Around 1730 a German secret society recorded their initiation rituals in an encrypted manuscript. In 2011, that cipher was finally decoded.
The opening riff of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” bears a strong resemblance to the 1984 song “Eighties”… which in turn bears a strong resemblance to the 1982 song “Life Goes On.”
The Rational Dress Society, founded in 1881, fought the strictures of the Victorian corset, crinoline, and high heels.
The hippo-greyhound swap between Egypt and England; the telepathic snail scam; the Salvation Army’s arch enemies; and the curious appearance of a Sri Lankan bell in pre-colonial New Zealand.
The human pregnancy test that uses dead rabbits; the human fertility test that creates human-hamster hybrids; mice with knocked-out genes; and the immortal dog cancer.
Donald Duck’s distinctive speaking style is a type of alaryngeal speech – it is made without using your voice box.
M-185 has been part of Michigan’s state highway system since 1933… but no cars drive on it. And it has still managed to have at least one crash.
Specially designated “sentinel chickens” allow health officials to track the emergence of infectious diseases like West Nile virus amongst human populations.
In 1859 a geomagnetic storm from the Sun knocked out telegraph equipment in Europe and North America and sent auroras almost as far as the equator; it was the largest such event in recorded history.
Benedict IX has to be one of history’s strangest popes. He was one of the youngest popes ever appointed, he was the pope on three non-consecutive occasions, and he’ll go down in history as the only pope to ever sell the papacy.
The speed-limit skirt; the millions of dresses made out of feed sacks; the chair designed to be torpedo-proof; and who was actually sticking a feather in their hat and calling it macaroni anyway?
The Japanese government’s secret volcano; the capital city destroyed by a volcano in 1997; the eruption that killed the creator of one of the first encyclopedias; a volcano disrupted world weather in 1808, but we have no idea which one it was.
Iron Eyes Cody portrayed Native American characters in more than 200 films and the famous “Crying Indian” TV ad. Red Thunder Cloud and Jamake Highwater presented themselves as experts on Native American culture. None of them were actually indigenous.
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse led a French scientific expedition around the Pacific; in 1788 it disappeared without a trace. A young Napoléon Bonaparte almost went with him.
Many moons, dwarf planets, comets, and trans-Neptunian objects are covered in a kind of complex chemical sludge sometimes called “tholins.” And this sludge may be much more common throughout the universe.
Naff, butch, camp, and zhoosh are slang terms that came out of Polari, an argot from early 20th century English gay subculture.