This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

The 50 Weirdest Stories Of 2020 That Weren’t COVID-19

From murder hornets to monoliths, this was a really really weird year.
Mel Woods/HuffPost Canada

2020 was a year for the history books. Roundly called a “garbage fire,” it’s a year that saw a global pandemic change our lives forever. The rules governing time seemed to change every day — here’s looking at you, the April that lasted forever.

But exactly HOW wild was it?

Two huge stories dominated the 2020 news cycle, and will likely define this year when we look back on it decades from now. The first, a once-in-a-generation pandemic that saw international borders closed, hundreds of thousands die and millions infected. The second, a polarizing U.S. election cycle that saw the end of Donald Trump’s tenure, though hardly the end of a divided America.

But while these are the big stories of 2020, a lot of weird smaller things happened.

Here are 50 things that happened this year that weren’t the pandemic, but made 2020 totally 2020.

1. Murder hornets

A constant supporting cast member in the hellish TV program that was 2020, murder hornets seemed to pop up every few months, accompanied by new horrifying details on the instigating insects.

While they actually first arrived in Western Canada in 2019, in April was when they really started to make waves. Then we learned about exactly how they do their murdering, and who could forget slaughter season?

Thankfully, murder hornets didn’t pose a huge murderous threat to people, relegating them to amusing anecdote amidst 2020.

2. Everything is cake

For a few blessed weeks in May, everything was cake. Beloved pets, people, food that definitely wasn’t cake. It was a pure and good Internet meme, that truly threw our very conception of reality into question.

Could this post actually just be cake? We’ll never know.

3. Cronk lives!

When University of Calgary researcher Paul Fairie started tweeting about an old beverage called Cronk, it was funny for a few days. Cronk was, after all, the drink.

But then Cold Garden brewery in Calgary decided to brew the 100-year-old elixir. Turns out Cronk is a lot like prune juice meets Jaegermeister meets molasses. But the cult of Cronk, that was as sweet as pie. Last month Cold Garden dropped modern Cronk, an improved version of the brew for modern palates.

4. David Guetta’s rooftop George Floyd rave

The death of George Floyd sparked a wave of long overdue racial reckoning across the U.S. and the world. Many celebrities tried to respond in their own way, whether through well-intentioned (though potentially problematic) black squares on Instagram or actual meaningful action to support Black equality.

The most tone-deaf of all, however, was DJ and producer David Guetta, who hosted a rooftop rave remixing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, supposedly in support of Floyd. Nothing says “grappling with systemic racial injustice” quite like a beat drop.

5. “Love is Blind”

The moment that “Love Is Blind” star Jessica holds her glass of red wine to her dog’s snout, softly murmuring “she loves wine” will go down in television history. Give it all of the Emmys.

The reality dating show, where people dated and got engaged without even seeing each other, was tailor-made for this year. Just before the pandemic kicked into high gear in March, “Love Is Blind” was there for us, to entertain, to gasp, and to let us think it might be the most f**ked up thing to happen in 2020. Boy oh boy, were we all wrong.

6. Lots of literal garbage fires

In a year known as a “garbage fire,” there was actually a lot of garbage literally on fire.

7. Mothpocalypse

Like a biblical plague, for several weeks in the early fall swarms of moths descended upon Vancouver. It felt fitting for 2020, a year defined quite literally by a plague.

8. The monoliths


That was the big question after a mysterious metal monolith was discovered in Utah. Then another in Romania. One in Manitoba. And countless more.

Were they part of some elaborate marketing scheme? The work of artistic pranksters? Copycats of the original? We may never know, though we can’t ever rule out aliens, can we?

9. Twiggy the illegally waterskiing squirrel

10. 12-foot Home Depot skeleton

Another apple of the Internet’s eye this year? The 12-foot-tall Home Depot skeleton. Where did it come from? Where did it go? Can I fit one on my apartment balcony? These are the questions that matter most.

Unfortunately, the man himself sold out rather quickly. Those of us unlucky enough to not get our own 12-foot-tall Home Depot skeletons had to settle for the wealth of great Internet content created about them.

11. 12-foot Home Depot skeleton, but make it Christmas

Why only use a 12-foot skeleton for one month of the year when you can dress him up as Santa or string him with lights? Truly a multi-holiday treat!

