Maybe we can start to believe the myth that the gift of success brings the curse of insanity. Is it true that there is a higher chance of mental disorder in creative geniuses and political leaders?
What is commonly believed is that there is a thin line between crazy and genius.
As it turns out, some historical figures had some bizarre quirks that left people wondering whether they were geniuses or just crazy, or both. These great people, from the past, made significant achievements but left people dumbfounded because some of their actions and beliefs were unimaginable.
These prominent individuals unleashed their special brand of weird and have left historians questioning their existence. Some were dangerous, others were brilliant, while others were merely quirky. But they are known to be some of history’s big thinkers.
They left legacies and are talked about in history books, but they were not as proper or subdued as most people think. But who’s to judge what is normal or not? Everyone has some kind of weirdness, and it is those behaviors that make people interesting.
It is safe to say that even though some of these illustrious figures embarrassed themselves, they also serve to remind us that some of our strange behaviors are part of society.
Some of them were presidents, others actors, and others great inventors. Could it be that these stories were made up to tarnish their image because they were famous and impactful?
That is a question that needs more research and ‘digging’ into history books. Most importantly, they remind us that humans are more than what people see on the ‘surface.’
They remain influential even though the things they did were gross, strange, and oddly peculiar. To use a better term, they were certified nutjobs.
Here are 20 of them:
20. NIKOLA TESLA
THE CRAZY: he had a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Tesla was a visionary who never got his dues from the world. He helped in bringing radio, x-rays, and the foundations of modern electrical engineering. He was a genius.
He was also insane and had a serious case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Tesla developed a phobia against germs and could not touch anything that was a little dirty or anything round. He also fell in love with number three. It is reported that Tesla could walk three times around the building before entering. He could also not stay in a hotel that was not divisible by three.
He preferred to dine alone because of his obsession with his plates and silverware and always asked for 18 napkins before a meal.
He began showing signs of OCD towards the end of his life. During the time, he counted his steps everywhere and was cautious about shaking people’s hands. Though not confirmed, there are speculations that he may have died a virgin.
His reclusive behavior and his lifelong celibacy could have been caused by OCD. However, Tesla claimed that those practices helped him concentrate on his experiments.
19. WINSTON CHURCHILL
THE CRAZY: never cared that he was seen naked.
Winston Churchill was one of the most famous and respected leaders of the last century. Churchill a Nobel Prize winner and the first Lord of the Admiralty during the Second World War. He is arguably one of the most celebrated PM’s of Britain; but he was a nutjob.
He had odd quirks that included parading around his office without any clothing. He used to ambush foreign dignitaries and unsuspecting staff members with his nudity. In fact, anyone who had an appointment with Churchill ran the risk of finding him naked. He never bothered that he was conducting the business of the nation without clothes.
History has it that at one point Franklin D. Roosevelt and his son Elliot bumped into him ‘chilling’ in his birthday suit. Elliot even found him standing completely naked while dictating a letter to his male secretary and smoking a cigar.
18. SALVADOR DALI
THE CRAZY: he thought he was obsessed
Salvador believed he was a reincarnation of his late brother. His mother had given birth to the first child, named Salvador Dali, but this child died of stomach infections after 22 months. The second Salvador Dali was born nine months later.
Since he was born nine months later and he resembled the first Salvador, his parents began suspecting that he was their dead child who had been reborn. At the age of five, he visited his late brother’s grave, and his parents made him believe that he was a reincarnation of his late brother.
This action had a psychological effect on Dali. Most of his later work contained allusions of the first Salvador who he believed was the best part of him. Dali also developed a strange habit of attacking people for no reason. To him, there was no difference between pain and pleasure.
At one point, he threw his friend off a bridge causing him great injuries. Strangely, he never felt sorry for his behavior. Another horrifying incident was when he noticed a bat that had been eaten up by ants, and instead of saving it, he ate it together with the ants.
17. CHARLIE CHAPLIN
THE CRAZY: he used to throw custard pies at naked women.
He is one of the most famous film stars of all time. He was a huge star during the silent film era, but his left-wing viewpoints led the FBI to investigate him and got him exiled from the U.S.
Despite his achievements in the film industry, Chaplin was an extreme perv who tried to have sex with almost all the women he came into contact with. He even organized orgies with Fatty Arbuckle, a fellow comic star.
He was also, allegedly, the first person to introduce “casting couch;” a system that was used to audition young actresses. Since it was the silent film era, Chaplin would use caption cards to lead girls into performing various acts. However, things would escalate to a point where an actress would remain clothless.
