10 Truly Bizarre Fads From Throughout History

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

None of us can claim to be completely guilt-free when it comes to succumbing to at least one of the strange fads that have become popular over the years.

Long before the “planking” photo challenge or even the obsessive collection of Beanie Babies so many of us had in the 1990s rolled around, folks had even more bizarre ways to spend their time.

You might remember some of these trends from your history books, or perhaps a story from a friend who was gullible enough to believe the “tripping” in #8 back in the 1960s. Others, however, will seriously leave you scratching your head, wondering why anyone thought they were a good idea.

Take a look at more of the strange fads from throughout history, and you’ll also likely feel a lot less embarrassed about any passing trend you think back on and cringe for partaking in it.

Let us know if we missed any other truly strange fads, and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

1. Flagpole Sitting

flagpole sitting

In the 1920s, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly made this unusual test of endurance popular, especially among youngsters who competed to see who could rest at the top of a pole for the longest.

Several lasted for days, even weeks, without ever heading down.

2. Atomic Bomb-Viewing Parties

atomic party

When the government began testing atomic weapons just outside of Las Vegas in 1951, the town embraced the events as a draw for more tourists rather than running away from them. The craze had folks arriving in droves after they went as far as to dub themselves “Atomic City, USA.” They hosted parties with women dressed in mushroom-cloud bikinis and mixed together quirky cocktails to drink, while taking in the view of the radiation.

Unfortunately, the “downwinders” also developed injuries, ultimately inspiring the government to cease testing.

3. Victorian Mourning Brooches

mourning brooch

These could also be charms on necklaces or other jewelry and often included an artfully braided lock of their lost loved one’s hair. The slightly disturbing fad for commemorating those who passed away was made popular by Queen Victoria after Prince Albert died.

Both men and women were known to create these items that would often also include skeletal remains. They finally went out of favor around the time the even more morbid trend of “death portraits” came along with the popularity of photography.

4. Victorian Games Of Graces

game of graces

Young French ladies back in the day were somehow supposed to learn how to be more graceful by tossing the hoop between themselves and a friend using two rods to fling it across.

I’m not sure how much this helped those girls feel graceful, but the winner was apparently deemed by the first one to catch the hoop 10 times in a row.

5. Paris' Public Morgue Viewing

public morgue

Situated just behind the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, it was originally made public in 1864 in order to identify unknown remains. Instead, it became a tourist attraction that saw roughly 40,000 people walk through the morbid halls on a daily basis, as these viewings were very “in.”

6. Banana Peel Smoking

banana peel

In 1967, the Berkeley Barb published a recipe claiming that inhaling dried banana peels would give the user a hallucinogenic experience similar to the psychedelic drugs popular at the time.

Rumors about the fruit claimed it contained “bananadine,” a completely fictional chemical believed to cause the desired effects. Those who believed they were actually “tripping” on the fruit fad were likely undergoing a placebo effect.

7. Brutal Figurine Collections

florence nightingale figurine

Along with the pleasant image of Florence Nightingale above, Victorian families liked to collect depictions of more bloody headline fodder such as William Corder, who killed his mistress and buried her under his barn in 1827, known as the “The Red Barn Murder.” The figurines were all the rage!

8. Non-Stop Dance Marathons

dance marathon

This was another popular test of endurance during the 1920s and ’30s, but it involved a bit more work than sitting high up on a pole.

Couples would literally dance until they dropped, competing for cash prizes given to the last pair standing.

9. Cemetery Picnics


Victorians were clearly fans of the macabre as this outing became popular throughout the era. The ritual began as a way of honoring those they mourned the loss of, but it eventually became as normal to share a meal with friends among the tombstones as it would be to enjoy it at a regular park.

10. Fern Collecting

fern fever

The humble plant became all the rage in the mid-1800s when “fern fever” or “pteridomania” hit the mainstream. It was especially popular with young ladies as one of the few activities they could partake in without supervision.

Did we miss any strange fads from back in the day you’ve heard about? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!