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14 Disturbing Facts You’ll Wish Weren’t Really True

You won't be able to unsee these freaky facts about animals, food, and even your own body.

White mug on the desktopinspired_by_the_light/Shutterstock

There might be fecal matter on your office coffee mug

You might be getting a little more than you bargained for when you drink your morning coffee at work. A study by The Journal of Dairy, Food, and Environmental Sanitation, conducted in 2017, assessed the cleanliness of coffee mugs in office kitchens—or lack thereof, according to the findings. The study found that a whopping 90 percent of the mugs tested contained some type of bacteria, and 20 percent of them actually had fecal matter on them. The culprit, the study found, is the sponges used to clean the cups, which are often the germiest items in the entire kitchen. While 20 percent still may not seem like a lot, a little goes a long way when it comes to fecal bacteria. If you’d rather be safe than sorry, you’re best off bringing a mug from home and washing it in the dishwasher. And for everyone’s sake, wash your hands after using the bathroom. Here are some more items you touch all the time that are dirtier than a toilet seat.

Two bird rivals are isolated on a black backgroundDrakuliren/Shutterstock

A chicken once survived for 18 months without a head

This tale gives the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” a whole new meaning. In 1945, a chicken farmer beheaded one of his chickens, and the chicken didn’t die. It continued walking around the farmyard, kicking, and displaying other ordinary fowl behavior. Nope, it wasn’t a zombie chicken. When a chicken loses its head, though its brain is gone, its spinal cord still holds residual oxygen and its neurons may even continue to fire. In the case of Mike the Headless Chicken, as he was eventually known, this process just lasted unnaturally long. The farmer, Lloyd Olsen, soon embraced his resilient rooster, bringing him to nearby farms and towns and making bets with people who scoffed when he told them he had a live headless chicken. Mike quickly became a regional celebrity. Olsen fed him by dropping food into his esophagus with an eyedropper, and it wasn’t until 18 months after the beheading that Mike finally met his fate.

Giant snakehead fish jumping from waterButterfly Hunter/Shutterstock

There’s a type of predatory fish that can walk on land

These creatures, called snakehead fish, can walk up out of the water and right into our nightmares. They have both gills and an organ located in their “gill arches” that permits them to breathe oxygen. They sometimes come up on land in search of food and can flop on their fins for up to a quarter of a mile…which would probably be comical if it didn’t make your skin crawl. They’ve been found everywhere from California to New England to Florida, where they can be as big as 14 pounds! No, thank you. And as if that weren’t scary enough, since these creatures are native to Africa and Asia, they’re considered an invasive species in North America. This means that they have no natural predators, and their population can grow unchecked. Yikes. Learn about some more creepy-crawly animal species you never knew existed.

human skin texturekomkrit Preechachanwate/Shutterstock

You shed about a pound and a half of skin a year

Skin, that trusty largest organ in the human body. You might already be aware that you shed the stuff—and that much of the dust you see around your home is composed of dead skin cells. But you may not know just how much skin you lose. You shed skin nearly constantly, and your entire epidermis completely regenerates approximately every 27 days. And those cells you lose add up. While the amount varies greatly per person, the loss of an average of 1.5 pounds of skin cells a year means that you’ll most likely shed at least half your body weight in skin cells throughout your entire life.

Empty peanut butter jar on table, on dark backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Peanut butter can contain rat hairs

“Oh, rats,” you’re probably saying to yourself right about now if you’re a peanut butter lover. The FDA actually allows up to one rat hair in every 100 grams of peanut butter before it’s considered “defective.” For reference, 100 grams is equal to a little under a quarter of a pound. The reason bits of rats could be in your jar of Jif in the first place? It’s because it’s so hard to spot and remove them during the difficult, unglamorous process of peanut harvesting. While such a small amount of this unwelcome ingredient isn’t harmful to you in any way, it sure is gross. If you can stomach it, check out these other disgusting things you didn’t realize were in your food.

Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, adult, Willacy County, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, USA, JuneDanita Delmont/Shutterstock

There’s a species of lizard that shoots blood from its eyes

Now that’s one way to give your predators pause. The Texas horned lizard wards off predators by squirting a jet of blood straight from its eyeballs. The blood is mixed with a chemical that has a repellent taste, especially to common predators like wolves and coyotes. These spiky little guys can aim the blood with surprising accuracy, and it can travel as far as five feet. And if that doesn’t work, the lizard is covered in spikes and can puff up its body so that the spikes protrude dangerously. Yup, we’d find that pretty unappetizing, too.

Albert EinsteinUncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Parts of Albert Einstein’s brain are on display in a museum

If you visit the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you can see one of the world’s greatest minds on display. Literally. After Albert Einstein died in 1955, the pathologist on duty at the hospital removed his brain without permission from his family—an act which remains a subject of controversy to this day. Einstein’s oldest son eventually gave him permission, on the condition that the brain was used only for scientific study. The pathologist sent slides containing Einstein’s brain matter to neuropathologists around the country, hoping that one might unlock the secret to Einstein’s genius. In 2011, a neuropathologist named Lucy Rorke-Adams donated one box of the slides to the Mütter Museum. The slides are still on display in the museum today. Learn about some urban legends that actually turned out to be true.

