20 Shocking Facts That Sent Me On A Deep Dive
In 2001, the band KISS unveiled the world’s first-ever fully-endorsed coffin, which was named the KISS Kasket (not gonna lie, it’s pretty clever). Band member Gene Simmons encouraged people to use it as a cooler before death. “You can have your last ride with your favorite band. But while you’re living, you can have a cold one,” he said. “Why not have a daily use for the caskets? Why not watch your favorite ball game on TV, invite your friends over and open the Kasket to get a drink?” Several KISS super fans were eventually buried in the caskets, including “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, a member of the band Pantera. Abbott had been murdered by a fan during a concert in 2004, and had requested the coffin in his will. Simmons ended up donating the coffin prototype to Abbott’s family.
On August 9, 1996, filming on Titanic took a turn when nearly 80 members of the cast and crew were hospitalized after eating clam chowder. While many initially believed that they had food poisoning, a newspaper in Nova Scotia, where the scenes were being filmed, reported that the chowder had actually been mysteriously laced with PCP. Both actor Bill Paxton and director James Cameron were among those who ate the chowder.
Paxton told Entertainment Weekly that he rarely ate the on-set catering, but decided to share a quick meal with Cameron. He said that the effects of the laced chowder became apparent after about 15 minutes. “Some people were laughing, some people were crying, some people were throwing up,” he said. Paxton said that both he and Cameron eventually jumped in a van heading to a nearby hospital. “One minute I felt okay,” he said. “The next minute I felt so goddamn anxious I wanted to breathe in a paper bag. Cameron was feeling the same way.”
Despite Paxton telling the media that Cameron accompanied him to the hospital, Cameron later said that he was able to avoid getting medical attention. So, who laced the chowder? Investigators were actually never able to figure out what exactly happened. Some thought that an angry chef was at fault, while others believed that someone laced the meal in order to get revenge on Cameron, who was allegedly a tough director to work for.
The world’s oldest living bird is a Laysan albatross named Wisdom, who is at least 70 years old. Wisdom was first identified and tagged in 1956. She returns to the same nest every year on Midway Atoll in Hawaii, home to the largest colony of albatrosses, to deliver her chicks. Biologists estimate that Wisdom has delivered between 30 and 36 chicks in her lifetime, including one most recently in 2021.
While you probably already knew the basics of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination in Dallas, I dug up some surprising details from the tragedy that might not be as widely known. First Lady Jackie Kennedy normally did not travel with the president for political trips but decided to accompany him on his visit to Texas. CBS was the first TV station to break in with the news, just 10 minutes after Kennedy had been shot. After that, all three networks — CBS, NBC, and ABC — aired nothing but coverage of the assassination for four straight days. It became the longest uninterrupted news event until the TV coverage of 9/11.
After Kennedy was shot, Jackie refused to change out of the pink suit she had been wearing. “I want them to see what they have done to Jack,” she allegedly told Lady Bird Johnson. The blood-stained suit has never been cleaned and is in the National Archives. It will not be seen by the public until 2103, as part of the Kennedy family’s wishes. Although Jackie refused to part with the suit, she reportedly did remove her wedding band and put it on her husband’s finger so it could be buried with him. However, she later asked an aide to get it back for her.
Kennedy’s death was the first presidential assassination since the creation of the Secret Service. Secret Service members allegedly fought with Dallas police over who would retain possession of the president’s casket. The Secret Service ended up with the casket, which was on board Air Force One when Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president. This also marked the first and only time a US President had been sworn in by a woman. Although the assassination was all over the news, there was one person who had no idea that the president had been killed. The New York Times reported that the Kennedy family decided not to tell Mary Josephine Fitzgerald, Kennedy’s 98-year-old grandmother, about her grandson’s death.
