Skip To Content

    92 Things I Learned In April That Blew My Mind In Ways I Didn't Know Possible

    A muscle you might've been born without, an infamous serial killer meeting a First Lady of the United States, a species of frog that looks like poop, and much more!

    Before you continue reading, I want you to know that this post *might* contain a bunch of facts you've already read.

    Some context: I write a weekly series, published on Saturday mornings, where I round up a bunch of cool facts I learned that week. Then, at the end of every month, I take everything I learned and put it all into one convenient place for your reading pleasure — and that's what you're reading now. Here's the one I wrote in March.

    A titanic survivor, the size of the statue of david next to a person, and free range versus factory farmed eggs

    SO, without further ado, here are 92 Things I Learned In April™️:

    Oh, and a quick warning: Number 11 on this list features a photo that people with trypophobia and arachnophobia might find disturbing.

    1. H.H. Holmes has been labeled America's first serial killer. Holmes's hotel, which has been informally referred to as his "Murder Castle," was in operation during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, which drew 27 million visitors, many of whom were out-of-towners looking for a cheap place to stay. For this reason, it's difficult to determine precisely how many people might've perished within the Murder Castle's walls:

    2. This is the hat worn by Abraham Lincoln to Ford's Theatre on the night he was shot on April 14, 1865. The silk band was added to honor his son Willie, who died of typhoid in 1862 and whose death had a profound and devastating effect on the Lincolns:

    3. This 75-pound (34-kilogram) monster is the "Pearl of Puerto Princesa," the largest pearl ever discovered:

    4. One of the most legendary pranks in the history of April Fools' Day was played by a man named Oliver Bickar, affectionally known as "Porky," who managed to convince the city of Sitka, Alaska, that this dormant volcano was about to erupt:

    5. LANSA Flight 508 was flying over the Amazon rainforest on Christmas Eve in 1971 when it was struck by lightning and destroyed instantly. Of the 92 people on board, only Juliane Koepcke survived. In an interview with BBC she recalled, "Suddenly the noise stopped and I was outside the plane. I was in a freefall, strapped to my seat bench and hanging head-over-heels. The whispering of the wind was the only noise I could hear." Aside from a broken collarbone, a torn ligament, and some cuts and bruises, she escaped the crash — and fall — without any major injuries...and then went on to survive in the wilderness for 10 days:

    6. This is what the Burning Man festival looks like from above:

    7. When someone from the Northern Hemisphere visits the Southern Hemisphere — and vice versa — they might notice that the moon appears to be upside down. Turns out, it's not just their imagination, as illustrated by this helpful diagram:

    8. It's not at all uncommon for giraffes (and other herbivores) to chew on bones they find lying around their environment. In fact, it's their primary source of calcium and phosphorous:

    9. Located in Utah, Pando is considered by some to be the largest living organism on the planet. It occupies 106 acres, consists of over 40,000 individual "trees," and is believed to weigh about 13 million pounds (5,896,701 kilograms):

    10. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese soldier who was stationed at a remote outpost in the Philippines during WWII and who remained there until 1974 under the belief that the war was ongoing. He and a few men (the last of which would die in 1972, leaving Lt. Onoda alone) remained on high alert for all those years, hiding from search parties and even killing locals who they believed posed a threat:

    11. In order to grow, tarantulas engage in a process called molting, during which they shed their old exoskeletons. This is what they leave behind:

    12. The Great Pyramid of Giza is huge:

    13. Nikola Tesla is believed to be responsible for the very first X-ray images produced in the United States:

    14. It might sound fake but this photo actually does depict Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession passing in front of the New York City home of Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's grandfather. The two figures in that window are believed to be Teddy and his brother Elliott:

    15. This massive 2010 traffic jam on the north-south Beijing-Tibet expressway stretched for 74.5 miles and lasted for 11 days. It was caused, in part, by road work:

