6 Horrifying Facts That Get Left Out Of History
You're walking down the street when a portal opens in front of you, hurling you backward through time. "Damn," you think, "no Netflix. Plus, I'll probably die of polio." But then, you realize that, with your future knowledge, you could rule this place like a king! Perhaps life won't be so bad here after all. That's when you discover ...
The American South Was One Big Eye-Gouging Fight Club
Today, our combat sports are made safe by a combination of athletic commissions and gentlemanly conduct. If you've ever seen a Floyd Mayweather fight, you might mistake boxing for an all-male foxtrot, with more hugging. Even the UFC, marketed as "AS REAL AS IT GETS," has several dozen rules to protect the combatants from dick attacks, bites, and dick bites. But, you've just landed in the American South during the 18th and 19th century: the dick-biting capital of Time.
And this is why Colonel Sanders refused to tell anyone how he flavored his meat.
If you were involved in a fight in the South back in the 1700s, you were lucky to leave with all your body parts. The aim of the game was to gouge out your opponent's eyeballs or, whenever possible, worse. Fighters had reputations for testicle maiming and even sharpening their teeth to tear off larger chunks of human. As English minister Charles Woodmason put it in a sermon in 1760:
"I would advise you when you do fight not to act like tigers and bears as these Virginians do -- Biting one another's lips and noses off and gouging one another -- that is, thrusting one another's eyes, and kicking one another on the cods, to the great damage of many a poor woman."
Speaking of things that could damage a woman sexually, here's what their fingernails looked like.
That's right, Southerners were so notorious for dick kicks and face biting that people brought it up in church. They fought like savage monsters, but they still had their own brand of showmanship. One losing fighter was told he had done badly by a spectator, and he replied, "Have I?" while pulling his opponent's eyeball from his pocket. Two hundred years ago, a gory handful of human flesh was how you quipped.
Speaking of gory balls, attempts to castrate another man during a fight were common. As famous explorer Isaac Weld described it, "What is worst than all is these wretches in their combat endeavour to their utmost to tear out each other's testicles."
He said while wearing a titanium codpiece and standing as close to Canada as humanly possible.
And these weren't only backwoods maniacs filing their teeth into points and sharpening their dick-gouging nails. American hero Davy Crockett apparently trained in the martial art of gouge n' bite. In his own words, he described a match thusly: "I kept my thumb in his eye, and was just going to give it a twist and bring the peeper out, like taking a gooseberry in a spoon." Unfortunately, the fight was interrupted before he could finish spooning out the man's ocular cavity, which is probably why there isn't a verse about it in his children's song.
Equally shocking: He was killing bears by age three, but never even bothered to maim Andrew Jackson.
The whimsy of Davy Crockett pulling faces apart doesn't do justice to the visceral horror of these fights or how commonplace they were. For instance, here is a passage from Gouge And Bite, Pull Hair And Scratch, a book documenting Southern mutilation karate. It was a fight that started as a disagreement over which state was the best and demonstrates how dramatic a match can be when both men are trained in this deadly fighting art:
"We found the combatants' fast clinched by the hair, and their thumbs endeavouring to force a passage into each other's eyes; while several of the bystanders were betting upon the first eye to be turned out of its socket. For some time the combatants avoided the thumb stroke with dexterity. At length they fell to the ground, and in an instant the uppermost sprung up with his antagonist's eye in his hand!!!"
They would see us lose our shit over boxers biting ears and be like, "That's adorable."
Eventually, these fights became less socially acceptable. Because if every argument has to be solved by way of eyeball removal, after you lose two arguments, you can never be wrong again. And that's not a sustainable civilization.
You Could Get Killed By Voting
Your time portal has landed you in 19th-century America -- thankfully, not in one of the testicle-chomping parts. Now, to begin your play for world domination. First, get elected President -- why, with your knowledge of the future and advanced campaign tactics you should-
You're still lost in thought when a bunch of thugs kidnap you, fill you with booze, and gang-bang your vote out of you. That was a common practice of the time called "cooping." The targets were usually drunk or homeless men, who were filled with liquor until they could barely stand, and then threatened with torture or death unless they voted the right way. Cooping usually involved a few costume changes as well, since it would start to seem fishy if the same inebriated hobo kept coming back and voting at knifepoint. Some suspect this violent act of voter fraud was how Edgar Allan Poe died, which, impossible as it seems, is an even more depressing cause of death than he could have imagined.
The bourbon gave you years of four / Quoth the whiskey, have four more.
But, what if you wanted to control elections through violence, but didn't want to invest in hobo-voting liquor? Well, the Know-Nothing Party was a political group in the 1850s that hated immigrants, but loved showing potential voters pictures of people getting stabbed with a shoemaker's awl. Or, sometimes, they showed them the awls themselves, as they were stabbed into them. In many ways, they were more direct than modern politicians, but exactly the same amount of evil.