Queen Elizabeth II refused to let uncomfortable shoes ruin her day. Instead, Angela Kelly, the Queen’s stylist, would purportedly first wear the Queen’s shoes to break them in. The breaking-in period involved some very specific rules: Kelly was required to wear a pair of beige ankle socks and was only allowed to walk on carpet while preparing the shoes. “The Queen has very little time to herself and not time to wear in her own shoes, and as we share the same shoe size it makes the most sense this way,” Kelly wrote in her book, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe.
If you think you’re into astrology, I’m pretty sure Grace Kelly has you beat! On Saturday, November 15, 1969, Kelly, the American actor who later became the Princess of Monaco, threw the “Scorpion Ball,” a Scorpio-only bash. The Scorpion Ball served as Kelly’s 40th birthday party, and the guest list was comprised of only Scorpios or plus-ones who were married to Scorpios. Notable attendees included actors Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was only allowed to come to the party because her then-husband, Richard Burton, was a Scorpio.
Kelly also strictly enforced a red and black dress code, colors that have both been associated with the Scorpio star sign. The party’s decorations included portraits of famous Scorpios from history, including Edgar Allen Poe and Marie Antoinette. This wasn’t the first time Kelly’s penchant for astrology came to light. During her acting days, Kelly was photographed on movie sets with Carroll Righter, an astrologist and horoscope writer. Kelly was even mentioned in Righter’s obituary as one of his notable clients when he died in 1988.
Elements of Yoda were modeled off Albert Einstein. Stuart Freeborn, a special effects artist who worked as a makeup supervisor on Star Wars, took inspiration for the beloved character after spotting an Albert Einstein poster in an office. “The wrinkles around Einstein’s eyes somehow got worked into the Yoda design,” special effects artist Nick Maley said. “Over the course of this evolutionary process, Yoda slowly changed from a comparatively spritely, tall, skinny, grasshopper kind of character into the old wise-spirited gnome that we all know today.” Freeborn also reportedly took inspiration from his own face when designing Yoda’s other traits.
Every November, the White House holds a presidential turkey pardon to spare a live turkey from becoming a family’s Thanksgiving dinner. So, how did this tradition start? In 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad allegedly got upset when he learned that the live turkey his family was going to eat for Christmas dinner was going to be killed. Lincoln reportedly spared the turkey’s life to appease his son. From that point, people around the country began sending turkeys to the White House in hopes of it becoming the bird that would end up on the First Family’s Thanksgiving table.
Many incorrectly attribute Harry S. Truman as the president who held the first official pardon. While the National Turkey Federation sent Truman a Thanksgiving turkey in 1947, Truman allegedly ended up eating the bird instead of sparing its life. In 1963, John F. Kennedy received a turkey with a sign reading, “Good eating, Mr. President!” around its neck. Upon receiving the bird, Kennedy reportedly said, “We’ll just let this one grow,” and sent the bird to a farm. The Los Angeles Times called Kennedy’s gesture a “presidential pardon.”
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush made the pardon official by assuring animal activists, who showed up at the White House to protest the event, that the bird would not be eaten. Since then, there has been a presidential turkey pardon held every year. The pardoned turkeys are selected by the National Turkey Federation. After the ceremony, they are sent to a farm or a veterinary college to live out the rest of their days. Sadly, the turkeys rarely live longer than a few months after their pardon, as turkeys bred for consumption have much shorter life expectancies than wild turkeys.
In 1900, thousands of spectators lined up to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day football game between Stanford and the University of California, known as “The Big Game.” Many fans, most of whom were children, decided to climb onto the roof of a glassblowing factory overlooking the field to take in the game after the stands were full. James Davis, the factory’s superintendent, was allegedly aware of the potential for people to climb on the roof and had reportedly been given six free tickets to the game so long as he kept people off of the roof. Soon, over 400 spectators had climbed onto the roof.
