The Luckiest Flying Ace Alive

Captain John Herbert Hedley flew fighter planes for Britain during World War I. He once fell out of his plane and survived. I know what you are thinking, he simply opened his parachute? Well back in the days of World War I, the army thought pilots would not be aggressive enough if they had an easy escape plan. Yes, that is right he fell out of his plane without a parachute and survived!

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Hedley was actually what the Royal Air Force called an Observer during World War I, he was in the back of the aircraft and would shoot at enemy aircraft. Observers were an extra set of eyes for the pilot and would operate any guns aboard also. Basically, he was a gunner, but they were also tasked with keeping the score for their pilots. They would count how many aircrafts their pilot and themselves shot down during the dogfights. Hedley is credited with being a flying ace, as he shot down 11 planes during the war. As aerial fighting was still very new at the time, being a skilled pilot and gunner could pretty much give your nation the edge during the battle of the skies.

Fighter aces came images of cult heroes to the public, especially if you had such an amazing tale as Captain Herbert! In January 1918, during a dogfight Lieutenant Makepeace steered his Bristol F.2B fighter plane into an immense dive to escape an enemy fighter on his tail. The huge amount of force experienced by the negative Gs caused gunner Hedley to be thrown out of the seat! Suddenly Hedley was falling in the skies with no parachute!

Essentially Hedley bound to die, or was there a way out? Hedley tumbled in the air for hundreds of feet, but so did the F.2B as it continued to dive. The gunner and the plane suddenly came together and Hedley grabbed on to the top set of wings, it was his only hope! He pulled himself back into his cockpit, and without fear continued the fight.

Such an amazing tale earned him the title of “The Luckiest Man Alive” from the Chicago Tribune. But was it actually possible? Well, some aviators and scientist definitely do believe it was true, the theory is that Hedley managed to get stuck in his plane’s slipstream which caused him to fall at the same speed as the plane. And his luck does not stop there.

In March 1918, Hedley was shot down but miraculously was able to crash land without any injury. He survived being imprisoned by the enemy until the end of the war. He then moved to America and made his living giving lectures about his amazing dogfights.

Joseph Warren: The Forgotten American Hero

When you think about the American Revolution, normally the name that springs to mind is General George Washington. Surely the great hero that caused the birth of the United States of America is the famous George? Well, he definitely played his part in building the Continental Army. But one man seems to be generally forgotten in the history books of America, yet you find counties all over the country named after him! His name is Joseph Warren, and he was the true starter of the American Revolution.

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The revolution took place during 1765 and 1783, during this time the thirteen colonies that were the American Patriots were able to win independence from Great Britain.

Joseph Warren was a young doctor in Boston and was known to be a very good physician. As a result, he had access to many high ranking loyalist figures, which meant he was a perfect spy for the revolution. He was part of the secret Sons of Liberty organization, which was founded to help the colonists and fight against the taxes forced by the British government. Many believe that had he have lived just a little longer, he definitely would be remembered as one of the founding fathers of the United States.

In 1775, he delivered a powerful speech to remember the Boston Massacre dressed in a white Roman toga. The toga was the symbol of democracy, so his message was clear! British soldiers tried to intimate him by holding up bullets, but he was not qualified. This speech was met with a roaring success from the crowds, some say it even sparked the first conflicts of the war.

After the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed an act to suspend the colonial governments and even closed the port of Boston. However, Warren mustered the representatives of Boston and penned the Suffolk Resolves. Essentially, he wrote a radical solution that basically told the British government they would not listen to them and that their local militias would be armed! He sent out Paul Revere on the famous horse ride through the night to take those resolutions to the Congress in Philadelphia.

Not only did he start the revolution though, he did not sit on the sidelines either. He was the only Patriot leader that took part in the action, prior to the Declaration of Independence. While other members of the Sons of Liberty were sitting around becoming delegates, he joined the volunteers on the battlefield. Fighting in the Battle of Bunker Hill, he became a symbol of the revolution when he was killed.

