The Hardy Tree: the churchyard ash tree surrounded by hundreds of gravestones placed there by author Thomas Hardy

Inside an ancient churchyard in London an ash tree is encircled with hundreds of overlapping gravestones, placed there by classic novelist Thomas Hardy. The cemetery, alongside London’s St. Pancras Old Church, is considered by many to be one of England’s oldest places of Christian worship, and it is the site of a number of fascinating stories. For istance, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley planned their elopement there while visiting Mary’s mother’s grave. Restored in the first few years of the 21st century, the graveyard served…

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#TodayInHistory – November 30

November 30 – Some important events on this day. 1016 👉🏼 Cnut the Great [Canute], King of Denmark, claims the English throne after the death of Edmund ‘Ironside’ 1406 👉🏼 Angelo Correr elected Pope Gregory XII 1487 👉🏼 The first German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot), is promulgated in Munich by Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria stating beer should be brewed from only three ingredients – water, malt and hops. From the “History of German Brewing” by Karl J. Eden: “We hereby proclaim and decree, by Authority of our Province, that…

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How to seduce a turkey: a bizarre sex experiments of the 1960s

Two men lurking over the pen. Meanwhile a large, male turkey walked in a circle, readying his mating dance, waiting for the right moment. The moment arrived and, clueless and giddy, the animal excitedly fluffed his feathers and approached his object of desire: the severed head of a taxidermied, female turkey, mounted on a stick. It was the early 1960s, and Dr. Martin Schein and Dr. Edward Hale were working hard at Pennsylvania State University to find out what makes domestic turkeys literally…interested in sex. They began with a taxidermically…

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#TodayInHistory – November 29

November 29 – Some important events on this day. 526 👉🏼 A possible date for the Antioch earthquake in present-day Syria (then the Byzantine Empire) which killed 200,000 people 1349 👉🏼 Jews of Augsburg Germany massacred 1745 👉🏼 Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army moves into Manchester and occupies Carlisle 1781 👉🏼 Crew of slave ship Zong murder about 142 African slaves by dumping them into the sea, to claim insurance 1864 👉🏼 Sand Creek massacre On this day, peaceful band of Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe Native Americans are massacred by Colonel…

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Tarpeian Rock: in the early Roman empire, people deemed traditors and criminals were tossed to their deaths from this rock

Tarpeian Rock, or locally Rupe Tarpea, is a steep cliff located on the southern side of the Capitoline Hill, just above the Roman Forum and, for centuries, the location was used an an execution sites. People who had been convicted of crimes were thrown from the 25-meter cliff ledge down to the Forum below. This method of execution carried a stigma of shame and was considered a fate worse than death. It was reserved as punishment for crimes that were considered especially heinous like treason, murder, and perjury. Also larcenous…

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#TodayInHistory – November 28

November 28 – Some important events on this day. 1291 👉🏼 Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I of England, dies in Northamptonshire. Crosses are erected where her body rests on the way to London. 1520 👉🏼 Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan begins crossing the Pacific Ocean 1660 👉🏼 The Royal Society is formed at Gresham College, London, after a lecture by Christopher Wren, Gresham Professor of Astronomy 1717 👉🏼 Blackbeard attacks and captures a French merchant slave ship, which he renames as his flagship the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” 1720…

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Why one Australian Island celebrates thanksgiving

Norfolk Island is tiny, both in size and population. It is an Australian territory hundreds of miles from the mainland, that hosts fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. It has nice blue waters, unique flora, including famed Norfolk pine also displayed on their flag, and a curious story about its origin: the island was in fact populated by the descendants of mutineers from the British ship HMS Bounty. The British mutineers and several captive Tahitians had fled to nearby Pitcairn Island in 1790, and by 1856, their descendants moved there, to the…

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Horatio Nelson: from frail guy to National Hero

Often maggot-infested, the food was often uneatable, living quarters were tiny and discipline was extremely strict, with the threat of lashing punishment by the cat-o’-nine-tails ever present. Winston Churchill would write of such life as “nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.” No. This isn’t a novel, but the 18th century world of the British Navy. No wonder, thus, if there were few volunteers. Most crewmen who, of course, might not see their families again for years, had been press-ganged into service. The Government at the time, at war with…

