funky grandmother with sunglasses giving the "hang loose" sign with her hands.

Throughout history, there have been many amusing and often bizarre bets made. Sometimes they were meant to be silly bets from the get-go but at other times, they were completely serious wagers that, looking back, seem ridiculous. Gambling isn’t something that’s limited to an instant play casino. You can bet on just about anything for fun, for entertainment or for the chance to win some cash!

Check out some of the more unusual, not to mention fascinating wagers that have been placed over the years.

Proving Electricty

Thomas Edison and his friend, Henry Ford, reportedly made a bet in 1903 over whether Edison's newly invented battery could produce enough power to electrocute an elephant. To prove his point, Edison electrocuted Topsy the Elephant. He filmed the electrocution and then used the film to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current (AC) electricity.

Around the World

In 1889, Nellie Bly, a New York World journalist, bet her editor that she could travel around the world in under 80 days. The wager was inspired by Jules Verne's novel "Around the World in Eighty Days."

Simultaneously, Elizabeth Bisland, a journalist for Cosmopolitan magazine, was sent on a similar adventure with the goal of beating Bly. Bly traveled East to West while Bisland traveled West to East.  News media of the era was filled with stories about the race between the two and bookies were doing quick business with bets on whether they would succeed and, if so, which woman would come in first.

In the end, Bly won out, completing the journey in just 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes. She set a world record in the process. Bly’s journey took her to England, France, Italy, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Ceylon (today Sri Lanka), Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan and then to San Francisco on her way back to New York by rail.

Flying Pig

In 1979 Cincinnati radio personality Gary Burbank bet that if the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, he would release a live pig into the city's Fountain Square. The pork industry is big in  Cincinnati which also called itself “Porkopolis”.

The city hosts the “The Big Pig Gig” public arts project that displays hundreds of brightly painted ceramic pigs all over town and near the ballpark you can see Sawyer’s Point where statues of winged pigs are featured. Cincinnati’s annual marathon is called “The Flying Pig”.

The World Series ended with a Reds win and Burbank fulfilled the bet by parading a pig through downtown Cincinnati.

Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne of Cleves

Henry was determined to make his marriage to Anne of Cleves, sister to the important Duke of Cleves, France, work. In fact, he bet his courtiers that his marriage to Anne of Cleves would be successful. He was heading to his 4th marriage and determined to make it work.

But, according to Henry, Anne didn’t look anything like the portrait that he had seen of her and he simply never consummated the marriage, later annulling it. (there are no records as to whether Henry paid off his wager).

Anne remained in England and was given the title “King’s beloved sister”. She also maintained a level of high precedence at court. In the end, Anne outlived all of Henry’s other wives.

Racing Lice

Much of the American Civil War was characterized by horrific battles and endless marches but there were also periods when there was nothing to do but read or gamble. That’s what soldiers on both sides of the conflict did – there was even a Union division called the “Army of the James” which soldiers called “Army of the Games” because there was so much card-playing going on there.

Soldiers even resorted to betting on lice races. There were plenty of lice on both sides of the conflict and even low ranking soldiers could maintain a stable of the tiny insects. When a lice race was held, two owners would place their lice in the center of a tin plate and the spectators would wager on the “runners” to see which of the lice would get to the edge of the plate first. The first louse to cross over the edge of the plate won.

There were even instances of Union and Confederate soldiers meeting in a no-man’s land to race Union and Confederate lice against each other.

Prop Bets

It’s always amusing to keep track of the prop bets that run alongside of regular bets on sporting and political events. Prop bets are side wagers that have nothing to do with the final outcome of an event but address activities that surround that event.

For instance, when Donald Trump was president, there was a lot of action over the question of whether Trump’s summit meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un would include a serving of McDonalds.

Or when Facebookers decided to try to enter the forbidden Area 51 to see if the government was conducting research on aliens, many people were betting on whether the “visitors” would actually see some aliens.

There are always wagers going about who the next pope will be but truthfully, that bet has probably been going on for hundreds of years. And America’s fascination with everything Elon Musk was the setting for bets on which truck was stronger, Ford’s F-150, then believed to be the strongest non-commercial vehicle on the market, and Tesla’s cybertruck. The sadder bets are those that involve speculation on upcoming celebrity deaths and divorces.

As long as humans have imagination, some spare cash and the willingness to try their guesses, we can expect to see bets about just about anything.

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