Odd Facts

A Collection of Strangeness

  • When Leo Tolstoy and his brother were children, they created a club with a peculiar, almost impossible initiation ceremony. In order to become a member, one had to stand in a corner for a half an hour and not think of anything white.

  • Most elephants weigh less than the tongue of the blue whale

  • Mrs. Caroline Squires of Cincinnati filed for a divorce from her husband in 1949 on grounds of desertion. She testified he'd stepped out "for a beer" on the Fourth of July, 1917, and had never come back.

  • The French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," derived its title from the enthusiasm of the men of Marseilles, France, who sang it when they marched into Paris at the outset of the French Revolution. Rouget de l'Isle, its composer, was an artillery officer. According to his account, he fell asleep at a harpsichord and dreamt the words and the music. Upon waking, he remembered the entire piece from his dream and immediately wrote it down.

  • Most elephants weigh less than the tongue of the blue whale

  • A law passed in Nebraska in 1912 really set down some hard rules of the road. Drivers in the country at night were required to stop every 150 yards, send up a skyrocket, then wait eight minutes for the road to clear before proceeding cautiously, all the while blowing their horn and shooting off flares..

  • Birds do not sleep in their nests. They may occasionally nap in them, but they actually sleep in other places.

  • The formula for cold cream has hardly changed at all in the 1,700 years since it was originally made by the Roman physician Galen.

  • George Lumley, aged 104, married Mary Dunning, aged 10, in Nortallerton, England on August 25, 1783. She was the great-great granddaughter of the woman who'd broken her engagement to Lumley, eighty years before.

  • Caesar salad has nothing to do with any of the Caesars. It was first concocted in a bar in Tiajuana, Mexico on July 4, 1924 by Caesar Cardini (born Cesare) (1896-1956), an Italian hotel owner, restaurateur and chef.

  • Objects weigh slightly less at the equator than at the poles.
    If the Earth was a non-rotating sphere, it would show equal gravitational values (values of g) at any point on its surface. However, the Earth is not spherical but elliptical, with a greater radius at the equator than at the poles. As a result, one might expect gravitational readings to be lower at the equator than at the poles. And, because the Earth is rotating, there is a tendency for objects to be thrown away from the Earth. This tendency is greatest at the equator and zero at the poles, reducing the gravitational attraction.

  • Crocodiles and alligators are surprisingly fast on land. Although they are rapid, they are not agile; so if you ever find yourself chased by one, run in a zigzag line. You'll lose him or her every time.

  • After Albert Einstein had been at Princeton for some months, local news hounds discovered that a twelve-year-old girl happened to stop by the Einstein home almost every afternoon. The girl's mother hadn't thought to ask Einstein about the situation until the newspapers reported it, but when she got the opportunity after that she did so. What could her daughter and Einstein have in common that they spent so much time together? Einstein replied simply, "She brings me cookies and I do her arithmetic homework."

  • When the French Academy was preparing its first dictionary, it defined "crab" as, "A small red fish which walks backwards." This definition was sent with a number of others to the naturalist Cuvier for his approval. The scientist wrote back, "Your definition, gentlemen, would be perfect, only for three exceptions. The crab is not a fish, it is not red and it does not walk backwards."

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  • Louis XIV of France really was as an unpleasant a fellow as he's been depicted. In 1674, when he was visiting a school at Clermont, he heard from the school's authorities that one of the children, a nine- year-old Irish lad named Francis Seldon, had made a pun about the king's bald head.

    Louis was furious. He had a secret warrant drawn up for the child's arrest, and young Seldon was thrown into solitary confinement in the Bastille. His parents, members of one of Europe's richest merchant families, were told simply that the child had disappeared. Days turned to months, months to years, and Louis himself passed away. But Francis spent sixty-nine years "in the hole" for making fun of the king's baldness.

  • One of the movie moguls the Marx Brothers had to deal with was Irving Thalberg of MGM. Purposefully or not, Thalberg had the annoying habit of making people wait outside his office for extended periods of time. One time he kept the Marx Brothers longer than they liked. When he finally got around to seeing them, he discovered they were stark naked outside his doorway, roasting potatoes in the lobby's fireplace. It was the last time he kept them waiting.

