All things have a purpose and function. However, some objects are so peculiar, so strange, and so weird that it takes amateur detectives and internet occultists to decipher their meaning. The ‘What Is This Thing’ subreddit is a treasure trove of everyday artifacts whose purpose was lost to the world… until Reddit’s resident Sherlock Holmeses took a look at them and explained exactly what people were looking at.
We’ve collected some of the best examples of odd things, so scroll down, have a look, have a read, and upvote your faves. Let us know in the comments if you learned something new and share the most obscure objects with your pals to test their knowledge.
Be sure to read on for Bored Panda’s interview with one of the subreddit’s moderators. And when you’re done with this list and if you’re still hungry for weird things whose purpose is unclear, then be sure to have a look through our previous posts about strange objects right here, here, as well as here.
More info: Reddit
#1 IKEA Coffee Mug, What Is The Thing At The Bottom?
Answer: So water doesn't stay on the bottom if you put the mug in the dishwasher and stops wet mugs suctioning themselves to coasters.
Pretty clever design actually.
Image credits: HR_92
#2 What Is This Thing In My Classroom? Makes Subtle Fan-Like Sounds And Changes Colour On Top
Answer: AV1 is a personal avatar for children suffering from long-term illness, helping them to continue their education and maintain the normality of daily life despite no longer being able to access mainstream education. Through an app, the user can remotely log into the class from their home or hospital. Looking through the robots eyes, the child can watch the lesson, through the robot’s ears they can hear greetings from their friends and they can speak through the robot to interact with the rest of the class.
Image credits: Potetbror
#3 What Are These For In An Outdoor Area Of A Hospital?
Answer: These are emergency showers. An affected person (chemical spills, laboratory mishaps, etc) will pull the level on the top and tepid water (OSHA defined between 60F and 100F) will douse the affected from the shower head (above) and boot sprayer (below). The duration of these showers is required to be 15 full minutes at approximately 20 PSI.
Source: I design these systems.
Image credits: chashaoballs
According to one of the subreddit’s moderators, there are several reasons why people become amateur detectives online and help others figure out what obscure objects are. The first reason is that interesting items show up and some folks can’t help but get involved. There’s also the “thrill of the chase”—people want to show off their great search skills.
“Many [people] have unique and obscure knowledge and they like to use it. Get enough of them together and they cover most things,” the moderator told Bored Panda.
The mod revealed that it’s very rare for a thing to get posted and for nobody to know what it is. They estimate that under 10 percent of ‘cases’ don’t get solved on the subreddit. “A majority of things are solved within 15 minutes of posting,” the mod added. With over 1.5 million members in the community, it's no wonder that mysteries get solved so quickly.
#4 Grainy-Like Things? They Appear Inside And On My Closet, And Reappear Whenever I Clean Them. What Are These?
Answer: Termite poop.
Image credits: wowiie
#5 Thin Slabs Of Ivory With Days Of The Week On The Top Found In My Closet. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Fabulous antique early Victorian chatelaine aide memoir from mid 1800s. Made of sheets of bone, it would have hung on a lady's chatalaine chain or been kept securely in her pocket and she would have used it to make note and appointments for the week to come. It has 6 pages for the days Monday to Saturday, of course a lady would never have made appointments on a Sunday
Image credits: mickbruh
#6 Weird Squirming Living Lovecraftian Nightmare On Our Lawn Chair This Morning. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Hag moth caterpillar with fuzzy “false arms” on its back to make it look like a dead leaf. (We’re looking at the belly)
Image credits: pbjburger
The subreddit has a more serious offshoot on Reddit called Trace an Object that searches for objects posted by Europol that are linked to child abuse cases.
“We've had some luck in identifying some things, but there's more yet unsolved and more to come as Europol does release some new information every few months,” the moderator explained. The Trace an Object subreddit currently has more than 52.6k members who are putting their sleuthing skills to good use.
#7 Water Flows From A Culvert Beneath A Trail Into This Circular Pool, Then Continues On Into The Woods. What's The Pool's Purpose?
Answer: Settling pond for erosion control and improving the downstream water for happier fish
Image credits: yourlocalpizzajoint
#8 My Mom And Dad Were Doing Some Landscaping In The Backyard And Found This Weird Slate With Writing Etched Into It. The Months Are Spelled Out And The Year States 1827 But That’s All The Information Here. I Can Send More Pics In Pm. Also, This Was Located In Southern Missouri
Answer: a practice gravestone scrap. Someone who carved gravestones would practice engraving lettering and drawings on this broken piece of stone.
Image credits: AppleTangoMike
#9 Washed Up On A Beach In Florida. What Is This Thing?
Answer: "It is a wave-powered desalinator that is owned by Oneka Technologies, a firm in Quebec. It takes seawater and turns it into fresh water. It is powered by the motion of the waves."
