32 Surprising Facts About Jeopardy!

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Q: This beloved, Merv Griffin-created game show attracts 25 million viewers per week.

A: What is Jeopardy!?

Since 1984, millions of viewers have spent their weeknights having their brain cells challenged by legendary game show host Alex Trebek. But there was a time—and another time, and one other time—when questions swirled around Jeopardy!'s survival. Let's go behind the scenes of the Emmy Award-winning game show.

1. Jeopardy! contestants didn’t always have to wait until Alex Trebek was done speaking to buzz in.

During Alex Trebek's first season, contestants could buzz in to answer the question as soon as the answer was revealed, giving the advantage to fast readers. And that’s why they changed it.

2. Knowing the buzzer system is almost as important as knowing your trivia in Jeopardy!.

Jeopardy contestant Nancy Zerg puts her hands to her mouth in shock after beating champion Ken Jennings in 2004.
Jeopardy! contestant Nancy Zerg puts her hands to her mouth in shock after beating champion Ken Jennings in 2004.
Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

Possessing a vast store of knowledge is just half of the battle at Jeopardy! Contestants also need to know the nuances of buzzing in. They’re only allowed to hit the buzzer after Alex finishes reading the question, and there’s an indicator light that tells them when it’s safe. Too slow and the competition will get in first; too fast and there’s a quarter-second penalty.

3. Jeopardy! contestants stay busy during commercial breaks.

In this handout photo provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc., "Jeopardy!" Host Alex Trebek, 72, returned to the set at Sony Pictures Studios to tape the first episode of the new season on July 25, 2012 in Culver City, California
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Getty Images Entertainment

During the first break, they get to listen as Alex and announcer Johnny Gilbert run through any necessary re-recordings—clips to replace any instances where they coughed, stuttered, or mispronounced something. The production team also gives contestants a pep talk and addresses any buzzer issues, like a contestant repeatedly buzzing in too soon. On the second break, challengers get their picture taken with Alex and everyone gets a refresher on how "Double Jeopardy" works. Finally, the third break is when contestants are asked to start planning out their strategic wagers.

4. Jeopardy! contestants aren’t sure which personal story Alex is going to ask them to talk about.

Host of "Jeopardy!" Alex Trebek attends a press conference to discuss the upcoming Man V. Machine "Jeopardy!" competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York
Ben Hider/Getty Images

To prepare for the brief chat with Alex that happens after the first commercial break, players give contestant coordinators a number of interesting anecdotes to choose from. The coordinators choose their top three favorites. After that, it’s ultimately left up to Alex to choose which one he wants to ask contestants to elaborate on.

5. When other Jeopardy! contestants appear to be ignoring the one telling a personal story, it’s not because they’re being rude.

Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Jeopardy! contestant Arthur Chu explained that contestants are actually advised by producers to ignore the other contestants’ personal stories and concentrate on their game instead.

6. Wagering $69 is against Jeopardy! rules—as is bidding $666.

There are five banned wagers on the show, including the obvious $69 and $666. Wagering $14, $88, and $1488 are also banned due to their white supremacist connotations.

7. Jeopardy! fans created an online database that includes almost every question ever asked.

jeopardy! game show

Want to study up? The J! Archive has your back—maybe overwhelmingly so. The fan-built database contains nearly every question every asked on the show, to the tune of nearly 400,000 clues.

8. Alex Trebek knows he sometimes sounds like a disappointed dad.

Alex Trebek speaks during a rehearsal before a taping of Jeopardy! Power Players Week at DAR Constitution Hall on April 21, 2012 in Washington, DC
Kris Connor/Getty Images

He intends to. "I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking," Trebek told New York magazine. "It's also, 'How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.'"

9. Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak once switched roles.

On April 1st, 1997, Trebek and Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak switched hosting gigs as part of an April Fools' Day lineup.

10. Wheel of Fortune is considered Jeopardy’s sister show.

Game show hosts Alex Trebek (L) and Pat Sajak (R) pose on the set of the "Jeopardy!" Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament Show Taping on April 17, 2010 in Culver City, California
Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak pose on the set of the "Jeopardy!" Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament Show.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

The April Fools’ Day switcheroo the hosts pulled makes sense since the shows, both created by Merv Griffin, are “sisters.” And there have been some lucky contestants who've had the chance to compete on both.

11. Not every game of Jeopardy! ends with a winner.

Occasionally, all three contestants wager everything in Final Jeopardy and end up losing it all. In the rare case that it happens, there is no winner. Three new contestants are then chosen for the next game. The last time this happened was in 2016.