  • Abraham Lincoln had no love for favor seekers, especially when they took his time away from the duties of the presidency during the Civil War. On one occasion, he gathered together a number of would- be-office holders and told them this story:

    "There was once a King who wished to go out hunting, so he asked his minister if it was going to rain. The minister assured him that it would not. On the way to the woods, the King passed a farmer who was working the land with his donkey. The farmer warned the King that it would rain soon, but the King just laughed and continued on. A few minutes later it was pouring, and the King and his companions were soaked to their skin. Upon return to the castle, the King dismissed his minister and sent for the farmer. He asked the man how he knew it was going to rain.

    ""It was not me, your Majesty. It was my donkey. He always droops one ear when it is going to rain."

    "So the King bought the donkey from the farmer and gave him the position of minister at court. This was where the King made his mistake."

    "How was that," asked several people in the audience.

    "Because ever since then," Lincoln continued, "every jackass wants an office. Gentlemen, leave your credentials and when the war is over you'll hear from me."

  • In 1500 B.C. in Egypt a shaved head was considered the ultimate in feminine beauty. Egyptian women removed every hair from their heads with special gold tweezers and polished their scalps to a high sheen with buffing cloths.

  • In ancient China and certain parts of India, mouse meat was considered a great delicacy.

  • In ancient Greece, where the mouse was sacred to Apollo, mice were sometimes devoured by temple priests.

  • In 1400 B.C. it was the fashion among rich Egyptian women to place a large cone of scented grease on top of their heads and keep it there all day. As the day wore on, the grease melted and dripped down over their bodies, covering their skin with an oily, glistening sheen and bathing their clothes in fragrance.

  • In the United States, a pound of potato chips costs two hundred times more than a pound of potatoes.

  • Half the foods eaten throughout the world today were developed by farmers in the Andes Mountains. Potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, squash, all varieties of beans, peanuts, manioc (manioc?), papayas, strawberries and many other foods were first grown in this region.

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  • A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can.

  • Blue whales weigh as much as 30 elephants and are as long as 3 Greyhound buses.

  • According to tests made at the Institute for the Study of Animal Problems in Washington, D.C., dogs and cats, like people, are either right-handed or left-handed --- that is, they favor either their right or left paws.

  • A person cannot taste food unless it is mixed with saliva. For example, if a strong-tasting substance like salt is placed on a dry tongue, the taste buds will not be able to taste it. As soon as a drop of saliva is added and the salt is dissolved, however, a definite taste sensation results. This is true for all foods. Try it!

  • In eighteenth-century England, women's wigs were sometimes 4 feet high. These remarkable head- dresses were dusted with flour and decorated with stuffed birds, replicas of gardens, plates of fruit, or even model ships. Sometimes the wigs were so elaborate they were worn continuously for several months. They were matted with lard to keep them from coming apart, which made mice and insects a constant problem. Special pillows had to be constructed to hold these giant creations, and rat-resistant caps made of wire were common. The wig craze died out quite suddenly in 1795, when a hair-powder tax made their upkeep too expensive.

  • In the marriage ceremony of the ancient Inca Indians of Peru, the couple was considered officially wed when they took off their sandals and handed them to each other.

  • Experiments conducted in Germany and at the University of Southampton in England show that even mild and incidental noises cause the pupils of the eyes to dilate. It is believed that this is why surgeons, watchmakers, and others who perform delicate manual operations are so bothered by noise. The sounds cause their pupils to change focus and blur their vision.

  • The Inca Indians of Peru considered bridges to be so sacred that anyone who tampered with one was put to death. Among the most impressive Inca bridges were the chacas, or rope bridges, that spanned great distances over gorges and rivers. They were made of braided grasses woven together into a single cable as thick as a man's body, and they sometimes were 175 feet long. It took as many as a thousand people to build such a bridge, and many of these remarkable structures lasted more than 500 years.

  • According to acupuncturists, there is a point on the head that you can press to control your appetite. It is located in the hollow just in front of the flap of the ear. (Try it!)

  • Tibetans, Mongolians, and people in parts of western China put salt in their tea instead of sugar

  • In 1976 a Los Angeles secretary named Jannene Swift officially married a 50-pound rock. The ceremony was witnessed by more than 20 people.

  • In the early 19th century the words "trousers" and "pants" were considered obscene in England. Woman referred to trousers as "inexpressibles" or "a pair of dittoes." Later in the century the taboo was carried to such lengths that piano legs were covered up because they reminded people of their human legs. In 1836 Charles Dickens wrote the following lines in Oliver Twist:

    " ' I tossed off the clothes, got safely in bed, drew on a pair of ________' "

    " ' Ladies present, Mr. Giles,' murmured the tinker.

    " ' _________ of shoes, Sir,' said Mr. Giles, laying great emphasis on the word."

