A grifter from Rhode Island made a fortune and lost it by pretending to be a North American Indian.
For several hundred years, women have been coming to North America to marry men they never met before arrival.
Chef Albert Verdeyen says chips quite definitely come from his native Belgium; perhaps they do, perhaps they don’t.
A hundred years ago, the car maker turned a waste product into something useful that had a profound impact on America’s social life.
A compendium, collection, and chrestomathy of words you will likely never use. How can you resist a sales pitch like that?
Born in 1861 to free black parents, Isaac Murphy became one of the greatest jockeys in America and then white people squeezed him out of horse racing.
Being poor is no fun; among the many negatives are bad health, exposure to crime, and lack of education.
A subset of humanity that would appear to have a very short life expectancy, claims people can live healthily without food.
In its post-war heydays this all-male gathering of artists, writers, crooks, and aristocrats in London’s seedy red-light district involved crude behaviour.
In February 1942, wartime hysteria triggered a phantom battle in the skies above Los Angeles.
In the 1880s, a huge red beast terrorized the Arizona Territory, and stories of its appearance grew more and more grotesque with each telling.
One of the most baffling crimes in British history took place in a quiet Liverpool neighbourhood in 1931.
A century ago, Linda Hazzard practiced a form of medicine in Washington State based on her belief that people ate too much food. Her therapies were sometimes fatal to her patients.
In 18 hours of racially motivated violence some 300 Africa Americans lost their lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The world’s largest herd of camels is not where you’d expect to find it.
In Scotland, a career criminal with a personal code of honour became a war hero before returning to his old ways.
Somewhere, there’s a graveyard filled with inventions that failed such as Windows Vista, the Edsel car, and radium powder that was supposed to improve sexual prowess.
The Theresienstadt camp was fashioned in an attempt to convince outsiders that Jewish captives were being treated humanely.
Factory work in Victorian England was often sweat labour for low wages; in 1888 a group of young women decided to do something about it.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented the extra-judicial executions, what it calls racial terror lynchings, of 4,084 African Americans between 1877 and 1950.
A German U-boat came to an abrupt and embarrassing end in 1945 off the coast of Scotland.
Late in the 19th century, Edward, Prince of Wales, became embroiled in a gambling dispute that saw him forced to give testimony in open court.
For three hundred years, women have sought better treatment and recognition for who they are as opposed to being defined by a male-dominated society.
In 1858, an eccentric San Francisco businessman declared himself Emperor of the United States and the locals treated him with deference and affection.
In the late 1950s, two Californian men invented what they called a religion that was based on chaos.
In Mumbai, a system of delivering lunches has evolved whose efficiency might be the envy of FedEx or Amazon.
In light of the U.S. government’s relaxation of rules surrounding the use of asbestos, now is a good time to look at the health concerns of this mineral.
Is it possible to give an accurate reading of someone’s personality by studying their handwriting?
26 words that you will likely never find a way of elbowing into a conversation. Interesting though.
Technology is increasingly making the need for handwriting obsolete; does that matter?
Mount Everest has been turned into the world’s highest garbage dump by those who seek to conquer it.
In 1612 in Lancashire, England, a dozen people accused of being witches were brought to trial with devastating results.
A victim with no identity, a charred vehicle, and an attempted disappearance.
The story goes that the Earl of Sandwich, you can already see where this is going, created the first sandwich in the 18th century. The story is quite comprehensively wrong although John Montagu, the fourth earl did give his name to the concoction.
Almost nine centuries ago a gift of food called a dole was bestowed upon the poor of a village in Hampshire, England. The tradition continues today.
All over the Western world people are loosing their enthusiasm for democracy. Election turnouts are dropping, suggesting the democratic system is not important to large numbers of people.
For several decades the last remaining member of an Amazonian tribe has been living alone in the Brazilian rainforest. Or has he?
In 2013, Forbes Magazine said Russian President Vladimir Putin was the most powerful person in the world, and followed that up with three more similar acknowledgements.
Cheap, two-wheeled transportation relieved women from depending on men to get around and played a role in the emancipation movement.
