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20 Weirdest Random History Facts You Won't Believe

These weird and random history facts will make you want to time travel! Check out these cool facts about the weirder bits of history!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  April 16th 2024

These weird, wonderful and funny history facts are sure to blow your mind! Find out all about which Roman emperor tried to wage war against the sea, the worst job for Victorian children, which spy used chickens, and which king died on the toilet! And if you enjoyed these, we've got more history stuff here! Check out these awesome history quizzes, including this British history quiz and this Great Fire of London quiz! Or how about these hilarious Viking jokes to send you to Val-haha-la!

1. The Middle Ages Weren't Smelly!

When we think of the medieval period, what tends to come to mind? People in stocks? Knights? Smelly peasants covered in dung? Well, contrary to popular imagination, medieval people weren't smelly at all! In fact, medieval Europeans took bathing very seriously. They had whole bathhouses specially designed to wash in. It wasn't always easy to keep clean in medieval times, but they viewed being clean with lots of importance! Later people, like the Georgians and the Tudors, might not have been so hygienic though!

2. People Used To Lock Up Their Tea!

You might think people love tea today, but the lengths they went to in Stuart and Georgian Britain was a bit bonkers! Back then, tea was imported from China and therefore VERY expensive, and only the rich could afford it. It was so expensive, in fact, that special tea boxes were made with locks on them, so no one could steal your tea! It was always kept where the mistress of the house could see it, which is why tea making because such an occasion! You wouldn't trust your servants to make you a cuppa! Would you lock up your Yorkshire Gold teabags today?

3. Napoleon Wasn't That Short

If you know one thing about Napoleon, you know that he was short. Except he wasn't. He was actually 5'6, which was the average height for men of the time! He was probably made fun of as 'little' in propaganda pictures by his enemies, to make him seem less powerful, but Napoleon himself was no shorter than most men! He also liked to surround himself with very tall soldiers, which probably made him look smaller too.

4. Britain Once Banned Christmas

Can you think of anything worse? But it's true, between 1644 and 1660, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell ( a sort of unelected Prime Minister) banned the Celebration of Christmas! Cromwell was a Puritan, a sort of very strict Christian who believed that fun things like dancing, music and even make up were sinful and upset God. Unsurprisingly, this wasn't very popular, and there were even riots over it! The English might not have liked it, but the Scots weren't as bothered - in Scotland there was no Christmas celebration from 1640 until...1958! Well, it wasn't a public holiday anyway. That means your great grandad might have had to go to work on Christmas!

5. More Than One English King Has Died On The Toilet

Can you think of a more embarrassing way to go? We hate when someone accidentally walks in on us, let alone being found dead on the loo! The first English King to die on the loo was King Edmund in 1016, who got stabbed to death while doing his business. In 1216, exactly 200 years later, King John died on or near his loo from dysentery. Then, in 1760, King George II also went to his maker whilst on the porcelain throne. And King Henry I died in 1135 after gorging on lamprey ( a kind of river eel) which means he probably had a bit of toilet trouble. If you want to find out even more about historical toilet deaths, Wikipedia actually has a page about it!

6. A Pope Once Declared a War On Cats

You might not be a cat person, but you surely can't hate them as much as Pope Gregory IX. Between 1233 and 1234, Gregory, who, as leader of the Catholic Church had a LOT of power, decreed that cats were agents of Satan, and should be destroyed....maybe once scratched up his sofa real bad? This led to a mass killing of the poor moggies, which in turn probably led to an outbreak in plague, now there weren't as many cats around to kill rats. Nice work Gregory! Not!

7. And A Roman Emperor Once Declared a War On The Sea!

Must be an Italian thing... According to the stories, Emperor Caligula, who was known to be a bit of a hot head, was returning home from a failed invasion of Britain, and desperate to have a war with SOMETHING - it would be embarrassing to go home empty handed, right? Well, Caligula decided to declare war on the nearest thing he could find - Neptune, god of the sea! He ordered his men to whip the waves and collect shells as proof of victory. Historians aren't 100% sure if this story is true, but the fact that people believed in shows what an oddball Caligula was!

8. George Washington Didn't Have Wooden Teeth

It's one of the most enduring American myths - President George Washington has a mouthful of wooden toothy pegs! As funny as the image is, it's not true. George Washington did indeed have false teeth, but they were made from ivory and other peoples teeth (including, sadly, the teeth of enslaved people who couldn't consent). Gross! Would you put other people's teeth in your mouth?

9. Harriet Tubman Used To Carry Chickens As A Precaution

Harriet Tubman is best known today as a brave freedom fighter and abolitionist, who fought against slavery in the United States. As an undercover agent helping escaped enslaved people, she was known to carry chickens with her. Why?! Well, when she thought a slaver might be getting suspicious of her, she would release the chickens and then recapture them. The commotion was so distracting that the slave masters didn't notice who she was! She would also pretend to read a newspaper, because enslaved people weren't supposed to be able to read, so she wouldn't be suspected!

