12 Bits of Trivia to Blend Into a Puree and Slather on Your Cerebrum
These bits of trivia don’t look like much on their own, but when you slush ’em up real good, they unlock a delicious bouquet of facts and figures that your brain will forever crave once it gets a whiff.
There Was a Time When Gorillas Were Mythical Monsters to Westerners
A fifth century Greek explorer wrote of “an island filled with savage people, most of them women, and covered in hair. Our interpreters call them gorillae.” Western scientists only started examining their behavior (and bones) as though they were actual animals around the mid-1800s.
Rest Easy: H.H. Holmes Isn’t on the Loose
People thought Holmes was so brilliant, he bribed his way out of his own execution and escaped to South America. In 2017, his double-deep, cement covered grave was dug up to test his putrefying remains. He was too goopy for DNA testing, but his teeth (and mustache) were well-preserved, and used to positively identify him.
The Great American Grifter Who Was Finally Caught in Europe
Mary Williams was a “spiritualist” (a magician who passed off her tricks as the work of ghosts) who made a killing among idiot Americans, and tried to take her act on the road. At her first seance, the French crowd immediately figured out that her “spirit” was a doll. She tried to cheese it, but she was caught and forced to give everyone a refund. She then self-exiled to England.
‘I Shot the Sheriff’ Isn’t About What You Think It’s About — It’s Sort of Worse!
Bob Marley always said that part of the song was based on true events, so fans spent a long time trying to track down sheriff shootings he may have been involved in. Actress and writer Esther Anderson later revealed that Marley resented her for using birth control while he was cheating on his wife with her, and that “Sheriff John Brown” was the doctor who prescribed her the pill:
Sheriff John Brown always hated me,
For what, I don’t know:
Every time I plant a seed,
He said kill it before it grow
The Roman emperor inherited a pretty awful economy, to be fair, but he made everything much worse. He tried replacing the currency everyone was used to with a coin that had more gold in it than before. The price of each coin was worth more than the amount it represented, which isn’t terribly uncommon, but in this case, everyone just melted down their money and kept the gold. He became the first Roman emperor to tap out before he could be assassinated.
The Martial Arts Black Belt Was Only Invented in the 1880s
Martial arts have been around since the Bronze Age, and practitioners had long received scrolls or other certificates to prove their expertise. But Kano Jigoro, the guy who invented judo in 1882, came up with the idea of colored belts around the same time.
Devil’s Breath: The Hypnosis Roofie
Scopolamine is a drug that was developed by Australian Aboriginal peoples, then synthesized by Allied forces to combat seasickness when crossing the English Channel, and later used for eye surgeries. It’s also been co-opted by criminals: If it’s mixed into a drink, blown in your face or even soaked into a business card that you touch, it can leave you zonked out in an impressionable state for 24 hours.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers Gave Their Drug Dealer a Line in Their Song in Lieu of Payment
George Clinton gave the Chili Peppers studio space and a ton of drugs to record their album Freaky Styley, but he wasn’t doing so hot financially. When his drug dealer, Louie, came by with some muscle to collect, they offered him a line in the song “Yertle the Turtle”: Louie is the one who says, “Look at that turtle go, bro.”
Finns Turn Cemeteries Into a Party on Christmas
There’s a Finnish tradition where people will visit their deceased loved ones — or just any random local cemetery — on Christmas Eve, and leave candles on gravesites. It often turns into a well-lit social gathering (and a traffic nightmare).
Napoleon May Have Been Murdered by the Color Green
We know that Napoleon spent the last few years of his life in a mansion called Longwood House, and died of a stomach ulcer. There may be a causal link there — the wallpaper in his mansion was colored with Scheele’s Green, a pigment known to use more arsenic than you’d be comfortable living around for six years. Arsenic has been found in his hair, and it could have been enough to have caused his ulcer.
Identical Twins Are More Likely to Join the Same Cult Than Fraternal Twins
A genetic study of identical and fraternal twins found that the former are more likely to be on the same page in three key areas: authoritarianism, conservatism and religion. That means political views may be entrenched on a genetic level. Good news for cultists, bad news for people trying to reach across the political aisle.
The Deadliest German Hospital
Beelitz Heilstatten is a now-abandoned ghost hospital that, when it was in operation, treated two of the biggest pieces of shit in human history. One was Erich Honecker, the guy responsible for the Berlin Wall and the Stasi. The other is Hitler himself, who was nursed back to health after a World War I mustard gas attack.