12. Peegate

During a very important provincial COVID-19 update in New Brunswick, a reporter’s question was interrupted by an unmistakable tinkling sound. The number one culprit remains at large, but the gaffe prompted a stream of great jokes.

13. Zombie mink

This one is technically COVID-19 related, but also horrifying enough to stand on its own — just like the zombie mink did. After an outbreak of the virus at several mink farms in Europe, the mammals were culled to prevent further spread. However, gas build-up in the mass mink graves led to the corpses literally rising from the dead. Whoever had “zombie mink” on your 2020 bingo card — go buy a lottery ticket.

14. Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video

Remember when a bunch of celebrities thought that singing John Lennon together from their respective rich-people houses over Zoom would solve all of our problems? That worked well.

15. The Matthew Morrison Grinch

A truly horrifying figure befitting this year, the former “Glee” star’s take on the Christmas classic was all tricks and no treat. Supposedly taking inspiration from Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, Morrison approached the role with equal parts seriousness and camp.

It’s been called many things, from the “CATS” of 2020 to pure nightmare fuel.

16. We got another cursed art “restoration”

Who can forget “potato Jesus,” the iconic botched restoration of a 1930 fresco by renowned Spanish artist Elías García Martínez?

2020 gave the world the sequel we never asked for, in the form of a carved figure on the side of a Spanish office building. What was supposedly once a beautiful female form now looks like a horrifying cartoon. You would think they’d have an artist look it over before letting it out like that.

17. Andrew Scheer wages war on “Paw Patrol”

One of Canada’s highest-ranking politicians is used to throwing barbs across the House of Commons. But in 2020, then-Tory leader Scheer set his sights on the popular kids’ television show “Paw Patrol.” It’s a long story, but worth the read.

18. A snowball fight in B.C. was postponed because of too much snow

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our collective definition of a “crisis” was a bit different. And when a snowstorm hit Vancouver in January, the unimaginable happened — the roads were too icy and there was too much snow for the University of British Columbia’s annual snowball fight.

The world is cruel sometimes.

19. Giant wooden penis part one

First, in September, a Canadian man living in New York had to fight to keep the giant wooden penis sculpture he carved in his front yard …

20. Giant wooden penis part two

… and then another giant penis story happened, this time around the world in Germany. A notable giant wooden penis statue on a mountaintop mysteriously went missing. So if you’re looking for a way to sum up 2020, “year of the giant wooden penis” sounds just about right.

21. They made a musical on TikTok

And by “they” I mean a collective of musical theatre nerds stuck at home with too much time on their hands and by “a musical” I, of course, mean the masterpiece that is “Ratatouille: The Musical.”

From songs to set design to the Playbill, no detail was spared. While the phrase “Ratatouille: The Musical” meant nothing in 2019, in 2020 it came to represent a coming together in the darkest times. It’s even going to be streamed as an actual production to benefit the Actor’s Fund!

22. “Planet of the Apes” basically happened for real

In May, a group of monkeys in India broke into a lab and stole blood samples from suspected COVID-19 patients. The monkeys apparently climbed trees and chewed on the samples’ packaging.

So if superpowered monster monkeys show up in 2021, we have 2020 to blame.

23. Also, “Alien” basically happened for real

An image of an eel bursting out of a heron’s stomach in Delaware went viral this fall, because apparently we all needed to add “flesh-eating eels” to the list of terrifying things in this wretched year.

24. Da Vinki???

Who painted the Mona Lisa? Most people might guess Leonardo Da Vinci, but a pair of twins from Surrey, B.C. birthed one of the year’s greatest memes with two words: “Da Vinki?”

25. There were cannibal rats ...

It’s hard for a year to pass without at least a few wacky rat stories, and 2020 was no different. In this case, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had to warn New Yorkers about cannibal rats, due to a shortage in the garbage they usually eat.

“Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behaviour,” the CDC wrote in May.

26. ... then the rats took over Chipotle ...

And naturally, the rats went for the guacamole. This year, a New York location of the popular Tex-Mex chain Chipotle was taken over by rats. And this wasn’t just any infestation, with the rats chewing through computer wiring and developing a fine taste for the restaurant’s avocados. The location only closed once the computer chewing was so bad it was literally impossible to take orders. Viva la rat-a-lution!

27. ... and a man fell into a sinkhole full of rats

2020 was the Year of Rat according to the Chinese Zodiac, so why not include a third wild rat story? This time, it was in October when a New York man fell through the sidewalk into a sinkhole full of rats, where he was stuck for over half an hour.

