Weird History Readers Asked, We Answered - 11 Unraveled Mysteries From History

List Rules

Vote up the answers to questions about history that really clear things up for you.

History is rife with questions! And answers! 

One of the fun things about history is that people come up with new questions all the time - inquiries about people, places, events, and everything in between. 

We wanted to know what types of questions our readers have, so we did the only thing possible - we asked. And, boy, did Weird History readers come up with some great topics to research! From mysteries about Wild West figures to teasing out rumors about militant emus, we found some really satisfying answers to the questions YOU asked.

Take a look and decide which answers help take the mystery out of some of your questions about history.


  • 1
    130 VOTES

    How Can Some Animals Survive By Only Eating Grass?

    In short, the ability of some animals to survive as herbivores comes down to their digestive systems. Cows, horses, and other mammals that eat grass do so in large enough quantities that their bodies get the nutrients they need to survive. This is all thanks to the bacteria and enzymes in their bodies. 

    Grass contains cellulose, which humans cannot digest. As a result, it would be nearly impossible for a grazing human to get the amount of protein needed to survive, because the human digestive system can't absorb the necessary nutrients as efficiently as ruminants.

    Cows, for example, have a bacteria called Ruminococcus in the largest of their four stomachs, the rumen, which digests insoluble fibers like cellulose. Horses have a cecum as part of their digestive tracts, which houses the organisms needed to break down cellulose.

    130 votes
  • Why Is Lightning Different Colors?
    Photo: ESO/P. Horálek / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    2
    147 VOTES

    Why Is Lightning Different Colors?

    When lightning streaks across the sky, it can appear white, pink, blue, or pretty much any other color of the rainbow. Lightning's hue is the result of several factors, including temperature and moisture levels in the air. 

    Lightning is born from energy accumulated within a cloud. As positive and negative charges rub against each other, they generate electricity - the release of which is lightning. It can go from cloud to cloud, from cloud to ground, stay within a cloud, or extend from a cloud into clear air.

    White is the most common color of lightning as well as the hottest. When a person sees white lightning, this means there's minimal moisture and debris in the air. Blue and purple lightning both signal the presence of lots of precipitation; yellow lightning indicates dust and dry air, and is cooler; red lightning - also called a “sprite” - is associated with intense thunderstorms, extends upward into the atmosphere, and is very brief and rare.

    147 votes
  • Why Do People Say 'Bless You' When Someone Sneezes?
    Photo: Willem van de Poll / Nationaal Archief / Public domain
    3
    109 VOTES

    Why Do People Say 'Bless You' When Someone Sneezes?

    Not all people, groups, and cultures respond to a sneeze with “God bless you," “bless you,” “gesundheit,” or the linguistic equivalent, but the practice is prolific in the Western world

    Saying “bless you” is largely believed to be a carry-over from antiquity, when superstition held that a sneeze pushed out the sneezer's soul. This, in turn, permitted evil to take its place. Some people also proffered blessings because they incorrectly feared the sneezer's heart would stop.

    This tradition is also linked to the papacy. Around 590 CE, Gregory the Great became Pope and the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. Sneezing was thought to be one of the early symptoms, so Gregory ordered Christians to pray this blessing each time someone sneezed. 

    In some cultures, sneezing has been seen as a sign that God would answer your prayers, or as an omen of good luck. In this instance, saying “bless you” is a way of saying “way to go!”

    109 votes
  • 4
    131 VOTES

    Did Australia Really Lose A War To Emus?

    Australia was on the winning side of WWI and WWII - but it ultimately lost a war with emus.

    In the 1920s and early '30s, Australian farmers contended with unwelcome natural invaders who took over their property: around 20,000 emus settled in Western Australia and feasted on fields of crops.

    The farmers appealed to the government, which in turn decided an all-out war was the best course of action. Australia actually called in troops to take care of the birds, although they ultimately weren't effective - the emus were too quick, smart, and coordinated to be defeated.

    Major G.P.W. Meredith, the operation's commander, later said of his feathered adversaries: "If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world... They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks."

    The so-called Great Emu War ended in defeat for Australia.

    131 votes
  • 5
    127 VOTES

    Does The Earth Weigh More As The Population Grows?

    Earth's population reached 8 billion in November 2022, according to the United Nations. As the number of people continues to increase, it would make sense that the weight of the planet is on the rise as well. But it's not.

    Weight is determined by calculating the pull of gravity on mass. All objects have mass and, as the size of that mass increases, so does the amount of gravity affecting it; this, in turn, increases weight. The number of people on the planet keeps rising, but the largest growth of mass on Earth comes from space dust and debris that land on the surface daily.

    As the mass of Earth increases from space detritus, it also loses mass through what has been called a “leaky atmosphere.” The amount of hydrogen and helium that leaves the atmosphere annually not only counteracts the amount of mass it accumulates - it exceeds it. The Earth is, as a result, getting smaller.

    127 votes
  • Did The KGB Actually Try To Kill John Wayne?
    Photo: Hugo van Gelderen / Nationaal Archief / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    According to film historian and author Michael Munn, Joseph Stalin decided John Wayne needed to die after learning about the actor's popularity. Wayne was a staunch anti-Communist and deemed a threat to the Soviet Union.  

    Munn said he heard the story from director Orson Welles in 1983, who heard about it through a Russian filmmaker named Sergei Bondarchuk, who in turn learned about the plot from his colleague, Aleksei Kapler. Munn also indicated stuntman Yakima Canutt told him the following story:

    Yakima told me that the FBI had discovered there were [KGB] agents sent to Hollywood to kill John Wayne... He said the FBI had come to tell John about the plot. John told the FBI to let the men show up and he would deal with them.

    Wayne's dealings with the KGB do not stop there, however. He reportedly abducted the two agents with the help of screenwriter James Grant. The pair supposedly took the agents to a beach, scared them by staging a mock execution, and turned them over to the FBI. Wayne then enlisted Hollywood stuntmen to attend “communist meetings” where they engaged in a brawl.

    Whether this all transpired is not clear. Munn also indicated in his book, John Wayne - The Man Behind the Myth, that Wayne “shunned FBI protection and did not want his family to know. He moved into a house with a big wall around it.”

    81 votes