council meeting.[98][99] (There is a persistent myth that the body of Bentham is present at all council meetings.)[98][100]

Bentham had intended the auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. Southwood Smith's experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulfuric acid and drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.[17]

The auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham's own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It was later locked away.[100]

One day, the US scientists who were inventing an atomic bomb realized they should probably do some calculations as to whether they would set the entire atmosphere on fire in a chain reaction.

The 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has reminded me of an extraordinary incident that occurred during the Manhattan Project, when Edward Teller and other physicists feared the fission bomb they were building might incinerate the planet. I heard about the incident in 1991 while preparing for an interview with Hans Bethe, who headed the Manhattan Project’s theoretical division. Teller reportedly did calculations suggesting that a fission explosion might generate heat so intense that it would trigger runaway fusion in the atmosphere. (Ironically, Teller later helped create thermonuclear bombs, in which fission catalyzes a vastly more powerful fusion explosion.) Teller brought his concerns to other physicists, including Bethe, an authority on fusion (and pretty much everything else in nuclear physics). After considering Teller’s concerns, Bethe and others concluded… Well, I’ll let Bethe tell the story in his own words. Here is an exact transcript of my interview with him, which took place at his home in Ithaca, New York.

Horgan: I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about the story of Teller's suggestion that the atomic bomb might ignite the atmosphere around the Earth.

Bethe: It is such absolute nonsense [laughter], and the public has been interested in it… And possibly it would be good to kill it once more. So one day at Berkeley -- we were a very small group, maybe eight physicists or so -- one day Teller came to the office and said, "Well, what would happen to the air if an atomic bomb were exploded in the air?" The original idea about the hydrogen bomb was that one would explode an atomic bomb and then simply the heat from the atomic bomb would ignite a large vessel of deuterium… and make it react. So Teller said, "Well, how about the air? There's nitrogen in the air, and you can have a nuclear reaction in which two nitrogen nuclei collide and become oxygen plus carbon, and in this process you set free a lot of energy. Couldn't that happen?" And that caused great excitement.

Horgan: This is in ‘42?

Bethe: '42. Oppenheimer [soon to be appointed head of Los Alamos Laboratory] got quite excited and said, "That's a terrible possibility," and he went to his superior, who was Arthur Compton, the director of the Chicago Laboratory, and told him that. Well, I sat down and looked at the problem, about whether two nitrogen nuclei could penetrate each other and make that nuclear reaction, and I found that it was just incredibly unlikely. And I said so, and I think Teller was very quickly convinced and so was Oppenheimer when he'd returned from seeing Compton. Later on we found out that it is very difficult to ignite deuterium by an atomic bomb, and liquid deuterium, which is much easier to ignite than the gas, but at the time in '42 we thought it might be very easy to ignite liquid deuterium. Well, Teller, I think he has to be much commended for that. Teller at Los Alamos put a very good calculator on this problem, [Emil] Konopinski, who was an expert on weak interactors, and Konopinski together with [inaudible] showed that it was incredibly impossible to set the hydrogen, to set the atmosphere on fire. They wrote one or two very good papers on it, and that put the question really at rest. They showed in great detail why it is impossible. But, of course, it spooked [Compton]. Well, let me first say one other thing: Fermi, of course, didn't believe that this was possible, but just to relieve the tension at the Los Alamos [Trinity] test [on July 16, 1945], he said, "Now, let's make a bet whether the atmosphere will be set on fire by this test." [laughter] And I think maybe a few people took that bet. But, for instance, in Compton's mind it was not set to rest. He didn't see my calculations. He even less saw Konopinski’s much better calculations, so it was still spooking in his mind when he gave an interview at some point, and so it got into the open literature, and people are still excited about it.

Horgan: When did Compton give his interview?

Bethe: After the War. I don’t know precisely when. Maybe, I don't know, '47, '48. Some such time. [The date was 1959. See Addendum.] And that got other people excited, and there was one exchange of letters in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, but by then of course it was absolutely clear, and it was absolutely clear before the Los Alamos test that nothing like that would happen. In this form, I think I have no objection to your writing it.

