History isn't all war, death, and human suffering. While there's certainly a lot––and I do mean a lot––of that in your average history book, you can rest assured that history is actually quite funny, too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the following stories are just as fascinating and enlightening as what you might or might not have learned in history class.
Now sit up and pay attention!
He was a really inept train robber. He once tried to blow up a safe to get to some silver coins, and ended up melting the safe and the coins.
Another time, he tried to rob a train, but all they were able to get was some whiskey and like $15 from the conductor.
After that, he holed up at a farm, drank all the whiskey, and got into a shootout with the Sheriff. And died in 1911.
But that's not the end of the story!
They took him to the funeral home, and he was embalmed with a lot of arsenic because they thought it'd be awhile before someone claimed the body.
And they were right, because no one came to claim him. And the funeral director was like "I am making money off this guy," and put him on display as the Oklahoman Outlaw and charged money to see him.
You put the money in his mouth.
The funeral director's kids used to put Elmer on roller skates and scare other children with him.
Eventually, these two dudes came over and were like " Oh our poor brother Elmer! We must take him home!"
They were not his brother. They were sideshow operators.
Elmer was on the circuit now. He went places. He was sold a few more times, ended up in a "museum", and they rented him out.
He was in a movie theatre lobby as a hophead who tried to hold up a store and was shot, in order to promote an anti-drug film.
But it's been decades, and he's starting to look a little rough. All desiccated and missing a couple of fingers and his hair. They rent him out to a display at Niagara Falls, and they send him back because they think he's a really creepy waxwork.
Yep - it's been so long, no one remembers he's a real dead guy.
He gets sold to the Pike, this run-down pier amusement park in Long Beach, California. He's hung up in Laff In The Dark, their ghost/fun house ride.
The Pike is a terrible park, but it's cheap to film at.
In December 1976, they're filming an episode of "The Six-Million Dollar Man". And they're in Laff In The Dark, moving stuff around, and they move this painted neon orange dummy.
And its arm breaks off.
And it's a real arm.
And it's a real dead guy. Naked. Painted orange. Incredibly mummified.
He's eventually taken to the coroner, eventually identified, and then eventually buried in Boot Hill in Oklahoma. Under concrete, so he can't go wandering again.
The Roman emperor Valentinian died by self-induced brain aneurysm triggered when he screamed his head off at representatives from a confederation of German tribes that refused to make promises of peace. His death is my favorite imperial death in Roman history.
War in the 6th century was usually a fairly brutal affair. When a city was captured, its people were often enslaved or killed. So when, during the Byzantine-Sassanian wars, Khosrau I of Persia successfully besieged Antioch, its inhabitants were understandably somewhat nervous.
However, rather than enslaving them or killing them, Khosrau brought the city's population in its entirety back to Persia and rebuilt them an almost exact replica of Antioch, down to the layout of the city and rooms in the houses. The people were freed and made into full Persian citizens.
The city was named "Weh Antiok Khosrau" - "Khosrau's better Antioch", and he took great pride in ensuring that it saw greater prosperity than the Byzantine version.
There was a "War of the Bucket" in 1325 between two city states Bologna and Modena. The Modenese soldiers stole a bucket from a Bologna city well and sparked a war in which around 2000 people died. The Modenese eventually won and they still have the bucket, on display, still to this day.
Louis XIV and his anal fistula. Basically he couldn't sit and pooping became extremely painful. He sought out a surgeon named Charles-François Félix. Keep in mind that no surgeon had ever done this procedure. Charles-François accepted but under one condition, he needed some time to practice (on commoners who died for most of them). Six months later, he was ready and guess what, he succeeded in repairing Louis' fistula and the latter was well. And alive. He used this magnificent tool on the King's asshole which looks terrifying to be honest: http://i1.wp.com/polyrad.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/louis1.jpg
There's a lot of myth surrounding Minamoto no Tametomo. He is believed to be this ridiculous archer standing at 2m tall. After losing in a war (to his older brother) he is exiled to an island. Well the winner's of the war realized shit we shouldn't just leave him there he might come back for revenge one day. So they sent a small fleet after him. He supposedly took down an entire ship via bow and arrow, but there were too many people.
So he retreated back to his place and waited for the men pursuing him. When they arrived he stood up cut open his belly and started throwing his guts at them. This is also possibly the first record of Seppuku.