Yet the household names that are remembered are Samuel Adams, John Hancock or John Adams. Joseph Warren: the forgotten American hero.

The Professional Foot Ticklers Of Russian Royalty

For centuries Russian royalty employed full-time professional foot ticklers. Why may you ask? Well, it was of course for sexual arousal, was that not obvious?

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All over the great Muscovite palaces and their courts, the noblewomen from the Czarinas(a wife of a Russian aristocrat) were using professional foot ticklers to arouse them for their husbands or their lovers. It was a practice reserved for eunuchs or woman, some became so good at this unique skill that they gained immense prestige and wealth by it! Imagine living your life by tickling your boss all day. Haha!

And not only did they tickle, they also sang obscene songs and told erotic stories, you know just to ensure the scene was all set appropriately. Many great women from Russian royalty are thought to have been passionate participants of foot tickling. For example, Anna Leopoldovna, a regent of Russia, was reported to have at least six full-time ticklers ready to tickle at a moments notice. Did she just love being tickled or was her husband just hard to look at?

However, none matched the sexuality of Catherine the Great. She was an Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, which is the longest ruling female leader Russia has ever had. Her era of a rule is often considered to be the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. Maybe it did have to do with the fact that, after a long stressful day of the ruling, she was able to come home to some relaxing foot tickling?

Catherine the Great’s private life paints a very different image than the strong public ruling figure she was known to be. Her secret rooms in her palace were stacked full of sexually charged imagery and furniture. German soldiers who raided the palace during WWII were so shocked by it, that they immediately photographed everything! Most of the images were lost during the war but some can still be found today. The furniture has unfortunately been destroyed, maybe for the best as those armchairs were definitely not safe for work!

If You Run Out Of Toothpaste You Can Use Urine

At Least that would be the case if you grew up and lived in ancient Rome. Just like we do every day, the Romans knew that to keep up a basic dental hygiene they needed to be cleaning their teeth on a daily basis. The only problem was that modern toothpaste was not invented until the 1850s. So how did the Romans get around this problem? Well, they used their urine!

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Yes, you read that right, the ancient Romans used their pee as toothpaste and even as a mouthwash! But why would they do that? Well, the simple answer is that urine consist of ammonia. As a natural cleaning agent, ammonia is generally looked at as the finest you can find. Just check the ingredients to your household cleaning agents or grease removing products, you will surely find ammonia listed on the bottle.

The Romans used it as a toothpaste and mouthwash because they figured out that it was a natural whitener, this meant it was the ideal way at the time to clean their mouth and whiten their teeth. But it does not stop there, remember the ancient Romans had a certain love for wearing bright white togas. Yup, you guessed it, they also used pee to clean their clothes too! White togas and other bright fabrics had a tendency to get dirty and muddy in ancient Rome, so they needed a strong cleaning agent to get them all nice again. This is because the ammonia found in the pee that was making their teeth white could also keep their clothes looking fresh too.

They even had dedicated pee cleaning clothes facilities(a Laundromat) that they called the Fullonica. So the real question, that we know you are asking, is where did they source all their urine from? Sure the everyday family may produce enough urine to clean their mouths and clothes. But what about the wealthy Romans that had hundreds of outfits?

Well actually no one was peeing onto their clothes and into their mouths, there was a whole process in place to get the required amount of urine to fuel the Roman Empire’s cleaning needs. The Romans built countless public restrooms for this purpose and also there would be jars around the streets, which you could use when needed. When the jars were full, someone would come get them to take it back to the Laundromat. In the Laundromat, the urine was mixed with water to dilute it and poured into a large tank. Then you would add in the clothes and someone would have to get into the tank to stamp on the clothes.

It was a well thought out process and worked but let’s agree that pee stamping clothes cleaner, is probably not the greatest job title for your resume.