The world’s smokers discard six trillion cigarette butts each year and the poisons in them leach out into the environment.
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is held every year in June. Since the races started in 1907, 270 riders have been killed on the island’s road course.
A gooey, dark brown, and salty spread has been marketed under the slogan “Love Me or Hate Me, I’m Yours.”
In 1854, seven men in a fishing boat set off to sail from Cornwall in the west of England to Australia.
In 1907, an American billionaire and a member of Britain’s nobility engaged in a weird bet.
A game of word definitions created by a malevolent writer who has juggled with the subject matter all his life.
Glow-in-the-dark clocks and watches were all the rage at the start of the 20th century, but they killed the people who made them.
The concept of populism gets tossed about a lot these days, but what does it mean?
Vast numbers of people don’t like working, but they do it anyway.
Working-class people in the nineteenth century could not get enough of the sensational stories published in the forerunners of today’s tabloids.
People climb barehanded up the outside of tall structures as a show of bravado, to make a political statement, or simply for the fun of it. No, really.
Before radio, television, and the Internet came to dominate our leisure hours at home people gathered round the hearth and played word games.
There’s more to this simple game than meets the eye; a lot more.
Some Christians believe that if donations are made to religious causes God will reward the donor with wealth, health, and happiness. There are several people ready and willing to encourage folk in that belief and relieve themselves of the burden of extra wealth.
The illusionist from India caused a sensation in Britain in 1956 when he appeared to cut his assistant in half using a massive circular saw.
It’s frequently said these days that democracy is in decline and that fascism is in the ascendancy; but what exactly is fascism?
Many people make product or entertainment choices based on what they read on Internet review sites; this can be a big mistake.
In the days before cheap vacations in the Mediterranean sunshine, British people flocked to coastal resorts for their annual summer holidays, and they usually sent home a postcard featuring a bawdy scene created by Donald McGill.
Z is for Zwodder and A is for Abulia, with 24 odd words in between.
Except for those whose political and economic destinies are tied to Big Oil, most people acknowledge that cutting the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is best achieved by putting a price on carbon.
Frank Thompson enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War but he wasn’t what he appeared to be. He wasn’t an American and he wasn’t even a “he.”
In 1854, Roger Tichborne was lost at sea. His mother refused to believe her son was dead and embarked on a campaign to find him.
At the end of the 19th century, a pair of New York City lawyers had a legal practice that was as crooked as the people they defended in court.
Nuclear power does not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but it comes with a unique set of its own hazards.
They risk their lives to entertain us and the famed waterfall has an irresistible attraction for a certain type of person.
There are still thousands of tonnes of unexploded ordinance (UXO) buried on battlefields across Europe left behind by World War One.
It’s well known that elephants mourn their dead. Do they also mourn the death of people who have helped them?
William Thomas Stead was a journalist who campaigned against the trade in child prostitutes in Victorian London.
Hydrogen can be used as a way of storing energy produced from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or hydro; it can also be burned in a rocket engine to blast a space ship off its launch pad.
Unsinkable Sam served in the German Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy during World War II and survived three vessels being sunk under him.
Our appetites for meat and dairy are, indirectly, adding significantly to global warming.
In April 1817, an intriguing woman appeared in a village in Western England. She wore a turban and said she was a princess from some far off place.
Hammerfest is a town in the extreme north of Norway that has seen way more than its fair share of disasters, but it keeps springing back.
In post-Civil War New York City, the Whyos gang controlled the crime activity in most of Manhattan for two decades.
As Japan was nearing defeat in World War II it started to use more and more desperate tactics to turn the tide, one of these was balloon bombs carried across the Pacific Ocean by the jet stream.
Broadly speaking, Paganism, from a Western viewpoint, means all religions that do not trace their origins to Abraham, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
First Nations Canadian men signed up for duty in World War I in large numbers. Many served with high distinction but nobody matched the exploits of Francis Pegahmagabow.
A version of English is spoken widely throughout what used to be the British Empire. It’s a mixture of local languages and simplified English grammar used by people who don’t share a common tongue.
