Historical Figures (Who Looked Waaaay Different Than You Think)

We all like to look our best, which is why most people can't take a selfie without immediately smashing their phone to dust while whining about bad lighting. And historical figures are certainly no exception (although Stalin's regular cries of "OMG Lavrentiy, delete that!" actually referred to the cameraman and his entire family). As a result, the image you have of many famous people is way more flattering than the reality.

Advertisement

7
J.P. Morgan Did Everything He Could To Hide His Big Nose

What You Think He Looked Like:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

The Monopoly Man? Mr. Burns? An anthropomorphic bank that bleeds money when injured?

What He Actually Looked Like:

While J.P. Morgan is one of the most famous names in American history, you have almost certainly never seen an unedited photograph of him. That's because the financier suffered from a skin condition called rhinophyma, which left him with a huge, knobbly, purple-red nose. His schnoz looked like if Thanos got stung by hate-fueled bees after he killed half their hive. Morgan was so sensitive about his "purple cauliflower" that he had every picture of himself heavily retouched to remove all traces of it. As a result, finding an accurate photo of Morgan at the height of his powers is harder than finding an accurate photo of anyone on Tinder.

We suddenly want Froot Loops.Library of CongressWe suddenly want Froot Loops.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Morgan would even complain to newspaper publishers if their cartoonists went too hard at his nose in caricatures, and his employees would warn people not to mention it. When another millionaire dared to call him "Old Livernose," Morgan had him banned from their yacht club, which is the rich guy equivalent of dropping a nuke. And god help you if you tried to take an unauthorized photo of him.

This was a time when someone that rich could've beaten you to death in the street and sued your surviving family for denting their cane.  <br><i>... Another</i> time like that, we mean.Library of CongressThis was a time when someone that rich could've beaten you to death in the street and sued your surviving family for denting their cane.
... Another time like that, we mean.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Yep, that is the titan of industry being held back from beating the shit out of a photographer for taking a snap of him on the street. No wonder the guy in the background looks so astonished -- this would be like seeing Bill Gates screaming and waving a tire iron. It might be the first time in history a rich guy needed bodyguards to protect the public from him.

Sir, please, you may injure your money-counting hand!Library of Congress"Sir, please, you may injure your money-counting hand!"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Morgan could have a sense of humor about his appearance, though generally in private and if he brought it up first. He once wryly commented on having "all my riches yet ... this terrible nose," and was very amused on being told not to worry, "as you can never have been very good looking." He also brushed off a proposed surgery, saying "everyone knows my nose" and that kids would laugh at him on the street if he suddenly appeared without it. Although presumably only for a few moments before the caning started.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

6
There's No Ambiguity With The Inventor Of The Rorschach Test

What You Think He Looked Like:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

A happy butterfly. A cloud. Our ... our parents getting divorced? Dr. Hermann Rorschach invented the inkblot test, the famous psychiatric tool whereby patients are shown ten identical pictures of their high school bully being devoured by Tentacruel. You probably picturing him as a generic German scientist guy, like the therapist from Animaniacs.

What He Actually Looked Like:

Take a deep breath and any recommended heart medications. This is a picture of Hermann Rorschach:

Is this photo part of the test? Because it looks like hastily discarded panties hanging on a lamp.International Dictionary of PsychoanalysisIs this photo part of the test? Because it looks like hastily discarded panties hanging on a lamp.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

That photo is clearly of a time-traveling Brad Pitt on a mission to prevent World War I by getting all of Europe too horny to assassinate any archdukes. How did this guy ever invent a test requiring his patients to tear their eyes away from him? Did he even manage to find any patients who weren't just glamorous heiresses trying to get five minutes alone with him? It's not ideal when your therapist is constantly missing appointments because he's in a sword fight with a jealous husband on an opera house balcony.

Rorschach sadly passed away in his 30s, shortly after inventing his famous test and before he could blow that out of the water with an even more revolutionary skincare line. Somehow his memory is currently most honored by being the name of our most aggressively sexless fascist antihero. And speaking of smokeshow comic book inspirations ...

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

5
Charles Schulz Could Get (Almost) All The Redheaded Women He Wanted

What You Think He Looked Like:

Schulz famously drew on his own life to create Peanuts, so if you picture him as anything, it's probably an adult Charlie Brown. Meaning a globe-skulled sad sack with less style than his own dog. Dude probably had 10 footballs pulled from under his feet every time he left the house.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

What He Actually Looked Like:

If <i>this</i> qualifies as a lovable loser, then we are <i>doomed.</I>Roger Higgins/Library of CongressIf this qualifies as a lovable loser, then we are doomed.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Schulz was actually a handsome man, in a '50s sitcom dad kind of way. They don't even make jawlines like that anymore; you just can't get the tungsten. Seriously, for a guy with that bone structure to portray himself as Charlie Brown seems like it has to be either historically low self-esteem or some kind of bizarre stolen dork valor. And he actually maintained those looks throughout his life.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But even while looking like a teen idol from before the Beatles invented haircuts, Schulz still had a lot in common with Charlie Brown. He described being a shy and somewhat lonely kid with an unfortunate streak that lasted well into adult life. For example, the "little red-haired girl" Charlie Brown pines after was based on a real crush Schulz had in his 20s. They dated for two years before she turned down his marriage proposal, then got engaged to someone else two weeks later. Which is so brutal that "Good grief!" doesn't seem to cut it.

