While any history student learned about Abraham Lincoln and World War II, how many of us know that Lincoln was a champion fighter or that Franklin Roosevelt approved a plan to bombard the Japanese Imperial Army with bombs attached to bats?
When we step outside the familiar historical narratives transmitted by the textbooks we all read at school, we realize how many interesting facts slipped through the cracks. Discover some of the strangest and most fascinating History Facts You Won’t Learn Anywhere Else.
25. In 1926, Arctic explorer Peter Freuchen was trapped under an avalanche during an expedition. He escaped from death by fashioning a shiv out of his own feces and amputating his foot.
24. In ancient Egypt, servants were smeared with honey to attract Pharaoh’s flies.
23. Bavarian Roman Catholics founded in 1740 a secret society called the Order of the Pug. The new members had to wear dog collars and scratch the door to enter.
22. The first fax was sent while people were still traveling on the Oregon Trail.
21. Henry VIII of England had people called “Grooms of Stool” whose job it was to clear the bottom. During his reign, he had four of these people, all of whom were knighted.
20. Before Abraham Lincoln became a politician, he was a champion fighter. With more than 300 fights under his belt, Lincoln lost just one fight in his career and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.
19. Until the early twentieth century, in Mongolia, criminals could be locked in a wooden box as punishment, sometimes left to die of starvation.
18. In the Victorian era, it was popular for people to photograph their relatives after their death, often putting them in real poses.
17. In Renaissance France, a woman could take her husband to court if he had no power.
16. In 1923, jockey Frank Hayes won a race in Belmont Park, New York, despite being dead. He suffered a heart attack in the middle of the race, but his body remained in the saddle until the horse crossed the line for a 20-1 outsider victory.
15. All British tanks since 1945 include tea-making equipment.
14. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
13. One of the most successful pirates in history was a Chinese prostitute named Ching Shih. She commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships and 80,000 sailors.
12. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb was dropped. He then traveled to his home in Nagasaki the day before the second atomic bomb was dropped. He survived both and lived to be 93 years old.
11. The Roman emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula, turned one of his favorite horses into a senator.
10. On his deathbed, Voltaire was asked to renounce Satan by a visiting priest. He replied, “This is not the time to create new enemies.”
9. The town of Salem, New Jersey, once held a trial of tomatoes in 1820 due to the widespread belief that they were poisonous. The case ended after Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate a basket of tomatoes without ill consequences.
8. While Pope Gregory IX was in power, he declared that cats were associated with devil worship and exterminated them throughout Europe. The disappearance of cats is believed to have helped mice proliferate and spread bubonic plague.
7. Potatoes were only introduced to Ireland in the late 16th century after being discovered by Spanish conquistadors in Peru.
6. Jeanette Rankin became the first female member of Congress in the United States in 1916, four years before women could vote.
5. Despite popular rumors, Elvis Presley had severe constipation that plagued him throughout his life. In fact, he died while pooping due to a condition called “megacolon”.
4. In 1942, the United States Army fired 1,400 anti-aircraft bullets during what was thought to be a Japanese air raid over Los Angeles County. It turned out to be a false alarm. Five civilians died as an indirect result.
3. In 1493, Columbus thought he saw mermaids: “they were not as beautiful as they are portrayed, because somehow, apparently, they look like men.” It is suspected that he saw a manatee.
2. At the height of his popularity, Charlie Chaplin participated in a competition similar to Charlie Chaplin in San Francisco. He came in 20th place.
1. Chickens may have been first domesticated by humans for cockfighting, not for food.