25 Weirdest Facts From History You Surely Weren’t Taught in Schools

11Emperor Joshua Norton

In 1859, an insane homeless man from San Francisco named Joshua Norton proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States and the people of San Francisco actually went along with it. He was widely beloved, treated with great deference, and the currency he created himself was honored at the establishments he frequented. Due to (technically) being a poor homeless man, when he died he was going to be buried in a pauper's redwood coffin and not given much ceremony. But he was so beloved and honored by the locals that the San Francisco businessmen's association formed a funeral fund that eventually got enough money for a massive procession and an expensive rosewood casket for his burial. 10,000 people went to his funeral.


12Battle of Kleidion

In 1014 A.D., after defeating a large Bulgarian army at the battle of Kleidion, Byzantine Emperor Basil II had 99 of every 100 prisoners blinded, leaving each 100th man with one eye so that he could lead his comrades home. Upon seeing his thousands of blinded soldiers, the Bulgarian Emperor reportedly died of a heart attack.


13George Washington

There was a reason people wanted George Washington to be the king of America. Of all the great things he did, his refusal to become one is perhaps his greatest legacy. He was revered by all but he was very proper and stern. One guy, however, thought it was perhaps overblown and was talking smack that George wasn't all that awe-inspiring in person. Governor Morris thought that it couldn't be that intimidating meeting George Washington, so Alexander Hamilton made him a bet. If he would, upon meeting the general, clap him on the shoulder and say “My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well!” (which would be the modern equivalent of saying “Hey Georgie boy, how they hanging?”), Hamilton would buy an expensive dinner for him and 12 of his friends. Well, Governor Morris did it and won the bet, but Washington immediately removed Morris’s hand from his shoulder, stepped away, and fixed Morris with an angry frown until the trespasser retreated in confusion. Hamilton paid up, yet at the dinner, Morris declared, “I have won the bet but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.”


14Lost Library of Ivan the Terrible

When Ivan III of Russia married Sophia Palaiologina, niece of Constantine XI, her uncle gifted them a library along with many other treasures. This library somehow survived the Burning of Moscow in 1493 and continued to be passed down to her son, Vasili III, and then on to her grandson, Ivan IV. During Ivan IV's reign of terror (the second half of his reign), he feared that the library was too precious a treasure and was worried it would be stolen. So he and a few men took the collection out of Moscow (what was most likely a 1-3 day horse ride) and buried the books. To ensure the location of the library would never get out, he had the men killed. Ivan IV died before the location of the library was ever revealed. We have no idea what could have been in this library or if the contents have even survived. Though some historians have speculated that Plato's Hermocrates (the final dialogue pertaining to Atlantis) could have been part of the collection, but there's no proof that this is true.


15Bitch Wars

Ever heard about the “Bitch Wars”? Within the Soviet gulags there became a society of organized criminals called “Thief in laws” or the “Vors” (Russian). They were viciously anti-authority. They refused all orders, just to spit in the face of officials. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin allowed prisoners to fight them on the front in exchange for their freedom. So these hardcore, anti-authority criminals were now fighting on behalf of the Soviet Regime and some fought well while some other refused to. Being career criminals, soon after the war, once they were free, they continued to commit crimes, and many were sent back to the gulags. Now the “Vors” that agreed to not fight the Nazis began to call these traitors “Sukas” or “bitches” in English. The Sukas became a sect and were at the bottom of the pyramid of the gulag’s hierarchy. But Sukas were now war hardened fighting machines and because they were treated badly by the “Vors”, they eventually rebelled and the gulags were torn apart in extremely bloody battles. Literally, tens of thousands of prisoners died. It was no joke and the guards allowed them to get away with it too because it was a means of population control. These clashes were called the “Bitch Wars.”