10. The Taj Mahal Was Once Disguised As A Pile Of Wood

The Taj Mahal is one of India's most beautiful buildings. During the Second World War, India wanted to keep it safe from bombing, so the majestic tomb was covered in bamboo! This disguised it as a bamboo stockpile, in the hope than enemy bombers wouldn't realise what it really was. It worked, and the Taj Mahal was left undamaged!

11. Halloween is Historically Scottish and Irish

You might think of Halloween as a very American import to the UK and the rest of the world - trick of treating, dressing up, telling spooky stories. But it actually has its origins in Scotland and Ireland. 'Hallowe'en' is an old Scots word for all Hallows eve, a Christian holy day with its origins in the earlier pagan Samhain. On Hallowe'en, Scottish and Irish people would dress up in spooky masks and costumes to scare away evil spirits, carve turnip lanterns and go 'guising' (in 'disguise') to collect food and drink from neighbours. Robert Burns even wrote a poem called 'Halloween' in 1785! Even today, trick or treating is known as 'guising' in Scotland, Ireland, and some parts of Northern England!

12. You Could Get A Job In Victorian Britain As A Poo Collector

Being a kid today can be tough, but spare a thought for Victorian children! One of the jobs (Yup, they had jobs, and they were rubbish ones) open to poor Victorian kids was helping the night soil Man. What's night soil? Why, it's poo! Before they had proper plumbing, poo would pile up in a cesspit under your privy until the night soil man arrived with his cart to take it away! It was called night soil partly because the task was done at night, to be more discreet, and partly because the Victorians didn't like saying poo! Poo!

13. The Real Story of Thanksgiving Is A Bit of A Bummer

The US celebration of Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for fun, family and friendship. Unfortunately, the historical Thanksgiving may not have been so great. In 1621, European colonists and local indigenous American people, the Wampanoags, came together to share food (And probably not turkey, more likely some oysters and dried meat). But the peace was a strained one, and in the years that followed, war broke out several times, including the very bloody King Philip's War of 1675, only 50 years later. What's more, the Puritans would have hated today's Thanksgiving and its fun - they preferred sober prayer!

14. France Had A Completely Different Calendar After The Revolution

After the French Revolution in 1789, people wanted to get rid of EVERYTHING that had come before - not just the king, but all the boring bits of life that reminded them of him! They started with the months of the year - no more January, February, March - now there were months like Germinal, Messidor, Thermidor and Frimaire. These names indicated exactly what was happening in nature at the time. So 'Nivose' means 'Month of snow'. The calendar only lasted until 1806, probably because it was too confusing trying to keep up with the rest of the world!

15. Pineapples Were The Fanciest Thing In Georgian Britain

Pineapples are a great fruit, but there's no way you love them as much as the Georgians did! Back in the 18th century, pineapples were imported from abroad, which was very expensive, and so only the richest people had them! In fact, they were SO fancy that people didn't even eat them, they would put them on the mantlepiece for everyone to admire until they went rotten! Some people even designed their houses based on pineapples, and you can still see some of these houses today!

16. Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein When She Was 18

Mary Shelley famously wrote the classic horror sci-fi novel Frankenstein after a nightmare she had during a stormy, creepy night in Switzerland, where she was hanging out with poets Percy Shelley (Her husband) and Lord Byron. But did you know she was only 18 when she wrote it? Yes that's right, Mary wrote Frankenstein at the same age she would today be sitting her high school exams! How many other teenagers have changed history like that?

17. Vikings Didn't Have Horned Helmets

If we asked you to picture a Viking, chances are you'd picture a big hairy bloke with a horned helmet. But actually, Viking helmets didn't have horns! Horns would've been impractical in battle, although there is evidence of other civilisations having horned helmets! Horned helmets only became associated with Vikings during the 19th century, when lots of operas were written about them.

18. Stalin Loved Westerns

Joseph Stalin is a name that still brings fear to many today, but did you know that Russia's famous dictator also loved cowboy movies? Even though Stalin hated America and everything about it, he had a real soft spot for westerns. Apparently he would force his ministers to watch them with him, late into the night, and his favourites were supposedly anything starring John Wayne!

19. North Korea Once Kidnapped A Movie Star

In 1978, film buff and future North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il (who's dad was in charge at the time) decided he wanted to make a really good movie. And he decided he needed the BEST film stars for it, so he kidnapped South Korean actor Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband, director Shin Sang-ok. He kept them in North Korea for several years, forcing them to make movies, including his very own version of Godzilla, Pulgasari. They only escaped in 1986, during a press conference in Vienna!

20. All British Tanks Are Equipped To Make Tea

There's nothing worse than needing a brew and not having a kettle! That's why all tanks in the British army have tea making facilities! It started in World War 2, because British soldiers kept stopping for tea breaks and getting caught out by the Nazis! So the tanks were fitted with kettles to make sure they could have their tea on the go!