Science

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Although many of us are aware of and fascinated by mummies, we tend to think of examples of intentional mummification. King Tutankhamen reigns supreme in our mind. Beneath him are the lesser mummies embalmed by the ancients and laid to rest with great care. From Egypt to South America and China, our minds can create a worldview of mummies, yet we seldom consider those who were preserved by accident.

The highly acidic, oxygen-poor, cold environment of the peat bogs in Northern Europe have acted as a sort of natural refrigerator, storing the cadavers of the ancients in a unique way that often leaves the organs and soft tissues intact. Whether by happenstance or intent, most of these bodies date from the Iron Age. Although Europeans of this era left no written details of their lives, their remains teach us many surprising things about them.

10 They Were Vain About Their Hair

Whether we look at the jaunty Suebian knot sported by the Osterby Man, the intricately plaited, 1-meter-long (3.3 ft) crowning glory of Elling Woman, or the pine resin–gelled pompadour of Clonycavan Man, it seems that the men and women of the Iron Age were no strangers to vanity.[1]

No one knows if these coiffures were everyday styles or done only for special occasions (like the ritual sacrifices that may have landed these bodies in the bogs). But one thing is certain: These people were not savages running around with unkempt locks.

9 They Rocked Plaids

Popular media likes to depict the ancient world in muddy earth tones. We seem to get a thrill from the belief that nobody bathed, combed their hair, or wore clothes outside the shades of gray, black, or brown.

This is not true of the Iron Age. Most bog bodies have been discovered with little to no clothing. Tollund Man had only a belt, Elling Woman had a cloak and belt, and Yde Girl just had a cape.

Huldremose Woman is an exception to this rule. The bog spared her patterned, woolen skirt and scarf as well as her two leather capes. She was wearing red and blue the day she died. Her body still bears the microscopic remains of flaxen undergarments.[2]

Thanks to the analysis of the strontium isotope contained in her garments, researchers have discovered that her clothes came from outside the area where she was found in Denmark. This suggests that she either traveled or imported her stylish garments.

8 They Didn’t Eat A Low-Carb Diet

The peaceful visage of Tollund Man was so well-preserved that his discovery in May 1950 launched a murder investigation. From this excellent state of preservation, researchers have been able to test his stomach contents to learn what he ate prior to his death by hanging.[3]

His last meal was a porridge comprised of a staggering total of over 40 grains and seeds. So next time you feel virtuous by eating your hearty bowl of seven-grain hot cereal, remember that Tollund Man was outdoing you circa 300 BC.

7 They Weren’t Eating A Low-Fat Diet, Either

The Iron Age people of what is now Ireland were into butter in a big way. How big, you ask? Try a private 10-kilogram (22 lb) reserve, you know, just in case. That’s not a typo.

In 2016, a man named Jack Conway discovered a 10-kilogram (22 lb) lump of butter preserved inside the Emlagh peat bog in County Meath. Surprisingly, this was not the first discovery of its kind. Butter and rendered animal fats are found fairly often in peat bogs.

In the days before mass-produced, expeller-pressed oils, edible fats were a valuable commodity. It is believed that butter was even used to pay taxes back then. Perhaps that explains the 35-kilogram (77 lb) chunk found in County Kildare and the 5,000-year-old, 45-kilogram (100 lb) piece from County Offaly.[4]

Ben Reade, the seemingly mad scientist who heads Culinary Research and Development at Nordic Food Lab, created his own bog butter for a taste test in 2012. Results were mixed.

6 Some Suffered From Malnutrition

Despite the porridge and bread found in the stomachs of some bog bodies and the massive hoards of butter, not everyone was being fed. Moora, the girl of the Uchter Moor, suffered from chronic malnutrition as a child as evidenced by her bone growth lines.[5]

While Clonycavan Man was importing his expensive hair gel and Huldremose Woman was getting her colorful clothes, this child was starving, hauling heavy weights, and healing from at least two skull fractures in her short lifetime. She died aged 17–19.

5 Their Heights Varied As Greatly As Ours

Don’t let the diminutive statures of Tollund Man or Clonycavan Man fool you into thinking that you would have towered over Iron Age men like a human among Lilliputians.

Though those two men stood at 160 centimeters (5’3”) and 157 centimeters (5’2”), respectively, the partial body of Old Croghan Man, which was discovered just 40 kilometers (25 mi) from that of Clonycavan Man, has led researchers to believe he would have stood approximately 198 centimeters (6’6”) tall back in the BCs.[6]

Even in 2018, that’s a height to get one noticed.

4 They Performed Brain Surgery (And Lived Through It)

The skull of Gadevang Man, who died as long ago as 480 BC, is scarred by a circular opening approximately 1.2 centimeters (0.5 in) in diameter. Beside it is an elongated scar likely caused by an axe blow to the head.[7]

It would seem that this individual survived a severe head wound and the emergency surgery designed to save his life, an astonishing feat thousands of years before microscopes, CT scans, or even antibiotics.

3 They Would Have Probably Won Most Of The Events At Your Local Rodeo

Most modern people in the West view equestrian activities as a hobby, a rich man’s hobby even. True horsemanship is rare enough that we will pack ourselves into miserable bleachers under the scorching sun to watch it. Not only that, but we will also pay for the privilege.

It is a fairly safe bet that Red Franz would have knocked the boots off any modern cowboy.[8] Constant horseback riding had already caused this young man to develop protrusions known as “rider’s facets” on his thigh bones by the time of his death.

2 They Tripped On Shrooms

Humans have been taking drugs almost since the dawn of time. The opium poppy was domesticated as early as the sixth millennium BC. Black henbane and cannabis were likely also being used at this time.

In ancient Europe, potent fungi seemed to have been the drug of choice. Otzi, a Copper Age man preserved by alpine ice, carried two strains of mushrooms with him. It has been suggested—but not confirmed—that certain Bronze Age art motifs are odes to mushrooms.

So it seems to have been a bit of a tradition by the time Grauballe Man met his end. Before his throat was slashed, he ate a soup laced with hallucinogenic mushrooms.[9] There is some debate as to whether these were used for medicinal, recreational, or ritual purposes. In any case, he was probably lucky to have been high as a kite when he met his end.

1 They Were Absolutely Brutal

Although the intact rope that still hangs from Tollund Man’s neck may be startling to our modern eyes, he probably got off easy. Lindow Man was hit on the head and strangled. He also had his throat slit. Clonycavan Man was killed by an axe blow to the chest and three to the head. Then he was disemboweled.

If overkill was not good enough, it seems that Iron Age people were into torture, too. Old Croghan Man had holes cut into his upper arms through which he was trussed with a rope. To add insult to severe injury, his nipples were sliced and he was stabbed. Then, just to make sure that they had inflicted enough trauma, his murderer(s) cut him in half across the torso.[10]

Olene Quinn is an indie author of historical fiction who sometimes veers more toward action and sometimes more toward romance, but you can always bet there will be a bit of both in her novels. They are available on Amazon. She can be found on Twitter, on her blog, and on Facebook as Olene Quinn.


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Bizarre

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Ghosts aren’t real, right?

That’s what most of us believe—that we live in a rational world, not one where specters of demons and the dead haunt the living. But if ghosts aren’t real, why are so many people so sure they’ve seen them?

