Our history is filled with some of the greatest stories ever. Some are so unbelievable that we can turn them into Hollywood movies, yet, people would have a hard time believing them. For instance, during the 1700’s, there was a woman named Mary Toft who was able to convince people that she was giving birth to live rabbits. And then there’s a man named David Johnson from San Francisco, who has been making a living for the past 40+ years by scaring people in the streets. Here, we have gathered similar stories that sound completely insane but are actually real.
1. The world’s longest concert began in 2001 and is scheduled to conclude in 2640, that is 639 years.
In 2001, at the former St. Burchard church in Halberstadt, Germany, the organ version of a musical piece As Slow As Possible by John Cage started to play. An automated organ plays the music but notes only change every few months, which means that visitors sometimes have to wait for months or even years for a single note change. For instance, a note change occurred in 2008 and the next note change only took place in 2012. The organ emits a low meditative hum at all times. Although Cage did not specify an exact date for the musical piece to come to an end, it is expected to complete in the year 2640 or 639 years after it began. (source)
2. During the 19th century, in order to install the sewer system, Chicago was raised four feet.
During the middle of the 19th century, Chicago was a low-lying city, that made it impossible to walk after it rained. The roads would turn muddy and swampy, so in order to fix the problem, the city came up with an unusual solution; raise the whole city by 4 to 14 feet to install a sewer system. Since Chicago sat just a few feet above the water level of Lake Michigan, it would have been expensive to dig and install a sewer system. As an inexpensive and easy method, the decision was made to manually lift the entire city.
In 1855, the Chicago Board of Sewerage Commissioners laid out a detailed plan. Over the next two decades, the city was slowly raised by installing new foundations underneath, while buildings were jacked up. In cases where buildings couldn’t be moved, buildings were dug up, logs were placed underneath and they were simply rolled to a completely new location. Thanks to thousands of brave men and women, Chicago became one of the first cities to have comprehensive stormwater and wastewater systems in the country. (source)
3. The Palais Idéal in Hauterives, France, is a castle that was built by a postman named Ferdinand Cheval, with stones he collected on his mail route.
At a first glance, the Palais Idéal in Hauterives, France, might look like an ancient piece of art that was created by some proclaimed architect. Believe it or not, the castle was made by none other than a postman who collected stones on his mail route. In 1879, when Ferdinand Cheval was doing his routine mail delivery, he stumbled upon a unique looking rock, which he picked up. He admired it so much that he took it back to his house and stared at it for hours, which also gave him an idea.
For the next 33 years, Cheval continued picking up more stones during his postal routes. After delivering mail and collecting rocks during the day, Cheval spent his nights building his dream castle with the help of an oil lamp. After three decades, in 1912, the castle was completed. Cheval initially wanted to be buried in the castle but since such an act was forbidden in France, he spent the next decade building a mausoleum for himself in the town cemetery. The mausoleum was completed in 1923 and Cheval passed away on August 19, 1924. Today, the palace is a protected landmark and is open to visitors. (source)
4. For more than 40 years, David Johnson from San Francisco has been scaring unsuspecting passerby’s and making a living out of it.
David Johnson is officially known in San Francisco as the Bushman. For more than 40 years, he has been scaring unsuspecting tourists by hiding behind a makeshift bush and making “Ugga bugga” nosies. Johnson not only makes a living by pulling these stunts, but also spreads smiles. Some people however, were not amused by his act and filed a complaint against Johnson for being a public nuisance. After receiving several complaints, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris charged Johnson with four public nuisance cases in 2004. After a four-day jury trial with more than a dozen witnesses, the jury found him not guilty and Johnson still continues to scare people and make a living out of it. According to some sources, he makes approximately $60,000 a year. (source)
5. In 1982, Larry Walters from California used 42 helium-filled weather balloons and a lawn chair to get himself airborne. His stunt however, backfired and caused him to ascend 16,000 feet. For his courageous act, he received five minutes of fame and an honorable mention from the Darwin Awards.
On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters, a truck driver, was frustrated with his dream of becoming an AirForce pilot. So, he hatched up a plan to gain some fame. With the help of 42 helium filled weather balloons and a lawn chair strapped to them, Larry went airborne. He took with him some sandwiches, a CB radio and a BB blaster to pop the balloons to descend. His plan however, backfired, causing him to ascend more than 16,000 feet up in the air. After 45 minutes, Larry was drifting towards major flight paths and was close to an airport. He finally used his radio to transmit a mayday call.
