55 Nutty Facts About U.S. States
Every one of America's united states has its own batshit history, as well as its own collection of utter nonsense that still goes on there today. Let's take a trip to the states to call out every one of them in turn.
And hey -- let's say a little something about America's non-state territories as well, so we don't have to round this list out by giving you five extra facts about New Jersey.
Albert Patterson won the nomination for attorney general of Alabama in 1954, beating an ally of the previous guy, Si Garrett. Before he could take office, he was gunned down. And who'd ordered the shooting? Why it was Attorney General Si Garrett, of course.
Some places have people tightly packed in buildings, while other places have low populations. Whittier, Alaska, has both. All 205 residents of this town live in a single building.
In the desert outside Phoenix, a flight school has a fleet of German aircraft, so you can learn how to fly combat missions in less than a day. No prior knowledge of how to fly planes required!
Arkansas has a hotel carved right into a mountain. It's called the Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, and its architect, John Hay, originally meant it to be a bomb shelter during the Cold War.
In the '50s, California got a religion called Unarius, the followers of a million-year-old spacefaring angel. Then the founder's wife starting claiming that she was the angel in question and got her own public access show to share the good news.
Police in Glastonbury, Connecticut, put together a sting to arrest a 71-year-old woman for prostitution. Apparently, they had nothing better to do that day.
A woman hanged herself one October in Frederica, Delaware. She chose a tree beside a busy road, but people first didn't think anything was wrong, mistaking her body for a Halloween decoration.
During a cold spell, a Florida man noticed a bunch of iguanas had frozen in the trees. He picked them out and put them in his car, thinking he could cook them. But then the dozens of collected iguanas thawed out -- while he was driving ...
Georgia had its own real-life phantom of the opera. He lived in the tunnels beneath Atlanta's Fox Theatre (without permission, initially), built a hidden lair, and helped save the place from a fire.
Guam loves spam, eating more of the stuff per person than any other territory in the world. This goes back to the US military stocking the stuff in rations during World War II.
Another World War II story: The US feared Japan conquering Hawaii and grabbing all the currency there. So the government issued a special currency only for Hawaii, which we could declare invalid at any time. As for the old money, they gathered $200 million of it and burned it.
Illinois was famously a center for bootlegging during Prohibition, and the gagsters' turf wars got a little more heated than you might realize. The Shelton Brothers Gang built their own makeshift tank and even got a plane and engaged in one of the first aerial bombings over US soil.
In 2015, Indiana passed a law increasing companies' ability to defend themselves in court using freedom of religion. The goal was to let companies refuse same-sex wedding services, but it had an unexpected consequence: the rise of the Church of Cannabis.
Des Moines comes from the native Peoria word for "shitface." Not "drunk" -- literally shitface. Explorers misunderstood something their guides told them, and no one realized the mistake for 200 years.
An abandoned missile silo in Wamego, Kansas, used to be a production site for 90 percent of the country's LSD (or 99 percent, by some estimates).
Before he ran KFC, Colonel Harlan Sanders sold fried chicken out of a gas station in North Corbin, Kentucky. When a rival station painted over his signs, Sanders visited the station -- armed. In the resulting shoot-out, one of Sanders' managers died, and Sanders himself landed a shot in his rival's shoulder.
Also keen to stamp out rivals: legendary Louisiana governor Huey Long. When Long learned an ex-employee was planning to expose his corruption, he kidnapped the man and chained him to a tree on a pirate island.
Abraham Lincoln was close to getting assassinated before taking office through a scheme known as the Baltimore Plot. The government was ill-equipped to deal with the threat, so the only solution was to hide the president-elect, giving him a circuitous route as he traveled through Maryland.
"Whitey" Bulger was a famous Boston gangster. His brother, on the other hand? He was the longest-serving president of the Massachusetts Senate.
When Detroit residents didn't heed his call to save electricity by switching off their ACs, Compliance Officer Gary Brown switched off power to their buildings to teach them a lesson. Residents feared something more serious was responsible, as earlier that day, terrorists had flown into the World Trade Center.
Rosemont High School in Minnesota tried to teach a different sort of lesson by blindfolding students at a school assembly and telling them they were about to be kissed by a "special someone." The students did not realize they'd be French kissing their own parents. Ass-groping ensued.
Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has had exclusive rights to grow marijuana for the US government. In 2019 alone, they grew 2,000 kilos of the stuff.
To maintain their roads, the town of Times Beach hired some random dude to douse the streets in oil. Unfortunately, the random dude chose random chemicals instead of motor oil ... chemicals that turned out to be Agent Orange.
You'll find few towns smaller than Monowi, Nebraska. It has a population of just one person, the mayor, who is also the town librarian, barkeep, and sole taxpayer.