It turns out that the answer has a lot to do with the human mind. There’s a scientific explanation for almost every weird thing anyone’s ever seen. But when it comes to the paranormal, scientific explanations are sometimes more mind-blowing than the myths.

10 The Ideomotor Effect
How A Ouija Board Works

When you and your friends put your fingers on a Ouija board and see that little plastic arrow move, it’s really happening. You don’t need some prankster to push it around. That little plastic arrow really moves, and the people touching it really believe they aren’t doing it.

They are, though. They just don’t realize it. It’s something called the “ideomotor effect,” and there’s an interesting experiment you can do at home to try it out for yourself.[1]

Put a weight on a string, dangle it, and try to hold your arm completely still. Then ask yourself questions and tell yourself that the weight will swing clockwise if the answer is “yes” and counterclockwise if it’s “no.” As if by magic, the weight should change direction to answer your questions—and you’ll really believe that you aren’t doing it.

It works because our bodies make tiny, subconscious movements. When you ask yourself a question, your subconscious mind answers it and subtly moves your muscles without your realizing it. Little muscles will move in your fingers to answer your questions, and it’ll seem to you like the weight is moving on its own.

The same thing happens when you use a Ouija board. Your subconscious subtly moves that little plastic arrow, and to you, it’ll seem like it’s moving on its own.

9 The Philip Experiment
Why Seances Get So Crazy

In 1972, a team of psychologists got eight people together, told them the life story of a man named “Philip Aylesford,” and tried to get them to summon him through a seance. They dimmed the lights, sang songs, and asked him questions—and to their surprise, some strange things happened.

The table started to move. At one point, it even rose up onto two legs. The lights seemed to flicker. They heard rapping noises that they believed to be Philip answering their questions—and he got every question right. It would have been definitive proof that they’d summoned a dead man’s ghost if it hadn’t been for one thing: Philip Aylesford wasn’t a real person.[2]

The psychologists had made Philip up. Every detail about his life was complete fiction, and yet the group was able to convince themselves that they’d summoned his ghost.

A few psychological tricks were at play here, but a lot of what happened was the ideomotor effect. The group had moved the table through sheer force of subconscious will. This was a replicable experiment, too. The psychologists published their results, and other labs in other countries copied them. Once again, they were able to get full seances going with a room full of people convinced that they’d summoned a made-up ghost.

8 Henri IV’s Placebo Experiment
How Exorcisms Work

Demonic possession seems easy enough to explain. For years, we’ve just misunderstood schizophrenia, epilepsy, and a wealth of other mental problems and convinced ourselves that people were getting possessed by demons. But if that’s the case, what’s going on with exorcisms? If all these possessed people were just schizophrenic, why were priests who were chanting in Latin able to cure them?

It seems that the answer lies in the human mind. In the late 16th century, King Henri IV hired a commission of people to run an experiment on a woman who claimed to be possessed by demons. They told her that they were priests who were going to give her an exorcism. Then the priests faked it—and it worked.

First, they gave her holy water from a church. They put it in a regular flask and gave it to her, pretending it was just regular water. The real holy water had no effect on her. But when they poured ordinary water on her and told her that it was holy water from the church, the woman convulsed in pain.[3]

Then they put a piece of iron on her and told her that it was a relic of the true cross. She started rolling on the floor in agony. They also read a book in Latin and pretended that it was the Bible. Again, they got her to freak out, even though they were really just reading Virgil’s Aeneid.

The woman wasn’t necessarily faking her reactions. It was just all in her mind. And almost anyone can be convinced that this kind of thing is affecting them. More recently, a group of psychologists sat down with skeptics and tried to convince them that demonic possession was real. By the end, 18 percent of their subjects not only believed in demons but were convinced that they had been possessed.

7 The Forer Effect
Why People Believe Their Horoscopes

A man named Michael Gauquelin once ran an ad offering a free, individual analysis of anyone’s personality based purely on their astrological sign. All you had to do was send in your date of birth, and he would return an insight into the person you really were. Incredibly, 94 percent of the people who signed up said that he described them perfectly.

Which is strange because Gauquelin sent exactly the same analysis to every person. His insights into personalities weren’t actually based on their horoscopes. He just used a few vague, generic lines, and it was enough to impress almost everyone who wrote in.

It’s called the “Forer effect,” which is the human mind’s willingness to believe that two unrelated events are related. It’s named for Bertram R. Forer, a man who conducted a similar experiment.[4]

He gave a group of college students identical personality analyses that said things like: “You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.” Even with an educated crowd, 85 percent of his subjects were convinced that he had described them to a T.

6 The False Fame Paradigm
Why People Believe In Past Lives

The reason why some people are convinced that they can remember being Joan of Arc or an ancient Egyptian laborer might be something incredibly simple: They just have really bad memories.

A group of researchers at Maastricht University administered a test called the “false fame paradigm” to a group of people who were convinced that they could remember their past lives. The participants read a list of made-up names. Then, the next day, they read a new list with a mixture of famous people’s names and the names they had previously read. The people who believed that they could remember past lives insisted that those made-up names were the monikers of famous celebrities.

In other words, the memories of these participants were easily confused. When they couldn’t remember where they’d seen a name that looked familiar, their brains would make up stories to explain who these fake people were. It’s believed that the same thing is happening when they make up stories about past lives.[5]

5 The Feeling Of Presence Experiment
Why People Sense Evil Presences

Here’s a weird experiment with even weirder results. A group of scientists blindfolded people and had them stand between two robots. The people’s fingers were attached to the robot in front of them. The machines were set up so that whenever the humans moved their hands, the robots behind their backs would mimic the movements on their backs.

At first, it didn’t do much. People would tap with their fingers and would feel a robot finger tapping in the same way on their backs. But it didn’t really freak them out.

Something really strange happened, though, when the researchers added a delay to the system. When they made the robot finger wait half a second before copying the human’s movements on that person’s back, the person started to feel like there was a strange presence standing behind him. Some even felt like they were surrounded by invisible people, and some were so freaked out that they asked to quit the experiment.

The researchers believe that it happened because they broke the sense of agency. When they added the delay, the people didn’t feel like they were responsible for the movements anymore. In our weird brains, that inability to take agency in our movements makes us feel like there’s an alien presence nearby.

The researchers think that this is what happens to schizophrenic people and to people who are under extreme stress or exhaustion. They lose the ability to track the links between their minds and their movements, and it makes them feel like somebody is in the room.[6]

4 The Target Identification Experiment
Why People Have Out-Of-Body Experiences

A lot of people have had an out-of-body experience—that strange feeling that you’re floating above yourself, looking down. It’s especially common during a near-death experience. But is it really happening, or is it all just in our imaginations?

To find out, a group of researchers wrote a message on a card and placed it on top of a machine in a hospital room. Then, whenever a patient left the room, they asked that person if he’d had an out-of-body experience and, if so, what the card said. Three people reported that they’d had out-of-body experiences, but not a single one had seen the card.

The weird part is that people aren’t faking these things. Another group took in a woman who claimed that she could take “astral trips” out of her body at will. They hooked her up to a machine to study her brain activity and asked her to leave her body to see how it affected her brain.

Her visual cortex was almost completely deactivated, and the parts of the brain associated with mental imagery flared up—which means that she wasn’t exactly lying. She really did start seeing herself from outside her body. But, based on her brain waves, her real power wasn’t the ability to take astral trips. It was the ability to make herself hallucinate at will.[7]

3 The Grieving Widows
Why People See Ghosts

Not everyone who claims to have seen a ghost is lying. Some people really think that they’ve seen dead people standing in front of them or have seen God come down and speak to them—and they’re not always schizophrenic.

