The Most Hard-to-Believe Fact About Every State
Can you guess which state had wild camels as recently as 1890?
America is an amazing place filled with magical locations and jaw-dropping natural wonders. But there are also plenty of beautifully bizarre and fabulously freaky facts about each of the 50 states—and some of them are just so wild (and in many cases, so random), they’re almost impossible to believe.
For example, can you guess which state had wild camels as recently as 1890? Or which one got its name because a lobbyist lied about knowing a Native American language? Well, buckle up, because you’re about to find out. These are the hardest to believe (and yet totally verifiable) facts about every state.
The first 911 call was placed in Alabama in 1968
In the 1960s, a federal commission on crime recommended telephone companies develop a single phone number for emergency calls and AT&T decided on the digits 9-1-1. In 1968, the Alabama Telephone Company became the first to implement it, according to NPR. The first 911 call took place on February 16 and was a ceremonial test between two politicians. And if you want to visit the historic red rotary phone that took that call (and the real emergency calls that followed), you can. The phone is displayed in a clear case at city hall in Haleyville, Georgia.
Alaska contains both the easternmost and westernmost points in the country
While the bulk of Alaska sits firmly in the Western Hemisphere, the Aleutian Islands extend all the way into the Eastern Hemisphere. That means the state lies in two hemispheres and contains the easternmost part of the U.S. by longitude (Semisopochnoi Island) and the westernmost part of the U.S. by longitude (Amatignak Island).
Wild camels roamed Arizona in the late 19th century
It wouldn’t be unusual to spot a wild camel somewhere out in the Gobi Desert, but in the late 19th century you could also find them roaming around Arizona. Back in 1855, Congress spent $30,000 importing 75 camels for military use (they thought the animals could be well suited for shuttling supplies between remote military outposts), according to Smithsonian. When the plan didn’t work out as expected, parts of the herd were auctioned off piece by piece. And while one ended up in the Smithsonian Museum, others were spotted wandering the state as late as 1890.
Arkansas is home to one of the largest producers of handmade dulcimers
No one will blame you if you have no idea what a dulcimer is. The stringed instrument is part of the zither family and while it delivers a lovely lilting sound, it hasn’t quite earned the same level of fame as the guitar or violin. Despite that, Arkansas still turns out its fair share of the instruments. In fact, so many dulcimers come out of Mountain View, Arkansas, that it’s one of the world’s largest handmade dulcimer producers. And while that may be impressive, the fiddle won out as the official state instrument.
California has about 10,000 earthquakes a year
If you live in California, earthquakes are a part of life. But you might not have realized just how frequently they occur—since most of them are essentially undetectable to humans. According to the United States Geological Survey, around 10,000 earthquakes are recorded each year in Southern California. Luckily, only around 15 or 20 have a magnitude that’s greater than level four on the Richter scale (refresher: you’ll typically start to feel an earthquake at level three; level seven would mean serious damage and loss of life).
Colorado is the only state to ever have turned down the Olympics
Making a bid to host the Olympic games is a lengthy, costly, and complicated process. However, when the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics to Denver in May 1970, those who lived in the state weren’t as excited as you might expect. In fact, there was huge opposition to the plan and in 1972 voters in a state referendum decided they did not want the state to host the games due to the astronomical cost and environmental concerns. So far, Colorado is the only state ever reject the games. The event was ultimately held in Innsbruck, Austria.
Connecticut’s Hartford Courant is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country
These days, plenty of people rely on social media to find out what news is buzzing. But way back in 1764, things were a bit slower. That was the year the first issue of the Hartford Courant was published. The paper, which is older than the country itself, is where George Washington placed an ad to lease part of his Mount Vernon land. Thomas Jefferson even once tried to sue the paper for libel and lost. And since its still publishing breaking news headlines today, the Courant is also the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country.
Chickens outnumber Delaware residents by more than 200-to-1
Delaware has a fast-growing poultry industry which means that farmers keep plenty of chickens around to meet the demand, according to the state’s local PBS and NPR member station. In fact, for every person in the state, there are around 200 chickens. And since there are nearly a million humans in Delaware, that means there are around 200 million chickens clucking about.
Florida has giant African land snails that can grow up to eight inches long
Various fascinating, fabulous, and freakish creatures call Florida home, and unfortunately one of those animals is the Giant African Land Snail. The critter is so unnerving, that when the Florida Department of Agriculture released a public service announcement warning residents about the snails, they had to assure everyone, “This is not science fiction. This is real.”
