55 Strange Facts About Famous Events From History
History contains a lot of stuff. Contains everything that humans ever did, in fact, and yet we mainly know only the highlights. And even looking at these highlights, we don't know all that much, as proven by the following facts that aren't common knowledge even though we really like telling them to people.
1. The French Revolution
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled the palace and tried to go incognito when revolution broke out. But a postman thought he recognized them, and he confirmed his suspicions by comparing the king's face to the one on banknotes.
2. The Iran Hostage Crisis
Iran kept 52 Americans hostage, which was a big deal. Such a big deal that the media largely ignored The Siege of Mecca, in which terrorists took 100,000 people hostage.
3. George V's death
King George V was euthanized. His staff wanted his death to make the morning papers rather than the evening ones, so they put him to death early with drugs, without his consent.
4. The Tet Offensive
People remember the Tet Offensive as a successful campaign by the North Vietnamese, which got the Americans to admit defeat. But the campaign cost the communists more than it gained them -- and yet the Americans used it as an excuse to leave because the war had lost too much support back home.
5. The Titanic
Harriet Quimby thought she'd make history by being the first female pilot to cross the English Channel. She should have picked a better day: With the Titanic having just sunk, no one cared about her flight at all.
6. The Titanic Aftermath
7. The Challenger Explosion
Following the explosion, teams spent nine weeks searching a wide area for bits of wreckage. In the process, they stumbled on a duffle bag with 25 kilos of cocaine.
8. Lewis And Clark's Expedition
Lewis and Clark ate their pet dogs. This wasn't even out of desperation -- they'd just grown tired of eating salmon.
9. The Manhattan Project
The scientists designing the A-bomb weren't so great when it came to safety standards. One guy accidentally swallowed their precious plutonium. They pumped his stomach and separated the plutonium back out.
10. World War I
Two drinking buddies, British Commander Edmund Rhoades and German Captain Berndt, found themselves on opposite sides when war broke out. So Rhoades fired at Berndt's ship, Berndt agreed to surrender, and the two went right back to drinking.
11. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Russia exited World War I in March 1918. They wanted a peasant present for symbolic reasons when they signed a treaty, so they grabbed a random old guy off the street to sit among the royalty. When they asked him whether he wanted red wine or white, he replied, "whichever one is strongest."
12. The Rise of Communism
When Stalin and Mao met in 1949, the Soviets disconnected the sewage lines to Mao's home, so they could collect his shit and secretly store it in boxes.
13. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
14. Live Aid
We like to remember Live Aid as the most successful charity concert of all time. But when you track where the proceeds went, often right into dictators' hands without stipulations and used to purchase arms, it's possible the concert killed more people than it saved.
15. The Entente Cordiale
In 1904, England and France signed an agreement that ended almost a thousand years of conflict. They did so because King Edward VII wanted to visit French brothels.
16. The Civil War
Multiple times during the war, a Union soldier and Confederate soldier got close enough to bare-knuckle box ... and the surrounding armies stopped fighting so they could watch the match.
17. The Civil War's Legacy
We were still paying a pension to one child of a Civil War soldier as recently as last year. Irene Triplett died last May, just 11 days after we wrote about her.
18. The Civil Rights Movement
Following the movement, psychiatrists began diagnosing Black men with schizophrenia much more often. Patients suffered from "delusional anti-whiteness," said doctors. Schizophrenia meant mandatory confinement.
19. The Hatfields-McCoy Feud
Records are vague about how this famous family feud started, but it now looks like the McCoys suffered from von Hippel-Lindau disease. This genetic condition creates tumors that cause "hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts."
20. The Battle of Thermopylae
21. Zoot Suit Riot
This event was immortalized by a swing revival song but is otherwise forgotten. Probably because it was a week-long series of hate crimes carried out by Navy men.
The Stonewall Inn's a national monument now, but don't imagine that it was an LGBT haven just because people used to meet there and drink. The Mafia ran it, and they made money blackmailing their customers.
23. The Race to the North Pole
Robert Peary is remembered as the first man to reach the North Pole. Really, he was a bumbling nut -- credit should go to his sled driver Matthew Henson, who not only dragged him there like he was cargo for most of the trip but reached the pole 45 minutes before Peary.
24. The Race to the South Pole
If you're from a country that ever had ties to England, you likely learned about Captain Robert Scott's heroic attempt to reach the Pole. Strange how you hear more about it than about Roald Amundsen, who beat him there by five weeks.
25. The Olympics
Ancient Olympians performed naked, as you may well know. To prevent erections, men tied their foreskins shut with a string called a kynodesme, which translates as "dog leash."
26. The Protestant Reformation
Why did Martin Luther get married? Because 12 nuns escaped from a convent, and their leader insisted on marrying Luther despite his own claims that he'd never marry.
27. The Scopes Monkey Trial
28. The Launch of Sputnik
The US was not actually crestfallen when Russia's launched a satellite. They were relieved. They'd had the technology to launch their own satellites but feared that doing so would invade international airspace and trigger a war. Sputnik let them know satellites were okay.