But that just makes the whole thing more inspirational, in a weird way. Schulz actually remained good friends with his redheaded flame, then went on to a happy marriage and wildly successful career as a cartoonist -- his childhood dream. So remember, kids, no matter how many footballs you miss, you can still grow up to be an extremely handsome, incredibly talented, nationally beloved multimillionaire.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

4
Kim Il-sung Had A Giant Growth On His Neck

What You Think He Looked Like:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Our loyal North Korean readership will be familiar with the smiling portrait of Kim that hangs in every school, office, and work camp. The rest of you are auto-generating a sim from a mental file marked "Korean jumpsuit guy." And you're both wrong.

Wait, is this suggesting he <i>didn't</i> have straight enough teeth to square carpentry work?Via Wikimedia CommonsWait, is this suggesting he didn't have straight enough teeth to square carpentry work?

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

What He Actually Looked Like:

As the DPRK's first leader and founder of the Kim dynasty, Kim Il-sung promoted a carefully curated image of himself, including a look best described as "successful businessman smugly watching the sheriff drain the wrong lake." As a result, most pictures show no trace of the ... uh ... thing.

Oh yeah, go ahead and judge. Like <i>you've</i> never absorbed a tennis ball into your neck.Government of North KoreaOh yeah, go ahead and judge. Like you've never absorbed a tennis ball into your neck.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Yep, for decades, photographers were forbidden from capturing the massive growth on the back of his neck. It's as if Vladimir Putin had a parasitic twin and cropped it out of every shirtless horseback image. The only reason we have any photos at all is that Kim occasionally made visits to other countries, where local photographers felt free to snap away.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Despite a ruthless insistence on flattering angles unrivaled until the invention of influencers, Kim's growth was common knowledge -- particularly in South Korea, where a popular carnival game involved throwing baseballs at an image of Kim and winning a prize for hitting the "boil." It was popularly rumored that the growth was a tumor that was eating away at his brain. In reality, it was a massive calcium deposit caused by childhood malnutrition. Presumably it was too close to the spine to remove safely, although he obviously didn't publicly discuss the thing nobody was allowed to look at.

Related: 18 Pieces Of History That Your Brain Pictures Wrong

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

3
The Recent Popes Were All Uncomfortably Attractive

What You Think They Looked Like:

The pope is an old white guy in a fancy muumuu. We didn't even say which one; that pretty much covers it.

What They Actually Looked Like:

A few years back, an HBO executive bolted out of an edibles coma with a bold new idea: "What if pope ... but young?" The result was The Young Pope, the hit show that reminded stunned audiences that a pope can theoretically be fuckable. There's no rule against it! It happened all the time in the Middle Ages, when it was considered completely normal to become pope at 19 and then die in a sexual mishap at 27. But such a thing is almost impossible to imagine these days.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Well, there's no need to imagine it, because no religious leader is born old. Even the Dalai Lama is sometimes a toddler (for tax purposes, we assume). And we can confirm that some popes used to be kind of hot. For example, here's John Paul II when he was still aspiring actor and scrabble nightmare Karol Wojtyla:

Bless <i>us</i>, that's a smolder.Wojtyla FamilyBless us, that's a smolder.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

The guy looks like a young Ansel Elgort (the only kind of Ansel Elgort currently known to science). And Wojtyla would hang onto his good looks for quite some time, even though the next few years would see him hit by truck, a tram, and the Second World War, which would be enough to leave most of us looking like Gollum on a bad hair day.

Historical Figures (Who Looked Waaaay Different Than You Think)Catholic Church

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Meanwhile, his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, had kind of a Timothee Chalamet thing going on in his 20s.

Admittedly, it's Chalamet in a career-ending attempt to make a sexy Bat Boy movie, but still!Ratzinger FamilyAdmittedly, it's Chalamet in a career-ending attempt to make a sexy Bat Boy movie, but still!

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Pope Francis was a little goofier, but definitely looks like he'd be the most fun to hang out with. Which is pretty on brand, really.

Pictured: The earthly avatar of God, and/or that fun uncle who can smoke your ass at <i>Mario Kart</i>.Vatican NewsPictured: The earthly avatar of God, and/or that fun uncle who can smoke your ass at Mario Kart.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

2
Alanis Morissette Was A Canadian Teen Pop Sensation

What You Think She Looked Like:

Alanis Morissette.

