22 Unbelievable Historical Facts That Weren’t Taught in School

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22 Unbelievable Historical Facts That Weren’t Taught in School

22 Unbelievable Historical Facts That Weren’t Taught in School

History classes often cover a broad spectrum of events, from ancient civilizations to modern-day politics. However, due to curriculum constraints and the vastness of historical events, some fascinating tidbits are often left out. These overlooked stories can add depth and intrigue to our understanding of the past. Here are 22 unbelievable historical facts that you probably didn’t learn in school but are sure to capture your imagination.

1. The Great Emu War

In 1932, Australia faced an unexpected foe: emus. With a population explosion of emus invading Western Australia, damaging crops, the military intervened with soldiers armed with machine guns. Surprisingly, the emus proved remarkably resilient, evading soldiers’ efforts and surviving numerous attacks.

This series of engagements, humorously dubbed the “Great Emu War,” ended in a withdrawal of military forces, marking a unique instance where birds inadvertently won a ‘war’ against humans.

2. Cleopatra’s Time to the Pyramids

Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, lived closer in time to the moon landing in 1969 than to the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The pyramid was completed around 2560 BC, while Cleopatra reigned from 51-30 BC. This fact highlights the incredible span of Egypt’s history, often condensed in historical narratives.

3. The Oldest “Your Mom” Joke

Humor has been a part of human culture for millennia, evidenced by a 3,500-year-old Babylonian tablet discovered in Iraq. This artifact bears what is believed to be the oldest recorded “your mom” joke. It demonstrates that even in ancient times, people enjoyed a good-natured tease, showing the timeless nature of humor.

4. The Dancing Plague of 1518

In July 1518, some of the residents of Strasbourg were struck by a sudden, irresistible urge to dance. The “Dancing Plague” saw hundreds of people dance for days without rest, leading to numerous deaths from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion. The cause remains a mystery, with theories ranging from mass hysteria to ergot poisoning.

5. The Invention of the Sandwich

The sandwich, a global staple, was popularized by John Montagu. He was the fourth Earl of Sandwich during the 18th century. An avid gambler, Montagu allegedly told his valet to bring him meat tucked in between two slices of bread to avoid interrupting his gambling sessions. This convenient eating method quickly caught on, immortalizing Montagu’s title in this common culinary creation.

6. The Colorful Life of Julie d’Aubigny

Julie d’Aubigny, also known as La Maupin, was a 17th-century opera singer and swordswoman known for her duels and dramatic love affairs. She once escaped a convent by setting it on fire to rescue her female lover. Her life was marked by scandal, adventure, and defiance of gender norms, making her a fascinating figure largely overlooked in traditional histories.

7. The Forgotten Female Pharaoh

Hatshepsut was one of the most successful pharaohs of ancient Egypt. She ultimately reigned longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. Her time as a leader was marked by prosperity and monumental building projects, including her famous mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. Despite her achievements, her successors attempted to erase her from historical records, and her contributions were largely forgotten until the 19th century.

8. The Time Niagara Falls Stopped

In 1848, for about 20 hours, Niagara Falls came to an eerie halt due to an ice jam in the Niagara River upstream. Residents woke up to silence, and some even walked on the dry riverbed to collect artifacts. The event was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that highlighted the powerful interplay between nature and one of the world’s most famous waterfalls.

9. Lincoln and Kennedy Coincidences

A series of eerie coincidences exist between Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, from their election years (Lincoln in 1860, Kennedy in 1960) to the similarities in their assassinations. Both were shot on a Friday, in the presence of their wives, by Southerners, and succeeded by Southerners named Johnson. These strange parallels have fascinated historians and conspiracy theorists alike.

10. The Pirate Republic of Libertatia

In the late 17th century, a purported pirate utopia known as Libertatia was said to exist on the island of Madagascar. According to legend, it was founded by pirates under the leadership of Captain James Misson and was a place where property was communal and hierarchical structures were abolished. While its existence is debated, the story of Libertatia has inspired many with its ideals of freedom and equality.

11. The First Computer Programmer Was a Woman

Ada Lovelace, an English writer and mathematician, is often celebrated as the world’s first computer programmer. She worked on the Analytical Engine – Charles Babbage’s mechanical general-purpose computer – and was the first to recognize that the invention had applications beyond pure calculation, publishing the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.

