70 Weird History Facts That Have To Be Read To Be Believed

The world we live in is a weird and wonderful place with a rich history stretching back centuries. Over the years there have been many strange and interesting historical events and moments. Many of these have changed the course of history, while others are small footnotes in civilization. All these moments in time have created a raft of weird history facts that many of you probably aren’t even aware of. 

For instance, did you know that turkeys were once worshipped as gods? Or how about the fact Pope Gregory IV declared a war on cats during the 13th century? These are just a handful of the weird historical facts you will discover in this fascinating article that is sure to surprise, shock, and above all educate. 

70 Weird History Facts That Have To Be Read To Be Believed

Henry VIII King of England

Glynsimages2013 / Shutterstock.com

1. Napoleon was once attacked by a horde of bunny rabbits.

The great French leader organized a rabbit hunt. Around 3,000 rabbits were gathered together and released, but instead of trying to escape, they charged at Napoleon and his men. While nobody was hurt, the event did embarrass the great leader. 

2. Yellowstone may not be the first national park.

While most consider Yellowstone the first official national park, there are those who think Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is the first. It was the first federally protected piece of land in the United States, although it wasn’t awarded national park status until some 50 years later. 

3. King Henry VIII of England was a hypochondriac and a doctor. 

What a combination. Henry lived his life in fear of getting ill, and when he did, he self-prescribed his own concoctions that he believed would cure him. 

4. Both Egyptian men and women wore makeup.

While this might not be big news these days, when people discovered Egyptian men also wore makeup it caused a bit of a stir. It was usually worn during rituals but also known to ward off flies and protect the skin from the sun. 

5. A Great Dane named Juliana was awarded the Blue Cross Medal during World War II.

She put out an incendiary bomb by urinating on it. Clever girl. 

6. The Olympics used to award medals for art.

These medals were given out for literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, and music from 1912 to 1948.

7. Alexander the Great was accidentally buried alive.

Scientists believe the great ruler suffered from a neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. What this does is paralyze the body and make you unable to speak. So while Alexander was ill, it’s believed he may have actually been alive when he was buried, which is why it took six days before his body began to show signs of decomposition. 

8. Native Americans and African Americans served during World War I.

Despite not being recognized as citizens, almost 13,000 Native Americans fought during World War I. Over 200,00 African Americans were also recruited, although most were used for labor and didn’t see combat. 

9. There were female gladiators in Ancient Rome.

While most of us think only men competed, there were numerous females who were gladiators. They went by the names Gladiatrix or Gladiatrices but were very rare.

10. Pope Gregory IV declared a war on cats.

During the 13th century, Pope Gregory IV called black cats an instrument of Satan and decided they should all be killed. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan, as the lack of cats meant the rat population increased, as did the plague. 

11. The US government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition.

To make sure stopped drinking, the American government began poisoning industrial alcohol that was often stolen and sold by bootleggers. It’s estimated around 10,000 people died as a result of this. 

12. Many believe Ching Shih was the most successful pirate in the world.

A former prostitute in China, Ching Shih became a marauder on the high seas when she was bought by the commander of the Red Flag Fleet. He married Shih and the two formed a formidable duo. When her husband died, Shih took over the fleet and ruled the seas during the 19th century. 

13. The Avengers were also a team of Nazi hunters.

These real-life superheroes were a group of Jewish assassins who hunted Nazis after World War II. They killed an astounding 2,283 Germans associated with the Third Reich. 

14. Nobody said the Titanic was unsinkable.

This misconception comes from the James Cameron movie. Nobody actually thought it couldn’t be sunk.

15. A staggering one-third of soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants, and nearly one in ten was African American.

The Union forces were truly multicultural. Irish, Germans, French, Italian, English, Polish, and Scottish soldiers all fought for the Union, with many scholars believing the introduction of African American soldiers in 1963 helped turn the tide of the war. 

16. The American flag was created by a 17-year-old.

Robert G. Heft was the boy who came up with the design in 1958 as part of a school project. He only got a B- for his flag.

17. Captain Morgan was a real guy.

Captain Morgan rum is named after an actual human being. The real-life Morgan was a Welsh privateer who joined forces with the English to battle the Spanish in the Caribbean during the 1660s and 1670s. He was said to have died a very rich man. 

18. Richard Nixon was an accomplished musician.

If he wasn’t obsessed with power and being President, Richard Nixon may have had a successful career as a musician. He played five instruments (piano, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, and violin) and even serenaded his wife with a rendition of My Wild Irish Rose at the famous Grand Ole Opry.

