One of the most famous instances in history of mass hysteria was The Dancing Plague of 1518. The people of Alsace, France, suffered multiple years of horrible events like a breakout of the Bubonic Plague and crops dying. Before the dancing plague, people in the town begin claiming that they saw the ghosts of their dead relatives walking through town. Obviously, their mental health was already in the toilet. In July of 1518, one woman began dancing uncontrollably in the street. This triggered between 50 to 400 people who also began dancing nonstop. There is no rational explanation as to why this happened to this day. Some people believe it was demonic possession, while others try to find some sort of medical explanation.
This next story is a famous legend, but some people claim that it’s not actually true. But the story is still pretty funny. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship crashed on the coast of Hartlepool, England. At the time, people were scared of a possible French invasion, and they were always on the lookout for spies. But instead of men coming off this ship, there was a single monkey wearing a French uniform. Apparently, the citizens of Hartlepool had never seen a monkey before. But they had also never seen a Frenchman before, either. So they assumed that this monkey was a spy, so they hung him in the town square. People who live in Hartlepool will insist that the story is true, even though it makes their ancestors look foolish. Today, Hartlepool’s local Rugby team is called the Monkeyhangers in honor of the story.
Igor Stravinsky’s Ballet “Rite of Spring” Caused a Riot
Fans of classic music will be familiar with the works of Igor Stravinsky. But when he first premiered his ballet called “Rite of Spring” in May of 1913, the Parisian audience was shocked by the music. The ballet was performed by a Russian dance company called Ballets Russes, who were known for choreography that was out of the box. They were often called “primitive and untamed.” When the performance began, people found the music to be too jarring. And the dancing was so odd, it didn’t seem like ballet at all. The audience began to boo, hiss, and shout for someone to call a doctor. If you’re curious to know what kind of dancing could have possibly enraged French audiences so much, there was a 100-year anniversary performance of Ballets Russes reenacting the Rite of Spring in 2013, and the video is available on YouTube.
History is filled with strange events that would never happen in the modern world. One of these events was the Cadaver Synod, when a dead pope was forced to stand trial for his crimes. Pope Formosus had been dead for seven months, when the acting Pope Stephen VI demanded that the body should be exhumed. Stephen wanted Formosus to pay for his alleged crimes. He accused the man of illegally obtaining his role as Pope, and that he presided over more than one diocese at the same time. Obviously, Formosus had nothing to say in his own defense, so he lost the trial by default. His papacy was retroactively declared null and void. Surely, Pope Stephen hoped that by doing this, he could erase Pope Formosus from history. But what really happened is that he made himself look like a crazy person in the history books.
On January 15, 1919, a large storage tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst in the middle of Boston, Massachusetts. This resulted in a massive wave of molasses traveling at 35 miles an hour down the street. It killed 21 people, and injured 150. Besides the human casualties, it also destroyed several of the surrounding buildings. It’s not funny that people died, but it’s absolutely ridiculous to imagine a tidal wave of sugary syrup crashing down onto the streets of Boston. As you can imagine, it was a nightmare to clean up. According to locals, you could still smell molasses on a hot summer day years after the event took place.
A Riot Started Over Socially Unacceptable Straw Hats
Many of you have probably heard of the statement that you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. But back in 1922, there was an unwritten rule that men should stop wearing straw hats by September 15, known as “Felt Hat Day”. If you continued wearing straw hats past the deadline, it opened yourself up to insults from strangers. Teenagers also enjoyed knocking straw hats off men’s heads and stomping them on the ground. Two days before, on the 13th, a group of teenagers decided to get an early start knocking hats off dock worker’s heads and stomping them on the ground. This led to fighting, and the teenagers were arrested. After this event, this inspired over 1,000 teenagers to riot in the streets of New York for eight days straight, hitting men in straw hats with large sticks. Several people were arrested, and some were injured.
In 1254 C.E. the Khan Organized a Drunken Debate Between Different Religious Representatives
One of the things Genghis Khan is praised for was granting universal religious freedom. Since he encouraged people to keep their own religious beliefs, he decided to organize a debate among Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists to see who would win. Of course, everyone was drinking heavily. The debate went on for multiple rounds on a variety of theological topics until the participants became so drunk that it concluded without any clear winner. According to the book called Genghis Khan and The Making of the Modern World, “Finally, as the effects of the alcohol became stronger, the Christians gave up trying to persuade anyone with logical arguments, and resorted to singing. The Muslims, who did not sing, responded by loudly reciting the Koran in an effort to drown out the Christians, and the Buddhists retreated into silent meditation.”