What She Actually Looked Like:

Jessie Spano from Saved By The Bell.

This week's Very Special Episode is about the dangers posed by jagged little pills.MCA Records"This week's Very Special Episode is about the dangers posed by jagged little pills."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

OK, so the Alanis Morissette we know became an international superstar with "You Oughta Know," an angry rock screed that has soundtracked more furious breakups than the organist at a Vegas wedding chapel. The single's album, Jagged Little Pill, was such a smash that people forget it was actually her third album and a huge career swerve. Before that, she was less a rock goddess and more a teen-oriented Canadian dance pop star. If not for that complete reinvention, she'd probably be best remembered as the opening act who wasn't allowed to look Vanilla Ice in the eyes.

Apparently a <A TARGET=_blank HREF=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Oughta_Know#Lyrical_interpretation>super creepy relationship with Uncle Joey</A> does wonders for one's career.MCA RecordsApparently a super creepy relationship with Uncle Joey does wonders for one's career.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But don't take our word for it. Check out the video for "Feel Your Love," featuring a backing track fished out of a dumpster behind Paula Abdul's house and all the dancers who got kicked off the Rhythm Nation tour for accidentally out-dancing Janet Jackson.

Morissette's whole Robin Sparkles phase wasn't a minor thing, either. Her debut album went platinum in Canada, meaning it sold over seven copies. From poutine silo to seal-infested hockey rink, the entire nation was jamming out to hits like "Walk Away," featuring Joey from Friends back when he was still Matt from the Alanis video.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

And even that was actually Morissette's second foray into entertainment, having debuted getting slime dumped on her head as part of the classic Canadian comedy series You Can't Do That On Television. (Spoiler: They totally could do that on television)

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

1
Multiple Authors Are Unrecognizable Without A Mustache

What You Think They Looked Like:

The 19th century was a great time for two things: literature and ridiculous mustaches. As a result, many of the most famous authors in history are basically unrecognizable without their facial hair. But only Jane Austen was born with a handlebar mustache, meaning we can spoil some other classic literary images just by showing you an early photo.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

What They Actually Looked Like:

Take Mark Twain, whom you're picturing as an extremely dignified eagle someone strategically shaved and stuffed into a Colonel Sanders costume.

If a seersucker suit had a soul, this would be it.A.F. BradleyIf a seersucker suit had a soul, this would be it.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

So it might come as a surprise to see Twain before he decided to grow the mustache, when he kind of looked like the Pillsbury Dipshit.

We can't tell if that's a warped photo or if the 1850s just had the bouffant <i>figured out.</i>Via Wikimedia CommonsWe can't tell if that's a warped photo or if the 1850s just had the bouffant figured out.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Things didn't improve much when he decided to grow the worst sideburns outside of a Williamsburg unicycle repair store.

Historical Figures (Who Looked Waaaay Different Than You Think)Via Brain Pickings

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

In fact, it wasn't until middle age that he finally hit on his ideal look as an incredibly yoked man with a sea lion's mustache.

We assume the shirtlessness was so that 160 years later, he could make us feel inadequate about our writing <i>and</i> fitness.Bancroft LibraryWe assume the shirtlessness was so that 160 years later, he could make us feel inadequate about our writing and fitness.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Things aren't much better with Edgar Allan Poe, because when are things ever better with Edgar Allan Poe? His classic image resembles a bloodhound with a drinking problem, while his mustache looks like he just became overcome with sadness midway through shaving.

It's <i>just</i> enough stache to be inimitable by every sad 17-year-old guy until the end of time.Via Wikimedia CommonsIt's just enough stache to be inimitable by every sad 17-year-old guy until the end of time.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Whereas young, mustache-less Poe looks ... somehow way goofier? Jesus, Edgar.

Yes, there really was a time when Edgar Allen Poe would've seemed out of place at a Hot Topic.The Poe MuseumYes, there really was a time when Edgar Allen Poe would've seemed out of place at a Hot Topic.

And don't get us (or anyone else) started on Friedrich Nietzsche, who goes from dignified probable maniac ...

Historical Figures (Who Looked Waaaay Different Than You Think)Friedrich Hartmann

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

... to looking like the kind of guy who would try to quote Nietzsche while hitting on you in a bar.

He's the guy who would casually inform you God is dead before trying to order port and a bowl of dates.Via Wikimedia CommonsHe's the guy who would casually inform you God is dead before trying to order port and a bowl of dates.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

So let this be a lesson to any aspiring young authors out there: Stop worrying about things like "story structure" and "character development" and start worrying about what kind of mustache you're going to have on your jacket photo.

For more, check out 19 WTF Celebrity Cameos By Celebrities You Think You'd Recognize:

Follow us on Facebook. It's free.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

76 Comments

Load Comments