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    21 Shocking, Surprising, And Downright Unforgettable Things I Learned This Week

    If you've ever heard that the fast food chain Wendy's is named after founder Dave Thomas' daughter, then you'd be right. But you also might be shocked to find that his daughter's name isn't even Wendy! Thomas' daughter's actual name is Melinda Lou Thomas. Her siblings allegedly had a difficult time pronouncing her name, so they called her "Wenda" instead, thus leading to the name "Wendy" for the restaurant.

    1. Walt Disney wanted to enlist in the military during World War I, but was turned away because he was only 16 years old. He later learned that the Red Cross was accepting 17 year olds, so Disney forged the birthday on his passport, changing his birth year from 1901 to 1900. Once he was officially a member of the Red Cross, he was sent to France, where he worked as an ambulance driver and assisted with post-war operations after the armistice was signed in 1918.

    walt sitting outside

    Disney wasn't the only soon-to-be-famous face working for the Red Cross. During training, Disney befriended Ray Kroc, who would later go on to turn McDonald's into a fast food empire. Kroc also had wanted to enlist in the military but turned to the Red Cross when he learned he was too young. While in France, Disney allegedly spent most of his time drawing. "I found out that inside or outside of an ambulance is as good a place as any to draw," he said.

    art form disney's first word war scrapbook

    2. At Kaziranga National Park, located in India, park rangers are given permission to shoot poachers in an attempt to save the park's declining rhino population. When the park first opened, there was reportedly only a small handful of rhinos. Due to conservation efforts, the park boasted 2,400 rhinos by 2017, which make up about two-thirds of the world's rhino population. Rangers estimate that about 20 poachers are shot at the park each year. The BBC reported that in 2015, more poachers were killed in the park by rangers than rhinos killed by poachers.

    rhinos on the park

    3. The Sopranos' finale is widely regarded as one of the most memorable of all time, due in part to the ambiguity of the closing scene, which features Tony Soprano playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" on the jukebox as the screen cuts to black. Turns out, the song was not the obvious choice for the scene. In an interview, David Chase, who created the show, revealed that he selected "Don't Stop Believin'" because it got a less-than-stellar reaction from his staff.

    three of the soprano characters standing in a room looking serious

    "In pre-production [for the final season], there was going to be a song at the end [Tony] was going to play in the jukebox," Chase said. "I was in the scout van with the department heads…and I had never done this before. I said, 'Listen, I’m going to talk about three songs that I am thinking about for ending the show.'" When he mentioned "Don't Stop Believin'," Chase said everyone immediately objected. "I said, 'Well, that’s it. That’s the one.' I wasn’t saying that just to throw it in their face. That was kind of my favorite and it got a reaction of some kind. So I can make this song lovable, which it had been."

    the band journey

    Meanwhile, Journey was worried about having their song close the show. "The request came in a few weeks ago and it wasn't until Thursday that it got approval, because I was concerned," Steve Perry, the former lead singer of the band, revealed. "I was not excited about [the possibility of] the Soprano family being whacked to 'Don't Stop Believin.' I told them, 'Unless I know what happens — and I will swear to secrecy — I can't in good conscience feel good about its use.'"

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    HBO / Via

    4. While the third-class accommodations on the Titanic were allegedly much nicer than the third-class areas on comparable boats, I was still shocked to learn that between 700 and 1,000 third-class passengers aboard the ship had to share just two bathtubs.

    two twin bunkbeds to the right and two standing sinks on the wall perpendicular

    5. Kate Warne, believed to be America's first female detective, was responsible for revealing a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before he took office. While not much is known about Warne's early life, she was born in upstate New York to an impoverished family. She allegedly longed to become an actor, a dream her parents reportedly quashed. By 1859, Warne had pivoted to detective work, helping investigators track down a man suspected of embezzlement from a company in Alabama. Warne allegedly changed her Northern accent into a Southern drawl and befriended the perpetrator's wife in order to eventually elicit a confession.

    photo of a person in uniform with text inserted that reads, believed to be kate warne in disguise

    In 1860, Warne was asked to be the head of the Female Detective Bureau, an offshoot of an agency created by detective Alan Pinkerton. Warne accepted the role, went on to hire several female detectives, including some who spied for the Union during the Civil War, and even helped expand the Female Detective Bureau into other locations. In 1861, Pinkerton approached Warne to assist with busting a plot to assassinate newly elected president Abraham Lincoln. Samuel M. Felton, a railroad president, had received a tip about a “deep-laid conspiracy to capture Washington, destroy all the avenues leading to it from the North, East, and West, and thus prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln in the Capitol of the country."

