40+ Weird Things Whose Purpose Was Unknown Until the Internet Came to the Rescue

If you’re looking for niche content, Reddit is the place to go. The discussion website and content aggregator allows users to up or down vote posts, and respond to each other’s questions. One popular subreddit is r/whatisthisthing, which, unsurprisingly, is a place for people to ask each other, “What is this thing?” People post things they’ve found or seen, and others chime in to help solve the mystery. Keep reading for a list of weird things that found their purpose via Reddit.

The Jar Opener

Imagine moving into a new house and discovering a triangular object full of serrated teeth in your cabinets. What would you think? It does look somewhat like a torture device, or at least like a significant health and safety hazard.

The Jar Opener

Actually, this object has quite a benign purpose that’s far more mundane than its jagged teeth suggest. A Reddit user simply replied “jar opener” to this post, and that’s exactly what it is. Actually, we think this is a pretty handy object.

The Stainless Steel Soap

Now this object is frustratingly puzzling. Let’s be honest – it’s a flat silver ball that looks like it’s just a flat silver ball. If we found this in our house, we would go wild trying to figure out what on earth it’s for.

The Stainless Steel Soap

Is it the perfect object for skipping stones? Is it an unimaginative paperweight? Nope. It turns out this is stainless steel soap. Apparently, “It’s to rub on your hands after chopping onions or garlic. It gets the smell off.” Cool!

The Lacewing Eggs

Yet again we are faced with the disgusting reality that we’re dealing with bugs here. What else could leave such a freakishly uniform row of something so tiny? Gross! This person posted this bone-chilling image of “tiny specks hanging by threads” to Reddit, and quickly got the response, “Lacewing eggs.”

The Lacewing Eggs

Further research reveals that “Female lacewings lay their eggs on a thread of hardened mucus attached to a leaf, so they are suspended in the air.” No thank you!

The Hammock Holder

Whoever posted this item to r/whatisthisthing has a keen eye for detail. After all, public art can look like just about anything, and many cities are covered in these types of geometric metal swirls. This poster helpfully noticed that each metal ring has two hooks on each side, which helped to solve this minor mystery.

The Hammock Holder

According to Reddit, these are hammock stands, “used for swinging, sleeping, or resting.” Hopefully, nearby walkers remembered to bring their hammocks out with them.

The Testing Chip

Now here’s a random object that will blow your mind. Were you aware that “testing chips” existed? Because we certainly weren’t. This person found one in their bag of chips, and asked Reddit to solve the mystery.

The Testing Chip

Here’s the down-low – “It’s a testing chip. It goes through the metal detectors to ensure they’re working.” Ironically, this chip shows that the test has ultimately failed, because a foreign object has gotten through. Calling this in would surely cause a stir!

The Shaving Scuttle

As technology progresses, some objects become redundant. Or, they are just forgotten about. With the invention of the disposable, and then electric, razor, lots of old-fashioned shaving tools went by the wayside. So, what is “this weird cup thing?”

The Shaving Scuttle

Apparently, it’s “a shaving scuttle, which is used to keep soap lather warm and ready for multiple passes.” Indeed, these cups are actually enjoying a bit of a renaissance. After all, these days men are being encouraged to pamper themselves.

The Door Stopper

Starting us off is this strange-looking, cow-design, “hardish foam” semi-circle. If we were guessing what this object was, we’d be stumped. It looks a little like the foam that people put between their toenails when painting them, but it’s not the correct shape.

The Door Stopper

Thankfully, Reddit came to the rescue, with someone responding, “It is a door stopper, to stop fingers from getting caught when a door slams.” Another user explained that “it stops the door wider and so stops little fingers getting trapped.”

The Yawning Dance Mask

This attractive object was found in New Zealand, and does look like it was made for a particular purpose. The extremely wide mouth design looks almost like it could function as a bottle opener, but that is not the case.

The Yawning Dance Mask

When posted on r/whatisthisthing, a user replied with the details – “Balinese ‘yawning’ dance mask. It looks like a miniature version of the actual masks used in Balinese dance performances.” Traditional Balinese masks are considered sacred, and represent divine messengers.

