Old Hickory’s violent streak
Andrew Jackson is definitely in the contention for one of the strangest people to ever hold the highest office in the US. As a young lawyer, Jackson developed a reputation for starting brawls and inciting bitter rivalries with fellow advocates. One such feud could not be contained, and Jackson challenged his nemesis, a lawyer and marksman by the name of Charles Dickinson, to a duel. Jackson figured that letting his rival, who was the better shot of the two, fire first would be a good idea, as in his nervousness he might miss. He did. Dickinson’s bullet missed Jackson’s heart by a hair’s breadth, lodging itself firmly in his chest and remaining there for the rest of Old Hickory’s life. Still on his feet, Jackson pressed a handkerchief against the wound, coolly aimed and fired a shot that killed Dickinson.
Later in his life, as the 68-year-old President of the US, he was the target of the first assassination attempt carried out against a US President. The would-be assassin’s first pistol misfired, upon which Old Hickory, instead of running to safety, set upon the man and beat him with his cane. The rather unlucky assassin then produced a second pistol which misfired as well.
Dalí’s strange brush with death
If we started going off on how incredibly peculiar Salvador Dalí was, there would be no end to it. Instead, here is a little demonstration: One day in 1936, the Spanish surrealist entered a diving equipment store in southeast England and asked for a diving suit. When the store owner asked how deep Dalí intended to dive, the artist answered he was going to dive into the depths of human consciousness.
He wore the suit, complete with helmet, for a lecture he gave in London while holding a billiard cue in one hand and two dogs tethered to leashes in the other. It was a hot day, and soon enough Dalí began asphyxiating. The helmet was eventually pried off using the billiard cue, upon which the mustachioed painter continued his slide presentation sans helmet. The slides, by the way, were upside-down.
Isaac Newton: brilliant scientist, petty recluse
We all know of Isaac Newton’s great contributions to physics, be it by creating the first working model of gravity, or his writings on optics which helped us understand how light works. But did you know he was also an incredibly petty and vindictive man?
You might have heard the metaphor “standing on the shoulders of giants”, but some think the phrase was coined by Newton in a sarcastic jab against a shorter rival.
He also had a bitter rivalry with his intellectual equal Gottfried Leibniz. When the German polymath published his writings on calculus, Newton accused him of having plagiarized his unpublished writings, to which Leibniz contended that he reached his conclusions independently, and it was Newton who plagiarized HIM. After several years of this back-and-forth, the matter was brought before the British Royal Society, except Newton had been the acting president of that society for a good couple of years at the time and he appointed only supporters to the committee discussing the dispute. Today, Leibniz’ method is the one preferred.
The rainbow-haired NBA star-turned friend to dictators
Dennis Rodman is weird. Looking past the bizarre colors and patterns the pro-baller chooses to dye his hair, his actions are even stranger. In 1996, on a tour to promote his autobiography, Rodman showed up in a horse-drawn carriage, decked out in a wedding dress and blonde wig, proclaiming himself bisexual and saying he is marrying… himself.
A year later, Rodman made a foray into the world of theatrical televised wrestling, joining up with Hulk Hogan in World Championship Wrestling, but that is far from the strangest thing he’s done.
In 2013, North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un invited the eccentric basketballer to Pyongyang. Apparently, the brutal dictator was a fan of basketball, and of the Chicago Bulls in their height, in particular. The pair became inseparable ever since, with Rodman making numerous trip to North Korea and infamously wishing Kim a happy birthday.
Mozart’s toilet humor
Mozart is undoubtedly one of the greatest musical geniuses this world has ever seen, and anyone who has seen the dramatized film depiction of the original wunderkind knows Mozart had a wild side to him, but one thing that might have been downplayed in the acclaimed adaptation of Mozart’s life is just how fond he was of making puns about toilet matters. There are several canon compositions he wrote with crude scatological jokes, as well as dozens of letters to friends and family where he repeats them.
The living god who begged Mark Zuckerberg for money
Now, Chicago and North West may not be as bizarre choices for names as Moon Unit and Dweezil are, but otherwise, world-famous rapper and husband to Kim Kardashian (no relation to the two North Korean Kim dynasty) Kanye West gives everyone else in this list a run for their money in overall oddity.
Ignoring his most recent political escapades, including murmurs about him considering running for the presidency, Kanye has a rich history of strange behavior. For one thing, Kanye tries to never smile when caught on camera. His explanation for his perma-pout? He once found a Victorian photo album and no one smiled there, which he thought looked cool. Then there's the fact he calls himself a god. Seriously.
In 2016, West wrote a public letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claiming to be 53 million dollars in debt and asking him to help the self-proclaimed “god” out. Never mind the fact he posted the letter to the Facebook mogul over… Twitter.
In a later series of tweets, Kanye explained that while he is personally rich, he needs other people’s money (his words) in order to bring his ideas into fruition.
The prolific inventor who hated pearls
Nikola Tesla is one of the most accomplished inventors of the modern era, having roughly 300 patents written under his name. But with great innovation comes great eccentricity, and Tesla was no exception. Tesla is said to have had an intense distaste for pearls, to the point of turning away in disgust upon seeing them displayed, and sending his secretary home when she showed up to work wearing a pearl necklace.
The millionaire who wants to take over Mars
Speaking of Tesla, no list of eccentrics will be complete without the CEO of Tesla, the South African-born Elon Musk belongs to a new breed of billionaires who seem overly concerned with social media, as was the case when he tweeted himself into a feud with a scuba diver who helped rescue a class of Thai children trapped in a cave, over criticisms of Musk’s attempts to insert himself into the situation.
You might have heard of Musk sending one of his cars to space. That was actually part of his SpaceX program, the end-goal of which is the terraforming and colonization of Mars.
In 2018, Musk began selling a product named “not-a-flamethrower” which was… well, a gun that spits gouts of flame. He also sold accompanying fire extinguishers, admitting they are overpriced and that you could probably get ones that are substantially cheaper, “but these ones come with a cool sticker”.
Kim Jong-il’s personal film director
Shin Sang-ok was an incredibly prolific an important South Korean film director, dubbed the “The Prince of South Korean Cinema”. Together with his wife, popular actor Choi Eun-hee formed Shin Films and produced numerous critically-acclaimed films.
The North Korean heir to the throne was apparently a cinephile who was very flustered and jealous of the South Korean success in the movie theater, so the Dear Leader-to-be had his men kidnap Choi while she was in Hong Kong in 1978, and Shin shortly after when he went looking for her. The couple was actually separated at the time, but Kim Jong-il “encouraged” them to remarry, and together he forced them to make films to bring prestige to North Korean cinema. They were in captivity for 8 years and made 7 films with Kim credited as executive producer before they managed to stage an escape while attending a cinema festival in Vienna. What is up with these Kims, anyway?
He named his children WHAT?!
Frank Zappa was certainly a colorful character in the music scene, with his heft horseshoe mustache and soul patch, as well as his truly creative blending of genres. He was also a highly opinionated man who enjoyed inserting humor and nonsense into his music, often bordering on the downright juvenile (“don’t eat the yellow snow” comes to mind).
Just how peculiar was Zappa? He named his children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Muffin. The hospital where Dweezil was born refused to register him with that name, so Zappa opted for the much more mundane Ian Donald Calvin Euclid. They kept calling the kid Dweezil, and when he found out he has a different name on his birth certificate, he got around to making Dweezil his legal name.