It’s something that’s a bit hard to explain, but psychologists looking into the people who had these experiences discovered something very illuminating. In most groups of people, finding someone who has seen a ghost is rare—unless you talk to elderly widows. According to a survey, nearly 50 percent of widowed elderly Americans have had a hallucination of their dead spouse.

These widows are usually isolated in an unusual environment when it happens, and they’re living through a period of extreme stress. Incidentally, that is usually the case when other people see ghosts, too. They’re almost always alone in an unusual environment and under extreme stress.

Psychologists think that’s the real reason why these people see ghosts. It’s not that dead husbands keep dropping by to see their wives. It’s just that extreme stress and loneliness can trigger hallucinations.[8]

2 The Lucid Dreaming Test
Why People Think They’ve Been Abducted

The reason why so many people think they’ve been abducted by aliens in the night might be a lot simpler than you’re imagining. According to one experiment, they just dreamed it.

Researchers assembled a group of 20 people who’d mastered lucid dreaming (the ability to control their dreams) and told them to run an experiment while they were asleep. When they’d taken control of their dreams, they were to separate themselves from their bodies and go looking for UFOs.

Of these people, 35 percent saw aliens come to their beds and try to abduct them. All they had to do was think about aliens, and their brains would play out an alien abduction story—and it was enough to freak them out.[9]

It’s believed that this is probably all that’s happening to people who believe they’ve been abducted—they’re dreaming. In many cases, abductions are likely just people struggling with sleep paralysis, a condition that makes you hallucinate that intruders are coming to your bed.

A few hundred years ago, people with sleep paralysis would report seeing Catholic demons attacking them in the night. Today, demons are out of fashion. So people see extraterrestrials instead.

1 Infrasounds
Why Houses Seem To Be Haunted

A scientist named Vic Tandy had a weird experience while working in a factory that was said to be haunted. He was overcome by a sudden chill and sense of gloom. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a gray figure watching him. The whole experience was so freaky that it took him a while to work up the courage to look. When he did, the apparition had disappeared.

Most people would have run for their lives. But Tandy is a scientist, so he tested a theory. He was fairly sure that his weird experience was caused by infrasounds—sounds with a frequency lower than the human ear can hear.

He shut off a fan that he believed to be making the noise. Sure enough, once the fan was off, every weird paranormal experience in the factory stopped.

A few years later, some researchers followed up on Tandy’s theory by having people roam through winding passageways, some of them while an infrasound was ringing and some without the noise. The people who heard the infrasound felt the temperature change and, in some cases, saw weird apparitions appear. But those who didn’t experience the noise didn’t see anything.[10]

That’s at least part of the reason. The most likely reason that Tandy saw a ghost is just that people told him the factory was haunted. Of every cause that’s ever been linked with a weird, paranormal experience, the most common explanation is just that people were expecting to be freaked out.


Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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General Knowledge

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When you go around calling the United States the “Great Satan” and trying to destroy it in a holy jihad, you’re setting yourself up to some pretty high standards. There’s a whole persona involved in being an evil, psychotic terrorist, and you really have to keep up those appearances.

Osama bin Laden did his best to seem like a devout, fundamentalist Muslim whose only vice was killing thousands of innocent people, but behind closed doors, he wasn’t as above Western culture as he liked to pretend. When the Navy SEALS broke into his compound and took him out, they got the chance to look at what was on his computer. And as it turns out, the stuff bin Laden spent his last few years watching on his laptop wasn’t exactly sharia.

10 Osama Bin Laden Loved Dank Memes


Osama bin Laden’s computer had a 174 gigabytes’ worth of videos. He spent nearly ten years in hiding, and he had to pass the time somehow. Since his compound didn’t have Internet, he’d have a courier download stuff off of YouTube and bring it to him on a flash drive—and, as it turns out, bin Laden was watching pretty much the same stuff we were.

“Charlie Bit My Finger” was on his computer, meaning that, while he was hiding from the CIA, the world’s most dangerous terrorist was giggling to a video of a British baby nibbling on his brother’s finger. He also had a collection of LOLCats memes and a wide selection of clip art, presumably in case he needed to make a flyer for the Al-Qaeda bake sale.[1]

Bin Laden watched some weird stuff, too. He had videos of girls brawling, horses dancing, and a video called “Tootin’ Baththub Baby Cousins.” That last one is a video of two cartoon babies tooting in the bathtub while singing, “When you feed us beans there’s trouble!” and “Don’t push too hard, you might go number two!”

Mostly, though, bin Laden watched crocheting tutorials. He had 28 videos teaching him how to crochet. Apparently, he crocheted a sock for his iPod.

9 He Watched Disney Movies And Japanese Anime


Osama bin Laden had a whole selection of Hollywood cartoons on his computer. Most of them were Disney movies like Cars and Chicken Little, but he wasn’t brand-loyal. Bin Laden had copies of Ice Age, Ants, Tom and Jerry, and even some episodes of that old kids’ cartoon Jackie Chan Adventures.

But he didn’t just go for box office hits. As it turns out, bin Laden frequented an Arabic-language anime forum called Msoms-animes.net. He’d download fan translations of Japanese anime shows, as well as a whole collection of episodes and video games of Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball Z, and Detective Conan, a cartoon about a boy detective who solves crimes.[2]

Anime adaptations of video games seem to have been his favorite. Osama bin Laden had a copy of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and a straight-to-DVD anime based on Street Fighter IV in his collection.

The CIA still hasn’t made a statement on whether bin Laden slept with one of those big pillows with a picture of an anime girl on it, but we’re going to go ahead and say the answer is probably “yes.”

8 He Was Good At Volleyball


When they weren’t busy plotting how to rain fire and destruction upon the Western world, the members of Al-Qaeda passed the time playing volleyball. And, reportedly, bin Laden was hard to beat.

“He had his own special serve, like a Russian grenade launcher,” one of bin Laden’s cronies has said. “First the ball went up in the air, and then it began to rotate. When the ball came back, it was virtually unstoppable.”

Bin Laden was so good at volleyball that Al-Qaeda made a rule saying that he and Mohammad Atef, the other star player of the Al-Qaeda volleyball team, had to be on different sides every time they played because it just wasn’t fair for them to play together.[3]

Al-Qaeda played volleyball a lot. Reportedly, bin Laden worked in a game of volleyball every day, usually midway through the workday, when the daily drudge of chanting “Death to America” and making IEDs starts to set in.

7 He Walked Around In A Cowboy Hat


While he was hiding, Osama bin Laden would walk around Pakistan with a cowboy hat on his head so that he wouldn’t be recognized.

It actually worked, for some inexplicable reason. About a year after 9/11, bin Laden was pulled over for speeding and got off free. The officer stared the most wanted man on the planet in the eyes and presumably thought, “Wow, this guy would look just like Osama bin Laden if he wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat.” And then he let him go, trumped by bin Laden’s Clark Kent-quality disguise.

The cowboy hat, though, was about more than just hiding. Osama bin Laden had wanted to be a cowboy since he was a little boy. In his early years, bin Laden would pass his time watching Bonanza and Fury on TV.[4] Then he’d go out to his father’s ranch, ride horses, and imagine he was a real-life Western cowboy.

