Bizarre Historical Events We Can't Believe Actually Happened

List Rules
Vote up the weirdest events in history that sound fake but really happened.

Now and then, we come across historical stories that are so bizarre, we can't believe they actually happened. These stories often seem more like fictional tales meant for novels or movies than anything we should actually take seriously. However, truth is sometimes even stranger than fiction. Even if the events documented in the following list haven't been played out on the big screen just yet, they are so odd that they could easily provide the shock and entertainment value required for a Hollywood film. 

If unbelievable stories of corpses being placed on trial, brawls breaking out on the floor of Congress, and dancing plagues that began and abruptly stopped for apparently no reason are your thing, look no further! Vote up the weirdest events in history that sound fake but really happened. 


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    443 VOTES

     Violet Jessop Survived The Sinking Of Three Sister Ships: The 'Titanic,' The 'Olympic,' And The 'Britannic' 

    In 1911, White Star announced a trio of luxury liners to accommodate transatlantic passengers: the Titanic, the Olympic, and the Britannic. "Miss Unsinkable" Violet Jessop was working aboard all three of them when they met their disastrous ends at the bottom of the sea, and she always lived to tell the tale. 

    Jessop was initially hired to work as a stewardess aboard the Olympic during its fifth voyage to sea. Tragically, the suction from the colossal ship caused it to collide with the HMS Hawke, a British warship in Southern England. She luckily escaped the blow without injury, but without a place to work. So, she set her sights on the Olympic's sister ship, the Titanic

    When the "unsinkable" Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage, Jessop helped numerous women and children board lifeboats before climbing into one herself, even holding a stranger's infant on her lap as they floated aimlessly on the deep, icy waters until the Carpathia rescued them. 

    Still unscathed by her previous experiences, Jessop boarded the third ship of the fleet, the Britannic, as a WWI nurse. The British military used the commercial ship as a hospital in the Aegean Sea until a German U-boat struck it with a mine. The ship exploded and sank an hour later, with Jessop and over 1,000 other people still on board. Though 30 people perished, Jessop escaped the third sinking experience of her lifetime unharmed. 

    Remarkably, none of these catastrophes kept "Miss Unsinkable" away from the sea. She continued her career on cruise ships after the war, only retiring after a 42-year career.

  • Tsutomu Yamaguchi watched the first atomic bomb drop from an American B-29 before it exploded in the sky, destroying Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, he was at a meeting in Nagasaki when the second bomb hit. 

    Yamaguchi was preparing to return to his wife and child after a three-month work trip in Hiroshima with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. He recalled looking up from the shipyard on his final day on site and watching the sky erupt into a massive ball of flames. The blast burned his face and forearms, and his eardrums ruptured. Yet he still managed to make his way to the train station the following morning to travel back to his home in Nagasaki. 

    After receiving treatment at a Nagasaki hospital on August 8, the survivor somehow managed to return to work the morning of August 9. Yamaguchi was deep in discussion with his bewildered boss over the events of Hiroshima when he looked outside and saw yet another distinctive white flash, followed by a mushroom cloud. 

    Despite being badly burned and exposed to massive amounts of radiation, Yamaguchi survived both attacks and lived to be 93. Even though his house was destroyed, his wife and son also survived the Nagasaki bombing. Ironically, the two had been out shopping for Yamaguchi's burn ointment and took shelter in a nearby tunnel during the blast.

  • The 16th-century astronomer who discovered the supernova was known for his sometimes odd behavior. Tycho Brahe once lost his nose in a duel, kept a dwarf as his jester and in-house clairvoyant, had an ongoing argument with Galileo, and had a pet moose he brought to parties.

    Even more bizarre than the trained animal's tendencies to walk beside Brahe like a beloved pet dog and live inside castle walls was the moose's apparently unquenchable thirst for Danish beer. 

    The unlikely duo attracted attention among the astronomer's comrades, and he and the moose were invited to dinner parties to show off the moose's unusually tame behavior. Unfortunately, the moose got a little too tipsy at one of these gatherings. The moose stayed up guzzling beer with the noblemen until he was incredibly drunk. According to Brahe's biographer Pierre Gassendi, the moose stumbled up a flight of stairs in the castle before falling off and meeting his untimely demise.

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    416 VOTES

    Some 60 German Nobles Perished In The Erfurt Latrine Disaster Of 1184 

    German noblemen of the Holy Roman Empire often engaged in intense quarrels over land disputes and rivaling titles. Nobility regularly gathered for "diets" - meetings called to mediate arguments and reinstate peace, however momentary. Unfortunately, one such meeting in 1184 literally went to sh*t as floorboards broke, and between 60 and 100 German nobles fell into a latrine and met their untimely demise. 

    King Henry VI called the mediation after a particularly heated land dispute between Ludwig III and Archbishop Konrad I. The meeting party gathered in the Church of St. Peter of Erfurt, in a room directly above the building's latrine pits. The weight of the large gathering, most likely amplified by their heavy chain male attire, caused the floorboards to collapse.

    The nobles plunged into a pool of fecal matter, many of them drowning or being crushed between the feces pit and the fallen floor. The most ironic of these deaths was Count Heinrich of Schwarzburg, who often jokingly said he would perish in his own fecal matter if he ever failed his title. 

  • It's Still Unclear What Caused The Dancing Plague Of 1518
    Photo: Pieter Brueghel the Elder / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    365 VOTES

    It's Still Unclear What Caused The Dancing Plague Of 1518

    In July 1518, Frau Troffea became patient zero in a dancing pandemic that claimed nearly 400 victims. After Troffea danced silently and involuntarily by herself for more than a week, other citizens of Strasbourg began contracting the fatal disease. 

    Local doctors even ordered the creation of stages and the presence of musicians in hopes of comforting the unfortunate victims. The physicians believed that if they allowed the dancing to continue, patients would ultimately dance the fever out of their bodies. The hysteria lasted for two months and claimed countless victims to stroke, heart attack, or exhaustion before it subsided. 

    Experts are still unclear about what caused the plague. Hypotheses include the populace's fear of St. Vitus's wrath (he was the patron saint of dancers), the consumption of a hallucinogenic mold that grows on rye bread, and psychogenic disorders.

  • Pope Stephen VI Had His Dead Predecessor Exhumed And Put On Trial
    Photo: Jean-Paul Laurens / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    A pope's work is never truly done, even after he passes. In most cases, the Church uses the pope's body to make relics: small pieces of bone and flesh that believers can call upon to bring answered prayers and healing. Unfortunately for Pope Formosus, his corpse was called to trial instead of holy miraculous reverence in 896. 

    Formosus had a history of disagreements regarding coronated rulers, even spending time in exile during his appointment as cardinal-bishop before being elected pope in 891. When he passed in 896, he left an imperial dispute over the crown unresolved. 

    Then came Pope Stephen VI. The new pope sought to permanently disgrace his predecessor by establishing power and ensure that the disagreement over the Holy Roman crown was settled. So, he had Formosus's body exhumed and placed him on trial where he fired off a multitude of accusations against the corpse.

    The deceased Formosus was found guilty of perjury, disobeying canon law, and usurping the papacy. To guarantee that Formosus's legacy died with his body, Stephen VI then stripped the offending corpse of his ecclesiastical robes, dressed him in rags, cut off the fingers he once used for anointing, and then dumped him into the Tiber River. 

    With Formosus's body floating out to sea and all of his papal work declared null and void, Pope Stephen VI hoped to deny his predecessor any legacy and remove him from the collective memory. Instead, his decision to place Formosus's corpse on trial earned him an intriguing (and lasting) spot in papal history.