May 31, 1962: the Voghera massacre

May 31, 1962: it is a warm but not sultry night when the fate of 64 people is about to be marked. Shortly after midnight, at 0.02 am, the 8151 freight train from Milan Rogoredo station leaves from Lecco and goes to Arquata Scrivia. The convoy consists of 33 wagons. In the meantime, at 0.45 am, from another Milan station, the Central Station, the fast train 1391 also leaves, expected in Genova Brignole at 5.22 am. The passenger convoy stops at Voghera where it arrives at the third platform 15…

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A short story of English Witchcraft Acts

From 1541 to 1951, England had laws strictly prohibiting the practice of witchcraft. During the early years it was a crime punishable by death and the forfeiture of goods and chattels. Put into effect on June 1, 1653, the laws mandated the outlawing of any kind of witchcraft-related activities. However, the 1653 Witchcraft Laws were not the first to appear in the English judicial system, as in 1542, King Henry VIII passed a piece of legislation that made witchcraft a felony, punishable by death. Henry VIII’s Act was the first…

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May 14, 1983: the forgotten history of massacre of the Eros cinema in the suburbs of Milan, Italy

Saturday, May 14, 1983: while about thirty spectators were watching the first half of the porn film “Lyla, profumo di femmina” (Lyla, scent of a female), two young people showed up at the Eros Sexy Center cinema in viale Monza 101, near the Rovereto metro stop, they bought tickets, entered the hall and sat in the back rows (after the subsequent arrests, the cinema cashier will recognize Marco Furlan and remember having sold him three tickets, one of the main elements in support of the thesis that Ludwig, the obscure…

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The princes in the Tower of London: one of the great mysteries of English history

In the White Tower, the old keep at the Tower of London, there is a small staircase tucked away near the entrance. Called the Two Princes Staircase, it’s where the skeletons of two young boys, one aged about 10 and the other 13 were found during renovations in 1674. It’s widely believed the skeletons are of the two princes who disappeared at the site in the late 15th century. And this is one of the great mysteries of English history. Though there has yet to be any scientific evidence to…

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Salii: the jumping priests of Rome

In ancient Roman religion, the Salii were the “leaping priests” (from the verb saliō “leap, jump”) of Mars supposed to have been introduced by King Numa Pompilius. They were twelve young patrician, dressed as archaic warriors: an embroidered tunic, a breastplate, a short red cloak called paludamentum, a sword, and a spiked headdress called apex. They were charged with the twelve oblong bronze shields with two recesses on the sides, called Ancilia. Among them, there was the authentic shield that Mars dropped from the sky as a gift to king…

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The oldest comic in the world? In a tomb in Jordan!

It was drawn 2,000 years ago and does not depict superheroes, cute little animals or thieves in a luxury car, but the workers of the ancient city of Capitolias, in the north of Jordan, one of the 10 Greek-Roman cities listed by Pliny the Elder as the Decapolis, a group of semi-autonomous Hellenistic cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, between present-day Israel, Jordan and Syria. The painting, which is the oldest example of modern “comic”, with the phrases pronounced by the protagonists spelled out next to their…

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The macabre forgotten profession of Sin-Eaters

The “Sin-Eater” is a profession that survived until the last century: in short, grieving family members of a recently deceased would pay these characters to rid their departed loved ones from all the sins they had accumulated during their lives, and the sin-eaters would then perform an eerie ritual that supposedly allowed the dead to enter Heaven. Documents dating back to 1680 define “funeral in traditional style” as those involving the intervention of these characters, and as soon as the rumor of a death spread, especially if sudden or accidental,…

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Archduke Rudolf, the lovesick prince and his suicide pact

Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, wrote a tragic note to his wife in the early hours of this day, January 30, 1889, that read: “I am going calmly to my death which alone can save my good name.” He then put a pistol to the head of his beautiful 17-year-old mistress who was lying in bed beside him and shot her dead. He did the same to himself shortly after. Or so, apparently. Rudolf, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was the only son of Kaiser Franz Joseph I…

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That day when New York forbade lovers

New York, the Big Apple, is known as one of the fun capitals of the world where almost anything goes. It’s a good job, then, that the city authorities turn a blind eye to some restrictive laws that are still on the Statute Book of “the city that never sleeps”. On this day, January 8, 1902, for instance, the New York State Legislature outlawed flirting in public. The new law, (which technically still exists), prohibited men turning around on a street and “looking at a woman in that way”, with…

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What were (really) the worst years in history?