John Horgan. August 4, 2015. Bethe, Teller, Trinity and the End of Earth. Scientific American. (Transcript of a 1991 interview).

Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Surprisingly, he lived to 93-years-old.

Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945 he was in Hiroshima for a three-month-long business trip.[4] On 6 August, he was preparing to leave the city with two colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, and was on his way to the train station when he realized he had forgotten his hanko (a type of identification stamp common in Japan) and returned to his workplace to get it.[5][6] At 8:15 AM, he was walking towards the docks when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the centre of the city, only 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away.[4][7] Yamaguchi recalls seeing the bomber and two small parachutes, before there was "a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over".[6] The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious radiation burns over the left side of the top half of his body. After recovering, he crawled to a shelter and, having rested, he set out to find his colleagues.[6] They had also survived and together they spent the night in an air-raid shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day.[5][6] In Nagasaki, he received treatment for his wounds and, despite being heavily bandaged, he reported for work on 9 August.[4][8]

Soldiers subjected to nuclear weapons testing reported that they were able to see the bones in their hands with their eyes closed as the radiation passed through them.

I recall reading somewhere that a nuke can produce light so intense that it can actually shine through a concrete enclosure. Perhaps the soldiers were not seeing their bones due to x-rays, but due to the intense light (like when you shine a flashlight through your hand).

After World War II, the UK, USSR, and US detonated more than 2,000 atomic bombs. In Britain, 20,000 soldiers witnessed atomic blasts conducted by their own government. Only a few of them are still alive today and the nuclear glow of the mushroom cloud they witnessed still haunts them. “Nuclear detonations, that was the defining point in my life,” Douglas Hern, a British soldier who experienced five nuclear bomb tests, told Motherboard.

“When the flash hit you, you could see the x-rays of your hands through your closed eyes,” he said. “Then the heat hit you, and that was as if someone my size had caught fire and walked through me. It was an experience that was unearthing. It was so strange. There were guys with bruises and broken legs. We couldn’t believe it. To say it was frightening is an understatement. I think it all shocked us into silence.”

The stories these nuclear veterans told Motherboard were harrowing.

"It was utter devastation. If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones. You would see all the blood vessels. All I saw was this rising, colossal fireball going up and thunder, lightning, you name it," David Hemsley, who experienced atomic bomb blasts at the age of 18, told Motherboard. "I think it was too much for some people—some of them were crying, asking for their mum. It was awful."

Matthew Gault. August 29, 2018. 'We Were Guinea Pigs': Soldiers Explain What Nuclear Bomb Blasts Feel Like. Vice.

VICE. November 6, 2020. What a Nuclear Bomb Explosion Feels Like.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

In Knibbe’s film, some of these atomic veterans break the forced silence to tell their story for the very first time. They describe how the blast knocked them to the ground; how they could see the bones and blood vessels in their hands, like viewing an X-ray. They recount the terror in their officers’ faces and the tears and panic that followed the blasts. They talk about how they’ve been haunted—by nightmares, PTSD, and various health afflictions, including cancer.

Emily Buder. May 27, 2019. Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking. The Atlantic.

The Atlantic. May 27, 2019. Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They're Talking.

The UK was so dirty during the Industrial Revolution that it affected the evolution of a moth species, turning the population from white to black.

London used to be very smelly in the 1800s, and something only got done about it because it inconvenienced politicians.

By mid-1858 the problems with the Thames had been building for several years. In his novel Little Dorrit—published as a serial between 1855 and 1857—Charles Dickens wrote that the Thames was "a deadly sewer ... in the place of a fine, fresh river".[28] In a letter to a friend, Dickens said: "I can certify that the offensive smells, even in that short whiff, have been of a most head-and-stomach-distending nature",[29] while the social scientist and journalist George Godwin wrote that "in parts the deposit is more than six feet deep" on the Thames foreshore, and that "the whole of this is thickly impregnated with impure matter".[30] In June 1858 the temperatures in the shade in London averaged 34–36 °C (93–97 °F)—rising to 48 °C (118 °F) in the sun.[7][31] Combined with an extended spell of dry weather, the level of the Thames dropped and raw effluent from the sewers remained on the banks of the river.[7] Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attempted to take a pleasure cruise on the Thames, but returned to shore within a few minutes because the smell was so terrible.[32]


