Charles Darwin was in the habit of devouring every animal he discovered. The man was an adventurous eater who experimented with everything he came across, from lizards, to giant rats, to pumas. He even slurped down giant tortoise pee just to find out how it tasted. Below are thirty things about that habit and other strange or unexpected habits of famous historic figures.
30. Charles Darwin’s Habit of Eating Every Animal He Discovered
English naturalist, biologist, and geologist Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882) is best known for his theory of evolution. When he set sail aboard the HMS Beagle in 1831 for what turned out to be a five-year journey, few knew that his observations would revolutionize science, and the world, for that matter. Yet, that is precisely what happened. His Victorian contemporaries were shocked by his assertion that humans and animals shared a common ancestry. Today, his notion that all species are descended from common ancestors, is widely accepted. His take that species evolved into their current forms because of changes in heritable characteristics is a fundamental concept of science. One of history’s most influential figures, he was honored with burial in Westminster Abbey when he died.
Darwin, a late addition to the Beagle as a supernumerary naturalist, spent his time studying plants and animals, and gathering data for his theory of evolution through natural selection. Less known, is that Darwin, an adventurous gourmand, ate every animal he discovered. As a student at Cambridge University, long before he became famous, Darwin was a member of the Glutton Club. The student group’s members were in the habit of wolfing down “birds and beasts which were before unknown to human palate“. Among other things, they ate hawks, herons, and a brown owl so nauseating that the club dissolved after tasting it. However, as seen below, Darwin did not lose his taste for exotic meat.
During his journey around the world in HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin ate puma, which he thought tasted like veal, armadillos, and iguanas. He ate a twenty-pound rodent, probably an agouti, which he described as “the very best meat I ever tasted“. He not only ate Galapagos giant tortoises, but also drank their bladders: “The fluid was quite limpid, and had only a very slightly bitter taste“. His habit of eating everything he came across led him on one occasion to accidentally devour a highly sought-after bird, a lesser rhea. No specimen of the bird – South America’s version of an ostrich – had ever been seen in Europe, and Darwin was determined to become the first naturalist to send a specimen back home. He spent months trying to catch one, but the bird was fast, agile, and incredibly hard to catch.
Then one day in 1834, a shipmate showed Darwin a bird he had just shot and asked if he wanted it, or whether they should cook it for dinner. Absentmindedly, Darwin said they should eat it. That evening, Darwin was halfway through dinner when he suddenly jumped up and shouted at everybody to stop eating. He had just realized that they were eating a lesser rhea. He ran around grabbing bones from people’s plates, and rushed to the ship’s mess where he found the head, the neck bones, the feet, some feathers, and assorted bits and pieces. He packaged up all he could find, and sent it to a taxidermist friend in London. The buddy eventually managed to construct a bird using what Darwin had sent him, with the help of wires and feathers purloined from the more common greater rhea, for which there were many specimens available.
Belle Epoque painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) made Parisian nightlife and France’s world of entertainment his specialty and documented it with keen psychological insight. Among the pioneers of the Post-Impressionist period, he ranks along the likes of Van Gogh and Gauguin. His work was marked by an extreme simplification of outlines and movement, and the frequent use of large color areas. He had a strong urge to be intimate with “ladies of the night”. So strong, that he lived in brothels. His private life was marked by a fixation on these women, which spilled over into his art and influenced his paintings.
In his teens, Toulouse-Lautrec broke his thigh bones in a couple of accidents, and the mishaps required extensive periods of painful convalescence. He filled the lonely hours by painting. The accidents left him with atrophied legs and made walking difficult for the rest of his life. He moved to Paris in the early 1880s and devoted himself to becoming an artist. He also devoted himself to the nightlife and the women that came with it. When he was not in Parisian brothels, Toulouse-Lautrec frequently visited cabarets in Paris’ Montmartre district, such as the Moulin Rouge. There, he associated with many courtesans – call girls of a higher caliber. The Moulin Rouge actually reserved a table for him every night, and displayed his paintings. He also enjoyed checking out the theater, circus, and dance halls, in the company of his paid company.