Newspapers aimed at the semi-literate working classes of Victorian Britain traded in the grotesque, the gruesome, and the grisly.
The “micromort” is a unit used to estimate the probability of a one-in-a-million chance of experiencing sudden death.
Some people believe that personal misfortune and global issues are orchestrated by the Illuminati and other groups with ancient roots.
The Tudor monarch was a man of large appetites and it took a small army of servants to feed him and his court.
The worst mining accident in American history took the lives of at least 361 people in West Virginia in 1907.
Victorians turned death into a macabre theatrical ritual governed by rules of etiquette that covered every aspect of the process.
War is a great opportunity for profit; product has to be created only to be destroyed and created again and confusion leads to creative accounting.
In a strange reversal, DNA evidence can let guilty people go free.
A chrestomathy (that’s a ten dollar word for collection) of words you may never use.
Late in the Victorian era, men in high places were in the habit of visiting a brothel in London to engage in homosexual acts with teenage boys.
The period between the world wars was the golden age of polite drawing-room murder mysteries and those engaged in the craft of creating these stories banded together to develop a code of ethics.
A clandestine operation used fishing boats as a lifeline between Nazi-occupied Norway and Scotland.
A traditional dish of cabbage, bacon, and noodles that comes from Central and Eastern Europe.
Moving goods and people uses up a lot of hydrocarbon fuel so transportation is a sector where changes are coming; perhaps, quite rapidly.
In 1929, reporter Grace Drummond-Hay was the only woman aboard the Graf Zeppelin airship as it circumnavigated the world.
The discovery of a single tooth led to the belief in an ape-like creature had once roamed the plains of the New World.
For desperate Irish people trying to escape the potato famine an even worse fate awaited them.
Sneezing powder, stink bombs, and joy buzzers all came from the fertile mind of one man.
We are social animals and being part of a tribe is essential to our survival, but sometimes the tribal bond can go horribly wrong.
A Victorian zoo and circus sensation, the African elephant led a sad existance.
Clichés are tiresome, overused, stale, and a lazy substitute for good writing.
African-American educator Booker T. Washington shared a meal with a sitting president and a furor ensued.
Providing food to millions of young men in battlefield conditions was a daunting task; little wonder that the meals were often close to inedible.
The much-maligned vegetable is really delicious and should be a part of everybody’s diet.
In the 1890s, newspapers in New York City were locked in a circulation war that drove them to print ever more sensational stories.
A group of American hunters were murdered in the Canadian wilderness, and a local woodsman and guide was fingered for the crime. But did he do it?
Once a bit of a wastrel, David Marshall Williams went from inmate to famed firearms inventor.
When people think their lives are not going so well they often think things were better in some ill-defined past, but this is an illusion.
Bee colonies have been collapsing for a decade, but the demand for honey is rising.
Many families paid terrible prices in lost sons, fathers, and brothers during the Great War, but few suffered more than the Beecheys.
The name of this broth fails to excite the taste buds, and its origin is murky.
About 10 percent of the population is left-handed and experts are unsure exactly why this is so.
A sensational case in Victorian England involved a beautiful woman, a dead husband, and a clergyman in the eternal triangle. But was it murder?
The purpose of the sideshow was to remove coin from people happily complicit in the exploitation of unfortunates.
A compendium of words you may never come across again.
Charles E. Boles had numerous aliases but he was known to all in California as Black Bart, the stagecoach robber.
Vasser-educated and the daughter of a clergyman, Lois Long wrote wittily about New York’s night life during Prohibition.
Poor intelligence led to a massive attack of Allied forces in the Aleutian Islands; an attack that proved to be pointless and costly.
An affair of the heart led to a scheme to get rid of the other woman, in this case a wife, in a crime that caused a sensation in Victorian England.
Building on Catholic social teachings, distributism is a political theory that calls for the benefits of capitalism to be spread wider.
An iconic French-Canadian dish that combines delicious, artery-clogging ingredients is now popular everywhere.
Illicit drug dealers are always looking for new ways to slip their product into markets; it’s a trade that can have deadly consequences.
Progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans are moving so far apart that there seems little hope of bridging the divide.
