Although writing can help decipher history, it’s our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

20 Freaky Historical Facts: So very Halloweenish!

1.) Some chapels buried thousands of bodies in their floorboards. Instead of a separate cemetery, bodies used to be buried in churchyards, which in the olden days was profitable for churches. Since there was a finite amount of space in the yard, some churches buried corpses under their floors - one London chapel had 12,000 bodies in it.

2.) The Spanish Donkey was one of the worst tortures ever. During the Spanish Inquisition, this device would be used for torture and eventual death. The person would be placed on a triangular log and weights attached to their feet. They would be pulled downward by the weights as the sharp edge of the log slowly sliced them in half.

3.) 17th century rich people ate human flesh. They thought that consuming flesh, drinking human blood, and even rubbing human fat on the outside of the skin could cure any number of diseases.

4.) Human skulls were used by ancient civilizations as cups. Many ancient cultures hollowed out the skulls of their slain enemies and made them into drinking cups, with the earliest ones dating to about 14,000 years ago in what is now England.

5.) The Victorians made "memorial jewelry" - out of parts of their dead loved ones. To remember their lost family and friends, some Victorians had jewelry made out of parts of their loved ones' bodies, including teeth, hair, and bone. This brooch was made with a pretty knot made of hair.

6.) If someone died abroad in the Middle Ages, they might have been boiled so that their bones could be shipped home. Before modern embalming, it was difficult (and smelly) to transport a body back home if someone died far away. In the Middle Ages, some people chose to have their corpse cut into pieces and boiled. That way, the rotting flesh could be buried in the place the person passed on, but their bones could be easily shipped back to their ancestral burial ground.

7.) It was popular in France for royal women to give birth in front of a crowd. Marie Antoinette had such a large audience that she was almost crushed by the throng of people who tried to fit into her room at Versailles when she was giving birth.

8.) Dentures used to be made of the teeth of fallen soldiers. The teeth would be removed from the bodies, then placed in artificial gums for use by living people.

9.) In England, suicide victims were buried at crossroads to keep them from haunting towns. People in medieval England thought that burying people who'd committed suicide - which was a very serious crime - at a crossroads would confuse the restless soul and prevent them from coming "home" in spirit form.

10.) A guy wrote a book about a ship called the Titan crashing into an iceberg - fourteen years BEFORE the Titanic sank. Morgan Robertson's 1898 book tells the story of a British ship called the Titan, which was deemed to be unsinkable, that hit an iceberg and sank, killing many of the passengers because there weren't enough lifeboats. In 1912, the Titanic sank in almost the same manner.

11.) General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ordered a full military funeral in 1838...for his leg. The Mexican leader lost his left leg when it was hit by a cannon, and had a funeral - with full military honors - for it when it was buried.

12.) Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is considered the most prolific female serial killer in history. Four hundred years ago today, in August 1614, the notorious 54-year-old royal died under house arrest in Čachtice Castle in modern-day Slovakia, having been implicated in as many as 650 deaths — mostly peasant girls and servants. Elizabeth was prone to fits of rage and seizures, and it appears that mental illness — possibly the result of years of inbreeding — was common in her extended family. The torture and murder was done largely for Báthory’s pleasure, and some scholars believe she was a sexual sadist in addition to a psychopath. Báthory and her accomplices terrorized the surrounding countryside for years with impunity. And it was not until her bloodlust crept up the social ladder, and the daughters of nobles went missing, that her fellow royals started to pay attention to the dark rumors surrounding the countess. Just after Christmas in 1610, Báthory’s castle was raided by the local authorities, who were horrified to discover dead and dying maidens strewn across the courtyard and basement. The countess’s collaborators were imprisoned, put on trial, and themselves tortured and executed. Báthory herself was never tried or convicted — perhaps to spare her family the embarrassment — but she was placed under house arrest in a tower room within Čachtice Castle where she died less than four years later.

13.) Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire once drowned 280 of his concubines. The reason? One of them had slept with another man.

14.) The first major syphilis outbreak made people look like gross zombies. In 1494, Florence, Italy had a big syphilis outbreak, and before antibiotics, you just sort of had to...deal. With syphilis, that meant that parts of your face would literally be falling off, and you'd just have sores all over your body.

15.) When Mount Vesuvius went off, it actually exploded people's heads. The city of Herculaneum was hit not by magma or ash when Vesuvius went off, but by a superheated cloud of gas with temperatures up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This meant that people's heads got really hot, really fast. Since the liquid in your head has nowhere to go because of your skull...their heads legit exploded.

16.) The first recorded serial killer in history was a woman. Nowadays, most of the major serial killers (that we know about, anyway) are men. But back in Roman times, there was a serial killer named Locusta who liked poisoning people. A lot. Fortunately for her, Emperor Nero sometimes needed people killed, so instead of punishing her for being a murderer, he pardoned her and asked her to help him out.

17.) One of Joan of Arc's most ardent supporters was a serial child killer. Joan of Arc was amazing, obviously, but she had help in the French Army, including Gilles de Rais, a knight. He fought bravely for France... and also killed anywhere between 80 and 800 children in horrifyingly brutal ways.

18.) James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, is buried there. Employees have said they've seen Smithson's ghost wandering the halls of the famed Washington, D.C. museum, to the point where in 1973, the institute did a study of Smithson's casket and remains to make sure everything was a-OK.

19.) In 1892, two soldiers stationed at the fort that used to occupy Liberty Island tried to dig up some treasure they'd heard was buried nearby. When they got to the box, a demon appeared to them, most likely the spirit of Captain Kidd, a pirate who liked to bury his treasure there.Liberty Island used to be a haven for pirates... and might be haunted by one.

20.) The Romanians believed redheads with blue eyes were vampires. Redheads were believed to be a specific kind of vampire called strigoi, who were able to send their spirits out at night to meet other strigoi.

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Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

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