As much as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec liked paying these women to be intimate, they liked him back. They befriended him, modeled for him, and even supported him when he was broke. Working women and madams accepted the crippled artist as a fellow outcast. He liked their company so much, that he would sometimes pack up and move into brothels, to live there for months on end. He liked to shock people by giving the address of a famous brothel as his place of residence. He was allowed to freely wander around the establishments, to sketch and paint what he saw as the muse took him, and he became known for his paintings of ladies of the night.
Toulouse-Lautrec lived in an era when working women were common and easy to access, and most men routinely made use of their services. Still, even in the socially liberal France of the late nineteenth century, women of the night were a taboo subject. Toulouse-Lautrec broke the taboo by painting working women as they were. He neither glamorized nor vilified them, but simply depicted the everyday life he shared with them in a near-documentary fashion. He died at age thirty-six from advanced syphilis, which he got from one of his lady friends.
Zhu Houzhao (1491 – 1521) ascended the Ming Dynasty’s throne and was crowned as the Zhengde Emperor in 1505 when he was fourteen years old. Unsurprisingly, the teenager had little interest in the boring work of government and disregarded state affairs. Also unsurprisingly for a teenager suddenly thrust in a position of absolute power, and given access to untold wealth, he went nuts. He left the business of running China to his courtiers and officials, and lived it up like only a teenager who could suddenly do whatever he wanted could live it up. The young emperor led an extravagant and profligate lifestyle, marked by lavish spending, bizarre behavior, and poor choices.
Such conduct set the stage for the Ming Dynasty’s eventual downfall. The new emperor was in the habit of wholly ignoring his imperial duties. As soon as he ascended the throne, he turned governance over to trusted eunuchs, and devoted himself to pleasure-seeking. With the levers of power left entirely in their hands, palace eunuchs became China’s most powerful class. Without checks or oversight, corruption became endemic and public offices were openly bought and sold. Taxes soared to pay for the emperor’s pleasures and to feather the nests of courtiers and officials.
25. A Frivolous Emperor With Many an Unsavory Habit
Zhu Houzhao liked to travel incognito around China. It was a pro forma incognito: most of the time, it was obvious just who he was. He was also into make believe, and was in the habit of creating elaborate alter egos for himself. One such was a general Zhu Zhu, upon whom the young emperor lavished praise and rewards. He also built a city block within the Forbidden City, China’s imperial palace, so he could pretend to be a shopkeeper. Less innocent and more harmful was his bandit and kidnapper alter ego. In that guise, the emperor took his companions on thrill raids, in which they burst into the homes of wealthy citizens.
They would violently seize and kidnap the household’s daughters, carry them off to a hideout, and hold them for ransom. Those who criticized the emperor’s erratic and irresponsible behavior were arrested, tortured, and executed by the hundreds. Zhu eventually drowned in 1521 when one of his pleasure barges sank, and finally brought his reign to a merciful end. Although he was dead, the damage he left behind proved permanent. In his reign, without oversight from the throne, palace eunuchs achieved such power within the government’s structure that subsequent emperors were unable to dislodge them. Their endemic corruption wrecked the Ming Dynasty’s effectiveness, and was a major cause of its eventual collapse.
Diarist James Boswell (1740 – 1795) was a friend of Samuel Johnson, the writer and poet who compiled the first comprehensive English dictionary. Boswell’s biography of Johnson is considered one of the best biographies ever written. Indeed, so close had Boswell been to Johnson, that “Boswell” became a term for a close companion who observes and records the deeds of a great figure. Less known about Boswell is that he hankered after women nonstop. Boswell had a difficult relationship with his father, which made him depressed and melancholic. Intimacy cheered him up. Between ages 20 and 29, as gleaned from his diary, Boswell slept with three married gentlewomen, four actresses, and kept three mistresses. He also had a fling with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s mistress.
Those figures were eclipsed by the more than sixty working women he slept with in that period. Those women lifted his spirits, at least temporarily, and the habit cheered him up. Boswell chased after them wielding his “Armour” – a reusable condom made of sheep guts that had to be moistened with water before use. A typical escapade from Boswell’s diary went thus: “As I was coming home this night I felt carnal inclinations raging thro’ my frame. I determined to gratify them. I went to St. James’s Park and like Sir John Brute, picked up a Woman. For the first time did I engage in Armour which I found but a dull satisfaction. She who submitted to my lusty embraces was a young shropshire Girl only seventeen, very well-looked, her name Elizabeth Parker. Poor being. She has a sad time of it!”