The Know-Nothing Party had another tactic called the "blood tub," and it was almost as bad as it sounds. They would get a tub full of blood from a local butcher shop, and, whenever they spotted a German or an Irishman, they would grab a sponge and squeeze blood onto their face.
Whenever they needed more blood, they would simply sharpen their awls and knives, and hold a stump speech.
So, the next time Donald Trump tries to win American hearts by complaining about all the Mexican rapists, realize it could be worse -- he could be stabbing, kidnapping, and blood-sponging them. Shit, we probably just wrote his next speech for him, didn't we?
You Would Be Molested By "Policemen"
You stumble blindly through your time portal, dazed and disoriented. You spot a friendly-looking police officer and flag him down for help. He strolls up to you with a smile, shoves his hands down your pants to fiddle with your junk, and then runs away laughing. What the hell?
Between 1685 and 1720 in London, 29 people were caught pretending to be law officers, which certainly implies a huge number who got away with it. Sometimes, this was done for mischief or extortion, but it was often done to try to get sex. Fake policemen would prey on young women walking alone at night, threatening them with arrest for their suspicious evening travels. One scumbag, John Hoskinson, was actually caught with his hand down a woman's skirt by the very same officer he was impersonating. She and the real cop then fell in love, which is absolutely not true -- but, if it was, it would be the worst meet-cute in the history of romance.
The cop was then arrested for impersonating every cruel orphanage owner from every Dickins novel.
In another erotic tale of historical London masquerades, an impersonator was having sex with a man's wife, and, in order to get the cuckolded husband out of the country, he pretended to be an impressment officer and drafted the man into the Royal Navy. The scam almost worked because it never occurred to anyone that a person would pretend to be someone as universally hated as an impressment officer.
The perfect job for anyone who can't be a loan shark because it requires too much empathy.
Apparently, all it really took was a costume and a giant pair of balls, and ancient Londoners would believe you were a cop, a warrant officer, a train-car proctologist -- whatever you say, buddy. Of course, it didn't help that corruption was so prevalent that it wasn't outside the realm of possibility for a policeman to demand a bribe or a handful of boob. The lesson is clear -- if you run into a 17th-century London cop who says he needs your wallet and panties, be careful. He may be an impostor.
Entertainment Regularly Caused Violence And Death
Well, it's becoming clear you aren't going to take over the past with your command of violence or democracy. Maybe you just need some downtime to get your head around this. Maybe take in a nice, quaint, old-timey show? Surely this charming old music hall won't turn into some kind of mustachioed Thunderdome ...
Guess again! It was pretty common for audiences in the late 1800s or early 1900s to pelt the performers with deadly objects. Singers, actors, or comics only had moments to win over the audience, and, depending on where your act was bombing, the crowd had their own way of trying to kill you. In London, they threw pig bones. Glasgow was known for throwing fucking steel rivets. But, as long as it hurt and left a funny wound, savage crowds didn't really care. Dead cats and dogs were known to be flung at performers -- which is almost as fascinating as it is monstrous. Were the cats killed on the way to the show, just in case the band sucked? Were dead cats sold there? How did man ever survive an era, however brief, where animal corpses were used as a "dislike" button?
You haven't heard "Ta-ra-ra-boom-di-yay" until you've heard it from a concussed, bloody warbler who stinks of maggots and mange and can no longer feel his legs.
As you might imagine, when riled-up maniacs are throwing corpses and weapons, fights tend to break out. Music halls were frequently the site of riots and police action, and that's not even the biggest problem they had. The biggest problem was the fires. Because of loose fire regulations and lunatic crowds, music halls caught on fire all the time. If you owned a music hall in 1870, you could count on it turning into a raging cat fire within five years. Plus, everyone knew this, and it wasn't uncommon for deadly stampedes to break out when a hilarious prankster screamed a false fire alarm.
Much to the delight of those who bemoan America's lack of true freedom of speech.
Our great-grandparents had no idea what safety procedures were. In 1881, a fire performer named "Ling Look, The Great Chinese Salamander" shot a cannonball into a 15 year old, killing him. He was later acquitted of manslaughter, setting the legal precedent that, if your head gets blown off at a theater, that's an everyday, assumed risk you agreed to as an audience member.
"Give his mother free front-row seats to my next show, where I toss flaming machetes into the front row. It's the least we can do."
Twenty-two years later in Chicago, a fire broke out in the "fire-proof" Iroquois theater, and 602 people died. One of the main causes of death? Many of the exits were locked. This was the incident that finally led to people setting actual definitions for the words "fire-proof" and "safety," whereas, before, they were just considered funny noises that pussies made. The point is, 120 years ago, a couple on the town had the same life expectancy as a couple on a Malawi zipline. Marriage wasn't something you did out of true love -- it's something you did to avoid being trampled and burned to death while dating.
