Out-of-the-Ordinary Historical Facts

When you take a step outside our familiar historical narratives, the ones passed down to us by our school textbooks, you’ll find that there are a few interesting anecdotes that simply slipped through the cracks.

  1. Peter Freuchen was an Arctic explorer, among many other things, and, on one of his expeditions, he became trapped under snow after an avalanche. He escaped death by fashioning a shiv out of his own faeces and using it to amputate his foot!
  2. In Ancient Egypt, the pharaoh’s slaves were smeared with honey to attract flies away from their master.
  3. Bavarian Roman Catholics established a secret society in the 1740s, the Order of the Pug. Those interested in joining had to wear a dog collar and then scratch at the door to get in.
  4. As recent as the immediate access the internet grants to things as disparate as online bingo NZ, free university courses, and funny pictures of dogs and cats may seem, the first fax was sent while there were still people travelling the Oregon Trail.
  5. Henry VIII of England employed Grooms of the Stool. Their job was to wipe his bottom! During his reign, he employed four Grooms of the Stool, and each man was granted a knighthood for his trouble.
  6. Until the early parts of the 20th century, Mongolian criminals could be locked inside a wooden box as punishment. They were sometimes left there and died of starvation.
  7. In the Victorian era, people photographed relatives after they’d died, often posing them in lifelike positions.
  8. Women in Renaissance France could take their husbands to court for impotence.
  9. Frank Hayes holds the remarkable record of winning the New York Belmont Park horse race despite being dead. The jockey had a heart-attack mid-race, but because his body stayed in the saddle for its duration, when his horse crossed the finish line for a 20:1 outside victory it counted!
  10. Every single British tank since 1945 has within it tea-making equipment.
  11. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin were each nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
  12. One of the most successful pirates in history was Ching Shih, a Chinese prostitute. She commanded 80 000+ sailors and a fleet 1 500 ships strong.
  13. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima the day the USA dropped the first atomic bomb. He made haste to Nagasaki, his home, the day before the second atomic bomb was dropped. He survived both events and lived on to become 93-years old.
  14. The Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, nicknamed Caligula, made one of his favourite horses a member of the senate.
  15. The town of Salem, in New Jersey, held a trial against tomatoes in 1820 because it was widely believed that they were poisonous. After a Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate a basket of these without suffering any ill consequence the trial was ended.
  16. While Pope Gregory IX was in power, he decreed that cats were an essential element of devil worship and called for their extermination across Europe. It’s now believed that this was one of the direct causes of the bubonic plague which swept Europe and wiped up 30% to 60% of the population. The lack of cats helped rats proliferate and thus the disease was spread.

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