Collectors and investors pay thousands of dollars for a single bottle of wine and sometimes lawsuits ensue.
Thomas Bouch designed and built a bridge to carry railway trains across the Firth of Tay in Scotland; sadly, it collapsed.
An African slave was bought in Cape Town and taken to Europe to be exhibited in London and Paris as a freak of nature.
Sanctioned by the English queen, buccaneers roamed the oceans preying on Spanish treasure galleons; were they pirates or privateers?
Edward VIII gave up his throne in 1936 to marry a divorcée and then played along with Nazis in hopes of getting his crown back.
The origin of a dish that is famous all over the world is difficult to track down.
Clashes between white men and First Nations people in the American and Canadian West usually ended badly for the Indians.
Two famous scientists disagree about the existence of extraterrestrial life and the likelihood of ever making contact with out-of-this-world species.
For about a century, industrial-scale fishing plundered the oceans as if the supply of fish was endless; it turns out the supply is limited.
By the late 1600s, European explorers had mapped much of the world, which led a canny Scotsman to develop an audacious scheme.
Eight different attempts to kill Queen Victoria must have given her the feeling she had a bullseye pinned on her. But the attackers were either bonkers, ham-fisted, or both.
For more than six decades in the Middle Ages a mysterious disease swept through England killing thousands.
For sailors and mountaineers, knowledge of dozens of different knots is critical to staying alive; the rest of us can get by with nothing more than a granny knot.
Therapy has progressed from driving out demons through violence and abuse to psychoanalysis and medication with lobotomies and electroconvulsive shocks along the way.
Bull and cows turn up in our language as colourful illustrators of thoughts.
White supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 chanting “Blood and soil.” What does this mean?
He leapt over high walls, scared the wits out of women and horses, slapped men in the face, and escaped. But did he really exist?
Who wants high-tech instruments, algorithms, and forecast models when all you need to know is that a plentiful crop of pine cones means a harsh winter is coming? Or not.
Government-funded health insurance gave me the best possible cardiac care I could hope for.
Leonard Peltier is a Native American who has spent more than four decades, and counting, in prison for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.
Internet trolls are mentally disturbed people with many of the personality traits of psychopaths.
Men are far more likely than women to engage in unsafe behaviour giving rise to the theory that “men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.”
In the world of philosophy many different answers to the same problem can be equally valid.
Known locally as The Rock, the island has its own unique food, but it would be a stretch to call it cuisine.
A little more than 26 miles of running in one go is enough to daunt most people, but some feel it’s not a big enough challenge.
A collection of stupidity that boggles the mind from the folks in the Sunshine State.
The merry tinkling of melodies from ice cream vans drew happy children from the neighbourhood but behind this pleasant scene lurked violence.
Late in the 19th century, a crack shot was needed to keep African railway construction from grinding to a halt.
It’s more that 125 years since a vicious killer murdered five working-class women in London’s East End but the fascination with this monster never dims.
There’s an ancient burial mound in eastern England where locals tell stories of a battle between Viking twins.
In dark of night, when nobody else was around, a petty criminal stole the world’s most famous painting.
Terrible food, miserable living conditions, brutal discipline, and the strong possibility of an early violent death were the lot of Eighteenth Century sailors.
China’s spectacular economic growth created a get-rich-quick mentality that has been easily exploited con artists.
A special dish for a man who doesn’t like broccoli.
About 74,000 years ago, a volcanic explosion on the island of Sumatra threw so much ash into the atmosphere that all human life may have been threatened.
During the 17th and 18th centuries men wore flamboyant powdered wigs; some of the reasons for doing so are not very wholesome.
From cave paintings to the Internet, the development of the media has been one of bringing information to larger audiences faster.
As practitioners of what’s called the “dismal science,” economists are not noted for having sparkling personalities. There are always exceptions.
The German high command believed Juan Pujol Garcia gave them priceless intelligence; the problem was he was working for the Allies.
For a fee, some people agreed to assume the transgressions of the dead in the belief this would ease their passage into heaven.