Factory workers tried to get the fans off of the roof and later recalled that the police refused to help them. About twenty minutes into the game, the roof collapsed, creating a loud crash that could be heard from the field. One spectator in the stands allegedly called out that the crash was a planned distraction, and the game continued on. Meanwhile, dozens of people had fallen through the roof, with some of them tragically landing on the factory’s burning furnace. Over 20 people were killed during the crash, while dozens more were injured. Most of the victims were children. This remains the deadliest disaster ever at a sporting event.
Turkey wasn’t always the Thanksgiving food of choice in the White House. In 1926, president Calvin Coolidge received a raccoon that he and his family planned to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. When Coolidge saw the raccoon, he allegedly became smitten with it and decided that he was going to keep it as a pet. Others say that Coolidge had never eaten raccoon before, and was a little wary of trying it for the first time for Thanksgiving dinner, which is why he ultimately spared the animal’s life.
The Coolidges, who were known to be huge animal lovers, became enamored by the raccoon, which they named Rebecca. Members of the White House staff said that Rebecca was a “regular Houdini” who often escaped from her cage. The Coolidges even built a wooden house in a tree for Rebecca, located just outside of Coolidge’s office window. In 1927, Rebecca was sent away after allegedly biting Coolidge’s arm, but returned weeks later. In 1928, the family got another pet raccoon, named Reuben. Soon, Rebecca started escaping from the White House grounds and was eventually donated to the National Zoo.
Roses are one of the oldest living plants in the world. Archeologists have found rose fossils that date back 35 million years. Meanwhile, the world’s oldest living rose clocks in at over 1,000 years old. The rose can be found growing on a wall in the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, and even survived a bomb during World War II.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a holiday staple. The parade first started in 1924 and was held to promote the department store ahead of the Christmas season. It became a hit, drawing a crowd of nearly 250,000 people, so Macy’s decided to make it an annual event. By 1927, the parade began incorporating balloons, with a rendering of Felix The Cat being the first-ever Macy’s balloon. The issue? Macy’s had no idea what to do with the helium-filled balloon once the parade was over. They decided to let it float into the air, where it eventually popped.
The next year, Macy’s decided to once again allow the balloons to float up into the air but added a new twist. The company added release valves to the five balloons, which meant that the helium would slowly leak out over the course of a week or so. They stitched a return address to the balloons and told customers that if they found a piece of the balloon, they could bring it into Macy’s for a $100 reward. Three of the balloons landed in Long Island, one drifted into the East River, and the final one was never found. Macy’s continued with the balloon release method until 1932, when a piece of one of the balloons wrapped around a plane’s wing.
I personally could not imagine anyone but Julie Andrews playing Mary Poppins, and turns out, Walt Disney couldn’t either. After Disney saw Andrews on Broadway in Camelot, he knew he wanted her to play the iconic role of Mary Poppins. When he first offered Andrews the role, she turned it down because she was pregnant. Disney decided to hold production on the film until Andrews was ready.
The iconic TV dinner actually originated due to a surplus of Thanksgiving turkey! In 1953, Gerry Thomas, a Swanson salesman, noticed that the company had over 260 tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving. The turkeys were kept in refrigerated railroad cars, which only worked when the trains were in motion. This allegedly sent Swanson executives in a “tailspin,” as they had to keep the trains moving at all times while trying to figure out what to do with the surplus of turkeys.
Thomas had the idea to put the turkey in partitioned aluminum trays with stuffing and vegetables to create a frozen meal that families could reheat. While the technology existed to create frozen dinners, their planned release to the public had been scrapped during World War II. 1954 marked the first year of full production for the TV dinners. Swanson ended up selling 10 million trays, and soon, companies like Banquet Foods and Morton Frozen Foods rolled out their own spin on the TV dinner.
Just two months before NASA launched Apollo 11 into space to reach the moon, the crew of the Apollo 10 performed a dress rehearsal, going through all of the steps required of reaching the moon without actually landing. There is a theory that NASA purposely under-fueled the Apollo 10 spacecraft to ensure that the crew didn’t actually try to land on the moon. “Don’t give those guys an opportunity to land, ‘cause they might!” Eugene A. Cernan, the flight’s lunar module pilot joked. The Apollo 10 crew successfully performed the dress rehearsal, paving the way for the historic moon landing just a few months later.