A Single WWII Soldier Liberated An Entire German Occupied City By Himself
The story of a Canadian soldier named Leo Major is both funny and deserves to be in an action movie. In April of 1945, Leo was by himself when he entered a German occupied town in the Netherlands called Zwolle. He captured a German soldier, holding a gun to him and shouting orders in a loud, authoritative voice. Leo told the German soldier that the town was surrounded. They would consider letting them live, as long as they surrendered peacefully. Next, he began running through the streets of Zwolle firing a machine gun into the air, and tossing random grenades to make as much noise as possible. This was the middle of the night, so most of the German soldiers were asleep in their beds, startled awake by what they thought was an attack by the entire Canadian army. The Germans surrendered, and Leo Major liberated the entire town.
Many people have heard of the story of Russian women pretending to be the long-lost Princess Anastasia. But it turns out that there seems to be a Russian tradition of people impersonating royals for their own financial gain. After Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich of Russia, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible died, it led to not just one- but three different men coming forward that they were the true Dmitry, and that they had miraculously escaped their assassination attempt at 8 years old. The first False Dmitry actually became the Tsar of Russia, and reigned from 1605-1606. All three of these imposters ended up getting killed. So it probably wasn’t a great idea to impersonate the Tsar in the first place.
Pranksters Pretended to be Royals During “The Dreadnought Hoax”
In 1910, an Irish prankster by the name of Horace de Vere Cole organized a hoax with a group of his friends. They showed up to the UK’s Royal Navy wearing foreign costumes and blackface, claiming to be “Abyssinian royals” from Ethiopia. This convinced the navy officers to allow them a personal tour of the HMS Dreadnought. The famous author Virginia Woolf was friends with Cole, and later wrote that the naval officers of “the Hawke and the Dreadnought had a feud. … And Cole’s friend who was on the Hawke had come to Cole, and said to him, “You’re a great hand at hoaxing people; couldn’t you do something to pull the leg of the Dreadnought? They want taking down a bit. Couldn’t you manage to play off one of your jokes against them?” It totally worked, and it was forever remembered as “The Dreadnought Hoax“.
The Roman Emperor Caligula Declared War on Neptune, and Sent His Soldiers Into the Sea
The Roman Emperor Caligula is remembered for doing and saying a lot of insane things in his lifetime. But one of the most ridiculous orders he gave to his army was to battle Neptune, god of the sea. He had just gone on a campaign to capture Great Britain, and got as far as the shores of Gaul. But when it was obvious that he couldn’t succeed, he had to abandon the mission. But instead of going back a loser, he demanded that his army fight Neptune, instead. His soldiers obeyed his orders, and whipped the water violently. Then they were instructed to take sea shells home with them as a prize for their “victory”.
Back in 1809, a man named Theodore Hook made a bet with his friend Samuel Beazley that he could make any house the most popular address in London. They picked a random house on 54 Berners Street that belonged to a woman named Mrs. Tottenham. Theodore proceeded to send Mrs. Tottenham a total of 12 chimney sweeps, lawyers, priests, and other service people. He also ordered multiple wedding cakes, pianos, fish, shoes, and other goods that were all being delivered to the address at the same time. This caused a traffic jam surrounding the house as a large crowd of people began to gather. Theodore and his friends were watching the chaos unfold from a house across the street. The police put out an award for the capture of whoever was responsible for the prank, but he was never caught.
There Was a Campaign For Americans to Start Eating Hippos
In 1910, there was a major monopoly on meat in the United States, which caused meat shortages and price gouging at butcher shops and grocery stores. A senator named Robert Broussard suggested that Americans should start importing hippos from Africa, and let them live in the rivers of Louisiana. Hippos are so large that they could feed a lot of people with their meat. Obviously, Broussard didn’t mention the fact that hippos are incredibly dangerous animals, and it would be a terrible idea to set them free in the wild in the United States. This plan was highly publicized in newspapers, but it never actually came to fruition. Eventually, the meat market stabilized again when there was an increase in “factory farming” across the nation.