The invasive species can grow up to eight inches long and live up to nine years, according to CBS. On top of that, they can lay up to 1,200 eggs in a year, which means that they will likely be terrorizing the state for some time to come.
In Georgia, a taxidermy opossum named Spencer is dropped on New Year’s Eve
New York’s Time Square may famously drop a crystal ball filled with dreams and wishes on New Year’s Eve, but if you happen to be in Georgia on December 31, you can watch a holiday light-covered taxidermy opossum named Spencer make the big descent. Around 4,000 people head to Tallapoosa to attend the annual Possum Drop that’s been a tradition in the area for years.
Hawaii’s Big Island gets 42 acres bigger every year
Thanks to its tropical climate and stunning scenery, Hawaii is already a magical place. And it only seems even more surreal when you find out that the Big Island is actually getting 42 acres bigger every year. The bizarre phenomenon is thanks to the Kīlauea Volcano, which has been erupting for 30 years. When the volcano’s lava flows reach the water at the island’s edge, it immediately cools and hardens into new land.
Idaho may have gotten its name because a lobbyist lied about knowing a Native American language
Turns out, no one really knows how Idaho got its name. One popular theory based off newspaper clips from the time suggests that in the 1860s a lobbyist named George M. Willing proposed that the new Rocky Mountain territory be named Idaho based off a Native American Shoshone term meaning “gem of the mountains.” As lovely as that sounds, Willing later admitted that he made the word up, according to etymology by Oxford Dictionaries. Still, the dictionary notes that the name might have already been in use before Willing visited the West in 1859.
Illinois is the most average state in the nation
Each state has its own claim to seemingly bizarre fame, but the most extraordinary thing about Illinois may be how ordinary it is. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data from both 2007 and 2014, Illinois’ statistics regarding social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics closely match those of the nation on average. So much so that NPR explains, “Illinois is mostly weird because of how close it is to the rest of the country,” saying that it’s “a microcosm of America.”
The city of Wabash, Indiana, was the first in the world to be lit by electricity
You might have thought a bigger, brighter city might have been the first priority when it came to electricity. But nope, that honor went the city of Wabash, Indiana (current population: 10,000!). The lighting took place on March 31, 1880, when four “Brush lights” invented by Clevelander Charles F. Brush were lit on the city’s courthouse.
Land-locked Iowa is home to an island city
If you were to plan an island getaway, it probably wouldn’t occur to you to opt for a vacation in Iowa. But it turns out that the land-locked state is home to just one island city, called Sabula. Merely a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide on the Mississippi, Sabula wasn’t originally an island at all. The area was separated from the mainland when a lock and dam were built in the 1930s.
Kansas is home to the world’s largest collection of the world’s smallest versions of the world’s largest things
Some people spend their lives collecting art while others collect antiques and still others collect license plates. But in Kansas, you can find the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, which is exactly what it sounds like (although you might have to read that over a few more times to fully let it sink in). When creator Erika Nelson finds the biggest version of something—such as the world’s largest ball of rubber bands—she makes a miniature copy of it for her own collection.
Kentucky is the Location of a $30 million Medieval-style stone castle
If you want to see a medieval castle, you don’t have to travel all the way to England. Instead, you can simply visit Versailles. No, not the one in France, but Versailles, Kentucky, which is the home to a $30 million medieval-style castle. Sitting on 50-acres, it was originally built by a couple who later divorced—which is why the estate sat empty for more than 30 years before being turned into a bed and breakfast known as Castle Post or The Kentucky Castle.
Louisiana is the only state to follow Napoleonic law
In America, 49 states use a “common law” legal system, but one state does things a little differently. Louisiana follows a “civil law” system which actually goes back to 1804 when it was established by French emperor Napoleon. According to Slate, “Rulings in the French-influenced system derive from the direct interpretation of the law; rulings in the common-law system give greater authority to legal precedent.” That might be the case, but they add that “in practice, the two systems often work the same.”
Maine is home to the world’s only cryptozoology museum
While the International Cryptozoology Museums’ name may seem a bit odd, it gets even weirder once you find out what it means. Here’s a hint: cryptozoology is the search for and study of animals whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated. The Maine museum is the only one of its kind and features all sorts of information and “evidence” of unconfirmed animals like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
Maryland’s official state sport is jousting
Maryland was reportedly the first state to name an official sport back in 1962, but they didn’t opt for football, baseball, or even hockey. Instead, Maryland chose jousting. Yes, the competition that once saw challengers on horses trying to take each other down using long, pointy poles. The Maryland State Archives explains that “jousting tournaments have been held in Maryland since early colonial times but became increasingly popular after the Civil War. Retaining the pageantry and customs of medieval tournaments, modern competitors are called ‘knights’ or ‘maids,’ and many dress in colorful costumes.”
