Things We Just Learned From History That Made Us Say 'That's Weird!'

List Rules
Vote up the historic tidbits that seem a bit odd to you.

The history of humankind has been a twisted and bloody one - with wars, atrocities, and brutalities galore. Some countries' populations never recovered after wars. From the Spartans to the Romans, the English to the Moors, you'll find weird trivia about all kinds of people, in every era. And while history can certainly be fascinating, sometimes it can be downright stomach-churning.

Here go some of the weirdest tales from the past that made our jaws drop. You may need to take a seat for this and sip a calming brew. 


  • The Invention Of The Chainsaw Came About To Make Childbirth Easy
    Photo: Sabine Salfer / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    656 VOTES

    The Invention Of The Chainsaw Came About To Make Childbirth Easy

    Before the modern version of the cesarean section, babies that were too large or ended up in the breech position would need to be delivered via a symphysiotomy. This painful operation involved cutting and removing parts of the laboring mother's pubic bone and cartilage.

    The operation was done with a small knife and, obviously, was messy, time-consuming, and terrible for the mother, considering the lack of anesthesia. 

    Scottish surgeons John Aitken and James Jeffray invented the chainsaw to do the grisly job quicker. Later, it became of common use in surgery to perform amputations and more. Of course, because the saws could cut bone, they could also cut wood, so they got bigger and moved away from the nether regions. 

    656 votes
  • 'The Attack Of The Dead Men' Seemed Like A Zombie War
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    811 VOTES

    'The Attack Of The Dead Men' Seemed Like A Zombie War

    The Osowiec Fortress, near the Polish town of Bialystok, was a thorn in Germany's side during World War I. When conventional warfare could not breach the fortress, Germans dispersed chlorine gas over it. The Russians inside were woefully unprepared and had rudimentary gas masks. The chlorine turned the very grass black and killed everything in sight. The men inside the fortress were now breathing acidified air, which burned their lungs from the inside out.

    The Germans, confident of their victory and safe in their gas masks, marched into the fortress - only to be met by an army of "zombies," dressed in bloody rags and coughing out pieces of their lungs. The 60-odd surviving but poisoned Russian soldiers, led by 2nd Lieutenant Vladimir Kotlinsky, launched a ferocious attack on the Germans, uncaring about anything but repelling the enemy. The panicked Germans fled into the very barbed wires they had set up to stop the Russians. The valiant Kotlinsky perished that evening. 

    811 votes
  • John Harvey Kellogg Made Cereal And Recommended Painful Surgery To The Privates
    Photo: F.E. Doty / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Dr. John Harvey Kellogg wore a lot of hats. He was a medical doctor and nutritionist, and also gave rise to the brand of cereal called Kellogg's (corn flakes were its first offering). It was John's brother Will, however, who added sugar to the cereal and turned it into a mass-market production. But John is also credited with making the first peanut butter as well as other kinds of nut butter, and experimenting with meat-free food substitutes. So his hats also included inventor, health activist, and businessman. 

    It's less commonly known that John was also a eugenicist, and in the name of health activism, entertained strange ideas about sexuality. In his eyes, masturbation was a huge detriment to human health and degraded the gene pool. He believed that parents who masturbated spread the vice to their children. His cure for such children was to circumcise the boys, minus anesthesia. As for the girls, he recommended a bit of carbolic acid on the genitalia or a clitorectomy. 

    570 votes
  • 4
    466 VOTES

    A Coffin Birth Occurs When A Decomposing Pregnant Woman's Body Expels The Fetus

    The scientific definition of a coffin birth is post-mortem fetal extrusion, and it sounds as gruesome as it is. If a pregnant woman dies close to term, and the body lies undisturbed, gut bacteria can give rise to gases that increase pressure in the abdominal cavity. This forces the uterus downward, sometimes even turning it inside out, thus expelling the fetus partly through the vagina. 

    Modern embalming techniques prevent coffin birth, but cases like these have been noticed in ancient graves, or even in modern times when the death of a pregnant woman goes unnoticed long enough for the gas build-up to occur. 

    466 votes
  • In the northernmost town of the world, Longyearbyen, anyone close to their death is flown to mainland Norway. That's because dying in Longyearbyen, or in any of the inhabited areas of the Svalbard region, is a no-no. So is being born, for that matter.

    The temperatures of this archipelago average between -14 and -8 Celsius in December and remain frigid year-round, with long periods of darkness. In the 1950s, the people in Svalbard discovered that their dead and buried were not decomposing at all. And if they had passed from an infectious disease, like the deadly Spanish influenza of 1918, the virus was also preserved. This puts the 3,000-odd population of the area at risk. 

    So while you can die in Longyearbyen, the burial will be in mainland Norway. Cremations are allowed, albeit with permissions and paperwork. 

    664 votes
  • In the ancient Greek city of Sparta, life was tough - from birth itself. Newborn babies were children of the state, not of the parents. Soldiers would come to test a child at birth by dipping it in a pot of wine

    If a baby was weak, it supposedly would convulse. If the wine did not affect it, the father would take it to the elders, who would inspect it for any deformities. If the baby passed, he or she would live with the parents for seven years. Post that, boys would attend military school and become soldiers, after passing several tests. Girls would attend school as well, learning gymnastics and wrestling, to birth strong boys later on.

    If the elders found a deformity, survival was no longer an option. The baby would either be abandoned on a mountain or thrown off a cliff. 

    544 votes