Six of the most terrible jobs people have actually had

Think your job has some issues? Boring meetings, too many emails, mundane tasks that aren’t really fulfilling? Well, I can guarantee you that on your worst day, it’s still a dream job compared to some of the occupations real people have had to do in order to pay the bills over the years.

Here’s a quick look at six of the worst jobs in the world. Suddenly filling out TPS reports won’t seem so bad.

Groom of the stool

This is the classic example of one of history’s worst jobs. What is particularly insidious about this awful job is that it was considered to be prestigious – a great honor to be appointed to be the Groom of the Stool. However, the job itself consisted of standing by the king while he goes to the bathroom and then wiping the royal backside for him. The Groom would also have to inspect the king’s excrement for parasites or other signs of ill-health.


In other sewage-related roles, a tosher is someone who would scavenge in the sewers especially in London during the Victorian era, looking for valuables that might have been flushed. The rewards were limited, the rats were plenty, and the smell was terrible.

Snake milker

Wait, what? You can’t get milk from a snake. No, but you can get venom, and that is what a snake milker collects. This job still exists today, as brave souls gingerly get venomous snakes to squirt their venom into a jar to create the antidote that is used to treat snake bites. The antidote is frequently required by the snake milkers themselves as bites from angry venomous snakes are a hazard of the job.

Leech collector

For centuries – and in some places continuing to this day – leeches have been used by medical practitioners to treat illness and injury. Therefore, there was money to be made collecting and selling the leeches. Unfortunately, there is really only one way to catch leeches. You have to walk barefoot and barelegged through the swamp and allow them to attach themselves to you. Leach catchers then had to wait for the leeches to fill up with blood and detach on their own. Pulling them off could harm or kill the leeches, rendering them worthless for sale.

This career was also seasonal; leech collectors could only work during the warmer months when the leeches were more active.


This job is not as gross as the previous, it is just really boring. A punkah is a type of ceiling fan used in the Indian subcontinent before the invention of the electric fan. The punkhawallah was the servant who worked it, often using a pulley system. So basically, your job is to stand in one spot for hours manually keeping the fan turning to keep everyone else in the room slightly cooler.

Gong Farmer

This is it, bottom of the barrel, as bad as it gets. A gong farmer was someone who dug out and removed human excrement from privies and cesspits. The word “gong” came from a word that means “going.” (When you gotta go, you gotta go.) So, the farmers would “harvest” the accumulation of months or even years of people “going.”

As the work was considered unclean and off-putting to the public, gong farmers were only allowed to work at night, hence they were sometimes known as nightmen. The waste they collected, known as night soil, had to be taken outside the city or town boundary or to official dumps for disposal.

Apparently, at least this job paid fairly well for the times.

Anyway, hopefully this list will give you something to be thankful for the next time you show up at your job that involves no excrement, leaches, or snakes.

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