By June the stench from the river had become so bad that business in Parliament was affected, and the curtains on the river side of the building were soaked in lime chloride to overcome the smell. The measure was not successful, and discussions were held about possibly moving the business of government to Oxford or St Albans.[38]


At the height of the stink, 200 to 250 long tons (220 to 280 short tons) of lime were being used near the mouths of the sewers that discharged into the Thames, and men were employed spreading lime onto the Thames foreshore at low tide; the cost was £1,500 per week.[43][h]


The leading article in The Times observed that "Parliament was all but compelled to legislate upon the great London nuisance by the force of sheer stench".[47] The bill was debated in late July and was passed into law on 2 August.[48]

In typical 19th-century British fashion, the Crossness Pumping Station and Abbey Mills Pumping Station for the sewer system were built with mind-boggling opulence.

Millions were living in unspeakable destitution, but at least their sewage processing plants were fancy.

Among the oldest pieces of writing is a cuneiform tablet about low quality copper. ...And the copper salesman had a room full of other complaint tablets in his house.

The complaint tablet to Ea-nāṣir (UET V 81)[1][2] is a clay tablet that was sent to ancient Ur, written c. 1750 BCE. It is a complaint to a merchant named Ea-nasir from a customer named Nanni. Written in Akkadian cuneiform, it is considered to be the oldest known written complaint.

Ea-nasir travelled to Dilmun to buy copper and returned to sell it in Mesopotamia. On one particular occasion, he had agreed to sell copper ingots to Nanni. Nanni sent his servant with the money to complete the transaction.[7] The copper was considered by Nanni to be sub-standard[8] and not accepted.

In response, Nanni created the cuneiform letter for delivery to Ea-nasir. Inscribed on it is a complaint to Ea-nasir about a copper delivery of the incorrect grade, and issues with another delivery;[9] Nanni also complained that his servant (who handled the transaction) had been treated rudely. He stated that, at the time of writing, he had not accepted the copper, but had paid the money for it.

Other tablets have been found in the ruins believed to be Ea-nasir's dwelling. These include a letter from a man named Arbituram who complained he had not received his copper yet, while another says he was tired of receiving bad copper.[11][12]

A translation is provided in Leo Oppenheim's book "Letters from Mesopotamia":

Tell Ea-nasir: Nanni sends the following message:

When you came, you said to me as follows: "I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots." You left then but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger (Sit-Sin) and said: "If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!"

What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory. Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way? You alone treat my messenger with contempt! On account of that one (trifling) mina of silver which I owe(?) you, you feel free to speak in such a way, while I have given to the palace on your behalf 1,080 pounds of copper, and umi-abum has likewise given 1,080 pounds of copper, apart from what we both have had written on a sealed tablet to be kept in the temple of Samas.

How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.

Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.

There is even a fan club (or anti-fan club) for the matter:

Plastic Garfield phones have been washing up on a French beach since the 1980s.

A French coastal community has finally cracked the mystery behind the Garfield telephones that have plagued its picturesque beaches for decades.

Since the 1980s, the Iroise coast in Brittany has received a supply of bright orange landline novelty phones shaped like the famous cartoon cat.

Anti-litter campaigners have been collecting fragments of the feline for years as they clean the beaches.

But now, the source of the problem has been found - a lost shipping container.

Have you ever seen an annoying neckbeard, who thinks they're an amateur historian, proudly post the totally obscure and absolutely true™ story about how Lichtenstein sent 80 men to war and came back with an 81st "friend"? How wholesome and poggers.

The reality isn't actually bizarre, but I'll post this because I'm tired of hearing it.

The "extra" soldier was just a liaison officer accompanying the troops home as a mundane military matter. He didn't defect and sing Disney musical numbers while skipping with his newfound friends the entire way home.

There is a source, but according to this source, the story is only half-true. As is described in the link you posted, the story took place during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The contingent was stationed in Southern Tyrol, where they were supposed to guard the Austrian/Liechtenstein border against Italian troops.

