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10 Funny Stories from History that You Never Read in Your School Books

6. In 1518 in the Roman city of Strasbourg, hundreds of people came down with “dancing mania,” where they danced for days on end and seemed unable to stop. Some of the dancers kept going until they died from exhaustion, strokes, and heart attacks. Experts say it may have been a form of mass hysteria. The event became known as the “Dancing Plague of 1518.”

dancing mania, Dancing Plague of 1518
Image credit: Pieter Brueghel the Younger/Wikimedia

This wasn’t the only case of groups of people being affected by dancing mania. There were a number of outbreaks that happened in Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries. Medical historians say it was likely a form of mass hysteria caused by extreme stress combined with the belief that they were being forced to dance.

For instance in Strasbourg, there was a local belief that St. Vitus, the patron saint of dancers, would curse people and force them to dance. Other explanations at the time included that the dancers were possessed, or that the dancing was brought on by spider bites. When 400 hundred people joined in the dancing in Strasbourg, officials tried to help but probably contributed to the problem. They assumed people just needed to get the dancing out of their systems, so they set up halls for the dancers with musicians and professional dancers to help out. (1,2,3,4)

7. In 1698, when King Charles XII of Sweden was 16, he became known for throwing wild, drunken parties and going out into the streets to cause havoc. One night he went running through the streets of Stockholm, yanking hats and wigs off of people’s heads.

King Charles XII of Sweden
Image credit: David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl /Wikimedia

In the summer of 1698, Charles’ cousin, the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, visited Stockholm to marry the king’s sister. The duke was ten years older than the king and seemed to have a bad influence on him. The pair committed a variety of outrageous acts that summer and it became known as the “Gottorp Fury.” Their antics included throwing furniture out of the palace windows, throwing cherry pits at the king’s ministers, and taking a group of young people through the streets to wreak havoc.

The young king finally toned down his behavior after a bear was killed at one of his parties. The bear had been forced to drink wine, and then it fell out of a window. When it happened, Charles vowed never to drink strong alcohol again. With only a few exceptions, he kept his vow until his death in 1718.(1,2)


8. In 1921, the 15-year-old former emperor of China, Puyi, decided he wanted to have a phone installed in the palace for his personal use. His advisors tried to keep him from getting one because they were afraid it would give him too much independence since Puyi usually had no contact with the outside world. But when he finally got his phone, he just used it to make prank calls.

Puyi, Puyi's personal prank box
Image source: Wikimedia,

Puyi was the last emperor of China. He lost his title when the Empire was abolished in 1912. After that, he became a symbolic leader and still lived in the Imperial Palace.

Puyi learned about telephones from one of his tutors and decided he wanted one. At first, his advisors told him it was a bad idea because it would go against tradition. Later, they had his father tell him that giving outsiders the ability to call into the palace’s inner sanctum would hurt imperial dignity. But in his autobiography, Puyi said the real reason they tried to stop him was that they were afraid of what would happen once he had contact with the outside world since he had been confined to the palace since he was a young child.

Once Puyi got his phone, he used a Beijing telephone directory to start making prank phone calls. He called a famous opera singer in Beijing and then giggled and hung up. Several times he called restaurants and had large meals sent to random addresses. (1,2)


9. There was an ancient Chinese board game called Liubo, and there are two recorded cases of Chinese nobles killing their opponents by hitting them with the game board.

Image credit: sailko/Wikimedia

Liubo dates back to the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, and over the years the rules were lost. But, it’s believed that it was a two-player game where each player had six game pieces. Instead of dice, players threw six sticks to determine how to move their pieces. Apparently, people took the game very seriously as it led to at least two deaths.

The first case took place in 682 BCE when Nangong Wan hit Duke Min of Song with the Liubo board. The second case happened hundreds of years later, sometime before 156 BCE, when Emperor Jing of Han was still a crown prince. He was playing Liubo with the Prince of Wu, got angry at his opponent, and killed him by throwing the board at him. (source)

10. King Charles VI of France, who reigned from 1380-1422, struggled with mental illness and delusions throughout his life. There were times when he thought he was made of glass, and so he had his clothes reinforced to protect him from shattering.

Charles VI of France
Image credit: Gillot Saint-Evre/Wikimedia

When King Charles VI started believing he was made of glass, he refused to let people touch him, and he had iron rods sewn into his clothes. He thought that the rods would help keep him from shattering in the event he came into contact with another person.

The condition King Charles suffered from later became known as “glass delusion.” It occurred mainly in the late Middle Ages and usually affected people in the wealthy and educated classes. As a result, it became associated with the wider disorder of “scholar’s melancholy.” Besides glass delusion, some sufferers of scholar’s melancholy believed they were made of cork, were as heavy as lead, or that their heads would fall off their shoulders. (1,2)



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