A fart in a jar goes far


Before the germ theory of disease, humans had interesting ways to 'prevent' illness. For example, during the Great Plague of London (1665-1666), 'doctors' advised people to keep foul-smelling remedies to breathe in when exposed to infection - diluting the 'bad air' with something as potent. And the quickest way to keep something smelly on hand? Store your farts in a jar.

Showed him...

Glenda Blackwell of North Carolina was sick of her husband wasting money on lottery tickets. So on 24 October, 2016 when her husband asked her to buy Powerball tickets, she bought a $10 Carolina millions scratch-off ticket instead to spite him and prove they're a waste of money. She won $1M.

Mayhem, murder and meth

On 1 February, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry, tragically taking the lives of its seven crew. Accident investigators were so thorough that not only did they collect 84,000 pieces of debris across Texas and Louisiana, they also found several murder victims and a handful of meth labs.

Hat trick

In 1858, while playing for the All-England 11, English cricketer HH Stephenson took three consecutive wickets in a match against Hallam in Sheffield. As was customary at the time, fans had a collection for Stephenson and then bought him a hat to honour his unique feat. The 'hat-trick' as it became known, was soon adopted by many other sports.

The oldest trick in the book

It might seem like just a saying, but if you count papyrus, there's an actual 'oldest trick in the book'. The 18th-16th century BCE Westcar Papyrus tells the story of King Cheops (of Great Pyramid fame) calling for the magician Dedi. Dedi 'pulls the heads off' a goose, a duck, and an ox and restores them to life - a magic trick that is still performed today.

The Great Seal secret steal

On August 4, 1945, a group of Soviet schoolchildren presented a replica of the US Great Seal to US Ambassador W. Averell Harriman as a 'gesture of friendship' to the USSR's World War II ally. It was a great opportunity for the Soviets to plant a listening device in the ambassador's Moscow office - and that's exactly what they did. It took seven years until the bug was discovered.

Would you like flies with that?

In December 2009, hospitals in the USA noticed a sharp increase in people presenting with salmonella poisoning. Curiously, the vast majority of new cases were in girls under 10 years old. However, it didn't take long for epidemiologists to make the connection. It was just after the release of the Disney movie, 'The Princess and the Frog'.

Ranga, ginger ninja, fanta pants...

Ever wondered why we call people with ginger locks ‘redheads’, when their hair is clearly orange? That’s because English didn’t distinguish between red and orange until the 1540s, and we’d been using the word ‘redhead’ since the mid-1200s. So what came first, the colour or the fruit? The fruit arrived in England in the 1300s (via Italy), but it took over 200 years for orange to become both a colour and a fruit.

The deadly Whoopie Cushion

It's hardly surprising that if you become a Roman Emperor at the age of 15, your sense of humour may be a little juvenile. Back in 218 AD, Syrian Emperor Varius Avitus Bassianus, also known as Heliogabalus, invented the first known whoopie cushion from animal bladders. Hilarious. He was assassinated by the time he was 18.

Suicide Squad: Ukraine

Before the comic book anti-heroes 'Suicide Squad', there was a real life suicide squad - three heroes who saved millions of lives in 1986. Six days after the Lenin nuclear reactor at Chernobyl entered meltdown, a new disaster unfolded. The burning, sinking reactor was about to reach rooms flooded with water. The resulting explosion would level 200 square kilometres, destroy Kiev, contaminate the drinking water of 30M people, and render northern Ukraine uninhabitable for over 100 years. Unless... somebody could drain the water. Despite the known death sentence, three volunteers - Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov and Boris Baranov completed their mission and saved millions. They died in agony nearly two weeks later.

Genius punk

Ever since the invention of recorded music, bootleg copies weren't far behind. But bootlegs existed long before records. A song written in the 1630s was played once a year, and only in the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican kept the composition of the piece secret for 150 years until the 14-year-old Mozart listened to the piece twice, transcribed it from memory, and produced the first unauthorised copy of the song.

Hotel managers were over the Moon

Famous for destroying hotel rooms, Keith Moon from The Who was once in a limousine on the way to the airport when he insisted they return to their hotel, saying "I forgot something." At the hotel, he ran back to his room, grabbed the television and threw it out the window into the swimming pool below. He then jumped back into the limo, saying "I nearly forgot."

Shirikodama (n): Small anus ball

There are some, shall we say, highly unique elements of Japanese culture, and their folklore is right up there. Literally. According to Japanese folklore, the human soul exists as a small hardened magical ball within the anus known as 'shirikodama' (尻子玉 - literally 'small anus ball'). Tales tell of lake-dwelling monsters known as 'kappa' who try to kill you by 'extracting' your shirikodama if you dare venture into their lake.

"A young man right at the beginning of his career"

To say that famed actor Sir Christopher Lee led an extraordinary life would be a vast understatement. For example, he was a die-hard metal fan and musician, and at age 91 became the oldest musician to enter the Billboard charts (at #22) with his Christmas single 'Jingle Hell'. In 2010, he released his first complete metal album: 'Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross'. It was critically acclaimed and awarded the 'Spirit of Metal' award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony. Accepting the award, he described himself as "a young man right at the beginning of his career".

Weighty words

If you own an eBook reader, you know it can save you a lot of shelf space: a 4GB model can hold around 3,500 books which would otherwise weigh around 2 tons. But is a 'full' eBook reader heavier than an empty one? Yes. Just. A billionth of a billionth of a gram heavier - about the weight of a DNA molecule.

King Umberto's uncanny end

On 28 July 1900, King Umberto I of Italy visited a small restaurant in the town of Monza. As the owner greeted him, the King realised they looked identical and also shared the same name. But the coincidences kept coming: they were both born on March 14, 1844 in the same town. They both married women named Margherita on the same day, and both had sons called Vittorio. They both served in the military and were promoted (to different ranks) on the same day, AND the restaurateur opened his restaurant on the very same day that King Umberto was crowned. Amazed, the King invited his doppelgänger to the palace, only to find the restaurateur couldn't make it: he was killed in a gun-related accident earlier that day. Later that day, the King was assassinated by a gunman.