  • Ninety percent of all species that have become extinct have been birds.

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  • There is approximately one chicken for every human being in the world.

  • Sports fans in Brazil sometimes become so excited that it was necessary to build a wide moat around the playing field of Rio's 180,000-seat Maracarńa Stadium. The moat keeps the crowd from running onto the field, molesting the players and attacking the referees.

  • According to many language experts, the most difficult kind of phrase to create is a palindrome, a sentence or group of sentences that reads the same backward and forward. A few examples:

    Red rum, sir, is murder.

    Ma is as selfless as I am.

    Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!

    A man, a plan, a canal - Panama.

    He lived as a devil, eh?

  • The first automobile race ever seen in the United States was held in Chicago in 1895. The track ran from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois. The winner was J. Frank Duryea, whose average speed was 7˝ miles per hour.

  • In the memoirs of Catherine II of Russia, it is recorded that any Russian aristocrat who displeased the queen was forced to squat in the great antechamber of the palace and to remain in that position for several days, mewing like a cat, clucking like a hen, and pecking his food from the floor.

  • The outdoor temperature can be estimated to within several degrees by timing the chirps of a cricket. It is done this way: count the number of chirps in a 15-second period, and add 37 to the total. The result will be very close to the actual Fahrenheit temperature. This formula, however, only works in warm weather. (Try it!)

  • At any given time, there are 1,800 thunderstorms in progress over the earth's atmosphere.

  • Lightning strikes the earth 100 times every second.

  • The average lead pencil will draw a line 35 miles long or write approximately 50,000 English words. More than 2 billion pencils are manufactured each year in the United States. If these were laid end to end they would circle the world nine times.

  • The Pekingese dog was considered sacred among Chinese royalty. At the court of Li Hsui, one of the last Manchu queens, all court Pekingese had human wet nurses. Each dog had its own human guard to protect it from other dogs; some even had private palaces, complete with servants.

  • A rainbow can be seen only in the morning or late afternoon. It can occur only when the sun is 40 degrees or less above the horizon.

  • The Empire State Building is designed to serve as a lightning rod for the surrounding area. It is struck by lightning about 100 times per year. During windstorms and rainstorms, the building does not sway, but it does "give". With a wind of 110 miles an hour, the building gives 1.48 inches. Movement off center is never greater than one quarter inch, thus measurable movement is only one half inch, one quarter inch on either side.

  • In Calama, a town in the Atacama Desert of Chile, it has never rained.

  • An eighteenth-century German named Matthew Birchinger, known as "the little man of Nuremberg," played four musical instruments including the bagpipes, was an expert calligrapher, and was the most famous stage magician of his day. He performed tricks with the cup and balls that have never been explained. Yet Birchinger had no hands, legs, or thighs, and was less than 29 inches tall!

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  • The star Antares is 60,000 times larger than our sun. If our sun were the size of a softball, the star Antares would be as large as a house.

  • In Elizabethan England the spoon was such a novelty, such a prized rarity, that people carried their own folding spoons to banquets. (This was true, however, for only the people who were invited to banquets.)

  • Ants stretch when they wake up. They also appear to yawn in a very human manner before taking up the tasks of the day.

  • Bees have 5 eyes. There are 3 small eyes on the top of a bee's head and 2 larger ones in front.

  • In Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift described the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, giving their exact size and speeds of rotation. He did this more than 100 years before either moon was discovered.

  • It costs more to buy a new car today in the United States than it cost Christopher Columbus to equip and undertake three voyages to and from the New World.

  • One-fourth of the world's population lives on less than $200 a year. Ninety million people survive on less than $75 a year.

  • In ancient China doctors were paid when their patients were kept well, not when they were sick. Believing that it was the doctor's job to prevent disease, Chinese doctors often paid the patient if the patient lost his health. Further, if a patient died, a special lantern was hung outside the doctor's house. At each death another lantern was added. Too many of these lanterns were certain to ensure a slow trade.

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  • Butterflies taste with their hind feet.

  • Only female mosquitoes bite.

  • Mosquitoes are attracted to the color blue twice as much as to any other color.

  • If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death.

  • Every night, wasps bite into the stem of a plant, lock their mandibles (jaws) into position, stretch out at right angles to the stem, and, with legs dangling, fall asleep.

  • During the time of Peter the Great, any Russian man who wore a beard was required to pay a special tax.

  • It is illegal to hunt camels in the state of Arizona.