A Massachusetts house is built with 100,000 newspapers
Over the course of 20 years, Elis F. Stenmen collected around 100,000 newspapers in order to construct his summer home in Massachusetts. The mechanical engineer began the project as a hobby in 1924 and used flour, water, and apple peels, as well as 215 layers of newspaper for each one-inch wall to build the home. He used the same technique to furnish the house with paper-made chairs, tables, lamps, and a grandfather clock. As a testament to its durability, the house still stands today. And for more weird homes, check out The Craziest Home in Every State.
Michigan has its own Bermuda Triangle-like area
Bermuda isn’t the only place that has an area prone to mysterious misadventures—Michigan also has its own disturbing location that you might want to avoid. The Lake Michigan Triangle has been the scene of unexplained incidents since 1891 when Thomas Hume and his crew of seven sailors disappeared while crossing the lake. It was also the site of a 1921 tragedy in which the Rosa Belle ship turned up without its 11 passengers but with collision damage—despite the fact that no other damaged ship was found or reported lost at the time. As other stories cropped up, rumors about time portals and UFOs circulated. Obviously, they haven’t been confirmed.
Minnesota is the location of a mysterious waterfall with no known end
Devil’s Kettle Falls in Judge C. R. Magney State Park has an unexpected feature that’s almost as forbidding as its name: The water drops into a dark cavernous hole. While that’s creepy enough as it is, what makes things even weirder is that no one knows where the water goes from there. In 2017, some scientists decided that the water must end up in the Brule River below the waterfall and wanted to put dye in the stream in order to prove their theory. Unfortunately, they eventually decided that there wasn’t “enough scientific reason” to do their test, and so the mystery remains.
Mississippi was the location of the first animal-human organ transplant
Doctors perform incredible life-saving procedures every day. But in 1964, Dr. James Hardy wanted to do something truly remarkable in Mississippi. When a 68-year-old patient was rushed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Hardy was ready with a chimpanzee heart to perform the first animal-human transplant. And while the heart successfully beat for a full 90 minutes, it was ultimately too small to support the human body and the patient passed away shortly afterward.
Missouri is home to a museum which features thousands of pieces of art and jewelry made from millions of strands of human hair
If you throw away the stray strands of hair that fall out of your head, you could be wasting artistic material. But that surely wouldn’t happen at Leila’s Hair Museum in Missouri, which features more than 600 wreaths and 2,000 pieces of jewelry that are all made from human hair—millions and millions of strands of it. A craft that can apparently be traced back to the 12th century and was apparently popular in Victorian times, hair art is not exactly a thriving modern-day pastime, which is perhaps why the museum admits that “first-time visitors…usually don’t know what to expect.”
Montana holds the Guinness World Record for “Greatest Temperature Range in a Day”
Plenty of states endure wild weather, but Montana once experienced a 100-degree temperature drop within 24 hours. The unusual occurrence earned the state the Guinness World Record for the “Greatest temperature range in a day” thanks to the fact that the town of Browning went from 44-degrees Fahrenheit to -56 in an incredibly short amount of time.
Nebraska‘s lieutenant governor commissioned a navy while the state’s actual governor was out of town
Nebraska may be another land-locked state, but that doesn’t mean it can’t proudly boast a navy. And that’s due to the fact that in 1931, Lt. Gov. T.W. Metcalfe commissioned the navy while Gov. Charles Bryan was out of town on vacation. But Metcalfe wasn’t interested in fortifying Nebraska’s military force. Instead, he wanted to give his friends mostly meaningless positions as admirals. Nowadays, becoming a “Nebraska Admiral” is one of the highest honors in the state.
There is a board game buried in the Nevada desert that will likely take more than 2,000 years to complete
Do you like to play games? Then you should check out the elaborate one in the Nevada desert that’s likely to take more than 2,000 years for players to finish—that is if they can even find it in the first place. In 2013, Jason Rohrer won the Game Design Challenge with his “A Game For Someone” concept that saw him bury the elements of his game in the desert and print out more than a million 20 digit coordinates which he then handed out. The trick is that all of the coordinates are false except for one.
Rock Paper Shotgun explains, “Rorher had worked out that if everyone [who received the coordinates] made a concerted effort to locate the buried metal with a metal detector, and indeed instructed future generations to do the same, then there was a 100% chance that the game would be found within 2,700 years.” Apparently, those who received the coordinates began their search immediately, which means that the game has already begun.
