12 Trivia Tidbits for Your Friday, February 9, 2024
We picked you up a 12-pack of cool, refreshing factoids. Crack one open!
An Old-School Spiritualist Was Ruined When Someone Tried to Noogie His Spirit
F.W. Courtney was a flim-flam man and spiritualist who made a fortune holding fake seances in Detroit. At one performance in 1893, he summoned the “spirit” of some guy’s wife, and another dude decided he wanted to put the ghost in a headlock. This, obviously, revealed the spirit to be Courtney himself, which somehow surprised and enraged the crowd. He was forced to give everyone a refund and was run out of town.
One Australian Family Keeps Murdering People in the Same Creepy Forest
In 2012, Matthew Milat lured a classmate into Belanglo State Forest and brutally murdered him with the help of a friend. Back in the 1990s, his great uncle Ivan Milat murdered at least seven hikers in equally brutal fashion, in that same forest.
Ancient Greeks Thought Giraffes Were a Joke
While Egyptians and Romans were familiar with giraffes, due to the uber-wealthy importing them as pets, Greeks long called them camelopards, a mythical chimerical combination of a camel and a leopard.
Tattoos Were Mainly a Form of Punishment in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece wasn’t a monolith, and there were lots of cultures living in the area for a long time. But one thing that many of them had in common was the practice of tattooing criminals with descriptions of their crimes. There were, however, some spies and spinsters who tattooed themselves willingly, to transfer information and let everyone know how much they didn’t care for others’ opinions, respectively.
University of Virginia Has One of the Most Mysterious Secret Societies in the Country
The Seven Society dates back to at least 1905, when a flag with a large 7, an alpha, an omega and an infinity symbol were spotted in a yearbook. Members are only revealed after they’re dead, via a flag appearing mysteriously at their funerals. The only thing that’s known about them is a handful of charitable donations, which always appear in an amount including a long string of 7s.
Comic Book Writer Neil Gaiman Got His Start in an Even More Fictional Business
Gaiman began his career as a British journalist, but quickly grew bitter about how his peers relied on making stuff up, rather than reporting facts. He decided if he was going to make up stories all day, they might as well be fun ones.
A 1994 Advertisement Caused Mass Panic in China
A TV station broadcast a special segment about a “Sibuxiang Beast” rampaging toward the city of Taiyuan. It was eventually revealed to be a tongue-in-cheek hoax to promote Sibuxiang liquor.
Walmart Lost Millions Because of Its Tenuous Relationship With Its Mexican Subsidiary
Walmart de Mexico operated independently of Walmart proper, and as such, executives were able to set up an extensive bribery scheme without anyone in America finding out. For a while, anyway. Once American Walmart executives caught wind, they quietly shut down all Mexican operations. The scandal went unnoticed for seven years before the New York Times found out and published an embarrassing article.
The Worst Type of Marketing Has Already Been Invented: Deadvertising
The 1999 video game Shadow Man was promoted via a “deadvertising” campaign — i.e., trying to get people to chisel ads onto their dead loved ones’ gravestones.
The Pope Enlisted the Help of a Fictional Emperor
During the Crusades, Pope Alexander III received a letter from a man named Prester John. He claimed to preside over a Tolkien-esque empire of horned men, giants and cyclops (not to mention a river that runs straight out of the Garden of Eden). This land was ruled by 72 kings who would come to the Christian church’s aid against the Muslims. The Pope responded but never heard back from his new penpal.
A Billionaire’s Nepo Dog Got 24 Death Threats
Upon her death, billionaire Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her white Maltese, Trouble, which was more than many of her closest family members. Trouble had her own apartment and personal chef in New York City, so keeping up her lifestyle would cost a small fortune. After the public found out and revolted, even more money had to be spent on Trouble’s relocation and private security.
Ed Kemper Performed Psychological Experiments on a Fellow Inmate
Herbert Mullin was a reviled serial killer and inconsiderate neighbor who would often sing while his fellow inmates were watching TV. Kemper said, “I threw water on him to shut him up. Then, when he was a good boy, I’d give him some peanuts. Herbie liked peanuts. That was effective because pretty soon he asked permission to sing. That’s called behavior modification treatment.”