Hospitals Were Like Fraternity Houses
So, your pansy future ass has been mauled by literally every facet of life in the past. You stumble, bleeding, into the hospital and ask for help. This is where your troubles really begin. If you went into a hospital in the 19th century, there was a fairly good chance the staff would steal your things, have sex with you, leave you in your own filth, or a combination of all three. For example, at Swan Hill Hospital in Australia, between 1860 and 1890 virtually every wardsman was fired for being drunk. And keep in mind that this is Australia, where you aren't even legally drunk until your blood is 60 percent lager.
Their IV drips were a mixture of Fosters and spider bites.
"Wardsmen" were basically in charge of everything in a hospital, from cooking to cleaning to keeping people alive, which would have been difficult for lucid, interested medical professionals. With drunk assholes, it meant hospitals were always filthy from both the waste attached to incoming patients, and the waste coming out of patients who were already there. You might go to the hospital with a light "snakebite" and leave with a mild case of "body eaten by rats." It was not uncommon for wardsmen to forget about patients completely, until they found themselves spooning with them after a night of blackout drinking. If a wardsman wasn't fondling or robbing you, he was probably attacking one of his coworkers. The point is, Mad Max was a historical medical drama, not a sci-fi film.
Nurses weren't much better back then. Prior to 1873, nurses didn't require what we call "training." One drunk nurse in Philadelphia killed two people with an overdose, and that was so expected, she was only suspended for a week. It wasn't only that any willing dingbat could be a nurse -- some unwilling women were actually coerced into being nurses. At Bellevue Hospital, it was common for nursing to be a punishment for prostitutes instead of jail time.
Which, indirectly, meant a prison death sentence for many of their patients.
A prostitute nurse sounds like a fun idea for a movie, but it didn't work very well in reality. They took bribes, had sex with patients, and looted their dead bodies. Jaden Smith might tell you we can't learn anything from history, but the 19th century clearly taught us that untrained sex workers make terrible medical personnel -- which was a lesson we apparently needed to learn at some point.
Everybody Was Publicly Naked And Boning Constantly
If you've ever spent time in San Francisco or Portland, you might have had a picnic interrupted by a nearby man who thought his balls and unkempt pubic mound might look good next to a T-shirt and nothing else. Unexpected public nudity is an occasional reminder of why mankind developed clothing and shame in the first place. At least, that won't be an issue now that you've traveled to the past, with all these puritanical stiffs everywhere. Finally, you can relax and let your guard down ...
And that's when you get wanged. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was an English religious group called the Ranters, and unexpected public nudity was their raison d'etre. When you picture naked religious people, you're probably thinking about weird, asexual nudity, such as a naked hipster bike ride. But, the Ranters got wild. They would not only run naked through the streets, but they would do it with engorged dongs, stopping occasionally to bone in village squares. This was as illegal back then as it is today, but their philosophy was that, since God was in them, anything they did was fine.
"Let us eat! Ah, this table has a fine view of the boners and assplay!"
Quakers had a weirdly religious hatred of pants as well. Today, Quakerism is the gold standard by which we measure prudishness, but it had one hell of a rebellious youth. They went naked in the streets and churches, and some openly advocated casual sex and drugs. A couple hundred years ago, Quakers made us all look like a bunch of squares.
Plus, it gave the guys a fun, alternate way to accept the communion wafer.
One champion of nudity was Abiezer Coppe, who preached naked in London. This was as controversial as you might imagine, but it's hard to hate a guy who, with his dick out, threw fruit at the Parliamentary committee that tried to interrogate him. That's a man who attracts followers. Another naked hero was William Sampson, who, for three years, went naked everywhere -- towns, market places, courts; he even went to the homes of priests to insult them, balls nude. It wasn't always clear what any of it had to do with Jesus, but it was punk rock as fuck.
On the third day (and the first and the second), he rose.
And, of course, it wasn't only religious groups that went naked. Courtiers in the Restoration enjoyed streaking in the streets so much that it became a fashion. It became so common that nude running was practically the official sport of 18th-century London. In 1787, the Oxford Journal reported on a man named Powell who made a bet he could run a nude four-minute mile. During training, he got his time down to 4:03, but no one knows if they ever went through with the bet. Yes, people were running around naked so often, they had to add gambling to make it interesting, and reporters didn't even bother following up on the dong-flapping dare of the century.
The third leg of the race was always the hardest.
So, if you're not a particularly big fan of untamed dicks, savage maulings, and rampant infernos, the next time you see a multicolored portal rip open the air before you, just step gingerly around it and go about your business.
It turns out us philistines really don't know dick about the past. Like, apparently no one could throw a party like our ancestors could. See what some of these ragers looked like in The 7 Most Unexpectedly Awesome Parties In History. Oh, and by the way: Jesus' name is actually Joshua. See that and more in 33 Shocking Facts That Will Change How You Picture History.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see which famous historical figures were sick freaks in 5 Famous Historical Figures Who Were Total Perverts, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
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And to further expand your noggin, check out Cracked's De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn't Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew.
It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.