A man named Vermin Supreme has been on the New Hampshire ballot since 2008 with a platform that includes a “pony economy” and zombie apocalypse strategies
Politics may seem weirder than ever these days, but there have always been people who are willing to shake things up. That includes a man who goes by the name of Vermin Supreme who continues to run for office in New Hampshire. He’s been on the state’s primary ballot since 2008 and tries to win over voters with his platform that includes a “pony economy” and strategies to help citizens survive a zombie apocalypse. On top of that, according to New Hampshire Public Radio, he’s “known for campaigning with a massive boot on his head.”
New Jersey’s “G.I. Joe” was a pigeon that was also a decorated war hero
Around 54,000 birds were a part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ Pigeon Service based out of New Jersey during World War II, but it was a faithful flyer named G.I. Joe that was recognized as “one of the most honored pigeons in American history.” While Joe is credited with a number of successful flights, he was also responsible for carrying urgent messages that ultimately saved thousands of lives.
In New Mexico, you can see five different states from one place
Hopefully, there will be clear skies if you’re in New Mexico and want to see a rare sight. The National Park Service explains that if you take a look around while standing at the highest point on the Capulin Volcano’s crater rim trail, you can almost always see Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Eagle-eyed hikers can typically also spot Kansas and Texas.
The real “Uncle Sam” is buried in New York
We’ve all heard about ol’ Uncle Sam, but did you know he was a real man? Sam Wilson was a meat packer who was responsible for shipping food to the troops during the War of 1812. And thanks to his friendly reputation, he earned the nickname Uncle Sam. When he passed away in 1854, he was buried in his home town of Troy, New York, where there’s now a plaque at the Oakwood Cemetery to mark his final resting place. And for more facts about the United States, check out the 50 Facts About America That Most Americans Don’t Know.
When Blackbeard, otherwise known as Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, found himself on the run in 1718, he fled to North Carolina. The state’s governor Charles Eden agreed to grant the pirate a pardon in exchange for a chunk of the outlaw’s booty. However, British naval forces off the Virginia coast defeated Blackbeard and he met his end in the waters near Ocracoke Island.
From space, it looks like there’s a major city in North Dakota where there isn’t one
Around 2007, images from space of North Dakota at night showed what appeared to be an abundance of lights from a large city. The only issue was that there wasn’t (and isn’t!) a large city in that particular area. It turned out a new oil and gas field was emitting so much light it took on the appearance of a major metropolitan hub.
It’s illegal to catch a mouse without a hunting license in Ohio
There are some pretty peculiar and ridiculously random laws around the world and that includes one rodent-related regulation in Ohio. If you’re ever in Cleveland and spot a mouse in your home, you better not put out a trap unless you have a hunting license. In this state, it’s illegal to catch mice without the proper permit. Make sure you inform your cat, too. And for more crazy state laws, check out The Strangest Law in Every State.
Oklahoma hosts the World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest
Every year, non-squeamish agricultural enthusiasts gather in Oklahoma for the World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest. If you’re curious about what exactly a cow chip is, then let us enlighten you: it’s cow droppings (yes, poo) that have dried out and hardened in the sun. The contest simply involves throwing the poop pucks as far as you can.
Oregon is home to the “Only Leprechaun Colony West of Ireland”
Ireland isn’t the only place where you can look for a Leprechaun. Those who are hoping to get lucky and spot one of the gold-carrying characters can head to Oregon’s Mill Ends Park, pictured above, which is the “only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland.” That’s according to Dick Fagan, the journalist who established the delightful spot and is also, apparently, the only person who can see the creatures, including their leader, Mr. Patrick O’Toole.
Pennsylvania is misspelled on the Liberty Bell
Pennsylvania may not be the easiest state name to spell, but that’s not the reason why it’s written the wrong way on the famous Liberty Bell. When the bell was commissioned in 1751 to commemorate the state’s original constitution, the exact spelling of Pennsylvania wasn’t quite official and a common spelling hadn’t been accepted by the general public yet. That’s why the message on the bell reads: “By Order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philada.”
Rhode Island isn’t Rhode Island’s actual name
And residents should be thankful for that. The state, which is the smallest one in the entire country, also boasts the longest name of them all. Its official title is the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”
A liger in South Carolina holds the record for the world’s largest living cat
If you thought ligers were fictional doodles that only existed in 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, then you need to check out Hercules, the real-life half lion, half tiger. At 922 pounds and 131 inches long with shoulders that reach 49 inches high, the South Carolina resident holds the Guinness World Record for being the “largest living cat.” And for more about the south, check out the 25 Craziest Facts About the South.
