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Here's 13 Creepy Science Facts That'll Freak You Out, But Don't Worry, There's Also 14 To Make You Feel Better

Let's go on this roller-coaster ride together.

Here's how it works: Every odd-numbered fact is creepy, unsettling, or otherwise disturbing, and each even-numbered one is wholesome and all-around heartwarming. You can choose one category and skip everything else, or read 'em all and embrace chaos.

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There is a single exception to the even/odd rule, but I assure you, it's worth it. 

1. Let's start with something creepy (and crawly). Your body is covered with thousands of microscopic mites, and they have sex on your face while you're asleep.

Vershinin / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis both hang out in your hair follicles, though they're mostly concentrated on the face, where eyebrows, eyelashes, and hairline provide a cozy home for the between 1.5 and 2.5 million mites that scientists estimate each human carries. While it's unknown why they "party" at night, as scientist Holly Menninger put it while speaking to Vox, it's possible they're aware it's safer to venture out once their human host has gone to sleep. 

2. Ew, gross. Why talk about that when we could talk about the fact that polar bears communicate by rubbing their noses together?

It's considered "respectful, non-aggressive behavior" that's used, for example, to request food from another bear. And when one polar bear wants to play with another, it'll move its head from side to side. 

3. Polar bears are fine, I guess, but not nearly as interesting as Mike the Headless Chicken, who survived for a year and a half missing exactly what you think he was.

Brian Brainerd / Denver Post via Getty Images

In 1945, Lloyd and Clara¬†Olsen were killing chickens (not for fun ‚ÄĒ they had a farm in Colorado), but one refused to die. Decapitated, the chicken "kicked and ran," and when word spread of this creepy miracle, the Olsens took it on tour, showing him off to academics and sideshow audiences. Mike was fed with water, and liquid nutrition dripped "directly into his esophagus." He eventually perished after suffocating due to mucus buildup in his throat, which the Olsens also regularly cleared (though they'd left the syringe they usually used for the task at a sideshow, and couldn't find a replacement in time).¬†

Dr. Tom Smulders, a British "chicken expert" who spoke to the BBC, said Mike's survival could be explained by the fact that the anatomy of a chicken means that while the poor bird lost its face, up to 80% of its brain and "almost everything that controls the chicken's body, including heart rate, breathing, hunger, and digestion" were left unscathed. It's not entirely clear why other people weren't able to replicate Mike's survival (pour one out for the chickens of the world, folks), but it seems like this chicken, unlike the vast majority of decapitation victims, simply got lucky. 

4. Then again, it may be worth focusing on the fact that researchers at UC Davis discovered that couples' hearts beat in sync.

Two women embrace at their wedding party
Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

In this study, the couples did not move or speak to one another, but even just sitting across from their lover resulted in physiological mimicry. They even started breathing in and out at the same times. When the couples were mixed up and not seated across from their romantic partner, their heartbeats and breathing patterns remained out of sync. 

5. Cute. Now let's talk about the end of the world. One hypothetical (...for now) doomsday scenario is called gray goo. It involves tiny robots designed to replicate themselves going haywire and producing more and more robot offspring until Earth is "reduced to a lifeless mass teeming with nanomachines."

Some shiny grey goo, with caption: this one is totally hypothetical so imagine this shiny goopy is a DEADLY ROBOT SWARM
Getty / Adrienne Bresnahan

Engineer Kim Eric Drexler came up with the idea in his book Engines of Creation, in which he theorized that itty-bitty robots called "assemblers" could manufacture materials "molecule by molecule." But you'd need lots of assemblers to get the job done, so you'd program them to build more of themselves. But if they did that too enthusiastically, all organic matter could be consumed in a robot death wave known as "gray goo." Don't worry, though. Humans can't build any machines like Drexler's assemblers...yet. 

6. Quick, someone call Lucy, because there's a diamond in the sky. (Thank you for asking, but no, I don't regret that joke.)

a night sky, with caption: pictured, a space diamond, maybe
Getty / Masataka Inada / EyeEm

Scientists identified a white dwarf star approximately the size of Earth that's so cold it has cooled into a "crystallized chunk of carbon," otherwise known as a diamond. The diamond star is roughly 11 billion years old and probably has other shiny brethren scattered through the galaxy. However, the unusually cool temperatures required for crystallization mean that they're mostly too "cold and dim" for humans to discover. 