The Ceremonial Chonta

Peru is a beautiful country, and it’s full of ancient objects and artifacts that are bursting with history. This poster found this long wooden object on a beach in Lima, Peru’s capital city. According to the Reddit responders, “That’s a ceremonial chonta. It’s a traditional healer thingy.”

The Ceremonial Chonta

Indeed, this “healer thingy” is used in traditional healing ceremonies. The carved wooden staff is made from the wood of the chonta palm, and sits at the head of a ceremonial altar.

The Bird Flight Diverter

There’s a certain category of objects that look more mysterious than others. They look like they could potentially be related to aliens, UFOs, or some sort of dodgy government plan straight out of Stranger Things. This spinning wind turbine clipped onto the power lines is in that category.

The Bird Flight Diverter

As it turns out, the object is actually for identified flying objects, rather than unidentified ones. A Redditor responded, “Bird flight diverter which provides an economical means of reducing the hazard to both lines and birds.”

The Underground Gas Vents

Again, this object looks like it could be at the center of some sort of secret research facility. We understand why a passing jogger might look at this alarming object and think that it’s the entrance to some kind of nefarious bunker. We’ve all seen movies!

The Underground Gas Vents

As is often the case, there’s a fairly boring explanation for these creepy structures. A response to this post explained, “They are vents for underground gasses.” Well, now we know.

The Ranger Beads

One of the best things about the r/whatisthisthing subreddit is that you get a chance to see things from all over the world. Items come in from every continent and country, and users get to look at a crawlspace in Ohio as well as a forest in Slovenia.

The Ranger Beads

In this case, we have a string of beads from a military camp in the woods in the Netherlands. According to Reddit, “They are called ranger beads. They are used to count distance through a known pace.”

The Hopewell Culture Arrowhead

While this is a more recognizable looking object, the person that found it wanted to find out some more detail. Is this an authentic historical arrowhead? Or is it a prop from some sort of reenactment or highly realistic child’s birthday party?

The Hopewell Culture Arrowhead

Thankfully, someone on Reddit suggested that “It’s a decent fit for Hopewell Indian culture arrows from about 2,000 years ago.” The Hopewell tradition is a Native American culture that existed in the northeastern and midwestern Eastern Woodlands during the Middle Woodland period.

The Roman Oil Jar

Again, whoever found this small jar must have instantly wondered if they’d stumbled across something hundreds of years old. This dainty item was found in a garden, south of the Netherlands, and looks like the clay jars of years gone by.

The Roman Oil Jar

Reddit came to the rescue, answering that “It’s a Roman oil jar made of terracotta.” Apparently, the ancient Romans made huge amounts of pottery, and terracotta pieces can be found all over the former Roman Empire.

The Delimbing Tool

This mystery object looks like it could do quite a bit of damage. For that reason, it’s probably best that whoever owns it checked in with Reddit to find out its actual purpose. Imagine if a child came across this thing!

The Delimbing Tool

As always, Reddit delivered, this time with the following answer – “This isn’t an axe. It’s a delimbing tool. You use it to reach high limbs and cut them with a swift pass. These things are razor sharp.”

The Sediment Filter

Imagine walking around your basement and hearing a steady drip, drip, drip. You look around, and a dark object comes into focus. It’s hanging from the roof. The object seems to be connected to the water line, but you’ve never even noticed it before. What is it?

The Sediment Filter

Well, it’s actually a fairly mundane object, despite its unsettling appearance. This is a sediment filter, which sieves particles out of water. According to Reddit, this one has a “very old filter cartridge inside.”

The Audio Head Demagnetizer

Here’s another mystery object that looks like it could do some damage in the wrong hands. Honestly, to us, it just looks like a bunch of trash, but it was clearly designed for a certain purpose. But what?

The Audio Head Demagnetizer

To answer that, we need to go back in time, all the way to the 1960s. You see, the cassette was invented in the ‘60s, and this contraption was used to remove built up magnetism in the tape path. Who knew?