19. The Sphinx was built to protect the Great Pyramids.

In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx, which has the body of a lion and the head of a human, was erected to protect the pyramids and tombs of the dead. 

20. Abraham Lincoln was a wrestling champion.

No, not like the WWE, but amateur wrestling. He only lost once in 300 odd fights during his wrestling career. 

21. King Tutankhamun was most likely accidentally killed.

While his corpse was found to have a blow to the head, it’s believed this occurred after King Tutankhamun’s death. Most historians think King Tut broke his leg and got an infection, leading to his death at age 19.

22. The first American killed in World War II was taken out by a German bomb.

Captain Robert Moffat Losey, an aeronautical meteorologist, was killed during the bombing of Norway.

23. Ulysses S Grant helped take down the Ku Klax Klan.

While they are still a force today, during the 1870s Ulysses S Grant brought thousands of indictments against the Klan, almost ending them for good. 

24. The Bloody Mary was originally called The Red Snapper

The much-loved cocktail was first crafted by Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan. He called it The Red Snapper, but this eventually changed to the Bloody Mary, named after the bloody reign of Queen Mary Tudor.

25. The Great Pyramid of Khufu was once the world’s tallest structure.

For 3,800 years the Great Pyramid, which had an original height of 480 feet tall, was the world’s tallest structure. It was knocked off the top spot by the Lincoln Cathedral in 1300 AD.

26. More American soldiers died in the American Civil War than in any other conflict. 

625,000 men perished during the conflict, more than in WW I, War World II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War combined. 

27.  George Washington opened a whiskey distillery after his presidency.

By 1799 it was one of the largest distilleries in the country but burned down after his death in 1814. 

28. Thomas Edison held over 1,000 patents.

He acquired an incredible 1,093 patents for his long list of inventions. His first, the Electrographic Vote-Recorder machine, was passed over by the government. 

29. The yo-yo was invented by the Ancient Greeks.

Ancient Greece is responsible for many impressive inventions, but none quite as amusing as the yo-yo. Scientists found the yo-yo way back in 500 BC, making it the second oldest toy of all time. 

30. Cleopatra was not Egyptian.

Believe it or not, the Egyptian Queen was actually of Greek heritage. 

31. The FBI spied on Albert Einstein for decades. 

After arriving on American shores and being outed as a supporter of the civil rights movement and left-wing organizations, FBI director J Edgar Hoover decided to keep tabs on the famous scientist. They compiled a 1,427-page document on Einstein and his life while in the United States. 

32. Thomas Jefferson helped make ice cream popular in America.

While he wasn’t responsible for the spread of ice cream, Thomas Jefferson’s love of it helped make more people aware of the frozen delight. 

33. A Welsh town holds the record for the town with the longest name in Europe.

The United Kingdom town goes by the name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllllandysiliogogogoch.

34. Queen Victoria was the first Queen to live at Buckingham Palace. 

As soon as she came to power, Queen Victoria moved into the place, making her the first reigning monarch to do so. 

35. During World War II, American soldiers got 22 sheets of toilet paper per day.

The British only got three sheets.

36. The Egyptians used moldy bread as medicine.

Ancient Egypt was an incredible place. They discovered moldy bread could be used to treat infections, although it wasn’t always a success. 

37. The shortest war in history lasted just 38 minutes.

Known as the Anglo-Zanzibar War, it took place between the British and the Zanzibans. The British won. 

38. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin were all nominated for the Nobel Prize. 

Fortunately, none of these evil men ever won the award. 

39. Stonehenge is older than the Pyramids.

Yep, you read that correctly. One of the UK’s most visited tourist attractions apparently appeared some 700 years before the Ancient Egyptian pyramids were erected. 

40. Abraham Lincoln was also a licensed bartender.

Not only was Abe a successful wrestler and President, but he could whip up a mean cocktail. 

41. The Great Fire of London almost destroyed the entire city. 

Burning from Sunday, September 2 to Thursday, September 6, 1666, the fire took out many famous London landmarks, including the Royal Exchange, Guildhall, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

42. George Washington wasn’t the first face to appear on the American $1 bill. 

It was actually Salmon P. Chase, who was the Secretary of Treasury and the designer of America’s first bank notes. No wonder he put his face on it. 

43. The Soviet Union ran out of vodka after WWII. 

People celebrated the victory so hard that just 22 hours after the war ended Russia had run out of vodka. 

44. Tablecloths were designed as shared napkins.

People would use the tablecloth to wipe their hands and faces after eating. 

45. Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed was the most famous female serial killer.

She and her four servants were believed to have tortured and killed hundreds of women and young girls over a 20-year period. Rumors persist she would bathe in the blood of her victims, but these claims are unsubstantiated.  

46. The Ancient Romans used stale urine as mouthwash. 

As disgusting as it sounds, the ammonia in urine helps disinfect mouths and whiten teeth. We don’t advise you try this at home. 

47. Using forks was once seen as scandalous. 

This was because they were seen as “artificial hands” and thus sacrilegious. 

48. Christopher Columbus didn’t actually discover America.

That award goes to Norse explorer Leif Erikson. He first made it to American shores in the 10th century. 

49. The witches on trial at the Salem Witch Trials weren’t actually burned at the stake. 

Most were jailed while some were hanged and others set free. 

50. Cars weren’t invented in America.

While most people think it was Henry Ford who led the automobile revolution, the first car was actually built by Europeans Karl Benz and Emile Levassor.

51. Winston Churchill smoked eight to ten cigars a day.

How he made it to 90 years of age is anyone’s guess. 

52. The 1929 Wall Street crash didn’t cause a multitude of suicides. 

For years many people stated that the crash caused dozens of people to take their lives. There were only two recorded deaths when the crash happened. 

53. Early dentures were made using the teeth of dead soldiers. 

Dentists would run out onto the battlefield after the fighting stopped to grab the teeth of dead soldiers. Very morbid. 

54. Former American President Calvin Coolidge had two pet lions. 

They were a gift from the South African government and were named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau. 

55. A woman was elected to congress before she could vote.

Ridiculous right? Jeanette Rankin joined Congress in 1916, four years before women got the right to vote. 

56. Walt Disney’s body is not cryogenically frozen. 

While rumors have persisted for years that Walt Disney’s head was cryogenically frozen, this is untrue. He was actually created. He’s as dead as a doornail. 

57. The Iron Maiden isn’t actually real.

No, not the band but the torture device. It was actually the invention of writers looking to paint a depressing picture of the Middle Ages. 

58. Over 600 assassination attempts were made on Fidel Castro’s life. 

The Cuban dictator somehow managed to avoid all of them, dying peacefully in his bed at the age of 90 in November 2016.

59. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day.

The second and third Presidents of the United States of America both passed away on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826, 

60. When Krakatoa erupted in 1883 it was so loud it ruptured people’s eardrums who were 40 miles away.

It was heard up to 3,000 miles away, which is the equivalent of being in New York and hearing a sound in San Fransisco. 

61. A baboon worked for the South African railways.

Jack was the pet monkey of signalman James Wide. After losing his legs in a train accident, he acquired Jack and taught him to help with his job. The baboon was eventually employed by the railway and during his nine years, not one accident occurred. 

62. Heroin was once prescribed by doctors to treat ailments.

People suffering from headaches to coughs were given heroin to treat their problems. 

63. Crazy Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus once made his favorite horse a senator. 

Caligula loved his horse Incitatus so much that he promoted him to a position of power in the Senate. While this story is widely disputed, we like to think it’s true. 

64. Adolf Hitler had a handing the creation of the VW Beetle. 

The Nazi party took control of Volkswagen and planned on creating an automobile for all Germans. Just as the car was preparing to go into production, the war broke out and it never saw the light of day. 

65. One in every 200 men is related to Genghis Khan. 

Geneticists discovered that more than 16 million men in central Asia are related to the great leader. 

66. The Dutch – Scilly War lasted 335 years without one battle or casualty. 

When the Dutch turned up in the Isles of Scilly seeking reparation from the Royalists, they declared war when nothing was forthcoming. Discovering they had no money, the Dutch quickly moved on but forgot all about the war. 

67. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was never straight.

When construction began on the second level it started to tilt due to the weak ground it was built on. That didn’t stop them from building the tower of course, with the completed tower featuring seven floors and a four-degree lean. 

68. Ronald Regan was a lifeguard before entering politics. 

He reportedly saved 77 people during his days in the water. 

69. Iceland has the oldest parliament in history. 

The Althing has been going since 930 and continues to rule Iceland today. 

70. Turkeys were once worshipped as gods.

The Mayans believed turkeys had great power and used to worship them. According to Mayan specialists Ana Luisa Izquierdo y de la Cueva and María Elena Vega Villalobos, the turkey  “was conceived of…as being gifted with exceptional powers, which could be harmful to human from the nocturnal and dream space.”