Photo: Paul Dominique Philippoteaux / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Extreme Historical Hobbies That Sound Made-Up - But Aren’t

Over 800 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Extreme Historical Hobbies That Sound Made-Up - But Aren’t
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Vote up the most over-the-top historical hobbies.

The ancient hobbies of years gone by are fascinating and fraught with interesting facts that many of us might not know today. People of the past didn’t have the modern luxuries most of the developed world has now, so for entertainment, a fair amount of imagination had to be invoked. Bizarre and outrageous hobbies arose during the time of ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, 19th-century Victorian England, and even during the 1950s in America. 

From Victorian mummy unwrapping parties, macabre 19th-century Parisian visits to the morgue, and even Egyptians taming cheetahs, throughout history, there have been more than the odd hobby or two. The fame of a few ancient hobbies has carried over into the 21st century, with many of them still being enacted in today’s modern times. Let’s take a look at some of the truly bizarre hobbies that sound made up but aren’t. 

Photo: Paul Dominique Philippoteaux / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • 1
    714 VOTES

    Americans Set Out Picnics To Watch A Civil War Battle

    The Battle of Bull Run was the first land battle of the US Civil War, and was witnessed by many Americans who set out picnics on the outskirts of the conflict.

    The gory and bloody events that transpired on the day were genuinely shocking to those who witnessed it, as many Americans believed the battle would be over quickly with not much bloodshed. This is partly why it’s thought so many people went out to picnic while the fighting was occurring: They truly believed the Union would win the fight. There remains much speculation surrounding why those in attendance chose to spend their Sunday at a war event.

    No matter why they decided to be there, they quickly regretted their decision once the fighting was underway. The rush to get away once the Union was defeated is described in many history books as being utter chaos, with horses breaking free and carriage wheels falling off. There were no more picnics at the sites of the Civil War battles after that day.

    714 votes
  • 2
    687 VOTES

    19th-Century Parisians Visited The Morgue

    One of the more macabre hobbies of the 19th century took place in France. What started as a way for Parisians to identity the remains of loved ones and friends became a source of entertainment. The pastime of viewing cadavers quickly became popular amongst many French citizens and foreigners, particularly the British.

    It is believed that the hobby began after an 1886 newspaper article declared a 4-year-old girl perished from only a bruise on her hand. Naturally, pandemonium ensued, with many flocking to the morgue to see the child that was put on display.

    It is thought that, by the end of the 19th century, the morgue in Paris was one of the most popular entertainment attractions in the country, if not most of Europe. Many who had visited the city considered it a must-see destination. Bodies were displayed for all to see freely, and for up to several days at a time. People could flock to the morgue and see the bodies displayed seven days a week from the dawn of the morning until the dusk of the evening.

    Today, morgues are still in use throughout the world to identify the deceased, but none are used as entertainment.

    687 votes
  • Victorians Held Mummy 'Unwrapping' Parties
    Photo: Paul Dominique Philippoteaux / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    687 VOTES

    Victorians Held Mummy 'Unwrapping' Parties

    When you think of mummies, you might immediately picture Ancient Egypt. What you might not directly associate them with are Victorians and parties. During the 19th century in Victorian England, the city’s elite would host mummy unwrapping parties. 

    England has always had an interest in Ancient Egypt, especially during this time. The rich and influential would have mummies found and brought to them, and many would indeed go to museums or private collections - but quite a few went to the mummy unwrapping parties.

    Those deemed important enough would receive an invitation to a party that was often hosted by someone who possessed an element of showmanship. Then the mummy would be unwrapped and somewhat degraded to entertain the audience.

    A famous surgeon, Thomas Pettigrew, was one of the more influential people who would host unwrapping parties for all those of high society who wished to partake in the mystery. However, it wasn’t long before these parties fell out of fashion. Some say it was because of a lack of interest, while others claimed the process was inhumane and that history should be preserved. Either way, the last unwrapping was done by Margaret Murray in 1908 in Manchester, England.

    687 votes
  • Medieval 'Mob Football' Had Only One Rule: No Murder
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    589 VOTES

    Medieval 'Mob Football' Had Only One Rule: No Murder

    What we know as modern football is actually believed to be derived from the extreme sport of “mob football.” It’s said to have begun in the Middle Ages around the 12th century, and started as a sport where a pigskin ball would be fought over by two opposing towns’ teams until one of them got it to the designated goal area.

    A goal was scored when the ball was touched to the goal area three consecutive times, and there were no rules besides the one that stated no murder was allowed to be committed by any of the participants. The sport was bloody, and many were injured during the game, but its popularity stood the test of time.

    This sport is still played today in the town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, in the United Kingdom. A match of mob football is still held every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Thousands of people make their way to the town for the no-holds-barred match that usually spans two entire days.

    589 votes
  • 5
    435 VOTES

    The Villagers Of Ottery St. Mary Carry Flaming Barrels Of Tar Through The Streets

    Many historians are unsure of the exact origins of the tradition of annually carrying flaming barrels of tar down the village streets of England's Ottery St. Mary. However, many of them presume that the tradition began in 1605 after the gunpowder plot.

    This plot saw a group of Catholics take a stand against Parliament by attempting to blow up the establishment. The plot failed, and the members of the group were allegedly executed or imprisoned.

    Many know of this historical event because Guy Fawkes was imprisoned after the plot failed and tortured in the Tower of London. Significantly, Ottery St. Mary is the only town left in England that still hosts an annual flaming tar barrel-rolling procession. To this day, hundreds of visitors flock to the town to witness the spectacle, where villagers carry and roll the flaming barrels through the village’s streets.

    The town usually celebrates every year, though 2020 saw the festival canceled due to the pandemic.

    435 votes
  • 6
    494 VOTES

    The Cotswold Olympick Games Has Included Shinkicking For More Than 400 Years

    In 2021, the Cotswold Olympick Games will mark the 409th year of shinkicking, the age-old hobby of many in the English countryside of the Cotswolds.

    The Cotswold Olympick shinkicking event was first held in 1612 near Chipping Campden in England, and is believed to have been first started by famed lawyer Robert Dover. Notably, the event was suspended during the English Civil War, and by land closures in 1862. However, since it was revived in 1965, it has gained immense traction - with thousands of participants joining each time.

    Shinkicking itself is an element of what is known as "Cotswold wrestling," where the aim is for participants to trip their opponents by hooking their legs. This sport has evolved to include participants kicking their opponents’ shins, and hitting and kicking them until they are down on the ground.

    In the old days, steel-toe boots were allowed, and many injuries occurred, but now there are more rules to the sport to prevent serious injury. 

    494 votes