If you’ve ever wondered why Thanksgiving is now always held on the fourth Thursday of November, blame it on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Prior to the 1940s, Thanksgiving had always been celebrated on the final Thursday of November. In 1939, it fell on November 30. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt felt that the relatively late Thanksgiving would shorten the Christmas shopping season too much, and decided to move the holiday up a week to Thursday, November 23.
When Roosevelt announced the proposed date change in August 1939, people weren’t quite sure how to feel. The president was accused of “shattering another precedent,” received criticism for altering a “sacred” date, and was even compared to Adolf Hitler for the change. The NFL was also angry with Roosevelt, as his proposal messed up their already planned schedule. Many governors refused to celebrate the new Thanksgiving. Charles D. White, the mayor of Atlantic City, declared November 23 would be “Franksgiving.” Only 23 of the 48 states ended up celebrating the holiday on November 23. In 1941, Congress officially ruled that Thanksgiving would always be held on the fourth Thursday of November.
No one is quite sure how the idea that black cats are bad luck originated. In fact, in Great Britain and Japan, black cats are believed to be symbols of good luck! There is evidence that people began linking black cats to the Devil during the Middle Ages. During the plague, people killed black cats, which turned out to be a bad idea, as the cats often killed the rodents that were spreading the disease. In later years, black cats became linked to witches.
On November 25, 1976, the Band performed The Last Waltz, their farewell concert that would later be made into a concert film by Martin Scorsese. The issue? The show landed on Thanksgiving Day. Despite the fact that the show landed on a holiday, the Band ended up selling over 5,400 tickets to the show. Included in the $25 ticket price was an entire Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who showed up to the concert before show time. They even hired a staff of 300 people to serve the meal. Talk about dinner and a show, right?
According to memoirs by several members of the Band, the meal included “220 turkeys (with 500 extra drumsticks), 90 gallons of gravy, 2,000 pounds of peeled yams, 40 crates of lettuce, 18 cases of cranberries, a special dressing (made of 70 bunches of parsley, 5 quarts of garlic, 10 quarts of sage, 100 pounds of butter, 500 pounds of celery, 500 pounds of onions and 350 pounds of croutons), 1000 pounds of potatoes, 400 gallons of cider, 400 pounds of pumpkin pie, a stew made from six crates of vegetables and 300 pounds of Nova Scotia salmon.” Bob Dylan allegedly brought the salmon from New York all the way to the show in San Francisco.
Despite being regarded as one of the most intelligent people of his time, Benjamin Franklin’s formal schooling ended at just 10 years old. Franklin learned how to read at a young age and reportedly spent one year at grammar school. He then had a private tutor for a year before his formal education came to an end. By the time Franklin was 12, he had embarked on a printing apprenticeship under his older brother, where he eventually taught himself how to write.
And finally, Maya Lin was the Yale architecture student who created the winning design for the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, DC. Lin’s parents had both fled China during the Communist takeover in the 1940s and met once they moved to America. They raised Lin and her brother in Athens, Ohio, where they both worked as professors at Ohio University. Lin eventually headed to Yale to study architecture. She designed a blueprint for the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial as part of a class project. Lin eventually decided to submit her project to the design competition, where it beat out 1,200 other entries. She was just 21 years old.
Lin’s design was seen as untraditional and received major backlash when it was announced. At the dedication ceremony for the memorial in 1982, Lin’s name was never even mentioned due to the controversy. She eventually returned to Yale as a graduate student. After graduating, Lin went on to create more large-scale art and architectural work including the Langston Hughes Library for the Children’s Defense Fund in Clinton, Tennessee, the federal courthouse in New York City, and a Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2016, Barack Obama awarded Lin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.