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    John Wilkes Booth Originally Was Only Going To Kidnap Lincoln, And 21 Other Facts I Learned This Week That Shocked And Fascinated Me

    You learn something new every day.

    1. You've probably heard a thing or two about the conspiracy that the moon landing was faked. The theory gained traction in part because the flag appears to be blowing in the breeze, even though there's no wind on the moon. Turns out NASA wanted the pictures to look as theatrical as possible, so they designed a special flag for the moon landing that made it look like the flag was flapping in the (nonexistent) breeze.

    astronaut standing and looking at the flag on the moon

    2. In 1999, country singer Garth Brooks decided he was going to reinvent himself as Chris Gaines, a rock performer. The idea to give the singer a new persona started when Brooks entered negotiations to star in the movie The Lamb, which was set to tell the fictional story of Chris Gaines, a singer who struggled with life in the public eye. Gaines had an incredibly fleshed-out backstory, full of sex addiction, a house fire caused by arsonists, extortion, and a car accident that left parts of his face deformed. There was even speculation that Brooks had based Gaines's look on Keith Urban, although that story has never been confirmed.

    movie poster "garth brooks in the life of chris gaines"

    Brooks recorded an entire album as Gaines as part of a "pre-soundtrack" to introduce the idea to the public. The album was supposed to represent Gaines's decades-long career and serve as a fictional collection of his greatest hits. Garth Brooks... In The Life of Chris Gaines debuted in September 1999. A made-over Brooks even went on an episode of VH1's Behind The Music and performed as Gaines on an episode of Saturday Night Live. Reception to the album was lukewarm, and many of Brooks's longtime fans expressed confusion about why he would take such a drastic career pivot.

    garth brooks and him as chris gaines with long dark hair and a goatee

    Enthusiasm for the project quickly petered out, and Brooks, along with his record label, let the persona quietly fade out, and most of the footage was scrubbed from the Internet. In March 2021, Brooks announced that he was going to rerelease the album, and was even planning to drop previously unreleased material left over from the failed experiment. “You’re going to have Chris Gaines stuff nobody’s ever heard before,” Brooks said on his video series, Inside Studio G. “I love that project, so I’m excited.”

    brooks at a red carpet event

    3. While you might know that around 90% of humans are right-handed, dolphins actually have us beat! A study found that over 99% of dolphins appear to favor their right side. When searching for food, the sea creatures pivot their bodies to the left, which allows them to keep their dominant right side closest to their prey. A similar pattern has been noticed in humpback whales as well.

    4. Your eyes have immune privilege, meaning your immune system works harder to protect them from typical immune responses when threatened. Immune privilege protects vision from being affected by swelling or other inflammatory responses. So, what other areas have immune privilege? Scientists say your brain, as well as testes, placenta, and fetuses, are all protected as well.

    close up of an eye

    5. When the band Primus released their song "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" in 1995, many people assumed it was about actor Winona Ryder. In fact, even Ryder's then-boyfriend, Dave Pirner, who was the frontman for the band Soul Asylum, believed Primus, which was led by Les Claypool, was taking a dig at Ryder with the song.

    the three-member band Primus

    Although Primus insisted the song was about a fishing trip, and was not written with any specific person in mind, it didn't stop Pirner from retaliating. During one of Soul Asylum's concerts, he changed the title of one of the band's songs to "Les Claypool's A Big Fucking Asshole." Claypool went on to say that he was shocked people assumed it was a reference to Ryder, and not country singer Wynonna Judd.

    pirner and ryder at an event

    6. When spiders are done weaving their webs, they often eat them as a way to replenish their own silk supply.

    7. Jonah Hill was only paid $60,000 for starring in The Wolf Of Wall Street because he said he would take any amount of money to work with Martin Scorsese. "I said, 'I will sign the paper tonight. Fax them the papers tonight. I want to sign them tonight before they change their mind. I want to sign them before I go to sleep tonight so they legally can't change their mind,'" Hill said on The Howard Stern Show. "I would sell my house and give him all my money to work for him." Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio earned over $10 million for his role.