Absolutely terrifying.

28. Nigella Lawson couldn’t say “microwave”

We truly do love to see celebrity gaffes, especially when they are ultimately harmless. Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s iconic pronunciation of a certain kitchen appliance certainly fits the bill.

During a video where she was making mashed potatoes, as Lawson prepared to pour in some full-fat milk, she told viewers she had pre-heated it in the microwave.

Or as she put it, the “me-crow-wav-vay”.

Maybe we’ve all been saying it wrong this whole time.

WATCH: Nigella Lawson’s odd pronunciation of “microwave” drives Internet wild. Story continues below.

29. A dog was elected mayor in this Kentucky town

The wildest part? They elect a dog mayor every year. The first mayor of Rabbit Hash was Goofy Borneman, a dog born of “unknown parentage” who entered office in 1998.

30. A dead guy was banned from his own funeral for sitting in a chair

Che Lewis, a 29-year-old who was shot and killed in Trinidad and Tobago, was almost barred from his own funeral for arriving in a chair. Lewis was embalmed in a sitting position and placed in a chair for the procession, but when it arrived at the church, staff reportedly denied the body entry.

That meant Lewis was left in the chair outside in what was basically just “Weekend At Bernie’s.”

31. The McDonald’s Oreo Spam Burger

I like to consider myself as a connoisseur of fast or weird foods, from ranking ranch dressing to trying all of the chicken sandwiches you can buy in Canada. But I never realized how badly I needed to try something until McDonald’s unveiled an Oreo Spam burger in China.

While many on the Internet were quick to cast judgement, I think it’s perfect. The sweet! The salty! The complementary textures! And while I won’t be headed to China anytime soon, you better believe one night I’m going to sit down and make this for myself.

Long live the Oreo Spam burger, the food 2020 deserves.

32. There was an illegal winery in a sewage plant

This year, Alabama sheriffs busted an illegal wine business operating out of a municipal sewage plant. Because nothing pairs better with a fine red than the scent of raw sewage.

Forget “garbage fire year,” I’m going to start describing 2020 as the “illegal sewage wine year.” Be sure to pair your sewage wine with an Oreo Spam burger to capture the true taste of 2020.

33. A dude sued his parents for throwing out his porn collection — and won

A Michigan judge ruled that Beth and Paul Werking will have to pay their son David, 42, as much as $75,000 for destroying his prized porn collection.

The collection was apparently worth $25,000, but David’s attorney asked for the extra cash to pay for additional damages and losses. The collection included 1,605 individual titles of pornographic DVDs and VHS tapes and at least 50 sex toys and paraphernalia — that’s a lot of porn.

34. A dude named Adolf Hitler was elected in Namibia — no, not that Hitler

Adolf Hitler Uunona of Namibia’s South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) party was elected as councilor of the Ompundja constituency this year, and he promises he’s actually a good guy.

“As a child I saw it as a totally normal name,” Uunona said, in a translation by the BBC. “It wasn’t until I was growing up that I realized this man wanted to subjugate the whole world. I have nothing to do with any of these things.”

He says his father gave him the name, likely not realizing the unfortunate connection. But yes, a guy named Adolf Hitler winning an election is totally something that would happen in 2020.

35. A squirrel got drunk

A Minnesota woman fed a squirrel an old pear from her fridge ― but realized later that the fruit had fermented into a boozy snack for the critter. In a hilarious video, the squirrel is seen wobbling and keeling over after consuming the forbidden fruit.

Truly, all of us in 2020.

36. The Jeffrey Toobin incident

Of course 2020 would be the year where one the world’s most prestigious journalists (Jeffrey Toobin) working at one of the most prestigious magazines (The New Yorker) would be fired for jacking off on a work Zoom call! Of course!

In a year filled with video conferencing gaffes from us all, none so embodied 2020’s chaotic energy quite like when Toobin exposed himself during a call. It prompted thinkpieces, fallout and plenty of high-quality memes. A Zoom bumble will forever be known as “pulling a Toobin.”

37. Too many parrots at this British zoo learned how to swear

You’ve heard of kids being a bad influence on each other, but what about parrots? In September, five African grey parrots at a British wildlife park had to be taken out of public view because of their foul language.

The parrots had been quarantined together six weeks earlier when they arrived at the park, and apparently spent that time teaching each other a host of cuss words. They’ve since been separated and placed with other parrots who will, hopefully, be a better influence.

