20 Weird And Interesting Facts About Famous Historical Figures
Even though we see famous faces on book covers and dollar bills every day, it’s easy to forget they were human. Just like us, they were real people with a complex array of motivations and emotions. Oh, and they were pretty weird, too.
Between dark secrets, awkward meetings, and bizarre personal lives, historical figures got wrapped up in their fair share of strange stuff. Here are the facts some of history’s most important people tended to leave out of their distinguished memoirs…
1. Because he amassed a net worth of about $1 billion over his lifetime, Walt Disney liked to reward those who worked for him. In fact, he gave his housekeeper company stock every Christmas and birthday. By the time she was in her 70s, she was a multi-millionaire.
2. When Ronald Reagan watched Back to the Future in theaters, he absolutely loved 1955 Doc Brown’s joke about the former actor becoming President. Reagan then instructed the theater staff to roll back the projector and play the scene from the start.
Back to the Future Wiki
3. Malcolm X wrote and spoke so captivatingly that it’s hard to believe he could barely read for much of his life. While serving a prison sentence for theft, he copied the entire dictionary by hand to improve his language skills. Malcolm then read his work aloud every day.
4. Albert Einstein got pretty tired of dealing with inquisitive fans when he was out and about. Naturally, he came up with a genius idea: whenever an unwanted admirer approached him, the physicist apologized and said people always mistook him for Albert Einstein.
5. Even Marie Antoinette grew tired of the royal life sometimes. So what is an extravagant monarch to do? She initiated the construction of the Hameau de la Reine — the Queen’s Hamlet — an idyllic, private village where she could walk around in common clothing and pretend to live as a peasant.
6. Alan Turing was the father of the modern computing and helped crack German codes during World War II, but this brainiac had brawn too. A gifted runner, he once completed a marathon in 2 hours and 46 minutes. That was only 11 minutes shy of the winning time at the following year’s Olympics.
Twitter / Prof S Barry Cooper
7. Who can forget Charlie Chaplin’s iconic look? Well, the comedian decided it would be funny to secretly enter a Chaplin lookalike contest at the height of his fame. When the results came in, he lost — coming in 20th place! Maybe the judges that day needed to get their eyes checked.
8. Throughout the Cold War, the CIA made over 600 attempts to assassinate or humiliate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Some of the wackier plans involved an exploding cigar, a poisoned wetsuit, and a holographic Virgin Mary spouting propaganda. Of course, Castro managed to evade each scheme.
9. When Winston Churchill visited the White House in 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt burst into his guest’s room, only to find him fully in the buff. Witty as always, Churchill quipped, “The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.”
Hillsdale College Churchill Project
10. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to ever serve in Congress. That alone is impressive, but the really impressive part is that she clinched her seat a full four years before women won the right to vote in the United States.
11. When Elvis Presley’s girlfriend found him dead on the floor of the bathroom, most doctors figured a regular heart attack did him in. However, recent theories about his poor health and the massive size of his colon suggest the King of Rock’s heart actually gave out due to incredibly severe constipation.
Elvis Presley In Concert
12. In 1856 — a few years before his Presidency — Abraham Lincoln delivered a ground-shaking speech against slavery at the Bloomington Convention. He was so captivating that no reporter present remembered to take notes, so there is no surviving transcript of the speech today.
13. For a writer as exceptional and prolific as William Shakespeare, it’s only fitting that he should pen the words that would cover his own grave. He composed the epitaph below to scare off would-be grave robbers. The verse is now a famous sight at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon.
14. Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to conquer the world, but he also had a sensitive side. In his spare time, the military genius wrote a romantic novella called Clisson et Eugénie. The book detailed the heartbreaking love between a soldier and his sweetheart back home. Scholars speculate Napoleon’s own personal life inspired it.
15. In a 1938 battle against French forces, Mexican General Santa Anna took a bullet to the leg. When doctors had to amputate the limb shortly thereafter, Santa Anna ordered his removed lower leg receive its own funeral with full military honors.
16. Nikola Tesla sure had his quirks. Although he worshiped women from afar, he never entered any relationships with them, as he thought chastity enhanced his work. Later in life, however, Tesla did claim to fall in love with a New York City pigeon.
17. Always an independent woman, Amelia Earhart insisted that she and her fiance George Putnam write a prenup. She included some pretty bold terms, including a call for an open marriage! She wrote, “I shall not hold you to a medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.”
Fine Art America
18. King Henry VIII of England kept up a large court, including four gentlemen known as “Grooms of the Stool.” No, they weren’t responsible for carrying around his chair. These Grooms took care of all of Henry’s most intimate toilet needs, chiefly wiping his bottom after he took a royal flush.
19. The reign of the extravagant Roman emperor Caligula only lasted for a few years, but he packed a lot of madness into that period. He even appointed Incitatus, his favorite horse, to the Roman Senate! This may not have been a sign of insanity, however. It’s likely Caligula did it to mock the Senate and keep them from gaining more power.
20. Thomas Edison was the personal hero of automobile giant Henry Ford. He had the good fortune to strike up a friendship with Edison in the inventor’s later years. When Ford’s son was at Edison’s deathbed in 1931, Ford instructed him to collect Edison’s final breath in a tube. That container is on display today at the Henry Ford Museum!