12 Wild Bits of Trivia That Appeared in Our Path (And We Were Unable to Flee)
We were on our way to this town’s factoid gym to capture some factoids from the factoid trainer, when suddenly, 12 wild factoids popped out of the tall grass and challenged us to a brawl! There’s one about the woman who survived a 75-story plummet down an elevator shaft. Another about the Michelin Man’s weird drunken backstory. Still another about Jesus’ foreskin — and we don’t have that one yet! Wish us luck.
The Longest Elevator Drop Ever Survived Was 75 Stories
A B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945, and elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver was burned in the explosion. Rescue workers put her in an elevator — her natural habitat! — but the cables snapped, and she plummeted into the basement. A combination of air currents in the narrow shaft and debris pileup slowed the elevator just enough for her to survive.
Spinach Is a Superfood Because of a Math Error
In 1870, a German chemist documenting the content of spinach made a decimal point error when marking down the iron content — 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of spinach became 35 milligrams. No one thought to double check his findings until 1937, allowing spinach to coast on propaganda for almost 70 years.
Oscars Were Made Out of Plaster for Three Years
Due to metal shortage during World War II, the Academy made their statuettes out of plaster. Anyone who won during that time was invited to trade it in for a classic gilded metal one after the war.
The Michelin Man Is Canonically Drunk
Okay, first of all, this guy’s real name is “Bibendum,” or “Bib” for short. What the hell is going on here? An early poster shows this beefy monstrosity getting drunk with his freak friends, making a toast in Latin, that starts: “Nunc est bibendum.” The full quote translates to “Now is the time to drink!! Which is to say: ‘To your health, the Michelin tire drinks down the obstacle!’” But most people can’t read Latin, so they thought this abomination’s name was “Bibendum” — the part that means “to drink.”
Baby Incubators Came From Freak Shows
Incubating infant animals in zoos had been common practice for a while, but the first obstetricians who tried to adapt incubators for humans ran into a lot of red tape and condescension. French physician Pierre Budin turned them into a sideshow at the 1896 Berlin World’s Fair, and the practice caught on at other tourist attractions, like Coney Island. It wouldn’t be adopted by hospitals for another three or four decades.
Up to 18 European Towns Once Claimed to Own Jesus’ Foreskin
People became obsessed with the “Holy Prepuce” in the Middle Ages, with lots of churches and holy folk claiming they owned the thing. Sadly, most were lost during the French Revolution.
The German Stink Police
They didn’t invent “scent sampling,” but the East German secret police were probably more committed to it than any other group in history. They collected thousands of samples of butt sweat by swabbing chairs after interrogating supposed dissidents. Whenever they collected evidence of rebellion (flyers, graffiti, etc.), they would have trained dogs sniff it, and see if it matched any of the stink in their collection.
The Common Kestrel Was Called a ‘Windfucker’ in the 16th Century (Maybe)
Because the figure ſ looks so much like the figure f, it’s hard say whether they thought the birds fucked the wind or sucked the wind.
Dogs Keep Trying to Kill Themselves on This Scottish Bridge
Overtoun Bridge came to be known as “Dog Suicide Bridge” in the 1950s, because dogs keep losing their shit and swan-diving into the ravine below. The most plausible explanation is that the dogs catch the scent of mink or other small mammals, jump up on the railings, which are at kind of a weird angle, and fall off.
We Almost Definitely Found Amelia Earhart a Long Time Ago
Skeletal remains discovered on a remote island in 1940 seemed to fit the bill — the location and size of the skeleton, plus the timing of the discovery, all pointed to Earhart. But someone decided they were man bones, not lady bones, and it was ruled out. Modern forensic analysis has determined that, nope, it’s a woman. Unfortunately, someone lost the bones before DNA testing existed, so we’ll probably never know for sure.
BMW Once Sponsored a Deadly Winter Storm
Anyone can actually purchase the naming rights to high-pressure or low-pressure weather events from the German weather service. In 2012, BMW gambled on a storm, and before they knew it, the Cooper Cold Front killed around 150 people.
A Harvard Dropout Sold $1,000 Radium Jockstraps
William J.A. Bailey was a conman who patented lots of pseudo-medical devices in the early 20th century, mostly involving radium. The Radiendocrinator was a slab of gold and radium, meant to be worn like a jockstrap: “This puts the instrument under the scrotum as it should be.” He died at age 64, very rich and very full of radiation.