Every now and then, James Boswell felt bad about his bad habit. However, he couldn’t help himself, and kept coming back. As he wrote in his diary entry of May 10th, 1763: ” At the bottom of the Hay-market I picked up a strong jolly young damsel, and taking her under the Arm I conducted her to Westminster-Bridge, and then in armour compleat did I engage her upon this noble Edifice. The whim of doing it there with the Thames rolling below us amused me much. Yet after the brutish appetite was sated I could not but despise myself for being so closely united with such a low Wretch.”
The “Armour”, which Boswell also referred to in his diary as a “cundum”, was supposed to protect against venereal disease, but proved ineffective. The fact that his first streetwalker, when he was nineteen, gave him gonorrhea, neither extinguished Boswell’s faith in his “Armour” nor dampened his enthusiasm for women. By the time he was twenty-nine, Boswell had been with at least sixty ladies of the night, from whom he contracted gonorrhea an astonishing nineteen times. His friends treated his frequent VD infections as a running joke. However, considering the primitive medical care of the eighteenth century, the bouts were probably too painful for Boswell to appreciate the humor.
22. A Dictator Who Habitually Bit More Than He Could Chew
Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945), founder of Italy’s Fascist Party, was Italy’s prime minister and leader from 1922 to 1943. He was the first European fascist dictator, and was an inspirational figure for Adolf Hitler, who modeled himself after Mussolini during his own rise to power. Eventually, the Italian dictator was overshadowed by his German imitator, and Mussolini ended up as Hitler’s sidekick. Mussolini had delusions of grandeur and sought to revive the Roman Empire. Neither he nor Italy was up to the task, however, and Mussolini often bit more than he could chew.
The results of his habit of overreaching were often farcical, and led to humiliating setbacks. Towards the end of his career, having dragged an unprepared Italy into World War II and bungled it badly, Mussolini’s image morphed from that of a great statesman to a hapless buffoon. It ended badly for him, when his countrymen captured him in the final days of WWII in Europe. They off’d him and his mistress, and displayed them in downtown Milan, suspended upside down by their ankles from meat hooks. That the man was a comic dictator was well known. That he was in the habit of penning erotic letters, though, few knew of at the time.
Mussolini liked to unwind by penning erotic letters. The fascist dictator’s habit of writing frequently cringe-worthy dirty letters was discovered when the diary of Clara Petacci, the mistress taken out and strung up by his side, came to light in 2009. For all his shortcomings, one thing Il Duce (Italian for leader) had to go for him was an incredible libido and remarkable bedroom stamina. As described by Petacci, Mussolini often had up to fourteen mistresses at a time, and would regularly go through three or four different women in a single evening.
Mussolini was also jarringly loud during intimacy: “his screams seem like those of a wounded beast“, as Petacci put it. He was a total hound, who seemingly lusted after every woman he met. As he described it, after his first intimate encounter with a working woman at age seventeen: “Naked women entered my life, my dreams, my desires. I undressed them with my eyes, the girls that I met, I lusted after them violently with my thoughts“. Luckily for him, many Italian women had the hots for him as well, and at the height of his power, thousands sent letters propositioning him every day.
20. Mussolini Begged Women to Hit, Hurt, and Punish Him
Mussolini had underlings sort his fan letters by senders into “known” and “new”. After police background checks on the “new” women, the more interesting ones were put in folders and passed on to him. Those who caught his eye – usually big-breasted and broad-hipped – were summoned for an afternoon liaison at his palace. He wasted no time and was in the habit of getting down to business immediately on the carpet, against the wall, or on a stone window seat. Those who pleased him were added to his many mistresses, and in correspondence with them, Mussolini held little back.
