|The following is reprinted from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader: World of Odd.
From the dustbin of history, here are the stories of some of the past's strangest people and events:
THE FLEA KILLER
Queen Christina ruled Sweden from 1632 to 1654. What did she consider the biggest threat to her kingdom? Fleas. The Queen hated them and wanted each and everyone one she found in her palace killed ... individually.
To accomplish this feat (this was long before the invention of chemical insect repellents), she commissioned the construction of a tiny, one-inch-long cannon, that was packed with tiny flea-sized cannonball. Whenever she spotted one, she fired the tiny cannon at it and occasionally made a killshot.
THE SKULL IS IN THE MAIL
When Germany conquered Tanganyika (a region of eastern Africa) in 1898, Chief Mkwawa, the leader of the Wahehe tribe, was killed. The Germans then sent Mkwawa's head to Germany, where it was displayed in a museum in Bremen.
During World War I, the British kicked the Germans out of Africa, aided by the Wahehe. H.A. Byatt, the British administrator now overseeing the former German-controlled area, lobbied the British government for the return of Mkwawa's skull in appreciation for the Wahehes' War effort. The return of the skull was even stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles, the 1919 agreement outlining terms of German's surrender. But Germany denied taking Mkwawa's head and the British government didn't push the issue, accepting the German explanation that the skull was lost.
The skull of Chief Mkwawa on display at the Mkwawa Memorial Museum
(Photo: Matt Crypto [wikipedia])
In 1953 Sir Edward Twining, the British governor of Tanganyika, vowed to track down the skull ... and found it in the Bremen Museum among a collection of dozens of skulls taken in the 1890s. Mkwawa's skull was finally returned to the Wahehe in July 1954 and now resides in a museum there.
THE GENDER-BENDING BULLFIGHTER
In 1900, a 20-year-old bullfighter known only as "La Reverte" debuted in the Madrid bullring. What's odd about that? La Reverte was female bullfighter. She remained a crowd favorite for seven years until 1908, when the Spanish government decided it was immoral for women to fight bulls, and La Reverte was banned from the ring.
But La Reverte wasn't worried. Why? She was really a he. At the conclusion of one of her final bullfights, La Reverte took off her wig and fake breasts, revealing she wasn't a woman, but a man named Agustin Rodriguez.
La Reverte aka Agustin Rodriguez (Photo: Guía de Toros de Logroño)
Did La Reverte resume a bullfighting career as a man? Nope. Bullfighting fans instantly turned on him, angered by the fraud. Within the year, Rodriguez fled Madrid and retired quietly in Majorca.
TIME TO GET THE CLOCK FIXED
In 1996, German systems analyst Heribert Illig introduced a theory he called "phantom time hypothesis."
Illig believes that the Early Middle Ages - the years 614 to 911 - never actually happened and that all evidence of the 300-year period is faked.
He says that in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar (which we still use) in order to correct a ten-day error, he actually added 300 years.
Among the historical evidence that Illig uses to support his claim are "fraudulent" records of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, whom Illig says is actually a fictional character.
... AND THE DISH RAN AWAY WITH THE SPOON
On May 9, 1962, a Guernsey cow in Iowa named Fawn was picked up by a tornado and flew through the air for a few minutes before landing softly and safely at a nearby farm a half a mile away. The flight is believed to be the longest (but no the first) unassisted solo cow flight in recorded history. Fawn safely landed in the pen of a Holstein bull at a neighboring farm before she successfully wandered home. (The brief encounter resulted in a calf.)
Photo: indegentevirtual [Flickr]
Amazingly, Fawn had a chance to beat her own record. In 1967, she was out grazing a country road and was caught up in another tornado. She flew over a busload of gawking tourists and landed safely on the other side of the road. From then on, Fawn's owner locked her up whenever there was a storm warning.