12. Jeopardy! doesn’t know what will happen if all three contestants have $0 or negative values after Double Jeopardy.

Game show host Alex Trebek greets celebrity contestants Michael McKean, Isaac Mizrahi and Charles Shaughnessy on the set of the "Jeopardy!" Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament Show Taping on April 17, 2010 in Culver City, California
Alex Trebek greets celebrity contestants Michael McKean, Isaac Mizrahi and Charles Shaughnessy on the set of the "Jeopardy!" Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament Show.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

“The Jeopardy! rule book is not a gilt-edged tome bound in Moroccan leather,” the website says. “It’s a living document which states that: 'In the event all three contestants have $0 (zero) or minus amounts at the end of ‘Double Jeopardy!,' no Final Jeopardy! round would be played.” However, that leaves producers with around three minutes of empty time to fill, and they aren’t quite sure how they would do that—although the website speculates that the final question would be shared just for the viewers’ enjoyment.

13. Nearly 14,000 Jeopardy! clues are written each season.

Kelly Miyahara is on Jeopardy!'s clue crew.

Each season, 13,800 Jeopardy! clues are written, including the 230 Final Jeopardy! clues. This impressive feat is achieved by a staff of eight researchers and eight writers plus a head writer.

14. Moving down the game board by category may be the smartest way to play Jeopardy!

The show recommends moving methodically down the board by category. It was the method Jeopardy! GOAT (and Mental Floss quiz master) Ken Jennings employed. “It's easier to follow at home, and it also helps players acclimate to a category before getting to the really hard clues,” Jennings told Mental Floss.

15. “The Forrest Bounce” is a thing. Watson the IBM Computer used it.

Contestant Ken Jennings competes against 'Watson' at a press conference to discuss the upcoming Man V. Machine "Jeopardy!" competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York
Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings competes against 'Watson' at a press conference for the Man V. Machine Jeopardy! competition in New York in 2011.
Ben Hider/Getty Images

Contrary to Jennings’s love of the linear method, another technique dubbed “The Forrest Bounce” has become popular. In 1985, a contestant named Chuck Forrest wildly careened around the board with no apparent rhyme or reason to the categories or dollar amounts he was choosing. But there was a method to the madness: Unpredictability. If you can throw your opponents off guard, you have an advantage. There’s clearly some truth in that theory, because Watson was programmed to do the Forrest Bounce.

16. “Daily Double Hunting” is another hot Jeopardy! strategy.

Game show host Alex Trebek rehearses his lines on the set of the "Jeopardy!" Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament Show Taping on April 17, 2010 in Culver City, California
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

The bottom two rows of the board are the most likely to contain Daily Doubles, and whoever gets the most Daily Doubles is the most likely to win the game. “That's just statistical analysis,” Arthur Chu told us. “I figured I had no reason not to do that.” Watson was also programmed to hunt Daily Doubles.

17. The lowest score in Jeopardy! History is -$6800.

The record was attained by Stephanie Hull, who chalked up her lackluster performance to other players getting the Daily Doubles, and her own incorrect answers to $2000 questions, which she chose in an attempt to close the gap. Fellow contestant Brad also ended in the negatives, so only one person went into Final Jeopardy during Hull's game—the first time that had ever happened.

18. Players who end in the red don’t have to pay the money back.

In fact, they still win money: Second place gets $2000, while third-place receives $1000. “It paid for the trip to L.A,” Hull reported.

19. Celebrity-wise, Wolf Blitzer was the worst Jeopardy! player.

Wolf Blitzer attends the "Mike Wallace Is Here" Premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at The Ray on January 27, 2019 in Park City, Utah
Wolf Blitzer at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

During his stint on Celebrity Jeopardy!, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer hit -$4600 during the Double Jeopardy round. Because it was all to benefit charity, Trebek—and, OK, probably the show's producers—graciously wiped out the debt and spotted Blitzer $1000 so he could participate in Final Jeopardy.

20. There's a phrase for when all three Jeopardy! contestants get a question wrong.

When all three players miss a question, they call it a triple stumper. One of the most famous examples was when a trio of contestants missed every question in a category about football. When they reached the $1000 question, Alex deadpanned, “If you guys ring in and get this one, I will die.” Luckily, he was safe: No one answered correctly.

21. Alex Trebek once opened a Tournament of Champions episode wearing no pants.

Trebek said he dropped trou to put the stressed contestants at ease, then quickly walked offstage to put his pants on after it was revealed that the contestants hadn’t followed his lead. (It was all in good fun.)