The Spacer Wheel

What would be your first guess on the origins of this object if you came across it? For us, it looks like it’s part of a child’s playground. Perhaps it clicks onto a carousel, or kids can whirl it around for entertainment. Maybe it’s used to make designs in the sand, or to cut bizarre shaped cookies.

The Spacer Wheel

Actually, Reddit informed us that this is construction equipment – “It is called a spacer wheel or chair. It’s meant to hold rebar in place prior to pouring the concrete.”

The Double Inkwell

These highly ornamental objects might be recognizable to some folks. Whether you’ve spotted them in a museum or in a period drama, most people have laid eyes on an ink well before. This one is slightly different, as it’s a “Double inkwell which was commonly used in the 19th century.”

The Double Inkwell

Apparently, the second well can be used to wash your pen after writing so that the ink doesn’t dry and clog up the tip. Or, you could use two colors of ink.

The Electrostatic Animal Guard

This spiky mystery object looks like the logo for a new Marvel supervillain. Careful everyone -it’s Spike Man! Just kidding – but this spiky disk does look nefarious, and from some perspectives, maybe it is.

The Electrostatic Animal Guard

According to a helpful Redditor, this item “is an electrostatic animal guard.” They go on to explain that, “When an animal touches the spokes, it receives an electric shock.” Basically, this is like an electric fence that keeps livestock from wandering, but smaller.

The Flower Frog

This object doesn’t look like it does much. It’s basically a flat disc with some holes in it – what could it be for? Well, this actually has a pretty specific use, even though it looks like it’s fallen off another object.

The Flower Frog

This is a “flower frog” for arranging flowers. A Redditor informed us that, “It uses a number of holes that stems could be fit through for arranging.” It turns out that flower frogs come in a range of designs and styles. Fair enough!

The Grid Reflector

Lots of places all over the world have their own inventions for problems that we all face. For example, “cat’s eyes” were invented in the UK in 1934, as a reflective driving aid, and “Bott’s dots” came about in 1950s USA. This “yellow thing” on a telephone pole is similar, and could be specific to this particular state.

The Grid Reflector

Apparently, “These yellow mesh objects are called grid reflectors. Their purpose is to help motorists see and avoid utility poles.” Sorted.

The Storm Water Retainer

Here’s another item straight from the set of Stranger Things. Seriously, this looks like a location for storing bodies, or a hidden bunker to hide stolen goods. On the other hand, perhaps we just aren’t knowledgeable about construction and all that it takes to keep things up and running.

The Storm Water Retainer

So, this concrete structure is for “Storm water retention. So sewers aren’t overwhelmed.” We’ll admit to not knowing about these, but thanks to Reddit, now we’ll know in the future.

The Radioactive Site

Here’s something that you probably don’t want to run into, especially when it’s in your own house. This person came across a buried warning sign, and Reddit exploded into action. In fact, this whole scenario went so far that the press became involved.

The Radioactive Site

Inspectors from Radiation Control checked out this person’s crawlspace, but ultimately didn’t find anything dangerous. Apparently, the warning label was from the 1950s, but nothing significant was found in the red boxes. Phew!

The Purse Fastener

Now this is an object that was clearly made for something. While some of the things on this list look like random bits of plastic, this thing has clearly been made for a purpose. But what is it?

The Purse Fastener

Helpfully, a fellow Redditor chimed in that this round metal object is “the top (closure part) of a purse or small handbag.” This circular ring would have been stitched to the top of a purse, and used to open and close it.

The Invalid’s Cup

At first glance, this looks like a combination of a teapot and a cup. Perhaps you could take a sip from one side, and then also pour some liquid from the other? But why? Well, Reddit informs us that it’s an “invalid’s cup,” though it should surely have a more sensitive name.

The Invalid’s Cup

Another Reddit user explains, “Basically, it was an older version of a modern sippy cup for the weak and sick who couldn’t get up to feed themselves.”