He would then perform a mime soft-shoe move as he progressed towards the couch then he would proceed to grope an actress bizarrely. He made the girls stand still-naked at one end of the audition room then he would throw custard pies at them. The cards became lewder and he got the actresses to undress before he fondled with their breasts. He would then lick the girls clean, using his tongue, before making love to them on an actual casting couch. During the love-making, a pianist was supposed to play ‘appropriate music.’
It became apparent that Chaplin was using the casting couch for sexual gratification.
He was also known for using his trademark walking stick to perform obscene mimes. After talkies came into place, he realized he could no longer use his ‘casting’ technique, and he had to resort to other methods to pester young females.
16. JAMES WATSON
THE CRAZY: had a history of making inflammatory and insensitive comments which put him in the spotlight.
His remarkable work in the field of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize. He earned a reputation in history books when he formed part of a team of scientists who worked at the University of Cambridge around the 1950s and 60s and broke down the molecular structure of DNA. He shared his 1962 Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, who were also his colleagues.
But despite his intelligence, Watson was quite racist, and his views on race, sexuality, and politics put him in the spotlight.
Watson once commented that white people are more intelligent than Africans. Though he was one of the world’s most prominent scientist, the claim embroiled him in a serious row that drew widespread condemnation.
According to him, Western policies were being wrongly introduced to African countries on the assumption that black people were as intelligent as whites. But research had proven otherwise.
He received severe criticism because people thought he had made a baseless and offensive remark. Later, in 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman had the right to abort an unborn child if tests showed that the child was going to be a homosexual. This was another of his foot-in-mouth utterance.
It later emerged that he had used the research work of Rosalind Franklin, a fellow researcher, and had failed to credit her.
It seems his controversies had worked against him as he later emerged in 2014 to auction his Nobel prize because his income had reduced substantially. But the Russian tycoon who had bought the medal, Alisher Usmanov, later returned it claiming that it was Watson who deserved it. Watson is still alive at age 89.
15. SIR ISAAC NEWTON
THE CRAZY: it is now believed that alchemy was his real passion.
He was a famous mathematician and scientist in the seventeenth century, and even though people never knew he was an alchemist, he practiced the art wholeheartedly.
He wrote about the subject at length, but the Royal Society thought his work was unfit for production. His work was later rediscovered in the middle of the twentieth century and scholars concurred that he was deeply into alchemy. In fact, the inspiration for Newton’s laws of light and theory of gravity was likely driven by his alchemical work.
He spent days locked up in his laboratory, and some people believe he managed to transmute lead into gold. This is probably why he was given the responsibility to secure and account for England’s repository gold.
At one point, he wrote a letter to his fellow alchemical collaborator Robert Boyle urging him to avoid speaking about the principles of alchemy. He was so passionate about alchemy that he wrote an estimated one million words the topic.
Evidence suggests that it is alchemy which influenced most of his discoveries. Around the time of his death (1727), Alchemy had been maligned because it was considered disreputable and was relegated to pseudoscience status. Chemistry was then redefined.
THE CRAZY: he founded a religion that forbade people from eating beans.
Pythagoras was a famous mathematician and scientist, but many are unaware that he started a strange religion called Pythagoreanism. The religion had some odd commandments with one claiming that members should never eat beans. Other things that were forbidden were walking on highways or stepping over a crossbar.
Much of the religion remains a mystery and what historians have has mainly come down from antiquity.
The Pythagoreans were believed to worship their philosophical beliefs. They even went to the extent of sacrificing an ox after they discovered the 47th Proposition of Euclid.
One of their beliefs was the transmigration of the soul, which included the transmigration of a human soul into the body of an animal. This is probably why Pythagoras warned against consumption of meat.
It is not clear why the Pythagoreans despised beans. However, according to a legend, they believed humans would lose part of them when they passed gas. For this reason, beans had to be banned because it increases the likelihood of farting.
Members of this religion wore a distinctive garb and encouraged abstinence. The followers were mystical and superstitious. Another one of their strange beliefs was that the human soul was trapped in a continuous cycle of death and reincarnation. The religion taught that the only way to ‘emancipate’ oneself from this ‘slavery’ was to gain a deeper understanding of the universe through philosophical study and introspective thought.
Later on, when Pythagoreans tried to pressure ordinary citizens into joining their unique lifestyles, most of them were persecuted, and some were killed and sent away. Their meeting place was burned, and Pythagoras was forced to flee for safety. It was around 480 BCE.