    8. While you were definitely taught that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, you might not have known that killing the president wasn't actually his original plan. Booth originally wanted to abduct Lincoln, take him to Richmond, and give him up in exchange for Confederate soldiers who were being held in Union prisons.

    portrait of booth

    In 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a halt to prisoner exchange between Union and Confederate soldiers in an attempt to lessen the Confederacy's military capabilities, which were already depleting quickly. This enraged Booth, who devised the plan after telling one of his co-conspirators that the Union was selfish for allowing their own men to remain in prison because they had plenty of soldiers to spare. Booth, along with six other men, created several scenarios. One was to capture Lincoln while he was traveling to his summer home, while the other was to kidnap him while he was watching a play at Ford's Theater.

    portrait of abe

    On March 17, 1865, Booth heard Lincoln was going to see a play, and the men decided to carry out their plan. Much to Booth's chagrin, he got some false intel, and the men decided the plan was too risky. Soon after this, Booth began vocalizing his desire to kill, not kidnap the president. On April 14, 1865, they carried out their plot, killing the president at Ford's Theater.

    painting of booth sneaking behind lincoln in the theater

    9. In Switzerland, it is illegal to own only one guinea pig because they get too lonely. Guinea pigs are very social and need the company of other guinea pigs to thrive.

    10. In 1915, Cecil Chubb purchased Stonehenge for about $7,770 dollars at auction on a whim. Chubb, who was supposedly at the auction to purchase a new set of curtains, gave the impulsive purchase to his wife, who was furious. Three years later, the couple gave the monument to their town, under the condition that the town couldn't charge more than a shilling to enter, and locals could always enter the grounds for free. Today, it costs about $24 to visit Stonehenge.

    stonehenge rocks with a rainbow in the sky

    11. From 1910 to the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of American women were cruelly imprisoned for having sexually transmitted diseases, then were subjected to dangerous and poisonous treatments under the guise of experimentation. This government measure, known as The American Plan, targeted women who were believed to be "suspicious," forced them to undergo STI examinations, then imprisoned them if they tested positive. The American Plan was based off of similar measures in Europe.

    poster of a woman with the text, she may be a bag of trouble, syphilis, gonorrhea

    While many of the records from The American Plan have been lost or destroyed, some of the women were imprisoned for months. They were often injected with mercury or forced to ingest arsenic, which were common syphilis treatments at the time. If the women misbehaved, they were beaten, while repeat offenders were sterilized.

    poster of a woman opening a door to a soldier with the message to say no to women

    So, how did The American Plan come about? During World War I, many soldiers were testing positive for various STIs. The government immediately blamed women for what they said was a "national security threat." They passed a law that outlawed sex workers from coming within five miles of any military training camp in the country but soon learned that many of the soldiers were getting infected on visits to their hometowns. The American Plan was enacted to detain any woman who was deemed suspicious, and immigrants and women of color were often targeted more heavily. The plan officially came to an end in 1970, but many states stopped enforcing it during the 1950s.

    a sign outside warning soldiers about STIs

    12. When tiger beetles run, they sprint so quickly that their vision becomes completely blurred, essentially rendering them blind while hunting down prey. The beetles can run at speeds exceeding five miles per hour, which considering their size, is pretty dang quick!

    close up of the beetle

    13. Although Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865, China decided to ban the classic decades later in 1931, and for a reason you might not expect! While the book had previously been banned for mentions of drug use, the governor of the Hunan Province banned the book because it featured talking animals. “Bears, lions, and other beasts cannot use human language,” he said. “To attribute to them such a power is an insult to the human race.”

    14. Foolish people were originally called "jay," so the term "jaywalker" came from the idea that people who ignored street signs were foolish. The word is actually believed to have originated in Kansas, and has roots in the term "jay-driver," which, you guessed it, meant someone who didn't follow street signs while maneuvering their carriage.

    15. In 1967, the state of Florida passed a law that gave Disney World the right to build its own nuclear plant. Despite this ruling, Disney never acted on building the plant, in part because Walt Disney was supposedly really into the environment, which some say can be seen in the lack of cars and reliance on electricity in Disney's plans for EPCOT. In 2019, state officials proposed eliminating the nuclear law, because they felt having the possibility of nuclear power at a family destination like Disney World was inappropriate.