22. Alex Trebek plans to end his Jeopardy! run “on a whim.”

In 2019, Trebek was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer—but he has stated that he has no particular plans to quit his day job. When it eventually does happen, he’ll decide “on a whim, on that particular day,” he told Michael Strahan. “It would be the same as when I shaved my mustache,” he said. “I will speak to Harry [Friedman, the show’s executive producer], we'll speak to Clay [Jacobsen], our director, and tell him, ‘Give me 30 seconds at the end of the program.”

23. Jeopardy! Tournament contestants get to pick a movie to watch in the green room.

Host of "Jeopardy!" Alex Trebek, Executive Producer of "Jeopardy!" Harry Friedman and Contestant Brad Rutter attend a press conference to discuss the upcoming Man V. Machine "Jeopardy!" competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 201
Ben Hider/Getty Images

Jeopardy! Legend Arthur Chu spilled some of his more obscure show facts to us several years ago, including that Tournament of Champions participants get choose a movie to watch in the green room while they were waiting for their turn to play. This is so they can’t hear what’s going on in the studio. The DVDs are carefully vetted in advance to ensure they contain no information that’s going to be on the upcoming Jeopardy! board. Smart! But the Jeopardy! team notes that this is something they do during for tournaments only; on normal tape days, contestants aren't sequestered in the green room—they watch from the audience.

24. The answer to a missed question was once right in front of a contestant’s face.

In 2014, Sandie Baker was up against this answer from the Signs & Symbols category: "Meant to evoke a person with arms outstretched & pointed downward, it was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom." The answer was the peace sign—the symbol on the earrings she was wearing. But don’t feel too bad for Sandie: She still ended up winning the game with $26,600.

25. Showrunners don’t expect big reactions from winners.

Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, (L) poses contestant Ken Jennings after his earnings from his record breaking streak on the gameshow surpassed 1 million dollars July 14, 2004 in Culver City, California
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek poses with Ken Jennings after his record-breaking streak surpassed $1 million.
Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

The Price is Right, this is not. Despite the fortune and occasional fame that comes with winning Jeopardy!, contestant coordinators know that they’re dealing with “the nation’s smartest academics, tech geeks, and librarians ... generally introverts, in other words,” Jennings says. “So they lower their expectations and just ask winners for big smiles.”

26. Mental Floss helped one contestant win more than $22,000.

In 2012, contestant Erik Dresner picked up the now-extinct print version of Mental Floss magazine to read on a flight on L.A. to tape his Jeopardy! episode. When Final Jeopardy rolled around, Dresner was $5400 behind his nearest competitor. Luckily, the question about modern opera was answered in the very issue of Mental Floss he had grabbed at the airport. (You can read Dresner's story in his own words here—and see his Jeopardy!- and Mental Floss-inspired tattoo.)

27. Producers take the secrecy behind each episode seriously.

Jeopardy! contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter discussJEOPARDY! The Greatest of All Time at Build Studio in New York City.
Jeopardy! contestants Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter discuss Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time at Build Studio in New York City.
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Winners have to be extremely mum about where they are, which means fibbing to family, friends and co-workers. This gets pretty tricky when you’re a repeat winner—as Jennings well knows. He recorded 48 shows before his first episode aired, so it became pretty suspicious when he was missing from work every other Tuesday and Wednesday for months on end. “My boss told my co-workers a series of increasingly implausible lies about my whereabouts every other Tuesday and Wednesday,” Jennings wrote on his website. “You think computer programmers are all geniuses? No one ever caught on.”

28. Jeopardy! has been canceled—twice.

Celebrity contestants Jane Curtain and Harry Shearer pose on the set of the <em>Jeopardy!</em> Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament.
Celebrity contestants Jane Curtain and Harry Shearer pose on the set of the Jeopardy! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

The future of Jeopardy! has been in question on more than one occasion and the show has officially been canceled—twice! The first time was in 1975, when NBC decided they wanted to appeal to a younger female demographic. Then they brought it back for a mere six months in 1978. It wasn’t until the 1984 revival with Alex Trebek at the helm that the show finally achieved the longevity it’s known for today.

29. Jeopardy! aired at 2 a.m. in some major markets.

Alex Trebek
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Some station managers weren’t convinced that Trebek’s brainy Jeopardy! was going to bring in a significant amount of viewers. Believing it would do poorly, several major markets, including New York, slotted the show into a 2 a.m. time slot where low viewership was to be expected.

30. Alex Trebek watches himself on Jeopardy! (Almost) every night.

Alex Trebek and his son Matt attend a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Alex Trebek and his son Matt attend a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Yes, Trebek loves watching Jeopardy! just as much as the rest of us... unless the Lakers are playing, of course.

31. Think you could be a contestant? You can now take the Jeopardy! test online whenever you want.

The Jeopardy! Anytime Test
Courtesy of Jeopardy!