The largest and best-preserved T-Rex skeleton was found on accident in South Dakota after a paleontologist got a flat tire
The stunning dinosaur fossil might never have been discovered if paleontologist Sue Hendrickson hadn’t wandered off when the car she had been riding in got a flat tire. While the other scientists she was in the car with went off for help, she went up into the hills to look around. There, she stumbled across a T-Rex skeleton that was around 80 percent complete. The skeleton was named after Hendrickson and can now be seen at the Field Museum of Natural History.
Tennessee has 10 official state songs
Tennessee is certainly a musical state, which may be why it has 10 official songs. If you’d like to make sure you know them all, cue up “Tennessee Waltz,” “Rocky Top,” “The Pride of Tennessee,” “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee,” “Smoky Mountain Rain,” “My Tennessee,” “Tennessee (1992),” “A Tennessee Bicentennial Rap: 1796-1996,” “Tennessee (2012),” and finally ,“My Homeland, Tennessee.” And these are the 30 Funniest Lines From Country Songs.
The weight of catfish eaten in Texas every year is equal to the weight of more than 6.5 Eiffel Towers
The Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons (around 16 million pounds). That means six and a half Eiffel Towers would weigh around 104 million pounds. While that may seem like an astronomically high number, it’s still 5 million pounds short of the weight of the catfish eaten in Texas every year. Consuming around 109 million pounds annually, Texans eat more catfish than catfish-eating runners-up Alabama (which eats 30 million pounds), Arkansas (18 million), Louisiana (28 million), and Mississippi (18 million) combined.
The first Kentucky Fried Chicken was in Utah
Colonel Sanders may have started out by feeding hungry travelers who stopped at his service station in Kentucky, but when he opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in 1952, he chose a location in Utah. The original building was torn down in 2014 and replaced with a new KFC as well as a museum dedicated to the finger-lickin’ good franchise.
Vermont has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster
If you ever visit Vermont’s Lake Champlain, keep an eye open for the state’s Loch Ness Monster-like creature. Known as “Champ” by locals and called “Tatoskok” by the area’s Abenaki and Iroquois Native American tribes, historians think that those who claim to have seen the animal may have spotted a garfish (a 30-inch slender fish with sharp teeth), something that is often used to explain Nessie’s possible existence as well.
Some residents of Virginia speak with what sounds like a British accent
On Virginia’s Tangier Island, many of the residents are direct descendants of the British settlers who arrived on the island hundreds of years earlier. And due to the fact that they’ve stayed close to home and the island is somewhat isolated, they still speak with a similar accent. Journalist Kate Kilpatrick explains that “some people call it an ‘Elizabethan’ or a ‘Restoration-era English’ accent.”
There’s a place called Cape Disappointment in Washington
Cape Fear was made famous thanks to the 1991 film starring Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, and Jessica Lange. But there’s another location that’s a little less terrifying and sounds like where you might head if you were ready to settle into a life of mundane monotany—and that’s Cape Disappointment. Fortunately, the site doesn’t live up to its name. It’s actually a state park that features a picturesque lighthouse and windswept cliffs.
The first brick street in the world was laid in West Virginia in 1870
Many ancient cities enjoyed paved roads of different kinds, but according to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History, the first brick street in the world went down in West Virginia. A letter to the Centennial Commission of West Virginia explains that “the method of laying the first brick pavement in the U. S. was invented by Mr. M. Levi, a Charlestonian, and a piece of it was first laid on Summers Street in 1870 as an experiment. In 1873 the entire block was paved by this method (between Va. and Kanawha Sts. on Summers).”
Wisconsin is the ginseng capital of the world
When you think of Wisconsin, you probably think about cheese. But the state which is known for its love of dairy also happens to be the ginseng capital of the world. Wisconsin’s Marathon County produces 95 percent of all ginseng exported from the U.S., which is why the town of Wausau now hosts the International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival. And for more on different state towns, check out The Most Boring Town in Every State.
There are only two sets of escalators in Wyoming
Escalators are usually a common sight in malls and office buildings, but not in Wyoming. That’s because there are reportedly only two sets of escalators in the entire state, according to The Atlantic. Both in the city of Casper, one is located in the First National Bank building and the other is in the Hilltop National Bank. And for more weird facts about the states, Here’s One Obscure Fact We Bet You Didn’t Know About Your State.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!