After finding the courage, Larry started popping the balloons one at a time; finally descending to the ground. After 90 minutes, Larry was plummeting fast, when the balloons became entangled in some power lines, causing a major blackout in the Long Beach neighborhood. He was finally rescued but not without getting in trouble. Larry was fined $4,000 for violating several FAA regulations, which included operating an aircraft without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower. (source)
6. During the 1950’s, Thomas Fitzpatrick landed a Cessna aircraft in the middle of New York City, twice.
Thomas Fitzpatrick’s story is a typical “hold my beer” kind of story. In 1956, while at a bar, the American pilot claimed that he could make the trip from New Jersey to New York in less than 15 minutes. His mates challenged him to prove his ability. So, Fitzpatrick went to the Teterboro School of Aeronautics and stole a light aircraft. Of course, he did not mention where he would land. While intoxicated, Fitzpatrick took the plane and left the base around 3:00 AM, without any lights and keeping his radio silent. His initial plan was to land at the George Washington High School, but the lights surrounding the field were not switched on that night, so he decided to land in the middle of a street in Manhattan. He landed without hitting any light poles or buildings, and stopped the aircraft right in front of the bar he had placed the bet in earlier that day. He was arrested and later fined $100 for the stunt.
Two years later, in 1958, Fitzpatrick was at another bar when he recounted the story of him landing in the street. The bartender did not believe him and was once again challenged, since many doubted his credibility. This time, Fitzpatrick stole another plane from the same school of aeronautics and landed at the intersection of Amsterdam and 187th street, right in front of a Yeshiva University building. Once again, no damages were caused and he managed to pull off the stunt, just as he had promised. This time however, he was arrested and sent to prison for 6 months. After being released, Fitzpatrick lived a happy life and was respected for keeping his word. (source)
7. There was a seal named Hoover who was capable of imitating human speech.
On May 5, 1971, Scottie Dunning discovered a tiny male harbor seal pup in the shores of Maine. Scottie and his brother-in-law, George Swallow, tried to locate the mother, but she was nowhere to be found. So, the duo took the pup back to their home, where they cared for the animal. They named him Hoover and treated him like a pet dog. Hoover loved George Swallow and even played hide and seek with him. However, as he started growing, the family was unable to house him and reluctantly, they had to let Hoover leave.
The New England Aquarium adopted Hoover and when he was moved, Swallow informed them that Hoover was able to talk. The employees laughed at him, so he decided that it was best to not push it. Almost five years later, when Hoover was comfortable enough with the employees and his surroundings, he started saying, “Hello, there!” and “Come Over Here!” in a thick New England accent. He then became an instant sensation, attracting people from all over the world, as well as appearing in several shows. (source)
8. For some unknown reason, a tree stump has been floating upright for more than 120 years in the Crater Lake in Oregon.
The Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the United States. It’s not the depth or the color that makes this lake unusual, but the strange tree stump that has been floating for more than a century. The 9-meter-tall (30-foot) tree stump has been standing vertical since 1896 and is even strong enough to support a human’s weight. First discovered in 1896 by geologist and explorer Joseph Diller, it was named Old Man of the Lake. Studies show that the stump keeps moving around the lake and carbon dating suggests that it is at least 450 years old. (source)
9. In Biertan village (located in Transylvania, Romania) the church had a “divorce-reconciliation room”, where couples who wished to get divorced had to live in a room for six weeks with one small bed, one chair, one table, one plate and one spoon. In its 300 year existence, they only had one divorce.
For more than 300 years, residents of the small village of Biertan, who wished to get divorced, found themselves inside the church grounds. The building was no larger than a pantry, where a couple had to stay within the walls for six long weeks. Once inside, the couple must share one room, with one small bed, one chair, one table, one plate and one spoon. Records show that during the time inside the room, 99% of the couples learned to love and share with each other. In its 300 year history, there has only been one divorce. (source)
10. In the 18th century, Mary Toft convinced doctors that she was giving birth to rabbits. The doctors believed her until the secret was out.
In 1726. Mary Toft, a servant, wanted to live the life of a royal person. So, she bribed a local surgeon and hatched up an elaborate plan. Together with her mother-in-law, Toft spread the word that she was able to give birth to rabbits. Word quickly spread throughout the country until it reached King George I, who became fascinated with the story. The king sent one of his doctors to find out whether it was true. Nathaniel St. Andre became obsessed with her story even before he met her. The king however, wanted to know the truth so he arranged Toft to accompany him to London, where she was placed in a cell.
Surprisingly, Toft stopped giving birth to rabbits once inside the cell. Suspicious of her, doctors studying her threatened to have a surgery done to study her, to which Toft confessed that the whole story was an elaborate plan to make some quick money. King George I was furious and sentenced her to prison but eventually let her go back home. However, Toft was mocked for the remainder of her life as she became part of comic plays and newspaper columns. (source)