#February 29, 1504: The crafty Christopher Columbus’ leap year trick

Anyone born on February 29th would not consider themselves lucky. For istance, they have a real birthday only once every four years, when it is a leap year, such this 2019. The list of famous people born on this day is very short and research shows that rapper Ja Rule as possibly the most well known (but who is he?), or american singer Mark Foster. However, leap years are considered by some to be lucky and, according to some superstition, any enterprise started on February 29th is certain to succeed.…

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#February 28, 1874: the curious case of the “baronet” from Wagga Wagga

Arthur Orton, who became known as the Tichborne Claimant, was found guilty of perjury on this day, February 28, 1874, after the longest trial in English history. The bizarre case, which gripped and fascinated all society, involved the son of a butcher in London’s East End, a missing English aristocrat, and the claims of a butcher from Wagga Wagga, Australia. But let’s start from the beginning. The Tichbornes were a prominent wealthy Catholic family whose stately home stood in rolling Hampshire farmland. In 1854, Roger Tichborne, heir to the family…

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Tintic Standard Reduction Mill

Miles south of the Utah state capitol city of Salt Lake City on the outskirts of the small town of Goshen lie the remains of the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, a nearly century old ore refinery that has become a ruin filled with graffiti and a crumbling industrial architecture. Its construction began in 1921: a place where the precious metals such as gold and silver (as well as lead and copper) from nearby Eureka could be processed. The site used an acid-based process known as the “Augustin Process” that no…

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Silver City Cemetery: all that remain of a once-booming mining town.

The Silver City Cemetery looks as if it were pulled directly from a Western movie: worn headstones, scraggly trees, and peeling picket fences which create a beautiful, yet nostalgic, portrait of the American southwest. Nestled in a grove of trees just off US Highway 50, the site sits as a sad final reminder of what was once a booming mining town. Silver City was a silver mining town about 90 miles (140 km) south-southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, an area considered part of the Tintic Mining District that also…

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Treadwell: the ruins of an Alaskan gold mine that form a gorgeous ghost town.

Treadwell, just south of Douglas, Alaska, has seen better days: the former mining town was a company mining town for the workers and their families for up to four mines from 1883 to 1917. The town boasted five mills, stores, mess halls, bunkhouses, a marching band, and even Alaska’s first indoor swimming pool, known as a natatorium, which housed as well as basketball courts. Treadwell had also its own baseball field and team that competed with four other teams from Alaska and Yukon. If this wasn’t enough, Treadwell was in…

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#February 24, 1825: Thomas Bowdler, the man who Re-wrote the “Offensive” Shakespeare

Thomas Bowdler, a doctor and philanthropist, popular to be the man who took all the naughty bits out of Shakespeare, died on this day, February 24, 1825, even if he would probably have preferred to read “went to sleep on this day.” In 1807 he published his first edition of “The Family Shakspeare”, a book contained 24 versions of Shakespeare plays, all with words, expressions and sometimes even plots changed to be more “family friendly.” He explained that nothing had been added to the original text, but he had omitted…

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The truth behind the haunted house that fascinates all Bologna – Italy

Are you familiar with the classic abandoned houses, dark and falling apart? Those houses that seem a set of a horror movie? In short, the houses in the middle of the woods where in horror movies a group of idiotic students goes to take refuge for some idiotic bet, or to spend an “exciting” weekend. So, the villa located in Casalecchio, a municipality very close to Bologna, Italy, is exactly like that. The only difference compared to traditional horror movies is that this villa is not isolated, but in close…

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Aunt Claudia’s Dolls, a collection of unique items that includes the most diverse display of northern indigenous dolls.

After World War II, Claudia Kelsey, a longtime toy collector, moved to Juneau, Alaska with her friend Beatrice Shepard, Bea, to set up a life as an artist. She brought with her a large collection of dolls, figures, and miniatures dear to her that would, after her death, become the beloved gallery in the heart of Juneau known today as Aunt Claudia’s Dolls. Upon Claudia’s death some 60 years after the war, her friend Bea decided the collection, which had amassed more than 800 items, should be put on display…

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Portland Troll Bridge – Oregon

There is a popular story, “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, in which three little goats are trying to get across a bridge, but a troll who lives underneath it threatens to eat them up. They trick him to cross, and all ends well (for the goats, at least). Now that you’re all grown up, you know that trolls don’t really live under bridges. But there’s one bridge in Oregon where trolls actually do live…and it’s really pretty charming! The reason (or the reasons) why trolls began to appear under a bridge…

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Penfield Reef Lighthouse – Connecticut

Penfield Reef, named after an early prominent Fairfield family, has for centuries been a dreaded hazard to mariners sailing Long Island Sound. Even as late as the middle of the nineteenth century, only a pair of buoys marked the reef, and ships were regularly hitting the rocks. The steamer Rip Van Winkle, loaded with passengers, ran aground on the reef in 1864, but miraculously disaster was narrowly avoided. Incidents like this led local mariners and merchants to protest loudly for a lighthouse to be placed on the reef. Penfield Reef…

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Libreria Acqua Alta: one of the most interesting bookshop in the world.