He is also the supposed father of the first king of Okinawa, which gave justification to the Japanese people for the control over Okinawa.
Dr. James Barry was an incredible doctor who was known for being the "hardest creature they had ever met" by people like Florence Nightingale. At one point the guy got his hot-headed ass into a pistol duel where he shot the hat off his opponent while taking a bullet to the leg. He immediately got to work pulling it out and patching himself out that it impressed the officer he was dueling against and they became close friends. He was the first British military/Irish person to perform a successful c-section where both the mother and child survived, long before anaesthesia properly existed.
After his death it was revealed that he was born female, but lived almost his entire life as a man. The British military, so ashamed, sealed his records for over 100 years as if that was going to prevent anyone from knowing that one of their best and most influential doctors of all time (who was a hardened badass) was female.
When William of Normandy (a.k.a. William I, a.k.a. William the Conqueror, a.k.a. William the Bastard) died, various circumstances led to too much time passing before he was embalmed and buried. When the assorted nobility finally got around to shoving his bloated corpse into his stone sarcophagus, he burst. In the words of Orderic Vitalis: "the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd."
The Russo-Japanese War is always interesting.
In 1904 Russia and Japan went to war because Russia wanted to maintain dominance over their only year-round warm water port on the Pacific. The Japanese said sure, just acknowledge our right to the Korean Peninsula. Russia said no and the war was on.
Japan sank most of the Russian fleet in 1904, and there was a seven-month lull on the Naval front while the rest of the Russian fleet sailed from the Baltic Sea through the Medditerranean Sea, around Africa, and all the way to Japan. On their way they almost started a war with the UK by shooting at British fisherman. Russians were also sacking Manchuria on the ground (which is of course Chinese), on the grounds of "all you Asians look alike and you're probably working together".
The Coal-powered Russian fleet couldn't come into the ports of neutral countries to pick up fuel, so they had to be continually resupplied at sea as they travelled the long way around half the globe.
When the Russian fleet finally arrived after seven months, they were smashed by the Japanese in less than a day. During the conflict they lost almost their entire Navy. They settled on terms worse than those offered by Japan at the outset of the conflict.
The first one that comes to mind is Caesar and the elks. In The Gallic Wars, Caesar explains some interesting "facts" about the local fauna, presumably told to him by someone who didn't have a clue, or someone who was pulling his leg.
In short, Caesar writes that the majestic elk has no knees, so if it falls it can't get up, and therefore, it sleeps leaning against trees. So hunters set traps by sawing through trees so that they break when the elks lean on them. The elk then falls over and can't get up, and in the morning the hunters just come and collect their prey.
Caesar - great commander, not so great biologist.
Harry Houdini, escape artist and illusionist extraordinaire, went out of his way to expose psychics and mediums as frauds. After becoming well known for psychic busting, he had to wear a disguise to continue his crusade. Before his death, he arranged with his wife a code word that he would say to her she tried to contact him with a medium. All in an effort to further his effort to expose mediums as frauds from beyond the grave. It worked too.
sidenote He also happened to be friends (for a time) with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a strong believer in the supernatural with a passion we see today with conspiracy theorists.
What lead to their falling out was, to Houdini's great dismay and annoyance, that Doyle believed Houdini's escape tricks were real magic and not illusions. He was completely convinced that Houdini had magic and used it to stop other mediums from performing magic so he could expose them and refused to believe otherwise.
When the American destroyer William D. Porter departed from Norfolk in 1943, her anchor fucked up one of her sister ships. The very next day, a depth charge fell overboard, causing her formation to go on high alert for U-boats. Keep in mind that in the formation was the USS Iowa and that battleship was carrying none other than FDR. Understandably, this was a huge fucking deal. Then, there was anti-aircraft drills at the president's request. It involved shooting down a ton of balloons. Then the William D. Porter, simulating a torpedo drill, accidentally fired a torpedo at the Iowa. At the freaking president. FDR, instead of being worried about the torpedo, told the Secret Service to wheel him close so he can see. The torpedo missed the Iowa, whereupon the William D. Porter was then ordered to Bermuda, then reassigned to the Pacific. The William D. Porter was then sunk at Okinawa when it dodged a kamikaze and the plane, after it crashed into the water, exploded underneath the destroyer.