    old photo of a group of mean outside a tent with an arrow pointing to one in the back that is allegedly warne in disguise

    They believed the attempt would happen in Baltimore, the only slave-holding city on the president's route from his home in Illinois to Washington, D.C. Warne went undercover to break up the plot. She resumed the Southern belle identity she had previously used and befriended the wives and sisters of the men involved in the plot to kill Lincoln. After uncovering more details about the assassins' plans, Warne helped sneak Lincoln into Baltimore on an overnight train. Lincoln pretended to be Warne's disabled brother and helped Warne win over the conductor, who gave them their own private train car. Once Lincoln was safely delivered to D.C., Warne continued her Southern belle act, using it to find out insider information about the Confederate army. She died of pneumonia in 1868, and was believed to be 34 or 35 years old at the time of her death.

    lincoln arriving safely in washington

    6. If you've ever seen a Pixar movie, then you're probably familiar with the post-credit scenes normally included in each film. The post-credit scene in Toy Story 2, which came out in 1999, featured Stinky Pete offering two Barbie dolls a role in a movie, with some believing that the scene's dialogue insinuated that the parts would be theirs if they performed sexual favors for him. "So you two are absolutely identical? You know, I’m sure I could get you a part in Toy Story 3," Pete says while clutching one of the doll's hands. Once he realizes he's on camera, he drops the doll's hand and instead innocently offers acting tips.

    the stinky pete toy

    In the wake of sexual assault allegations against prominent Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein and Disney's own John Lasseter during the #MeToo movement, Pixar was called out for the inappropriate joke on several online forums after the scene was included in a reissue of the film. As a result, Disney removed the scene from both digital and new physical copies of Toy Story 2 but made no official response in the wake of the backlash surrounding the scene.

    woody in shock at seeing two barbie's inside the stinky pete toy box

    7. This is a fact that deeply disturbs me, so if I had to learn it, now you do too: the front teeth of squirrels and other rodents never stop growing. While the length of the average squirrel's teeth is kept in check because of their frequent gnawing on nuts, their teeth grow an estimated six inches per year.

    8. Turns out the original World Cup trophy, which was known as the Jules Rimet trophy and was in use from 1930 to 1970, has a pretty wild history! During World War II, there was concern about potential damage to the trophy, so Ottorino Barassi, the Italian vice president of FIFA, took the trophy from a bank vault in Rome and hid it under his bed in a shoe box. It remained under the bed until the World Cup resumed in 1950.

    the trophy featuring a winged goddess

    Ahead of the 1966 World Cup, which was held in England, the trophy was on display to the public as part of a sports exhibit. On March 20, 1966, the trophy was stolen. While law enforcement searched for the trophy and the culprit, Joe Mears, the chairman of the Football Association, received a ransom note from someone named "Jackson," who demanded 15,000 pounds in exchange for the trophy. The letter also included a removable piece of the trophy to prove its legitimacy. A team worked to find Jackson's identity and finally tracked him down, only to watch him jump from a moving car to escape. He was finally revealed to be Edward Betchley, who had previously been arrested for theft.

    someone placing the trophy into a safety box while a policeman watches

    Betchley claimed that he was not the actual thief, and instead, was working as a middleman for someone called "The Pole." About a week after the trophy had been stolen, a barge worker named David Corbett was out walking Pickles, his dog. Pickles beelined to a car with a wrapped package underneath it. Corbett said he initially worried that the package was a bomb, but opened it to find the stolen World Cup trophy. He took it to authorities, who briefly detained him under suspicion that he was "The Pole." Luckily for Corbett, he had an alibi, and soon, he and Pickles became national heroes. England went on to defeat Germany in the World Cup on their home soil, and Corbett was invited to the team celebrations as a thank you for locating the trophy.

    david and his dog pickles

    In 1970, Brazil won the World Cup for the third time. The rules of the trophy stated that should a team win three World Cups, then they were able to keep the trophy forever, thus retiring the Jules Rimet trophy. In 1983, the trophy was once again stolen from its new home at the Brazilian Football Confederation headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. It has never been found, and it's believed that the trophy was melted down into gold bars. Now, World Cup winners are presented with the FIFA World Cup trophy, which has been in circulation since 1974. The new trophy remains in FIFA's possession at their headquarters in Zurich. Winning teams now receive a bronze-plated model of the trophy that they get to permanently keep.