Until February 2020, Jeopardy! opened up the online test for potential contestants during certain times of the year. Now, in addition to those date-specific tests, wannabe Jeopardy! champs can also take the Anytime Test once a year.

32. There’s an app that lets you play Jeopardy! wherever you are.

Jeopardy! Drivetime app
Jeopardy! Productions

If you don’t make the cut after taking the online test, you can still play. The Drivetime app offers a voice-based, hands-free version of Jeopardy! that’s ideal for playing in the car. The app add-on provides questions and answers from the first 35 seasons, with audio from Alex Trebek and a multiple-choice answer option. But that's not the only way to play the game on your own: Jeopardy! has mobile games, video games, books and beyond (many of which can be found here).

Watch John Krasinski Interview Steve Carell About The Office's 15th Anniversary

John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
NBC Universal, Inc.

The Office just passed a major milestone: It has been 15 years since the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's hit British sitcom made its way to NBC, where it ran for nine seasons. To celebrate the show's big anniversary, former co-stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell reunited in the best way possible: Carell appeared as a guest on Krasinski's new YouTube show, where the two decided to spread some positivity.

Krasinski just launched his very own news show titled Some Good News, and it's exactly what we've all been needing. During this segment, he interviewed Carell via video call, and the two shared their favorite memories of working on the beloved workplace comedy.

"It's such a happy surprise," Carell said of The Office's continued success. "After all these years people are still tuning in and finding it." The two also addressed the question that's been on every fan's mind: is there a chance that we'll see the Dunder Mifflin crew reunite in some way?

"Listen, I know everyone's talking about a reunion," Krasinski said. "Hopefully one day we'll just all get to reunite as people."

You can watch the full episode below. (Carell joins the video around the 5:50 minute mark.)

15 Facts About John Brown, the Real-Life Abolitionist at the Center of The Good Lord Bird

John Brown, circa 1846.
John Brown, circa 1846.
Augustus Washington/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, was meant to start an armed slave revolt, and ultimately end slavery. Though Brown succeeded in taking over the federal armory, the revolt never came to pass—and Brown paid for the escapade with his life.

In the more than 160 years since that raid, John Brown has been called a hero, a madman, a martyr, and a terrorist. Now Showtime is exploring his legacy with an adaption of James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. Like the novel it’s based on, the miniseries—which stars Ethan Hawke—will cover the exploits of Brown and his allies. Here's what you should know about John Brown before you watch.

1. John Brown was born into an abolitionist family on May 9, 1800.

John Brown was born to Owen and Ruth Mills Brown in Torrington, Connecticut, on May 9, 1800. After his family relocated to Hudson, Ohio (where John was raised), their new home would become an Underground Railroad station. Owen would go on to co-found the Western Reserve Anti-Slavery Society and was a trustee at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, one of the first American colleges to admit black (and female) students.

2. John Brown declared bankruptcy at age 42.

At 16, Brown went to school with the hope of becoming a minister, but eventually left the school and, like his father, became a tanner. He also dabbled in surveying, canal-building, and the wool trade. In 1835, he bought land in northeastern Ohio. Thanks partly the financial panic of 1837, Brown couldn’t satisfy his creditors and had to declare bankruptcy in 1842. He later tried peddling American wool abroad in Europe, where he was forced to sell it at severely reduced prices. This opened the door for multiple lawsuits when Brown returned to America.

3. John Brown's Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania
The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometime around 1825, Brown moved himself and his family to Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, where he set up a tannery and built a house and a barn with a hidden room that was used by slaves on the run. Brown reportedly helped 2500 slaves during his time in Pennsylvania; the building was destroyed in 1907 [PDF], but the site, which is now a museum that is open to the public, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brown moved his family back to Ohio in 1836.

4. After Elijah Lovejoy's murder, John Brown pledged to end slavery.

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and the editor of the St. Louis/Alton Observer, a staunchly anti-slavery newspaper. His editorials enraged those who defended slavery, and in 1837, Lovejoy was killed when a mob attacked the newspaper’s headquarters.

The incident lit a fire under Brown. When he was told about Lovejoy’s murder at an abolitionist prayer meeting in Hudson, Brown—a deeply religious man—stood up and raised his right hand, saying “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."

5. John Brown moved to the Kansas Territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which decreed that it would be the people of Kansas and Nebraska who would decide if their territories would be free states or slave states. New England abolitionists hoping to convert the Kansas Territory into a Free State moved there in droves and founded the city of Lawrence. By the end of 1855, John Brown had also relocated to Kansas, along with six of his sons and his son-in-law. Opposing the newcomers were slavery supporters who had also arrived in large numbers.

