An ancient Chinese Emperor who liked to party naked in his lake of wine. A French soldier from the 18th-century who feasted on stray cats. An English occultist known as “The Wickedest Man in the World.” Why were we never taught about these intriguing characters in history class, you ask? Perhaps they were too scary or just too plain weird — or maybe people would rather pretend they never existed. Whatever the reasons, we’re here to deliver the strange, strange truth.
1. Zhu Houzhao
This, let’s call him eccentric, man was the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty between 1505 and 1521. To say he indulged in some strange hobbies would putting in lightly. For one thing, he liked to keep exotic animals like leopards and tigers at his palace. More worryingly, though, he liked to keep women there; at one point he kept such an enormous harem of women at his palace that some of them starved and died due to sheer lack of available food and water.
Also, this guy liked to go out alone and hunt tigers; he once couldn’t turn up to court for an entire month because he’d been mauled so brutally. Oh, and he once burned down the palace because he didn’t see any problem storing gunpowder there during the traditional Chinese lantern festival. Zhu Houzhao eventually died after drunkenly toppling off a boat into a river. Perhaps thankfully, he left behind no sons to be his heir.
2. Elizabeth Bathory
Hungarian royal Elizabeth Bathory has gone down in history as the “Blood Countess.” This nickname stuck because she was believed to have bathed in the blood of the many young women she killed, thinking it would keep her looking youthful. Some have accused the 17th-century noblewoman of being a vampire, a serial killer, and even an occultist in league with the Devil!
It’s a macabre, fascinating story for sure, but these days some historians believe she may have simply had her reputation ruined by King Mathias II, who owed her a debt and couldn’t or didn’t want to repay it.
3. Adam Rainer
Adam Rainer’s story is fascinating: he was officially designated both a dwarf and a giant in his lifetime. You see, in 1917 the young Austrian was conscripted into the army, but at only 4 feet 6 inches tall, he was deemed too small to be a soldier. However, in 1920 something strange began happening to the 21-year-old.
Rainer started to grow. A lot. Over the course of the next decade, he grew to a height of over 7 feet tall. This is when doctors figured out that he had a tumor on his pituitary gland, which caused excessive amounts of growth hormone to be produced, a condition known as acromegaly.
4. Lord Byron
Condensing all of Lord Byron’s weirdness into a few lines would be practically impossible, so we’ll just concentrate on one aspect of the famed poet’s eccentricities. While enrolled at Cambridge University, he was told his beloved bulldog Smut couldn’t live with him, as dogs were banned on campus.
Infuriated, Byron bought a tame bear — as there were no actual rules against this — and would take it on walks around the grounds. Naturally, fellow students were terrified at the sight of him walking a bear on a chain, and this absolutely delighted him. Hell, he even attempted to enroll the bear as a student!