Skip To Content

    21 Absolutely Unforgettable Facts I Learned This Week That Genuinely Fascinated Me

    In 1976, Meryl Streep auditioned for the lead role in King Kong. After Streep read for the role, producer Dino De Laurentiis reportedly turned to his son, who recommended Streep for the role, and asked, in Italian, "Why did you bring me this ugly thing?" Streep speaks Italian, so she reportedly responded to De Laurentiis in Italian by apologizing that she was not beautiful enough to be in his movie.

    1. You've probably heard the buzz around the new movie Cocaine Bear, but did you know that the film is actually based on a true story? In 1985, Andrew Carter Thornton II, a Kentucky drug dealer, dropped forty packages of cocaine from his plane into a Georgia forest after the engine started to malfunction. Thornton jumped from the plane with 75 pounds of drugs on his person and died. An unsuspecting bear stumbled across the drugs and consumed all 40 packages, which proved to be fatal. The bear's autopsy showed that the drug caused a multitude of problems, including cerebral hemorrhaging, a stroke, respiratory failure, renal failure, heart failure, and hyperthermia.

    The medical examiner decided that the bear's body should be stuffed and put on display, so he donated it to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. At some point in the early 1990s, the bear's body was moved to a storage area out of concern that it could be damaged by wildfires. About a month later, the storage facility was robbed, and country singer Waylon Jennings ended up with the bear. Jennings claimed he didn't know the bear was stolen when he bought it from a pawn shop. Jennings gave the bear to his friend Ron Thompson, who had been close friends with Thornton. A mall in Lexington, Kentucky wanted to acquire the bear and had reportedly been keeping tabs on it. When Thompson died, the bear was sold at auction to a man named Zhu T'ang. Just a few years later, T'ang passed away, and the mall purchased the bear, where it's still on display.

    View this video on YouTube

    Universal / Via

    2. Once upon a time, Sweden celebrated Feb. 30. February obviously only has 28 days, with a bonus 29th day every four years. However, in 1712, Feb. 30 was reportedly added to Swedish calendars in order to get the country on track with the rest of the world. In 1700, Sweden made the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. They observed leap day in both 1704 and 1708, even though those years weren't technically leap years. As a result, they decided to temporarily switch back to the Julian calendar, and added a Feb. 30 to get back on track. In 1753, Sweden made their final jump to the Gregorian calendar. In a rather controversial move, they added an 11-day correction so that Feb. 17 was succeeded by March 1 in order to catch up with the rest of the world.

    3. Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of the most recognizable US presidents, but back in his day, people thought he was pretty ugly. A North Carolina newspaper wrote that he was "coarse, vulgar and uneducated," while the Houston Telegraph called him "the leanest, lankiest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms and hatchet face ever strung upon a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly." There was even a chant about Lincoln's looks: "We beg and pray you — don’t, for God’s sake, show his picture." In a pretty sad twist, Lincoln was aware of people's opinions about his looks and wanted to find a way to shut them down.

    During Lincoln's campaign in 1860, photography was becoming more widespread, so he turned to Mathew Brady, a famous photographer who was reportedly "not averse to certain forms of retouching." After giving the Cooper Union address that helped him clinch the Republican nomination, Lincoln sat for a photo with Brady, who ended up using both posing hacks and straight-up retouching to create a photo Lincoln was happy with. Brady reportedly directed lots of light to Lincoln's face to distract from his "gangly" body, made him curl his fingers so they didn't appear so long, and enlarged Lincoln's collar so his neck would look more proportionate. Lincoln later said that he believed "Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president."

    Lincoln eventually sat for over 30 more sessions with Brady. His portraits of the president appear on both the penny and the five-dollar bill. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, some people continued to get creative with imagery of the president. Thomas Hicks reportedly superimposed Lincoln's face on an image of John C. Calhoun's body in order to make Lincoln look more impressive. The kicker? Lincoln and Calhoun were fierce opponents who had very different viewpoints on slavery. The retouching went unnoticed for over a century.

    4. Have you ever wondered why seals have whiskers? A seal's whiskers are highly sensitive, which gives them a bit of a boost while hunting for food. They can feel vibrations through their whiskers, which are specially shaped to help them detect creatures moving past them. The whiskers especially come in handy when seals are traveling in low-visibility areas.