WATCH: Parrots separated for swearing. Story continues below.

38. Goats took over a Welsh town during the coronavirus lockdown

Residents Llandudno, Wales found a new meaning for “herd immunity” in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the town was overrun by a group of vagabond goats.

With the human residents inside, the goats took plenty of opportunity to thrive, grazing on everything from peoples’ flower beds to the church’s lawn.

39. Monkeys took over a city in Thailand

The goats weren’t the only ones to have a wild pandemic. In March, thousands of hungry monkeys stormed Lopburi, Thailand in search of food. Not only did they find it, months later police declared the monkeys had truly taken over and trying to stop them was “pointless.”

40. The Musk/Grimes baby

When Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and Canadian musician Grimes announced they were having a baby together, it seemed like it might be like any other celebrity baby experience. But then came the name.

X Æ A-12 Musk. Grimes had an explanation:

But that wasn’t enough for most people on Twitter, who dragged the name as being everything from a wi-fi password to what happens when you cat sits on your keyboard.

May baby X Æ A-12 give us weird news stories for many years to come.

41. People paid a lot of money to fly nowhere and basically just create pollution

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many flights were grounded around the world. But some people looking for the thrill of the airplane ride — from security to onboard safety videos — were able to get that thanks to Australian airline Quantas’s “flights to nowhere.” Tickets for the seven-hour flight, which circled several Australian landmarks, cost up to $2,765 and sold out in 10 minutes.

That’s a lot to pay for airplane pretzels.

42. Ben Shapiro sings “W.A.P.’

Meghan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s “W.A.P” could arguably be the song of the year, with its catchy beat, star power and irresistible lyrics. But those lyrics sound a whole lot different coming from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who tried to take down the raunchy song by reading out its lyrics on his show.

What resulted was the most cringe moment of 2020, and possibly all of history.

43. The wet-a** moon

Speaking of “W.A.P,” NASA teased in October that there would be some big news coming about the moon. That news turned out to be the existence of water on its surface. And while scientifically that’s a huge deal, the Internet was just really excited about a “wet-a** moon.”

44. LGBTQ penguin egg theft

In the Netherlands, a pair of gay male penguins stole a whole clutch of eggs from a same-sex pair of female penguins, prompting the LGBTQ+ penguin drama we never knew we needed in 2020.

45. “Tiger King”

While many pieces of pop culture captured our collective attention through pandemic lockdowns and quarantines, one series about a dude and some tigers stands out as truly capturing the essence of 2020.

It was far from the objectively best TV show to air in 2020, but “Tiger King” hit when the world seemed like it was falling apart. Collectively, we all got to experience the batsh*t story of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskins together. And while trails of the “Tiger King” story have persisted throughout that year, nothing will truly capture those first few weeks of “quaran-times” together.

46. A Zamboni driver won an NHL game

In late February, an unlikely hero emerged from the locker room of the Carolina Hurricanes during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With their main goalies down, emergency backup goalie David Ayres was called upon to take the net for the Hurricanes.

Ayres, a Toronto-area Zamboni driver, didn’t just take the ice. He won. And at age 42, became the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his debut game.

At the time it felt like that positive infectious energy would carry through the rest of the year. Little did we all know.

47. The life and death of Mr. Peanut

Another pre-COVID story was when Planters Peanuts decided to kill off their mascot and have him be reborn as, I kid you not, “baby nut.” Later in the year we also got a teenaged version of the spokesnut, suggesting a truly horrifyingly fast aging process for sentient sales peanuts.

Who knows, by the time this year ends, he might even be dead again.

48. A bunch of people planted mystery seeds

When mysterious packets of seeds started arriving in the mail, people just decided to plant ’em despite multiple authorities warning them not to.

“Everything that’s in the garden where I planted them are having a hard time and are starting to die,” one New Mexican woman later said in a voicemail left to her state’s department of agriculture, as reported by Motherboard.

No duh.

49. Claudia Conway spilled the tea

Back in October, the world found out that former Trump presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway had COVID-19 — thanks to her teenage daughter’s TikTok.

“Update my mom has covid,” Claudia Conway wrote in one TikTok video.

The teen Conway continued to spill gossip about her parents via social media and express her opposition to Trump and his policies for several weeks, even becoming a sort of folk hero to many.

50. Aliens might actually be real?

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