People Share Historical Facts That May Sound Fake But Are Completely True
It might surprise you to know that the last Civil War widow died not long ago.
Yes, you read that correctly. Her name was Helen Viola Jackson, and she married James Bolin in 1936 when she was 17 and he was 93.
"He said that he would leave me his Union pension," she later told historian Hamilton C. Clark. "It was during the [Great] Depression and times were hard. He said that it might be my only way of leaving the farm."
Jackson never remarried and kept the marriage secret for decades. Wild, huh? Hard to believe, but it happened. Here's the report from Smithsonian Magnazine.
After Redditor TropicalNuke22 asked the online community, "What's a fact from history that sounds completely fake?" people shared their favorite crazy historical facts.
"They were displaced..."
The Germans and Russians once called a temporary (unofficial) ceasefire in World War I because of wolves invading the battlefield. They were displaced from their normal hunting grounds and looking for something to eat, which turned out to be local livestock, corpses, children, and unwary or incapacitated soldiers. It got so bad that everyone stopped shooting at each other for a while so they could hunt them down, proving once more that the threat of being eaten is stronger than any political ideal.
"With the passing of years..."
The Judo Chop
If you ever watched a spy movie or TV show from the 1960s to the 1980s you probably remember "The Judo Chop." A maneuver spies used to kill or incapacitate people, it looks like a karate chop to the head or neck. Its latest appearance was in an Austin Powers movie. Anyone with even a cursory Judo knowledge knows that there are no "chops" or kicks or punches. It's a body manipulation combat method to unbalance and throw your opponent. And that's true. Yet the Judo Chop is not a fiction cooked up why Hollywood writers.
The UK's MI6 adopted basic Judo techniques in their hand to hand combat training. During WW II the Special Operations Executive (SOE) incorporated it into their training. It also incorporated other "quick and dirty" combat maneuvers from other British combat experts such as Colonel Fairbairn. All were published in a text classified secret for many decades, though much was also taught to the US Office of Strategic Services.
With the passing of years, the loosening of lips, and fuzzing of memories, one of the other combat maneuvers for taking down sentries got conflated with the Judo maneuvers. Perhaps the biggest culprit could be found in the Stafford Hotel bar in St. James' Place, London in the early 2000s. This tipsy old lady, if you were nice, would tell you of her extensive Special Operations Executive WW II exploits. One of the stories included attacking a German sentry with "this judo-chop stuff." She, and presumably other spies, told journalists this story and similar for years until it made it into espionage writing and finally to Hollywood.
The old lady was Nancy Wake, a.k.a. "The White Mouse." Already accomplished WW II spy when she fled to England to join the SOE, she went on to have a legendary career. With her reputation it seems nobody ever questioned her story. Which was good. Secret WW II files declassified in the past 10 years provided testimony by two of Wake's SOE comrades, one of whom was her commander. They, but not Nancy, were spotted by that Waffen-SS sentry on a covert mission. Per their debriefs, Nancy Wake did indeed walk up and strike the sentry with a single violent blow with the edge of her hand. She snapped his neck.
That was a TRIP.
"Bunch of nobles..."
Tl;dr: bunch of nobles gathered in a room. Floor could not support weight and collapsed. People drowned in poop which was underneath the room.
Did we mention that that's just... gross?
"In Anne Frank's original diary..."
In Anne Frank's original diary, she openly talked about her changing body, periods, and her questions about sex but they were edited out of the final print.
John Tyler, the 10th U.S. president, still has a living grandchild.
"You might be interested to know..."
You might be interested to know that the last U.S. civil war widow (as in widow of someone who fought in the war and gained a pension) died last month.
"But the word..."
Thomas Crapper actually did invent the first reliable modern toilet. (The kind with a raised cistern.) But the word crap/crapper was already a very old slang term by that point. It was just a coincidence. Or maybe he felt like he had no choice. But crap and crapper have nothing to do with Thomas Crapper.
"Scrawled on walls..."
There are penises everywhere in Pompeii.
On walls, streets, posts, carved into wood and stone, arranged in tile mosaics. They're all over the place. You can't swing a cat without whackin' a schlong. They're used as arrows to point to brothels. Scrawled on walls in graffiti about how good the women are in the city. When you went to the baths, you'd put your clothes in little cubbyholes, and you'd remember which column of cubbies you left them in by the mosaic of a particular sex act above said column.
"After swallowing a golden fork..."
There was a man named Tarrare, a French soldier who was known for his unusual appetite and eating habits. Because of this, general Alexandre de Beauharnais decided to use his abilities to military use. He was intended to swallow documents from opposing countries, and those documents were intended to be recovered from his stool.