    closeup of a player holding the trophy

    9. In the 1950s, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin allegedly told the KGB to kill actor John Wayne because Stalin believed that Wayne's anti-Communist beliefs were a threat to the Soviet Union. Stalin reportedly first learned about Wayne from Sergei Gerasimov, a Russian filmmaker. Wayne was a huge supporter of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and was a fan of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the lead perpetrator of the Red Scare. Wayne also helped to enforce the "Black List," which destroyed the careers of many actors, writers, directors, and producers who expressed political beliefs that didn't align with those of HUAC.

    portrait of stalin

    After learning exactly how popular Wayne was in America, Stalin allegedly ordered the KGB to kill him. In the book John Wayne - The Man Behind The Myth, Michael Munn wrote that Stalin sent two Russian hitmen dressed as FBI agents to Wayne's Los Angeles office to kill him. Wayne and his scriptwriter, Jimmy Grant, allegedly abducted the hitmen and staged a mock execution. According to Munn, Wayne's friends later revealed that the KGB hitmen allegedly began working with the FBI after their experience with the actor.

    john wayne

    In 1953, Wayne was filming the movie Hondo in Mexico, when the KGB allegedly once again attempted to kill him. Munn also wrote that Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, had hired a sniper to take out Wayne. After Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's successor in the Soviet Union, said he revoked the order to kill Wayne and informed the actor of his decision during a 1958 meeting. While the FBI supposedly offered Wayne protection, he refused. He also never told his family about the threats against him. Wayne allegedly was able to foil the attempts on his life because a group of Hollywood stuntmen he was friends with infiltrated Communist groups around the country to gain intel.

    john wayne in the movie poster for hondo

    10. If you thought that the fast food chain Wendy's was named after founder Dave Thomas' daughter, then you'd be right. But you also might be shocked to find that his daughter's name isn't even Wendy! Thomas' daughter's actual name is Melinda Lou Thomas. Her siblings allegedly had a difficult time pronouncing her name, so they called her "Wenda" instead, paving way for the restaurant to be named Wendy's. Melinda said that nearly 30 years after the chain opened, her father apologized for naming it after her, acknowledging that it put a lot of pressure on her and claiming that he should have just named it after himself.

    woman pulling her hair in two pigtails standing in front of the wendy's sign

    11. In 1995, Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr. had a secret meeting in Manhattan. Kennedy, who was the creator and editor-in-chief of George magazine, had approached Diana about appearing on the cover. Diana agreed to a meeting with Kennedy, who was often called American royalty, to hear about his ideas for the potential photo shoot. They decided to meet at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. The issue? Both Diana and JFK Jr. were incredibly recognizable people, and they wanted to ensure that their meeting went unseen by the public. RoseMarie Terenzio, Kennedy's executive assistant, said her boss was pretty doubtful that the pair would be able to successfully evade the public. "I remember him saying, 'There’s no way someone is not going to leak it. There’s going to be paparazzi everywhere,'" she said.

    diana sitting on some stairs outside

    After suggesting everything from disguises to secret entrances, Kennedy's team finally decided that he and Diana would enter the hotel through the front doors, because they believed that the paparazzi would be staked out near the hotel's more private side entrance. Sure enough, the press was nowhere to be found as the pair entered the hotel, and instead were clustered by the side door. Despite the promising start to the meeting, Diana ended up never posing for George magazine. Kennedy had nothing but nice things to say about the princess. "I do remember him saying, 'She’s really tall!' He also said she was very shy. He was surprised how demure she was," Terenzio said. "I think they had both met Mother Theresa so they spoke about that. And he said how lovely she was."

    closeup of kennedy

    12. In 2002, Jared Hess, who was a Brigham Young University film student at the time, filmed a black-and-white short called Peluca. After the short got accepted into a film festival, he decided to turn it into a feature-length film. The movie, known as none other than the cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, was shot in Idaho for a mere $400,000. When the movie was released in 2004, it ended up grossing over $44 million. In 2005, the Idaho legislature presented Jared and Jerusha Hess, Jared's wife and a co-writer on the film, with a resolution commending them for their depiction of Idaho in the film. They thanked the Hesses for the movie's frequent use of tater tots, saying that it "promot[ed] Idaho’s most famous export." The resolution concluded by saying that anyone who “vote[d] Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.”