E.g.; ” Orgasm is good for you: it sharpens your thoughts, it widens your horizons, it helps your brain, makes it vivid and brilliant“. Or “Be afraid of my love. It’s like a cyclone. It’s tremendous; it overwhelms everything. You must tremble.” And “I tremble in telling you, but I have a feverish desire for your delicious little body which I want to kiss all over. And you must adore my body, your giant…” Or “Your flesh has got me – from now on I’m a slave to your flesh.” And ” I’m bad – hit me, hurt me, punish me, but don’t suffer. I love you. I think about you all day, even when I’m working.”
Born in the Russian Empire, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889 – 1950) grew up to become one of history’s greatest ballet dancers. His ability to dance en pointe – on tippy-toes – was rare for male dancers in his day, and he captivated audiences with his spectacular leaps and sensitive interpretations. He got his start in classical ballets such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, before he joined the Ballets Russes – a ground breaking company of that era. His talents were so remarkable that special ballets were created just for him, to showcase his skills. The man was a revolutionary force in dance, until his career was cut tragically short.
The first blow was World War I, which broke out while he was in Budapest. He was Russian, which made him an enemy alien, so he spent the conflict interned. Soon after the war ended, he was forced to retire from the stage in 1919, at age twenty-nine, because of a nervous breakdown caused by schizophrenia. He was also an addict, whose drug were women of the night. After his passing, Nijinsky’s wife published his diary, but years later, researchers discovered that Nijinsky’s widow had edited out some interesting stuff. Apparently, there were some aspects of the marriage that she did not want to share with the public: to wit, that her husband had a strong working woman habit.
To say that Vaslav Nijinsky “liked” women is to understate: the man’s habit of frequenting ladies of the night was an irresistible compulsion. He was ashamed of what he viewed as an unfortunate affliction, but could not refrain from gratifying his lust for working women, whom he referred to as “tarts”. Nijinsky’s diary describes disappointments when he would “look for [a woman] all day long and not find one“. It also describes his joy upon finding them, and how he “made love to several tarts a day” on such occasions.
Understandably, that strained his marriage. After one spree with ladies of the night in Paris, Nijinsky’s wife wanted to send him to Zurich for psychiatric treatment. He looked forward to it – not because he was eager to improve his conduct and his marriage, but because of the opportunity to try out Zurich’s working women. His obsession went beyond intimacy: he was actually interested in plumbing the minds of women. As he wrote in his diary: “I will not be writing in Zurich, because I am very interested in that town. I will go to a brothel because I want to have an intuitive understanding of tarts. I have forgotten tarts. I want to understand the psychology of a tart“.
17. For a Medieval Fundamentalist, Osama Bin Laden Sure Kept a Lot of Videos
Osama bin Laden (1957 – 2011), Al Qaeda’s founder, probably history’s best-known terrorist, and the twenty-first century’s most notorious villain (so far – looking at you, Putin), hardly needs an introduction The terror attacks masterminded and carried out by his organization, particularly those of September 11th, 2001, have seared his name in global, and especially American, memories. Less known, however, is how bin Laden liked to pass his free time when he was not running a virtual terror state.
Apparently, he did not spend all his time issuing fatwas against Jews, infidels, and backsliding Muslims, or declaring and waging Jihad against opponents of his ‘Make Islam Great Again!‘ vision. In 2017, the CIA released over 470,000 files seized from his compound in the 2011 raid that ended him. The contents included about 174 gigabytes of video, 7.4 gigabytes of image files, and 18 gigabytes of assorted documents. As it turned out, bin Laden had some hobbies and interests that stood in jarring contrast to his reputation and image.
For all his decrying of the infidel West and its corrupting cultural influence upon Islam and Muslims, Osama bin Laden liked to partake of Western culture. On his personal laptop was an eclectic collection of saved videos. Unsurprisingly, they included quite a bit of the gory stuff, such as beheadings. Surprisingly, they also included British slapstick comedy. As it turns out, bin Laden was a big fan of Rowan Atkinson, as evinced by the numerous episodes of Mr. Bean that were discovered in his hard drive.
