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22 Facts I Learned This Week That Are So Interesting, They Almost Broke My Brain

Had no idea Lady Gaga's American Horror Story: Hotel character was based on a real person, but it honestly adds a terrifying layer to the show.

🚨 Warning: This article mentions murder, violence, and other sensitive topics. 🚨

1. If you're familiar with The Truman Show, then you know the film revolves around Truman, whose entire life has been filmed and broadcast without him knowing. The main character begins to suspect that something's amiss, and the show's producers plot to make Truman think there's something wrong with him to ensure the show can go on.

Since the film's release, psychologists have noticed a phenomenon that they call The Truman Show Delusion, in which people believe they are being constantly filmed, with their lives being continuously broadcast for the world to see. In some cases, the patients believed the people in their lives were paid actors, while others were certain that there was a specific person who could "release" them from the show. In one case study, a man planned to meet an unidentified woman at the Statue of Liberty, because he believed she was the key to ending the show. Psychologists reasoned people who suffer from these delusions likely have underlying mental health issues.

2. The mantis shrimp has the world's fastest punch, clocking in at about 50 miles per hour. In fact, the shrimp's punch accelerates faster than a .22-caliber bullet.

3. When the Talking Heads released their song "Psycho Killer" in 1977, many believed that the band wrote it about David Berkowitz, who was known as the Son of Sam killer. Berkowitz terrorized New York City from 1976 to 1977 and murdered six people during that time. His crimes led to a massive manhunt. Berkowitz received the Son of Sam moniker after he sent letters to New York newspapers signed "Son of Sam." People noted similarities in the lyrics of the song and Berkowitz's story, and assumed that the Talking Heads had based their hit song on the case, which had dominated news coverage.

In reality, David Byrne, frontman of the Talking Heads, had begun writing the song long before Berkowitz began his killing spree. In the liner notes on one of the band's compilation albums, Byrne wrote that he got the idea for the song after imagining what a ballad written by Alice Cooper, who is known for shocking audiences, might sound like. “Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.” The band started playing a version of the song in 1975, a year before Berkowitz's first crime.

Despite the fact that Byrne had no intention of relating the song to the murders, Sire, the band's record label, decided they were going to promote the song in tandem with coverage about the crimes. "Psycho Killer" was released as a single and became the band's first song to reach the Billboard 100.

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4. Guiding Light earns the honor of being the world's longest-running TV drama. The soap debuted on the radio in 1937, then pivoted to TV in 1952, where it ran until 2009. The show aired over 18,000 episodes between the radio and TV iterations. If you were interested in binge-watching the soap, it would take you 591 days and one hour of continuous watching to get through every episode.

5. If you've watched American Horror Story: Hotel, then you might remember Lady Gaga's terrifying portrayal of Elizabeth, the glamorous owner of a murderous hotel who uses the sharp nails of her gloves to kill people and drink their blood to ensure she maintains her youthful looks. As it turns out, the character was based on Elizabeth Báthory of Hungary, who is known as one of the most prolific serial killers in history.

Elizabeth Báthory of Hungary, who was also known as the Blood Countess, allegedly tortured and killed hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries. Elizabeth was born into an incredibly prominent family: her immediate family controlled Transylvania, while her uncle was the king of Poland. She married into another wealthy family in 1575 and had four children before her husband died. Following her husband's death in 1604, an investigation was launched into Elizabeth after rumors that she had tortured and murdered women began to surface. The results were staggering. Elizabeth had killed an estimated 600 young women.

Many of them worked for her, while others came to her to be educated on how to fit in with nobility. Some of Elizabeth's torture methods included covering victims in honey and leaving them to be bitten by insects, forcing them into deadly ice baths, and driving sharp needles into their fingers. Some have suggested that Elizabeth was motivated to murder the women so she could bathe in their blood to preserve her youth. However, many of the rumors about the blood baths surfaced an entire century after Elizabeth's death and were never verified. While Elizabeth was arrested in 1609, she was never tried for the crimes, and instead was sentenced to captivity in her castle, where she remained until her death in 1614. The Guinness Book of World Records crowned Elizabeth as the world's most prolific female murderer.

An arrow points to Elizabeth's castle on a hillside in Hungary

6. Queen Elizabeth II has served the United Kingdom for so long that she's the only monarch that 85% of Britain has ever known. It's believed that there are fewer than 100,000 people older than her in the United Kingdom.

7. Jellyfish don't have hearts, bones, or brains. Instead, they're made up of 95% seawater. The other 5% of their body is made up of structural proteins, muscles, and nerve cells.

