Truth is stranger than fiction, and that definitely extends to history. If you’re reading the right sort of books, you’ll find that our collective past is peppered with characters that seem larger than life, even though they and their amazing antics are totally real.
Basically, these are people whose stories you definitely need in your life – so don’t miss these 18 mini-lessons from the history buffs at Reddit.
18. Never stop fighting, I guess.
On April 19, 1775, British forces were returning to Boston from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening engagements of the war. On their march they were continually shot at by American militiamen.
Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols, killed a second grenadier and mortally wounded a third. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment had reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was subsequently shot in the face, bayoneted numerous times, and left for dead in a pool of blood.
He was found by colonial forces, trying to load his musket to resume the fight. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore recovered and lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 96.
17. Wow have more confidence in yourself I guess.
Joshua Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
He was just a crazy homeless dude in San Francisco who used to walk around in full uniform and ordered people around. Eventually the whole city started humoring him, saluting when he passed, and local businesses began accepting currency he created. He gained such notoriety that his decrees actually gained some traction with the community. When he died, over 10,000 people lined the streets for his processional.
16. He sounds like a real peach.
King Leopold the Second of Belgium. Overall a scumbag who only cared about personal wealth.
One or the first to successfully utilise and manipulate the media to frame him positively, even though he was a horrible person.
As the “owner” of Congo during the late 1800’s, his methods cost roughly 10 million Africans their life.
I think it was either one of his daughters or someone who worked closely with him that once said that the only thing he cared about more than his wealth, was making sure none of his daughters would get any of it after his death.
15. I hope he was careful confiding in his neighbors in Brazil.
Juan Pujol García. Aka the random Spanish dude who wanted to spy on Nazis so badly that, after being turned down by the British, he decided to go to the Nazis, turn himself into a double agent using newsreels and a tourist’s guide to England, be so good at that that he was wanted by the British government, and eventually going from “random guy giving fake information to Nazis” to an actual spy for the British. He was so effective that, among other things, he was literally handed the strongest German encryption codes, which he promptly turned over to Bletchley Park.
Probably the wildest story was his involvement with Operation Fortitude, aka the misinformation campaign around D-Day. After telling the Germans that the real invasion would be on a different beach (this is the part with the inflatable tanks, btw), he sent a message with minimal info on the actual D-Day plans at 3am the night before it was going down. The Germans didn’t respond until 8am, which then allowed him to lay out pretty much the entire thing – which, at this point, was entirely useless. He then proceeded to chew out the Nazis for their incompetence, the quote being “I cannot accept excuses or negligence. Were it not for my ideals I would abandon the work.” And then the Nazis apologized.
He was so trusted by the Germans that he got the Iron Cross – which required Hitler’s personal authorization. He was also awarded the MBE, making him one of the few non-Brits to receive that honor. After the war, he feared reprisal from surviving Nazis, so he faked his death from malaria and disappeared. After 35 years, he was found to be living in Brazil and running a bookstore and gift shop.
14. We can all thank him for that turn of phrase.
Götz von Berlichingen
Lost his arm during a siege and had two prostheses made – one of which was nimble enough to let him hold a quill.
Raided Nuremburg merchants until Emperor Maximillian placed a ban on him – Berlichingen paid 15,000 guilder to have it lifted.
Also is the first person to have used the phrase “lick my ass” in prose.
13. And yeah, that’s only the beginning.
Once a gang stole the only boat in town during a blizzard. He built a boat, travelled down river to catch them. Caught them, refused to use handcuffs because the frost bite could kill them and instead stayed up straight for days to bring them all to justice alive.
12. He really did amazing things.
His contributions to the modern world, rivalry with Edison, various mental health condition and literally falling in love with a white pigeon make him sound like an urban legend.
11. Apparently he could sniff out Nazis.
Wojtek, a bear that served in the polish army durning ww2.
He was picked up by polish soldiers in Iran when he was a cub and later he was branded as an official soldier and given the rank of private, apparently he was really friendly and social, he loved playing with the soldiers and fake fighting, he would eat cigarettes that they gave him, they would bring him to cinemas, and he would even get drunk with them. Durning the battle of Monte Casino he saw the soldiers carrying boxes of ammo and started mimicking them and he brought a lot more than any human, after the war he was transported to a Zoo, where he lived out the rest of his live, the soldiers still constanly visited him and they would jump in his cage to play and fight with him like in the good old days, which always schocked any other visitors, a monumet was built in his memory in Krakow, this story sound like some complete bs made up by the polish army to boost morale but it’s all documented and very much true.
