12 Formidable and Elusive Bits of Trivia That Will Terrorize Your 18th-Century French Mountain Village

12 Formidable and Elusive Bits of Trivia That Will Terrorize Your 18th-Century French Mountain Village

Why is everyone laughing?! I travel to your court to enlist your help in capturing the cunning and colossal beast that’s been terrorizing my village for years — and all you can do is laugh? 

Look, I know it looks cute in my illustration, but trust me, this creature is a ruthless killer! It’s devoured more than a hundred of my kinfolk! It tears out the throats of men, women and children alike! It crushed a man’s head as if it were a watermelon!

That’s no “smile,” sir, it’s the wicked grin of the devil himself! And I most certainly did not draw a “fuzzy widdle guy giving mama a kiss.” This creature attempted to rent in twain the skull of the innkeeper’s wife with its dreadful maw!

This is no “scrunkly doggo.” This is the Beast of Gévaudan!

A Trucker Bought a Jackson Pollock for Five Bucks

In 1991, big rig trucker Teri Horton bought the dumpiest piece of art she could find at a thrift store, intending to give it as a gag gift. Someone told her it looked a whole lot like a bona fide Jackson Pollock, and she later had it confirmed by a forensic art expert. She was offered as much as $9 million for it, but held out for something closer to $50 million. Horton passed away in 2019 without ever striking a deal, but instructed her son: “Sell that damn painting, but don’t you dare give it away.” (Source)

Rest Easy, Elon Musk: Google Had the Lamest Name in Tech History

Back when it was still just a little passion project, Larry Page and Sergey Brin referred to their search engine as, ugh, BackRub. Imagine a world where instead of “googling” stuff, we all casually announce that we’re gonna “rub one out.” It was a reference to “back links,” the count of links to a given website from other places on the internet, which was the secret sauce of their budding search technology. To their credit, they decided to change the name the second they realized they might have a viable product on their hands. (Source)

Trying to Suck Water from an 11-Meter Tube? Good Luck With That, Buddy

First of all, your puny mouth muscles could never form a vacuum tight enough to pull off a stunt like that. But say you want to use the natural force of siphoning: It’s impossible to siphon water with a tube any longer than 10.3 meters, because the water pressure becomes so low that it instantly boils. Now, obviously, degassing the water before siphoning can prevent cavitation, but who’s got the time for that? (Source)

2007 Was a Banner Year for Webster’s Dictionary

Webster’s announces 10 Words of the Year each year, and they were really feeling their oats in 2007, with bangers like:

  • #8 Pecksniffian (adjective): Hypocritically benevolent.
  • #6 sardoodledom (noun): A play with an overly contrived and melodramatic plot.
  • #1 w00t (interjection): Expressing joy. (Source)

It’s Not Technically Illegal to Escape Prison in Some Countries

Sweden, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria all see the desire for freedom as a fundamental part of human nature. If you escape from prison, they’ll obviously, ya know, try to get you back. But the justice system tends to see the whole ordeal as egg on their face, and they won’t legally penalize you for the escape itself. (Source)

A Big Spooky Puppy Dog Terrorized France for Three Years in the 18th Century

The Beast of Gévaudan was most likely an especially huge and vicious wolf, but people at the time couldn’t decide whether it was a cow-sized dog, a freak hyena, a straight-up werewolf or maybe just a really sick bear. It attacked hundreds of villagers, and when it killed, it did so with remarkable brutality. We’re talkin’ skull crushing, decapitation, and when it was finally taken down, an autopsy reportedly found its last victim had been swallowed whole, Big Bad Wolf-style. (Source)

Alan Shepard Took a Dollar Bill to Space to Prove He Was the Same Guy

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is pretty hung up on being able to confirm that the person who steps out of a spaceship is the same one who stepped in, for the sake of record-keeping. But in 1961, they didn’t have the technology to track it definitively, or the means to travel from the lift-off to the touch-down locations in the 15 minutes the spaceship was flying. They decided to just give Alan Shepard a dollar bill, and make sure the serial number matched when he climbed out. (Source)

Fish Sperm Is Fireproof

Other publications will lead with a headline like “Your DNA Is Fireproof!” But we want to make sure you know what’s really going on. If a scientist ever tells you “DNA can be considered as a natural flame retardant and suppressant,” what they mean is: They slathered a cotton ball with herring sperm and failed to light it on fire. (Source)

You Can’t Smell Water, But Elephants Can

Sure, you can smell the ocean, and maybe you can tell if there’s a stagnant pond nearby. But elephants have a distinct type of scent detection that you don’t have, which allows them to detect chemicals. They can smell H2O from about 12 miles away. (Source)

Snails Have Teeth — More Than You Want to Know About

Sorry to be the ones who have to tell you this, but snails can have up to 15,000 teeth jangling around in their horrid, mucous-y little orifices. (Source)

A Sewer Worker Failed to Meet His Robin Hood Moment

In 1836, a guy was rooting around in the poop chutes of London when he realized he could access a gold vault deep in the bowels of the Bank of England. Instead of single-handedly redistributing England’s wealth, he told the bank directors he’d meet them in the vault at a designated time, and sure enough, popped up out of the floorboards and scared the bullion out of them. They rewarded his honesty with a gold bar or two, and then continued hoarding the world’s wealth. Great work, buddy! (Source)

Paul Bunyan Was Two Canadians in a Trenchcoat

Bad news first: Paul Bunyan was 100 percent Canadian. Sorry, Wisconsin Historical Society, calling him “America’s best-known folk hero” is a bit of a misnomer. But the good news is: He was a real guy! Actually, two real guys! His height and lumberjack-ness are likely based on hulking 19th century ax-wielder Fabian Fournier, and his name is probably the French-Canadian pronunciation of storied soldier Paul Bon Jean. (Source)

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