    5. In 1996, several huge publications, from CNN to National Geographic, wrote about a jewel heist at the Carlton Hotel, home of the Cannes Film Festival and the setting of the Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief. They reported that the heist took place in August 1994, with three masked gunmen allegedly storming into the hotel's jewelry store, where they reportedly got away with between $43 million and $77 million worth of jewels. There were reportedly eyewitness accounts claiming that people heard dozens of gunshots. Despite this, there were no reported injuries, and the hotel, which dates back to 1911, made it out unscathed. The heist was even awarded a Guinness World Record for being the costliest jewel heist in history.

    Despite being discussed in the media, most people are pretty certain that this jewel heist never actually happened. Let me explain — after reporting about the crime came out, people understandably decided to dig deeper into the details. They found that there was no reporting about the heist until news of the Guinness World Record broke. There were no photos of the crime, no information about the identities of the suspects, and no record from the Carlton Hotel about the heist. Even local police had no clue what they were talking about and seemed flummoxed by the world record. Despite the lack of confirmation, people kept repeating the story, and no one has any idea where Guinness got it from.

    In an interesting twist, nearly 20 years later, the Carlton Hotel was actually robbed in what went on to truly become the costliest jewel heist of all time. About $136 million worth of jewels were stolen from the hotel on July 28, 2013. The robbery reportedly only took 30 seconds. Billionaire Lev Leviev, an oligarch from Uzbekistan, was presenting his jewel collection, but he didn't take the proper precautions to ensure they would stay safe. He allegedly never told police about the exhibition and didn't hire security to guard the jewels. Video footage shows a thief pointing a gun at unsuspecting attendees before quickly stealing two trays of jewels. The thief ultimately got away with 72 pieces. Authorities said it seemed to be the work of someone who knew what they were doing.

    After police worked through several potential theories, they concluded it was likely that Leviev organized the heist. "The jeweler Leviev organized this robbery because he owns the entire diamond-extraction sector from the mines until the sale, and can therefore resize his stones and put them back on the market while getting his hands on the insurance money," French police concluded. Leviev has denied any wrongdoing. In Netflix's The Tinder Swindler, Simon Leviev, the scammer at the center of the documentary, claimed to be Leviev's son and told people he was heir to a diamond fortune. Lev Leviev's family ended up filing a lawsuit against Simon for fraud.

    6. Speaking of jewels, it's believed that it rains diamonds on Neptune and Uranus. While the core of these planets are solid, scientists believe they're surrounded by icy oceans, where the pressure is so high that it likely forms diamonds. Researchers have even been able to re-create this phenomenon. Other scientists have hypothesized that if temperatures are as high in the planets' cores as they're believed to be, there could potentially be "oceans of liquid carbon with gigantic diamond icebergs swimming on top of it."

    7. The Toy Story movies have earned acclaim for not only their spot-on storytelling, but the way they helped Pixar revolutionize the animation process. Many people did not believe the first film would be a success. Prior to the movie's release, Pixar, helmed by Steve Jobs, had been struggling, and the company's future hinged on the movie's reception. Pixar hoped to include Barbie in the first film, but Mattel turned their request down, allegedly because they thought the movie would flop and end up hurting the Barbie brand. After the success of the movie, Mattel not only allowed Pixar to use Barbie, but created a new tie-in doll.

    It turns out we're lucky Toy Story 2 made it to theaters! A Pixar employee was reportedly performing regular file maintenance, when they accidentally deleted the entire movie, including all of the character model files. Employees began to notice that elements of the characters were disappearing while they were animating, and they went into the film's folder to see what happened. Much to their dismay, the movie was erasing, and there was nothing they could do to reverse the damage — 90% of the movie was gone before they found a solution. Galyn Susman, the film’s supervising technical director, was working from home after giving birth. She had luckily made a copy of the movie and was able to restore nearly the entire film, bringing a laptop containing the backup to Pixar wrapped in a blanket for safekeeping.

    Toy Story 3 marked the appearance of Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear. It turns out that the bear was actually supposed to be part of the series from the first movie, but animators didn't have the correct technology to animate his fur. Pixar was eventually sued by a toy company that claimed they ripped off their line of stuffed bears.

    And finally, Don Rickles, who played Mr. Potato Head, died before production began on Toy Story 4. Filmmakers asked his family for permission to splice together some of his old lines in order to ensure his character would have a place in the movie. Pixar ended up combing through footage from the first three films and promotional materials in order to piece together the part.