Even more surprising, the terror mastermind liked crocheting – a habit that was probably as good a way as any to pass the time while in hiding. Recovered from his laptop were 30 how-to-crotchet tutorial videos, including one for how to crotchet an iPod sock. In a surprisingly not surprising twist, the man whose network tortured and ended people for smoking, drinking, dancing, or watching media depicting women not covered up in burkas, had explicit adult videos saved on his laptop. Turns out that bin Laden was just as hypocritical as most of those who bray the loudest about the licentiousness of the modern age.
Imelda Marcos (1929 – ) is a Philippine public figure, and the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled from 1966 to 1986. During her years as First Lady of the Philippines, she held various government posts and wielded great power, such that she became a de facto co-ruler of the country towards the end of the Marcos dictatorship. Known as the “Steel Butterfly” for her combination of fashion sense and steely resolve, Imelda took full advantage of her position to enrich herself with rampant corruption and blatant graft.
The Marcos dictatorship was a kleptocracy, and the ruling couple plundered the country. They were eventually overthrown in a 1986 popular uprising, the People Power Revolution, and were forced to flee the Philippines. By then they had stashed enough wealth in secret Swiss bank accounts, and accumulated various properties overseas, to afford an extremely comfortable retirement in Hawaii. However, they were unable to take all their ill-gotten gains and goodies with them. When the revolutionaries entered the Marcos palaces, they found evidence of an extravagant and opulent lifestyle, most starkly represented by Imelda’s expensive designer shoe habit.
14. A Habit of Splurging on Designer Shoes by the Thousands
What attracted the most attention was Imelda Marcos’ apparent obsession with expensive designer shoes. The former First Lady had a habit of splurging on extremely pricey shoes, and accumulated thousands of pairs. When protesters stormed one of her former residences, the Malacanang Palace, they discovered over 2700 pairs of designer shoes in Imelda’s wardrobe. Thousands more designer shoes were found in other palaces, mansions, and villas throughout the Philippines. A single pair of those pricey pumps could cost more than residents of an entire city block in a lower-class Philippine neighborhood earned in a year.
Imelda Marcos’s shoes were displayed at the presidential palace as a symbol of the dictatorship’s corruption. Eventually, hundreds of her shoes found a permanent home in the Shoe Museum, in the northern city of Marikina. The collection became a symbol of excess in a country where many walked barefoot in abject poverty. However, because life is often unfair, Imelda Marcos never paid for her corruption. She was eventually allowed back in the Philippines, was elected to Parliament, and as of 2022, is one of that country’s wealthiest women. She even turned the shoe scandal into an asset, and has been a frequent visitor to the Shoe Museum. There, she signs autographs and proudly poses for photos next to the display cases of her collection.
13. This Randy Old Goat’s Habit of Getting it On Whenever and Wherever He Could Eventually Ended Him
Henry John Templeton (1784 – 1865), 3rd Viscount Palmerston and better known as Lord Palmerston, dominated British foreign policy from 1830 to 1865, when Britain was at the height of its power. He served as Secretary at War from 1809 to 1828, as Foreign Secretary from 1830 to 1841 and again from 1846 to 1851, and twice as Prime Minister, from 1855 to 1858, and again from 1859 to 1865. In his private life, he was a randy old goat who was in the habit of getting it on whenever and wherever he could.
Lord Palmerston is the only British Prime Minister to have ever passed in office, and oh what an ending it was. On October 18th, 1865, the eighty-year-old Prime Minister, who enjoyed robust health well past his biblical three score and ten, reportedly was getting it on with a maid on a billiard table. He seems to have overexerted himself, which led to his demise in the midst of his illicit romance, just two days shy of his eighty-first birthday.
Egyptian King Farouk I (1920 – 1965) reigned from 1936 until he was thrown off his throne by a coup in 1952. His years as Egypt’s last king were marked by widespread corruption, incompetent governance, and bizarre conduct. A kleptomaniac, Farouk could not resist stealing things, and was in the habit of picking people’s pockets. He also was an avid collector of adult entertainment. He was popular early in his reign when he ascended the throne as a slim and handsome young man.