    16. This is the unbroken seal of the third inner shrine of King Tut's tomb. It was notable because, over the centuries, most tombs were raided by grave robbers and stripped of all their riches. Tutankhamun's tomb was relatively untouched because it was unintentionally buried during the creation of Ramesses VI's tomb, and it remained hidden until Howard Carter rediscovered it in 1922:

    17. This is the Centennial Light, the longest-lasting lightbulb on earth. It burns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in Firestation #6 in Livermore, California, which means it serves a purpose beyond just record-setting. Its longevity is allegedly due, in part, to the fact that it's never turned off, as the constant heating and cooling of the filament is what causes most bulbs to burn out:

    18. Sultan Kösen is a 38-year-old farmer from Turkey and the world's tallest living person. Here is Sultan's hand holding an average can of Pepsi:

    19. You can still find pieces of the original _Star Wars _set, which is located in the Sahara Desert just outside the Tunisian city of Tataouine. Yes, George Lucas named the planet Tatooine after the city:

    20. Also known as the platypus frog, the gastric brooding frog was notable for converting its stomach into a womb as the eggs it swallowed would turn to tadpoles, which would ultimately grow into fully formed frogs. Eventually, after not eating for six weeks straight, it'd "vomit" its little bundles of joy into the world. Scientists have been attempting to bring the now-extinct species back through cloning:

    21. This species of frog looks like poo:

    22. The Titanic's grand staircase was painstakingly recreated for — and featured prominently in — the movie_Titanic_. Here's what the actual staircase looked like, and here's what it looks like today:

    23. This is Baldwin Street and it's recognized by Guinness as being the steepest residential street on the planet:

    24. This is what a section of the Las Vegas Strip looked like in 1955:

    25. In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team to a match in Chile crashed high up in the Andes mountains. Of the plane's 45 passengers and crew, 33 would survive the crash but only 16 would make it off the mountain alive. They endured freezing cold temperatures and near-starvation for 72 straight days, and were forced to eat the bodies of those who had died in order to survive. In an interview with National Geographic, Dr. Roberto Canessa — one of the survivors who was 19 years old at the time — clarified, "Cannibalism is when you kill someone, so technically this is what is known as anthropophagy." The group struggled with the decision over whether or not to eat their fallen friends but ultimately it wasn't a choice at all; they likely would've starved otherwise:

    26. The Perseverance rover is getting a lot of press these days, but the Curiosity rover is still working hard on Mars. In March, it captured some clouds drifting across the martian sky:

    Clouds in the sky, gently passing overhead. On Mars, Friday, March 19, 2021.

    Twitter: @ThePlanetaryGuy

    27. And speaking of the Curiosity rover, this is how big it is:

    28. At the height of the Civil War — and with nothing to lose, for he had no intention of being taken alive — Robert Smalls seized an opportunity to escape slavery by commandeering a Confederate ship that was armed for combat while its captain was away. To pull off this daring escape, he fooled not one but _two_Confederate checkpoints into believing he was the ship's captain by donning his wide-brimmed hat and mimicking his mannerisms. This act of bravery — and brilliance — earned him not only his freedom but also the freedom of 17 others (including 3 children). He would go on to become a state assemblyman and state senator in South Carolina, and serve in the US House of Representatives:

    29. This photo, which is believed to be the earliest photo of the Taj Mahal, was actually taken sometime between 1858 and 1862:

    30. Unlike other bird species, owls aren't really built to withstand lots of moisture:

    Your Twitter feed needs these photos of a ruru (morepork) getting an antibacterial shampoo & blowdry at Wildbase Recovery Centre. This is why you don't see owls fly in the rain 😂 #NotWaterProof #Morepork #Ruru #BirdWatching

    Twitter: @CerebralNurse

    31. The USS Johnston — a US Navy destroyer that was lost in combat during World War II — was recently rediscovered at a depth of 21,000 feet (6400.8 meters) in the Philippine Sea, which is equivalent to four miles (!!), making it the deepest shipwreck ever recorded:

    The USS Johnston barely visible on the dark ocean floor

    32. The captain of the USS Johnston was a Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans, who bravely sacrificed the ship as well as his life and the lives of his crewmen by charging into enemy territory and drawing fire so that American landing forces could retake the Philippines. For this selfless act, Evans became the first Native American to win the Medal of Honor. Here's a photo of the captain and his crew:

    33. CGI has come a longggg way in the last 26 years:

    34. Fossil records show that magnolia trees are at least 60 million years old. They're so ancient, in fact, that their flowers evolved to be pollinated by beetles and flies because bees, butterflies, and moths hadn't existed yet:

    A magolia tree in full bloom

    35. This is Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, right before he died in 2018 at the age of 45. Now there are only two left: Najin and her daughter Fatu. When they're gone, this species that has existed for millions of years will no longer walk the earth:

    36. This is Ha'a Keaulana, a third-generation surfing legend. She's the daughter of Brian Keaulana and the granddaughter of the great Buffalo Keaulana — surfing royalty in Hawaii. Here's a photo of her training:

    37. This is the harpy eagle, one of the most formidable raptor species still in existence in terms of size and strength. Their sharp talons are equal to a grizzly bear's in size, which are perfect for plucking sloths out of trees and baby deer off the ground:

    38. And here are some scraps that were found in one of their nests:

    39. This amazing photo depicts a 162-year-old portrait of a Civil War soldier in stunning HD. It was restored and colored by Adam "A.B." Cannon, a photo restoration and enhancement specialist based in Illinois:

    The enhanced photo side by side with the black and white original

    40. James Harrison discovered at a young age that his blood contains a rare antibody that helps fight a disease that can be fatal to newborns, so he donated blood every week for 60 years. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service estimated that his donations have saved the lives of 2.4 million babies in Australia:

    41. This caterpillar, which is able to ward off predators by displaying markings that resemble a row of teeth below two large eyes, will ultimately become a pink underwing moth. It's lucky to have this added layer of protection as its currently an endangered species:

    42. Gaius Caesar, better known by his nickname Caligula (which means "little boots"), was a Roman emperor whom many believed would be a merciful and moderate leader compared to some of the tyrants who ruled before him — and sources say he was precisely that for the first six months of his reign. But then, very suddenly, he became gravely ill and this unknown illness would change him forever in strange and consequential ways. He would go on to be remembered for his murderous cruelty and his god complex, and he was eventually assassinated after a mere five years as emperor. This sapphire ring is believed to have belonged to him:

    43. The Battle of Trafalgar was a great naval battle between Napoleon's France and Great Britain. Spain joined the battle as an ally of France and this is one of the flags flown on their ships:

    44. This volcanic eruption in Geldingadalir, Iceland, is expected to last for quite some time; in fact, two new fissures opened up this week, causing lava to ooze from the earth in three separate locations. Fortunately, these eruptions don't post a threat to Reykjavík, though it is drawing plenty of tourists:

    45. And here's what it looks like from above, surrounded by tourists:

    46. Despite repeatedly rising from the ocean and destroying Tokyo, which resulted in a contentious relationship between the two, Godzilla and the nation of Japan finally reconciled their differences in 2015 when Godzilla was officially declared a Japanese citizen:

    47. The first-ever Marvel movieCaptain America, was made in 1944, and it featured a Cap (played by Dick Purcell) who sometimes carried a gun and shot at people:

    48. Up until the late 1980s, it was widely believed that babies don't feel pain. So common was this belief in the mainstream medical community that many infants who were undergoing surgery weren't given any type of anesthesia or pain relief.