When someone was murdering the homeless in 2017, Las Vegas cops set a trap by laying out a mannequin and waiting for him to strike. Someone did attack with a hammer, but police could never prove he was the killer. They just successfully charged him with attempted murder ... of the mannequin.
30. New Hampshire
Grafton lived out New Hampshire's motto of "Live Free Or Die." It lived free in that it repeatedly tried to set up a tax-free utopia. As for the "die" part, well, the utopia keeps failing because it got overrun by bears.
31. New Jersey
Albert Einstein asked to be cremated, and yet a pathologist removed his eyes without permission. Those eyes remain today in a safety deposit box in New Jersey.
32. New Mexico
Someone discovered $1.2 billion in treasure in the New Mexico mountains in 1937. It's still there today. Your only obstacle to retrieving the stuff? He dynamited the mine entrance shut. And then the Army started nuclear tests there. Didn't stop the government from searching for it, though.
33. New York
New York confines people for mental disorders at a rate eight times that of the rest of the country. Why? Maybe it's because they negotiated Medicare reimbursements of $4,500 per person per day, more than six times what other states get.
34. North Carolina
35. North Dakota
North Dakota's governor was found guilty of all kinds of fraud in 1934. On his last day in office, to avoid arrest, he barricaded himself in his office, declared martial law, and tried to secede from the union.
Ohio decides what you eat. When restaurant chains want to debut new products, they first test them in Columbus, Ohio, as they consider it to be the most representative city in the whole country.
In 1889, Oklahoma offered free land to all settlers who wanted it. On the day claim stakers were first allowed to cross the border, they set up the town of Guthrie, population 10,000 ... in a single afternoon.
America's largest-ever biological attack happened in Oregon in 1984 when the mystical Rajneesh movement used salmonella to infect 750 salad bar patrons.
In 1976, Pennsylvanians wanted to elect their auditor general, Bob Casey, as state treasurer. That's why they voted for the man on the ballot named Robert Casey. Only, it was a totally unrelated guy who'd spent just $1,000 campaigning. Next year, Bob Casey lost the election for lieutenant governor to a different Robert Casey, whom voters again mistook for Bob.
40. Puerto Rico
For over 50 years, Puerto Rico was home to the world's largest telescope. Why Puerto Rico? The thing was so big that it had to plop fairly deep into the ground, so Puerto Rico's sinkholes made for a good site.
41. Rhode Island
42. American Samoa
American Samoan wrestlers Afa and Sika Anoa'I speak English just fine, but their wrestling persona is of two wild guys who speak only in grunts. So when police stopped them with Hulk Hogan one time, the two refused to break character, resulting in arrests all around.
43. South Carolina
After his wife dumped him, Terry Cottle shot himself in the head, and his heart was transplanted into South Carolinian Sonny Graham. Years later, Sonny shot himself in the head ... after getting dumped ... by the same woman who dumped Terry.
44. South Dakota
Mount Rushmore wasn't supposed to just be four heads carved into the mountain. It was planned to feature giant bodies of all four men.
After years of election fraud in Athens, Tennessee, GIs returning from World War II vowed to clean up the place. Authorities responded by arresting them. So the GIs armed themselves, laid siege to the jail, blew it up with dynamite, and seized the ballot boxes, uncovering proof of the fraud.
Texas decides what textbooks the entire country uses. The Texas State Board of Education, just 15 people, review and approve books for the state, and publishers nationwide conform to these choices for simplicity's sake.
In 1996, Utah put a video store owner on trial for selling porn. His lawyer successfully defended him by proving that the county rented more porn than the rest of the nation on average, so his client wasn't violating community norms.
49. The Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands are a great place to set up your ridiculous virtual business. That's what Concordia College and University did. One manager who claimed a degree from the place wound up in court, and the opposing lawyer proved the college wasn't legit by getting an easy degree from it ... for his dog.
It's possible to play music by banging on rocks. For the greatest example of this, travel to Luray Caverns in Virginia, where an organ uses stalactites spanning 3.5 acres to send sound resonating through 64 acres of caves.
Canada bombed Washington state in 1962. They didn't mean to. It was supposed to just be a training exercise, but they ended up showering the town of Clallam Bay with live ammunition.
52. Washington, D.C.
The Washington monument looks like it must have been easier to build than most buildings, or even most monuments with complex statuary. But the thing took 30 years to construct. The quarry supplying the rock went bust, an earthquake hit the building site, and oh yeah, the nation had a civil war.
53. West Virginia
West Virginia is home to the Greenbrier bunker, an underground facility for the government to flee to when nuclear bombs wipe out D.C. When journalists discovered the bunker, FEMA sent contractors to destroy the machine guns and grenade launchers they'd stashed there.
In the '50s, government scientists considered burying enough electrical cables beneath Wisconsin to turn 41 percent of the state into a giant radio transmitter. Tests succeeded, and they would have gone through with it but for the protests from locals.