He gave up on his cowboy dreams when he got older—but it’s telling that, in his later years, he chose a cowboy hat as his disguise. Maybe, in the back of his mind, bin Laden was still a little boy imagining himself as an outlaw on the run on a wild frontier.

6 He Was Obsessed With American Newscasters

One of the few pictures we’ve seen of Osama bin Laden in hiding shows him sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching American news on a dinky little TV. Based on his journals and his letters, it seems that this was how he spent most of his time—and he was getting really into it.

Bin Laden was furious when MSNBC fired Keith Olbermann, who, apparently, was his favorite newscaster. He wrote a friend, “I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but it has lately fired two of the most famous journalists—Keith Olberman and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese.”[5]

He was weirdly opinionated. He criticized most American TV stations for just copying articles from Reuters. He saved his strongest words, though, for Fox News. He complained to his friends that it “lacks neutrality” and that it was going to “die in anger.”

5 He Loved Watching Movies About Himself

Bin Laden’s favorite things to watch, though, were videos about himself. On his computer, he had a whole collection of videos of news reports on his role in the September 11th attacks, along with a whole set of biographies and TV specials on the hunt to track him down.

He took his appearance on TV really seriously. Osama bin Laden was graying, but to keep himself looking good for his adoring audience, he would dye his hair black before filming all those threatening videos.

The weirdest part is that he had a copy of Loose Change, that famous 9/11 Truther video that says the World Trade Center attacks were an inside job.[6] The most logical explanation, of course, it that he just found the idea that Americans were blaming their own government for his terrorist plot amusing. Still, though, if you’re looking for a good conspiracy theory, going around calling bin Laden a “9/11 Truther” would be a great way to add fuel to the fire.

4 He Was an Arsenal Fan


In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden stayed in Highbury, England, and he became a huge fan of the Arsenal football team. Reportedly, bin Laden bought tickets to nearly every game in the 1993–1994 season and was so enthusiastic that he bought his son an Arsenal jersey with Ian Wright’s name on it.[7]

He brought his obsession back to Afghanistan, too. Some of bin Laden’s associates recalled that he liked to play football after mosque. One of his bodyguards, Nasser al-Bahir, has said that bin Laden would play center forward in their football games at that he was a pro at volleying the ball.

Arsenal fans knew about it, too. They even made up a whole chant to sing about how Osama bin Laden was a fan of their team. The team, though, takes a strict stance against fans engaging in dangerous behavior. When Osama bin Laden killed roughly 3,000 people, Arsenal put their foot down and sent out a public letter saying that he was no longer welcome at their games.

We hope that made him take a serious look at himself in the mirror.

3 He Was In Love With Whitney Houston

Osama bin Laden had a huge crush on Whitney Houston—which is even stranger than it seems. Publicly, bin Laden was so against music that he would turn the volume down on the TV if there was even music in the background of a show. This was a man who once said—and we quote—“Music is the flute of the Devil.”

But according to Kola Boof, a woman who claims she had an affair with bin Laden in 1996, the terrorist leader was a very different person behind closed doors. When he was with her, she says, he would become a “devout party boy who wanted to hear Van Halen or some B-52s.”

His biggest obsession, she says, was Whitney Houston. “Whitney Houston’s name was the one that would be mentioned constantly,” Boof says, “how beautiful she was, what a nice smile she has. [ . . . ] He explained to me that to possess Whitney he would be willing to break his color rule and make her one of his wives.”[8]

According to Boof, bin Laden talked about having Houston’s husband, Bobby Brown, killed so that he could marry her and move her into one his mansions. He never worked up the nerve, though, to give Houston a call. So, instead, he’d just dress Boof up like the pop singer and pretend.

2 He Had A Steam Gaming Account


Osama bin Laden spent a big part of his last few years playing video games. On his computer, he had an official Steam account and a few well-worn copies of Half-Life, Final Fantasy VII, and Batman: Gotham Knight.

Above all, though, bin Laden was into retro games. He had a whole collection of vintage video game emulators, complete with ROMs for all the classics. Above all, bin Laden seems to have loved Street Fighter—he had Street Fighter II, Street Fighter IV, X Men vs. Street Fighter, and, as we’ve mentioned, even the odd anime adaptation.

But the most delightful discovery on Osama bin Laden’s Steam account has to be that he played Counter-Strike, the classic online game where terrorists fight against counterterrorists.[9] Because that means that, if you played Counter-Strike between 2001 and 2011, there’s a chance you killed bin Laden. And, this time, we’re okay with it if you tea-bagged him, too.

1 He Was Addicted To Pornography

Osama bin Laden talked a big game about sharia law, but by the end of his ten years hiding in a compound in Pakistan, he’d developed a porn addiction.

The first report on bin Laden’s porn database described it as “fairly extensive,” but that’s about all the CIA’s willing to say.[10] They’ve staunchly refused to share bin Laden’s porn collection with the world, except to say that it includes “inappropriate still images” and “recorded video.”

Vice News and a website called BroBible filed an Freedom of Information Act request to get bin Laden’s porn stash released, writing in their request, “We would like to know what kind of porn the world’s most wanted man jerked it to.” The CIA, though, refused to budge.

But don’t worry—we’ve got a pretty good idea what it was. Some dedicated sleuths have gone through the publicly released file names on bin Laden’s computer, and you’d better believe he was into some weird stuff.

Bin Laden watched Japanese animated porn. He had an extensive collection of emulated porno video games, usually from the 1980s, that show pixelated pictures of eight-bit boobs. And he had a copy of a porno called Bible Black, a cartoon fetish video that’s even considered extreme by Japanese animated porn standards.

And, finally, bin Laden had a whole series of images with names like “asss.gif,” “booby_2.jpg,” and—perhaps most revealingly of all—“1dick.jpg.”


Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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Science

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Would you eat your pet?

Your answer is almost definitely “no.” Now, would you eat another animal of the same species as your pet? This time, your answer might be “no.” However, ask the citizens of some countries these same questions and you will probably hear “yes,” especially to the second question.

Although some of us have become so accustomed to some animals as pets that we no longer consider them as food, other people have no qualms about eating these animals, even if they have a similar animal as a pet. Here are some countries whose citizens will eat your favorite pet without a second thought.

10 Dogs

Dogs may be man’s best friends but not to some citizens of Switzerland, Vietnam, Nigeria, South Korea, Indonesia, Greenland, the Philippines, and China, who consider the animals as just livestock.

In Switzerland, it is illegal to buy and sell dog meat. But there is no law against people killing and eating their own dogs. Several tribes living around the Arctic and Antarctic will also readily munch down on their dogs when food is low. In Vietnam, dog meat is the go-to meat during ceremonies. Demand is so high that dogs are now being stolen from the streets and homes of neighboring Thailand and smuggled into Vietnam.[1]

If there is one place not to be a dog, it is South Korea. In that country, up to 2.5 million dogs are slaughtered and eaten every year. Following South Korea is the Philippines, where over 290,000 dogs are killed for human consumption annually.

Dog meat used to be legal in the Philippines until the 1998 Animal Welfare Act banned it. However, the dog meat industry simply moved underground and business continued as usual. These days, it is worth over $4 million a year.