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#TodayInHistory – November 27

November 27 – Some important events on this day. 176 👉🏼 Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius grants his son Commodus the rank of Imperator 1095 👉🏼 Pope Urban II preaches 1st Crusade 1295 👉🏼 English King Edward I calls what later became known as “The Model Parliament” extending the authorities of its representatives 1382 👉🏼 Battle of Westrozebeke/Roosebeke. French army defeats the Flemish army. Flemish leader Philip Van Artevelde killed and corpse displayed 1493 👉🏼 Christopher Columbus returns to La Navidad colony, finding it destroyed by the 1st native American uprising…

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Marlborough pie: a luxurious 19th-Century Thanksgiving Pie

Apparently, four kinds of pie were traditional for Thanksgiving: mince, cranberry, pumpkin, and a kind called Marlborough, a glorification of everyday apple, is said. The single-crust pie of stewed apples in a custard fragrant with nutmeg, citrus, and sherry originated in England as a custard pudding and crossed the Atlantic with early English settlers. The practice of putting apples in a custard and baking in a pastry base is at least as old as 1660. The first iteration of Marlborough pudding published that year called for a whopping 24 egg…

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#TodayInHistory – November 26

November 26 – Some important events on this day. 43 BC 👉🏼 Second Triumvirate alliance of Roman leader Octavian (later Caesar Augustus), Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony formed 783 👉🏼 Asturian queen Adosinda was put in the monastery of San Juan de Pravia, where she lived out the rest of her life, to prevent her kin from retaking the throne from Mauregatus. 1476 👉🏼 Vlad III Dracula defeats Basarab Laiota with the help of Stephen the Great and Stephen V Bathory and becomes the ruler of Wallachia for the…

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La Patasola: the vengeful protector of the Andes

Colombia is full of magic and mystery and there is a single village in the country that does not boast its own spirit or superstition, often passed from generation to generation. Some ghost stories have become so entrenched in the national psyche they are known countrywide, by scaring children and keeping errant spouses in their place. Imagine you are alone, deep in country’s central Andean region. Maybe you are cutting down lumber in the lush forests, or prospecting for some minerals, gold, for istance, in one of valley creeks. All…

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#TodayInHistory – November 25

November 25 – Some important events on this day. 1034 👉🏼 Malcolm II, King of Scots (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda) (b. 980) dies; Donnchad, the son of his second daughter Bethóc and Crínán of Dunkeld, inherits the throne. 1177 👉🏼 Battle of Montgisard: Baldwin IV of Jerusalem defeats Saladin and a larger Ayyubid force 1667 👉🏼 A deadly earthquake rocks Shemakha, in the Caucasus, killing 80,000 people. 1715 👉🏼 First English patent granted to an American, for processing corn 1783 👉🏼 Britain evacuates New York city, its last military position…

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Grace Darling, the Lighthouse Heroine

Maybe not everyone knows her, but It would be wrong to describe Grace Darling as an unsung heroine: songs have been composed about her right up to 2017, but also books have been written, a choir has been named after her, and more than 200 years after she was born on this day, November 24, 1815, a website dedicated to her is still thriving. Grace was born in the town of Bamburgh in the North-Eastern English county of Northumberland. Her father, William, was the main keeper of the Longstone lighthouse…

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Tham Piew Cave: a tangible reminder of an atrocity that took place during a secret war.

On this day, November 24, 1968, daily life began much as it had for some time. Villagers, accustomed to bombs and rocket attacks in the region, had long sought refuge deep in the extensive limestone cave systems of eastern Laos. Along with hundreds of men, women, and children from neighboring villages, rebel Pathet Lao fighters occasionally sought refuge in the dozens of large caves throughout the region as the insurgents made their way through eastern Laos. However, if most of the caves proved to provide safe haven, Tham Piew Cave…

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#TodayInHistory – November 24

