7 Best Friends Who Shared Incredible Secrets


Best friends can share anything with each other, even their biggest secrets. These seven pairings played it close to the vest for each other to win wars, rescue royalty, and revolutionize literature.

1. Mark Twain and Helen Keller

You may not have known they were best friends, but despite their 45-year age difference, the pair boasted a friendship Twain described as so special that “I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off.”

In the same letter that he extols their bond, Twain expresses outrage at having learned through Keller’s autobiography that she was accused of plagiarism as a child for a story she wrote. In her defense, Twain claims that it is his belief everything ever said or written is somehow plagiarized. To make his pal feel better, Twain shared a secret of his own: The dedication of his book Innocents Abroad was directly plagiarized from a Dr. Holmes.

2. Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson

The Lewis of Lewis and Clark expedition fame was given a secret key-word cipher for encrypting messages to send back to the White House during the transcontinental expedition. It’s a complicated algorithm to explain, but their keyword was “artichoke.”

3. Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley

Keckley was a former slave who bought her own freedom and established a successful dressmaking business in Washington, DC. She eventually became the personal seamstress and confidant to Mary Todd Lincoln during and after her time as First Lady.

The notoriously difficult Lincoln cut Keckley in on the White House gossip, who was said to be “the only person in Washington who could get along with Mrs. Lincoln.” The close relationship was severed when Keckley spilled many of those secrets in an autobiography detailing her experience with the First Family, Behind the Scenes.

4. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville

Melville’s big secret: Moby Dick was very nearly a rotten book! Melville practically worshipped Hawthorne, who was fourteen years older, and their friendship eventually saved him from wasting his masterpiece. At the time, the book that would become Moby Dick was a light-hearted tale of maritime adventures. But at Hawthorne’s suggestion, Melville scrapped that draft and crafted his philosophical tome, to be dedicated to Hawthorne.

5. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt

The contents of The Atlantic Charter that defined the Allied goals for World War II are hardly secret any more, but when the two heads of state were first discussing the policy, everything about their August 1941 meetings aboard the USS Augusta had to be surreptitious. Roosevelt announced he was going on a fishing expedition and Churchill snuck away on a battleship to their clandestine meeting off of Newfoundland.

6. Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

During the pair’s twenty-four year correspondence (they only met in person twice), most of what the reclusive poet shared with the radical essayist was a secret — including many poems that went unpublished until after her death.

7. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling

In the boxing ring, these two were bitter foes. German-born Schmeling was celebrated after his 1936 victory over the undefeated Louis, one of the first African American sports stars. Two years later, Louis knocked out Schmeling in a rematch fraught with racial implications. But despite the heavily hyped in-ring rivalry, the two went on to be close friends later in life and when Louis’ finances floundered due to tax trouble and unchecked generosity towards family members, Schmeling quietly came to his aid and kept Louis’s financial difficulties to himself.

Secrets like these can only be shared thanks to the full-blown honesty that exists between best friends. To celebrate the hilarious side of this kind of friendship, tune in to Garfunkel and Oates on IFC on Thursday, August 7 at 10/9c.

11 Reasons You Feel Comfortable Saying Anything to Your Best Friend

The best friendships are truly unfiltered – you feel comfortable telling your best friend things you would never dream of confiding in anyone else. Ever wonder why that is? Science can explain it!

1. Because she offers support, even if she can’t help.

Studies show that people value acceptance and emotional expressiveness over utility in friendship. So even if your best friend can’t solve your problem, it’s helpful to have someone listen to you vent.

2. Because you share the same “social-identity.”

A study of college students showed that while intimacy builds friendships, the surest indicator of a best friend is sharing the same “social-identity”, which can be religion, sports teams, roles like motherhood, or membership in the same club.

3. Because we go the extra mile for them.

Psychologists call this the Ben Franklin Effect: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged." Which is to say, we tend to like someone more after we do something nice for them.

4. Because your friend is comfortable saying anything to you.

Sociologists have found that the key to jumping from being acquaintances to being friends is reciprocal sharing. So as one person reveals deeper information about herself to an acquaintance, the acquaintance reciprocates, and soon they’re sharing everything.

5. Because your friend stays positive.

Disclosure is necessary for intimacy, but the personal revelations can’t be one long string of downers. We’re more likely to work to maintain a friendship if it doesn’t feel draining, so by remembering to look on the bright side and not being a drag, best friends increase their intimacy.

6. Because you hang out with your best friend.

This one may seem obvious, but in the age of virtual interactions it bears repeating: studies show we feel closest to people with whom we spend actual face-to-face time.

7. Because your best friend makes everything seem easier.

One study showed that people reported hills seemed less steep when in the presence of a close friend. Another found lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol present if a negative situation was experienced with a friend. When you’ve got your best friend with you, everything feels manageable, so why wouldn’t you confide in them?

8. Because your best friend doesn’t hold a grudge.

A lot of friendship is about expectations. While it’s important to work to meet those expectations, friendships can’t last unless you cut each other some slack when one person falls short of those expectations. Since you know your best friend won’t judge you forever, you’re more willing to share a secret with them.

9. Because you’re their best friend, too.

Friendship is built not just on reciprocity of intimacy but also reciprocity of value.  In other words, we tend to like people who like us back. Studies have found that we tend to give higher ranks to the people who rank us highly when considering friends.

10. Because nonverbal clues tell you your best friend is trustworthy.

Studies show that humans are remarkably good at picking up on nonverbal indications of trustworthiness. By the time someone has become your best friend, you know you can trust her with even your deepest secrets.

11. Because friendship is good for you!

Numerous studies have shown that social support is incredibly important to health late in life and even lowers mortality rates. So go ahead and tell your best friend anything – it may help you live longer!

Celebrate the full-blown honesty that can only exist between best friends by tuning in to the premiere of Garfunkel and Oates on IFC on Thursday, August 7 at 10/9c. And since August 3 is National Friendship Day, remind your best friend you care by sending them a Garfunkel and Oates video card like this.


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