8. Baseball fans should probably thank Bing Crosby for having the only footage of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was long believed that the tape of the game, during which the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the New York Yankees to take home the championship, was missing forever. In 2010, a tape of the game was found in Crosby's wine cellar, and is the only known footage that exists from the game.

Crosby was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan who got incredibly superstitious during games. In fact, he was part owner of the team! During the Pirates' World Series run, Crosby got so nervous that he took his wife on a European vacation to get his mind off of the game. He hired a company to tape the game for him so he could watch it if the Pirates won. Turns out, he kept the prized reels in his wine cellar, where they sat for over 50 years. After they resurfaced, the MLB Network aired the footage in a special broadcast.

9. During the construction of the Empire State Building in 1929, the New York Times reported that the building's plans had been modified to extend the height of the building by 200 feet so that zeppelins could dock at the top. Some believed that this was a cover story and thought that the building was being made taller to compete with the height of the nearby Chrysler Building.

Experts said the plan was impractical and ensured it would never happen. Despite this, by 1930, doctored photos of blimps at the top of the building began to circulate. In September 1931, a privately owned airship docked at the top of the Empire State Building for three minutes, with 40 mph winds swirling.

10. For many people, Sesame Street was a childhood staple. In fact, it's been estimated that 86 million Americans watched the show as children. However, in Mississippi in the 1970s, Sesame Street was deemed too "controversial" for children and was pulled from the air. In January 1970, just a few months after the show's premiere, the Mississippi Authority for Educational Television held a meeting where the all-white panel deemed the diversity featured on the show harmful and offensive.

In April 1970, the committee took a poll that decided, by a 3–2 margin, that the show would be pulled from Mississippi public television, saying they would "postpone" airing the show until they felt Mississippi residents were "ready" for its messages of inclusivity and integration. The members who had been outvoted were furious, and they leaked the decision to the New York Times before the formal announcement was made. Public perception skewed heavily in favor of allowing the show to air, with many calling out the blatant racism of the decision. Within a month, the decision had been reversed, and Sesame Street resumed airing in Mississippi.

11. A narwhal's tusk is actually one of only two teeth that it will have during its lifetime. The tusk actually resembles an inside-out tooth, with up to 10 million nerve endings that render the tusk incredibly sensitive.

12. In 2010, Nickelback released their album Dark Horse. When planning the music video for the song, they envisioned a frat party–like atmosphere, and they contacted a Michigan brewery named Dark Horse to supply the beer in exchange for being featured in the video. The brewery turned down the offer, with head brewer Aaron Morse issuing a scathing statement. "It’s obvious that this would be a great opportunity for us and maybe get some mainstream youth into craft beer rather than the swill," he wrote. "However, none of us at the brewery really care for the band (or frat parties), so our knee-jerk reaction is 'no thanks.'" The story made headlines again in 2012, when Morse said he didn't regret his decision. "I absolutely hate that band," he said. "It's shit rock and roll that doesn't deserve to be on the radio."

13. I was not expecting to learn about a partnership between FEMA and Waffle House this week, but I'm here for it. FEMA, the federal agency that responds to disasters, unofficially uses the Waffle House Index to categorize exactly how intense a storm might be. Waffle House restaurants are typically open 24/7, and they only close unless things are looking dire, so FEMA started using Waffle House's closures as a scale for the potential damage of a storm.

If Waffle House is closed, then FEMA calls it a red storm. If Waffle House is open but has a limited menu, then it's a yellow, and if the restaurant remains open with business as usual, then it's a green. While the premise might have been seen as silly, Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner told NPR that the index is actually a good indicator of how quickly a community might rebound after disaster. "If we're opening up quickly, that's a good sign that community is going to come back quickly. If we are on a limited menu, that's probably because we have some utilities out, so it's going to take a bit longer for that community to come back."

14. It's estimated that a NASA spacesuit costs up to $150 million in today's money. When they were first used in 1974, they cost between $15 and $22 million to produce. As of 2021, NASA only had four working spacesuits left and has invested more than $200 million since 2009 to create new suits.

15. Before Meghan Markle became an actor and then married into the royal family, she worked as a calligrapher at Paper Source, where she even taught calligraphy lessons. Markle was so talented that she was hired as a freelance calligrapher, and she even wrote the wedding invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton's 2005 nuptials. "I went to an all-girls Catholic school for like six years during the time when kids actually had handwriting class," Markle told Esquire. "I've always had a propensity for getting the cursive down pretty well. What it evolved into was my pseudo-waitressing job when I was auditioning. I didn't wait tables. I did calligraphy."