THE CRAZY: he believed he was a god.
He was one of the greatest Greek philosophers who lived in the city of Agrigentum. He became famous for his passionate and brilliant oratory and won the hearts of many. Empedocles was so committed to human rights that at some point he refused to take a leadership title and chose to remain a private citizen. But he is greatly remembered for his role in natural science and philosophy.
His argument was that the universe was made up of several matters: water, fire, air, and earth. He further argued that the entire world had emanated from these four elements.
He became popular and was lauded as the wisest man whenever he visited various towns. It seems this may have gotten to his head and he began to think he was an immortal god and dressed flamboyantly.
He performed magic and convinced people into believing that his ‘healing’ powers came from a supernatural being. He made numerous claims about how he could cure old age and even prevent storms and winds.
Just like Pythagoras, he believed in transmigration of souls between animals and humans.
Strangely, he ended his life by jumping into a volcano because he wanted people to think he will go to heavens with other gods. But when one of his sandals was retrieved, people realized that he might have been a con.
12. JUSTIN II
THE CRAZY: he heard voices and hid under the bed. He also bit people, mostly in the head
He was the sixth-century emperor of Byzantine, and he was nucking futs.
He is mostly remembered because of how his lousy leadership led to the loss of most of Italy to Persia. He had one strange behavior, as accounted by historian John of Ephesus. Justin II would hear strange voices in his head. Consequently, he would scream and hide under a bed to ‘escape’ from the voices.
The only way to get him out was when his servants played organ music throughout the palace. Apparently, the music would drown out these voices.
He probably suffered because back then no one was knowledgeable in treating mental illness. Therefore, when Justin went berserk, he was uncontrollable as he would fight back and bite (mostly on the head) the servants who tried to restrain him. A legend even emerged that at one point he ate two of his servants.
11. JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU
THE CRAZY: according to his memoirs, he loved a good spank.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a philosopher from Geneva who became famous because he was a gifted prankster. He was highly influential because of his political and social works.
But we are looking at a man who sent all his five children to an orphanage then wrote a book about how to properly educate a child. He was a ‘certified’ con, but he always looked for ways to justify his behaviors.
It is easier to say that Rousseau was not a kind person because of the numerous pranks he performed on people. Worse, he never showed remorse for his actions.
When he was little, his caretaker, Mademoiselle de Lambercier used to spank him, and the action gave him great delight and sexually aroused him.
During his entire life, he tried as much to relive the experience. He loved a good spank and longed for a powerful, punishing mother. He attributed this spanking fetish to when he got spanked by his adopted mother when he was eight years old. He was so spank-crazed that sometimes he would drop his pants and run towards females hoping that they would smack his ass. Later, he had sex with a woman he had been obsessed with for several years.
The list of his misdemeanors is endless, but one of the most historic was when he pretended to be a gifted composer at a time when he knew very little about music. However, people later learned that he was a con after he delivered an awful performance at a special event.
10. HOWARD HUGHES
THE CRAZY: obsessive-compulsive disorder/paranoia/reclusiveness/irrational fears.
He became famous because of his brilliant mind, engineering skills, and his aviation speed records. He was also a high-profile Hollywood producer.
But Hughes is also remembered for his irrational fears, reclusiveness, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While he lived the American Dream, he died unhappy because of his troublesome behaviors. In fact, by the time of his death, he had amassed great wealth but had not written any will.
According to sources, he was so afraid of germs that he covered his feet with Kleenex boxes. He was so obsessed that he demanded that people cover their hands with paper towels and tissues before coming into contact with him. He also had a bizarre fixation with his urine that at one point he demanded that his employees store his urine inside containers.
He loved women but was only married twice, and both marriages were brief. But he was particularly obsessed with one wife, Jean Peters, and carefully monitored her life and became very manipulative.
He was also a lover of films, and at one point he leased a projection room at Goldwyn Studios and began a binge-watching session that lasted four months. During this time, he spent most of his time naked and mainly survived on pecans, chocolate bars, and milk.
Later, he bought a hotel because he was not impressed when the general manager asked him to leave. Around this time, he was becoming more nocturnal and was sinking into reclusiveness. He even bought a television station so he could watch TV 24/7.
His death was caused by an aircraft accident when he was test-piloting a military prototype. The accident left him dependent on several drugs, some of which had to be prescribed illegally.
9. LYNDON JOHNSON
THE CRAZY: he used to show people his dick.
