Back in the summertime, my heater core started leaking. I didn't need the heater at the time, so while I was tracking down a new core, I bypassed the leaking heater core by disconnecting the two rubber hoses from the core and re-connecting them to each other. However, between the two hoses I used a fitting which had a very small passageway for the coolant to go through. When I got the new heater core, I flushed out my system and I was very surprised at that time to discover my thermostat looked much like it does in the picture above. I didn't understand at the time what the heck had happened to the thermostat, so I just bent it back into shape and re-installed it. Unknown to me until the cold snap here revealed a problem, the thermostat arms bent again from "normal" water pressure in the system (because the thermostat "arms" were now weak from being previously bent).
So in retrospect it's now easy to figure out what happened. The fitting I used to temporarily connect the two heater hoses to each other restricted the coolant flow way too much and this resulted in higher than normal coolant pressure pushing against the thermostat. The long thermostat "arms" therefore bent.
[This message has been edited by Patrick (edited 04-30-2015).]