The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival (aka the Yulin Dog Meat Festival) marks the height of consumption in China. Over 10,000 dogs and cats are eaten during the 10-day annual festival held in Guangxi province.

9 Monkeys

Monkey meat is called “bushmeat” in the parts of West and Central Africa where it is eaten. In the Republic of the Congo, it is called likaku and is usually sold in restaurants and at roadside stands.[2]

So many monkeys are being hunted to sate the appetites of monkey meat lovers that some species are already at the brink of extinction. It was believed that one subspecies, the Miss Waldron’s red colobus, had been hunted to extinction, but there may be a few still living in Africa. This subspecies is now considered to be “critically endangered.”

Gorillas, bonobos, and chimpanzees are not safe from monkey meat hunters and consumers, either, as these animals are considered alternatives to monkeys.

There are claims that fresh monkey brains are a delicacy in China and Malaysia. It is said that the head of the unfortunate monkey is split open and the brain is eaten straight from the skull. These claims have not been confirmed, but it could have happened in the past—and possibly still occurs today. However, we know that cooked monkey brains are eaten in countries in the Far East.

8 Cats

Cat meat is eaten in Vietnam, China, and Australia. Despite being illegal, it is considered a delicacy in Vietnam, where it is called “little tiger.” Cats destined to become little tigers are usually drowned in water before they are skinned, roasted, and seasoned. Thereafter, they are cut into pieces and downed with bottles of beer.

The Vietnamese demand for cat meat is so high that the animals are now stolen from the homes of their owners in neighboring Thailand and Laos and smuggled into Vietnam. Cats in Vietnam are not spared, either. In fact, it is rare to find cats strolling along the streets of Hanoi where the owners have learned to lock these pets inside their homes lest they become little tigers.

Vietnamese only started eating cats in the 20th century when a series of wars left them starving and forced them to eat whatever they could lay their hands on. This also included dogs, rats, and insects.[3]

Thieves are also fueling the cat meat industry in China where over four million unfortunate kitties are eaten every year. One thief was caught with over 500 cats he had stolen from the homes of their owners. The man, identified only as Sun, was selling the animals for a mere $4.40 a piece. Many Chinese were concerned when the news of the theft appeared on the Internet, although some were angrier about the cats being stolen rather than eaten.

Felines are also eaten in Australia. Feral cats that have been wreaking havoc on Australia’s wildlife are the ones targeted for cooking pots. Australians no longer want these animals hanging around. What better way to get rid of them than just eating them? Other feral animals like pigeons and camels are also on the menu.

7 Horses

Although most Americans frown at the idea of eating horse meat, it remains a delicacy in many countries, including neighboring Canada. In 2014, almost 67,000 horses were butchered for their meat in Canada, even though the bulk was shipped to the European Union, which considers horses as food-producing animals. In the Netherlands, horse meat is a key ingredient in making sandwiches.

Looking south, over 128,000 horses are slaughtered in Mexico every year. Like Canada, the bulk of the meat is exported. But this time, it goes to several countries including Egypt, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Russia, Vietnam, and Japan. In Japan, horse meat is used in traditional dishes such as basashi.

Interestingly, Mexicans are not totally fans of eating the product despite having a huge horse meat industry. However, it is normal for butchers to pass off this meat as beef. An investigation revealed that 10 percent of beef sold in five Mexican cities was actually horse meat.[4]

6 Lizards

For reptile lovers, your favorite pet is just another food in parts of Asia and South America. Fried gecko is a delicacy in Indonesia, where it is loved for its supposed medicinal properties. It is also popular in China, where it is believed to shrink tumors. Gecko is said to taste like something between chicken meat and fish.

Iguanas are not spared from cooking pots in El Salvador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Lots of these lizards also roam the streets and forests of Puerto Rico, where they were first introduced as pets in the 1970s.

Some got into the wild and, considering their rapid rate of reproduction, quickly surpassed humans in population. There are more iguanas than people in Puerto Rico today. So Puerto Ricans have decided to eat the iguanas to keep their population low. The meat is said to taste like chicken, just better.[5]

5 Snakes

The Chinese have been eating snake soup since the third century BC. The soup remained an exclusive treat for the rich until it became common throughout China in the 1700s. It is believed to cure arthritis, improve the skin, and promote blood circulation. The soup’s warmth is used to counter the winter cold, which is why it is often eaten then.

These days, it is considered a delicacy in Hong Kong where it is called se gang. A typical snake soup contains as many as five different types of snakes. It is boiled with pork bone and chicken. Mushrooms, ginger, chrysanthemum leaves, and lemongrass are added for taste. The snake meat can also be fried or made into casseroles. The meat is said to look and taste like chicken except that it is a bit tougher.

Hong Kong restaurants that serve snakes are called se wong (“snake king”). These eateries are slowly becoming a rarity in Hong Kong because the low wages paid in the industry are not enough to keep expert chefs and snake handlers committed to the preparation of the delicacy.[6]

4 Mice

Roasted mice are roadside delicacies in Zimbabwe and Malawi. In Zimbabwe, the rodents are caught with traps set in cornfields. The trapped mice are roasted and salted before being sold to commuters traveling to neighboring South Africa.[7]

In Malawi, they are called mbewa or roasted field mice. There, they are also caught in fields but without traps. Instead, children disturb corn husks, forcing the mice hiding underneath to attempt an escape. The children kill the escaping mice with sticks.

At other times, the children set the entrance to the mouse nests on fire and kill any mice trying to escape. The animals are roasted, salted, and peppered. Then they are eaten whole, complete with the bones and everything else within.

3 Rats

Rats are a delicacy among members of the Adi tribe in India. Any kind will do—from regular house rats to those found in the forests. The Adi people even have an annual festival called Unying-Aran, which is celebrated with rat dishes. The animals can be roasted or made into bule-bulak oying stew that contains the rat’s entrails, tail, legs, and fetus.

Rats are also eaten among the Dalit caste of India. The members of this caste, one of the country’s poorest, are even called “rat eaters” because they often cultivate the farms of a richer caste in exchange for killing any rats found there. The rodents are usually smoked and eaten whole. They are said to taste like quail or chicken.

Rats are also eaten in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Ghana, China, Vietnam, Nigeria, and Cameroon. The preferred breeds are the African giant rat in Nigeria and the equally big cane rat in Cameroon. The cane rat is the size of a small dog and is more expensive than chicken. It is said to taste like pork but is more tender.[8]

2 Turtles

Turtle soup was popular in the US in the 1860s. It was even served at the second inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. President William Howard Taft loved it so much that he selected the White House chef based on his ability to cook the soup. In the South, wealthy patrons hosted turtle soup parties called “turtle frolics.”

The popularity of turtle soup made it so expensive that mock turtle soup was introduced. It was similar to the regular variety except that the turtle was replaced with the head of a calf. Mock turtle soup, which was served at Lincoln’s first inauguration, was also costly, though not as much as real turtle soup.[9]

Both soups had almost completely disappeared in the US by the 1960s. Mock turtle soup is still sold in Cincinnati today, but it is made with ground beef.

In China, turtle soup is believed to improve blood circulation, enhance kidney function, stop menstrual pains, and prolong life. As weird as it sounds, a good number of turtles used for Chinese turtle soup come from the US. In Arkansas, about 600,000 of these animals were killed for human consumption between 2004 and 2006. Over 106,000 kilograms (235,000 lb) of turtles were also harvested in Iowa in 2007.

