There are so many things in history that simply make sense. Someone marching into battle in the cold Russian winter in hopes of a victory only to meet a crushing loss? Someone coming into power on hate-filled rhetoric against a minority only to eventually commit unimaginable atrocities against the said minority? While some historical events might seem like an obvious outcome of one’s actions, sometimes things don’t exactly go the way we’d like to imagine.
Did you know that when Churchill sent in bombers to destroy German cities and break the morale of the people, the first bombing turned out to be a complete failure with the only real casualty being an elephant? Or that at some point in history, Pepsi owned 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer? If these facts piqued your interest, then this list is just for you. So scroll down below, indulge in these ridiculous historical facts, and, oh, don’t forget to comment and vote for your favorites!
The men’s marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics was a disaster. The first to arrive at the finish line was Fred Lorz, who had actually dropped out of the race after nine miles and hitched a ride back to the stadium in a car, waving at spectators and runners alike during the ride. When the car broke down at the 19th mile, Lorz re-entered the race and jogged across the finish line. After being hailed as the winner, he had his photograph taken with Alice Roosevelt, daughter of then-U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and was about to be awarded the gold medal when his subterfuge was revealed. Upon being confronted by officials, Lorz immediately admitted his deception, and despite his claims he was joking, the AAU responded by banning for a year. He later won the 1905 Boston Marathon.
Thomas Hicks ended up the winner of the event, although he was aided by measures that would not have been permitted in later years. Ten miles from the finish Hicks led the race by a mile and a half, but he had to be restrained from stopping and lying down by his trainers. From then until the end of the race, Hicks received several doses of strychnine (a common rat poison, which stimulates the nervous system in small doses) mixed with brandy. He continued to battle onwards, hallucinating, barely able to walk for most of the course. When he reached the stadium his support team carried him over the line, holding him in the air while he shuffled his feet as if still running. Hicks had to be carried off the track, and might have died in the stadium had he not been treated by several doctors. He lost eight pounds during the course of the marathon.
Another near-fatality during the event was William Garcia of the United States. He was found lying in the road along the marathon course with severe internal injuries caused by breathing the clouds of dust kicked up by the race officials’ cars. Postman Andarín Carvajal joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute. After losing all of his money in New Orleans, Louisiana, he hitchhiked to St. Louis and had to run the event in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. Not having eaten in 40 hours, he stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have strong stomach cramps and to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill from the apples and taking a nap, he finished in fourth place.
The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics: two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau and Jan Mashiani. Len Tau finished ninth and Mashiani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.
In 1983, one man prevented a nuclear war between the USSR and the USA. Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system when the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. Petrov judged the reports to be a false alarm, and his decision to disobey orders, against Soviet military protocol, is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in large-scale nuclear war. Investigation later confirmed that the Soviet satellite warning system had indeed malfunctioned.
At US President Andrew Jackson’s funeral in 1845, his pet parrot had to be removed because it was swearing loudly.
For over 3 decades, Canada and Denmark have been playfully fighting for control of a tiny island near Greenland called Hans Island. Every once in a while, when officials from each country visit, they leave a bottle of their country’s liquor.
In the early 90s, Pepsi owned 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer, all because of a deal with the Soviet Union in which they exchanged soda for military equipment.
During the II war with the Mithridates, the Romans, headed by Lucullus, laid siege to Themyscira. To overcome the walls of the fortress, the Romans decided to dig tunnels beneath the city. Defenders, seeing how successively the Romans were moving forward with the digging, decided to make their own trenches, where they allowed wild animals to enter the tunnels, including bears and bees, to attack the intruders.
In 1722, the readers of The Courant, a paper published in Boston, were captivated by letters sent in by a widow with a keen wit and a gift for satire, Mrs. Silence Dogood. In her letters, Mrs. Dogood poked fun at such illustrious institutions such as Harvard, therefore winning the hearts of many. For months no one knew the identity of Mrs. Dogood. Turns out, Silence Dogood was actually 16-year-old Benjamin Franklin, who worked as an apprentice in his brother’s print shop.
In 1943, the Canadian government temporarily declared a maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital to be extraterritorial. This was done because Dutch princess Margriet was born there after her parents fled the country during the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany. Making the maternity ward outside of the Canadian domain caused it to be unaffiliated with any jurisdiction and technically international territory. This was done to ensure that the newborn would derive her citizenship from her mother only, thus making her solely Dutch, which could have been very important if the child had been male, and as such, the heir of Princess Juliana.
Potatoes weren’t very popular in France at first. This changed when Antoine-Augustin Parmentier took matters into his own hands to promote the potato as a food source for humans in France. He’d surround his potato patch with guards during the day, to suggest valuable goods were growing there, and then remove the guards at night so people would come and steal the potatoes.
In 1908, there was a car race around the world that started in NYC. The route went from NYC to San Francisco, continuing to Valdez, Alaska, across the Bering Strait, through Russia and Europe, with the finish line in Paris.
Cars were relatively new, road infrastructure was limited to only metropolitan areas, and even then, a lot of it was cobbled stone. But what you might have thought is, how in the world can a car get across the Pacific? Duh, they would drive across the Bering Strait during the winter when it froze into an ice bridge, silly!
The race began in February of 1908 and immediately ran into challenges. To list a few; cars breaking down multiple times, lack of usable roads, car-hating people giving wrong directions, and, oh yeah, SNOW.
The first team reached San Francisco in 41 days, but quickly realized that the proposed route from San Francisco to Alaska did not exist. So the organizers allowed teams to ship their cars to Valdez, Alaska, then continue on the Ice Bridge.