7. This is a cone snail. The cone snail wants you dead. Well, actually, they're "not aggressive," until an "unwitting shell collector" picks one up, at which point they will deliver a venomous sting that in some of the over 800 species is strong enough to kill an adult human. The deadliest cone snail of all is nicknamed the "cigarette snail," because if you get stung by one, you have just enough time to enjoy one final cigarette before perishing.

A cone snail in the water
Tammy616 / Getty Images

Frank Marí, a biochemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, pointed out that the cone snail's venom is what was used to "kill dinosaurs in Jurassic Park." But Marí is part of a team that is trying to study possible medical uses for the venom, such as drugs that can "move through a patient’s body in a quicker and more efficient manner" or more effectively treat "quick-spreading" cancers. 

8. In a move that was equal parts effective and adorable, the National Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program used wooden decoys to lure "gregarious" puffins back to Maine's islands. Some of the birds even imitated their new wooden friends' "one-legged" stance.

A puffin lifts his leg, just like his new friend, a wooden decoy.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Apparently, "puffins love company," so maybe this is how they made these stiff weirdo birds feel welcome.

9. In much less fun news, there exists a sleep disorder called "exploding head syndrome," and while it's not as gory as it sounds, it's definitely unpleasant.

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Patients with EHS deal with terrifying episodes that "create the perception of a loud explosion and possibly a flash of light" in between sleeping and wakefulness. The explosions are imaginary and therefore harmless, but some people can have multiple episodes a night. And, by the way, we have no idea what causes it.

10. On the plus side, Stanford researchers have discovered that mealworms can consume various types of plastic and still be safe for other animals to eat. This means they may help humanity solve our "giant plastics problem."

Bloomberg Creative / Getty Images / Bloomberg Creative Photos

When researchers realized that the mealworms could exist on a plastic diet, they became concerned about toxins getting built up in their tiny bodies. But further study revealed that mealworms eating plastic were just as healthy as mealworms on a more typical diet. 

11. Around 19 million years ago, a massive extinction event decimated the global shark population. Over a period of timing lasting less than 100,000 years, 90% of the Earth's sharks were killed, and 70% of shark species went extinct. And researchers don't know why.

A great white shark swimming above a school of fish
Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

However, the discovery that it happened at all allows us to gain a greater understanding of how the ocean's ecosystems were shaped by their presence and subsequent sudden disappearance. Victor J. Perez, an assistant curator of paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum, speculated to Inverse that learning more about this extinction could help us learn how to better protect modern shark populations. 

12. Bummer. But one scientific mystery we have solved is the question of why bunnies binky. This adorable term refers to rabbits leaping in the air and twisting their bodies, and they do it when they feel happy and comfortable.

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A half-binky is when the rabbit flicks its head or ears. It, too, is a sign of a joyful bunny. They will also lick their owners (and other rabbits) to show affection. 

13. Unsettlingly, Marie Curie's notebooks and personal papers are still radioactive more than 100 years after her death, and will remain so for many centuries to come.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The priceless documents are kept in "lead-lined boxes" at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. If you want to see them, you'll have to "sign a liability waiver and wear protective gear," at least for the next 15 centuries or so, since the contaminant radium 226 has a half-life of about 1,600 years. Curie herself died of aplastic anemia as a result of her exposure to radiation, and her coffin is lined with "nearly an inch of lead," since it also remains radioactive. 

14. Wonderfully, a study showed that cows have best friends. When they're in the presence of their bovine buddy, cows are calmer and smarter.

Two cows nuzzling each other
Digital Vision. / Getty Images

The study tested the cows on their cognitive skills; one of the activites was a maze they had to solve to find a bottle of milk. When paired with their friend, the cows found the milk more quickly, indicating that the power of friendship gives them a "higher level of mental flexibility and adaptability to change."

15. LSD is a "derivative" of ergot, a fungus found in rye grain, and there's a theory that ergot poisoning is what caused the disastrous mass hysteria that led to the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

Getty / Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Ergot poisoning can lead to such unpleasant symptoms as "violent muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, [and] crawling sensations on the skin," all of which the Salem accusers, "chiefly eight young women," claimed to suffer from. The weather during the previous year's harvest provided the right meteorological conditions for which ergot to spread, while the weather following the Trials was too dry for the fungus to thrive, which may explain the "abrupt end of the 'bewitchments.'" So there's a possibility that 20 innocent people lost their lives because some fellow villagers ate a few extra slices of bread.

