Historical Facts That Sound Fake But Are Completely True

By: Georgia | Published: Nov 27, 2023

History is full of fascinating stories that are brought to life by historians and archaeologists around the world. However, some of the stories can be challenging to believe at first. 

We have compiled a list of unusual and mind-boggling historical facts that are so bizarre that they sound fake. Yet, they are entirely true. 

Queen Elizabeth Reigned for 30% of United States History

The United States has been one of the most influential nations in the history of the world. Yet, it’s only been around for a little less than 250 years, having been officially formed in 1776. 

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a photo in Norfolk, England

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Queen Elizabeth II of England ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, and ruled for over seven decades until her passing in 2022. That means she reigned for approximately 28% of American history.


Nintendo Existed During the Ottoman Empire

When you think of the Ottoman Empire, you think of ancient Turks who tried to conquer vast sways of Eastern Europe. The empire was founded in 1299 and lasted for over 600 years until 1922. 

Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario and other characters and video games for Nintendo, holds a Nintendo Game Boy

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Nintendo, famous for video games such as Super Mario and the Legend of Zelda, was actually founded in 1889. That means there’s a 33-year overlap between the Ottoman Empire and Nintendo. 

The Fax Machine Was Invented Before the Telephone

Once upon a time, if you needed to send important documents from one place to another, you made use of a fax machine. However, did you know this pivotal piece of tech was invented before the telephone?

United Press International color transmitter and fax machine

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The first patent for a fax machine was created in 1843 by Alexander Bain. It would be another 33 years before Alexander Graham Bell issued the first US patent for the telephone.

Brain Surgery Before Written Words

In the modern era, few jobs are as complex as being a brain surgeon. While you may assume this is a relatively new profession, humans have been completing brain surgeries for thousands of years. 

Doctors from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham conduct surgery

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In fact, brain surgery goes back to a time before writing. During the Stone Age, around 3400 BC, a common practice known as trepanning was being carried out. This is when a surgeon cuts into a skull to relieve pressure on the brain.

Forks Were Once Considered Sacrilegious

The oldest forks date back to the fourth millennium BC in Turkey. It’s highly likely that they were mere tools and not used for consuming food. 

Young Boy uses his knife and fork to eat a large turkey in his home

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However, when they were introduced to Italy in the 11th century, the eating utensil was considered offensive to God. Italian priests claimed that God gave man hands to enjoy his food, and so the forks were deemed sacrilegious. 


Professional Alarm Clock

During the early 20th century in Britain, a common sight each morning was the “knocker-upper.”

Man being awakened by an alarm clock

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Their job was similar to that of a modern alarm clock. The knocker-upper would use long sticks to tap on windows and wake a sleeping person in time for their job. 


Pope Gregory IX Declared War on Cats

The Middle Ages were a strange time full of superstition. During this era, Pope Gregory IX believed that cats carried the spirit of Satan. 

Pope Francis waves to thousands of followers as he arrives at the Manila Cathedral

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So, like any good pope would do, he declared war on the felines. He ordered the Catholic Church to exterminate every cat they came across. 


President Andrew Jackson’s Parrot Had to Be Removed From His Funeral

President Andrew Jackson’s funeral was held in 1845. During the service, his pet parrot began to speak in a vulgar manner and had to be removed. 

Parakeets at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, England

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The pet began to swear profusely, forcing people in attendance to escort the parrot off the premises quickly. 


Unusual Mouthwash Used by Romans

The Ancient Romans had an unusual fascination with human urine. So much so that it was collected from public urinals and even taxed when sold. 

Mouthwash, toothpaste, and other products are placed on display

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During the height of the empire, urine was used by the Romans to whiten and clean their teeth in a similar fashion to modern mouthwash.


Peter The Great’s Unusual Trophy

Peter The Great discovered that his wife Catherine had been unfaithful in their marriage. 

Artist’s rendition of a deceased man who had his head severed at the neck

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So, he sought revenge and killed his wife’s lover. Peter The Great would keep the severed head of the man in a jar filled with alcohol. It was stored in Catherine’s bedroom until Peter passed. 


President Lyndon B. Johnson's Secret Office

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson had a telephone installed in his toilet so that he could conduct business when he used the bathroom. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson gives a speech after signing new US immigration bill into law

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While the President was under the impression his methods were productive, many of his aides struggled to hear him speak due to running water.