29. The Space Race
When testing the first spacesuit, things went wrong. Volunteer Jim LeBlanc was exposed to a total (artificially induced) vacuum. He didn't explode, but the staff did have to rush to save him from dying.
30. Reaching Space
After Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the Soviets weren't able to calculate where he'd land with much accuracy. He ended up surprising some potato farmers, who'd had no idea the space program existed.
We know that Ted Kennedy was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after driving his car off a bridge, killing the woman with him. But it didn't garner as much attention at the time as it might have ... because that same weekend, Apollo 11 reached the Moon.
32. The Lincoln Assassination
Lincoln had a bodyguard who was supposed to protect him that night at the theater. Instead, the guy left the theater and went to the bar next door for a drink.
33. The Lincoln Assassination Aftermath
Eleven days after the assassination, The Sultana sank, killing 1,800. The Sultana was already a famous ship, and more died than would later die in the Titanic, so this should have been a massive story, but the press was obsessed with John Wilkes Booth's death the day before.
34. World War II
35. The Blitz
Belfast sought to kill all its dangerous zoo animals, predicting that a bombing by the Germans would set them free and cause chaos. One zookeeper sneaked out an elephant, saving it, and it lived another 20 years.
36. North African Campaign
Both sides during World War II left landmines in the African desert -- tens of millions of landmines. The climate preserved them so well that in the 21st century, ISIS dug up minefields as sources for explosives.
37. Arctic Operations
Fighting in the Arctic, the Soviet Navy presented a British captain with a reindeer, so his wife would have a beast to help plow the snow. This was an inconvenient gift, but the British were too polite to reject it, so they took the deer into their sub and lived with it for six weeks.
Sure, it's impressive that so many soldiers managed to escape Dunkirk. But it was still one heck of a win for the Germans, who seized 84,000 vehicles the British had left behind, along with 657,000 tons of ammunition and supplies.
39. The Siege Of Leningrad
Russians turned to cannibalism during Leningrad's long siege. And this wasn't just a case of people cooking and eating the fallen dead. Gangs of cannibals roamed streets, and the police had to note two types of cannibalism: not just corpse-eating but also lyudoyedstvo, eating someone who flees from you.
40. The Bombing of Hiroshima
Treating radiation after the bombing led to the development of bone marrow transplants -- which have since been used for a bunch of conditions unrelated to nuclear warfare.
41. The Rumble In The Jungle
42. The AIDS Epidemic
Gaetan Dugas was considered patient zero for AIDS in America, meaning the guy who brought it here. But "patient zero" (a phrase that hadn't existed before) was just a misunderstanding of his actual designation, Patient O, where "O" stood for "out of California." AIDS was in the US years before he got infected.
43. Bill Clinton's Election
People remember Clinton playing the sax on Arsenio Hall to endear himself to the public. No one remembers his motive: He was distracting people from his sex scandal. No, not the one for which he'd be impeached -- the Gennifer Flowers one.
44. The Johnson Administration
Gerri Whittington was the first Black personal secretary to a president. To announce her appointment, Lyndon Johnson put her on What's My Line, a game show where contestants try to guess someone's profession.
45. The Age Of The Samurai
High-ranking samurai strapped giant balloons to their backs. They inflated this bag, called a horo, to protect them from arrows.
Woodstock was very much a money-making affair, not some kind of hippie dream. It started when Capitol Records answered an ad from investors reading, "Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions."
47. The Cold War
CIA agents in Moscow, knowing they were being tailed, kept inflatable sex dolls in their cars. They'd exit the car and inflate the doll, convincing the KGB agent intermittently watching them that the car was still occupied.
48. The Court of Charles VII
49. The Lindbergh Kidnapping
Authorities tortured a man to arrest him for the kidnapping. Real torture -- they tied him to a rack. He got the death penalty based on his tortured confession, which he ended up recanting.
50. The Kennedy Assassination
The KGB was involved in the assassination. Not in carrying it out, no. But in spreading conspiracy theories afterward to undermine the US government.
51. Charles Lindbergh's Flight
It's a bit odd how much attention Lindbergh's flight got. It wasn't the first nonstop transatlantic one (Alcock and Brown beat him by eight years) -- it was a sporting victory, not a technological one. So, you'd think the bigger story would be how, that same weekend, someone murdered 38 Michigan elementary school students. That's the biggest school mass killing, even today.
52. The Martin Luther King Assassination
April 4, 1968, was the day MLK was assassinated. The one silver lining is that he spent the earlier part of that day having fun by having a pillow fight with friends in his hotel.
53. Hurricane Katrina
One of the lesser-known effects of Katrina: More than 1,000 coffins floated out of their graves and tombs. The skeletons landed far from their burial sites, making identifying them a headache. New Orleans passed a new law afterward, demanding labels for coffins.
54. The Gold Rush
Gold wasn't the only way to make money when settlers headed to California. In 1851 and 1852, the state paid over a million dollars in bounties for killing or maiming Native Americans. One ad offered "$25 for a male body part, whether it was a scalp, a hand, or the whole body; and then $5 for a child or a woman."
55. The Great Fire of London