Historically Strange

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Wonderful World of Odd. This book focuses on the odd-side of life and features articles like the strangest TV shows never made, the creepiest insect on Earth, odd medical conditions, and many, many more. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute

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Now don't think I am siding with Illig, but...
Geology and carbon dating could not, by themselves, provide evidence for any three hundred year period in modern history.

1. Geology involves the study of the formation of rocks and dirt. So unless you can tie an specific historical event from that period that is reported to have happened at a certain date to geological phenomena that are also reported to have happened at a certain date, such as volcanic activity in Europe, geology is of no value in referencing modern dates.

2. What would you carbon date? Most carbon dated items come back with results in ranges of thousands of years, not hundreds anyway. You could not carbon date George Washington's false teeth and achieve a date of 1700-1800 for instance. You could however, compare what Historians have told us with the story of the descent of the teeth to modern history and be markedly certain that the date is accurate.

3. Why would you expect that the Chinese would have record of events in medieval Europe? I think your confusing what he is saying. I believe his theory posits that the EVENTS in Europe that we believe happened at certain times did not, and therefore OTHER events were happening at that time. He's not saying that all of history in that time period is nonexistent.

Perhaps you meant to write "archeology" rather than "geology". Or maybe "geneology". Either of which would provide more genuine insight into it.

This leaves us with a conclusion: Our knowledge of history is highly dependent upon those who were there, or shortly after to know that it happened, and record their knowledge and experience for future generations. Archeology for instance can tell us a great deal about how people lived in certain KNOWN time periods. Most of what we learn from archeology is attained from comparing finds to what is KNOWN and RECORDED.

If a collective of historians chose to deliberately deceive people with a lie masquerading as a complicated history, it might be highly difficult to uncover the truth.

Probably the guy IS a nut job, but he is not the only one to posit this theory. So, if proving the middle ages existed is important to you, rather than tout what we know and recite to each other "don't question authority", see if the guy has some valid reasons for his arguments. Then historians should review his claims and examine the existing EVIDENCE, compare it with historical documents and then DETERMINE the truth. Most would rather disregard contrary evidence to embrace the ease of accepting conventional wisdom.
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I Can't believe he actually believes that 300 years did not happen. Coincidently I have taken a history course on that exact time and I can tell you all this is a load of horse crap! (not that one class can make you an expert, but I still know something about this time period)

There is so much information that to say it is fake is ridiculous! not to mention, the other scientific evidence of those 300 years. Geology, carbon dating, etc... So did the pope know about all this too and somehow falsified it?

And what about the historical records outside of Europe?! If you compare historical records in China this theory doesn't make any sense!
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It's humorous that your name is Fran as that is a reference to the Franks, of whom Charlemagne (or Charles the Great or Karl der Große) was king. Almost everyone in my family has Charles/Karl or Frank as a first or middle name -- so I like to tell people we are descended from him. I've no evidence to support that, but it's not incredibly unlikely if you do a geometric progression backwards -- when you go back THAT far, nearly everyone with European ancestors has a lot of common ones.
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I have an uncle that's really into geneology and has traced our family line back to King Charlemagne. Does that make me a fictional character?
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Fleas were carriers of bubonic plague between rodents and humans, so it wouldn't be surprising if Queen Christina felt that fleas might be a threat to her kingdom (queendom, sorry). There was a (relatively) minor outbreak of the plague in Europe in the 17th century, so ... if the relationship between fleas and plague were known or suspected ... she'd have very good reason to want them dead. Individually, via cannon? That's odd. But that's the only odd thing about it.
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