12 Bits of Trivia That Fell Off the Back of the Truck, Capeesh?
Look, you want trivia tidbits, I got trivia tidbits, let’s not make this more complicated than it has to be.
The Most Haunted House in Britain
The Ancient Ram Inn has a lot of spooky stuff going for it — it’s geographically aligned with Stonehenge in a way that some spiritual types see as ominous, it originally housed slaves, those slaves built a nearby church and that church diverted nearby waterways (a spiritual no-no). A recent owner claims to have been violently dragged out of bed by a spirit, causing him to discover the bones of ritually sacrificed children.
Mosquitoes Smell Better at Night
Mosquitoes track you down by smelling your skin and the carbon dioxide in your breath. The mechanism is complicated, but it involves odorant-binding proteins, which accumulate in higher concentrations in their bodies during the night.
A Dolphin-Hunting Strategy Was Discovered by Snooping Through Ancient Trash
Getting elbow-deep in a 6,000-year-old pile of trash on an island near Panama, researchers found peculiar dolphin remains. They had clearly been eaten, but almost none of them bore signs of having been speared. This led them to speculate that ancient hunters used the unique geography of the island to herd dolphins onto the beach and let them die there.
Gotta Hand It to Him: A Soviet Spy Escaped America in an Extremely Clever Way
Edward Lee Howard was a CIA agent who grew bitter after being denied a promotion, and started drunkenly leaking secrets to the KGB. As the CIA began closing in, he had his wife drive him to the desert; they then tricked their CIA tail by driving home with a fully-dressed dummy and playing a pre-recorded conversation. That head start allowed him to make it to Moscow, where he was given two nice homes by the KGB (before dying mysteriously of a severed spine).
Mexico’s Christmas Jack-O-Lanterns
December 23rd is the Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca City. They have parades and parties, featuring intricate dioramas carved out of radishes.
Victorian Children Loved to Play ‘Funeral’
The game is exactly what it sounds like: They’d use a doll, or sometimes their youngest sibling, as a stand-in corpse, and practice mourning. It was common to own little coffins and mourning garments as toys. No wonder that’s the era most ghost children seem to come from.
Navy Blue Transformed from the Color of Motherly Love to the Color of Fascism
In 431 A.D., the Catholic Church declared dark blue the official hue for depictions of the Virgin Mary (all their Saints got their own colors). Scholars have tracked its meaning in art and culture, noting that it soon became associated with innocence and trustworthiness. So it’s no coincidence that it was eventually co-opted by figures of authority, like police and militaries.
Kindness May Be Hereditary
Researchers have pinpointed the gene responsible for oxytocin receptors, which regulate (among other things) your capacity to experience human connection. Each of your parents can give you either an adenine (A) or a guanine (G) nucleotide, and the G/G variant has been linked to higher empathy. Also, social anxiety.
Finland’s Natural History Museum Is Infested With Unkillable Spiders
A delivery in the 1960s accidentally introduced a clutch of Chilean recluse spider eggs to the building, and they’ve been unable to eradicate them in the decades since. These things have a painful and potentially deadly bite, lay thousands of eggs, don’t care about temperature and can live for over two years without food or water.
The King of England’s Bespoke Boning Chair
When he was still just the Duke of Wales, King Edward VII rented out his own private room in a brothel like it was a second apartment. He had his coat of arms on the wall, a bathtub exclusively for champagne and a chair designed specifically to entertain two brothel employees at once.
Leave Binky Alone!
Binky the Polar Bear mauled two tourists in the span of two months — but neither was his fault, and he became a local hero. When an Australian tourist climbed into his enclosure, Binky mauled her leg and held on to her shoe for three days. Then a bunch of drunk teenagers climbed in there to swim in his pool, and he gave one of them a spirited leg mauling as well.
A Russian Tsar Came Back from Vacation and Shaved Off Everyone’s Beards
In the 17th century, Peter the Great took a trip around Europe, and decided Russia needed to get with the times. One of his new rules was that men could no longer have beards. Religious people freaked out, and he relented. But he still instated a beard tax that lasted for decades after his death.