  • In the country of Turkey, in the 16th and 17th centuries, anyone caught drinking coffee was put to death.

  • A Virginia law requires all bathtubs to be kept out in the yards, not inside the houses.

  • In eighteenth-century English gambling dens, there was an employee whose only job was to swallow the dice if there was a police raid.

  • There are no clocks in Las Vegas gambling casinos.

  • The opposite sides of a dice cube always add up to seven.

  • The human tongue tastes bitter things with the taste buds toward the back. Salty and pungent flavors are tasted in the middle of the tongue, sweet flavors at the tip. (Try it!)

  • A sneeze can travel as fast as 100 miles per hour.

  • It is impossible to sneeze and keep one's eyes open at the same time. (Try it!)

  • "Breath," by Samuel Beckett, was first performed in April, 1970. The play lasts thirty seconds, has no actors, and no dialogue.

  • In 1778, fashionable women of Paris never went out in blustery weather without a lightning rod attached to their hats.

  • A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continually from the bottom of the glass to the top.

  • Celery has negative calories! It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

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  • In the Balanta tribe of Africa, a bride remained married until her wedding gown was worn out. If she wanted a divorce after 2 weeks, all she had to do was rip up her dress. This was the custom until about 20 years ago, anyway.

  • Marie de Medici, a member of that famous Italian family and a 17th-century queen of France, had expensive tastes in clothes. One special dress was outfitted with 39,000 tiny pearls and 3,000 diamonds, and cost the equivalent of twenty million dollars at the time it was made in 1606. She wore it once.

  • The eccentric and paranoid American recluse Langley Collier met his untimely end in 1947. While he was bringing food to his equally odd brother Homer, who lived as a total hermit, Langley tripped on a wire to one of his own booby traps and was crushed beneath a suitcase filled with metal, a sewing machine, three breadboxes, and several bundles of newspapers. Homer starved to death, and their bodies were undiscovered for three weeks.

  • Here is the literal translation of one of the standard traffic signs in China. It reads: "Give large space to the festive dog that makes sport in the roadway."

  • Ralph Graves entered a doughnut shop with a gun and demanded money from the cashier. A customer recognized him, however, when Graves lifted up a corner of his pillowcase mask to find his way out the door. Graves had forgotten to cut eyeholes.

  • A burglar entered the home of Tom Schimmel in Tawas City, Michigan; collected valuables; fixed himself a bowl of cereal; laid down in Schimmel's bed and fell asleep. When Schimmel returned to his house and discovered the crime, he called police. Officers investigated, completed their reports, and departed. When Schimmel noticed the sleeping burglar several hours later, he summoned the police again. They awakened the man and identified him as the thief.

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  • In 1968, a convention of beggars in Dacca, India, passed a resolution demanding that "the minimum amount of alms be fixed at 15 paisa (three cents)." The convention also demanded that the interval between when a person hears a knock at his front door and when he offers alms should not exceed 45 seconds.

  • A San Antonio wife, filing for divorce, described her husband as "a bore." "Just what is a bore?" asked the judge. She thought about it, then quoted, "A person who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company." The record shows the judge regarded that as sufficient grounds and granted her the divorce.

  • Larry Lewis ran the 100-yard dash in 17.8 seconds in 1969, thereby setting a new world's record for runners in the 100-years-or-older class. He was 101.

  • Yes, it's against the law to:
    1. Doze off under a hair dryer in Florida
    2. Slap an old friend on the back in Georgia, and
    3. Play hopscotch on a Sunday in Missouri.

  • At age ninety, Peter Mustafic of Botovo, Yugoslavia, suddenly began speaking again after a silence of 40 years. The Yugoslavian news agency quoted him as saying, "I just didn't want to do military service, so I stopped speaking in 1920; then I got used to it."

  • Cows burp a lot, but until recently no one paid much attention. Now researchers at the Texas Department of Highways in Fort Worth are sitting up and taking notice. Each year the cow population of the United States burps some fifty million tons of valuable hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. If they could only be captured and efficiently channeled, say the researchers, the accumulated burps of ten average cows could keep a small house adequately, if indirectly, heated and its stove operating for a year.

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  • There is no record of the ASPCA coming to the aid of a Eureka, California woman who was thrown in jail not long ago for disrobing in a grocery store and sitting on some pheasant eggs in an effort to hatch them.

  • Warning: THE PRACTICIONER, a British medical journal, has determined that bird-watching may be hazardous to your health. The magazine, in fact, has officially designated bird-watching a "hazardous hobby," after documenting the death of a weekend bird-watcher who became so immersed in his subject that he grew oblivious to his surroundings and consequently was eaten by a crocodile.