2020 is now over, and many have the feeling that it was one of the worst years in history. But are you really sure? We start from Ancient Greece, which could also include 1628 BC among its worst years, with the famous Minoan Eruption, on which, however, science has yet to provide sufficient answers to statistical analyzes to fully understand its extent. Then there are the war years, including both World Wars and, in any case, to make a comparison with the just ended 2020 is absolutely wrong. But the…

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The day they banned Christmas

Happy and excited, millions children (and not only) across the world will tonight have one eye on the clock as the countdown to Christmas Day and their visit from Santa runs its magical course. However, it wasn’t always like that. “Bah, humbug!” has become the commonplace taunt of those wishing to distance themselves from Christmas festivities, a little bit as a direct reference to the popular Charles Dickens’ character, Scrooge. But long before him, the English Puritans under Oliver Cromwell who overthrew King Charles I in 1647 took it much…

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The last flight: the tragic story of the worst aviation accident in Slovenian history

A piece of white marble on a grave is actually a rich symbol. White stone, that symbolizes purity and innocence, by origin from Pohorje Mountain above Maribor, Slovenia, indicates the homeland. In the symbolism of stone are embedded gestures of young victims of the worst aviation accident in Slovenian history. Sergej Ničevski was a passenger on Adria Arways flight from Ljubljana Airport Brnik to Ajaccio, city in Corsica. On the morning of December 1, 1981, the plane flew with 173 passengers and seven crew members on board. This was Adria’s…

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The fish dish that killed a King…

England’s King Henry I died aged 66 on this day, December 1, 1135 after eating what was described at the time as “a surfeit of lampreys”. Of course, his death must have been unpleasant, but nothing like as terrific as the process that his body went through. Lampreys are an eel-like fish whose mouth has a circular suction pad. They don’t have a jaw, but the adults have teeth and they seem they are horror movies creatures. Henry enjoyed them as a meal, even though his physicians warned against eating…

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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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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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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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Stamford bull run: a custom demised after 700 years of cruelty

If you are lucky enough to own a castle you want to enjoy the fine views on your lands from your windows. And that, according to legend, is just what William Plantagenet de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey (1166-1240), was doing one day at the turn of the 12th century. As story goes, looking over the meadow stretched before him outside the town of Stamford he saw two bulls fighting over a cow. Local butchers then came with their dogs to part the animals, enraging them further and causing one…

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The true story of Lord Lucan, the British aristocrat who killed his maid and disappeared forever

In 1974, Britain, and later much of the rest of the world, was captivated by the brutal murder of a 29-year-old nanny named Sandra Rivett, and the disappearance of the main suspect: an aristocrat named Richard John Bingham, or simply Lord Lucan. Lucan was a dashing British aristocrat and army officer, known for his prowess at backgammon and bridge and his fondness for vodka martinis, powerboats, and Aston Martin cars. But, in order. Dressed only in a nightgown, the Countess of Lucan burst into the Plumbers Arms pub in Belgravia,…

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The tragedy of Aberfan: what happened that fateful October 21, 1966

A terrible tragedy known across the world by the name of the South Wales village where it happened, Aberfan, occurred on this day, October 21, 1966, when millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris came thundering down a hillside, engulfing a farm, several houses, and also Pantglas Junior school, where 116 children died. In those days big lump coal was required for domestic heating so waste and fine particles left after the washing process, was loaded onto rail trams and dumped. Every mining community had its tips, and the…

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The sad history of London’s Speakers’ Corner

Free speech laws in United Kingdom include some notorious exceptions: Saying anything to incite religious and racial hatred, threaten the monarchy, or endorse terrorism may be considered unlawful. But there is one place in all of London where, informally, these restrictive speech laws don’t apply. Political monologues, religious oration and fiery debates can be found here every Sunday morning of the year, although there are sharp peaks in attendance surrounding political events such as the recent Brexit vote. On this day, October 14, 1855, a carpenter mounted his soapbox complaining…

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Edith Cavell: the heroine nurse of England

Every year, two chosen nurses lay a wreath on the statue of such as Edith Cavell near Trafalgar Square in central London. Meanwhile, some 320 km north-east of the capital, a memorial service is held in the church at the rural village of Swardestone, where she was born. Edith was a nurse working in occupied Belgium during the First World War and was executed by a German firing squad on this day, October 12, 1915 , for helping about 200 British and French soldiers to escape the country. She was…

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Lepanto: the battle that saved Europe

Considered by many to have been the most important naval engagement in human history, the Battle of Lepanto was fought on this day, October 7, 1571. In short, It saved the Christian West from defeat by the Ottoman Turks. In the battle, which lasted about five hours, more than 30,000 Muslim Turks and 8,000 Christians lost their life. Not until the First World War would the world again witness such carnage in a single day, and the battle was also remarkable as the last and greatest engagement with oar-propelled vessels.…

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Phet and Ploy: the most expensive cat wedding in the world!