Perched on a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, the beautiful city of Venice evokes countless quaint aquatic images, from gondolas and vaporetti lumbering down the canals to tiny bridges arching between its sidewalks. However, sometimes, water becomes more than an idyliic backdrop to the city: strong tides in the Adriatic can cause water levels to rise, creating the so-called “Acqua Alta,” floods that force the lagoon to pour from the canals onto Venice’s sidewalks and into its buildings. Keeping a collection of books in a city where the roads are…

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#February 18, 1966: the casket that carried assassinated President John F. Kennedy buried at sea.

Dallas, Texas, USA. The casket used to carry the body of assassinated President John F. Kennedy from Dallas to Washington was, on this day, February 18, 1966, parachuted into oblivion. In every way. The story of the coffin itself is remarkable: it was ordered from Dallas undertaker Vernon O’Neal by Secret Service agent Clint Hill when futile attempts at Parkland Hospital to save the slain President were finally abandoned. Clint Hill is the man who leapt onto the back of President’s limousine after the fatal shots were fired. When the…

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The curious Toy Cemetery at Coyoacán Bazaar – Mexico

We are in Coyoacán, Mexico. Known officially as the Mercado Artesanal Mexicano (Mexican Crafts Market), but colloquially as El Bazar, this market is a reference point in city center. Located on the Street Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Coyoacán, in this market you can find different Mexican art such as bracelets, clothes, toys, incenses, necklaces, tattoos, plants and “alebrijes”, brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. A place full of color, tradition and life, where you can find the crafts that characterize Mexico. However, hidden beneath the small cacti…

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#February 16, 1923: A deadly bite, or King Tut’s revenge?

Cairo, Egypt. February 16, 1923, and a discovery that would have made Indiana Jones himself envious: archaeologist Howard Carter opened the sealed doorway leading to the burial chamber and sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Just a few weeks earlier, after making a “tiny breach” in the top left hand corner of the tomb doorway, he was asked by his patron Lord Carnarvon if he could see anything. Howard replied: “Yes, wonderful things” and added: “As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of…

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Macromural de Pachuca: the world’s largest mural covers a large swath of homes in Mexico.

We are just north of Mexico City, in Pachuca de Soto, the capital city of the Mexican State of Hidalgo. The city boasts one of the largest murals in the world. Murals have always been an example of artwork around the world. Excluding the luxurious wall murals in Pompeiian villas, or the various streetart inside lot of abandoned places, most murals, at least the modern ones, adorn building’s exteriors and are meant for public consumption. But in few cases are the murals so big that they stretch across multiple buildings,…

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#February 14, 1779: Captain James Cook’s last adventure

Captain James Cook, the legendary British explorer, was savagely murdered on this day, February 14 (but in 1779!) after a confrontation with islanders at Hawaii who had mistaken him for a god. He discovered and charted New Zealand and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, since noted as one of the world’s most dangerous areas to navigate. His voyages around the world helped guide other explorers for generations and, in addition, he provided the first accurate map of the Pacific and many believe that he did more to fill the map of…

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St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall

On a day usually set aside for romance and sweet lovers, despite its dark origin, a trap was set that ended the crime careers of seven men and launched Al Capone straight into the spotlight, as well as directly into the crosshairs of the Feds. The snare that brought the bloody feud between two Chicago mobster titans to a head turned out to be quite simple. Step One: Invite the North Side Irish Gang out in their Valentine’s Day best. Step two: Line them up against a wall like sitting…

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#February 13, 1945: Ancient Dresden reduced to rubble

February 13, 1945. On this day, waves of British bombers began reducing one of the Germany’s (and world) most beautiful cities to rubble. Thousands were to die in the ensuing firestorm as war against Nazi Germany was intensified. The bombing of Dresden in East Germany, a splendid medieval city formerly renowned for its rich artistic, cultural and architectural treasures, remains controversial: the war was coming to an end with Hitler holed up in his Berlin bunker, the Russian Red Army racing towards the German capital from the east and the…

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Gereja Ayam: the curious “chicken church” in the middle of the Indonesian forest

We are in the thick forest of Magelang, Indonesia. If you be trekking here, try not to be too alarmed if you stumble upon a massive building shaped like a chicken. Yes, a chicken. Known as Gereja Ayam (unsurprisingly, “Chicken Church”), this moldering, behemoth, bird-like building is an unexpected, pictoresque and whimsical sight to stumble upon. The church’s unusual design has inspired many debates and fan theories over the years, each one attempting to solve the mystery of why someone would spend money to build a chicken in the middle…