6. John Brown’s supporters killed five pro-slavery men at the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre.

A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry
A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On May 21, 1856, Lawrence was sacked by pro-slavery forces. The next day, Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor until he lost consciousness. (A few days earlier, Sumner had insulted Democratic senators Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech; Brooks was a representative from Butler’s state of South Carolina.)

In response to those events, Brown led a group of abolitionists into a pro-slavery settlement by the Pottawatomie Creek on the night of May 24. On Brown’s orders, five slavery sympathizers were forced out of their houses and killed with broadswords.

Newspapers across the country denounced the attack—and John Brown in particular. But that didn't dissuade him: Before his final departure from Kansas in 1859, Brown participated in many other battles across the region. He lost a son, Frederick Brown, in the fighting.

7. John Brown led a party of liberated slaves all the way from Missouri to Michigan.

In December 1858, John Brown crossed the Kansas border and entered the slave state of Missouri. Once there, he and his allies freed 11 slaves and led them all the way to Detroit, Michigan, covering a distance of more than 1000 miles. (One of the liberated women gave birth en route.) Brown’s men had killed a slaveholder during their Missouri raid, so President James Buchanan put a $250 bounty on the famed abolitionist. That didn’t stop Brown, who got to watch the people he’d helped free board a ferry and slip away into Canada.

8. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was meant to instigate a nationwide slave uprising.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 men—including five African Americans—seized control of a U.S. armory in the Jefferson County, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) town of Harpers Ferry. The facility had around 100,000 weapons stockpiled there by the late 1850s. Brown hoped his actions would inspire a large-scale slave rebellion, with enslaved peoples rushing to collect free guns, but the insurrection never came.

9. Robert E. Lee played a part in John Brown’s arrest.

Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Shortly after Brown took Harpers Ferry, the area was surrounded by local militias. On the orders of President Buchanan, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee entered the fray with a detachment of U.S. Marines. The combined might of regional and federal forces proved too much for Brown, who was captured in the Harpers Ferry engine house on October 18, 1859. Ten of Brown's men died, including two more of his sons.

10. John Brown was put on trial a week after his capture.

After his capture, Brown—along with Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, and John Copeland—was put on trial. When asked if the defendants had counsel, Brown responded:

"Virginians, I did not ask for any quarter at the time I was taken. I did not ask to have my life spared. The Governor of the State of Virginia tendered me his assurance that I should have a fair trial: but, under no circumstances whatever will I be able to have a fair trial. If you seek my blood, you can have it at any moment, without this mockery of a trial. I have had no counsel: I have not been able to advise with anyone ... I am ready for my fate. I do not ask a trial. I beg for no mockery of a trial—no insult—nothing but that which conscience gives, or cowardice would drive you to practice. I ask again to be excused from the mockery of a trial."

Brown would go on to plead not guilty. Just days later, he was found “guilty of treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the first degree” and was sentenced to hang.

11. John Brown made a grim prophecy on the morning of his death.

On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown passed his jailor a note that read, “I … am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood.” He was hanged later that day.

12. Victor Hugo defended John Brown.

Victor Hugo—the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was also an abolitionist—penned an open letter on John Brown’s behalf in 1859. Desperate to see him pardoned, Hugo wrote, “I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World … I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown.” Hugo’s appeals were of no use. The letter was dated December 2—the day Brown was hanged.

13. Abraham Lincoln commented on John Brown's death.

Abraham Lincoln, who was then in Kansas, said, “Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a State. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.”

14. John Brown was buried in North Elba, New York.

John Brown's gravesite in New York
John Brown's gravesite in New York.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1849, Brown had purchased 244 acres of property from Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist, in North Elba, New York. The property was near Timbuctoo, a 120,000-acre settlement that Smith had started in 1846 to give African American families the property they needed in order to vote (at that time, state law required black residents to own $250 worth of property to cast a vote). Brown had promised Smith that he would assist his new neighbors in cultivating the mountainous terrain.

When Brown was executed, his family interred the body at their North Elba farm—which is now a New York State Historic Site.

15. The tribute song "John Brown's Body" shares its melody with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It didn’t take long for Brown to become a martyr. Early in the 1860s, the basic melody of “Say Brothers Will You Meet Us,” a popular camp hymn, was fitted with new lyrics about the slain abolitionist. Titled “John Brown’s Body,” the song spread like wildfire in the north—despite having some lines that were deemed unsavory. Julia Ward Howe took the melody and gave it yet another set of lyrics. Thus was born “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a Union marching anthem that's still widely known today.