One of the great benefits of modern society is that we can eat Cocoa Puffs every single day without ever having to improvise a way to keep milk cold or figure out how to transform delicious chocolate into chalky sawdust. Thankfully, somebody’s already invented that stuff.
Well, a true rogue doesn't just take those inventions for granted. We want to know where our stuff came from, because history is the womb in which innovation gestates. Plus, some of these origins are just straight-up weird.
Pajamas Took Off Because Everybody Wanted To Look Their Best During Zeppelin Bombing Raids
Imagine you’re a British citizen during World War I. You’re all ready for bed when you look out your window and notice what appears to be a massive, floating balloon of death raining hellfire upon your city. Without thinking, you leap out of bed and evacuate your home for somewhere safer. Out in the street, you witness your sobbing, frightened neighbors streaming from their homes.
"We call it 'Black Dog'."
What’s the first thought that runs through your head? Fear for the ones you love? Sympathy for your distraught neighbors? How about “Great Heavens! I look positively frumpy!”
It was only a few days into the zeppelin bombardments that British women began making contingency plans ... for looking fashionable in the heat of battle. A Manchester Guardian article from January 21, 1915 noted that:
“None of those questioned seemed to be much alarmed at the prospect of a raid, but they all admitted -- with some surprise that anyone else should have had the same forethought -- that when they go to bed nowadays they are always careful to hang a becoming cloak near at hand. Some of them had thought of silk scarves to throw over their heads. An elderly lady recommended an emergency toupee.”
"I didn't have time to put on my makeup -- SHUT UP!"
To stoic 20th century Brits, surviving an otherworldly, steampunk bombardment was pointless if doing so killed their social standing. As such, they turned to the most fashionable nightwear of all: “Pyjamas.”
See, pyjamas (as they were once spelled), came with a number of benefits that made them just the perfect outfit for a late night barrage. They were warmer than a traditional night gown, they fit better, were easier to run in, and they looked hella good through the smoke of burning rubble. So good, in fact, that one fashion editor at the time admitted she looked forward to Zeppelin attacks, because it’d be the perfect opportunity to show off her hot, new black pajamas. She’s also quoted as saying, "Of course I don’t want anyone to be killed," so clearly she’s not crazy.
According to a Guardian article, British women were originally inspired by the fancy pajamas French women had been wearing when they were bombed. Those French, so stylish. That same article explained how these new pajamas could come in colors like dark blue or light pink but that “the former colour is most suited to its purpose.” That purpose being less visible to marauding German soldiers, of course. Then again, what’s the point of wearing stylish pajamas unless everybody can see you?
Woke up like this. #nomakeup #nofilter
Balloon Animals Came From Aztec Sacrifices
It’s difficult to deny the simple pleasure of watching a state fair or carnival worker transform a boring balloon into a cute puppy. A skilled Twister (their official name) can make the process look like happy magic, and it’ll distract your kid long enough for you to grab some extra bites of funnel cake. Everybody wins.
Now imagine that same activity, but instead of manipulating a latex tube, this particular Twister wrangles a literal cat intestine. And instead of handing it to your child, he sets it on fire and sacrifices it to the gods. Oh yeah, and you’re both ancient Aztecs living in one of the most brutal civilizations in history. Hey, at least that’s just a balloon made of cat viscera and not an actual human sacrifice. Hooray!
If you were worried that Aztecs only used cat intestines for their balloon sacrifices, you’ll be happy to know that they also made significant use of cat stomachs and bladders. They’d clean the things out, let them dry, sew them back up and then mangle the internal organs into all sorts of fun shapes. And because helium pumps hadn’t been invented yet, these guys would manually blow air into the dead cat guts with every new twist.
"That's just ... rude."
This disgusting method of making balloons continued for centuries. Hell, even Galileo got in on the nasty action by once inflating a pig's bladder to test the weight of air. Eventually, in 1824, a scientist named Michael Faraday invented the rubber balloon, and recycled animal intestines moved on to less gross things ... like becoming the casing that holds in sausage meat.
Bowling Was Originally A Religious Ceremony
Not much in life causes less stress than a game of bowling. It's one of the few sports that you can eat cheese fries and drink beer while playing. If you’re worried about your performance and you have no sense of shame, you can always pull up the bumpers for yourself like a child. Nowadays, the only punishment for losing a game of bowling is enduring the dumb jabs of your jerk friends ... but back when it was invented, rolling a gutter ball could result in losing something much more important: Your eternal salvation.
