A bone belonging to the saint Thomas Becket has returned to England after 800 years. My latest article in The Guardian explores our endless fascination with relics, and discusses some fascinating “secular relics” like Galileo’s finger (pictured above). Click HERE to read.
After years of resisting, I’m finally on Instagram! Follow me for strange, morbid, and bizarre history facts each day by clicking HERE. The above photo (featured on my account) is a radioactive chocolate bar from 1931. The German company that produced it claimed that it would make those who ate it look younger! As always, you can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook to get your fill of the weird. Come say hello to me on social media.
Several years ago, the news reported a story that could have come straight from the script of a horror movie. In October 2009, Colleen S. Burns was admitted to St Joseph’s Hospital Center in New York for a drug overdose. A short time later, a team of doctors pronounced the 39-year-old woman dead. Her family was notified and Burns’s body was prepped for organ donation. The only problem was: Burns wasn’t actually dead.
My article on the history of our ever-changing attitudes towards death is out in The Guardian today, featuring fascinating photos by Dr. Paul Koudounaris of the Ma'nene Festival of Corpses in Indonesia. Big thanks to Caitlin Doughty and Dr. John Troyer for sharing their thoughts on the future of death with me for this article. Check it out by clicking HERE.
There was panic on the streets of London in 1760, and the city’s newspapers weren’t helping the situation. Hundreds of column inches, for week upon week, were full of terrifying reports about an outbreak of attacks by rabid dogs. Armchair experts even wrote letters to newspaper editors offering advice and hypotheses on the causes and prevention of rabies (or “hydrophobia” as contemporaries called it). Rumor fueled the journalistic fire, and the scare stories came in thick and fast. The London Chronicle was just one of many newspapers that reported the following representative sample of incidents. A rabid dog bit [...]
On 30 April 1555, the people of London took to the streets in celebration as bells ringing out around the city announced that Mary I, Queen of England, had been safely delivered of a healthy son. A preacher proclaimed to gatherers that no one had ever seen such a beautiful prince. News spread quickly to the continent, and letters of congratulation to the royal family began pouring in from Europe. There was just one problem: Mary hadn’t given birth. In fact, there was no baby at all. What was initially hailed as a royal pregnancy ended in devastation and embarrassment [...]
On 29 July 1831, John Amy Bird Bell was found guilty of murdering a young boy for the sake of a few coins. At his trial, Bell expressed no emotion when he was sentenced to death. He did, however, break down when he was informed that his body would be given over to the surgeons to be dissected. Bell was only 14-years-old when he was executed and anatomized. As he made his way to the gallows, he turned to the constable and asked: “He [the murdered child] is better off than I am now, do you not think he is, [...]
Inspired by real people and events, the new PBS mini-series Mercy Street goes beyond the front lines of the Civil War and into the chaotic world of the Mansion House Hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia. For those who are fans of the show, or merely interested in this period of history, check out my guest blog post for PBS on "The Embalming Craze of the Civil War." Click here to read.
The other day, I walked through the makeup section of a department store. Every step of the way, I was bombarded by sales attendants trying to sell me the latest anti-aging potions. There was Rodial Snake Venom—an anti-wrinkle cream which allegedly simulates the paralysing effects of a viper bite to reduce expression lines in the face—as well as a host of other products including Freeze 24/7, which purports to be a "clinically proven dream cream." Topping the list of quack remedies was the "Vampire Facelift," a non-surgical procedure involving the reinjection of gel-like substance derived from the patient’s own blood. [...]
It's nearly Christmas! Time to revisit this festive episode of Under The Knife. Using the talents of Adrian Teal (artwork), Joel Mishon (animator), and the vocal stylings of Alex Anstey, we give this classic poem a macabre twist. So sit back, relax and enjoy my rendition of `Twas the Night Before Christmas as you’ve never heard it before! Featuring myself as the dissected criminal (Thanks, Adrian!). If you enjoy my blog, please consider supporting my content by clicking HERE.