#4. A French Soldier Ate Live Animals
Tarrare was a 17th century French soldier with a literally insatiable appetite. Kicked out of his home when his family couldn't afford to feed him the full body weight of food he demanded each day, he wound up joining the French Revolutionary army, where he found his way into the history books for being some kind of goddamn freak.
Everything that wasn't chained to the floor.
And we're not talking "He ate raw eggs and moldy bread!" here, we're talking "The dude ate live animals."
Give the man a lute and he's an old-timey rock star.
History doesn't record exactly what Tarrare's malfunction was, but he quickly became renowned not just for being unable to satisfy his hunger, but for being able to eat anything that was or wasn't classified as edible. Once, while in a hospital for an unrelated reason, doctors decided to test just what the limits to his appetite were. They failed to find those limits.
This started with the doctors innocently placing a live cat in front of Tarrare. Let's just say that his reaction would have driven PETA to guerrilla-style vigilantism. Rather than saying, "Holy shit, this guy is obviously freaking insane" at Tarrare's terrifying owl impersonation, the doctors decided to place in front of him a veritable pet shop of live cuisine, from lizards and snakes right up to puppies and eels, all of which he ate without question.
"Wow! Quick, someone throw trash at him!"
Hospital employees began to regret their experiment when Tarrare's appetite started to get even more out of control, and he would escape and drink the blood of those in the bloodletting ward, as well as take bites out of the corpses in the morgue. When a 14-month-old child went missing from the hospital, all accusing eyes fell naturally on the puppy-eating mental patient with cold, dead eyes. Tarrare was banished from the hospital and forbidden from returning.
Not that it was all horror and accused cannibalism; his "talent" was such that the French military used him to smuggle secret documents inside his stomach to be pooped out at an opportune time.
"Right, men, we march to Camp Sweetcorn Sweetcorn Bloodclot."
#3. An Italian Soldier Ate Rocks
Francis Battalia was an Italian soldier who is basically unknown to history but for one socially awkward habit.
But only the hardest ones, which come from the East, apparently.
According to eyewitness reports that we admit come from an age when they took dragons seriously, Francis Battalia was a renowned stone eater. We don't mean that as some kind of humorous analogy for his wife's cooking; we mean he was basically that monster from The NeverEnding Story. Local registers from around the time he was alive recorded this behavior with surprisingly few old-timey ways of saying "What the freaking hell?"
And before you call bullshit on this one, keep in mind that eating stones isn't unheard of, and the urge to do so is often related to a lack of certain minerals in the body. It's just that when most people do it, it's not as badass as Mr. Battalia.
Excluding Mr. Rock-Biter, sir.
He was supposedly not only able to eat stones, but also actually seemed to gain nourishment and no doubt rock-based superpowers from them. Apparently he would wash the stones down with a copious amount of beer, and later would shit a bucket of sand like a human cement mixer. We figure he was useful to the military, because eating rocks and shitting sand is a pretty good way to intimidate your enemies.
"I will gravel over your lawns, you sons of bitches!"
#2. Roman Emperor Heliogabalus Ate Bird Brains and Gold
The emperors of Rome aren't exactly remembered for their restraint. Your typical social occasion in a Roman palace involved lavish feasts and orgies, often at the same time. But it all paled in comparison to the feasts of Emperor Heliogabalus, who made the average Roman banquet look like something from a prison cafeteria.
Stuff even the Roman Empire couldn't afford.
And these are the guys who could afford heavily pixelated parties.
Heliogabalus rose to the Roman throne at 14 years old and proceeded to run the palace like, well, a 14-year-old. It's said that his dinner guests would often find whoopee cushions on their chairs as they sat down to eat. As for the meals themselves, Heliogabalus dined with such ridiculous excess that it was enough to make even other Romans go "Whoa, dude, a salad every once in a while wouldn't kill you."
During his four-year rule, he never once spent less than 10,000 sesterces (roughly $1,000) on a single meal. Some examples of a typical menu include conger eels fattened on human slave meat, a whole pig stuffed with live thrushes and sow's breasts with Lybian truffles.
"I miss the days when we only threw up three times a meal."
For some reason, he developed a particular taste for birds' brains. He ate the brains of thrushes, parrots, peacocks and pheasants, and at one point ordered 600 ostrich heads solely for brain consumption, like some kind of eccentric zombie.
In addition, he financed and held private fishing fleets for the sole purpose of obtaining a specific type of caviar, and if he ever had to offer something as mundane as mere rice, he'd artificially upscale it by sprinkling it with pieces of gold.
His anus became the first royal mint.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Heliogabalus' rule came to an abrupt end via assassination after just four years after nearly bankrupting the Roman Empire for the sake of ostrich brains.
#1. William Buckland Ate a Human Heart
Victorian-era scientist William Buckland was the first person to publish a scientific study of the dinosaur. It's about the closest thing to a 10-year-old boy's dream career of studying living dinosaurs and also riding them and making them battle. Buckland also happened to be crazier than a shithouse rat, which he would also have eaten.
One of every animal, also a king's heart.
Those hyenas don't stand a chance.
Buckland was a man on a mission, and that mission was to eat one of every species in existence. His role in the Society for the Acclimatization of Animals meant he was allowed to import species from around the world for study, a fact which he abused immensely in order to get every species imaginable down his gullet. The reports of what he ate cover just about everything, from puppies to panthers.
"The only thing this creature is acclimatizing to is my stomach. Yeah, it's extinct now."
He didn't just stop at the meat of animals, either. While on a visit to St. Paul's Cathedral, a strange mark was found on the floor. A debate broke out as to what the stain could possibly be, at which point Buckland got on his hands and knees, licked the stain and confidently announced it to be bat piss.
But the craziest thing Buckland ever did, at least before he spent the remainder of his days in a lunatic asylum, was at a dinner party hosted by a Lord Harcourt. Rather foolishly, considering his most famous guest's notorious palate, Harcourt spent the night showing off his collection of rare treasures, one of which was the preserved heart of Louis XVI of France.
"Would you, uh ... turn around for a second?"
Buckland didn't even wait for it to be cooked.
For more unusual behaviors, check out The 6 Most (Certifiably) Insane Tales of Rock Star Behavior and 6 Artists Whose Weird Fetishes Defined Pop Culture.