This is creating a problem in the US because turtles are being harvested faster than they are reproducing. Protected species like the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temmickii) are not spared because they are being mistaken for their unprotected look-alike, the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina).

1 Rabbits

Rabbits are the third most common mammals kept as pets in the United States. They used to double as livestock before and during World War II, but this stopped with the advent of large-scale farming. Little wonder that their reintroduction as food has generated controversy in the US.

However, rabbits are just another meat in countries such as Cyprus, Italy, Malta, France, and China. In fact, China, the world’s largest supplier, produced 690,000 tons of rabbit meat in 2010. Of that, 10,000 tons were exported to several countries, especially Belgium, Germany, and the US.

Rabbit meat is also common in the European Union, where about 326 million of the animals are slaughtered every year. These days, rabbit meat is promoted as a leaner alternative to chicken and beef in the US. But Americans are divided over whether they want their rabbits to double as livestock or just remain pets.[10]


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Bizarre

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Laxatives are not the ideal topic of discussion around a campfire or the dinner table. Frankly, the mere thought of such a bowel-loosening substance tends to make one gag given the explosively pungent end result.

Nonetheless, certain historical facts are not only intriguing but distastefully entertaining as are the absurd mishaps and nightmares to which people have been subjected.

10 Ingestion And Aspiration

Denture ingestion or aspiration is surprisingly more common than most people realize. The highest incidences occur among drug abusers, alcoholics, and patients with psychoneurological deficits. Just like a removable denture, fixed dentures can become dislodged and swallowed, leading to a myriad of complications such as perforation, obstruction, necrosis, and penetration of neighboring organs.

Such was the case for a 31-year-old male who had swallowed a fixed one-tooth denture while eating. Following a series of plain abdominal X-rays, it was determined that the tooth had moved from the patient’s stomach to the right iliac fossa, obstructing the ileocecal valve of the intestine.

As one can imagine, this caused a considerable amount of pain, prompting physicians to prepare the patient for a delightful colonoscopy to remove the foreign body. During the preparation, however, the unidentified patient was administered a generous quantity of laxatives. Mind you, nearly 48 hours had passed at this point without the obstruction resolving on its own.

What transpired in the following hours at the Vladimir City Clinical Hospital was nothing short of disgusting. An explosive tidal wave of feces painted the room with such force that the colonoscopy became unnecessary. The ingested denture had been swept out of his colon along with two days worth of stools.[1]

Fortunately, the patient was given a clean bill of health after three days of outpatient care. As for the cleaning staff, that’s another horror story.

9 Failure To Administer Laxatives

Laxative dependence due to constipation is remarkably common among the elderly. Often, the dosage can mean the difference between life and death. For an 84-year-old Tennessee woman with chronic constipation, her monthly regimen entailed 60 doses of laxatives which allowed her to maintain generally good health.

Sadly, that all changed when she moved into an assisted living facility that did not provide nearly enough medication to treat her disorder. Within two months, the woman received only 32 doses of laxatives. The inadequacy clearly added to her constipation, leading to a fecal obstruction.

After more than a week without a bowel movement, the resident’s abdomen began to distend. This prompted nurses to take notice long after her incessant cries fell on deaf ears.

After several failed attempts at administering enemas, her condition worsened. With her abdomen steadily growing larger, she was rushed to the emergency room, where her colon ultimately ruptured. Sepsis soon set in, leading to her death a few days later.

In the end, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the assisted living facility for negligence. A jury awarded the family $5.3 million.[2]

8 Mudslides And Jail Time

During a drug stakeout in 2002, a Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy witnessed an unscrupulous character lingering in the shadows. Upon approaching the man, the deputy observed Tomas Payano-Roman swallow what appeared to be a plastic bag. Naturally, suspicion arose that the man’s late-night snack was narcotics, evidence that was not going to slip by a dedicated deputy destined to make an arrest.

What occurred next couldn’t be further from what Payano-Roman had expected. Instead of spending the night in a jail cell, the hungry offender was handcuffed to a bed and examined by medical workers who determined that a laxative should be administered.

After being physically forced to drink one cup of liquid laxative, the deputy decided to refill the cup five more times for good measure. What followed was a colossal mudslide into a portable toilet from the suspect, who was strapped to a bed while several onlookers gagged in the background.

Fortunately, the plastic bag was retrieved, leading to Payano-Roman being convicted of heroin possession. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals, however, ruled that the forced ingestion of the laxative amounted to an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

Nonetheless, the state supreme court disagreed. They said that the laxatives revealed evidence of a crime in addition to reducing any danger to Payano-Roman from the bag rupturing inside his body.[3]

7 Colossal Flatulence

It’s no secret that Adolf Hitler was an addict who was dependent on a variety of narcotics such as barbiturates, morphine, and amphetamines. While at the top of both his reign and lunacy, he was reported to have been taking as many as 80 different drugs.

In particular, laxatives were a remedy that the madman consistently relied on due to his penchant for opiates and his unconventional diet of watery vegetables, both of which caused interminable constipation. Ironically, one would imagine that laxatives were not an ideal prescription for the fuhrer given his long history of stomach cramps, diarrhea, and chronic flatulence.

In fact, Hitler’s inability to hold in his gas caused him to leave the table after each meal so that he could expel a nauseating gust of Nazi wind. His trusted physician, Dr. Theodor Morell (aka the “Reichsmaster of Injections”) noted in his medical journal that Hitler’s “constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”[4]

To ease the concerns of the self-conscious psychopath, Morell prescribed little black tablets called Dr. Kuster’s Anti-Gas pills. After being assured that the tablets were “miracle drugs,” Hitler resorted to taking up to 16 a day.

Due to the floodgates of his buttocks opening and closing on a constant basis, it comes as no surprise that laxatives would be indispensable to keep the lunatic on an even keel. However, the injections of bull semen prescribed by Dr. Morell are questionable.

6 Epic Backfire

Parents can be extremely strict when it comes to their children’s grades. One mother decided to turn her dismay into vengeance after her daughter received low marks at school. After casting blame on the teacher, Julie Hunt, 43, instructed her daughter and a friend (ages 13 and 14, respectively) to bake laxative-laced biscuits for the woman.[5]

Instead of mixing a few pills into the batter, the girls had the bright idea to use the entire box, ensuring a putrid explosion would occur. When the bowel-loosening treats were ready to serve, the girls placed them on the teacher’s desk with a sweet note: “We made these cookies just for you. Hope you enjoy them.”

Instead of devouring all the biscuits by herself, the thoughtful educator handed them out to the entire class, causing a fragrant backfire of epic proportions. Four children became violently ill while countless others soiled their shorts. Hunt was ultimately arrested and pleaded guilty to a minor assault charge while her devious daughter received a school suspension.

Interestingly enough, laxative pranks at school are more common than one might expect. In 2008, three seniors at a Brooklyn high school caused five educators to become ill, with two seeking medical treatment, due to their homemade, chocolate-iced, laxative Bundt cake. The students, all 17, were suspended, barred from graduation, and arrested on assault charges.

5 Delusions Of Grandeur

David Smith, a 62-year-old fantasist, lived a life of lies and deceit so preposterous that it could rival the sins of “Walter Mitty.” His string of lies carried into his marriage as he told his wife on a daily basis about a new, intriguing aspect of the mystery man she had recently married.