Image credits: New_Fry
It’s not just the modern world that is full of mysteries: the further back into history we go, the more secretive things get because the purpose of some things has become lost in the fog of time. One of the most cliched and well-known examples of this is Stonehenge.
We all have our personal theories as to what it was used for (burial site, cosmic map, astronomical calendar, druidic circle, UFO landing site, etc.), but the real answer still eludes us. Researchers are still scratching their heads how the stones that weigh around 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) were transported more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) to the place where Stonehenge still stands.
#10 Found On Guam In Shallow Water. 3-Meter Diameter Disk. Top Looks Like Polyester In A Honeycomb Shape That Is Fiber Glassed To Flimsy Aluminum Disk. I'm Stumped On This One. Never Seen Anything Like It. What Is This Thing?
Answer: There was recently a Chinese Long March 3B rocket launch that failed, and the rocket and its payload was seen reentering the atmosphere near Guam
Image credits: genopsyism
#11 My Boss Just Got Married, And Due To A Combination Of Indian Tradition And Him Being A Bro, He Brought Us These Little Snackboxes. He Left Before I Could Ask Him Much About Them. What Are They Called And What Are They Made Out Of?
Answer: The white block to the left is made with cashew nuts and sugar : It is called kaju barfi. The yellow block looks like it is mango flavored barfi. The circular one looks like dried fig with nuts stuffed in it. The shiny ones have edible silver foil and are also made from almonds, cashews and pistachio nuts. They are all made with clarified butter and are delicious desserts.
Image credits: mstarrbrannigan
#12 Mini Harpoon Thing Found When Changing Bedding In A Hospital Room
Answer: Patient had been tased. It's a taser dart.
Image credits: feickuss
Something else that has captured the imaginations of many individuals is a series of carvings in Peru made by the Nazca tribe. Nobody knows why exactly the Nazcas made these drawings of animals, plants, insects, and other things.
But two things are for sure: they are huge and they can be seen from the sky. But their true purpose is still shrouded in mystery. Perhaps, one day, we’ll figure out the answers to the secrets of the Nazcas, as well as solve the mysteries of Stonehenge.
#13 When You Pull The Ring On This, Four Little Pins Come Out. What Is It Used For?
Answer: It's an anti-theft device for pocket watches.
Image credits: johnsinternetsales
#14 My Grandfather Told Us To Not Remove This When Renovating. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Aztec calendar. Funny thing, I remember a bunch of these a while ago being smuggled over the border and they were made of meth.
Image credits: CloudiaNYT
#15 Mostly Concerned About Why Is This Thing?
Answer: For doing surgery on the cow
Image credits: CIoverload
#16 What Are These Swirly Things? Found On Google Maps - Located In Cogdell, Georgia, USA
Answer: Checked the tax records... It is or was an alligator farm.
Image credits: stephi-
#17 Saw This In A Forest In Germany. What Is This Thing?
Answer: It's a fridge, or a old time cold room. Basically a room covered with dirt for insulation
Image credits: V-by-V
#18 This Rainbow Effect?
Answer: A rainbow is a rainbow. The cause is refraction/dispersion of light due to water in the air.
Looks like it’s raining over there. The shape is just a matter of angles and height.
Image credits: idontdislikeoranges
#19 What Are These Things I Keep Seeing On Nearly All The London Bus Stops In My Area?
Answer: It's potato art... And I'm not even kidding... The artist is unknown (some say by an artist called NoNose), if you look for 'London bus stop potato art' you can find many more articles written about it.
Image credits: 4tunabrix
#20 Found In Deep Creek Md. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Stonefly larvae. Good sign for the water quality.
Image credits: GumAddict5947
#21 What Are These Circular Metal Things On These Stairs? I Just Hit My Knee And Goddamn Did It Hurt
Answer: Skateboard prevention device. Keeps em from grinding on edges.
Image credits: JjzMerheb
#22 What Are Those Things Called? I Think They're Typical Of Gothic Architecture?
Answer: Flying buttresses. They’re there to transfer the weight of the roof outwards to stop the walls bowing and collapsing.
Image credits: whita_019
#23 Growing From The Basement Ceiling At A Very Rapid Rate. It Is Also Leaving On The Table Below It, Grayish Particles. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Those are the studs from your walls -- redistributed by your termites.
Image credits: FallAwayAlways
#24 What Is This Fiber/Sand Ball? Found Among Thousands Like It On A Beach In Spain. It Weighs Almost Nothing
Answer: Sea grass ball
Image credits: ErikBech
#25 Found This In My House. I Bet My Wife It Has Something To Do With A Tie. Do I Win?
Answer: Hoof pick for cleaning horses hooves.
Image credits: Ymmy805
#26 Saw This Rusty Thing On My Walk In A Forest. The Forest Belong To A Estate Wedellsborg, Vestfyn, Denmark. What Is This Thing?