Once the war ended, they were called back to Vaduz, Liechtenstein's capital. While in the field, they had been given an Austrian liaison officer named Radinger, who stayed with them on their march back as an official escort.

So yes, they did return with an additional soldier, but he was simply an Austrian liaison officer, who I'm sure returned to Tyrol soon after.

Source: Historisches Jahrbuch Liechtenstein, Volume 24 (1924)

That is the version I have read in the past, but poking around, it seems pretty hard to find anything that is 100 percent definitive (although most sources seem to agree it was an Austrian, not an Italian, although of course it could be an ethnic Italian citizen of the Austrian Empire...), but most seem to agree with liaison officer, and few state that he was going to Liechtenstein looking for work. There doesn't even seem to be agreement on the number of men involved for that matter:

The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 49, p. 318:

After a period of considerable tension on the part of the Liechtenstein wives, fifty-nine men returned - the brave Liechtensteiners plus an Austrian liaison officer, escorting them home.

Alternatively "Liechtenstein: A Modern History" by David Beattie p. 30:

The contingent saw no action and, indeed, no enemy. Eighty men set out; eighty-one returned in September to general rejoining, having been joined by an Austrian soldier who was looking for work.

Valley of Peace: The Story of Liechtenstein, by Barbara Greene:

On their return home, these men were escorted by an Austrian liaison officer - fifty-eight men went out to battle and fifty-nine came back!

The interesting thing I note is that the sources which give the lower number and state it as a liaison officer are somewhat older, '40s and '50s. I would suspect that - assuming there is some truth - that is more likely, and the story has become embellished in the retelling, but we would need to find something that goes back to a primary source to be certain of just what happened.

Edit: More support for this, an article from "The War Illustrated" in 1944 which goes with 58+1, and doesn't even make the officer foreign:

She furnished one officer and 58 sharpshooters to the joint war effort

The 'Army' itself numbered 80 men at the time to later sources may be confusing that in their numbering?

There was a museum exhibition in Vaduz ( the capital) last year on the 150th anniversary of the incident, and a Liechtenstein scholar, Peter Geiger, curated it. I found the exhibit posted here . Not only are there some summaries in English, but Chinese, on every panel, so you can easily get the gist. And the anecdote is true. As the exhibit says (my rough translation):

On September 4, 1866, the 80 men returned safely to the country, joyfully received by authorities, their families, and the population. As the laudable {Austrian} Kaiserjäger Lieutenant Radinger , who accompanied the contingent home, put it later, "Liechtenstein has gone to war with 80 soldiers and returned with 81!"

Although they didn't take casualties, the unit did spend six weeks in bad weather camping on top of a high mountain pass at the Italian border, so it was not like they simply marched out of town, turned around and marched back. I have to add that, though the muzzleloading rifles they carried were quite handsome, it's good they didn't have to try to use them against the Prussian needleguns like the Austrians did .

Seems to check out, for a small part at least:

With 80 men moved out, with 81 returned home

The relief at home was great: "Already in Nendeln the contingent of authorities, relatives and population was celebrated," says Geiger. And the legend is true: The 80 Liechtenstein soldiers came home with one more soldier whom the troop had won as a friend. "There are rumours to this day that he was an Austrian conscientious objector or servant looking for work in Liechtenstein," explains Geiger. That, on the other hand, is not true. The 81st man was an Austrian officer who accompanied the contingent as a liaison man and as a kind of guard of honour.

Als die Armee mit 81 Mann zurückkehrte

But when they picked up the foreigner, and of which nationality, seems doubtful. This claims "an Italian". This as well:

In 1866 they went to war for the last time, with 80 men they went out against the Italians. With 81 men they returned home - on the way they had made friends.

As it was at the time 'for the Austrians' and planned as against the Prussians, but ultimately guarding against Italians, either way cannot be ruled out.

At least, the "80 men marched out", is long accepted history.

Even if the identity or nationality of the new friend seems doubtful, Geiger is the author of numerous books on the matter and curator of the national museum of Liechtenstein.

Geiger, Peter: 1866 – Liechtenstein im Krieg – Vor 150 Jahren, Katalog zur gleichnamigen, von Peter Geiger kuratierten Ausstellung im Liechtensteinischen Landesmuseum (Mai – September 2016), Vaduz 2016, 96 Seiten.