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The abandoned disco Par hasard: it was the VIPs’ club

Sixty years of history, music, loves, dances and foreign customers of the local spas were not enough to save this disco, now abandoned to itself. And here, at the Par Hasard in Abano Terme, Italy, music and psychedelic lights have definitively shut down. It was a historic dance club, opened more than sixty years ago under the name of Dancing San Daniele and then became a Par hasard Village disco in the 90s. It worked until autumn 2015, and the structure that has entertained generations of young people and not…

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25 Great Insults From 18th Century British Slang

For history enthusiasts and linguists, “You jerk” just doesn’t have the same ring as “You unlicked cub,” an insult from Georgian England. And there’s more where that came from if you browse through “A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue”, a work by English lexicographer Francis Grose (in image below) first published in 1785 and recently spotted by the Public Domain Review. The anthology is filled with slang words and terms of the kind dictionary scribe Samuel Johnson had previously deemed unfit for his influential “A Dictionary of the English…

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Mie Lethek Garuda – a traditional food from Indonesia

We are in the small village of Srandakan, in Indonesia’s Yogyakarta Sultanate, which is the last remaining Indonesian region to be ruled by a Sultanate. What is the reason for visiting this Special Region? Aside from the natural attractions, culture, and history, tourists want to try all traditional foods that they can find there. The region offers the classic one locally known as ‘Mie Lethek’. They are traditionally made with no machines, but with cows and workers, most of whom are middle-aged to elderly. It’s hard work being a cow…

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The dark origins of the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most famous (and appreciated) fairy tales in the world, first related in 1812 when the Grimm brothers published their collection of tales that had been gathered from old European folk stories. Like many of the Grimm tales, it is supposed that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in existence since the Middle Ages, passed down through word-of-mouth over the centuries. The version that is universally told today is the most “digestible” by a non-adult audience, and in 1937,…

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“Leatherman”: the mystery man who walked along the same path for 30 years

The Sparta Cemetery in Ossining, New York, at the crest of an undulating ridge overlooking the Hudson River, is old enough that many of the marble headstones dates before 1900. Some have fallen, others have been swallowed whole by gnarled shrubs or split clean in two by frost. The cemetery is home to the graves of members of Ossining’s founding gentry as long-dead state senators, wealthy railroad merchants or influential local business owners, but most of those interred at the Sparta Cemetery are long forgotten. There’s only one grave that…

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Don’t touch the Royals: the absurd death of the Queen of Siam in the 19th Century

Life is known to have a common destiny for everyone: death. There have been, throughout history, really lot of famous people who died in the most absurd ways, and there is an entire catalog of unbelievable deaths of royal people. For istance Henry I, who was king of England from 1100 until 1135: he died a rather bizarre death, supposedly caused by a meal of lamprey eels, at the age of 67. Or another European king, Alexander of Greece, whowas just 27 when he died in 1920. He was taking…

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Ramesses II: the first (and probably the last) mummy to receive a passport!

Ramesses II is often considered the greatest pharaohs of ancient Egypt: he reigned for over 60 years and his achievements were not matched by the pharaohs who preceded or succeeded him. And, even after death, Ramesses II continued to be unique. How do you move a mummy over 3,000 years old from one country to another? In Ramesses’ case, in 1974, his remains were equipped with a valid passport of Egyptian nationality! It all began in 1974, when Egyptologists working for the Egyptian Museum in Cairo noticed that the pharaoh’s…

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Signal de Botrange: the highest point in Belgium is a staircase to nowhere

We are about 5km north of Ovifat, in Belgium. Signal de Botrange, the lowly remains of an ancient volcanic area once called de Hoge Venen, now doesn’t look like much little more than a big plateau. The area experiences stronger winds than the centre of Belgium, its average and extreme temperatures are usually lower than at any other place in the country and rainfall is much greater: there are over 200 days of precipitation per year. However, this rainy and seemingly flat landscape is actually situated 694 meters above sea…

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Baldpate Inn in Estes Park: the curious inn that houses 30,000 keys

In the middle of the Rocky Mountains it may seem like you couldn’t be farther away from London, Frankenstein’s Castle, or Nazi Germany. However, at the historic Baldpate Inn in Estes Park, Colorado, all three of these places are represented….in a curious different form: the Inn is home to the world’s largest collection of key! If losing your keys is a your habit, probably this is not a place you should visit. If you misplace your keys in the key room of the hotel, there is a huge possibility that…

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Today is 02/02/2020: the first palindrome day after 909 years

Today is a very special day: it is not only the day on which Christians celebrate Candlemas, or Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day, but the date is also a palindrome, meaning it is the same when read forwards and backwards. A palindrome is any word, phrase or sequence of numbers that reads the same whether you read it forward or backward, such as “mom,” “race car” or “tacocat.” Famous palindromes include “rats live on no evil star,” “never odd or even” and “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama”,…

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