Carl Magee was quite an interesting character. He exposed some of America’s most corrupt politicians, shot a man to death, and created one of the most irritating inventions of all time. Every time you have to pay for parking, you can thank this guy.
Despite fighting on the same side as Britain at the end of World War I, in the 1920s and ’30s the US drew up several plans for wars against other countries—even the British Empire. The plan included an invasion of Canada, use of chemical weapons, and a naval blockade of Britain herself. The scenario that would have led to war was predicted to come about due to a trade disagreement. If the plan had gone ahead, US troops would have occupied any colonies captured in the event of a peace agreement.
When electrically stimulating the left hemisphere of an epileptic’s brain, doctors discovered that they could create a sinister shadow person for the patient much like the type of illusion a schizophrenic may experience. It’s that creepy feeling you get when you think someone is watching you or has abducted you. Neurologists believe they can build on this knowledge to reveal how the brains of schizophrenics and paranoiacs conjure up these sensations.
Buddhist academics claim that the recent discovery in Mongolia of an approximately 200-year-old mummified monk, frozen in the lotus or vajra position, isn’t dead. Instead, they believe the monk is in a deep meditative trance called “tukdam,” one step away from becoming a Buddha. The monk’s body was recovered after it was stolen by a man who had hoped to sell it on the black market.
William Henry Ireland was 19 when he decided to impress his distant father with a “recently discovered” document written in Shakespeare’s own hand. It went over so well that he just kept writing, eventually forging letters to Anne Hathaway and Queen Elizabeth, marginalia and notes in the books of “Shakespeare’s library,” the original manuscript of King Lear and part of Hamlet, and, finally, an entirely new play. The play was staged in a theater on Drury Lane, and even though there were plenty of people who didn’t believe the hoax at all, William Henry’s father went to his grave refusing that it all could have been the work of his son.
Alchemy was, at its heart, the science of trying to find a way to turn lead or other common metals into gold. While they never quite got there, today, we have. With the help of a particle accelerator, it’s completely possible to turn lead into gold—a tiny, tiny, tiny amount of gold, but it’s gold nonetheless. While that’s not very practical, scientists are now going in another direction. By changing the properties of ordinary metals into the properties of rarer, more expensive catalysts, they have the potential to revolutionize not only the mining industry, but every industry that relies on rare, precious, or expensive metals.
If you were to visit the fire department in Livermore, California, you’d find an oddly shaped lightbulb hanging in the garage. The bulb dangles from the roof by a cord and only gives off about 4 watts. So what’s the big deal? Well, aside from a handful of interruptions, this lightbulb has been shining 24/7 since 1901.
The monolithic rock of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (also known as the “Lion Rock”) could just as easily be known as the Rock of Revenge. After assassinating his ruling father, Kasyapa of Ceylon seized the throne in A.D. 477 from the rightful heir, his half-brother Moggallana. Fearing revenge from Moggallana, Kasyapa built a spectacular and supposedly impregnable palace-fortress on top of the Lion Rock, which was surrounded by two moats and became the new capital of the country. Moggallana returned in A.D. 495 to overthrow Kasyapa and restore the capital to Anuradhapura.
Unusually for a town so near the Canadian border, Town Line, New York voted to secede from the Union in 1861 and join the Confederacy. While the circumstances surrounding the treasonous act is shrouded in urban legend, the secession—ignored by the Union government—remains a curious aberration. Town Line was the only Northern town to turn rebel during the Civil War, and didn’t rejoin the US until 1946, making it the last stronghold of the Confederacy.
Fashion accessories aren’t usually dangerous, but in the early 1900s, the media was comparing the incredibly sharp, incredibly dangerous, foot-long hatpin to firearms. Women were using the hatpins to defend themselves against molestation and unwanted advances, but they were also accidentally injuring—even killing—innocent people with their hatpins. It wasn’t long before it became completely legal to arrest a woman for wearing an illegal hatpin. By the time World War I started, though, the whole thing had died down a bit—and when fashions changed, no one was wearing hatpins any more for any reason.