Hidden Professions: 35 Surprising Jobs You Never Knew Existed

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1Leech Collector

Leech Collector

Being a “Leech collector” used to be someone’s job. They'd collect them by walking into a body of water with exposed legs, letting them suck for a while, and then plucking them off. Medicinal leeches were thought of as medical miracles that would suck toxic blood and disease from the body.


2. Up until the 1970s, log drivers helped move huge tree trunks from the forest to sawmills for construction purposes. The job didn’t make the cut as modern transportation progressed.


3. “Mudlarks” were folks who scavenged the muddy rivers in London in the 18th and 19th centuries at low tide in order to sell anything they found.


4. Wool togas in ancient Rome were cleansed by “fullers” working ankle deep in tubs full of human urine. In ancient Rome, the urine was taxed, collected, and prized for its ammonia which helped in whitening cloth.


5. In 2017, Paris’ rat catchers went on strike, partly over pay but mostly because they wanted more respect and recognition for their contributions to the city.


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6Whipping Boy

Whipping Boy

A whipping boy used to be a real job. King’s aides were forbidden to punish the prince, so they would give the prince a normal friend and take it out on him if the prince misbehaved. The prince would stay in line to stop his friend from being hurt.


7. Politicians in ancient Rome kept slaves named “nomenclators”, whose sole job was to remind their masters of the names and pertinent details of all the different people they met.


8. Vestal virgins were a group of 6 women who were recruited at the age of 6 to tend the flame of the Goddess Vesta in Ancient Rome. Expected to serve for 30 years, if their virginity ever came into question they would be buried alive as punishment.


9. ‘White Monkey job’ refers to racially motivated jobs. In China, Caucasian foreigners are often hired to stand around and pretend to be an employee of the Chinese company or representative of an international company to increase the value of the Chinese company.


10. One of the most sought-after jobs in Venice is that of a Gondolier. There are only 425 licenses issued, and applicants must be Venetian by birth. Apprenticeships involve over 400 hours of training, and when a Gondolier dies the license passes to the beneficiary, who then decides the replacement.


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11Rectal Teaching Assistant

Rectal Teaching Assistant

There is only one person registered as a "Rectal Teaching Assistant" in the United Kingdom, who travels the country offering his anus to be examined by trainee doctors. He has since lost his job to a robot anus.


12. Some Cuban cigar factories used to employ a "Lector" who would read newspapers, political treatises, and classical literature aloud to help break the monotony of the cigar roller's work. Thus even illiterate cigar-rollers would be well-informed and familiar with great literature.


13. In 2014, the Indian government employed 40 people to impersonate monkeys, to scare off real monkeys causing havoc around the parliament in Delhi. The men made screeching noises similar to those of black-faced langur monkeys, imitating their whoops and barks, to frighten red-faced macaque monkeys.


14. George Aldrich has worked for NASA for over 40 years, and his job is to smell things. This is to ensure that there are no unpleasant smells on ISS and the shuttle. His nose also gets calibrated and tested every 4 months.


15. Between 1917 and 1928, clock dial painters (mostly women) were told to lick the brushes to get a fine point. They were also told that the night-glow paint was harmless in spite of the fact that it was radioactive radium that made it luminous. Later, when sued, some employers tried to discredit workers by blaming cancer and jaw rot on syphilis.


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16Groom of The Stool

Groom of The Stool

The “Groom of The Stool” was a role created for the first time for Henry VIII to “monitor and assist” in king’s bowel movements. Due to the proximity to the king, the royal wiper often became wealthy and powerful.


17. Divers working on deep-sea infrastructure such as oil pipelines live in a pressurized chamber for a month, taken between the chamber and their worksite by a pressurized diving bell. That way, they only need to be decompressed once, at the end of each 28-day job. This is known as Saturation diving.


18. Before alarm clocks were invented, there was a profession called a knocker-up, whose job involved going from client to client and tapping on their windows (or banging on their doors) with long sticks until they were awake. This job lasted into the 1920s.


19. "Porn Judge" is an actual Chinese government job title. Judges such as Wang Dong are paid $32,000 per year to view porn and “have the sacred task of returning the Internet to a clean and safe state”. Most are employed within the police system.


20. The original job of the Senate Sergeant at Arms was not to protect the senators, but rather to make sure that the senators could not leave the chamber while business was being conducted.


21Gong Farmer

Gong Farmer

It was the job of a ‘Gong Farmer’ to remove human waste from a pit underneath a castle. The gong farmer was dangled from a rope tied around his waist, while he emptied deep pits filled with human excrement.


22. Scotland Yard has a team of “super-recognizers.” These people are so good at remembering faces, even after a fleeting glance, that law enforcement employs them.


23. Devil's advocate was a real job within the catholic church. The devil's advocate was called upon to deliberate on behalf of the devil for any claims of sainthood and would argue for why someone should not be made a Saint of the catholic church.


24. From about 1600 to 1914, there was a profession known as a "Funeral Mute." Their main purpose was to stand around at funerals with a sad, pathetic face.


25. In medieval Europe "barber-butchers" were barbers that practiced surgery as well, a profession ranging from amputations to haircuts. The red and white “barber swirl” in front of most barbershops today signifies blood and bandages which was common in their trade.

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