  • The coastal town of Picoaza, Ecuador, was in the midst of a very boring election campaign when a foot deodorant manufacturer came out with the slogan "VOTE FOR ANY CANDIDATE, BUT IF YOU WANT WELL-BEING AND HYGIENE, VOTE FOR PULVAPIES." Then on the eve of the voting, a leaflet reading: "FOR MAYOR: HONORABLE PULVAPIES" was widely distributed. In one of the great embarrassments of democracy, the voters of Picoaza elected the foot powder by a clear majority; Pulvapies also ran well in outlying districts.

  • THE MOST UNUSUAL CANNONBALL On two occasions, Miss 'Rita Thunderbird' remained inside the cannon despite a lot of gunpowder encouragement to do otherwise. She performs in a gold lamébikini and on one of the two occasions (1977) Miss Thunderbird remained lodged in the cannon, while her bra was shot across the River Thames.

  • THE NOISIEST BURGLAR. A burglar in Paris set new standards for the entire criminal world, when, on November 4, 1933, he attempted to rob the home of an antique dealer. At the time he was dressed in a 15th-century suit of armour which dramatically limited his chances both of success and escape. He had not been in the house many minutes before its owner was awakened by the sound of the clanking metal. The owner got up and went out on to the landing where he saw the suit of armour climbing the stairs. He straightaway knocked the burglar off balance, dropped a small sideboard across his breastplate, and went off to call the police. During police questioning a voice inside the armour confessed to being a thief trying to pull off a daring robbery. "I thought I would frighten him," he said. Unfortunately for our man, the pressure of the sideboard had so dented his breastplate that it was impossible to remove the armour for 24 hours, during which period he had to be fed through the visor.

  • During Abraham Lincoln's campaign for the presidency, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat named Valentine Tapley from Pike County, Missouri, swore that he would never shave again if Abe were elected. Tapley kept his word and his chin whiskers went unshorn from November 1860 until he died in 1910, attaining a length of twelve feet six inches.

  • For a while Frederic Chopin, the composer and pianist, wore a beard on only one side of his face. "It does not matter," he explained. "My audience sees only my right side."


Recently Added
  • Mihailo Tolotos, a Greek monk who died in 1938 at the age of 82, was perhaps the only man never to have laid eyes on a woman. Milhailo's mother died when he was born, and the infant was whisked away the following day to a monastery atop Mount Athos. Tolotos spent the remainder of his life among the monks - completely isolated from female society. Women and even female animals were prohibited from entering the monastery, a tradition dating back to the founding of the retreat more than nine centuries earlier.

  • To decide. The term comes from the Latin decidere meaning "to cut away" and one method of arriving at a decision is by "cutting away" and eliminating all but one possibility - by "cutting away" all that's worthless.

  • Don't let this happen to you. The eccentric and paranoid American recluse Langlay Collier met his untimely end in 1947. While he was bringing food to his equally odd brother Homer, who lived as a total hermit, he tripped on a wire to one of his own booby traps and was crushed beneath a suitcase filled with metal, a sewing machine, three breadboxes, and several bundles of newspapers. Homer starved to death, and their bodies were undiscovered for weeks.

  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Most people believe that this means "between Satan and the bottom of the ocean." However, devil, in this case, has nothing to do with the ruler of the kingdom of evil. The "devil" is a seam in a wooden ship's hull that is very difficult to access, so called "the devil to get at" when caulking.

  • re. This is not, as often thought, an abbreviation for "regard" or "reference" when used in a business lettre. It's the ablative of the Latin "res", meaning "thing" or "matter".

  • The children's game "Ring Around the Rosey" and the words that accompany it ("Ring around the rowy, pocket full of posy, ashes, ashes, all fall down") derive from the medieval practice of scattering rose petals in a circle around one's bed ("ring around the rosy") and carrying small bouquets ("pocket full of posy") as protection against the aromas created by the disease and decay of the Black Plague ("all fall down").

  • The coastal town of Picoaza, Ecuador, was in the midst of a listless election campaign when a foot deodorant manufacturer came out with the slogan "Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies." Then on the eve of the voting, a leaflet reading "For Mayor: Homorable Pulvapies" was widely distributed. In one of the great embarrassments of democracy, the voters of Picoaza elected the foot powder by a clear majority; Pulvapies also ran well in outlying districts.