16Operation Cottage

During Operation Cottage in 1943 United States and Canadian forces landed on the island of Kiska which had been occupied by Japanese forces. They successfully took control over the island but lost 32 soldiers. 50 more soldiers were wounded and 191 soldiers went missing. The most bizarre thing about this island was that the Japanese weren't even there. They had secretly left the island two weeks prior to the assault. The 191 that went missing were said to be because of friendly fire, booby traps, and environmental causes.


17Gruinard Island

During the 1950s the British government, in a plan backed by Winston Churchill tested biological weapons on Gruinard Island in Scotland. British scientists formulated a plan of dropping anthrax-laced linseed cakes into cattle fields as a bio-nuke of sorts once it worked up the food chain. After initial experiments destroyed pretty much all life on the island, they decided that possibly killing off everything in continental Europe probably wasn't a good idea. The experiment left the island uninhabitable for 56 years. That was not the end of it. The government wasn’t even planning on cleaning up the island until a group of scientists dropped off contaminated soil at a military research facility and threatened to make further drops in order to “ensure the rapid loss of indifference of the government and the equally rapid education of the general public.” Therefore the cleanup of the island started in 1986.


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18General Monash

In the trenches of France of World War 1, General Monash was given with the unenviable task of punching through the German line to claim the French town of Le Hamel. The way that Monash went about doing this was both revolutionary, and sneaky. German forces were well equipped, well-fortified, reinforced with heavy artillery and machine guns, and the troops were well trained. Faced by these odds, Monash began to “condition” the German forces. Every day at dawn, he would let loose a barrage of smoke bombs followed by mustard gas canisters. The Germans, following their training, would equip themselves with gas masks which protected them. Monash kept up this bombardment for two weeks, and soon the Germans became accustomed to the pattern of attack, and would immediately don their gas masks and hunker down at the first sign of smoke, but on the dawn of the 4th of July, the smoke bombs were not followed by gas, but by the Australians. The German gasmasks protected them from mustard gas and smoke, but they also vastly impeded their vision, hearing, and ability to communicate, with the noise of the battle, and the obscuring smoke, they were deaf and blind on the battlefield, and to make things worse, this was not an unprotected infantry massed-attack, but a creeping barrage supported by a division of tanks, heavy artillery, and aircraft. The tanks protected the vulnerable infantry, and the artillery and aircraft prevented the Germans from effectively deploying anti-tank measures. The battle was over in just 90 minutes and marked the rise of mixed-arms warfare.


19V1 Flying Bombs

During World War 2, the first V1 flying bombs were being launched by Germany against London and they were hitting Central London accurately. Germany had no agents in Britain. Not one. They thought they did, but every agent they sent over was caught and then either 'turned' or executed, and the other agents were all fictitious: imaginary ones dreamed up in a British campaign of disinformation that was and is breathtaking in and of itself. The government in the UK didn't want to risk the buildings, architecture, and heritage of the heart of London (quite a lot had been bombed out anyway), so the 'agents' reported back to Berlin that the V1s were overshooting their targets and coming down in North London. Fake stories planted in newspapers reinforced the deception. The Germans dutifully shortened the range, and the V1s bombed South London to ruins. One reason why a lot of Croydon in the 1960s was concrete is because of the damage done by the V1s in 1944.


20Dardanelles Gun

A 340-year-old museum piece was once used to repel an invasion. The Dardanelles Operation of 1870 was a fairly minor skirmish during the Napoleonic wars. The Ottomans aligned with the French against Britain and Russia. The British sent a fleet to intimidate the Turks and force them to reopen the strait. As the British fleet sailed towards Constantinople, French engineers worked with the Turkish army to repair and improve shore defenses. Part of this included reactivating a 340-year-old super cannon modeled on the one used in the famed Turkish conquest of Constantinople in the 1400s. This cannon weighed 17 tons and fired stone cannonballs that were two feet in diameter. After meeting little resistance from the Turkish fleet, the British were forced to withdraw after taking heavy damage from the shore batteries, including from the colossal “Dardanelles Gun.” So yeah trebuchets are nice, but can they fire a 360 kg projectile over 2400 meters?

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