While it’d be easy to assume the sport was invented by some bored kids throwing rocks in the woods, many believe that bowling as we know it probably originated in ancient Germany as a religious ritual. During certain religious ceremonies, a bunch of German parishioners would get together and set up a makeshift runway. Since pretty much every 3rd century German owned a bigass wooden club (called a “kegel”) for smashing enemies and tasty-looking wildlife, the parishioners would set a bunch of them up like bowling pins. Evidently, the Kegels were supposed to represent the “Heide” which meant heathen. And those heathens were about to face their reckoning.
"REPENT, sinners! Or feel the wrath of THE LORD!"
Once everything was set, church members would grab a big rock and roll it as hard as they could toward their pagan bludgeons. If you successfully bowled a strike, congratulations! You’ve cleansed yourself of sin. Shank it off the runway into some priest’s shin? Now everybody in the neighborhood knows you’re an irredeemable sinner.
Teddy Roosevelt Helped Invent The Forward Pass In Football So People Would Stop Dying
Modern football today faces something of a crisis. Scientists are learning more about the brutal effect the sport has on the brains of players. Apparently, repeatedly headbutting people hundreds of times per year can have a negative impact. Despite all that, it used to be way, way worse.
Football today primarily revolves around chucking the ball as far as Tom Brady’s witchcraft-infused arm will allow, but back in the early 1900s forward passes were actually illegal. Gameplay mostly revolved around running the ball straight ahead or occasionally tossing it to the side as a sort of “trick play.” Defenders didn’t have to worry about anybody getting behind them, so every single player could focus their full attention on smashing the one ball carrier -- all without anybody wearing so much as a damn helmet. Unsurprisingly, this led to a lot of injuries and in way too many cases, deaths.
"Should've gone with a play-action."
According to the Washington Post, in 1905 alone, at least 18 were killed and more than 150 were injured just from playing football. At least 45 players died between 1900 and 1905 with injuries ranging from broken necks to concussions, broken backs, and internal injuries. You’d think somebody would suggest maybe switching those athletes over to playing cricket or something, but just like today, football was incredibly popular. No college wanted to miss out on that sweet, sweet blood money.
Eventually, things got so bad that America’s manliest president decided he needed to do something about it. In December of 1905, Teddy Roosevelt called together representatives from Harvard, Yale and various coaches and officials to the White House. Ever the badass, Teddy had previously been quoted as saying, “I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal,” but even he recognized that football had become lethal. He demanded new rules be set up so players would lean more toward “battered” and less toward “just super dead.”
And sometimes ultra stupid looking.
The most important modification that came from those meetings was a new rule that allowed quarterbacks to actually throw the ball in front of themselves. This spread defensive players out and eliminated the “roving pack mentality." They also added rules about pausing the game when somebody fell on the ball and allowing kicking the ball down the field. Apparently before Teddy, audiences were just watching reenactments of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Wait ... preenactments? I think I just created a time paradox.
We Got Radar Because They Were Trying To Build A Laser Death Ray
Some of the best inventions come about accidentally. Like when Ira Remsen was asked to invent a coal tar substitute and instead stumbled upon the stuff Sweet N’ Low is made from. Okay, maybe not all accidental inventions are awesome, but still, you see our point, right?
Sometimes, great inventions come as a result of not even trying to solve whatever you were asked to invent. Back in 1935, the British were growing worried that dashing pajamas wouldn’t be enough to stop Germans if they attacked again. The British Air Ministry feared their technology was falling behind Germany’s, so they decided to leapfrog past faster airplanes or more efficient assault rifles and jump straight to laser death rays. In what must have been the most epic classifieds’ ad ever, the British government offered a £1,000 prize to anybody that could blow a sheep apart from a hundred paces with lasers.
Thus ending the Great Sheep War of 1938.
It didn’t take long for scientists Robert Watson Watt and Skip Wilkins to realize this was impossible. After all, we’re only just now building lasers that can zap anything bigger than an ant colony. What they did determine, however, was that the British government clearly had money to burn.
So the two went to the government and asked if they’d instead be interested in developing a technology that could detect incoming airplanes (or zeppelins) long before they could be seen. Nobody had yet managed to kill even a single lamb with a magnifying glass, so the scientists were told, "Cheerio, go right on ahead then and here’s a few pounds and a blueberry scone wot, wot!" (Full disclosure: We’re not British).
It took a few years, but it wasn’t long after they showed their progress to the Americans, that military grade radars were deployed to the front. Those radars would ultimately help the Allies win the war (specifically the one of the second world variety). All because a couple of wussy scientists refused to even try and build a laser machine gun.
Like this article? Check out "The 7 Weirdest, Most Unexpected Explosions That Happened In Real Life" and "Hilariously Stupid Weapons Someone Thought Would Actually Work In Battle".