The Freshwater Drum

This picture is a genuine, 100% certifiable horror show. If we came across this terrifying object, we’d throw it as far away as we possibly could. However, this person kept it around for 20 years, and finally got the information they needed from Reddit.

The Freshwater Drum

Incredibly, these are the teeth of the American freshwater drum fish. These fish have human-like molars that they can use to crush oysters and mussels. Unsurprisingly, they’re also known as grunter, gooble gobble, and grinder fish.

The Hag Moth

Since we’re already thinking about alarming creatures, let’s turn to this “Weird squirming living Lovecraftian nightmare,” found on someone’s lawn chair. Can you even imagine encountering this? Does it have a meaty mouth?

The Hag Moth

A useful Redditor responded to this post informing everyone that this horrid thing is a hag moth. Understandably, hag moth larva are known as “monkey slugs” due to their hairy legs. Thankfully, these ugly bugs aren’t actually harmful to humans, and they don’t damage crops.

The Blown Transformer Smoke Ring

In times gone by, before we were blessed with the internet, a scene like this would have people screaming about UFOs. The post tells us that people were out of their cars taking pictures, so we know that this spooky smoke ring caused some drama.

The Blown Transformer Smoke Ring

According to Reddit, “the phenomenon you have observed is called a soliton, a self-reinforcing wave. They can be surprisingly stable, ring structures especially. It’s caused by the rotation motion of the smoke from the cylindrical jacket on the transformer.”

The Termite Frass

This is the sort of image that sends shivers up our spine. It’s clearly organic matter, and it reappeared after it was cleared away. If that doesn’t make you freak out then I don’t know what will.

The Termite Frass

In this case, Reddit pointed out that these are “frass.” What on earth is frass you say? Well, the dictionary defines it as “fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects.” In the words of a Redditor, “Call a pest control man ASAP.”

The Miracle Eye

Whoever named the button on the back of this object was getting a little too excited about their own invention. After all, something has to be pretty great to be considered a miracle, right? Plus, “miracle eye” sounds like an all-powerful crystal ball.

The Miracle Eye

Reddit tells us that this is “a light sensor that can be turned on and off. When on the clock will not make chime noises unless it senses light. This way at night it does not wake people up.” Miraculous!

The Rocket Debris

This is a nice dramatic object to come across. It’s described as being “polyester in a honeycomb shape” that’s “fiberglassed” to a “flimsy aluminum disk.” Importantly, it was found in the US territory of Guam.

The Rocket Debris

Redditors had to really research to figure this one out, but the answer is pretty satisfying. Apparently, “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.”

The Aztec Sun Stone

Grandparents can be pretty particular about what items need to stay or go. This is even more true when the item in question is a carved, potentially sacred, ancient circle. If you were told to leave this item alone, would you? Or would you try to use it as a lever to enter another dimension?

The Aztec Sun Stone

A helpful user identified this object as a mottled jade Aztec Sun Stone. It’s “a sculpture dedicated to the sun with hieroglyphs of days, months and suns.”

The Horseshoe Game

From one carved circular stone to another, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this object was also an ancient artifact. However, it’s actually just part of a children’s indoor horseshoes game.

The Horseshoe Game

A helpful user explains, “It is missing a small red peg that goes in the middle. It is one of two stakes that came with rubber horseshoes in a child’s indoor horseshoe game. Had one just like it as a kid.” What a shame this one ended up in the woods.

The Germ Key

In our current age, we’ll soon be seeing lots of new inventions. Whether it’s a handy way to access your hand sanitizer, or an imaginative spin on face-masks, our world is changing. And this object, received by a newly enrolled college student, is a great example of that.

The Germ Key

This person asked the internet for answers, and the internet responded. This is “a germ key,” used “for opening door handles without touching them.” Where can we get one of these?

The Polypore Fungus

Strap yourselves in, because this is gross. And before we even reveal the details of this monstrosity, please be aware that they are edible. That’s right. If you wanted to, you could chow down on one of these.