Lyndon Johnson was not your average president for a number of reasons; but most notably, because he was extremely concerned about his penis. He took over after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
According to Kate Anderson Brower, who wrote some history about this former American president, Johnson at one time insisted that a newly installed jet stream should be able to blast water directly to his male organ.
An audio also emerged of Johnson demanding that a tailor adjusts his pants so his balls could be accommodated. He liked to ‘flaunt’ his member to his colleagues; whether they liked it or not.
Johnson used to urinate around the House Office Building and would sometimes swing around holding his penis, which he referred to as “Jumbo.” He also had a bad habit of touching his groin even on the floors of the House and Senate.
He was known to be a sexual beast who was jealous of Kennedy’s womanizing ways and wanted to outdo him. He had a bevy of babes who his male aides referred to as a harem. He then tasked his security team with keeping his philandering a secret.
8. LORD BYRON
THE CRAZY: he collected pubes.
George Gordon Byron was a famous British poet who was a leading figure of the Romanticism movement in Europe. One of his greatest works is Don Juan, which has transformed into a universal term to mean a lover of women. While still a student at Cambridge, he kept a tame bear as a pet and walked it around like a dog.
He had several affairs that fueled his odd habit. Byron loved collecting pubic hair from his many lovers, which according to him, was some kind of ‘trophy’ after each affair. Byron would then store the pubes in a file at his publishing house.
If that is not enough, he committed incest with his half-sister and drunk wine from a human skull. These were just some of his other crazy habits.
Byron bragged about how he was good-looking and how women would go nuts over his looks. That is why women sent him locks of their hair. In return, he would send them hair from his dog then claim it was his hair.
Byron died in 1824 at 36 years old. He had suffered a fever and infection that he contracted in Greece. After his death, Britain went into mourning. The pubes were later discovered several years after Byron’s death.
7. TYCHO BRAHE
THE CRAZY: he kept a dwarf under his dinner table, and he believed the dwarf had psychic powers.
Tycho Brahe was an astronomy genius who lost his nose in a math-fueled duel with a Danish nobleman named Manderup Parsbjerg. The duel was started after the two disagreed about a mathematical formula.
But back then, there was no Google to figure out who was wrong or right. The best solution was to try and kill each other. After the fight, Brahe was forced to wear a prosthetic nose for the rest of his life.
A solar eclipse that occurred in 1560 had inspired him to become an astronomy and lead him to spend a big portion of his life assembling astronomical data. One of his accomplishments was the discovery of the supernova in 1572 and a number of essays about the movement of comets.
He lived in a castle and hired a little person named Jepp. According to Brahe, Jepp had psychic powers and was supposed to entertain him most of the time. The dwarf had to eat under the table during each meal. Brahe also kept an elk as a prized pet. However, the animal died, allegedly, after drinking too much beer and falling off the stairs.
Brahe inherited lots of wealth from his foster father who died in 1565. He became extremely wealthy and owned almost one percent of all the money in Denmark around the 1580s.
He passed on in 1601 after a sudden bladder disease, at least according to the official story. There have been numerous stories surrounding his death with some people claiming that he may have been poisoned.
6. KING CHARLES “THE MAD” VI
THE CRAZY: he lived under the illusion that he was a wolf made of glass.
King Charles was under some strange “spell.” He would become fearful and paranoid of the people surrounding him and would constantly be enraged.
This peculiar behavior started around 1392 after Charles suffered from seizures and fever. During the bouts of madness, he would even forget himself.
During the spells, which could go for days or even months, King Charles would even stop caring about himself up to a point where his workers would have to cut him out of his clothes. Though he treated Louis (his brother) well, he became fond of Louis’s wife during his spells, and his anger surfaced.
This was largely because Louis wife was the only one who could calm him down and stayed by his side during those ‘dark moments.’
Charles had “glass delusion.” Before he was “afflicted,” he had been a very active man, and you would rarely find him indoors. But after the spell, he became immobile and would spend hours motionless. And if he had to move, it had to be done with great care.
When asked about his movement, Charles gladly replied that he was made of glass and would shatter if he moved incorrectly. He even ordered that iron rods be incorporated in his clothing so he would not break.
He then ran around the castle howling like a wolf. His wife Isabeau of Bavaria got fed up with this habit and found him a mistress. The woman resembled Isabeau that Charles could hardly notice.
Strangely, the belief was specific around the 15th century to the 17th century. Around this time, people around Europe suffered from this delusion. But it seems as though Charles had made the ‘debut.’ The delusion became more popular until the 1600s after it was turned into a cultural phenomenon. It was even documented by plenty of scholars.
