Tag Archives: Historical Oddities

Bone Records: Soviet-Era Bootlegged Music on X-Rays

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During the Cold War, Soviet Russia was a very restrictive place. The media was heavily censored, foreign radio and television station waves were jammed, books that criticized the Soviet regime were banned, and playing western music that was deemed morally and culturally depraved was prohibited. At the same time, dissident activity was rife. Banned literature and underground publications were reproduced by hand and the documents passed from reader to reader. Even music was bootlegged.

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Sergei Krikalev: The Man Who Went Up a Soviet And Came Down a Russian

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Late in the spring of 1991, Soviet cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Anatoli Artsebarski, along with Britain's first astronaut, Helen Sharman, blasted off into space towards Mir, the Soviet space station. Sergei Krikalev’s and Anatoli Artsebarski’s mission was to relieve the existing crew of the space station, while Helen Sharman was onboard as part of the British Juno program to conduct experiments on life sciences. Sharman returned back to earth together with the crew of the previous mission eight days later, leaving Krikalev and Artsebarski circling around the earth conducting repairs on the ailing space station. Five months later, Anatoli Artsebarski went home too, but Krikalev didn’t mind—he was trained for long-duration flights. Two years earlier, Krikalev had spent 152 days aboard Mir. He did not know … Read the rest

What a 7-Year-Old Russian Boy Doodled in The 13th Century

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Fifty years ago, a trove of manuscripts written on birch bark was discovered in the Russian city of Novgorod, situated some 200 kilometers south of Saint Petersburg. Birch bark was frequently used in the old days as a replacement for paper, which was—until a few centuries ago—a valuable commodity. Birch trees were widely available and could be easily cultivated. In fact, Novgorod is surrounded by birch forests, whose bark was used for centuries by the locals for writing since it was soft and easily scratched. Thin pieces of birch bark was almost as good as wood-pulp paper, while requiring nothing to manufacture.

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Cemetery Guns And Coffin Torpedoes

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This unusual-looking gun, now exhibited at the Museum of Mourning Art in Arlington Cemetery, once kept body snatchers away from cemetery grounds and discouraged them from digging up dead bodies. The gun would be set near the foot of the grave and a series of tripwires would swing the gun in the appropriate direction when triggered, and fire upon the unsuspecting thieves.

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When Little Boys Wore Dresses

Until about a century ago, in the western world, you couldn’t tell whether a young child was a girl or a boy from the way he or she dressed. All young children dressed alike, irrespective of their gender, in girls clothing complete with girly shoes, long hair and ponytails. Trousers or breeches wasn’t worn until boys were at least four, but some continued to wear skirts, gowns and petticoats until they were significantly older—about eight years of age. By that time, the boys would eagerly look forward to wearing their first pair of trousers. The donning of trousers was a very significant milestone in the life of a young boy, and this momentous event was celebrated with a ceremony known as “breeching”.

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The five children of Read the rest

Edwin Smith Papyrus: The 3,600-Year-Old Textbook of Surgery

In 1862, an American Egyptologist named Edwin Smith bought an ancient scroll of papyrus from an Egyptian dealer. Smith didn’t know how to read it, but he figured it was something important and precious. He kept the papyrus scroll with him until his death in 1906, whereupon his daughter donated the papyrus to the New York Historical Society. It was there the importance of document, now known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus, was first understood.

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How Australia Remembers The World’s Biggest Gold Nugget

On February 1869, two British prospectors, John Deason and Richard Oates, were digging for gold in central Victoria, Australia, when their pickaxe struck something hard very near the surface. When Deason bent down to examine the large stone he thought was on the way, he discovered an enormous gold nugget—the largest anybody had ever seen, and will ever see. The nugget measured two feet in length and almost a feet in width.

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Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the world’s biggest gold nugget, “Welcome Stranger” .

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Music in The Clouds

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In June 1867, James Glaisher, an English astronomer and meteorologists, and an avid balloonist, was floating over Paris in a balloon when he entered a region of dense cloud:

Suddenly, whilst we are thus suspended in the misty air, we hear an admirable concert of instrumental music, which seems to come from the cloud itself and from a distance of a few yards only from us. Our eyes endeavour to penetrate the depths of white, homogeneous, nebulous matter which surrounds us in every direction. We listen with no little astonishment to the sounds of the mysterious orchestra.

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Globsters: When Sea Monsters Wash Ashore

On November 30, 1896, two young boys, Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, were bicycling along Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the United States, when they noticed an enormous carcass half buried in the sand, apparently washed from the sea. The boys thought it was a whale, and reported their discovery to the local physician, Dr. DeWitt Webb.

Dr. Webb visited the carcass the next day, and discovered that it was not a whale. But he couldn’t say what the mass of badly decomposed flesh was. There was no defining feature, no bones, no eyes, and no appendages that he could identify. Dr. Webb noted that the carcass was very pale pink, almost white, and had a rubbery consistency. Dr. Webb, … Read the rest

James Hiram Bedford: The First Person To Be Cryogenically Preserved

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Will humans ever posses the technology to revive a dead person back to life? Dr. James Hiram Bedford certainly hopes so. He has been waiting for that day for the last fifty years frozen in a lab at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

James Hiram Bedford was an American psychology professor at the University of California. Prior to his death in 1967, Bedford expressed his desire to be cryogenically frozen so that his body could be repaired and his consciousness revived with more advanced technology, when they become available, sometime in the distant future. Bedford was suffering from kidney cancer that had metastasized into his lungs. Death, he knew, was imminent. He quickly willed $100,000 for the preservation of his body.