The Strangest Historical Facts: 17 Weird Stories From the Past

1Maximilien De Robespierre

Maximilien De Robespierre

During the French Revolution, Maximilien De Robespierre was signing a lot of people to the Guillotine for execution, even his own comrades. Long story short, he wasn't telling who was on the list so in fear of the possibility of being on the list a bunch of other revolutionaries came to “arrest” him so Maximilien shot himself in the face, but only managed to shatter his lower jaw and didn't die. They left him to bleed for a while in a cell, healed up his bleeding as best as possible, then executed him the next day.



When King Edward I was assaulting a Scottish castle he built the largest trebuchet ever made called “the Warwolf.” The Scots surrendered upon seeing it. Edward then ordered them back into the castle and proceeded to fire on it, because he wanted to see it in action.

3Ice Palace

Ice Palace

Prince Mikhail Alekseevich Golitsyn of Russia offended Empress Anna Ivanovna by marrying an Italian woman. After his wife died, the Empress had a giant ice palace built, replete with ice sculptures and even ice cannon in St. Petersburg in 1739. She had the prince dressed as a jester and forcibly married him to an ugly peasant woman in a big mock-ceremony, attended by animals and circus freaks. She then shut them naked into an icy chamber to freeze them to death. They survived only because the prince's new wife managed to bribe a guard for a coat.

4Pu Yi

Pu Yi

In 1920, Yuan Shikai was defeated and Pu Yi was put as the symbolic head of China, although he was confined to the Imperial Palace at all times and had basically no power. When he was about 15 years old, he discovered what a telephone was, and wanted one installed in his palace, but the Eunuchs were really hesitant. What if Pu Yi used his phone to build powerful contacts outside the palace? What if Pu Yi learned about communism? How would this affect the people of China and the people in charge? What if Pu Yi posed a threat? They would have to raze the Imperial Palace and wipe out the imperial lineage once and for all! But he kept persisting, demanding to get his phone, even threatening some people. Finally, they relented. Pu Yi got his phone. He was overjoyed and demanded he be left alone with his new weapon of information. He then spent all afternoon prank calling restaurants and famous authors.

5Emperor Joshua Norton

Emperor 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.

6Battle of Kleidion

Battle 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.

7George Washington

George 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.”

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8Lost Library of Ivan the Terrible

Lost 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.

9Bitch Wars

Bitch 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.”

10Operation Cottage

Operation 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.

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