TL;DR: American destroyer USS William D. Porter accidentally almost torpedoes FDR and the battleship he was on and then gets sunk by a plane that already hit the water.
Empress Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria and Queen of Hungary (1854-1898) surrounded herself only with what she considered beautiful people. That's why her hairdresser was also said be extremely beautiful and even looked a bit like Sissi. The empress even forced the hairdresser to act as her doppelganger when abroad. Also, Sissi was so into her own hair, that the hairdresser, who had to comb her for hours at a time, had tape on the inside of her skirt so that she could hide lost hair (she basically taped it onto the inner side of her skirt) because otherwise the empress would have thrown a temper!
There was a war called the Kettle War on October 8, 1784. It happened off the Netherlands coast, and it was between the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch Republic. It was called the Kettle War because only one shot was fired, and that shot hit a soup kettle. As a result, a treaty was signed called the Treaty of Fontainebleau.
In an account from Herodotus, "When the banished Samians reached Sparta, they had audience of the magistrates, before whom they made a long speech, as was natural with persons greatly in want of aid." When it was over, the Spartans averred that they could no longer remember the first half of their speech, and thus "could make nothing of the remainder. Afterwards the Samians had another audience, whereat they simply said, showing a bag which they had brought with them, 'The bag wants flour.' The Spartans answered that they did not need to have said 'the bag'; however, they resolved to give them aid."
The Sausage War. During the Battle of Tolvajärvi, part of The Winter War, a Russian battalion got behind Finnish lines and struck a weak point potentially turning the battle in the favour of the Russians, however the first target to be overrun was a field kitchen where large amounts of sausage soup were being cooked (the cooks ran away) and the attack immediately halted as the soviet troops stopped to eat. This gave the Finnish troops enough time to regroup and attack (with 100 cooks, clerks, medics, supply sergeants and artillerists) in bayonet combat followed by some men chasing the remaining russians away and shooting them. The final result was at least 100 dead Soviet troops.
TL;DR: Russian troops attack Finns from behind. Stop to eat, and are then slaughtered.
Emu war, hands down. Australian government in 1932 decided to take control of the emu population. They announced a literal war on emus and LOST. Couldn't control the population due to a rainstorm that made the birds spread out further, and got backlash from environmental organizations for killing one of the countries most valued animals.
In 1942, two Gestapo's caught a Polish Resistance member, Joseph Mierzynski. Instead of turning him in, they decided to milk the situation and have him lead them to the Resistance's weapons stash so the two Gestapos could claim a greater catch and possibly get a promotion. He led them to a secluded house in Zgierz with a attic storage accessible only via folded ladder. The attic turned out to be full of stolen Wehrmacht guns! In fact, there were so many crates of guns and ammo there that the Gestapos grew tired of taking turns hauling it out, and forced Joe on gunpoint to get up there and drag the boxes out himself. As could be expected, he promptly gunned them down through the ceiling :) But hey, there's more! The noise attracted the attention of the (Nazi controlled) police and German troops, and Mierzynski had to escape. So he did the most logical thing: instead of running away, stealing a car, or something, he slowly packed as much guns as he could into a bigass bag, walked nonchalantly to the intersection, and hopped on a tram (the slowest possible means of escape), sat there and started reading a newspaper until he reached Lodz.
The Toledo War: The then Michigan territory and the state of Ohio both claimed land in and around present day Toledo. They both deployed militia to enforce their land claim (Toledo being an important port worth fighting about even in 1835). The issue was debated in Congress and only resolved when in 1836 President Andrew Jackson negotiated a compromise that awarded the disputed land to Ohio, admitted Michigan as a state, and gave the new state of Michigan the Upper Peninsula in compensation.
Napoleon wanted to celebrate a victory with a rabbit hunt, and instructed someone collect a bunch of rabbits for said hunt (estimates vary, but there were at least a few hundred brought in). Napoleon gets out of his carriage and the rabbits are released from their cages - the hunt begins! Hundreds of rabbits come running out, but rather than running away from the men with guns, they run toward them. Unrelentingly. To the point where they are now running up Napoleon's legs. He hurries back to the carriage and is followed by the horde of rabbits, some even making it into the carriage.
You see, the men who'd collected the rabbits brought domesticated bunnies, rather than wild hares. And so the fearsome Napoleon had to retreat from a bunch of fluffy bunnies.