November 24 – Some important events on this day. 380 👉🏼 Theodosius I makes his adventus, or first formal entry, into Constantinople 1434 👉🏼 River Thames in London freezes over 1639 👉🏼 1st observation of transit of Venus by Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree – helped establish size of the Solar System 1642 👉🏼 Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovers Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) 1759 👉🏼 Destructive eruption of Vesuvius 1859 👉🏼 English naturalist Charles Darwin publishes “On the Origin of Species” radically changing the view of evolution and laying the…

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The stunning statue on the tomb of the legendary Maid Marian

Little Dunmow Church, St Mary, is one of the oldest buildings in Essex, England. The building was originally the chapel of the lady of an Augustinian convent of the 12th century, and inside there is an alabaster tomb depicting one of the most famous women in British history, Maid Marian. Legendary companion of Robin Hood, the literary character was actually inspired by the life and legends surrounding the daughter of a 13th-century Essex baron, Matilda Fitzwalter. Born in the late 12th century, Matilda was the daughter of Robert, Baron Fitzwalter,…

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#TodayInHistory – November 23

November 23 – Some important events on this day. 800 👉🏼 Charlemagne arrives in Rome to investigate the alleged crimes of Pope Leo III. 1248 👉🏼 Conquest of Seville by Christian troops under King Ferdinand III of Castile after the city capitulates 1499 👉🏼 Flemish pretender to the English throne Perkin Warbeck hanged for reportedly attempting to escape from Tower of London. Invaded England in 1497, claiming to be the lost son of King Edward IV 1644 👉🏼 “Areopagitica”, a pamphlet by John Milton decrying censorship, is published 1654 👉🏼…

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KNOxOUT, the mural in Warsaw that absorbs as much pollution as 780 Trees

Who would have though that simply painting a mural on the side of a regular building would have the same pollution-cleaning effect as planting 780 trees? Organized by the sportswear company Converse as part of their City-Forests campaign, the latest mural in Warsaw, Poland, is not only an aesthetically pleasing artwork, but also an ingenious way to tackle a hot-topic as urban pollution. Painted using photocatalytic paint with titanium dioxide, on a building that faces the busy metro station Politechnika, the ingenious mural reportedly attracts airborne pollutants before converting them…

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#TodayInHistory – November 22

November 22 – Some important events on this day. 845 👉🏼 First King of all Brittany, Nominoe defeats Frankish King Charles the Bald at the Battle of Ballon, near Redon 1497 👉🏼 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama rounds Cape of Good Hope on way to first voyage from Europe to reach India 1900 👉🏼 First Mercedes goes for a test drive On this day, first car to be produced under the Mercedes name is taken for its inaugural drive in Cannstatt, Germany. The car was specially built for its buyer,…

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Fairy Steps, the legendary stone steps that were once used to haul coffins up the rockface ~

From Beetham village, England, a path climbs to Beetham fell and leads to the so-called Fairy Steps. The second of two flights of stone steps, where the narrow passage squeezes between two sheer rock faces via a flight of natural stone stairs is so named because of a legend. Apparently, if you descend this narrow stone stairway without touching the rocks on either side, the local fairies will grant you a wish. Other legends talk about the fairies using the steps to escape a witches’ cauldron, and it is said…

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#TodayInHistory – November 21

November 21 – Some important events on this day. 164 BC 👉🏼 During Maccabbean revolt Judas Maccabaeus recaptures Jersusalem and rededicates the Second Temple, commemorated since as Jewish festival Hanukkah 1818 👉🏼 Russia’s Tsar Alexander I petitions for a Jewish state in Palestine 1837 👉🏼 Thomas Morris of Australia skips rope 22,806 times 1905 👉🏼 1st match ever played in the Australian National Tennis Championships 1906 👉🏼 China prohibits the opium trade 1916 👉🏼 Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, sinks in Aegean Sea killing 30 people. More than 1,000…

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Russian Napoleon Cake, the traditional dessert that commemorates the country’s sweet taste of victory over the French emperor in 1812.