The goodwill was quickly squandered by his incompetent governance, and his good looks were soon ruined by a gluttony that saw him balloon to 300 pounds. He soon became an object of derision, widely lampooned as a “stomach with a head”. His lavish lifestyle while his subjects endured the hardships of WWII further eroded his popularity. Farouk took pickpocketing lessons, and as seen below, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whom he hosted at a dinner during WWII, was one of his victims.
11. This King’s Pickpocketing Habit Was Eclipsed by His Adult Entertainment Habit
During a state dinner hosted by King Farouk, Winston Churchill discovered that his pocket watch – a prized family heirloom – had gone missing. After an outcry and search, the Egyptian king, who had been seated next to Churchill, sheepishly turned it in, claiming to have “found” it. It was just one example of Farouk’s bizarre behavior. Early in WWII, he had repeated nightmares in which he was chased by a ravenous lion. Frazzled from loss of sleep, he consulted the rector of Cario’s ancient Al Azhar University, who advised him “you will not rest until you have shot a lion“. So Farouk went to the zoo and shot two lions in their cages.
By 1952, Farouk’s corruption and maladministration had completely eroded his standing, and he was overthrown in a coup. Hastily fleeing Egypt, he left most of his possessions behind. The new government auctioned his belongings, and in the process discovered his stash of adult entertainment. This was in the days when it all was hardcopy. Farouk had entire rooms filled with the stuff, and it soon became clear that the Egyptian king had a serious adult magazine habit. So serious that he had amassed the world’s biggest adult entertainment collection. He settled first in Monaco, then in Rome, where he literally ate himself away, collapsing at a restaurant dinner table after a heavy meal in 1965.
Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) was China’s main Marxist theorist, and a guerrilla fighter, soldier, and statesman, who presided over his country’s communist revolution. He led the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his passing, and after the communists won control in 1949, he ruled China from that date until his demise. During his time in power, Mao was responsible for the eradication of tens of millions of Chinese. They were ended outright by his followers or starved because of Mao’s disastrous economic policies.
However, there was more to Chairman Mao than just a revolutionary man of action. He had a particular fondness for classical Chinese poetry and literature. In addition to being a horrible person who should’ve never existed, Mao was also a prolific writer and poet. Surprisingly, for a man so politically radical and revolutionary, he was in the habit of writing and penning verses in classical Chinese forms. It would be akin to a modern American anarchist who liked writing in the manner of Chaucer.
As with most Chinese intellectuals of his era, Mao Zedong’s education was based on a foundation of classical Chinese literature. However, while most of his contemporaries moved on to modern styles and themes, Mao stuck with the old when it came to literature and poetry. From his youth, he got into the habit of composing poetry in the classical style, and he kept at it for the rest of his life. Indeed, Mao’s image as a poet was a significant part of his public persona as he rose to power in China.
Mao was actually considered a good poet. Not just by critics in China, who knew better than to pan his poetry, but also by literary critics outside China and beyond Mao’s clutches. Although a radical revolutionary in many aspects, Mao was artistically conservative, and stuck with traditional Chinese literary and poetic forms. His poetry tended to be on romantic end of things, rather than the more modern realist genre. It was reminiscent of Tang Dynasty style, from the seventh to ninth centuries.
Alone I stand in the autumn cold On the tip of Orange Island, The Xiang flowing northward; I see a thousand hills crimsoned through By their serried woods deep-dyed, And a hundred barges vying Over crystal blue waters. Eagles cleave the air, Fish glide under the shallow water; Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom. Brooding over this immensity, I ask, on this bondless land Who rules over man’s destiny? I was here with a throng of companions, Vivid yet those crowded months and years. Young we were, schoolmates, At life’s full flowering; Filled with student enthusiasm Boldly we cast all restraints aside. Pointing to our mountains and rivers, Setting people afire with our words, We counted the mighty no more than muck. Remember still How, venturing midstream, we struck the waters And the waves stayed the speeding boats?
Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I (1615 – 1648), or Ibrahim the Mad, reigned from 1640 to 1648. When his older brother Murad IV became sultan, he had the then-eight-year-old Ibrahim sent to the Kafes, or “Cage” – a secluded part of the Harem where male royal relatives were confined. There, they were kept under house arrest, under surveillance, and isolated from the outside world to prevent intrigues and plots. While Ibrahim was in the Cage, Murad executed his other brothers, one by one, until Ibrahim was the last one left, constantly terrified that he might be next. He remained in confinement until his brother’s passing without issue in 1640. When he was taken out of the Cage and told that he would be crowned sultan, Ibrahim refused at first.
