10 Weird Practices in History that Will Make Your Jaw Drop

by Binupriya Tomy3 years ago
Picture 10 Weird Practices in History that Will Make Your Jaw Drop

Many practices around the world might sound weird if you look into them. When people traveled less and information did not travel as fast as now, the world was a different place. Weird practices were common, and many people resorted to them as there was no proof that these were harmful. Imagine believing all your joint pain will go away if you sit inside a whale carcass for hours! Here are some weird practices that will make you thank modern medicine and the Internet. 

1 Children at the age of 6 months to 2 years around the world were dying right when their first set of teeth came out. In the 1800s, the practice of cutting teeth or gum lancing led to these deaths. The complication in the procedure led to reporting of over 5,000 deaths in the year 1839 alone. 

Gum lancing
Image credit: Shutterstock

Infants were dying while their first teeth were coming out. The medical minds simply considered it as a coincidence. Several techniques were tried on babies to find out a solution for these deaths.

They have tried blistering, interventions, placing leeches on the gums, and so on. Some even burned the back of the baby’s head to prevent the symptoms of teething leading to death. 

It was in the 16th century that French surgeon Ambroise Pare found the gum lancing technique. This weird practice involved cutting down swelling on gums with a lancet.

The practice was crazy but so popular that a physician, Marshal Hall, wrote that he would lance a baby’s teeth sometimes up to 199 times unnecessarily so that you don’t miss a chance when necessary. 

It is unknown as to how many children died of infections that were caused by gum lancing and similar procedures carried out by doctors of the time. Even texts from 1938 from a doctor had instructions on how to do gum lancing on a teething child. 

Many still talk about the unfavorable outcomes of gum lancing. In the earlier times, people associated diarrhea, fever, refusal to eat, and others with teething and did not seek any medical attention. This type of belief has lead to the death of several thousands of infants deaths all over the world. (source)


2 Scientists have, over time, come up with several cough medicines, but none were effective. One such medicine was marketed by a German company that had heroin as a potent ingredient. It was marketed around 1898-1910.

Cough Syrup
Original Heroin bottle from Bayer. Image credit: Mpv_51 via pri.org

The German company did some chemical modifications to morphine as a part of finding a cough suppressant and marketed the new remedy named “Heroin.” Although it worked for extreme diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis, patients who were taking it in larger doses found it addicting.

By 1912, this unhappy and unknown side-effect led to youngsters knocking on the doors of hospitals as it emerged as a recreational drug. Two years later in New York and Philadelphia, the drug’s use was peaking. 

The drug heroin was brought to the world by the same company that found aspirin – Bayer Pharmaceuticals. The drug was received with open arms by patients suffering from bronchitis and other cough-related ailments.

The addictive factor was reported from 1899, and by 1913, the manufacture of the drug was stopped. The US banned the drug in 1924. (source)


3 After the discovery of x-rays, scientists found it helped in hair removal. Researchers were quick to start the painless method of hair removal. They claim they “cured” a “bearded lady” in Louisville, Kentucky. The practice became very common but was discontinued because the woman who underwent this procedure began developing tumors, and some others who received the treatments died. 

X-ray Treatment
Tricho Machine Image credit: Collins, 2007 via cosmeticsandskin

Researchers found that hair was falling out when x-rays were exposed to the human body. This remarkable side-effect, as recommended by an Austrian physician, Leopold Freund, became a treatment for excess body hair.

Unlike the other painful methods like tweezing or using chemicals to cure this “condition,” people in North America and Europe widely started using x-rays. 

Strappy dresses were gaining popularity during this time in the US, and women had turned to shave every day. Razor companies were earning great profits. The history of women shaving their bodies can be seen on and off throughout the history of the ancient Egyptians.

The x-ray treatment was heavily marketed during this more recent time in the US. This weird practice took off. This “modern treatment” was later called off the market as the long-term effects of x-ray exposure were found. 

Cancer research in the 1970s found that 35% of cancer reporting was connected to women who had x-ray exposure. The women who had to suffer were the victims of unrealistic beauty standards. (source)


4 Trepanation was a common practice during the neolithic period. It is the earliest surgical method for archaeological evidence. Scientists have unearthed hole-bearing skulls and doubt these were the ones who underwent the trepanning surgery. Some lived after recovering from the surgery, studies say. 

Skull showing traces of trepanation surgical operation. Image credit: Stefano Chiacchiarini via Shutterstock.com

Trepanation is an ancient technique of boring a hole in the skull. People believed having a hole in the skull expanded one’s consciousness and provided psychedelic effects. The people who practice it confirmed that the bone and skin grow back with time. 

Five to 10% of Neolithic periods skulls that archaeologists dug up have unmistakable marks of an indentation on their skulls. Some patients have managed to survive this weird practice that they called a “treatment.”

The practice was common in Europe, Siberia, the Americas, and China. Similar surgical procedures still exist. There are also individuals who encourage medical professionals to adopt this technique. It is associated with having more blood reaching the brain with every heartbeat. It gives a similar feel as when somebody is under the influence of cannabis or other psychedelics. (source)


5 Romans believe in “feeding the dead.” Many graves contain pipes through which the next of kin can pass down honey, wine, and other food items to their buried loved ones. Romans are well known for throwing extravagant funerals.

A gravesite, complete with a libation tube, was found in Vagnari, Italy. Image credit: DR. Tracy Prowse via socialsciences

Romans give offerings to the dead through vessels installed into their graves. They believe giving offerings through libation tubes will prevent the dead from haunting them. The ritual is to provide them with the sustenance needed for their afterlife.

The most common beverages poured down through these pipes were water and beer. The practice originated in Egypt. It was followed by people in parts of Africa and even Greece. 

It was the Romans that made the practice extravagant. The other countries used to pour wine into the tubes before putting the departed to rest. It transcended age or social status. Rich or poor, every burial, including children, had libation tubes.

During excavations, it became an indicator of the presence of a burial ground at this place several thousand years ago. Both textual and archaeological evidence states that oil, grains, incense, and flowers are some other offerings to the dead. (source)

Also Read:
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