Strange and Unusual Fads from History


From Pokemon Go, planking, twerking, and Snapchat filters, almost all of us are guilty when it comes to succumbing to at least one weird fad that has become popular throughout the years. But long before these strange fads were the thing, our folks had more bizarre was to pass their time. Maybe you’ve read some of it in your history books or heard some stories about flagpole sitting or staged train crashes.

One fascinating thing about these crazy fads is that they actually made sense at the time. Whether it’s the Keke dance challenge or buying mystery boxes from Amazon. These fads and the mob mentality can be so convincing that even the smartest people can be fooled that they are making the right choice. So sit back, drink some milk tea or eat some rainbow bagels because we are here to present to you the strangest fads from history.

Cemetery Picnics

Back in the Victorian era, Victorians were really fond of the macabre that is why cemetery picnics became popular during this time. This ritual began as a way of honoring the ones they mourned the loss of, eventually the ritual became normal people started sharing meals with friends as they eat among the tombstones. It’s like they’re having a picnic at a regular park.

Six-Day Bike Races

Before stock car racing was the thing, there were six-day bicycle races. Teams, who are often consisted of two people, compete for the most laps around an indoor wooden track for six whole days. The teams would cycle for 24 hours a day and they would live on the inside of the track in three-sided cubicles and all of their bathroom trips are seen by the spectators. But the popularity of the sport began to die in America around the time of World War II.


During the early 20th century, numerous products contained radium – yikes! From wool for baby clothes to cosmetics. Although no one knew exactly how radium can help to improve one’s life, no one cared back in the day and they wanted it. Fortunately, the poisonous element was so expensive manufacturers decided to stop adding the element into their products.

Tear Catchers

Back in the Victorian era, tear catchers were a popular and fashionable accessory when you are mourning. All you had to do is cry your tears into a tiny bottle until it became full. The tear catcher had a special stopper that slows down the evaporation of your tears and when the tiny bottle gets empty, it meant that your mourning is over.

Staged Train Crashes

Even if it sounds like a bad and stupid idea, a railroad marketer in the early 1800s set up a head-on collision between two trains as a publicity stunt. To his surprise, an estimated 40,000 people came to watch his stunt. And even if the stunt resulted in a boiler explosion that killed three spectators, the ticket sales skyrocketed and railways everywhere started their own staged train crashes until the Great Depression.

Atomic Bomb Viewing Parties

Back in 1951, the United States government began testing atomic weapons outside of Las Vegas. And because of this everybody wanted to go to Las Vegas. They even called the place “Atomic City, USA”. Before the people realized the dangers of the fallout, the bomb viewing parties featured girls in mushroom cloud bikinis and specially mixed themed cocktails while people were admiring the view of the huge mushroom explosion.

Public Morgue Viewing in Paris

When a morgue in Paris needed help in identifying bodies during the 1860s, they decided to open their doors to the public. But instead of identifying and claiming the bodies, it became a tourist attraction that fascinated almost thousands of people every day.

Vibrating Belts

During the 1960s, vibrating belts attracted women with their videos claiming that the belts could melt away their belly fat without them having to move a muscle. If it were only that easy!

Beanie Babies

During the late 90s, people went mad over the plush toy named Beanie Babies. These plush toys were so popular that they made up 10 percent of sales on eBay. There came a point that a divorced couple even brought five thousand dollars’ worth of Beanie Babies to court just so they could split them up legally under the supervision of a judge.

Flagpole Sitting

Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly popularized the flagpole sitting challenge as a test of endurance. It became popular, especially among teenagers. They competed to see who could stay at the top of a flagpole for the longest. Some lasted for days, even weeks without going down.

Dance Marathons

Dance marathons became popular during the Great Depression. The dance marathon is a competition where couples dance until they collapsed. And spectators will just have to pay 25 cents to watch these couples dance their hearts out. The longest dance marathon lasted for 6 months.

Banana Peel Smoking

Back in 1967, underground newspaper Berkeley Barb published an article which features a recipe which claimed that inhaling dried banana peels can have hallucinogenic effects on a person, the same effect that psychedelic drugs give.  Many people tried it… to no effect.


During the early 20th century in Germany, men with dueling scars on their face or body were seen as honorable. Young men would often seek out duels just to get a chance to have a scar. And some of the men who do not want to risk their life would sometimes slash their faces intentionally or get a doctor to remove some of their flesh just to have a scar.

Chinese Porcelains

During the 1700s, England’s East India Trading Company and China made an arrangement on what to trade each other. China got cotton and wool while Britain got China’s cups and dinnerware. England was fascinated with the Chinese porcelain because it was so thin and beautiful. It took several years before the Europeans figured out how to imitate this dinnerware themselves. In some ways, this fad has never really ended in England.

Panty Raids

Panty raids became popular in colleges during 1952 after 600 male students at the University of Michigan invaded the women’s dorm and stole every underwear they saw. In return, the women served their revenge by raiding the men’s dorm and exchanging their boxer shorts with nighties.  The fad spread and became a popular prank to pull for many years.

Hair Jewelry

Cameras are a pretty recent invention that allows us to remember long-gone people. In the greater part of the 19th century, people remembered their loved ones by making jewelry using their hair. Hair jewelry usually consisted of pendants in various designs that enclosed a few strands of human hair that people used to wear as a reminder of a deceased person. If you loved someone, you could get a skilled designer to stitch their hair into several designs. There were some simple designs also available that could be made by anyone. The primary purpose was to always keep a piece of them with you. 

Ornamental Hermits

After the abolishment of Catholicism in England by Henry VIII, people realized that they missed the religious hermits and monks. By the 18th century, the fierce religious and political fires that had raged for decades had blown out. People could afford to be romantic and whimsical with religious and spiritual ideas and figures. At this time, hermits made a comeback. They were wise men living in complete solitude to maintain pure minds and souls. Wealthy men would hire wizened older men to come to their estates, live like a hermit and make appearances at events to entertain guests. 


The obsession with mummies that took hold of the world in the 19th century is one of the strangest fads in history. When the first tomb of the Pharaohs was discovered, people were intrigued by the idea of these wrapped mummies and wanted to know more. In Egypt, where people had direct contact with the mummies, it became common practice among the elite to host disintegration parties. They would invite their friends and watch a mummy get unwrapped and disintegrate once it came in contact with air. 

Piked Shoes

Different styles of shoes have come and gone in history. The piked shoes, which are also known as pointy jester shoes, were trendy in the 1400s. Although it was later found out that these shows caused pain and deformed the feet of the wearer, they were considered an excellent status symbol among the court men. These shoes were banned by King Henry IV, who found them irritating and stated that no shoe should have a beak extending more than two inches.


Things come and go out of style all the time. These fads may seem weird and strange, but at the time, they were popular. Which one of them is your favorite?

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