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10 Historical Events That Sound Too Strange To Be True

strange historical events

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and throughout history, we have had multiple examples that demonstrate this fact. People have gone down in history for reasons that are too absurd to even think about, ranging from murders to unbelievable achievements. Fortunately for us, some of these records are so well-preserved that even centuries later, they are easily available to entertain us. So, without further ado, here is a list of 10 historical events that sound too strange to be true. 

1. In 1789, President George Washington gave his first inaugural speech to the US Congress. This address was written by James Madison who was a good friend of the President. Later, Congress also asked Mr. Madison to write a letter to the President, leading him to essentially be in dialogue with himself for a while.

George Washington
George Washington’s First Inauguration (Image to the left), James Madison, American painting. Image credit: uschs.org, Shutterstock

President George Washington gave his first inaugural speech to the US Congress in 1789, a tradition that has since been followed by all American presidents. At the time, however, President Washington heavily relied on his close friend, James Madison, to prepare his speech. 

Mr. Madison is said to have used a significant portion of the address written by David Humphreys, the President’s secretary, leaving just one legislative recommendation about amendments to the Constitution. Later, in response to this address, Congress too decided to write a letter to the President.

For this important task, they enlisted Mr. Madison who was not only the President’s close confidant but also a principal figure in the drafting of the US constitution. This way, for the first few weeks of President Washington’s term, James Madison was forced to be in dialogue with himself. (Source

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2. The US Air Force once experimented with various non-lethal chemical weapons to disrupt the morale of their enemies. One such weapon was the “gay bomb” which would spray sexual pheromones into the air to turn enemy soldiers gay. However, this project was later abandoned for unknown reasons. 

Gay Bomb
The gay bomb was a theoretical cloud of gas that would turn enemy soldiers gay. Image credit: Shutterstock

In 1994, the US Air Force’s Wright Laboratory in Ohio submitted a proposal to the Pentagon for a $7.5 million project that would turn enemy soldiers gay. This project was proposed as part of a non-lethal chemical weapons program that would help disrupt the enemies’ morale.

According to this proposal, the “gay bomb” was expected to spray a strong aphrodisiac into the air that would make enemy soldiers irresistible to one another. 

This proposal came to light in 2002, when a CD-ROM produced by the US military was submitted to the National Academy of Sciences. Many people then took to the Internet to complain about the Pentagon’s severe lack of understanding of human sexuality.

Among other such proposals, the US Air Force is also said to have considered bombs that would simulate flatulence among enemy ranks, make their skins highly sensitive to sunlight. and even give them bad breath. (1, 2)

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3. The 1904 Summer Olympics marathon held at St. Louis was a strange disaster. The first-place winner finished most of the race in a car, the second finisher was so drugged up that he had to be carried across the finish line. and the fourth-place finisher was a Cuban man who took an hour-long nap on the side of the race track. 

Olympics Marathon
The runners set off from the stadium at 3:03 pm on a hot summer day in 1904 for the men’s marathon. Image credit: Missouri History Museum via Wikimedia.org

On 30 August 1904, The US hosted a marathon as part of the Summer Olympics Games in St. Louis, Missouri. The first-place holder in the marathon was a bricklayer named Fred Lorz who was later disqualified because it turned out that he had finished most of the race by driving around in a car. 

The second finisher was Thomas Hicks, who had been on a strict diet with very little water, some strychnine (also known as rat poison), and raw egg whites to enhance his performance. However, by the end of the race, he was so ill that he had to be carried across the finish line by his handlers.

Finally, the fourth place was held by a Cuban man who fell asleep on the side of the race track after eating some rotten apples. In the end, the event turned out to be such a disaster that it was nearly canceled from the Olympics. (1, 2)

4. In 1855, a riot broke out in Toronto between a visiting circus and some firemen when the circus clowns decided to visit a local brothel frequented by the firemen. Even the police were unable to handle the situation, forcing the mayor to call in the militia. Later, the entire police force was fired for their incompetence and replaced by a new one. 

Toronto Riots
The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855: Clowns vs. Firefighters. Image credit: Joseph Becker/Stories I Found in the Closet

The Toronto Circus Riots of 1855 is an infamous piece of history that led to the creation of the modern Toronto police force. In the summer of 1855, a visiting circus called S.B. Howes’ Star Troupe Menagerie & Circus had come into town for a show.

Done with their performances for the day, a group of clowns from the circus decided to visit a brothel on Toronto’s King Street, unaware that it was frequented by local firemen.

Then, at the brothel, a riot soon broke out between the clowns and the firemen. These firemen were part of the local Orange Order, a Protestant organization, and had many sympathizers among the Toronto Police Force.

So, even though the cops were called to stop the fighting, they were either unable to do so or refused to stop their fellow Orangemen. Eventually, the mayor had to call in the militia and the entire police force was replaced. (1, 2)

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5. Charles Guiteau was a deluded man who believed he had played a major role in President James A. Garfield’s election win. So, when his demands for due credits were ignored, he became angry and decided to kill the President. He then went out and bought an ivory-handled revolver for the assassination because he believed it would look impressive in a museum. 

Charles Guiteau
James A. Garfield (Image to the left), Charles J Guiteau. Image credits: Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Library of congress prints via Wikimedia.org Findagrave via Wikimedia.org

James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States, whose term came to a quick end when he was assassinated by Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was a mentally ill man and also a staunch supporter of the Grand Old Republican Party.

He had even approached them many times before to give a speech on their behalf. Finally, the party decided to let him address a small gathering of African-Americans where Guiteau delivered a nonsensical speech. 

However, when President Garfield won in 1881, Guiteau became convinced that this was the result of his speech. He then demanded compensation in the form of a cushy diplomatic position in Europe. But when the party ignored his demands, he decided to assassinate the President.

He went out and bought an ivory-handled revolver for this because he believed it would look impressive in a museum. In September 1881, Guiteau successfully shot the President who died after eighty days of agony. (1, 2)

Also read: 10 Historical Events Overshadowed by Other Events

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