He rushed back to the Cage to barricade himself inside, suspecting it was a trick to entrap him into saying or doing something that his fratricidal brother would take as treasonous. Finally, his brother’s corpse was brought to the door for him to examine. Even then, it still took the pleas of his mother, “who had to coax him out like a kitten with food“, for Ibrahim to come out and accept the throne. However, the years of isolation, and the ever-present fear of execution, had unhinged Ibrahim. His condition was worsened by depression over the passing of his brother, whom he loved in a Stockholm Syndrome type of way.
The new Sultan’s habit feeding of fish in the palace pool with coins instead of food was an early worrying sign. As it became clear that Ibrahim was crazy, his mother ruled for him. To keep him busy, the sultan was encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the Harem with his nearly 300 concubines. It was intended to keep him out of his mother’s hair and out of trouble, and to father male heirs since, by then, he was the last surviving male Ottoman. For years, Ibrahim took to the Harem with relish, fathering three future sultans and a number of daughters. As a contemporary put it “In the palace gardens he frequently assembled all the virgins, made them strip themselves naked, and neighing like a stallion ran amongst them and as it were ravished one or the other”.
The insanity never went away, however: one day he woke up, and out of the blue, ordered his entire Harem tied in weighted sacks and drowned in the sea. Ibrahim also had a thing for fat women. One time he got turned on by a cow’s vagina, so he commissioned gold copies and sent them around the empire, to find a woman with a similar-looking vagina. Searchers eventually found a 350-pound woman with matching parts, who became one of his favorite concubines. He also had a fetish for fur and decorated his clothes, curtains, walls, and furniture with it. He stuffed his pillows with the stuff and liked to have intimacy on sable furs.
When Sultan Ibrahim saw the beautiful daughter of the Grand Mufti, the empire’s highest religious authority, he asked for her hand in marriage. Aware of Ibrahim’s depravities, the Mufti urged his daughter to decline. When she did, Ibrahim ordered her kidnapped and carried to his palace. There, he ravished her for days, before sending her back to her father. Eventually, he exiled his mother and assumed personal control of the government. The results were disastrous: after ordering the execution of his most capable ministers, Ibrahim spent like only a madman can.
Eventually, he emptied the treasury, even as he got himself into a series of wars and managed them poorly. By 1647, between heavy taxes, the bungled wars, and with a Venetian blockade bringing the Ottoman capital to the brink of starvation, discontent boiled over. In 1648, the population revolted, urged on by religious scholars, and was joined by the army. An angry mob seized Ibrahim’s Grand Vizier and tore him to pieces, and the sultan was deposed in favor of his six-year-old son. A fatwa was then issued for Ibrahim’s execution, which was carried out by strangulation.
5. A Lecherous Religious Charlatan Who Got His Congregation into the Habit of Prolonged Love groups
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869 – 1916) was a charlatan, mystic, holy wanderer, faith healer, blasphemer, and a notorious lecher who became one of Russia’s most powerful figures. An inexplicable ability to ease the pain of the child Alexei Nikolayevich, the hemophiliac heir to the Russian throne, earned him the gratitude of his parents, Russia’s Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. That made Rasputin an influential figure in the Russian Empire’s final years. It was an unexpected rise. As a teenager, Rasputin was notorious for his relentless pursuit of women, from women of the night to respectable matrons. He had a magnetism that enabled him to rack up carnal conquests with ease.
Rasputin invented and led a religious cult that combined Orthodox Christianity with physical pleasure, plus bizarre rituals deemed heretical and blasphemous. A core belief of Rasputin’s cult was that nearness to God is achieved by a state described as “holy passionlessness”, which is best achieved via exhaustion. Such exhaustion was to be attained by a lot of intimacy – a religious doctrine he described as “driving out sin with sin“. So he led his cult into reaching carnal exhaustion via love groups. He and his followers got into the habit of indulging in prolonged bouts of debauchery by the entire congregation, in order to get base passions out of their system.
