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Weird Facts

The world’s history books teach us about famous figures, ancient civilizations and important events that have shaped our world. But there is so much more to history than just the ‘big moments’. History is full of weird and wonderful tales, bizarre events, quirky people, and strange happenings, and it is these ‘weird facts’ that bring to life our past in a way that is fun, amusing and sometimes shocking!

Outside picture, taken in 2020, of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan a hot spring hotel in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan (Boltor / CC by SA 4.0)

Hot Spring Hotel in Japan Has Been Run by the Same Family for 1,300 Years!

Now this is family dedication – a hotel that has been passed down 52 generations of one Japanese family over more than 13 centuries! The hot spring Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel in Japan’s Yamanashi...
Pied Piper of Hamelin. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock

The Pied Piper is a True Story and The Piper Stole 130 Children!

Many would have heard the childhood tale of the Pied Piper who freed a town of rats by leading them away with his music and, when he wasn’t paid, he returned and led away the town’s children, who...
Ancient Egyptian mummy photographed at the archaeological museum of Florence. Source: Massimiliano / Adobe Stock

Ancient Egyptian Worker Took Sick Leave to Embalm his Mother

The British Museum houses a tablet which provides a peek into work-life balance in ancient Egypt. It documents the number of sick days and why 40 workers took time off from their workplace in 1250 BC...
Legend has it that Robert the Bruce was inspired to continue his struggle for Scottish independence by a spider in a cave. Source: pedro / Adobe Stock

A Spider Had a Leading Role in the Story of Scottish Independence

Inspiration can come in all shapes and sizes. But the story of the downtrodden Scottish national hero Robert the Bruce, who ruled Scotland in the 14th century, being motivated to continue his...
Traditional mince pies. Source: Magdalena Bujak / Adobe Stock

Did Oliver Cromwell Really Ban Mince Pies in England?

Oliver Cromwell was an English commander and politician who helped overthrow the Stuart monarchy during the era of the English Civil War and then served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of...
Depiction of a knight vs snail battle from Brunetto Latini's Li Livres dou Tresor from circa 1315 to 1325. Source: British Library

Medieval Manuscripts Are Full of Knights Fighting Snails

The next time you’re looking through an illuminated manuscript, keep an eye out for images of medieval knights fighting off snails. Of all the villains in the world, these may not have been the first...
Mansa Musa’s travels through Egypt changed the country’s economy for over a decade. Source: HistoryNmoor/CC BY-SA 4.0

Mansa Musa, History’s Richest Man, Wrecked Egypt’s Economy Just by Passing Through

In 2022, Forbes has named Elon Musk as the richest person in the world today. But his $219 billion is said to be nothing compared to the tremendous wealth of a 14th Century West African ruler named...
Ancient Greek-style illustration of naked Olympic runners. Source: sebos / Adobe Stock

Naked Olympics: Athletes at the Ancient Olympics Competed in the Nude

Can you imaging sitting down with the family to watch a group of naked men, with their olive oil-soaked bodies glistening in the sunshine, running around and flexing their muscles? A great deal has...
The Stoic philosopher Chrysippus is said to have died laughing. Image of man laughing taken from the Judge Magazine Cover published on February 4th, 1922. Source: Public domain

Chrysippus Died Laughing at His Own Deadly Joke

We’ve all heard the expression “to die laughing” to refer to a bout of uncontrollable laughter. But did you know that it actually happens? When looking at the Hellenistic bust of Chrysippus housed at...
Halley’s Comet was seen as a harbinger of doom for the English subjects of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. This watercolor is entitled The Comet of 1532. Source: Science Museum / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Halley’s Comet Prophesized the Battle of Hastings in 1066

When it came to the sighting of comets and meteors, experienced as eerie apparitions in the sky, ancient cultures understood them as omens sent by the gods. Without the benefits of modern-day science...
Queen Christina of Sweden kept a specially made tiny flea cannon to ward of tiny intruders. Source: Public domain

Queen Christina of Sweden Kept an Itty-Bitty Flea Cannon by Her Bed

If you haven’t heard of the renegade 17th century Queen Christina of Sweden, you’re in for a treat. Remembered for breaking gender norms and abdicating the throne to avoid marriage, Queen Christina...
Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII ("Pope Formosus and Stephen VII"), 1870. Source: Public domain

​In 897 AD a Dead Pope Was Dug Up and His Rotting Corpse Put on Trial

The ‘Cadaver Trial’ of the dead Pope Formosus would have to be one of the most absurd events in Rome’s history. Nine months after the Pope died, his body was exhumed and his rotting corpse was placed...
Portrait of Michelangelo by Jacopino del Conte. Source: Public domain

Despite His Divine Artworks, Michelangelo Had A Dirty Secret

While most people have heard of Michelangelo , the majority have no idea that he had some pretty filthy habits. Nicknamed Il Divino (“the divine one”) by his contemporaries, Michelangelo was a master...
Tutankhamun’s condom.	Source: Cairo Museum, Egypt

Tutankhamun Used Condoms Made from Oil-Soaked Linen

When Tutankhamun’s tomb was first discovered in 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter was stunned by the astonishing array of grave goods – more than 5,000 artifacts were left for the boy king to use in...
Skull on medieval tombstone. Source: devnenski / Adobe Stock

Soul-Destroying Job of a Sin-Eater Was to Consume the Sins of the Deceased

The Middle Ages had its fair share of terrible jobs, from cesspit cleaners to rat catchers and even royal bottom-wipers , but few were as soul-destroying as the job of a sin-eater, who carried the...
While the term freelancer was coined in the 19th century, freelancing mercenaries have been a reality of warfare throughout history. In the image, tournament lancers from the Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg. Source: Met Museum / Public domain

The Word ‘Freelancer’ Originates with Medieval Mercenaries

Even though the word freelancer often feels omnipresent, very few know its etymology. In fact, freelancers have been around for a long time. The word freelancer has been traced back to Sir Walter...
A man playing a fantastic pig organ, or piganino, composed of screaming pigs. Source: British Museum / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Louis XI Enjoyed an Abominable Orchestra of Squealing Pigs - the Piganino

Believe it or not, but it appears that the ruthless 15th century King Louis XI of France, nicknamed the Spider King or l'universelle araignée , took pleasure in the torture of animals. One particular...
Main: Portrait of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. (Public domain). Inset: A sandwich. Source: Mikhaylovskiy / Adobe Stock

The Beloved Sandwich Was Invented by The Earl of Sandwich!

I’m pretty sure that the 18th century Earl of Sandwich, Lord John Montagu, would have been miffed to discover that despite his long and varied career as a statesman, during which he was Postmaster...
Royal children were untouchable, so whipping boys would be punished on their behalf. Source: liyasov / Adobe Stock

Whipping Boys Were Kids Spanked in Place of an ‘Untouchable’ Young Prince

In many corners of the globe, aristocrats and nobles, kings and young princes, were all deemed to be ‘ untouchable ’ and protected by divine right . To lay one’s hand on a nobleman or noble child was...
King of Malaysia Yang di-Pertuan Agong (center). Source: Wazari Wazir / Flickr

Malaysia Has a Rotating Monarchy Where 9 Royal Families Take Turns to Rule

Malaysia has one of the most interesting political systems, which, although a modern construct, is rooted in pre-colonial historical origins. With eight sultans and one raja (king) swapping the...
John King was the youngest pirate known to history. Source: Fxquadro / Adobe Stock

Child Pirate of the Caribbean: John King Was Just 11 When he Joined Infamous Pirate Crew

Nearly 300 years before the first Pirates of the Caribbean film fuelled the imagination of young, modern minds with exciting pirate adventures, a young boy named John King was living the life of a...

The World Only Knows About Marco Polo Because of His Ghostwriter Prison Cell Mate

Marco Polo may be a household name, but few know that his famous literary masterpiece, The Travels of Marco Polo , was not only written while he was in prison, but was penned by somebody else. Marco...
Arrichion of Phigalia was actually dead when he was declared the winner of the 564 BC Olympics after a pankration battle. The pankration scene on this kylix depicts a pankratists trying to gouge out his opponent’s eye. Source: Public domain

Arrichion of Phigalia Won the Olympics When He Was Already Dead

One of the prerequisites for winning at the Olympics is to actually be alive. Or so I thought! The story of Arrichion of Phigalia, an Olympic wreath winner famed for his post-mortem victory, is one...
Zeno was buried alive. Source: alswart / Adobe Stock

Emperor Zeno Was Accidentally Buried Alive and His Wife Refused to Save Him

Flavius Zeno was a 5th century Roman Emperor, whose reign was plagued by domestic revolts and religious dissention, and it appears that he was just as unlucky in death as he was in life! According to...

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