A fat politician was counted as 10 votes, thereby leading to the passage of the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 in the UK.

The Bill went back and forth between the two Houses, and then the Lords voted on whether to set up a conference on the Bill. If this motion was defeated the Bill would stay in the Commons and therefore have no chance of being passed. Each side—those voting for and against—appointed a teller who stood on each side of the door through which those Lords who had voted "aye" re-entered the House (the "nays" remained seated). One teller would count them aloud whilst the other teller listened and kept watch to know if the other teller was telling the truth. Shaftesbury's faction supported the motion, so they went out and re-entered the House. Gilbert Burnet, one of Shaftesbury's friends, recorded what then happened:

Lord Grey and Lord Norris were named to be the tellers: Lord Norris, being a man subject to vapours, was not at all times attentive to what he was doing: so, a very fat lord coming in, Lord Grey counted him as ten, as a jest at first: but seeing Lord Norris had not observed it, he went on with this misreckoning of ten: so it was reported that they that were for the Bill were in the majority, though indeed it went for the other side: and by this means the Bill passed.[8]

The clerk recorded in the minutes of the Lords that the "ayes" had fifty-seven and the "nays" had fifty-five, a total of 112, but the same minutes also state that only 107 Lords had attended that sitting.[8]

The king arrived shortly thereafter and gave royal assent before proroguing Parliament. The Act is now stored in the Parliamentary Archives.

Peregrinus Proteus (Greek: Περεγρῖνος Πρωτεύς; c. 95 – 165 AD) was a Greek Cynic philosopher, from Parium in Mysia. Leaving home at a young age, he first lived with the Christians in Palestine, before eventually being expelled from that community and adopting the life of a Cynic philosopher and eventually settling in Greece. He is most remembered for committing suicide after giving his own funeral oration,[1] cremating himself on a funeral pyre at the Olympic Games in 165.

Here is the typical British officer who led charges in WWII with bagpipes and a sword.

You might as well just open the Wikipedia article and read the whole thing.

John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar (16 September 1906 – 8 March 1996) was a British Army officer who fought in the Second World War with a longbow, a Scottish broadsword, and a bagpipe. Nicknamed "Fighting Jack Churchill" and "Mad Jack", he was known for the motto: "Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."


Churchill left the army in 1936 and worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a male model.[9][11] He used his archery and bagpipe talents to play a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Bagdad[12] and also appeared in the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford.[9] He took second place in the 1938 military piping competition at the Aldershot Tattoo.[13] In 1939, he represented Great Britain at the World Archery Championships in Oslo.[14][10]

Churchill resumed his commission after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and was assigned to the Manchester Regiment, which was sent to France in the British Expeditionary Force. In May 1940, Churchill and some of his men ambushed a German patrol near L'Épinette (near Richebourg, Pas-de-Calais). Churchill gave the signal to attack by raising his broadsword. A common story is that Churchill killed a German with a longbow in that action.[11] However, Churchill later said that his bows had been crushed by a lorry earlier in the campaign.[15] After fighting at Dunkirk, he volunteered for the Commandos.[5]


Churchill was second in command of No. 3 Commando in Operation Archery, a raid on the German garrison at Vågsøy, Norway, on 27 December 1941.[19]:41 As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, he leapt forward from his position playing "March of the Cameron Men"[20] on his bagpipes, before throwing a grenade and charging into battle. For his actions at Dunkirk and Vågsøy, Churchill received the Military Cross.

In July 1943, as commanding officer, he led No. 2 Commando from their landing site at Catania, in Sicily, with his trademark Scottish broadsword slung around his waist, a longbow and arrows around his neck and his bagpipes under his arm,[19]:133 which he also did in the landings at Salerno.