White funny horse in the stable.Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock

Horses can’t vomit

You’ll never see a pony puke, even though nearly every other animal with a spinal column can. There are all sorts of anatomical reasons for this unusual difference: horses have much stronger esophagus muscles than most species; their esophagus connects with their stomachs at a much lower angle than in other animals, and their stomachs aren’t surrounded by abdominal muscles (which contract to make vomiting possible). What we don’t know, though, is why this vomit-proof anatomy is necessary, and why it’s unique to horses. One theory suggests that, because of the way a horse’s organs move when it runs, it evolved to better keep down its food than its fellow creatures. Here are some more science mysteries no one has figured out.

view of the rear of an elephant with ears out and black backgroundAvner Ofer Photography/Shutterstock

In seven hours, an elephant produces enough poop to outweigh an adult human

Sure, it makes sense—big animal means big poops—but that doesn’t mean it’s not gross. A fully grown African elephant can produce about 300 pounds of poop in a single day. They don’t digest much of the food they eat, so they poop out a lot of grass and plants still intact. On the bright side, though, the fact that they produce such large quantities probably means it’s virtually impossible to step in elephant poop.

Pirates of the Caribbean RideJim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

There used to be real human remains in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride

Sure, Disney, we know you want your rides to be an immersive experience…but this seems a little extreme. Before the Pirates ride—the last to be supervised by Walt Disney himself—debuted in the 1960s, the designers were unhappy with the unrealistic-looking fake skeletons. So they sought out some real ones. But don’t start jumping to any super morbid conclusions—they obtained them from the anatomy laboratories at UCLA Medical Center. After a few years had passed and technology had improved, they swapped out the real bones for fake ones and returned them to their countries of origin for burial. A pretty widespread theory, though, suggests that at least one of the props on the ride today is still genuine. (The skull above the fancy bed is the most oft-debated candidate.) These are the 3 things that are never allowed in Disney movies.

The Real Vampire BatPablo Jacinto Yoder/Shutterstock

Vampire bats can consume half their body weight’s worth of blood in half an hour

Well, this is just….bloody disgusting. These winged creatures, the only mammals that can survive on a diet of blood, need to consume an ounce of blood during every feeding session. They only tend to weigh about two ounces and feed for 20 to 30 minutes at a time…well, you do the math. Their bodies are able to process such a large amount of blood by filtering the water content of the blood straight to their kidneys; their stomach linings are extra absorbent and allow them to consume such massive amounts of blood. Vampire bats are native to Central and South America, where they usually feed on the blood of cows or horses.

Xochimilco is an island of abandoned dolls. View from the boat.avf71/Shutterstock

There’s an island near Mexico City filled with creepy old dolls

Like It’s a Small World‘s twisted, otherworldly relative, La Isla de la Muñecas is sure to give even the most fervent doll lovers the heebie-jeebies. Located on a lake near Mexico City, the island is considered one of the world’s most haunted places—and it takes only one look at its inhabitants to see why. According to the legend, a man named Don Julian Santana was the caretaker of the island. One day, he learned that a little girl had drowned in one of the island’s canals, and he made it his life’s mission to honor her. And for him, “honoring” her meant collecting dolls from wherever he could find them and displaying them on the island, however creepy-looking or decrepit they were. Though the truth of the legend itself is disputed, you can take a trip there by boat and see the very real dolls for yourself. If you dare. Check out some more of the world’s most bizarre tourist destinations.

Mount EverestTashi Sherpa/AP/Shutterstock

There are at least 200 corpses on Mount Everest

Yes, that’s right. The world’s tallest mountain is filled with macabre reminders of people who met their end while making the climb. Other bodies belong to Sherpas, people of Tibet and Nepal, who were simply making a living as mountaineers, climbing Everest. It’s a bit of a nasty vicious cycle—the bodies remain there, rather than being taken down to be buried, because the climb is so hard to make and no one else wants to endanger their lives making it. While many of the corpses are buried under snow or otherwise hidden from view, others are in full view of people trying to summit the mountain. Some have even become unofficial location markers for climbers today.

Koala bear holding on to a branchTero Hakala/Shutterstock

Koala pee contains chlamydia

Think these adorable Australian marsupials look cute and cuddly? Well, you might not be so eager to give them a cuddle once you learn that they’re big-time STD carriers. About half of koalas carry a strain of chlamydia, and while it’s a different strain than the type that affects humans, humans can still contract it. The disease-carrying bacteria can be spread through an infected animal’s urine. So no matter how cute koalas may look, try to avoid putting yourself in a situation where a wild one could pee on you. Here are some more cute animal species that have a dark side.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.