Answer: It is an underwater mine
Image credits: Damadamas
#27 On The Underside Of Our Cabinet In The House We Recently Bought, Built In The 70s. Plastic With Metal Teeth On One Side, Very Dull. Each Side Is ~4 Inches Long. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Jar opener
Image credits: dwarfstar3434
#28 I’m Not Doing My Dishes Until I Know What This Beautiful Thing Is
Answer: That’s a bacteria pellicle.
Image credits: rpunx
#29 Found In A Crawlspace Of A House From The 80's Next To 3 Red Boxes Encased In Concrete. What Is This Thing?
Answer: This label is used for materials with gamma and neutron emissions This label was specifically used on containers shipped by aircraft, and that reference is from the late 50s/early 60s. Any red label is going to be Group I or II, which as stated above emits gamma rays, neutrons, or both, and is potentially harmful even with the box closed. OP's lid came from something shipped by air, but it's interesting to note that on ground shipments of the same class of materials (like with the label variant I found in my first edit), the trucks themselves were required to be marked "CAUTION" or "DANGEROUS - RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS" on the sides and rear of the vehicle just to haul this kind of material.
Post author update: As of today a 3 man team from the state of Utah department of environmental quality, division of waste management and radiation control, uranium Mills and radioactive materials section (holy [crap]) showed up at my friend's house around 10am and spent a few hours taking readings, swabbing samples and asking questions and after all of that, found nothing but natural trace amounts of radon. The "lid" they think was from the late 1950's and was unrelated to the "vault".
Image credits: mosaltedchipz
#30 Plaque With Numbers Inscribed On It. Found On The Sidewalk Outside A Building At My University
Answer: Magic square. It's a popular sort of decoration to put outside math departments
Image credits: hadsecks
#31 I Found This Hanging From The Basement Rafters Of My 100 Year Old House. It Appears To Be Two Marbles Or Something Similar In A Hanger Of Some Sort. Any One Have A Clue What This Could Be?
Answer: It's a razor blade sharpener. A 1930s salesman's special and it doesn't even sharpen the blades just realigns the edge and gets you a few more shaves.
Image credits: debo3883
#32 So I Found This Key In With A Bunch Of Things I Was Given Decades Ago When My Grandfather Died. Anyone Ever Seen A Key Like This Before? It’s About 2cm Long An I Have No Clue Where It Came From
Answer: The swastika was one of Britain's favourite lucky charms during WW1, e.g. this swastika key charm from the war. There were swastika cushions in British homes & the Scouts had a swastika badge. There must have been a mass domestic clear out in the 1930s/40s, as such items now rare.
Image credits: hugosp0ps
#33 Found In The Middle Of Asian Desert, In Google Earth At 40°26'37"N 90°48'00"E. What Is This Thing?
Answer: They are the evaporation ponds for the Xinjiang Lop Nur Potash Co., Ltd. one of the world's largest potassium sulfate production mines
Image credits: StopLookingAtMyName-
#34 What Are These Are What Are They For? The Girl Sitting Across From Me Had Them On All Fingers On Both Hands
Answer: Oval finger splints for treating: Arthritis, Boutonniere Deformities, Crooked Finger, Fractures, Hypermobility (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), Lateral Deviation, Mallet Finger, Swan Neck, Trigger Finger, Trigger Thumb
Image credits: aniwrack
#35 Found In The Wood In A Creek. It Was Under A Piece Of Wood. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Those look like midge eggs, an aquatic fly
Image credits: Ordralphabetix
#36 What Is This Thing That You Always See On An Escalator?
Answer: They help keep shoes, dresses, handbags, etc. from getting snagged in the tiny gap at the side. I use them as a little shoe shine, too.
Image credits: kristhecadet
#37 This Sci-Fi Looking Place In Poland, Somewhere By Krakow. What Is This Thing?
Answer: Alvernia Studios is a film studio located near Kraków, Poland, 18 km (10 miles) from the Kraków-Balice Airport, with additional offices in Mumbai and Warsaw.
Image credits: StayAtHomeDuck
#38 Found On The Norfolk (UK) Coast. Very Soft And Floppy, Pale Pink But Not Rotten Or Water Bloated. What Is This?
Answer: A hairless seal flipper
Image credits: poetry-divided
#39 Poured A Glass Of Water Last Night From The Tap Left It Under The Light On The Night Stand, Next Morning I Found This Floating In It... What Could It Be?
Answer: If it actually did come out the tap with the water, my guess is some sort of flocculant/coagulant used in tap-water treatment, that somehow made it past the system and was still dissolved/in suspension in the water. Then settled out during the night.
These chemicals are used to attract particle in the water and clump them together for easier removal. Some of those "concoctions" looks similar to this after settling out.
Image credits: John5671
#40 An Opening In The Bottom Floor Of An 1850s Home In Charleston, Sc. What Is This Thing?
Answer: A way to access your crawlspace, there’s usually plumbing, wiring and potentially ductwork that periodically may need maintenance
Image credits: bikematt7109
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