The Polypore Fungus

Our friendly Reddit gang identified this as “a polypore fungus that is exuding excess moisture, called guttation.” It turns out that polypores are types of fungi that have pores or tubes on their underside. They also form “large fruiting bodies.” Shudder.

The Ornamental Missile

A lot of items posted on r/whatisthisthing are military-type paraphernalia. People want to know what they are, when and where they came from, and if they’re still functioning. Who wants to accidentally knock over a landmine, you know?

The Ornamental Missile

This poster ended up checking with his brother about the actual location of this object, which helped to solve the mystery. It turns out, this missile used to be mounted on a plinth outside a nearby military high school.

The Massive Wrench

This object isn’t exactly a mystery, but it does raise some questions. Most importantly, is this a joke, or does it actually work? And if it actually works, is that by chance, or because there’s something big enough to use it on? Also, let’s not breeze past the fact that someone inherited this.

The Massive Wrench

A handy response told this poster that their wrench is “totally functional.” They continued, “I work at the Federal Reserve and ‘the old vault’ is an attraction.”

The 3D Maze

This “scaffold-like structure” looks like the set of a rural horror movie. Imagine crawling around in there while trying to get away from some sort of raving cult leader. Not cool.

The 3D Maze

Responses to this post aren’t exactly definitive, but the general consensus is that this is a 3D maze. Redditors speculate that it’s used for a children’s camp, or other types of outdoor activities, like paintballing. Other users suggested it was an example of “baubotanik,” the practice of building structures using plants.

The Coffin Style Lid

Nobody wants to find a coffin, or a coffin-shaped object, on their property. Nothing good can come from such a discovery, and yet it must be investigated. Thankfully, this person went to Reddit rather than attacking the object with a crowbar.

The Coffin Style Lid

Apparently, the item is a “Septic tank for sure.” A Redditor reassured them that they’ll “find a pipe on either end” if they dig further down. Apparently, this is an old-style tank, which were buried between 1-3 feet below ground level.

The Monster Imposter

There are some nasty items on this list, and yet this one is particularly icky because it came in a closed package. This person encountered a “squishy thing,” and luckily got a very detailed answer from Reddit.

The Monster Imposter

“My guess is that the milk solids from the condensed skim milk fell out of solution and combined within a matrix of sodium alginate to form a gum. It is also possible that an error occurred in production and the concentration of alginate was too high.”

The Russian War Relief Pins

Many households have pins, medals or other paraphernalia that’s been passed down through families. This Reddit user wanted to know the origins of these bear pins, which were marked with the letters RRW.

The Russian War Relief Pins

Apparently, a month after Germany attacked Russia in 1941, an organization was set up in New York to give relief to Russia. The group was called the Russian War Relief, or The American Committee for Russian War Relief. These bears are pins from that WWII era.

The Antique Fire Grenade

This innocuous-looking object is actually more dangerous than it seems. Or at least it could be. While this glass item looks like a salt shaker without any holes, it’s actually a very old throwable fire grenade.

The Antique Fire Grenade

One Redditor responded that it “Looks like a fire grenade from early 1900s” and explains that some were filled with water, and others with a chemical concoction. When thrown, these gas bulbs filled with chemicals would smother a fire by removing the oxygen.

Learning Marble Solitaire

This item isn’t the world’s biggest mystery, but it is one of those things that lots of us have seen in our lives, but don’t necessarily know what it is. At face value, this is a wooden circle with various holes carved from it, filled with a selection of marbles.

Learning Marble Solitaire

Reddit tells us that this is “marble solitaire,” which is also known as “peg solitaire.” Of course, rather than using cards, this version of the game uses marbles or pegs.

The Flat File

Initially, this object is confusing. But with some more information, it suddenly all falls into place. Essentially, this is a chest of drawers but each drawer is open-ended, with a hole in each drawer.

The Flat File

A Reddit user explains that it’s an artist’s cabinet or flat file – “You want to be able to get under the artwork without bending up the edges, which would damage it if done repeatedly. So you push it up from the hole and/or slide it off the edge of the drawer.”