In Russia, where Christmas was banned in 1928 during Bolshevik rule and not reinstated until 1991, New Year’s Eve has long been the biggest celebration of the year, with decorative trees and opulent feasts. But also a towering Napoleon cake, often home-baked. The so called Napoleon cake may be similar to the French emperor in fame, but certainly not in stature… Standing tall with at least eight tiers (and sometimes more than 20) of alternating layers of delicious pastry and custard, it has become a national Russian dish, inspired by…

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#TodayInHistory – November 20

November 20 – Some important events on this day. 284 👉🏼 Roman soldier Diocletian proclaimed Emperor by the army 762 👉🏼 Bögü, Khan of the Uyghurs, conquers Lo-Yang, capital of the Chinese Empire 1695 👉🏼 Zumbi, the last King of the Quilombo dos Palmares in early Brazil and ex-slave, is executed and decapitated, his head displayed on a pike to dispel any legends of his immortality 1805 👉🏼 Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Fidelio”, his only opera, premieres in Vienna 1815 👉🏼 Second Treaty of Paris: France and her allies agree France…

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Underwater abandoned Aquarium of Silver Cay, Bahamas

We are on Silver Cay, part of the city of Nassau and Island of New Providence, Bahamas. The Coral Island Marine Park is located on a small cay off of Nassau city and was once a popular tourist destination. Opening in 1987 by Coral World International, it was the biggest park developed by the company at the time, and it was an instant hit in Nassau becoming the leading tourist attraction in the city. It offered a museum, underwater observatory, shark, turtle and stingray pools, but also snorkeling trails and…

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#TodayInHistory – November 19

November 19 – Some important events on this day. 1274 👉🏼 Mongol army lands at Hakata Bay in Japan during their first invasion attempt and are defeated; a typhoon destroys most of their fleet as they withdraw 1493 👉🏼 Christopher Columbus discovers Puerto Rico, on his 2nd voyage 1530 👉🏼 The Recess document resulting from the Diet of Augsburg signed by Charles V and catholic princes 1581 👉🏼 Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich dies after being attacked by his father Ivan the Terrible three days earlier 1620 👉🏼 The Mayflower reaches Cape…

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Bottle trees: a southern tradition with a spiritual past

For believers and ghost stories enthusiasts, the countryside of the American South is haunted and, given the history of the region, it is not hard to understand why. For istance, If you travel across the South from the Lowcountry of Charleston to the Mississippi Delta you will find many superstitions about the dead, and you will see firsthand some of the ways that locals protect their homes from the souls that apparently have not moved on from our world and have chosen instead to wander in the night and not…

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#TodayInHistory – November 18

November 18 – Some important events on this day. 326 👉🏼 Old St. Peter’s Basilica consecrated in Rome (stood 4th – 16th century), later replaced by current Basilica 1421 👉🏼 Southern sea floods 72 villages, killing estimated 10,000 in Netherlands 1477 👉🏼 First English dated printed book “Dictes & Sayengis of the Phylosophers” by William Caxton 1626 👉🏼 St. Peter’s Basilica is consecrated, replacing an earlier basilica on the same site and becoming the world’s largest Christian basilica. Regarded as one of the greatest Renaissance and Baroque buildings St Peter’s…

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Saginaw River Lighthouse

Saginaw Bay lies between Michigan’s thumb and the rest of the state’s Lower Peninsula. As Michigan was preparing to become a state, it adopted a constitution in 1835 that encouraged internal improvements such as roads and canals. A project that was contemplated at this time was linking Saginaw River, which flowed into eponymous Bay, with Grand River, which flowed into Lake Michigan. The Saginaw River lighthouse stands about a mile from the mouth of the river. It worked in conjunction with a beacon closer to the mouth and, when sailors…

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#TodayInHistory – November 17

November 17 – Some important events on this day. 1278 👉🏼 680 Jews arrested (293 hanged) in England for counterfeiting coins 1558 👉🏼 Elizabeth I aged 25, ascends the English throne upon death of her half sister, Queen “Bloody” Mary 1800 👉🏼 Congress holds its 1st session in Washington, D.C. in an incomplete Capitol Building 1831 👉🏼 Ecuador and Venezuela separated from Greater Colombia 1855 👉🏼 David Livingstone becomes the first European to see Victoria Falls, in what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe 1869 👉🏼 Suez Canal in Egypt opens,…

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