However, Tarrare also was filled with infamy during his later years. He was blamed for the disappearance of a 14-month-old baby in a hospital, and he was chased all around the hospital before he fled.
After swallowing a golden fork (which was never found) Tarrare soon contracted Tuberculosis and diarrhea before dying shortly after. Because his corpse rotted quickly, surgeons refused to dissect it. But a surgeon named Tessier decided to do an autopsy, which revealed that his digestive system was extremely large; pus was all around his body, his liver, esophagus, and stomach were abnormally large, and ulcers covered it.
After the Dravlians killed Igor of Kyiv, his wife Olga took revenge when she was Regent.
First, Dravlian messengers, who were tasked to inform her that she was to marry their king, were carried by the people of Kyiv and were thrown into a trench that was dug the first day, and the messengers were buried.
Second, she invited Dravlian dignitaries to Kyiv, by telling them that she would return with them to accept the honor of her betrothal to the king. She invited them to a bathhouse, had the house locked, and had the house burned with them in it.
Third, to mourn the death of her husband, she told the Dravlians to prepare a quantity of mead at the site of her husband's death. The Dravlian's got drunk on the mead, and she ordered her people to kill them.
Finally, she drove the survivors back to their city. She ordered tribute and would let them go in peace. The tribute was three pigeons and three sparrows from each house. She received the tribute, tied a piece of sulfur on the bird's legs, and attached a piece of cloth to the sulfur. She then had the birds released, having set the cloth on fire. The birds returned to their nests and subsequently burned down the city.
In AD 950, she went to Constantinople and converted to Christianity. She Christianized eastern Europe and was later made a saint.
Get ready......because this next one's a wild ride.
"A few years later..."
Thomas H. "Boston" Corbett was a hatmaker who lived in Troy, New York. As a part of his job, he was often exposed to mercury, which resulted in some noticeable mental health issues. His wife and child died, after which he moved to Boston, where he became a homeless alcoholic and eventually joined the Methodist church and started preaching enthusiastically in public. He attempted to imitate Jesus by growing his hair long, and was soon known locally as the "Glory to God Man." If someone cursed in his workplace, he'd loudly sing or pray for them in response.
In 1857, he was approached by two sex workers on his way home. He was apparently deeply disturbed by the encounter, and went home to consult the bible. After some light reading, he decided to cut his balls off with a pair of scissors to avoid temptation. He then ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting (where nobody apparently noticed an expanding red stain in the crotch of his pants) before seeking medical attention.
A few years later, the Civil War kicked up and Corbett decided that his lack of a sack did not mean he was short on fortitude, and he enlisted in the Union Army. He immediately got in trouble for all of his behavior, including carrying a Bible at all times, loudly reading scripture, holding unauthorized prayer meetings, and arguing with superior officers. He regularly condemned his superiors for violating God's Word, and at one point he verbally reprimanded his Colonel for taking the Lord's name in vain and using profanity, which landed him in jail for a few days. The military eventually had enough and court-martialed him for insubordination. They sentenced him to be shot, but his sentence was reduced and they just discharged him.
Having learned absolutely nothing, a couple of weeks later Corbett re-enlisted in the Army in a different unit. He was captured by the Confederates in 1864 and sent to Andersonville Prison. On the way there, he risked his own life to get a wounded Union prisoner water despite repeated threats of being shot by their Confederate captors. At Andersonville, Corbett picked up scurvy, malnutrition, and exposure but recovered after being exchanged for a Confederate prisoner after five months. Corbett was promoted to Sergeant and later testified against the Commandant of Andersonville Prison after the war wrapped up.
Come to 1865, and President Lincoln was assassinated. Corbett's regiment was sent to apprehend John Wilkes Booth, the assassin. The regiment tracked down Booth to a farm in Virginia and surrounded the barn where he was hiding. Since Booth insisted he wouldn't be taken alive, they set the barn on fire to try and persuade him to leave. Corbett was stationed at the back of the barn and, seeing Booth through a crack in the boards, promptly shot him in the back of the head with his revolver. Ironically, Booth had been hit in a very similar spot to where Lincoln had been shot, but there was a big difference in their reaction to it. Lincoln had fallen into unconsciousness immediately, while Booth screamed in pain, was paralyzed from the neck down, and suffered in agony the entire time he waited to die for over two hours as his repeated requests for someone to please finish him were denied.