10. A man with a plan.
Greek philosopher Diogenes.
He literally shat in public and lived in a barrel, even when given the opportunity to live in a house because of Alexander the Great. Before he died, he asked for his body to be left in the wild for animals to consume, as to give back what little he took from nature.
9. It was mostly just smoke but yeah.
The man lit his face on fire to seem more scary.
8. He had a lot of sex.
Was responsible for the largest continuous Empire and also responsible for 40 million death, about 1 in 200 people alive are his descendants, but he was tolerate of other religions and created quite a good postal system.
7. Real life Mulan.
Chang Chih Hsin
She was a member of the Chinese communist party who complained that democracy and freedom of speech were fundamental rights in communism.
In response she was sent to an all male prison, male prisoners were told if they raped and tortured her they would get their sentece reduced.
Despite being beaten and raped multiple times a day she continued to campaign against the party and wrote notes on the crimes of the party on toilet paper until the guards removed her pen.
She died from execution 6 years after entering the prison.
After her death she was considered a hero in China. However the reasons why she was sent to prison and what happened to her in prison were not mentioned. Instead her life story was rewritten to say she fought for the party and not against them.
6. This is the movie we all need in our lives.
She was a cross-dressing, bisexual opera singer who killed 3 men in 3 different duels.
5. …did he get killed by a bear, though?
James “Tiger” Whitehead.
His tombstone famously reads “born 1815 – (killed 99 bears) – died sept 25, 1905. We hope he is at rest.”
4. People can do crazy things in their grief.
The Canadian Corporal Leo Major landed in Europe on D-day and took part in every major operation of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during 1944-1945. He lost sight in his left eye in Normandy but still participated in the Schelde Offensive of 1944. During the Rhineland Offensive corporal Major was again wounded when his vehicle hit a mine. He escaped the hospital and stayed with a family in Nijmegen whilst recovering from his wounds. Afterwards he rejoined his unit in the liberation of the Northern parts of the Netherlands. Leo Major was a stubborn man and on more than one occasion got demoted. His bravery however meant that he was always reinstated to his former rank One of his most legendary actions was the liberation of Zwolle. With his best friend Willy he volunteered for an exploring mission behind enemy lines. They had to check out the German defence positions. The Canadian Infantry Division should wait for their information and bomb the Germans out of town the next morning.
Just after midnight Willy got killed. It made Leo mad with anger. He decided to attack the German guard posts single-handedly. He shot his stengun, threw grenades, killed some Germans and captured the first group of ten. He handed them over to the Canadian forces outside the city. He went back about 8 times. After more than 4 hours of fighting and capturing more groups of Germans, he finally met with the SS. He killed four in the shooting that followed. The Germans thought they were under attack by the Canadian army and decided to flee the city. In the morning of 14 April Zwolle was liberated…by one man (so the story goes).
He was one of only three Canadian soldiers to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. On 14 april 2005, exact 60 years after the liberation of the town, he became an honour citizen of the city of Zwolle.
3. I’m sure plenty of people wish he HAD been made up.
Imagine learning about Vlad the Impaler for the first time.
A guy who killed dozens if not hundred of members of his own family to consolidate power, would impale people ass first on huge wooden spikes which took hours if not days to kill, was the inspiration for Dracula, his family name meant “Dragon”, and he dipped his bread in the blood of his enemies while their corpses decorated his table.
Shit sounds wild.
2. It was just a joke!
In 1956 he stole a small plane from New Jersey for a bet and then landed it perfectly on the narrow street in front of the bar he had been drinking at in Manhattan. Two years later, he did it again after someone didn’t believe he had done it the first time.
He didn’t even end up getting that much of a punishment for either crime. The first time ended up being only $100 fine, since the charges were dropped by the owner of the plane, and the second resulted in only 6 months in jail.
1. I can never quite believe this story.
Tarrare also sounds crazy to the point, I think his life almost has to be exaggerated.
He’s this French guy from the late 1700s who constantly craved eating, described as having an abnormally large jaw, an abdomen that would inflate like a balloon and leave a bunch of sagging skin when empty, and able to hold 12 apples in his mouth. Along with that he was described as constantly hot to the touch and producing a visible vapor from his body.
He also ate an entire cat (committing up the skin and bones) and is suspected to have eaten a 14 month old child.
From history lover to all of you others, how awesome are these?
Do you have a person who would totally fit on this list? Tell us who it is in the comments!