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10 Historical Events that Sound like Fiction but Are Actually Real

6. Jack, a baboon, was employed to change rail signals. He was paid twenty cents a day and a half a bottle of beer each week. During his nine years of employment, Jack never made a mistake.

Jack -Signalman
Image credits: Wikipedia

Jack, a chacma baboon. worked as railway signal changer in South Africa for 9 years. He was initially employed as a pet assistant to a disabled railway signalman named James Wide. James Wide, a double leg amputee, purchased Jack and trained him to push his wheelchair and operate rail signals under his supervision.

The idea of a baboon manning the signals caused an investigation to be initiated. The authorities, though skeptical, after witnessing his job competency officially employed Jack. The celebrity employee was paid twenty cents a day and a half-bottle of beer every week. Throughout the nine years of his employment, Jack never committed a single mistake. (source)

7. The town in Germany was spared when Count Von Tilly declared that if anyone in the town could drink a 3.5-liter tank of wine in one go, he would spare the town and move on. One person successfully did it prompting the army to leave.

Town-Rothenburg ob der Tauber
(Image 1) George Nusch. (Image 2) Town-Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Image credits: Jason Ruck /Wikipedia, Berthold Werner/bildindex

General Count von Tilly, a ruthless man during the Thirty Years’ War, was intent on razing the German town Rothenburg ob der Tauber to the ground. On 30 October 1631, the town surrendered to the emperor’s Catholic army of 60,000 men. Legend has it that the General was offered a 3.25-liter tank of local wine as a welcome drink.

After tasting the fine wine, he promised to leave the town if anyone from the audience drank the entire tank of wine in a single go. The town mayor, Georg Nusch accepted the challenge and chugged the entire pitcher within ten minutes. The brave mayor left the count stunned, but, being a man of his word, the count his promise and left the town. (1, 2)

8. On March 13, 1989, the entire province of Quebec, Canada suffered an electrical power blackout caused by a solar storm.

On March 13, 1989, the entire Quebec Province suffered a blackout due to a powerful solar storm. A couple of days before the blackout, astronomers witnessed a powerful explosion on the surface of the Sun. The explosion caused magnetic forces on the Sun to be emitted as a ball of cloud gas. The ball of gas spiraled straight towards earth at the rate of million miles an hour.

The powerful solar flares caused short-wave radio interference and also caused jamming of radio signals from Europe to Russia. On the evening of March 12, 1989, the earth was enveloped by the powerful “Geomagnetic Storm.” The solar flares caused electric grids to blackout in the province of Quebec. The blackout lasted for around 12 hours, and the entire city was covered in darkness. (1, 2)

9. King Edward I of England built the largest trebuchet ever made called “the Warwolf.” The Scots inside the castle surrendered by the mere sight of it.

(Image 1) King Edward I. (Image 2) Scale model of Warwolf in front of Caerlaverock Castle. Image credits: Wikimedia, McP, Kumpel von McKarri/Wikipedia

The Warwolf is considered to be the largest trebuchet ever built. This scary device was built in Scotland by King Edward I of England. The king made use of the device during the siege of Stirling Castle. It took five master carpenters and forty-nine labors a period of three months to complete. The huge device was capable of bringing an entire wall down within minutes.


The mere sight of the magnificent machine was enough to intimidate the Scots and ensured their surrender. However, King Edward I was not impressed with their surrender, and he decided to use the weapon himself to test its destructive powers. The device was successful in hurling 140 kilograms of weight and razed the castle wall to the ground. (1, 2)

10. During the marathon at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, the first place finisher did most of the race in a car. He had intended to drop out and got a car back to the stadium. He started jogging when he heard the fanfare.

Considered to be the worst Olympics in history, the 1904 Summer Olympics was held in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. It was also the first Olympic game conducted outside Europe and had only 12 countries participating in the sporting events. This particular Olympics has been etched in history due to cheating and lasted for nearly five months. The highlight of the event was a men’s marathon that was conducted at 90 ºF over dusty roads.

The intolerable weather conditions forced 18 out of 32 competitors to drop out. Moreover, the first place finisher, Frederick Lorz, won the race in a car. Initially, he had intended to drop out of the event due to exhaustion and hailed a car to reach the stadium to pick his clothes. On his way back, the car broke down, he covered the rest of the distance by foot and started jogging after hearing the fanfare. He ran through the finishing tape and was declared as the winner of the race. (source)


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