    13. Despite the fact that Millard Fillmore has gone down in history as one of the most forgettable US presidents, his wife, Abigail Powers, was actually an incredibly popular public figure. Fillmore grew up as an indentured servant and had very little formal schooling. In 1819, he went to the New Hope Academy to enroll in classes. Powers, who was a teacher at the school, began to work closely with Fillmore and tutored him through various subjects. When Fillmore's family abruptly moved, the pair were separated.

    portrait of fillmore

    After Fillmore moved, he said he realized he had been "unconsciously stimulated by the companionship." The pair kept in contact via letter for three years, until Fillmore moved back to East Aurora, New York, to open a law practice. They wed in 1826. Powers continued to work as a teacher after marrying Fillmore, making her the first US First Lady to make her own salary after marriage. Fillmore soon got involved in politics. In 1836, Powers moved to Washington to live with her husband while he served in Congress. In 1848, Fillmore became Zachary Taylor's vice president. When Taylor died in 1850, Fillmore took over the presidency. Powers was seen as a "bona fide public figure." Newspapers frequently wrote about her and often mentioned how charitable she was with constituents.

    portrait of powers

    Powers was known for being "highly conscious of her public appearance." She was the first First Lady to wear clothes made with a sewing machine. By 1853, the White House began selling postcards with her photo on them. During her time in the White House, Powers shocked the world as she accompanied her husband to various events, bucking against the idea that a wife should be a private person who stays at home. Powers was also extremely into pop culture. She was frequently spotted at concerts and maintained friendships with popular authors of the time period. Shortly after leaving the White House in 1853, Powers developed pneumonia. Her death was allegedly more widely reported on by the media than the deaths of any First Ladies before her.

    photograph of an older Powers in a large dress

    14. "72 Hours," an episode of The Golden Girls that aired in 1990 shed light on the AIDS crisis in America in hopes of eliminating the stigma around the disease. In the episode, Rose (Betty White) receives a letter telling her that she may have contracted HIV from a blood transfusion during a gallbladder surgery several years earlier. Rose decides to get tested for HIV, and finds that some of her housemates are initially hesitant to be around her. As Rose waits for her test results, she tells Blanche that "this shouldn't happen to people like me." Blanche responds with, "AIDS is not a bad person's disease, Rose. It is not God punishing people for their sins."

    the golden girls

    Although the episode eventually revealed that Rose was HIV-free, it helped to spread the idea that HIV/AIDS is not just a disease for gay people. When the episode debuted, AIDS testing was still relatively new. For some, the episode hit close to home. Tracy Gamble, one of the show's producers, revealed that "72 Hours" was based on the time his mother needed to be tested for HIV after a blood transfusion. Peter D. Beyt, an editor working on the show, said that his partner was dying of AIDS. He recalled breaking down while editing the episode. "From that point, right in the middle of my partner’s battle, I no longer thought I was a bad person," he said. "The show changed me in that moment of desperation. And my God, did the world ever need that to be said!"

    blanche and rose sitting in chairs waiting

    15. Sharks are older than trees. According to Smithsonian magazine, the earliest species of trees, located in what is now known as the Sahara Desert, have been traced back a mere 350 million years, while sharks have been swimming around for over 400 million years.

    16. In 1982, Madonna was discovered by executives from Sire Records after she convinced the DJ at Danceteria, a nightclub in New York City, to play her song. After meeting the singer, they agreed to a meeting. While Michael Rosenblatt, a Sire executive, said the demo "wasn't anything amazing," he noted that Madonna "radiated star power." Seymour Stein, Sire's founder, was in the hospital but agreed to meet with Madonna from his hospital room after realizing that she could become a huge star. After singing Madonna to the label, they settled on "Everybody" as her debut single. The song was a unique blend of dance music and the New Wave scene, so Rosenblatt believed it would attract a wide variety of people.

    closeup of madonna

    One of Rosenblatt's marketing tactics was to leave Madonna's photo off of the album art. "I didn’t want her picture on the cover of the 'Everybody' single, because I thought I could get a lot of R&B play on that record, because a lot of people thought she was Black," he told Rolling Stone. Instead, they created a collage using photos of everyday people clipped from magazines. According to Mary Cross' Madonna: The Biography, the song was often played on radio stations with predominantly Black artists, like New York's 92 KTU. Any misconception about Madonna's race was cleared up shortly after, once she released a music video to accompany the song. The album artwork was later revamped to feature a photo of the singer.