When I was a teenager I had all the answers to everything; now that I’m in my eighth decade all I have is questions.
In the 18th century, writers gathered in an impoverished area of London with each trying, against the odds, to break into the world of literature.
A popular amusement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was staged train wrecks put on by fairground organizers eager to pull in the crowds.
Half a century after the Great War started, a group of British writers and actors created a macabre and satirical musical about the dreadful sacrifice of the common soldiers.
Scores of people have made a claim that they are the second coming of Jesus Christ; none have been taken seriously except by a small coterie of followers.
The famous New York landmark has been a boon to slick-talking swindlers who have found ingenious ways of separating gullible people from their money.
One of the most notorious criminals in English history was convicted of murdering his wife in 1910; new evidence implies an innocent man was hanged.
Every year the British hold festivals featuring what are loosely termed “sports.”
Of the world’s approximately 6,000 languages, English is said to be one of the easier ones to learn despite its idiosyncrasies of spelling and pronunciation.
A strange phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect leads some people into believing they are smarter than they really are.
Pranks can sometimes go off the rails and have unintended consequences, such as a police investigation.
In a problem that goes back centuries, some people unable to take their own lives contrive to get the state to do it for them.
How a con man duped struggling farmers into a pigeon breeding scheme that had fraud written all over it.
We live in an age when those who are supposed to be examples of sound moral character turn out to have feet of clay; perhaps this was always so.
There are varieties of polo that can only be enjoyed by those with very deep pockets, although water polo is for everyone as long as you don’t mind being almost drowned.
European powers seized land and resources from indigenous Africans as though the people didn’t exist and sometimes those powers tried to make sure they didn’t actually exist.
During my years at school in England they tried to turn me into a cricket player, proving that the Universe does have a sense of humour.
An 18th century inventor created a clever machine that appeared to play top quality chess; in reality, it was a device that separated the gullible from their money.
Most of us have heard of Esperanto, an attempt to create a universal language; but Volapük, or Solresol?
Veteran CBS reporter Charles Kuralt covered the Vietnam War and various other hostilities but is best remembered for his short sketches of oddball American life.
There’s a mariner’s graveyard in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence that rivals the Bermuda Triangle for lives lost, without being a manufactured mystery.
Maria Marten was a young woman living in Suffolk in eastern England who had the misfortune to fall in love with a wastrel.
Computer users visit, on average 40 websites a day and change windows or check e-mail 37 times an hour.
It’s often said there are only seven types of jokes but among those that expound on this theme there seems little agreement on exactly what those seven are.
Skilled artists can make a good living by bamboozling the art world with brilliant forgeries.
Plastics first went into large-scale production in the 1950s and now they pose a serious threat to the environment.
People sometimes mishear a word and go on to repeat it with embarrassing results.
The Reverend William Spooner is remembered for mangling phrases, an affliction that carries his name.
Derren Brown is a British illusionist who says “mind readers” cannot read minds. He is not alone.
Here are some things to avoid if you want your life to be filled with events that stimulate your intellect and provide excitement.
Young British men from upper-class families flocked to the colours in the First World War; for most, life in uniform was miserable and short.
Americans spend about $50 billion a year on weddings. With that kind of coin skittering about, some unsavoury characters are bound to be attracted.
A century after the start of the Great War in 1914, debate still goes on about whether Allied generals were incompetent buffoons or have been unfairly criticized.
A fiery assault on the mouth, and through the digestive system, that some can’t resist.
A favourite evil character of novelists and playwrights, Scrooge-type personalities are not uncommon in the real world.
At a time when women couldn’t vote young Nellie Bly was undaunted by the barriers placed in her path by her gender.
For almost two decades James “Whitey” Bulger, described as a “stone cold killer,” reigned supreme in Boston’s criminal world, a position he held thanks to his friends in the FBI.
During the Great War, it slowly dawned on the military that the conditions of combat were causing men to develop serious mental health problems.
How did a street urchin from London’s East End slums become a general in the Chinese revolutionary army?
Tortured translations of local languages into English cause hilarity for tourists and embarrassment for hosts; but, it works the other way round too.