History Lovers Share The Most WTF‽ Historical Events They Know
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

It might surprise you to know that the last Civil War widow died near the end of last year.

Wait, what?

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.

History is full of some wild facts, as we were so kindly reminded by Redditor day_tripper96, who asked the online community:

"What's a bizarre historical event you can't believe actually took place?"

"In 1920..."

"In 1920, President Paul Deschanel of France fell through the window of the train while traveling on the Orient Express. He stumbled up to the nearest signal box in his pajamas and told the signalman that he needed help and that he was the President of France. The signalman reportedly replied 'And I'm Napoleon Bonaparte."

Bunnystrawberry

Cue laugh track!

This is a moment worthy of a sitcom.

"In AD 897..."

"The Cadaver Synod - In AD 897, Pope Stephen VI had his dead rival Pope Formosus exhumed and put on trial. Stephen had a deacon speak on the dead pope's behalf. Naturally, Formosus was found guilty. Stephen ordered that two fingers Formosus used for blessing people be cut off and had his corpse thrown in the Tiber river."

HordaksPupil

Well, it's not like he could defend himself soooo... no one is surprised. Deliciously petty.

"It worked."

"Good old Operation Mincemeat.

Basically, during WWII, the British find some dead body of some poor guy, dress it up like a British officer, attach some fake intel onto him, then throw him into the ocean, hoping he floats to enemy territory to mislead them.

It worked."

mitchade

The chances that this would have worked must have been miniscule. Talk about a victory!

"The astronomer..."

"The astronomer Tycho Brahe had a pet moose that he used to get drunk with. One time he brought it to a dinner party at a friend's house. But sadly, the moose did not survive the night. Once again the poor moose got drunk on beer and died from a nasty fall down a set of stairs. Tyco Brahe also lost his nose in a duel, so he wore a prosthetic nose made out of metal. Some sources say brass, others say it was a gold/silver alloy. He was also employing a small court jester named Jepp that he believed to be clairvoyant."

Asher-the-Squid

These Gestures Are Offensive In Other Countries | George Takei’s Oh Myyy

People explain the friendly gestures in one country that are offensive in another. It's imperative to do a little research about the destinations and culture...

"100 years ago..."

"The Halifax Explosion. 100 years ago two ships did a shit job of passing each other while entering / leaving Halifax Harbour, in Nova Scotia. One of them was LOADED with explosives destined for WW1. They collided and one of them burned for a while, then exploded. The blast was a ~2/3 again larger than the one we saw in Beirut last year.

Thousands died or were blinded by shattering windows. There was a local tsunami (which followed a brief moment where the seabed was exposed to air), and then a monster snowstorm covered the relief effort in snow.

Largest human-made explosion even until the nuclear bomb, and I think it remains the largest maritime accident ever."

kayriss

This is one of those historical events that continues to horrify me and fill me with morbid curiosity. I went to Halifax some years back and never got a chance to visit the museum. Looks like I'll need to!

"Alexander the Great named..."

"Alexander the Great named (or renamed) 70 cities after himself. Some still have the name or derivatives of it - Alexandria in Egypt being the most obvious, but also Iskandariya in Iraq and Kandahar in Afghanistan."

mordenty

"Hannibal marching elephants..."

"Hannibal marching elephants over the Alps to attack Italy."

And the fact that he left Spain to do this just before Roman forces arrived to take him on, and then Rome was just like "meh" and continued south when they figured out where he was going. They didn't care because they thought there was no way he could do anything. Polybius's account of Hannibal is fantastic, especially if you read what he says about the First Punic War and the Carthaginian Civil War as a context. The petty hatred between Rome and Carthage was insane, and had been going on for an insanely long time. Makes the 100 Years War look like nothing."

jdward01

"The only time in history..."

"The time when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the island where he was imprisoned on after his army was defeated, he snuck back into France under the nose of King Louis XVIII and literally every royal guard and roadblock from Marseille to Paris, and when he was actually caught just outside Paris, he managed to persuade the soldiers (who just so happened to be former Bonapartists) to escort him into Paris where he managed to successfully cause the king to flee, on top of raising a FULL ARMY to wage war against Europe AGAIN. The only time in history an emperor took back an entire country just by waving his hat."

golu218805

Honestly, Napoleon's entire life story would qualify. That man just would not quit.

"Massive wave..."

"The Great Molasses Flood, Jan.15, 1919. Massive wave of molasses from a broken tank flooded the area. It killed 51 people and injured 150. 2.3 million US gallons."

keltoy1545

I learned about this as a kid when I picked up a book that listed "weird but true" facts. This was one of them. It sounded quite ridiculous until I read about the horrible way the victims died.

"Surprisingly..."

"During the siege of Tenochtitlan, the conquistadors built a trebuchet. However, the conquistadors, being an exploratory expedition, had not brought any military engineers with them. So they winged it. Surprisingly, they did build a trebuchet, which fired exactly one shot, directly upwards, which promptly came down and smashed the trebuchet. This event is chronicled in both the journals of the conquistadors present as well as the Aztec records."

VolJin

History isn't boring!

Want to "know" more?

Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again.

Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.

People Break Down Which Things Scream 'I'm Having A Midlife Crisis'
Ümit Yıldırım/Unsplash

Red sports cars have been a mid-life crisis trope for as long as there have been red sports cars and lives have had mids.

But for real, nobody is affording them in this economy. And if we could, we couldn't gas them up anyway.

But broke folk deserve a crisis, too! Probably more than anyone who can afford a sports car...

Keep reading...Show less
People Explain Which Lessons They Had To Learn The Hard Way
PM Images/GettyImages

Some people typically don't like being told what to do because they think they already know what they're doing.

That is until they stumble and land on their face.

Keep reading...Show less
People Confess The Most Out Of Line Thing A Doctor's Ever Said To Them
DjelicS/GettyImages

As patients, we rely on the expertise of medical professionals to be able to identify whatever ailments we're suffering through.

Keep reading...Show less
Foreigners Break Down Their Favorite American Meals
Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

Growing up, I had zero idea that the food I ate daily was "cultural."

It didn't occur to me until I was a kid when my mother had to gently explain to me that not everyone ate rice & beans.

She had to explain it because we were about to eat at a white friend's house for the first time.

Keep reading...Show less