16. The unique relationship humans share with their dogs stretches back 11,000 years. Scientists discovered that in Europe, there were five different types of dog with "distinct genetic ancestries" hanging out with the hunter-gatherers.


Dogs are the first animal humans domesticated, and they've stuck by our side ever since. Greger Larson, an author of the study, told Science Focus that studying ancient dogs "will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began." 

17. These little critters are golden poison frogs, and they may be some of the "most poisonous animals alive." Their bodies, no longer than 6 centimeters at their largest, contain enough poison to kill 10 adult men.

Two golden poison frogs in captivity
Afp / DPA/AFP via Getty Images

The poison, batrachotoxin, causes "paralysis and death" once in the bloodstream. The bright colors and patterns of the species are a signal to predators that they're poisonous and therefore not very delicious. In fact, one study showed that the brighter the frog, the more deadly the poison. Researchers are currently studying whether the poison could lead to more effective pain-killing drugs. 

18. Speaking of dogs, and definitely not deadly frogs, you might notice your furry friend sneezing when they're playing. They do this to signal that they're having fun and not taking any fighting seriously.

Two puppies play wrestle
Wulingyun / Getty Images

Pictured is a situation worthy of a friendly sneeze. 

19. One spooky scientific quandary is that of "nuclear semiotics," or the question of how to communicate to far future generations the danger of nuclear waste when all forms of language and symbols known to us today may be unrecognizable.

Yellow drums painted with the nuclear waste symbol
Charissa Van Straalen / Getty Images/EyeEm

The BBC explored the issue through the lens of Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, which is a "huge complex of tunnels and caverns" where the US military deposits dangerous radioactive waste. Its contents will still be lethal more than 300,000 years from now. The WIPP will be marked with massive stone columns, at the center of which will be a room where folks from the future can read about what exactly is buried there. In the event the information becomes illegible, another room will be stored 20 feet beneath the first one, and yet another beneath that. In addition, information about the WIPP's dangerous nature will be stored in multiple global archives, with instructions not to destroy them for 10,000 years. 

One warning on the site reads in part, "This place is not a place of honor. No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here…nothing valued is here. What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger." We're right to be concerned. Even today, under 6% of the world's population can recognize the trefoil, the "the three black blades on a yellow background," which symbolizes radiation. 

20. "Octopus's Garden" by the Beatles is a more scientifically accurate song title than you might expect. These sea creatures really do make gardens.

A large octopus poking out from its den
Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

Octopuses collect objects that appeal to them, such as "really shiny shell[s]," and store them in their dens. They may also keep objects that they believe will offer some sort of protection from predators. These collections are known as octopus's gardens. 

21. A much less pleasant locale is Ilha da Queimada Grande, which may be one of the deadliest islands on the planet. Located off the coast of Brazil, it hosts between 2,000 and 4,000 golden lancehead vipers. The species is critically endangered and exceptionally deadly, and a bite can kill a person in less than hour.

A golden lancehead snake
Carl De Souza / AFP via Getty Images

The snakes have thrived because they face no ground-level predators; the similar dearth of prey led them to evolve an "incredibly potent and efficient venom, three to five times stronger than any mainland snake's." If you're unlucky enough to be bitten, you can look forward to "kidney failure, necrosis of muscular tissue, brain hemorrhaging, and intestinal bleeding." Victims have a 7% chance of dying, which goes down to 3% with treatment. The only people permitted to visit Ilha da Queimada Grande are scientists studying the snakes and military personnel performing yearly upkeep on the automated lighthouse. Every group is required to bring a doctor with them, for obvious reasons. 

22. This is one of the best facts I know: Koko, a gorilla who became famous for her ability to communicate using over 1,000 signs from American Sign Language, absolutely adored kittens. She asked for one for Christmas in 1983, but when her carers presented her with a stuffed animal instead, Koko refused to play with it and kept signing "sad."

