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10 History Facts That Sound Fake but Aren’t

They don't teach you the weird stuff in school.

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Sacrilegious Fork
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The use of forks was considered sacrilegious

The widely used eating utensil was once seen as offensive to God when it was first introduced in Italy in the 11th century. Oddly enough, people used to eat with their fingers. The number of fingers used for eating distinguished the upper class from the lower class. Three fingers were considered to be good manners. The oldest forks were discovered in Turkey, dating back to the fourth millennium B.C., but it was likely that they were only used as tools. The Church in Italy argued that God had created humans with fingers so that they could eat God’s food, but this didn’t stop the production of expensive forks made of gold for wealthy families.

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Andrew Jackson and Parrot
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President Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot had to be removed from his funeral because it was swearing

During President Andrew Jackson’s funeral in 1845, his pet parrot began to speak obscenities and had to be removed. The parrot became excited while the crowd was gathering and began to swear, disturbing the mourning people. The bird was promptly escorted out as people were both in awe and horrified at the words. Check out these history lessons your teacher lied to you about.

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Peas as Alarm
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Before alarm clocks, people were hired to wake up others by shooting dried peas at their window

Not your typical wake-up call. The “knocker upper” was a common sight in Britain before 1970. They would use long sticks like fishing poles or soft hammers to tap on windows as a wake-up call or used pea shooters in which they blow-dried peas up at the window of the sleeper. One problem these employees faced was waking people up for free because the noise they made would inadvertently wake up the neighbors who did not pay.

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Satanic Cat
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Pope Gregory IX declared war on cats

In the 13th century, the pope believed that cats carried the spirit of Satan within them which sparked the notion that black cats symbolize bad luck. In response, the Catholic Church and all of its followers initiated the extermination of cats. Some historians even believed that this massacre of cats contributed to the plague because of the abundance of rodents carrying the disease and the lack of their natural predator. The slaughters stopped for the most part after the death of Pope Gregory IX. Don’t miss a few other historical facts that you wish weren’t true.

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Heart in Desk Drawer
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Mary Shelley kept the heart of her dead husband in her desk

Maybe the author intended for this to be some sort of metaphor, but a truly smelly metaphor if that. Everyone grieves differently. When Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was 29 years old he drowned while out on his boat during a storm. While his remains were buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Mary kept her husband’s heart wrapped up and carried it with her almost everywhere. When she passed away, the heart was found in her desk wrapped in one of his final poems, Adonais.

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Urine as Mouthwash
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Urine was used as a mouthwash by ancient Romans

Human urine was so valuable to ancient Romans that it was collected from public urinals and even taxed when sold. Urine was used for many purposes, but most amusingly, it was used for dental hygiene. Romans used the urine to clean and whiten their teeth. The active ingredient being ammonia, which is a proven stain remover. Make sure to check out 11 of the biggest lies that made history.

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Beheaded Lover
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Peter the Great kept the head of his wife’s lover in her bedroom

Once Peter the Great discovered his wife Catherine’s unfaithfulness to their marriage with William Mons, the ruler had the man beheaded. He asked that the head of William be placed in a jar with alcohol. It was required that the jar remains in Catherine’s bedroom until Peter’s death so that she could be constantly reminded of her affair.

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Mary had a Lamb
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“Mary Had a Little Lamb” is based on a true story

Mary was indeed a real person and she did in fact have a little lamb. Mary Sawyer was born in 1806 and her lamb followed her to school one day around 1816. When Mary arrived at school, she wrapped the lamb in a blanket that she placed at her feet until it made a noise, informing the teacher of its company. John Roulstone had just arrived in town and witnessed Mary sneaking the animal into school, so he wrote a poem about the incident and delivered it to Mary. See some more weird facts most people don’t know.

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Lyndon B Johnson had meetings on toilet
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President Lyndon B. Johnson conducted White House meetings on the toilet

The former president actually had a telephone installed in the bathroom so he could take calls while using the restroom. He conducted meetings with aides while sitting on the toilet because of his insistence on keeping the conversation going. While the president considered his odd methods productive, many of his aides struggled to hear him speak due to running water.

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Einstein as Israeli President
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Albert Einstein was offered the position as president of Israel

When Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann passed away in 1952, Albert Einstein was offered the role by Ambassador Abba Eban. The offer was upon the request of the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Einstein would have had to relocate to Israel and accept Israel as his nationality but would be free to pursue his scientific endeavors. He replied that due to his inexperience working with people, he isn’t qualified to fulfill a role in a high office. Next, check out these split-second decisions that changed history.

Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.