I have a hard enough time getting the right word out sometimes — not the most encouraging trait for a writer — even when I know what the right word is, that I’m in awe of people who can riff with precision and without pause.
I also have to hold people who know what things are in high esteem as well. They have powers that I just don’t. The ultimate example of that is the r/whatisthisthing subreddit. Just check out some of the weird things they’ve been able to help people figure out.
1. “What is this hoof looking thing? Very light and feels rubbery. Found on farmland in Central Victoria, Australia.”
Reddit | ziggymango
Funny enough, there’s a good reason for this thing to resemble a horse’s hoof.
It’s a pour-in rubber pad that goes with horseshoes — kind of like one of those rubber insole inserts for your shoes, but for horses.
2. “Found in a friend’s house in PA. Six inches tall, breaks down into two distinct halves. Made of wood with leather straps, no buckle or snap.”
Reddit | tichugrrl
This thing doesn’t just split in half — those halves also unroll. That makes it a mighty helpful exemplar for one purpose: teaching the formula to calculate the area of a circle.
And given that the uploader’s friend’s grandmother was a teacher, well, it makes sense that geometry aid like this would be on hand.
3. “Found on a hike in CT. Had established 1901 stamped on it. Looks like it had a crank system on it. No clue.”
Reddit | squizznizzle13
Well, it sure looks like it would be difficult to re-locate this thing to examine it any better, so it’s a good thing one person knew exactly what it was: a heart design horse-drawn roadway roller — basically an old-timey steamroller or lawn roller.
4. “Solid brass.. and every pin on the outside unscrews. The center hole is threaded and around 3/4″ – 1″ in diameter.”
Reddit | Joshwa-Street
Kids with a certain brand of curiosity — the kind that leads you to dismantle your toys to find out how they work — will recognize this: it’s the inner workings of a fidget spinner.
It’s just missing the bearings that make it spin.
5. “This solid metal thing threaded through this hollow wooden cylinder.”
Reddit | lethalparadox
You might think this would be a little storage keychain kind of thing, but nope, it has a much more specific purpose: it’s a bird call.
6. “I found these in my grandmothers house (Germany), they are made of thin glass. Unfortunately there is no box cover explaining what they are.”
Reddit | Winterzeit20
These thin glass tubes have a bit of an odd purpose: they’re basically vases, intended to hold a single flower at time.
Maybe there are some scenarios where you’d want that? But given that it’s hard to think of one, it’s easy to see why these became so obscure.
7. “Someone was gifted this for a new baby with no note on what it is.”
Reddit | padmoosen
Seems like an uneven exchange, this thing for a baby. Hey-o!
Jokes aside, it’s actually a good thing for new parents to have on hand. It’s a door silencer — wrap it around a door’s latch and tie the straps off around the doorknob to make a door open and close quietly. Whatever it takes to keep a sleeping baby from waking up, right?
8. “What is this thing I saw above a bus station in Germany?”
Reddit | Yixyxy
We’re not so familiar with a scene like this in North America, but who knows, maybe sooner than later we’ll see more of it.
That device is a charger for electric and hybrid buses. It’s not wireless charging, as the pic suggests, however. A special arm-like device has to reach up to the charger to connect.
9. “I found this strange thing behind an abandoned house in Mid-Michigan. It’s a weird cone-shaped metal structure with an open inside.”
Reddit | Ambrosem123
The shape of this structure hints at its purpose — it’s a charcoal kiln, most likely made from a recycled grain hopper.
Mind you, charcoal production isn’t nearly popular as it once was, so it’s little wonder this thing was difficult to identify.
10. “Huge metal cylinder found in the middle of the woods (Central Pennsylvania)”
Reddit | debauched_sloth_
Huh, people sure have been finding some large and strange objects in the woods lately, haven’t they?
Anyway, this is an old storage tank for large amounts of liquid, most likely oil given its location. Probably best if the uploader lets it be.
11. “I found this on the beach in Delaware it looks like fossilized honeycomb?”
Reddit | sunshine-puppy
Sometimes, when it feels like you might be overthinking things, you probably are. This thing belongs on a beach more than fossilized or petrified honeycomb — it’s coral.
12. “Small orange waxy cone in a metal circle. On the windowsill of a public bus.”
Reddit | mossy-heart
You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a stopper for the window — this thing isn’t even part of the bus, however. It’s actually part of a bracelet that has come apart.
Honestly, I can’t even fathom how people are able to identify things like that. Amazing.
13. “Found in Worcestershire, U.K. 40 cm long with wooden handles and the middle is rubbery.”
Reddit | peace_puffin
Oddly enough, this thing has a couple of very different applications. It sure looks like a rolling pin-press, right? You can use it to press patterns into pastry.
But it also bears a striking resemblance to a massage roller, so it’s apparently both.
14. “What is this game? Found at a yardsale. I’ve had it for years and would love to play it but I don’t know what it is or how to look it up.”
Reddit | adamsappol
I think what’s so baffling about this is that most of us have never seen this game done up as wood or presented in quite this way.
However, chances are we all know it, and it might be a forehead-slapper to hear: it’s Connect 4.
15. “Tiny black shiny things that came out of a pair of jeans when pulled out of wardrobe.”
Reddit | NewTigers
Personally, I would also want to know what was going on if my jeans had mysteriously acquired a bunch of tiny black orbs.
Turns out they’re supposed to be there: they make jeans softer in the wash by beating them up. Usually they rinse out in the wash cycle, but not always.
16. “Found it in a box. It looks like a cd but smaller.”
Reddit | vlottetonny
For those of us from a certain generation, this one is a bit of a gut punch. It looks like a CD but smaller because it is a CD but smaller.
It is kind of odd to see them rectangular but these little discs often came as promotions, with things like game demos on them, sometimes in boxes of cereal.
17. “Found hundreds of these on a beach on Brisbane. If I got too close they burrowed under the sand. What are they?”
Reddit | Queen-Dumpling
Hey, it’s always best to identify the wildlife in Australia before you get too close. You never know what might be venomous!
The good news is that these critters are soldier crabs — the worst you can expect from them is possibly a little pinch, and even that’s unlikely.
18. “What is this brown bumpy thing on my Pringle??”
Reddit | Shrekbdsm
Here’s a hint: There’s an old joke that asks what the white stuff in bird poop is; of course, it’s bird poop, too.
And there’s your answer for this query: the brown patch on the Pringle is also Pringle, just from a previous batch that ended up stamped onto this one in the manufacturing process.
19. “Large metal container, nearly the size of the train cart its on. Silver color.”
Reddit | Soup_Thief97
Well, it’s definitely true that you don’t see these every day, so yeah, not many people are going to know what they are.
And not seeing one of these all the time is a good thing because it’s a storage container for nuclear fuel in transport.
20. “I’m stumped. Solid metal. Afaik everything you see is the whole thing. Knuckle is an inch. The copper bar rotates about the screw head a few degrees.”
Reddit | Weenbingo
You could have given me a thousand guesses a day for a year and I never would have gotten it right, but then, I don’t work with rocks.
Luckily, someone in the subreddit did and they knew it was a flintknapper, a modern device for chipping and shaping rocks much like our cave-dwelling ancestors would have.