Once in Valdez, the teams found out that there is, in fact, no ice bridge across the Bering Strait anymore, because it melted ~20,000 YEARS AGO. Small oversight. Organizers then allowed teams to ship their cars across the Pacific to Japan, then Russia, to carry on.
Despite all unpredictable and hilariously predictable odds, the winning team arrived in Paris 169 days later.
Allegedly, Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi II despised flies so much, he’d keep naked slaves smeared with honey near him in order to keep the flies away from him.
Montenegro and Japan were, technically, in a war for 101 years. During the Russo-Japanese war that took place in 1904-1905, volunteers from Montenegro were encouraged to fight in the Russian Army in Manchuria. However, Montenegro was not mentioned in the 1905 peace treaty and a technical state of war was presumed to exist between the two countries. In 2006, Japan made the gesture of recognizing Montenegrin independence following its secession from Serbia and declared then that hostilities were over.
Before being elected as president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky became the star of the popular television series Servant of the People, where he played the role of the President of Ukraine. In the show, Zelensky’s character is a thirty-something high-school history teacher who wins the presidential election after a viral video shows him ranting against government corruption in Ukraine. Starting 31 December 2018, Zelensky led a successful, almost entirely virtual, presidential campaign to unseat the incumbent President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, in just three to four months. Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine on 21 April 2019, beating incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with nearly 73% of the vote to Poroshenko’s 25%.
Pope Stephen VI had his penultimate predecessor Pope Formosus’ remains dug up and put the corpse on trial. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff. The corpse was found guilty, stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; it was then re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. The scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangling that summer.
Ronald Reagan’s first job was a lifeguard. Over those six years, he saved 77 people from drowning.
In order to demoralize the Germans during WWII, Churchill sent in bombing raids to Berlin. The first one on the night of August 26, 1940 by the Royal Air Force was a military disaster. Six of their fifty bombers crashed, a woodshed in a Berlin suburb was destroyed, only two Germans were slightly injured, and the only real casualty was an elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
Around the 17th century, New England states outlawed Christmas because celebrations were rowdy public displays of excessive eating and drinking, the mockery of established authority, aggressive begging (often combined with the threat of doing harm), and even the boisterous invasion of wealthy homes.
As St. Lawrence was roasted on a gridiron by the prefect of Rome, the legend says, he cheerfully declared: “I’m well done on this side. Turn me over!” From this St. Lawrence derives his patronage of cooks, chefs, and comedians.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826, which was also the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words included an acknowledgement of his longtime friend and rival: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Adams was unaware that Jefferson had died several hours before.
The Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder on the night of January 23, 1795 presents a rare occurrence of a “naval” battle between warships and cavalry, in which a French Revolutionary Hussar regiment captured a Dutch Republican fleet frozen at anchor between the 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) stretch of sea that separates the mainland port of Den Helder and the island of Texel. After a charge across the frozen Zuiderzee, the French cavalry captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns. A capture of ships by horsemen is an extremely rare feat in military history.
The eldest son of the future Roman Emperor Claudius, Tiberius Claudius Drusus, died of asphyxiation when he tossed a pear high in the air and caught it with his mouth, but he choked on it. At the time, it was suspected that he had been murdered by Sejanus, the father of his betrothed, but Suetonius, a Roman historian, did not believe that.
The Battle of Bull Run during the American civil war was called “The Picnic Battle” because many of Washington’s civilians and the wealthy elite, including congressmen and their families, went on picnics on the sidelines and watched the battle.
The shortest war occurred between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on 27 August 1896, lasting between 38 and 45 minutes.
Ancient cultures often used bread stamps, partly because of human pride, but mostly to combat “bread fraud.” Each baker had a unique bread stamp that could be traced back in case bread was found adulterated.
The longest ever US presidential inauguration speech belongs to William Henry Harrison. The day of the inauguration was overcast with cold wind and a noon temperature estimated to be 48.5 °F (9.2 °C), but the President-elect chose not to wear an overcoat, hat, or gloves for the ceremony. Harrison’s speech consisted of 8,445 words. Weeks after inauguration, Harrison caught a cold that eventually turned into pneumonia. Harrison died on April 4, making his presidency the shortest in American history.
Abraham Lincoln was a skilled wrestler and was honored with an award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.
There is a castle in Austria called Castle Itter where the Wehrmacht and Americans fought side by side with French POWs against the SS. It is the only known time during the war in which Americans and Germans fought side-by-side.
Ancient Greek and Roman statues were, in fact, painted in various colors. A lot of the paint faded away over time or was removed by people.
Herostratus burned down the Temple of Artemis. He did it for the sole purpose of becoming famous. His acts prompted the creation of a damnatio memoriae law forbidding anyone to mention his name, whether orally or in writing. The law was ultimately ineffective, as evidenced by mentions of his existence in modern works and parlance. Thus, Herostratus has become a metonym for someone who commits a criminal act in order to become famous.
Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was coincidentally either present or nearby when three presidential assassinations occurred.
Lincoln was not present at his father’s assassination. He was at the White House, and rushed to be with his parents. The president was moved to the Petersen House after the shooting, where Robert attended his father’s deathbed.
At President James A. Garfield’s invitation, Lincoln was at the Sixth Street Train Station in Washington, D.C., when the president was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, and was an eyewitness to the event. Lincoln was serving as Garfield’s Secretary of War at the time.
At President William McKinley’s invitation, Lincoln was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where the president was shot by Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901, though he was not an eyewitness to the event; he was just outside the building where the shooting occurred.
Lincoln himself recognized these coincidences. He is said to have refused a later presidential invitation with the comment, “No, I’m not going, and they’d better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present.”