She believed that she had wed a widower whose first wife had been a pregnant professional ballerina when she died. Smith’s allure intensified when he revealed that he was a hero who had been involved in the 1980 SAS raid on the Iranian Embassy. If that wasn’t enough excitement for one evening, the James Bond trickster revealed to his 62-year-old bride that he owned a factory that made secret components for the Ministry of Defense.

To make their honeymoon more romantic, Smith began poisoning his wife with laxatives, leaving her exhausted and bedridden with intermittent fainting spells. Her condition deteriorated to such an extent that physicians believed that she was suffering from a motor neuron disease.

Fortunately, Smith’s web of lies began to unravel after he staged a break-in at their residence. Once police discovered evidence contradicting his claims, a domino effect of unrevealed truths came to light.

In the end, Smith pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct for administering laxatives to his wife over a three-year period. In 2017, he was sentenced to 42 months in prison.[6]

4 Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying

In 2006, a mentally ill prisoner escaped from Sydney’s Long Bay jail in an elaborate scheme that involved a considerable amount of planning and toilet paper. Convicted felon Robert Cole, 37, had spent three weeks chiseling away at the brick wall in his jail cell with a dull butter knife.

Not to be too reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, Cole took his preparation a step further. Knowing that his 56-kilogram (123 lb) frame would not squeeze through the 15-centimeter (6 in) gap between the brickwork and steel bars, Cole managed to shed 14 kilograms (31 lb) with the help of contraband laxatives.

Despite the meticulous preparation for an escape, his planning for the outside world proved too difficult a task. After three days on the run, Cole was arrested while window-shopping in a busy Sydney mall.[7]

Due to the odoriferous, intricate jailbreak, he was immediately shipped to Goulburn jail, where he spent the remainder of the winter in a maximum-security cell. In addition to the charming accommodations, Judge Roger Dive sentenced Cole to an additional non-parole period of one year and nine months in prison.

3 A Devastating Addiction

In 2012, Claudia La Bella informed her family that she had been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and had only a few years to live. Throughout the next two years, Claudia’s husband would bring his wife to the hospital for cancer treatments. However, she would never allow him to attend the appointments.

Part of her treatments, Claudia claimed, was using laxative tablets intended to flush the toxins from the chemotherapy out of her system. On June 18, 2014, Claudia was admitted to the hospital. She was extremely underweight and dangerously dehydrated with severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Eleven days later, Claudia died at age 28. At the time of her death, she weighed just 35 kilograms (77 lb) due to complications associated with laxative abuse (taking up to 800 tablets a day). It was not until the coroner’s report that Mr. La Bella learned that his wife had never had cancer. Instead, she was suffering from anorexia and the factitious disorder Munchausen syndrome in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he has an illness when he is not sick.[8]

Like most drugs, laxatives can become addictive when one develops a tolerance, requiring more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. In addition, laxative abuse associated with anorexia is nothing new.

Claudia’s demise was similar to that of former gold medal ski champion Georgia Willson-Pemberton, who died at 26 of “multiple organ dysfunction caused by laxative abuse.” At the time of her death, the 178-centimeter-tall (5’10”) Georgia weighed just 48 kilograms (105 lbs). After her burial, Georgia’s devastated parents discovered thousands of pills in their daughter’s apartment, compounding their agony at the signs they had missed.

2 Trail Of Breadcrumbs

In Colonial America, few physicians had formal training. Perhaps it was just as dangerous to consult a physician as opposed to allowing one’s ailment to run its course because sweating, cupping, bleeding, and blistering were common remedies.

As one of the more popular wonder drugs of the era, laxatives were believed to expel from one’s body excess bile or other matters causing illnesses. Renowned physician Dr. Benjamin Rush expressly instructed Lewis and Clark to take his Bilious Pills (aka “thunderbolts” due to their strength and size) if the men began to show signs of illness.[9]

As they lived on an unbalanced, low-fiber diet that was primarily comprised of meat, constipation was commonplace. Over time, they used up the 1,300 pills that were mostly made of mercury, a toxic compound that does not decompose.

Unknown to the adventurous duo and crew, they were depositing the indissoluble element into the earth after every “purge.” Thanks to modern-day technology such as vapor analysis, scientists can map their journey, allowing historians to document their historic trek every step of the way.

1 The Smell Of Victory

Following the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, the severely understrength Scandinavian Peninsula held little resistance against the German invaders. Within two years, Nazi warships entered Norwegian harbors while an airborne invasion loomed above.

As the Norwegian secret army (aka the Milorg) gained strength, operations to obstruct the Nazi war effort became surprisingly entertaining in an odorous manner. Aside from covert sabotage and the gathering of intelligence, the resistance coated condoms destined for German units with itching powder. This caused hundreds of distressed Wehrmacht soldiers to flood hospitals and pray for a cure for their aching genitalia.[10]

The evil genius of the Milorg escalated when the largest shipment of croton oil (the “atomic laxative”) was smuggled into canneries across Norway to replace vegetable oil in sardine tins. Thousands of tons of laxative-tainted sardines made their way onto German U-boats without the slightest problem.

Even the taste of the highly toxic purgative oil was concealed by the horrendous flavor of the fish. This caused thousands of submariners to simultaneously “cleanse” their bowels on their long and uncertain voyage at sea. As for the Norwegians, the odor of sardines in the morning must have smelled like victory.

Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.


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Entertainment

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For many viewers, commercials are easily the biggest downside of watching television. They always seem to pop up at the worst possible time, whether immediately following the shocking third-act twist on a basic cable drama or after a snarky reality show host utters the dreaded words, “Right after a word from our sponsors.” No one wants to be sold anything, especially not in the middle of their favorite form of escapism.

But every once in a while, an ad comes along that captures viewers’ imaginations, whether it’s gut-bustingly funny or just laughably bad. Sometimes, these commercials are spun off into successful franchises, and sometimes they’re spun off into even more annoying wastes of time. On this list, we highlight the good, the bad, and the just plain obnoxious commercials that spawned movies and TV shows.

10 The California Raisins


What started out as an attempt by a frustrated ad firm to make raisins “cool” enough for 1980s kids to snack on quickly became a pop culture phenomenon.[1] The original 1986 ad featured a band of R&B-singing, stop-motion-animated raisin people covering the appropriately ironic hit single “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” The ad was so popular that it was soon followed by a surprisingly lengthy discography of R&B cover songs, a guest spot on CBS’s 1987 A Claymation Christmas Celebration, and—of course—several more commercials.

The California Raisins’ true mark of success though, was their 1988 CBS prime-time special Meet the Raisins! This special was framed as a Spinal Tap-style mockumentary in which viewers were shown the history of the band and allowed an intimate look into the lives and personalities of the fictional fruit performers. The special was successful enough to warrant a follow-up with 1990’s The Raisins: Sold Out!: The California Raisins II.

For all of the fervor (not to mention licensing potential) that the California Raisins caused in the 1980s and 1990s, we don’t hear much from them these days. Perhaps they’re due for a CGI comeback tour.