Leading 2 Commando, Churchill was ordered to capture a German observation post outside the town of Molina, controlling a pass leading down to the Salerno beachhead.[19]:136–137 With the help of a corporal, he infiltrated the town, captured the post and took 42 prisoners including a mortar squad. Churchill led the men and prisoners back down the pass, with the wounded being carried on carts pushed by German prisoners. He commented that it was "an image from the Napoleonic Wars".[19]:136–137 He received the Distinguished Service Order for leading that action at Salerno.[21]

Churchill later walked back to the town to retrieve his sword, which he had lost in hand-to-hand combat with the German regiment. On his way there, he encountered a disoriented American patrol mistakenly walking towards enemy lines. When the NCO in command of the patrol refused to turn around, Churchill told them that he was going his own way and that he would not come back for a "bloody third time".[4]


The Partisans remained at the landing area. Only Churchill and six others managed to reach the objective. A mortar shell killed or wounded everyone but Churchill, who was playing "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" on his pipes as the Germans advanced. He was knocked unconscious by grenades and captured.


As the Pacific War was still on, Churchill was sent to Burma,[5] where some of the largest land battles against Japan were being fought. By the time Churchill reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed, and the war ended. Churchill was said to be unhappy with the sudden end of the war: "If it wasn't for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!"[5]


In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate surfer. In 1955, he was the first man to ride a tidal bore, doing so on a five-foot Severn bore wave for over a mile. This was accomplished by designing and building his own 16-foot toothpick surfboard. In riding that tidal bore, Churchill innovated freshwater surfing and established the idea that surfing could take place outside traditional coastal areas. It took years for the idea to gain traction, but tidal bores are now ridden in Brazil, China, Great Lakes, Munich and the Jackson Hole.[26]

Retirement (1959–1996)

Churchill retired from the army in 1959. In retirement, his eccentricity continued. He startled train guards and passengers by throwing his briefcase out of the train window each day on the ride home. He later explained that he was tossing his case into his own back garden so that he would not have to carry it from the station.[5] He also enjoyed sailing coal-fired ships on the Thames between Richmond and Oxford,[27] as well as making radio-controlled model warships.[6]

I can't believe no video games have introduced him as a playable class.

A slave was liberated by...being mailed in a box.

Henry Box Brown (c. 1815 – June 15, 1897)[1] was a 19th-century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom at the age of 33 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate in 1849 to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For a short time, Brown became a noted abolitionist speaker in the northeast United States. As a public figure and fugitive slave, Brown felt extremely endangered by passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which increased pressure to capture escaped slaves. He moved to England and lived there for 25 years, touring with an anti-slavery panorama, becoming a magician and showman.[2]


To get out of work the day he was to escape, Brown burned his hand to the bone with sulfuric acid. The box in which Brown was shipped was 3 by 2.67 by 2 feet (0.91 by 0.81 by 0.61 m) and displayed the words "dry goods" on it. It was lined with baize, a coarse woolen cloth, and he carried only a small portion of water and a few biscuits. There was a single hole cut for air, and it was nailed and tied with straps.[4] Brown later wrote that his uncertain method of travel was worth the risk: "if you have never been deprived of your liberty, as I was, you cannot realize the power of that hope of freedom, which was to me indeed, an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast."[7]

During the trip, which began on March 29, 1849,[6] Brown's box was transported by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, railroad, and finally delivery wagon, being completed in 27 hours. Despite the instructions on the box of "handle with care" and "this side up," several times carriers placed the box upside-down or handled it roughly. Brown remained still and avoided detection.

The box was received by Williamson, McKim, William Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee on March 30, 1849, attesting to the improvements in express delivery services.[6] When Brown was released, one of the men remembered his first words as "How do you do, gentlemen?"

Jack (died 1890) was a chacma baboon who attained some fame for acting as an assistant to a disabled railway signalman in South Africa.[1]

Jack was the pet and assistant of double leg amputee signalman James Wide, who worked for the Cape Town–Port Elizabeth Railway service. James "Jumper" Wide had been known for jumping between railcars until an accident where he fell and lost both of his legs.[2] To assist in performing his duties, Wide purchased the baboon named Jack in 1881, and trained him to push his wheelchair and to operate the railways signals under supervision.

