historical oddities

The Hellfire Club And Caves

The Hellfire Club And Caves

Throughout history men have formed clandestine clubs where rich young aristocrats met and indulged in drunken orgies, gambling and carousing. But few clubs have attained so much notoriety as the
Medieval Book Curses

Medieval Book Curses

In the days before the printing press, book-making was a very laborious process. Each and every book had to made by hand, starting with the preparation of parchment, to the writing, the illumination
Vladimir Lukyanov’s Water Computer

Vladimir Lukyanov’s Water Computer

Early computers were mechanical machines built using gears and levers. These parts or components could be moved with precision and were connected to other components in a way that simulated the
Bomb Crater Garden

Bomb Crater Garden

On September 20, 1940, just over a year after Hitler’s army invaded Poland triggering a six-year war, a German airplane dropped a bomb over London as part of the Blitz. The target was the Westminster
Out of Place Ski Jumps

Out of Place Ski Jumps

Competitive skiing as a sport developed in Norway in the later part of the 19th century. Sondre Norheim, who is recognized as the “Father of Ski Jumping”, won the first-ever ski jumping competition
Hameau de la Reine: Marie Antoinette’s Pretend Village

Hameau de la Reine: Marie Antoinette’s Pretend Village

Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, is often portrayed as a frivolous, selfish, and immoral woman whose decadent lifestyle emptied the coffers of the national treasury. She was recklessly
Richard Trevithick And The Steam Circus

Richard Trevithick And The Steam Circus

Twenty five years before Robert Stephenson decisively proved the superiority of steam locomotives over horse drawn carriages during the Rainhill Trials, a British inventor named Richard Trevithick
The Zeppelin Spy Basket

The Zeppelin Spy Basket

One of the most perilous positions in the crew of a German Zeppelin during the First World War was that of the aerial lookout, whose job was to observe the ground for enemy position and bombing
Caligula’s Pleasure Ships of Lake Nemi

Caligula’s Pleasure Ships of Lake Nemi

Two thousand years ago, the debauched Roman emperor Caligula ordered the construction of two large floating pleasure barges on the relatively small Lake Nemi so that he could indulge in many of the
Cinder Lake Crater Field: The Simulated Moon NASA Created to Train Astronauts

Cinder Lake Crater Field: The Simulated Moon NASA Created to Train Astronauts

Two Apollo 15 crew members, riding a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) simulator, participate in geology training at the Cinder Lake crater field in Arizona. Before the Apollo astronauts set foot on the
The Rainhill Trials

The Rainhill Trials

Nearly two centuries ago, a small hamlet lying between Liverpool and Manchester became host to one of the strangest competitions ever held. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway had just completed
Communal Coffins And Burial Clubs

Communal Coffins And Burial Clubs

The St John and All Saints Church in the town of Easingwold, in North Yorkshire, England, dates to the 13th century, or perhaps even earlier. It’s a typical mediaeval-era English parish church with
The Last Victim of Smallpox

The Last Victim of Smallpox

In the summer of 1978, the World Health Organization stood on the brink of a remarkable achievement—smallpox, the disease that terrorized people for three thousand years and killed millions, had been
Kongo Gumi: The 1,400-Year-Old Company

Kongo Gumi: The 1,400-Year-Old Company

Less than two months ago, the renowned British travel agency Thomas Cook laid off more than 21,000 employees the world over and liquidated its assets, bringing to an end an era that lasted 178 years.
The Legend of The Lost Cement Mine

The Legend of The Lost Cement Mine

Gold mining in California. Lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1871. Image courtesy: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com Hundreds of million years ago, a multitude of geological forces colluded to
Why Mediaeval Europeans Slept Inside Boxes

Why Mediaeval Europeans Slept Inside Boxes

For much of human history, privacy during bedtime was an alien concept. Many poor families lived in small houses, where there was only one or two rooms, the larger of which functioned as bedroom and
The Berlin Candy Bomber

The Berlin Candy Bomber

Following the end of World War 2, Germany was broken up and divided among the Allies as one divides war booty. The western half was occupied by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, while
That Time When Britain Had Its Own Rocket

That Time When Britain Had Its Own Rocket

For a country as technological advanced as Great Britain, it sounds almost implausible when you say that the British do not have a space program. But fifty years ago, they almost did only to have the
Soda Locomotives

Soda Locomotives

An interesting type of locomotive engine that found very brief and limited use in Europe, as well as in America, was the soda locomotive. A soda locomotive was essentially a steam locomotive, but
The Submarine Sunk By Her Own Torpedo

The Submarine Sunk By Her Own Torpedo

The U.S. Navy submarine USS Tang off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, December 1943. Photo credit: U.S. Navy Throughout the Second World War, American submarines were plagued by a variety of