    8. A saguaro cactus is a very late bloomer. The plant is extremely slow-growing — it only grows about 1 to 1.5 inches in its first eight years of life. The cactus grows under a "nurse tree." Some believe that nurse trees often die because the small cactuses they support take water and nutrients away from them. A saguaro doesn't grow its first branch until it's between 50 and 100 years old, depending on the level of precipitation in the area. The cactus is considered an adult at 125 years old and can live for up to 200 years.

    9. The Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain in Washington, DC honors Archibald Butt and Francis Millet, believed to be the only two US government officials to die on the Titanic. There has long been speculation that Butt and Millet, who were close friends and lived together at the time of their deaths, were involved in a romantic relationship. Butt was a military official who served under presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and notably took over several of first lady Helen Taft's duties after she had a stroke in 1909. Meanwhile, Millet was an artist who served on the Fine Arts Commission. Both men were well-known among Washington's elite circles and frequently attended parties and events together.

    In April 1912, Butt and Millet boarded the Titanic to head back to America after a European vacation. Butt had been under a lot of stress at work, and Millet had allegedly intervened, telling the president that he believed his friend needed a break. Although Millet was married to Elizabeth "Lily" Merrill, she lived in a home in England, while Millet and Butt roomed together in Washington. According to witnesses, both men were spotted helping women and children into lifeboats. In the years following their deaths, historians have found evidence from each man that leads them to believe they may have been gay, although there is no concrete evidence that they were in a relationship. Whether they were together romantically or just best friends, people remarked on how close their relationship was. One friend said they were so close, they had "a sympathy of mind which is most unusual."

    10. Sometimes rabbits enjoy their meal so much, they go back for a second helping by eating their own poop. Eating droppings is actually a crucial part of a rabbit's diet. They produce cecotropes, a softer type of poop that is meant to be eaten. So, why do rabbits need to eat their poop? Their digestive systems move so quickly that they often miss crucial nutrients, so eating their pellets allows them to reabsorb them.

    11. As a kid, I was obsessed with "We Are the World," the 1980s pop collaboration that brought together some of the world's biggest artists to perform a single that raised millions for famine relief in Ethiopia. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, two of the most famous artists in the world at the time, teamed up to write the song, which reportedly took a lot of coordination, because they were unsure which artists would show up to the recording session. Several of the artists involved, like Bruce Springsteen, took time off of their tours to fly to Los Angeles to record. Once singers heard about who was participating, many of them reportedly called Richie's manager, Ken Kragen, begging to be included. Soon, big names like Diana Ross and Willie Nelson were attached to the project.

    Prince was also reportedly in talks to attend. There was even an entire solo written for him, but producers were wary that he wouldn't show up due to a rumored spat between Prince and Michael Jackson. On Jan. 28, 1985, dozens of music's biggest names arrived at A&M Studios to record the song, where they found a note reading "Check your egos at the door," because they had only one night to record the entire track. The recording took place after the American Music Awards, and the producers were reportedly approaching people in the middle of the show, asking them to attend. Once they arrived, all of the musicians were separated from their entourages. For many of the attendees, it was the first time meeting, and several of them noted that they were a bit starstruck by some of their famous peers.

    The song's iconic chorus, nicknamed "the heavenly choir," was the first verse to be recorded. "Everybody started to act like they were in the eighth-grade chorus," Daryl Hall, of Hall and Oates, said. "It was the weirdest thing I’d ever experienced. All these superstars, whatever you want to call them, we all turned into junior-high kids in chorus." When singer Cyndi Lauper first heard the song, she allegedly compared it to "a Pepsi commercial." There were also lots of on-set hijinks. Jackson reportedly took a photo of himself with Springsteen's Budweiser, then leaked the picture to the press, much to the dismay of his management. When "We Are the World" was released, it skyrocketed to No. 1, becoming one of the fast-selling singles in US pop history.

    View this video on YouTube

    UMPI / Via

    12. Although the hamburger is often seen as the pinnacle of American food, many people assume that it was created in Hamburg, Germany. I mean, the name had to come from somewhere, right? Turns out, Hamburg was home to frickadellen, a chopped beef dish. When the meal came over to America, people began calling it "hamburger steak" as a nod to its origins. The dish notably had no bread when it first arrived in the US. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where and when in America the hamburger as we know it was developed. Some believe it originated at state fairs between 1870 and 1890 as a response to the popularity of the hot dog. In 1900, Louis Lassen, who owned a restaurant called Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, began selling hamburgers, and his restaurant became known as the oldest hamburger stand in the US.

    13. In 2007, Britain's Channel 4 announced their decision to broadcast a documentary about Princess Diana's death. They said the documentary would include seldom seen photos of the Paris car crash that killed Diana in 1997. The decision to air the documentary was instantly controversial. Even Diana's sons, Princes William and Harry, weighed in, asking the channel not to air the photos. Soon, Channel 4 shot back, saying the photos they planned to show were no different than images other networks, including the BBC, had shown in their own programming about Diana's death.

    Despite the backlash, Channel 4 told the media they were proceeding with the film, arguing that they had been planning to honor the "clear decision from the outset to uphold the consensus quite properly reached by the British media" all along. The documentary was reportedly screened for William and Harry's private secretaries before it aired. In order to address the controversy surrounding the film, Channel 4 decided to air a follow-up program: a televised debate pondering the ethics behind airing the documentary, giving critics a chance to share their thoughts.

    14. A 2016 ranking of the United States' drunkest cities found that 12 of the top 20 cities were in Wisconsin. The data was collected via self-reporting among adults in 381 cities and metropolitan areas. According to the survey, the "drunkest city" is Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton's metropolitan area has the ninth largest concentration of bars in America — 26.8% of respondents in Appleton reported drinking in excess, while 30.3% of the area's driving deaths at the time of the survey involved alcohol in some capacity.

    15. Even if you've never seen an episode of Law and Order, you've certainly heard the show's signature "dum dum" sound effect, which plays over the show's title card. The iconic sound effect was actually created by blending a surprising medley of noises. In 2005, Mike Post, who was responsible for developing the effect, told the Archive of American Television that he combined a variety of sound effects to achieve the final product. "I sampled a jail door slamming, a couple other things — this clunk clunk, ching ching, chong chong thing, whatever you think it is."

    In 1993, Post even spilled the details on one of the more unique sound effects used by the show: a sample of "500 Japanese men stamping their feet on a wooden floor as part of a large dance class." Although Post provided the brain power behind the sound effect, he originally was not too keen on the idea. He had been hired by showrunner Dick Wolf to put together Law and Order's theme song. Wolf later realized he wanted a special sound effect, and tapped Post for the job. While Post claimed he initially told Wolf to "talk to sound effects," he later agreed. Turns out, it was a pretty lucrative gig! Because the sound effect is technically classified as a piece of music, Post earns royalties every time it's played. "I call it the ching ching, because I'm making money off of it," he joked.

    View this video on YouTube

    NBC / Via

    16. While I thought the word "peacock" referred to all birds of the species, it turns out that technically only male birds are called peacocks, and the species as a whole are known as "peafowl." Female peafowl are known as "peahens," while baby peafowl are called "peachicks." To be honest, peachick might be one of the cutest baby animal terms I've ever heard.

    17. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the most popular books of all time, continuing to find new fans even 150 years after publication thanks to several film adaptations. However, Alcott wasn't super keen on the idea for the novel. Her editor reportedly approached her to write a novel for girls, but she was less than thrilled about the idea. Her publisher decided to offer Alcott's father, Bronson, a publishing contract that reportedly hinged on Alcott agreeing to write the book. She eventually accepted because she wanted to ensure her father's dream could come true. Alcott ended up writing the novel in about 10 weeks, from May 1868 to July 1868, so the book could be out by September.

    Little Women became an instant bestseller and catapulted Alcott into a new sphere of literary fame. The novel was actually broken up into two parts, with the first coming out in September 1868 and the second making its debut in 1869. In the downtime between the release of the first and second book, Alcott said she faced intense pressure from fans, who wanted her character Jo to marry Laurie, Jo's childhood best friend who was in love with her. Alcott was determined to not give into fans and was set on having Jo remain unmarried, but she eventually compromised, marrying Jo off to a character named Professor Bhaer. There was a lot of speculation about who Alcott based Laurie on. Biographers think that Alcott struck up a friendship with Ladislas Wisniewski, a Polish musician, in 1865, and believe he is who Laurie is modeled after.