An official investigation was initiated after a concerned member of the public reported that a baboon was observed changing railway signals at Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth.[3]

After initial skepticism, the railway decided to officially employ Jack once his job competency was verified. The baboon was paid twenty cents a day, and half a bottle of beer each week. It is widely reported that in his nine years of employment with the railway company, Jack never made a single mistake.[4][5]

After nine years of duty, Jack died of tuberculosis in 1890.[3] Jack's skull is in the collection of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown.

In case you needed yet another reason to hate the British, they used to make dogs and monkeys fight to the death in the 1700s and 1800s:

The supplicia canum ("punishment of the dogs") was an annual sacrifice of ancient Roman religion in which live dogs were suspended from a furca ("fork") or cross (crux) and paraded. It appears on none of the extant Roman calendars, but a late source[1] places it on August 3 (III Non. Aug.).

In the same procession, geese were decorated in gold and purple and carried in honor. Ancient sources who explain the origin of the supplicia say that the geese were honored for saving the city during the Gallic siege of Rome. When the Gauls launched a nocturnal assault by stealth on the citadel, the geese raised a noisy alarm. The failure of the watch dogs to bark was thereafter ritually punished each year.


Sources mentioning the ritual agree that the "punishment" was inflicted on the dogs for their failure to warn the Romans of the stealth attack against the citadel by the Gauls during the Gallic siege of Rome in 390 BC (or 387). Legends vary regarding this historical event—the only sack of the city during the Republican era—but in the sources that allude to the supplicia canum, temple geese are said to have raised the alarm instead. Plutarch and Aelian rationalize the dogs' failure by explaining that the Gauls fed the siege-starved dogs and silenced them, while the geese called out excitedly.[14] In recognition of this service, for the supplicia procession geese were decked out in purple and gold, then carried on a litter.[15] The August 3 date, however, is hard to account for within the traditional chronology that had the Gauls setting fire to the city on July 19 and maintaining a siege through February.[16]

During WWII, an American airman fell 22,000 feet (6,700 meters), crashed through the glass roof of a train station, and lived.

Alan Eugene Magee (January 13, 1919 – December 20, 2003) was an American airman during World War II who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall from his damaged B-17 Flying Fortress.[1] He was featured in the 1981 Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 10 most amazing survival stories of World War II.

Magee left his ball turret when it became inoperative after being damaged by German flak, and discovered his parachute had been torn and rendered useless. Another flak hit then blew off a section of the right wing, causing the aircraft to enter a deadly spin. Magee, in the process of moving from the bomb bay to the radio room, blacked out from lack of oxygen because of the high altitude and was thrown clear of the aircraft. He fell over four miles before crashing through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station. The glass roof shattered, mitigating the force of Magee's impact. Rescuers found him on the floor of the station.

Magee was taken as a prisoner of war and given medical treatment by his captors. He had 28 shrapnel wounds in addition to his injuries from the fall: several broken bones, severe damage to his nose and eye, lung and kidney damage, and a nearly severed right arm.

A popular tale in the Medieval era was Aristotle being seduced and ridden like a horse.

That's pretty hilarious to be honest. Aristotle is almost deified today and lauded as some kind of mythical founder of "Western Civilization" (although much of the scientific work his legacy is most strongly associated with is a combination of bizarre and laugh-inducing tomfoolery). But people in the Middle Ages had the sense to knock him down a few pegs.

The image gallery on the Wikipedia page is quite silly—complete with the anachronism of Aristotle with a 1500s peasant haircut. I guess such fables were meant to be stock scenes more than they were supposed to be taken as literal history?

The tale of Phyllis and Aristotle is a medieval cautionary tale about the triumph of a seductive woman, Phyllis, over the greatest male intellect, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. It is one of several Power of Women stories from that time. Among early versions is the French Lai d'Aristote from 1220.

The story of the dominatrix and the famous intellectual was taken up by artists from the 12th century onwards, in media from stone sculpture in churches to panels of wood or ivory, textiles such as carpets and tapestries, engravings, oil paintings, brass jugs (aquamanile), and stained glass.


The tale varies in the telling, but the core of it is as follows: Aristotle advises his pupil Alexander to avoid Phyllis, the seductive mistress of his father, the king, but is himself captivated by her. She agrees to ride him, on condition that she play the role of dominatrix. Phyllis has secretly told Alexander what to expect, and he witnesses Phyllis proving that a woman's charms can overcome even the greatest philosopher's male intellect.