Rasputin eventually made it to the Russian capital, Saint Petersburg, where he won the favor of Russia’s Tsar and Tsarina. There, he exerted his animal magnetism upon the capital’s women, and before long, he had a cult following, from lowly streetwalkers to wealthy aristocratic women. Soon, young women and old, maidens and matrons, were throwing themselves at Rasputin. They flocked to his apartment, and he was indiscriminate in his preferences, bedding working women and princesses alike. Many in high society, aware that Rasputin had the ear of Russia’s rulers, sought his favor. Some even sent their wives or daughters to seduce him into putting in a good word for them at court, or their female relatives did so on their own initiative.
Many other women visited Rasputin simply for intimacy. Lots and lots of intimacy. Rasputin was, by all accounts, a carnal addict, with enviable stamina and staying power. His habit of getting it on with all women who crossed his path astonished contemporaries. Saint Petersburg’s authorities posted plainclothes policemen at his building, and their reports described dozens of women, from working women to high-ranking aristocrats, visiting his apartment. The police reports went on to describe loud noises of drunken revelry, parties with working women, beatings, violent intimacy, and orgies that lasted until sunrise and beyond.
3. Overlooking This Holy Man’s Unholy Deeds Helped Set the Stage for Revolution
Reports of Rasputin’s unruly and unholy conduct – including the forced go at a nun – reached Tsar Nicholas’ ears. However, Russia’s ruler either dismissed them out of hand or laughed them off with comments such as “the holy are always slandered“. The Tsar’s confessor investigated the reports of Rasputin’s misconduct, concluded there was truth in them, and advised Nicholas to distance himself from the controversial monk. The Tsar, at the behest of his wife who was fiercely protective of the holy charlatan, sided with the Rasputin.
It was the Tsar’s confessor who ended up banished from Saint Petersburg. By 1911, Rasputin’s notorious misconduct had become a national scandal and turned the imperial family into a laughingstock. Eventually, word began to make the rounds that the unholy holy man had seduced the Tsar’s wife, Tsarina Alexandra. Whether or not that was true – and Rasputin boasted of having done so – it damaged the imperial family’s prestige. It set the stage for its overthrow in the 1917 Russian Revolution.
2. Johnny Carson Was in the Habit of Abusing All and Sundry
John William Carson (1925 – 2005), better known as Johnny Carson, hosted The Tonight Show on NBC for three decades from 1962 to 1992. In that stretch, he set the standard format and template that has been followed by TV chat shows ever since, including the guest couch and studio band. Carson was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, won a Peabody Award, and six Emmys. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award – and received a Kennedy Center Honor.
Carson worked hard to cement his perception as the funny and neighborly Midwesterner, and perfected his friendly on-air persona. As a result, Americans welcomed Carson with open arms into their living rooms as the country’s favorite late-night host. However, when he was not in front of an audience, The King of Late Night Television, as Carson came to be known, was a bitter, bullying, and mean SOB. He was in the habit of abusing just about everybody and was so awful that many famous figures boycotted his show. However, they did so quietly, out of fear that he might damage their careers. Wayne Newton, as seen below, was an exception.
While on the air, Johnny Carson was sunshine and sweetness, and the embodiment of the friendly guy you’d like to have as a neighbor. Away from the cameras, however, Carson was a total jerk who bullied and abused others and even physically assaulted people in fits of rage. Examples of Carson being a jackass include an attempt to strangle NBC colleague Tom Snyder, his refusal to visit his son who was institutionalized in a mental asylum, and his verbal and physical abuse of his wives.
Many celebrities abused by Carson stayed quiet to protect their careers from the notoriously vindictive icon. An exception was singer and actor Wayne Newton, who resented Carson’s cracking gay jokes about him on national TV. Newton thought that he and Carson were buddies, and begged him to cut it out. Carson persisted, however. So an incensed Newton barged into Carson’s office, and slapped him around silly. It wasn’t live at the Oscars, but it got Carson’s attention. It was one of the few times that the star TV host got his comeuppance. The gay jokes stopped.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading