Harriet Tubman once pretended to read a newspaper on a train to avoid being recognized by a former master. Because the man knew Harriet was illiterate, he ignored the black woman reading on the train.
2. In 2017, a Utah woman named Kristy Manzanares was allegedly murdered by her husband while on a murder mystery trivia cruise in Alaska. The event was a musical Sherlock Holmes-themed murder mystery trivia program, and some of her fellow passengers thought the screams coming from her cabin were part of the show.
3. Beethoven was such a massive star that following composers struggled to pull away from his artistic gravity. Brahms, for example, refused to make a symphony for 21 years, feeling unworthy. Schubert said: “Who can ever do anything, after Beethoven?”
4. In medieval games of chess, pawns that had been promoted to a queen would be given the title of an “advisor,” so as to not imply that the king had more than one queen or was unfaithful.
5. Ringo Starr was the narrator for Thomas the Tank Engine from 1984-1990.
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Elvis Presley’s manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker prevented Elvis from touring outside of the US (except for 3 shows in Canada in 1957) because Parker was, among other things, an illegal alien from the Netherlands that was suspected of murder.
7. Three Honolulu firefighters were killed, and six wounded, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, making them the only fire department on American soil to be attacked by a foreign power.
8. Bobby Driscoll was a famous Disney child actor in the 1940s and 50s (including the voice of Peter Pan), but he died penniless and alone at the age of 31 in an abandoned New York City building. When his body went unclaimed, he was buried in an unmarked grave.
9. AutoZone’s original name was “Auto Shack.” Radio Shack threatened to sue and it led to the name change. Years later, Radio Shack had a section that used the word “zone” in its name and was sued by AutoZone.
10. Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB/MI6 double agent. If he required MI6 rescue, he was to stand on a street corner in Moscow at 7:30 pm on a Tuesday holding a Safeway bag, wearing a grey cap. MI6 would acknowledge by walking past him eating a chocolate bar. MI6 monitored this street corner for 10 years.
11Rebecca the Raccoon
In 1926, President Coolidge and his wife were gifted a raccoon as a Thanksgiving dinner gift. They did not want to eat her, so they named her Rebecca and kept her as a pet. She had a free range of the White House and would go on trips with the couple.
12. The Church of Scientology sponsored a car in the 1988 Indy 500. It crashed on the second turn.
13. Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who is believed to be the richest drug lord of all time died while getting plastic surgery to alter his appearance. The two surgeons that performed the procedure were later found dead, encased in concrete inside steel drums, with their bodies showing signs of torture.
14. Boris Yeltsin made an unplanned stop at a grocery store in Texas after visiting the Johnson Space Center. He was so amazed by what they had in the store compared to the USSR that it led him to leave the Communist party and he tried to make massive economic reform in Russia.
15. Thanks to skyrocketing real estate prices, Manhattan gas stations are worth much more than the money the owner can make selling gas.
The song “Midnight Special” is about a steam locomotive that used to pass the Louisiana State Prison and its light would shine into the cells. Prisoners developed a superstition that having the light shine on you would bring fortune and freedom.
17. During the siege of Leningrad in World War 2, a group of Russian botanists holed up in a secret vault starved to death rather than consume the greatest collection of seeds they were guarding for a post-apocalyptic world.
18. The human brain filters incoming information using prior knowledge. This leaves us with an experience of the outside world that is shifted away from reality and more towards our beliefs and expectations.
19. On a trip to Nepal, Apollo astronaut Stu Roosa met Nepalese who believed that the spirits of their dead resided on the Moon. Roosa could not understand why a few of the local citizens treated him like a God, nor why they were distressed when he told them he saw no one else on the moon.
20. In 1915, surrounded and faced with imminent defeat, the entire Serbian army and government, numbering 400,000 (~10% of the population), retreated through Albania to the sea and evacuated to Greece. Half of them died on the march, but the rest came back in 1917 to liberate their country.
Lisztomania was a term that was coined in the 19th century to describe the obsessive fan hysteria surrounding the classical composer Franz Liszt. Admirers would fight over his locks of his hair, pull his carriage like horses, and carry glass vials of his old cigars and coffee dregs.
22. Ninjas avoided garlic or any pungent food to prevent their body odor from being detected by the enemy when hiding.
23. Pirate Joe's was a popular specialty grocery store in Vancouver, Canada that exclusively resold Trader Joe’s products that the owner bought from USA (Canada does not have TJs) which he did via weekly trips in an unmarked van to various locations that he became banned from.
24. For 20 years, J.R.R. Tolkien sent his children illustrated letters from Santa Claus where Santa would battle goblins flying on bats, and included fireworks, a prank-loving polar bear, and multiple invented languages.
25. Immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, her secretary will inform the Prime Minister via a secure phone line by saying “London Bridge is down”, thus initiating Operation London Bridge, a detailed procedure that outlines the action for days and weeks after the sovereign’s death.