12. The Volcano That Changed the World

In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in one of the most powerful volcanic events in recorded history. The following year, 1816, became known as the “Year Without a Summer” due to the volcanic ash in the atmosphere affecting global temperatures, leading to widespread crop failures and famine. This event had profound effects on weather patterns and agriculture, and even inspired literary works such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” conceived during a cold, dark summer in Switzerland.

13. The Original Siamese Twins

Chang and Eng Bunker were Thai-American conjoined twin brothers born in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811. Their nature of their condition and where they were born lead to use of the term “Siamese twins.” After a successful career as “curiosities” in traveling exhibitions, they settled in North Carolina, married sisters, and fathered 21 children between them, integrating into American society in a way few could have imagined.

14. The Lost Roman Legion in China

After their defeat in the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, it’s speculated that some Roman soldiers were captured by the Parthians and eventually made their way to China, where they served as mercenaries. Chinese historical records mention a group of soldiers using formations reminiscent of Roman tactics in a battle in 36 BC. This has led to theories about a lost Roman legion finding a new life thousands of miles from home.

15. The Honey War

The Honey War was a bloodless territorial dispute in the 1830s between Missouri and Iowa over their shared border. The conflict was named after Missouri officials attempted to collect taxes from Iowa residents and were met with resistance, including the chopping down of three honey trees. The dispute was eventually settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing the boundary that exists today.

16. The Real Dracula Was a Prince

Vlad III, who was also known by the names Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracula, was a 15th-century prince of Wallachia, a region of modern-day Romania. His ruthless and, at times, cruel tactics against his enemies, including impalement, earned him a fearsome reputation. Bram Stoker’s famous vampire, Count Dracula, was loosely based on Vlad, blending historical facts with folklore to create a lasting legend.

17. The First Proposal for Daylight Saving Time Was Satirical

Benjamin Franklin is frequently credited with proposing the concept of daylight saving time, but his initial presentation of the idea was meant to be satirical, aimed at Parisians for being night owls. In a letter to the Journal of Paris in 1784, he jokingly suggested that waking up earlier would save on candle usage. The concept of adjusting clocks to make better use of daylight wasn’t seriously proposed until much later.

18. The Unbreakable Code of the Navajo Code Talkers

During World War II, the U.S. Marines recruited Navajo speakers to develop an unbreakable code based on their language. The Navajo Code Talkers played a crucial role in secure communications in the Pacific Theater, contributing significantly to American victories in battles like Iwo Jima.

19. The World’s First Novel Was Written by a Woman

“The Tale of Genji,” written in the early 11th century by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, is often considered the world’s first novel. This intricate story of courtly life in medieval Japan has been celebrated for its detailed characterization and sophisticated narrative structure, showcasing the early literary talents of women.

20. The U.S. Invaded Russia

After World War I, the United States, along with other Allied forces, intervened in the Russian Civil War, landing troops in Siberia and Northern Russia. The intervention, aimed at supporting anti-Bolshevik forces, is a little-known aspect of U.S. military history and had a lasting impact on U.S.-Soviet relations.

21. The Tallest Man in History

Robert Wadlow, known as the “Alton Giant,” was the tallest person in recorded history, reaching 8 feet 11 inches (2.72 meters) tall. His incredible height was due to pituitary gland hyperplasia, which caused an atypically high level of human growth hormone. Wadlow’s life and his gentle demeanor made him a beloved figure until his untimely death at the age of 22.

22. The Forgotten Female Samurai

Tomoe Gozen was a female samurai warrior renowned for her bravery and strength in 12th-century Japan. She served in the Genpei War and was known for her skills with both the bow and the sword, a rarity in a male-dominated field. Her legacy challenges traditional perceptions of gender roles in samurai culture.


Ultimately, these 22 unbelievable historical facts offer a glimpse into the lesser-known, quirky, and sometimes astonishing aspects of our past. They remind us that history is not just a series of dates and events but a tapestry of human experiences, innovations, and stories waiting to be told. By exploring these unusual narratives, we can gain a fuller appreciation of the complexity and diversity of human history.


Do you know of any other unbelievable historical facts that people may find interesting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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