16. During Burger King's 2004 chicken fries rollout, the brand decided to promote the new product by creating a fake band called Coq Roq, a "rooster metal" band whose identities were hidden behind masks while performing. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Miami-based ad agency, created the premise, which came complete with a backstory that the up-and-coming band decided to skip signing with a traditional record label and chose to partner with Burger King instead.

Burger King hired real musicians to portray the band. They recorded four songs and starred in two music videos, and they were planning a United States tour. Tom Zukoski, who worked for the agency, said plans for the tour were thwarted when it was revealed that the lead singer, who was a Canadian actor, had a criminal record that prevented him from traveling in the US.

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The singer's criminal record wasn't the only Coq Roq controversy. Part of the advertisements involved photos of the fictional band's groupies and often featured lewd sexual innuendos. The ads were pulled, although Burger King claimed they didn't receive any complaints about the ads. When the band Slipknot, who famously performs in masks, caught wind of Burger King's plan, they sent a letter to Burger King's corporate office threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit. The band also claimed they had been approached by the ad agency to perform in the ads a year earlier, before Burger King hired actors for Coq Roq. Slipknot dropped their lawsuits, and Coq Roq disassembled once the singer's criminal record surfaced.

17. When Steven Spielberg delivered Harvard's commencement address in 2016, he revealed that he received three paleontology credits for his work on Jurassic Park. Spielberg dropped out of college during his sophomore year to focus on his film career, but promised his parents that he would go back to school if things didn't work out. He decided to finish his degrees in his 50s, and re-enrolled at California State University Long Beach, where he was awarded the credits.

18. On Oct. 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was heading to an auditorium to deliver a campaign speech in Wisconsin. Although Roosevelt had retired from politics following the end of the second term of his presidency in 1909, he had been so disappointed by William Howard Taft's presidency that he formed the National Progressives party and decided to run for re-election. When Roosevelt left his hotel, he folded his 50-page speech in half and put it in the breast pocket of his coat, next to a metal case holding his glasses. As he headed to his car, a man emerged from the crowd and fired a revolver at Roosevelt's chest.

Roosevelt's entourage told him he needed to seek medical attention, but he refused. Instead, he pressed his finger to his lips, and after finding that he was not bleeding from the mouth, decided that the bullet hadn't hit his lung. He continued onto the auditorium, where he was quickly examined before giving the speech. It was determined that his script and glasses case prevented the bullet from puncturing his lung, although he did have a dime-sized bullet wound in his chest. Roosevelt spoke to the crowd for 84 minutes, then headed to the hospital, where it was found that the bullet was in his rib, where it remained for the rest of his life. Weeks later, he was defeated by Woodrow Wilson in the election.

A photo of Roosevelt's bloodstained shirt he wore to his speech; a bullet hole can be seen in the center of a circle of blood

19. While you probably know Apple was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, there was actually another founder: Ron Wayne, who cashed out his shares in the company in 1976 for a measly $800. Wayne, who worked at Atari, drew the brand's first logo and created the contracts that defined the responsibilities for each founder. Wozniak was in charge of electrical engineering, Jobs handled marketing, and Wayne oversaw mechanical engineering and documentation.

20. The record for the world's longest family tree goes to none other than Confucius's lineage. It begins in the 8th century BC, with Confucius's great-great-great-great grandfather Kung Chia, with 86 lineal descendants following.

21. North and South Dakota both became states on Nov. 2, 1889. When president Benjamin Harrison signed the official proclamations, he had his secretary of state cover the names on the documents, then had them shuffled after signing so no one would know which Dakota became a state first. "They were born together," Harrison reportedly said. "They are one and I will make them twins." Despite this, North Dakota is typically seen as the 39th state, while South Dakota is the 40th.

22. And finally, in 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Prior to Switzer, no woman had ever signed up for the marathon, even though there was no official rule preventing her from racing. She used the name “K. V. Switzer" when registering and was given an official race number and bib. When entering, Switzer said she had never intended to make a political statement, and instead was just hoping to tackle one of the world's most famous races.

About four miles into the race, Switzer was interrupted by a man screaming, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!" It was Jock Semple, a race official who was incensed that a woman had dared to enter the race. Semple grabbed Switzer's shirt and tried to rip her bib off of her. Switzer instantly became the center of attention, and despite the interruption, finished the race and vowed to ensure that no other woman would ever be treated like that at the marathon. By 1972, women were officially allowed to race the Boston Marathon. In 1975, Switzer placed second in the marathon, then ran it again in 2017 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her first run. She wore number 261, the same number she wore in 1967.

Switzer wearing her number 261 bib in 2017