    18. In the mid-1970s, Meryl Streep auditioned for the lead role in King Kong. She had reportedly been approached to audition for the part after the son of producer Dino De Laurentiis saw her in a play. On a 2015 episode of The Graham Norton Show, Streep said that after she read for the role, De Laurentiis turned to his son and asked, in Italian, "Why did you bring me this ugly thing?" Streep, who actually speaks Italian, claimed that she responded to De Laurentiis in Italian by sarcastically apologizing that she was not beautiful enough to be in his movie.

    19. While Nora Ephron was best known for writing movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, she also reportedly was one of the few people who figured out the real identity of Deep Throat, the anonymous source who provided Washington Post reporters with details that helped them break the Watergate scandal in 1972. Ephron and Carl Bernstein — one of the Post reporters who broke the story — were married from 1976 to 1980. Bernstein claimed that in those years, he never told Ephron Deep Throat's true identity. "I was never dumb enough to tell her," he told Today in 2005. However, Ephron claimed she had been able to figure out his identity using some of the details Bernstein had spilled and reportedly had been dropping hints for over 30 years.

    On May 31, 2005, Deep Throat was revealed to be Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI. While most of the world was shocked by this, Ephron said she wasn't surprised at all. "I knew that Deep Throat was Mark Felt because I figured it out," she wrote in her Huffington Post column. "Carl Bernstein, to whom I was married for a brief time, certainly would never have told me; he was far too intelligent to tell me a secret like that. He refused to tell his children too, who are also my children, so I told them, and they told others, and even so, years passed and no one really listened to any of us."

    In 1980, just as Ephron and Bernstein's marriage was ending, another reporter had reportedly figured out that Felt was Deep Throat. Richard Cohen, who had worked with Bernstein, had allegedly cracked the case and was planning to move forward with an article that would expose Felt's identity. Bob Woodward, the reporter who broke the Watergate story with Bernstein, wrote in his memoir that the pair decided to lie to their friend to keep the story under wraps. In 2006, Felt decided to reveal his identity in a Vanity Fair piece. After his revelation, Ephron wrote, "All I can say is that this is a huge load off my mind. Mark Felt is Deep Throat. Don't say I didn't try to tell you."

    20. The term "y'all" might not be as Southern as you think. There's evidence that the word has been around since 1631, where it likely originated in England. Y'all's first known appearance was in William Lisle’s The Faire Æthiopian, in which he wrote "and this y’all know is true." Despite this, some historians believe that it's a mere coincidence that the word was used in England first and think that there were essentially two distinct versions of the word.

    21. And finally, Lorraine Hansberry made theater history by becoming the first Black woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Hansberry, who was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, spent most of her childhood deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Her father worked for the NAACP, and they often hosted prominent Black leaders of the time at their home. In 1937, her family made headlines for moving into an all-white neighborhood. A mob forced the family out, prompting them to sue. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1940, the family won Hansberry v. Lee, which made discriminatory housing practices illegal. Hansberry became interested in theater while studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and decided to leave school early to pursue a career in the arts.

    In 1950, Hansberry moved to New York and started taking courses at the New School. While there, she began writing for a progressive publication, which further stoked her passion for civil rights and justice. In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff, a white and Jewish writer. Interracial marriage was still illegal in many states at the time, and Hansberry faced criticism from Malcolm X for marrying a white man. Hansberry and Nemiroff divorced after nine years, but remained close for the rest of their lives. Hansberry later identified as a lesbian, but was never officially out because it was illegal in New York City.

    In 1956, Hansberry cowrote the hit song "Cindy, Oh Cindy." The profits from the song allowed her to quit her job. She instead started focusing solely on writing, and she finished A Raisin in the Sun, a play that follows a Black family in Chicago and drew heavily on Hansberry's life experiences. In 1961, the play made it to Broadway. Many people expected it to flop, but it ended up becoming a huge hit, running for 19 months. It was nominated for four Tony Awards. After A Raisin in the Sun's initial run ended, it was turned into a film starring Sidney Poitier. Hansberry followed up her debut success with another play. The Sign in Sidney Brunstein’s Window was inspired by her marriage to Nemiroff. It ran for 101 performances and closed on Jan. 12, 1965, the same day Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer at age 34. Nemiroff later finished several of her plays, which eventually made it to Broadway.