All Ball the kitten standing on Koko's back

To make it up to her, researchers presented her with multiple kittens on her birthday and allowed her to choose one to keep; Koko selected one she named All Ball, and "treated the feline like one of her own." When All Ball was hit by a car and killed six months later, Koko was devastated. Afterward, Koko was asked where we go when we die; in response, Koko signed "comfortable hole, good-bye." After some mourning, Koko communicated that she was ready to welcome a new kitten, and she continued to care for the animals throughout her life. 

23. And this is one of the worst: By the time you've developed rabies symptoms, the disease is virtually 100% fatal.

A doctor fills a needle with rabies vaccine
Smith Collection / Getty Images

Up to 99% of rabies cases in humans can be traced back to rabid domestic dogs. Following a bite or scratch from a potentially rabid animal, the immediate course of treatment is post-exposure prophylaxis, which is divided into three parts: "extensive washing and local treatment of the bite wound or scratch," "a course of potent and effective rabies vaccine that meets WHO standards," and if needed, "the administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG)." If this protocol is not followed, the rabies virus will cause symptoms, including fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. 

24. Against all odds, something actually good happened in 2020. (That's not the fact, but it could be.) A coral reef taller than the Empire State Building was discovered in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

a scuba diver observes coral in the great barrier reef
Cavan Images / Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

This was the first new discovery of a coral reef in 120 years. Robin Beaman, a marine biologist involved in the discovery, said in a statement that they were "surprised and elated" by what they found (all 1,600 feet of it). Executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute Jyotika Virmani released a statement that read in part, "To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef...shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline."  

25. And finally: The last victim of smallpox was a British medical photographer named Janet Parker, who was accidentally exposed to the virus at the medical school where she worked. The story of her illness and death is, as you might expect, extraordinarily grim.

A sign on a hospital fence reading Smallpox Keep Out
Mirrorpix / Getty Images

Parker was employed by the anatomy department of Birmingham Medical School. In August 1978, she began to feel sick and soon developed red spots on her limbs, back, and face. Doctors initially diagnosed her with chickenpox, but Parker's mother, Hilda Witcomb, who took care of her daughter through that illness during her childhood, knew that these "large blistering pustules" must be something else entirely. 

The 40-year-old Parker was admitted to the Catherine-de-Barnes Isolation Hospital a little more than a week into her illness. It was soon confirmed that variola, the smallpox virus that was widely considered to be completely eradicated, was responsible for Parker's symptoms. Mass panic ensued, exacerbated by the fact that the disease has a long incubation period. The city was forced to wait for an excruciating two weeks to see if anyone else became ill. 

Professor Henry Bedson, who was in charge of the smallpox laboratory at Birmingham Medical School, was "distraught" about Parker's accidental infection and the blame placed at his feet by the media and public. Though nobody but Janet's mother contracted the illness (and she, luckily, got only a minor case), the tragedy grew only worse as the days went on. 

First, Janet's father, Frederick, died from a heart attack while in quarantine, possibly due to "the stress of his daughter's illness." After that, Professor Bedson died by suicide, leaving behind a note that read, "I am sorry to have misplaced the trust which so many of my friends and colleagues have placed in me and my work." Finally, Parker herself died on September 11, 1978. To this day, it's unknown how exactly she contracted the virus at the laboratory. 

26. And finally (again): The two Voyager spacecrafts that NASA launched in 1977 could drift through space for "trillions of trillions of years," long after the end of humanity and the collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda galaxy. That means the two Golden Records attached to them will carry evidence of human existence and achievement to parts of the universe we can't even imagine.

The two golden records before their long journeys
Nasa / Getty Images

The Golden Records are made from gold-plated copper and "engraved with music and photographs meant to represent Earth and its humans to any intelligent beings the spacecraft meet on their long journeys." They were designed to last around a billion years each, but could easily last up to 5 billion. Maybe it's a little freaky to think about Voyagers 1 and 2 drifting around without us, but there's something beautiful about it, too. 

27. You made it to the end, so here's a bonus wholesome fact for you. Quokkas are Australia's smallest species of wallaby. Their babies are called joeys, and they mostly live on Rottnest Island, which is off the coast of Perth. The fun part of this fun fact is, of course, the fact that quokkas exist.

A smiling quokka on Rottnest Island
Martin Helgemeir / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Enough said.