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    Sire Records / Via

    17. In 2000, Blink-182 released a music video for their song "All The Small Things." The video, which was filmed at a rocky California beach, poked fun at popular boy bands of the time by mimicking their dance moves. Coincidentally, in 2011, One Direction, now considered one of the biggest boy bands of all time, filmed the music video for their hit "What Makes You Beautiful" on the same beach. Both videos feature some fascinating parallels, although it's unclear if One Direction took any inspiration from Blink-182's parody.

    View this video on YouTube

    SME / Via

    18. You've probably seen Duncan Hines's cake mix at the store, but did you know Duncan Hines was actually a real person? Hines was a traveling salesman who loved to eat but often struggled to find good food on the road. As a result, Hines began carrying around a small journal where he would jot down notes about the best places to eat. He would even peek into the kitchens and examine the dumpsters at restaurants to ensure they were following food safety practices. People soon began begging Hines to share his knowledge. In 1935, he finally obliged and included a pamphlet featuring 167 restaurant recommendations across 33 states in his Christmas cards. By the next year, Hines had self-published his first official restaurant guide.

    wax figure of Hines standing in a kitchen

    Hines updated his guides every year from 1935 to his retirement in 1954. He would remove restaurants that he had previously recommended if they didn't remain up to his high standards, and refused to accept any ads or endorsements. Soon, restaurants began to boast if they were included in Hines' Adventures in Good Eating. In 1952, Hines partnered with Roy H. Park, who helped develop the Duncan Hines product lines that included everything from cake mix to ice cream. Hines died in 1959.

    posters for the various guides Hines created

    19. If you always thought you had the standard 206 bones, you might want to think again! A study showed that over 36% of participants had what scientists called "accessory bones" in their feet. Accessory bones are most commonly found near the wrist, hand, ankle, foot, or neck, and are typically small and pebble-like. Around 10% of adults have an extra lower vertebrae in their spine, while others have cervical ribs, which can be found slightly above the collarbone. The presence of cervical ribs can occasionally lead to health problems.

    20. While you might know that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were the astronauts aboard Apollo 11 during the 1969 moon landing, the actual crew almost looked very different. Aldrin had longed to be a part of NASA. In 1962, he was turned down because they were only looking for test pilots, while in 1963, NASA had concerns about his health after he and his wife allegedly contracted hepatitis from bad wine. Aldrin finally got an assignment as the backup to an astronaut on the Gemini 10 flight, which meant that he would be guaranteed a main spot on the Gemini 13 mission. The issue? The Gemini flights ended up stopping at Gemini 12, once again seemingly leaving Aldrin out.

    the three astronauts posing for a photo

    After two astronauts who were part of Gemini 9 were killed, Aldrin found himself with a spot on Gemini 12, where he performed "flawlessly," raising his standing at NASA. Meanwhile, Armstrong had been informed that he would command the Apollo 11 mission, which would end up being NASA's attempt at landing on the moon. Armstrong was asked if he'd like to replace Aldrin, who he had previously worked with, with Jim Lovell. NASA officials "recognized that Aldrin's personality grated on several of the other astronauts." Armstrong elected to keep Aldrin on his crew, because he believed that Lovell was so talented that he deserved to command his own mission. NASA gave Lovell the command role on Apollo 13, which was aborted after an oxygen tank failed. Luckily, all of the astronauts on board survived the disaster.

    man on the moon

    21. And finally, Candace Cable is the first woman to ever medal at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games. Cable grew up as an avid hiker, swimmer, and skier. In 1975, when she was just 21 years old, Cable severely injured her spinal cord in a car accident, leaving her unable to walk. She spent over six months in the hospital and said she became depressed and addicted to pain medication after the accident. In 1978, Cable sought help to help her process her accident. Soon, she enrolled at Long Beach State University and became involved with the Disabled Student Services group, where she participated in her first wheelchair race.

    closeup of candace

    Wheelchair racing was relatively new at the time and Cable, who excelled at the sport, joined the movement to popularize it. She helped design equipment and worked to develop the rules of the sport. In 1980, she made her Paralympic debut and won two gold medals. She went on to appear in three more summer Paralympics and five winter Paralympics. At the 1992 Winter Paralympic Games, Cable won three medals in skiing, making her the first woman to win medals at both versions of the games. Cable has also won 84 marathons, including six wins at the Boston Marathon. After retiring from competition in 2006, Cable began working as an advocate for Paralympic sports. In 2019, she was inducted into the Team USA Hall of Fame.

    candace waving as she leads a group of other olympians onto a stage