Secretary of War Stanton's orders had been for Booth to be taken alive, so Corbett's commanding officer was a bit pissed off that Booth had been killed on his watch. When Colonel Conger asked Corbett why he had shot Booth, he claimed it was because Jesus had told him to. Corbett was promptly arrested again. When personally interrogated by the Secretary of War, Corbett agreed that he had violated the order, but suggested that Booth looked like he was going to try to shoot his way out of the barn. Corbett maintained that he was trying to inflict a disabling wound, but that his finger must have slipped and he ended up shooting booth I'm the back of the skull instead. Stanton basically said "F**k it" at that point, gave him a pat on the back for avenging Lincoln, and had him discharged again. On his way out of the War Department, he got cheered by a massive crowd, and went to have a portrait taken at Matthew Brady's studio down the street as he signed autographs and told stories to the horde accompanying him.
After the war, Corbett was plied with offers, but declined most of them. People offered to buy the gun he shot Booth with, but Corbett turned the offers down as the pistol belonged to the government. He declined the offer of one of Booth's pistols, since he didn't want a reminder of the shooting. He went to work as a hatter again, but was fired from pretty much every job he had for his habit of stopping work to pray for his co-workers. He moved around a bit before settling in Camden, New Jersey, where he tried to earn money by giving lectures at Sunday schools about his role in avenging Lincoln. He was never asked back, since his behavior was quite erratic and his lectures were pretty incoherent.
Over the next decade, Corbett became increasingly paranoid about people in Washington hounding him for denying them the pleasure of prosecuting Lincoln's assassin. He also got a lot of hate mail for killing Booth, which did nothing to help, and took to carrying a pistol at all times. He ended up brandishing it frequently at friends or strangers he deemed suspicious. While attending a Civil War Reunion in 1875, he nearly shot 3 conspiracy theorists who accused him of faking Booth's death. In 1878, he got some land in Kansas and moved there, living in a dugout home.
Because he was sort of famous, the Kansas state legislature appointed him Assistant Doorkeeper in January 1887, a somewhat cushy position where you get paid to really not do much. A month later, he convinced himself that officers of the House were discriminating against him, and he chased several of them out of the building with a revolver. Corbett was arrested yet again, and the next day a judge FINALLY declared him insane and had him institutionalized. He escaped from the Topeka Asylum for the Insane in 1888 on horseback, and crashed at a friend's place for a while. When he left, he said he was heading for Mexico.
Rather than heading to Mexico, it appears that Corbett moved to Pine County, Minnesota where he lived in a cabin in the woods. He is believed to have died in the Great Hinckley Fire on September 1st, 1894.
Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, once snuck up on his own wife, Marcia Winslow, as they were getting out of their car after a party and began to strangle her. She screamed and tried to fight him off until she realized it was him, at which point he stopped and tried to convince her that it wasn't him strangling her, it must have been someone else. She stayed with him for several years after that incident.
We hope you're okay now.
"She was henceforth..."
Chevalier d'Eon was a French diplomat and spy in England and Russia. Once he retired he revealed to the public that he had been a woman the entire time. She was henceforth made to wear gender appropriate clothing for the rest of her life. She went on to write some books and support the American Revolution. But here's the kicker. When she died they found out she was actually a man the whole time. He was double crossdressing.
"This guy was a super incompetent..."
There was this guy in the early days of aviation named William Christmas. He created what is often considered the worst plane ever. He designed the wings to be super thin sheets of metal because he thought it would be better if they flapped like a bird. He had another engineer working with him, Vincent Burnelli, who tried to make changes, such as strengthening the wings, but Christmas wouldn't budge. He pitched this to the U.S. Army during WWI, claiming that they could abduct the Kaiser with it, as it would be able to outrun any German aircraft. Instead, the wings predictably broke off in its first test flight, killing the test pilot (and they didn't tell the Army about it). Then they tested it again, and the same thing happened. The Army withdrew their support after that, and no new prototypes were made.
This guy was a super incompetent aircraft designer, but apparently, he's often credited with inventing ailerons, which has been the default method of controlling airplane roll for the last century.
Henry VIII had a mace with a concealed pistol built into it with which he used to patrol the streets of London at night, looking for ne'er-do-wells like some sort of fat, ginger syphilis-riddled Batman.
One night he was caught by a guard and thrown into jail for a night before he was recognized. Upon returning to court he sent for the (by now extremely worried) guard to appear before him.
Despite the man's understandable terror, Henry congratulated him and rewarded him for his diligence. He had also got on well with his fellow inmates during his brief stay and ordered that conditions and rations for prisoners be substantially improved.
History is fascinating.
It's a shame that they don't seem to teach it all too well in schools and that so many students seem to find it boring. Here's something interesting for you to think about: One day people will think studying us will be boring (but we hope school cirriculums are tweaked before then).
Have some cool historical facts to share? Feel free to sound off in the comments below!