    Disney World

    That's not the only form of political power the Disney empire has in Florida. In the late 1960s, Disney became its own political jurisdiction called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Under this jurisdiction, Disney technically has the right to create its own laws and form its own police force. The company was even given the authority to manufacture alcohol, although they've never exercised the right.

    Reedy Creek sign

    16. The hyoid, a small, horseshoe-shaped bone at the base of your neck, is the only bone in the human body that doesn't touch another bone. It's technically floating in your body, although it is attached to muscles that are instrumental in breathing, speaking, and swallowing.

    graphic of the human neck and head

    17. Some say that Jenny, a cat onboard the Titanic, predicted the ship's tragic sinking. Jenny wandered aboard the ship while it was being built in Belfast, Ireland, and soon became a "ship cat," meaning she was allowed to roam wherever she pleased and was expected to get rid of rats who snuck on board. When Jenny first boarded the ship, she was pregnant and gave birth to a litter of kittens shortly before the ship was planned to set sail.

    a cat on a boat

    Jenny and her litter were taken care of by Joseph Mulholland, an Irish man working on the ship. One day, Mulholland noticed that Jenny was taking her kittens off of the boat one by one, and leaving them on dry land. This freaked Mulholland out and he decided not to board the ship for its inaugural journey, saving his life. Sadly, it's believed that Jenny died when the ship sunk.

    18. The Seinfeld finale was the first time a TV show ever commanded over $1 million for an ad spot. Before this, only Super Bowl ad slots had ever gone for that much. A 30-second ad slot during the episode was said to cost $1.7 million, which was three times the ad rate of a typical episode of the show.

    jerry and george in the cafe

    19. Before he starred on Star Trek, James Doohan served in the Canadian Air Force and was one of the 14,000 Canadians present in Normandy on D-Day. In fact, Doohan was even called the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force," by his peers after flying a plane through two telephone poles, just to prove he could. Doohan had a rough childhood and decided to escape his family by joining the Royal Air Force. By 1940, Doohan had worked his way up to lieutenant and was sent to Europe to fight in World War II.

    close up of Doohan in Star Trek

    In 1944, Doohan's division was sent to Normandy to fight in D-Day. They made it to land and had to battle two German battalions that had set sand traps, in addition to German snipers. The division was able to traverse the entire beach, and Doohan himself took out two of the German snipers before being shot six times. One of the bullets completely blew away his middle finger. A bullet that hit his chest would have been fatal had he not been carrying a cigarette case in his pocket. Doohan made a full recovery and even went back into the military before attending drama school and pivoting to acting. He often attempted to hide his missing middle finger during his performances.

    soldiers on the beach

    20. A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh was recently discovered behind another one of the artist's paintings. The art was discovered when museum officials were taking an X-ray of "Head of a Peasant Woman," a work of art that dates back to 1885, while preparing for a new exhibition. The secret portrait was hidden behind layers of cardboard and glue and will need to undergo careful restoration methods. van Gogh supposedly used to reuse canvases in order to save money.

    head of a peasant woman

    21. The world's most expensive man-made object is the International Space Station, which cost between $100 and $150 billion to construct.

    a satellite in space

    22. And finally, Chien-Shiung Wu, who was believed to be the only Chinese person to be part of the Manhattan Project, was known for disproving a law of nature that had previously been believed for decades. Wu worked as a senior scientist on the development of the atom bomb in the 1940s and developed a process for uranium enrichment. She also was known for developing improved Geiger counters, which were instrumental in detecting radiation levels.

    Wu working with the technology equipment

    After the Manhattan Project wrapped, Wu was offered a position at Columbia University. In the mid-1950s, she was approached by Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, two theoretical physicists who wanted to disprove the law of conservation of parity, which essentially stated that two mirrored physical systems behave in the same way, without differentiating between left and right. Wu ended up contributing to the research that finally disproved the theory. Despite her work, only Lee and Yang won the 1957 Nobel Prize for the finding.

    Wu with her two colleagues