    A newborn baby in the hospital

    49. This is the actual violin that was played on the deck of the Titanic as it was sinking, according to surviving eyewitnesses. It belonged to Wallace Hartley, who led the quintet band. Wallace's body was found floating in the Atlantic several days after the sinking and his violin was found strapped to his back and stored safely inside its case. It sold for $1.7 million in 2013:

    The violin in a display case

    50. There is so much trash and feces left behind by climbers on Mount Everest that it's been dubbed "the world’s highest garbage dump." As climate change causes the ice on the mountain to melt, even more trash from_decades ago_is being exposed and the filthy water that drips down the mountain is posing serious health risks to the locals who have lived there for generations:

    51. History repeats itself in the strangest ways. By now, you've probably heard of the 1918 flu pandemic, which became a major health crisis a little more than 100 years ago. Well, what you might _not _know is that there were anti-maskers back then too. There was even an organized group called the Anti-Mask League.

    52. In 2014, scientists discovered an ancient virus that had been lying dormant in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years and that, when thawed, became infectious again. Though this particular virus poses no threat to humans, it's a stark warning about what sort of long-forgotten threats to humanity might be unearthed as the globe continues to warm.

    53. Do you see that tendon in the middle of the wrist in the right photo? That's called a palmaris longus and studies suggest it's missing in either one or both arms in a significant percentage of the human population. Cats use this same muscle to retract their claws:

    54. It's hard to believe this was captured more than 180 years ago, but it's true. The photo (the one on the left is what it actually looked like; the one on the right is a touch-up) is believed to be "the first photographic portrait ever taken":

    55. There's an island in the Bahamas that's inhabited by feral pigs, and you can go there and feed and swim with them. It's not known exactly how they got there or how long they've been there — these pigs are not native to the Bahamas. One theory suggests a group of pigs may have survived a shipwreck and swam over. Whatever the case, they're living the good life now:

    56. Though the photo below depicts a replica, an actual blue whale heart weighs roughly 400 pounds and is the size of a golf cart (not a Volkswagen Beetle, as is popularly claimed):

    57. Flamingos turn pink because of the food they eat. If they don't eat that food, they won't turn pink:

    58. The Sun is so massive that 1.3 million Earths would be able to fit inside of it. This model helps illustrate this unimaginable difference in size:

    59. Darius the rabbit, who's four feet long (1.2 meters) and is recognized as the world's longest rabbit, went missing this week. Darius's disappearance is being investigated as an abduction (!!!) and there's currently a £2,000 reward available for his safe return:

    60. This is what the skeleton of a pufferfish looks like:

    61. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination would change the course of history, actually survived an assassination attempt earlier that day when a bomb that was intended to kill him ended up exploding underneath the car directly behind his in the motorcade. Fate would intervene, however, when Archduke Ferdinand decided to take an unplanned detour to the hospital to visit those injured in the attack. On the way, his chauffeur accidentally made a wrong turn and came to a stop right in front of 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, who shot and killed him, setting off World War I. Here's the coat the archduke was wearing that day, still covered in his blood:

    62. The tarantula hawk is a species of spider wasp that gets its name for its penchant for hunting tarantulas, which it's able to paralyze with a single sting. In fact, these terrifying creatures boast the _second most _painful sting on the planet (bullet ant is the first):

    63. Katalin Kariko is an unsung hero of the COVID-19 pandemic:

    Story of a 66-year-old researcher, an immigrant, who rarely got grants, never got her own lab, never earned more than $60K. For four decades, she kept working on mRNA—a path considered foolish. Her work is the basis for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

    Twitter: @nathanheller

    64. In pre-Incan, ancient Peruvian cultures, the elites would have their skulls elongated as a status symbol:

    65. At the Lidl supermarket in Dublin, Ireland, you can stock up on groceries _and _learn history. Not only is there a plexiglass floor in the center aisle that exhibits a millennium-old medieval house, but also near the checkout is _another _plexiglass floor that displays part of the stage of an 18th-century theater:

    66. This is Odette Sansom Hallowes — codename "LISE" — who was a highly decorated spy during World War II. She was hired by the British government to infiltrate Nazi-occupied France and assist in recruiting, training, and arming members of the French resistance. She would eventually be captured and brutally tortured by the Gestapo. Even as they ripped out all of her toenails she would repeat these words: "I have nothing to say." She never once revealed the whereabouts of her co-conspirators and comrades in arms, and was ultimately sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp for women. Despite it all, Odette Hallowes survived the war. She died at the age of 82 in 1995:

    67. John Wayne Gacy, the infamous serial killer — who was nicknamed the "Killer Clown" because he would perform at charity events and children's hospital under the personas "Patches the Clown" or "Pogo the Clown" and who would prey on children — once posed for a photo with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She reportedly also signed the photo, "To John Gacy, best wishes, Rosalynn Carter." He was arrested a year later and convicted of murdering 33 young men and boys, though there's speculation that there may have been even more victims:

    68. A whale's spinal column is so massive that it looks prehistoric — almost mythical, even:

    69. And this is how big a grizzly bear's foot is:

    70. Here's what Times Square looked like before all the screens, Coca-Cola billboards, Elmo mascots, M&M stores, Bubba Gump Shrimp, etc.:

    71. When Bill Clinton was just 16 years old, he got to travel to the White House and shake hands with then-president John F. Kennedy. This was in late July 1963, just four months before Kennedy's assassination:

    72. This is what a bottle of Coca-Cola looked like back in 1894; and yes, it did actually contain cocaine. In fact, though cocaine was eventually removed from the formula, the Coca-Cola you drink today still contains coca leaves (the plant that's used to manufacture cocaine) but the cocaine part of it is of course left out. They refer to the ingredient as "Merchandise No. 5," which is supplied to them by the Stepan Company, the only company in the US that's licensed to import and process coca plants:

    73. Cryonics is the act of freezing the dead in the hopes that science will someday become advanced enough to resurrect them. In Scottsdale, Arizona, there's a place called Alcor Life Extension Foundation and they're the self-proclaimed "world leader in cryonics, cryonics research, and cryonics technology." According to their website, they currently have 181 "patients." One of them is baseball legend Ted Williams and a former employee accused Alcor of mishandling Williams's corpse and also preserving his decapitated head separately from the rest of his body:

    74. The purussaurus was a prehistoric crocodile that is believed to be the largest croc to ever live. They would reportedly grow as large as 41 feet long (12.5 meters) and weigh 8.4 tons. It's also believed they had a stronger bite than the tyrannosaurus rex, with a pressure of seven tons:

    75. Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Incans shortly after being conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century and for centuries after it lay hidden high in the mountains. It was finally rediscovered in 1911. Here's what it looked like in 1915 before excavations began versus what it looks like today:

    76. Earlier this week, the Ingenuity Helicopter became the first aircraft to fly on Mars. One of the reasons this is such a huge deal is because there was no guarantee it would work. Mars has 1/3 of Earth's gravity and a *very* thin atmosphere (helicopters need air to fly and there's not a lot of that on the Red Planet).

    Ingenuity hovering above the Martian landscape

    77. Even so, NASA was confident they would succeed. So sure were they that Ingenuity would make history by being the first aircraft to fly on Mars that under its solar panel they fastened a small piece of fabric from one of the wings of the Wright brothers' historic plane, the Flyer, which flew the first controlled and sustained flight on Earth.

    78. Here's what one of the Titanic's propellers looks like today as it sits on the ocean floor:

    79. This white stork with a Central African spear through its neck isn't a recreation; it's the real deal, and it's on display in a German museum. There was a time when no one really knew where birds went during the winter months and in 1822, this hapless stork survived being speared in Africa only to make the long journey back to Germany to get shot by a hunter:

    Until a few centuries ago, many European zoologists were perplexed about where migratory birds went during the winter. The mystery was solved in the early 1800s when a stork returned to Germany with a spear from Central Africa through its neck.