9 Ernest


Ernest P. Worrell, a fictional, Christmas-saving, camp-attending former prisoner portrayed by character actor Jim Varney, actually started life as a spokesman for a number of regional and then later national products on television. Varney got his start playing Ernest in a commercial for a run-down amusement park. His quirky on-screen persona soon led to several more spokesman gigs advertising dairies, ice cream, chicken, and even a car dealership. Ernest’s ad firm even went on to produce a record-breaking 26 ads in a single day starring his dopey but good-natured character.[2]

In 1988, Ernest was the star of an Emmy award-winning single-season Saturday morning series called Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! While the show was a victim of poor ratings, Ernest managed to live on. In 1987 and 1988, the ad firm behind Ernest produced and directed two feature films, Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Saves Christmas, both of which would eventually be picked up for distribution by Disney and would turn Ernest P. Worrell from regional ad spokesman to Hollywood movie star.

Sadly, Jim Varney passed away in 2000 after a battle with lung cancer, and there have been no new Ernest movies, or commercials, ever since.

8 Baby Bob


Does the mere concept of a talking baby send you into fits of giggles? Have you already watched and memorized every line of every movie from the Look Who’s Talking and Baby Geniuses film series? Are you immune to the concept of the uncanny valley? Then you’re probably already familiar with Bob the baby, and if not, have we got a show for you.

In February 2000, Baby Bob first appeared in ads in for Freeinternet.com, an Internet service provider and AOL competitor that relied on ad revenue rather than subscription fees. The ad proved surprisingly popular and was soon spun off into its own CBS sitcom. The show was a relative success but only lasted for two seasons before CBS pulled the plug.[3] Baby Bob went back to the world of television commercials soon after, appearing in a series of ads for Quiznos.

7 GEICO Cavemen


A television writer by the name of Joe Lawson with credits on multiple episodes of hit shows like Modern Family and BoJack Horseman got his start creating the infamously annoying GEICO cavemen ads. The borderline problematic TV commercials center around cavemen reacting to GEICO ads with the phrase “so easy a caveman could do it” as if they just heard a racial slur.

For some reason, this concept was deemed worthy of its own sitcom, even after they had already milked it for over 20 ads. In 2007, ABC developed Cavemen, a show about prehistoric men who must deal with prejudices as they attempt to live as normal thirty-somethings in Atlanta. The show featured one of the actors from the original commercials as well as an early role for future sketch comedy star and co-creator of Netflix’s Big Mouth, Nick Kroll.

While only seven of the show’s 13 episodes aired before it was cancelled,[4] the GEICO cavemen eventually came back for a Super Bowl ad that lampooned the failure of their own sitcom, so at least they, too, recognized it was an all-around bad idea.

6 Crash Test Dummies


Debuting in 1986, the award-winning Crash Test Dummies ad tried a new, more humorous approach to public service announcements.[5] The commercials featured Vince and Larry, two test dummies whose mangled plastic bodies were used to convince viewers to wear seat belts and avoid dangerous car accidents.

The original commercial spawned several more ads, a series of action figures, a video game adaptation, and eventually a cartoon special, The Incredible Crash Dummies, a very early use of computer-generated animation. The plot is nonsensical, has little to do with safety awareness, and in all likelihood was only written to sell more toys and video games, but if it managed to get kids to wear their seat belts, then we won’t hold it against them.

5 Ronald McDonald


Ronald McDonald is one of the most recognizable figures in the world, right up there with Santa Claus and Jesus Christ, so it’s no surprise that anyone saw dollar signs at the prospect of giving him and his friends their own show. While former Bozo the Clown star Willard Scott first played Ronald McDonald in 1963, it wasn’t until much later that Ronald and his pals got the spinoff treatment.

In 1990, DIC Entertainment produced a 30-minute animated adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, featuring all of the McDonald’s corporate mascots and aptly titled The Adventures of Ronald Mcdonald: McTreasure Island.[6] Eight years later, Klasky-Csupo, the animation company behind Rugrats and early Simpsons episodes, released the first of six 40-minute animated specials under the The Wacky Adventures of Ronald Mcdonald moniker. No new cartoon adaptations have been made since 2003, but Ronald continues to appear in the company’s advertising efforts to this day.

4 Domo


Domo, a giant, mute, seemingly carpet-covered, shark-toothed monster from Japan, is the star of over 400 TV commercials in his native land.[7] While the eternally grinning, brownie-shaped creature is known in the West more for his ceaseless merchandising blitz that saw hundreds of products swarming stores like Target and 7/11, Domo and his friends got their start shilling for Japanese public broadcaster NHK in the late 1990s.

Since those initial appearances on Japanese TV, Domo-kun became something of a curiosity in the West, with his popularity propelled by memes and a universal fascination with Japanese pop culture. Domo and his friends have since gone on to star in an original English-language manga published by Tokyopop in 2009 and a series of shorts that aired on Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons Network.

3 Space Jam


Today, the movie Space Jam is seen mostly as a relic of the 1990s, viewed with nostalgia by those who grew up in the era when basketball was the hippest it’s ever been, and Michael Jordan was the undisputed king. While you may be wondering now why anyone ever thought mashing up the greatest basketball player of all time with the most iconic cartoon characters of all time and throwing them in space would ever be a good idea, well, it all started with a commercial.

Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan appeared together in two commercials for the Air Jordan VII and the Air Jordan VIII[8] sneaker drops, with Bugs being billed as “Hare Jordan.” The ads proved to be immensely popular, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood came knocking and turned the short TV commercials into a feature-length film. As for how they shoehorned in a plot where a Danny DeVito-voiced extraterrestrial theme park mogul sends his minions to challenge the Loony Tunes characters to a pickup game—we have no idea, but it’s not like they could make a movie where they sit around talking about shoes for 90 minutes.

2 Doug


The classic Nickelodeon series Doug premiered in 1991 and was one of six pilots created for the Nicktoons line of original animated series, but the titular character actually made his television debut earlier than that. Before Nickelodeon, before Disney bought the rights and continued the series on ABC, before Doug’s 1st Movie hit theaters, Doug appeared on TV in commercials.

Series creator Jim Jinkins originally began drawing Doug as an artistic outlet in his own personal sketchbooks, where he solidified the character’s design.[9] In 1988, he landed a gig creating an advertisement for Florida Grapefruit Growers where a proto-Doug is seen sporting slacks and enjoying a glass of grapefruit juice. In 1989, another, slightly different version of Doug appeared in a promo for the USA network, this time with an early version of his faithful dog Porckchop in tow.

1 Rocko’s Modern Life


Like Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life was another early Nicktoon that helped propel Nickelodeon to the powerhouse status in children’s entertainment that it maintains to this day. Created by cartoonist Joe Murray in 1993, Rocko and his friends live in a bizarre world where architecture never features a straight line and mundane tasks like a trip to the DMV spiral hilariously out of control, all while jokes and gags aimed at adults fly right over the heads of any children who were watching at the time.

Rocko’s best friend Heffer Wolfe (a cow raised by wolves and voiced by Spongebob’s voice actor Tom Kenny) actually predates the Nicktoon, having made his debut in a 1989 MTV bumper designed by Murray. While Murray was seeking funding for a film, he was approached by MTV and eventually created an ad where an early version of Heffer can be seen with an MTV logo branded on his butt. According to an interview with Murray, the design for Heffer was pulled from the same sketchbook where an early incarnation of Rocko—then named Travis—existed as a comic strip character.[10]

Today, Rocko’s Modern Life is looked back upon fondly by kids who grew up watching Nicktoons in the early 1990s, and affinity for the series still runs high, as Nickelodeon plans to release a brand-new animated special in the spring of 2018.


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