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Mark Twain Was Somehow Even More Interesting Than You Thought

Samuel Clemens (the real name of author Mark Twain), is one of the most well-loved writers of all time, certainly up there with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens. But for most, the details of his most famous works (The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn) are more memorable than his biography. In truth, Mark Twain's life story was in many ways as dynamic as the adventures in his books: he traveled widely, underwent his share of tragedy, collaborated with Nikola Tesla, and was even said to be a dead-on-the-money psychic. Read on to find out more about the escapades of one of American literature's most brilliant storytellers and satirists.

  • He Wrote A Pornographic Elizabethan Story

    Photo: Amazon

    Most don't realize that Twain occasionally penned smut, but pen it he did (though "smut," by his standards, was more of a witty exercise in satire than a lurid plunge into the unsavory). At the time, 1601 (named for the year of its setting) was the most famous piece of literary pornography around – which is probably why Twain published it anonymously in 1880.

    Taken from the "journals" of one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies in waiting, 1601 records the queen's racy conversations with some of the leading authors of her day; the subjects include sex, flatulence, and a host of other bawdy hilarities.

  • He Got His Brother The Job That Killed Him

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In 1857, when he was in his early 20s, Twain got a job as an apprentice steamboat pilot. He worked on a vessel called The Pennsylvania, situated on the Mississippi River, and eventually got his younger brother, Henry, a job aboard the same ship. Not long afterwards, however, Henry (who was only 19) was tragically killed when a boiler explosion rocked the ship.

    Twain's devastation was made all the more acute by the fact that he'd had a premonition of the tragedy. The day before The Pennsylvania had embarked upon its fateful voyage,  he'd dreamt that he'd seen

    "Henry as a corpse, laid out in a metal casket, dressed in one of his older brother’s suits, with a huge bouquet of white roses on his chest and a single red rose at the center."

    And so, horribly, it came to pass. On the day of Henry's viewing, Twain found his brother:

    "lying in the open coffin dressed in a suit of his older brother’s own clothing. He immediately remembered his dream. Just then, an elderly lady brought a bouquet of white roses with one red rose in the center. She placed it on Henry’s chest."

  • He Was A (Patented) Inventor, And He Worked With Tesla

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Most people don't associate Twain with the worlds of either science or invention, but in fact, three of his inventions were patented – a history trivia game, a variation on "garment fasteners" (aka suspenders), and a self-pasting scrapbook (which  was probably a book with some kind of built-in adhesive, but sounds rather like a collection of memorabilia with a consciousness of its own).

    Twain was also a friend of inventor Nikola Tesla's, and he once volunteered to demonstrate "the use of the human body as a conductor of electricity" – obviously in a way that didn't end up entailing electrocution. Partially as a result of his digestive issues, he also agreed to volunteer as a guinea pig for Teslas's "oscillator" (described as a kind of "vibrating platform"). Legend has it that the invention worked:

    "Twain was known for having digestive problems, so Tesla, who knew Twain through their gentlemen’s club, invited him over. He instructed Twain to stand on the platform while he flipped on the oscillator. After about 90 seconds, Twain jumped off the platform and ran for the facilities."

  • He Was Said To Have Been Psychic... And There's Convincing Evidence To Prove It

    Photo: Life Magazine / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In addition to his prophetic dream about his brother's death and his famous prediction about his own death, Mark Twain was said to have experienced other psychic incidents. According to his mother, he predicted his nine-year-old sister's death when he was four; there were also occasions involving friends, including one that was recounted in a 1891 article on "Mental Telegraphy" in Harper's. In it, Twain recalls a time when a friend of his visited Washington, DC. Although he didn't coordinate with said individual beforehand, he was browsing in a shop when suddenly the man "came back into his mind, and he knew, with startling specificity, that if he left the shop, turned left, and walked [10] feet, his friend would be standing there." And he was right.