5. ANDREW JACKSON
THE CRAZY: he was hot-tempered, and he always challenged people to duels.
He was an orphan at age fifteen but was a hardened veteran who drifted. He got admitted to the bar and took an offer to serve as public prosecutor in North Carolina where he continued to thrive and began acquiring land and slaves.
He later married Rachel Donelson Robards, in 1794, after the woman had finalized her divorce. Later his marriage faced difficulties when people accused him of wife-stealing, but the two remained intact. Jackson continued to rise in Tennessee politics due to his strength of character. He rose to the rank of a senator before he resigned and became a judge of Tennessee’s superior court.
But Jackson had a volatile temper. His feud with John Sevier was just one of his many explosive quarrels. Due to his hot temper, sensitivity to insult, and a prickly sense of honor, Jackson was involved in a series of brawls. One of the most notable ones is between him and Charles Dickinson which ended with Dickinson losing his life.
He left his judge role in 1804 to devote his time to his militia command and businesses. Apparently, he had foes everywhere, and he thirsted for military action. He had success as a militia commander, and in 1814, he was commissioned as a U.S major general. He later resigned from the army and became the governor of the new Florida Territory in 1821.
4. BEN FRANKLIN
THE CRAZY: he liked having sex with older women.
He was a smart guy and is one of the founding fathers of the U.S, amongst his many other accomplishments. He was an inventor, diplomat, government official. He was also the man who was immortalized on the 100 dollar bill.
But Franklin had a weird fetish: he loved sleeping with women who were way older than him. During his free time, Franklin would party hard with beautiful older women. His love partners were either between 20-30 or sometimes 40 years older than him. Even though he was a big advocate for marriage (as illustrated in a letter that he sent to a friend), it is not exactly clear why he chose older lovers.
3. ULYSSES S. GRANT
THE CRAZY: no one ever saw him naked, and he boasted about it.
President Grant was extremely cautious about his nudity. He never showered with his men even though he expected them to fight and die for him. He was known to shower privately in his tent while the other soldiers showered outside together; storying and bonding.
It may be correct to assume that he secluded himself so that his men could hold him up as an authority figure. But he apparently hid his genitals from everyone. In fact, around his late 60s, he bragged that no one had had the chance of seeing him naked since he was a child; not even the aides or nurses who were supposed to help him during the war. Why would someone brag about such a thing?
Even though he had excelled in the battlefield, he could not stomach the sight of animal blood. One biographer even suggested that Grant was almost half-woman, but it was buried deep in his soul. He rarely used foul language and hated dirty jokes.
2. STONEWALL JACKSON
THE CRAZY: believed his arms were of unequal length.
He had a difficult childhood, and that may have led to his self-reliance and taciturn nature. He became Constable of Lewis County in 1842 when he was 18 years. After a bit of a struggle, he got an appointment to the West Point Military Academy.
At West Point, he put more effort in his work and by the time he was graduating in 1846, he had risen to rank 17 in his class – from near bottom. Jackson later took part in the Mexican War as a second lieutenant before accepting another role as an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington; after a disagreement with a colleague.
But Jackson had unique personality traits. He somehow believed that one of his arms was longer than the other. For this reason, Jackson would always raise his longer arm in the air and hold it in that position for a while. He believed that this was the best way to balance out his circulation.
Jackson also liked sucking on lemons and somehow managed to get them even during the most difficult times of war. He believed lemons helped in his digestion and relieved his dyspepsia.
Both habits earned him the nicknames like “Tom Fool Jackson” among his fellow students. Initially, people never bothered about his reputation as a strict disciplinarian, but more and more people came to respect his honesty and conscientiousness.
1. CHRISTIAN VII
THE CRAZY: he was a chronic masturbator.
Christian VII of Denmark came to the throne at the early age of 17 years. But he somehow managed to spearhead the nation and put his other interests behind. Because he had come to power at a tender age, his addiction to masturbation became a problem to the country.
Trouble started when he spent so many hours self-pleasuring himself rather than attending to the needs of the nation or creating an offspring. He was so addicted that the doctors became worried that he would become infertile. They also thought it was stunting his growth.
Apart from being a serial wanker, he also had atrocious behaviors. For example, during dinners, he would throw food at guests. He never bothered about smacking someone in the face; even if it was a diplomat.
In the end, his personal physician, Johann Streunsee, managed to ‘take control’ of the kingdom from him by convincing him to delegate his executive duties. Streunsee even started an affair with the Queen behind Christian’s back.
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