When a plan to eradicate cobras in 19th-century Delhi backfired spectacularly, the incident became known as the “Cobra Effect.” It has since become a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of well-meaning policies, and a reminder of the importance of understanding the systems within which we operate.
John Harvey Kellogg was a Seventh-Day Adventist who believed that self-gratification was the sin of all sins. But did he invent cornflakes as a sort of anti-masturbatory meal? A sticky question, for sure, and one we just have to flake…
Surfers worldwide recognize the hang loose sign, or shaka, as a symbol of goodwill and friendship. But the story of its Hawaii origins aren’t as simple as one might think. Through a combination of language, tragedy, mystery, and advertisements, the hang loose sign found its way into the cultural zeitgeist.
One of Santa’s most intriguing companions, Knecht Ruprecht is a legendary figure in German folklore, attested as early as the 17th century. A wild, shaggy-haired figure dressed in dark, fur-trimmed clothing, he is said to roam the countryside during the Christmas season, dolling out punishments to all the naughty children, while Santa rewards the good.
Dwight K. Shrute: What about an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas? Drink some gluhwein, enjoy some hasenpfeffer. Enjoy Christmas with saint Nicolas’ rural German companion, Belsnickel. Jim Halpert: Yes! That, that, that! We’re definitely doing that. Are we all in agreement? OddFeed: Yes, yes, a resounding yes!
The life and works of Zdzisław Beksiński are each engrossing in their own ways. His journey from war-torn Poland in the 1940s to a fantastical style of painting in the 70s and beyond gave the contemporary art world a visual jolt of deformed bodies and vivid hellscapes that were horrific and mesmerizing to behold.
The 19th-century children’s book Der Struwwelpeter is a fascinating collection of illustrated tales about misbehaving children and their horrific punishments. While these stories would be considered highly inappropriate for today’s children, they have greatly influenced modern children’s literature, comic books, and pop culture.
Albert Einstein believed his youngest son Eduard had the potential to follow in his footsteps. Tragically, the brilliant young man’s battle with mental illness and his family’s inability to find effective and cruelty-free treatments led to a life of loneliness and anonymity.
On July 28, 1945, in response to the Potsdam Declaration demanding Japan’s unconditional surrender, Japanese prime minister Kantarō Suzuki uttered a now-famous phrase: mokusatsu-suru. The phrase can be translated to mean either “ignore” or “no comment.” The Allies heard the former. The atomic bombs were dropped several days later.
In the eastern woodlands of the Canadian North, there lives—in the chill of the air and in the fearful whispers of the local people—the wendigo, a horrendous creature of evil with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. There is only one thing the locals fear more than being eaten by the wendigo—becoming one.
We all know and love Leo the MGM Lion, the iconic roaring mascot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, but his full story is one that many people have never heard. From Hollywood’s silent era to its golden age and beyond, there have been eight different Leos, each with varying levels of success in the role.
The story of how blow-up dolls came to be is a fascinating one. It is a story of cotton, straw, and rubber, a story of loneliness, pent-up sexual frustration, and unrequited incestual desires. It is also, perhaps, the only story that links 17th-century European sailors, Austrian bohemians, the Nazi Party—and Barbie!
For more than two centuries, young Italian boys were castrated to preserve their pre-pubescent singing voices. They became hotly sought-after in church choirs and operas around Europe. This is the story of the castrato singers.
Coconut crabs are fascinating creatures: the largest terrestrial arthropods, they are an apex predator with an insect-like sense of smell, and a lifespan of over a hundred years! Oh, yes, they may also have to do something with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
If spiders give you the willies, wait till you hear about parasitic wasps: they are the stuff spider nightmares are made of! Some of these wasps—such as the newly discovered Zatypota sp. wasp—lay their eggs on a spider’s back. And that’s just the beginning! The true horror begins only after the eggs hatch.
You’d think that, given their name, Mexican jumping beans would be beans, but they are not; they are actually hollow seeds. Strictly speaking, they do not jump either. But they do roll, and they do twist and turn—and all due to a fascinating little creature which lives inside them!
Until just recently, there lay, inside the Enjuin Temple in Asakuchi, Japan, one of the most intriguing mummies in the world. It was not of an ancient human or an animal, but of something in between, something which should ostensibly exist only in legend: a mermaid.