The cautionary tale of the dominatrix who made a fool of the famous philosopher became popular across medieval Europe.[2]

One of the wealthiest businessmen in the early USA was a semi-literate, mentally-unstable gentleman who made a series of unwise investments that actually ended up making him remarkably successful.

Timothy Dexter (January 22, 1747 – October 23, 1806) was an American businessman noted for his eccentric behavior and writings. He became wealthy through marriage and a series of improbably successful investments, and spent his fortune lavishly. Though barely educated or literate, Dexter considered himself "the greatest philosopher in the Western World", [...]

Dexter was born in Malden[1] in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He had little schooling and dropped out of school to work as a farm laborer at the age of eight.[2] When he was 16, he became a tanner's apprentice.[3] In 1769, he moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts.[4] He married 32-year-old Elizabeth Frothingham, a rich widow, and he then bought a mansion with the money.[4]


Being a member of the upper class, Dexter decided to pursue a career in local politics. However, many of those in power were not very keen on allowing someone as uneducated as Dexter to have a position in politics. Eventually however, the Malden local government would bestow upon Dexter the position of the official informer of deer, despite the fact that, at the time, there were not any deer in Malden Massachusetts.

Because he was largely uneducated, his business sense was considered peculiar. He was advised to send bed warmers—used to heat beds in the cold New England winters—for resale in the West Indies, a tropical area. This advice was a deliberate ploy by rivals to bankrupt him. His ship's captain sold them as ladles to the local molasses industry and made a handsome profit.[5] Next, Dexter sent wool mittens to the same place, where Asian merchants bought them for export to Siberia.[2]

People jokingly told him to "ship coal to Newcastle". Fortuitously, he did so during a Newcastle miners' strike, and his cargo was sold at a premium.[6][7] On another occasion, practical jokers told him he could make money by shipping gloves to the South Sea Islands. His ships arrived there in time to sell the gloves to Portuguese boats on their way to China.[6]

He exported Bibles to the East Indies and stray cats to Caribbean islands and again made a profit; Eastern missionaries were in need of the Bibles and the Caribbean welcomed a solution to rat infestation.[2] He also hoarded whalebones by mistake, but ended up selling them profitably as corset stays.[2]

While subject to ridicule, Dexter's boasting makes it clear that he understood the value of cornering the market on goods that others did not see as valuable and the utility of "acting the fool".[8]

New England high society snubbed him. Dexter bought a large house in Newburyport from Nathaniel Tracy, a local socialite, and tried to emulate him.[2][4] He decorated this house with minarets, a golden eagle on the top of the cupola, a mausoleum for himself, and a garden of 40 wooden statues of famous men, including George Washington, William Pitt, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, and himself. The last had the inscription, "I am the first in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher in the Western World".[1]

Despite his good fortune, his relationship with his family suffered. He frequently told visitors that his wife (who was actually alive) had died, and that the woman frequenting the building was simply her ghost.[2] In one notable episode, Dexter faked his own death to see how people would react, and about 3,000 people attended Dexter's mock wake. When Dexter did not see his wife cry, he revealed the hoax and promptly caned her for not sufficiently mourning his death.[4][9]

The goofiest part is the book he published:

At age 50, Dexter authored the book A Pickle for the Knowing Ones,[a] in which he complained about politicians, the clergy, and his wife. The book contains 8,847 words and 33,864 letters, but without any punctuation and with unorthodox spelling and capitalization.


The first edition was self-published in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1802. Dexter initially distributed his book for free, but it became popular and was reprinted eight times.[3] The second edition was printed in Newburyport in 1805.[10] In the second edition, Dexter responded to complaints about the book's lack of punctuation by adding an extra page of 11 lines of punctuation marks with the instruction that printers and readers could insert them wherever needed—or, in his words, "thay may peper and solt it as they plese".[11]

Here's the fourth edition. It's 32 pages (including preface and an appendix consisting of praise and poetry dedicated to Dexter, in addition to the page with punctuation marks).

If you get brain damage from reading it, I am not at fault.