• Weird History

Weird History Staff Share Their Top Facts Of 2021

List RulesVote up the most fascinating facts of 2021.

It's fair to say that we here at Weird History come across many strange and interesting facts in our content creation process. There are some facts we just plain like more than others. 

Whether it's the story of an absurd lie that somehow worked, the unique ATMs of The Vatican, or the simple fact that we've been saying our favorite children's author's name wrong all along, this collection showcases some of our favorite little morsels of information from the past year. 

  • Photo: The National Map, US Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    A Prisoner Spent 46 Years On The Run After Driving The Warden To A Brothel

    When researching items for a piece about the longest manhunts, Leonard Fristoe's absolutely ridiculous escape really stood out. 

    In 1920, Leonard T. Fristoe was sentenced to life in prison for two slayings but escaped after three years. After driving the prison warden to a brothel (really!), he and an accomplice took the opportunity to flee. 

    Some 46 years later, a frail 77-year-old man appeared before a Nevada judge. A local newspaper described the scene:

    The snowy-haired fugitive was helped from the courtroom witness stand by several sheriff’s deputies who called him "Pop."

    Pop whispered to the judge that he just wanted to "go back and get it over with." He only served five months of his sentence; he was pardoned by the governor, who didn't see the sense of having an older adult live out his few remaining days in custody. 

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    Duct Tape Was The Result Of A Concerned Mother's Letter To The President During World War II

    This was a great little story about how one mother's persistence made a big difference. 

    Before the advent of duct tape, ammunition boxes were dipped in wax and sealed with thin paper tape with an exposed tab intended for easy opening. The tape's lack of strength meant these tabs frequently tore off and left soldiers desperately scrambling to open the boxes under fire. 

    An Illinois ordnance plant worker named Vesta Stoudt had the answer - a durable waterproof tape to seal the ammunition boxes. But her attempts to have the right tape used fell flat, so she took her concerns up the chain of command. All the way up

    You have sons in the service also. We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or more to open, the enemy taking their lives, that could have been saved... I didn’t know who to write to Mr. President, so have written you hoping for your boys, my boys, and every man that uses the rifle grenade, that this package of rifle cartridges may be taped with the correct tape.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt was suitably impressed and ordered the production of “duck tape” to begin immediately. The tape’s original name came from it being waterproof like the feathers of a duck and made with cotton duck fabric. 

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  • From Pierce Nahigyan:

    The Ancient Romans: They went big or they went home (and they never went home). It makes sense that the first emperor would be absurdly wealthy, but even by the standards of historical monarchies, Augustus puts all other rulers to shame. After he remade the republic in his own image and trounced Mark Antony, he laid claim to Egypt. Man owned a country - now that's some weird history.

    Emperor Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD) may have been the richest person to ever live. He inherited a vast fortune from his great-uncle Julius Caesar, but his wealth skyrocketed after his defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC. Once Egypt's rulers were gone, Augustus claimed the entire kingdom as his personal property.

    Egypt's abundant grains, watered by the fertile Nile River, made it the breadbasket of Rome. According to the Money Project, Egypt composed 25-30% of global GDP in classical antiquity, and this tremendous wealth has led some to estimate Augustus's net worth at approximately $4.6 trillion. MSN calculates that figure as "equivalent to 20% of the entire [Roman] empire's economy."

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    The Washoe Tribe Approached The Donner Party To Offer Them Food

    From Brenden Donnelly:

    One of my favorites of the year was the Washoe Tribe Donner Party item in this list. The Donner Party story is one of those stories that’s always passed around due to [its] macabre nature, and used to exemplify how difficult the Oregon Trail was. But the fact the Washoe Tribe offered help throughout the journey, and the Donner Party rejected it, turns the tragedy into an incredible story of historical schadenfreude.

    In 1846, settlers from Illinois began their trek westward. The so-called Donner Party - named after Jacob and George Donner who directed the group - suffered a series of setbacks in their journey that culminated in a snowstorm. Bogged down in the snow, the scene turned horrific when the group of stranded settlers supposedly resorted to cannibalism.

    The Donner Party wasn't really alone, however; members of the local Washoe tribe apparently tried to offer assistance to the starving group. This story has existed in Washoe oral history since the 19th century. Indeed, archaeologist Julie Schablitsky has even uncovered archaeological supporting evidence:

    Until now the Native American perspective has been left out of the telling of the Donner tragedy, not because the Wel Mel Ti did not remember the pioneers, but because they were never asked, or perhaps were not ready to share. Their oral tradition recalls the starving strangers who camped in an area that was unsuitable for that time of year. Taking pity on the pioneers, the northern Washoe attempted to feed them, leaving rabbit meat and wild potatoes near the camps.

    Another account states that they tried to bring the Donner Party a deer carcass, but were shot at as they approached. Later, some Wel Mel Ti observed the migrants eating human remains. Fearing for their lives, the area's native inhabitants continued to watch the strangers but avoided further contact. [...] The migrants at Alder Creek were not surviving in the mountains alone - the northern Washoe were there, and they had tried to help.

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