    Twitter: @IFLScience

    80. The 588th Night Bomber Regiment was an all-woman bomber squadron that flew roughly 30,000 night raids against the Nazis during WWII. Since the planes they flew were extremely rudimentary — made of little more than wood and canvas, and therefore very flammable — they needed to rely on stealth if they were to succeed (and survive), so they took to shutting off their engines as they approached a target. The only warning that an attack was imminent was a faint "whooshing" sound in the night sky, so the Germans took to calling them "Nachthexen," which translates to "Night Witches," a name that the women of the 588th would come to embrace:

    81. Pangolins are very unique animals for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that they're covered in scales — the only mammals to possess this added layer of protection. What's _really _surprising about them, and what would really make you do a double take if you ever saw one out in the wild, is that, like humans, they walk on two feet:

    82. Some American honey contains low levels of radioactivity left over from nuclear bomb tests conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. How did it end up in honey? Long story short, the bombs sent a radioactive element into the atmosphere, wind and rain sprinkled it across the United States, some plants absorbed it, and bees pollinated those plants. Researchers say the amounts are very small and therefore harmless, but that "they may have been much higher in the 1970s and 1980s."

    83. This gorgeous volcanic eruption in Ethiopia was captured by photographer Olivier Grunewald. When burning sulfuric gas comes into contact with air, it turns blue. But beware, those very same gases can be deadly if you breathe them:

    84. This 5,500-year-old leather shoe was discovered in an Armenian cave in 2008 and it's the oldest shoe ever discovered. In a brief interview with National Geographic, famed luxury shoe designer Manolo Blahnik was blown away by "how much this shoes resembles a modern shoe." He called it "astonishing." In case you're wondering — like I was — it's a woman's size 7:

    85. This is what can happen to your skin if you survive being struck by lightning. The man pictured below felt soreness in his arm before noticing the marks and the following day the skin began to blister. In an interview with ABC News, Dr. Mathew Avram explained, "The feathering marks are formed by the transmission of static electricity along the superficial blood vessels that nourish the skin":

    86. In an ancient quarry in Egypt lies the Unfinished Obelisk. It's estimated to weigh about 1,168 tons and, had it been raised, would've stood 137 feet tall — the tallest obelisk to ever exist at the time:

    87. These are the Pyramids of Meroë, which were once part of a wealthy ancient city in the Kingdom of Kush in what is now Sudan. If you're wondering what happened to the tops of the pyramids, which were once beautifully ornate, they were literally blown up in 1834 by an Italian treasure hunter named Giuseppe Ferlini, who then looted them and sold the artifacts to museums in Munich and Berlin.

    The pyramids out in the desert with the tops missing

    88. And this sketch depicts what some of them looked like prior to being destroyed:

    89. This terrifying muppet is a Nereis sandersi, a species of microscopic deep-sea worm that survives at extremely high temperatures as they live next to volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean:

    90. 100,000-year-old fossilized neanderthal footprints were recently discovered in Spain. Researchers determined that they were left by a group of 36 individuals and that some of the prints were left by a young child who was “jumping irregularly as though dancing”:

    91. And these fossilized footprints, which stretch for a mile and are the longest continuous set ever discovered, were left by a woman and a small child who were in a great hurry. For some stretches, the woman carried the child and at times the child walked on its own. Other prints in the area suggest she may have been trying to avoid saber-toothed tigers and that she likely crossed paths with a mammoth and a giant sloth:

    12,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Found in New Mexico

    Twitter: @BetoReitenbach

    And FINALLY...

    92. Horses played a much-more critical role in World War I than you might think. Many battles were fought on rough and unforgiving terrains, ranging from arid deserts to steep mountains. In addition to being used in battle, horses were responsible for hauling gear, pulling artillery, and transporting the wounded — all in the midst of explosions, tank and gunfire, and tear gas attacks. Some estimate that as many as 8 million horses were killed during the Great War. Here's how some veterans paid tribute to their bravery and sacrifice:

    Want to see what I learned in March? Click here to find out.