On this day, October 5, 1996, a beautiful bride wore a pink satin dress and arrived by helicopter. And the groom, dressed in a pink tuxedo with precious lacy cuffs, also came in style, with a Rolls-Royce. Not an ordinary affair…as the couple were cats. In details, “Diamond Eye” cats, as they are popularly known. The couple was carried in to the ceremony by their owner Vicharn Jarat-archa who ran a cosmetics business. He had found Phet, the groom, earlier in the year at a spot along the Thai-Burma border.…

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The days that vanished and the switch to the Gregorian Calendar

As all we known, Julius Caesar was a brilliant Roman general. Born of a patrician family, he rose through the political and military ranks of Republican Rome to become Consul in 59BC, establishing control of Rome by forming the so-called First Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus. Appointed Governor of 4 legions he conquered Gaul greatly extending Rome’s empire. In 49BC Caesar, refusing to give up his command he crossed the Rubicon and ignited civil war. Appointed Dictator of Rome in 48BC he defeated his opponents before instigating a series of…

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September 27, 1825: the first time in history that a steam locomotive carry passengers on a public railway

For the first time in history a steam locomotive carried passengers on a public railway on this day, September 27, 1825. The engine was called Locomotion No. 1 and in control was its designer, the engineer George Stephenson. The train belonged to the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which operated across the North East of England but, for the first time, apart from 36 wagons filled with sacks of coal and flour, it included a purpose-built passenger coach called, not by chance, The Experiment. Actually, shaking and springless, the carriage resembled…

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What was the first country to grant women the vote?

Saudi Arabia, in 2011, became the most recent country in 21st century to grant women’s suffrage (and also lifted the ban on women’s driving in June 2018…). But which country first gave women voting rights? In the late nineteenth century the women’s suffrage movement was widespread throughout Northern Europe, but also in America, Britain and its colonies. However, the first self-governing country to grant all women the vote was New Zealand on this day, 19th September 1893. So, how did New Zealand manage to grant all women, including indigenous Maori…

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Tomás de Torquemada: the mad monk burns 2,000 at the stake

On this day, September 16, 1498 a frail, 78-year-old Dominican monk offered his final prayers to God, turned his face to his pillow, then died.And thousands rejoiced. He was Tomás de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, a man responsible for different ways of torture and terror, and an estimated 2,000 burnings at the stake.Born in 1420 and nephew of a noted Dominican cardinal and theologian, he joined a monastery in tender age and devoted himself to education and piety. Impressing his elders, it was not long…

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The boy who made one of the most stunning archaeological discoveries of all time…

On this day, September 12, 1940 a French teenager took his dog for a walk. Well, a simple everyday event, surely nothing special. However, this event lead to one of the most stunning archaeological discoveries of all time. Marcel Ravidat was an 18-year-old apprentice garage mechanic, who took his dog, Robot, into hills near his home at Montignac in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. According to the story, there Robot ran into a hole created by a fallen tree. Intrigued, Marcel threw some stones into the hole and was…

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The ghosts of Cold Harbor battlefield – Mechanicsville, Virginia

For believers and ghost enthusiasts, Most Civil War battlefields are haunted by the restless souls of fallen soldiers. And of all the battles of the war, Cold Harbor located in Mechanicsburg (about a fifty minute drive northwest of Williamsburg), Virginia, was “one of American history’s bloodiest, most lopsided battles“. In less than thirty minutes, Grant, the most acclaimed Union general during the American Civil War and twice elected President, lost over 7000 troops at the hands of Lee’s Army of Virginia, a loss that would haunt him for the rest…

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When London burned: 1666’s Great Fire

Thomas Farriner was a baker who served King Charles II, supplied bread to the Royal Navy, and lived in Pudding Lane, London. All regular, until he went to bed on the night of September 1, 1666 leaving the fire that heated his oven still burning. As a result, in the early hours of the following morning, sparks from the fire caused flames that soon engulfed the entire house. Farriner, sometimes spelt Faryner or Farynor, escaped with his family by climbing through an upstairs window, but his maidservant, Rose, died in…

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