The October Revolution Was Nearly Thwarted By Some Wine

Well, some wine may be an understatement, the fact of the matter is that the Winter Palace home of the Russian Tsars had one of the largest wine cellars in the world.

So that you can fully understand the size of this wine cellar, this palace which at the time was the principal residence of Tsar Nicholas II had over 1500 rooms! No idea why a Tsar needed so many rooms! Maybe that is what the communist revolution was really about? They just wanted a warm room to sleep in. Of course with so many rooms for guests, you need a very large wine cellar.

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At the time it is estimated this wine cellar contains about(in today’s value) over 75 million dollars worth of wine and vodka. And these were no cheap bottles, the Tsar was known to love the Chateau D’Yquem vintage. Also, it is well documented that the Tsars always had large supplies of Roederer Cristal Champagne ready to celebrate any occasion. Who knows what other rare vintages and high percentage vodkas were in that cellar.

In 1917, Lenin ordered his Bolshevik revolutionaries to attack the Winter Palace. He gave them strict instructions to no touch anything and not to loot any of the palace’s contents. As he believed that everything belonged to the people and that the treasures inside were their heritage. Well as it turns out the Russian soldiers were not very disciplined at the time and everything was looted. Until they stumbled upon the wine cellar, then everyone was drunk!

And when we say everyone we mean everyone, the soldiers sold bottles to the public outside and thousands of bottles were being drunk every single day. Reports say the revolution stopped for a week or so just because the whole of St Petersburg was drunk. Of course, where there are drunk people there are fatal choices and decisions. This caused the whole city to start pillaging and looting as they pleased! Superiors tried their best to lock up the cellar even building a wall, but the soldiers just knocked it down.

They tried pouring the wine down the drainage system of the palace; well the public just collected it up with buckets. Can’t imagine that would have tasted very nice! They tried just dropping the bottles in the river, but so strong was their lust for alcohol they just dove down to the depths to retrieve the bottles!

Eventually, the Bolsheviks had to take matters into their own hands and impose martial law, but let’s face it the only thing that really stops anyone from drinking wine? Is when the wine runs out.

A Con Man Who Brainwashed An Aristocratic Family Out Of Their Fortune

It is hard to see how anyone falls prey to the “Hello I am a Nigerian Prince…” scam or falls into the grasps of a “Help I am an American soldier stuck in…” emails. Especially during the age of the internet, when verification and information are at the tip of our keystrokes. Surely no con man or hucksters are still able to run a game?

Yet this is what the infamous Thierry Tilly did for over 10 years, from 1999 to 2009, he made off with over $5 million due to the gullibility of a certain French aristocrat.

The Vedrines family were enjoying life and living in full aristocratic fashion, lavish parties and the flair of wealth, in their ancestral home in Monflanquin. This all ended abruptly when Tilly infiltrated the family and in their words, they fell prey to his “hypnotic powers.” He was able to play on their paranoia of the outside world and convince them they were at the heart of a plot by the Freemasons. Tilly was able to convince the head of the family Christine de Vedrines, that she was even being betrayed by members of her own family. Thus the family became immensely reclusive and closed themselves behind the doors of their home.

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Tilly was able to convince the family they did not need professionals to look after their accounts and estates, he could do it better he said. He sold most of their properties and they never saw any of the proceeds. And drained their offshore accounts, stealing everything he could get his hands on. He claimed it was too dangerous for them to own their big chateau and moved them to Oxford, where they could hide. In Oxford, he was able to convince them to work as cooks or gardeners and yet, he would take most of their earnings.

Accounts state that he was able to gain such a controlling power over the family members by using techniques of psychological abuse, he would lock them in their bedrooms in the dark. This is seen as a brainwashing technique because the victim loses all sense of time, making them completely complacent.

“All my money I gave to him. I couldn’t buy a Mars bar, that was seen as theft from the family.” – Amaury de Vedrines

Eventually, Christine with the help of her cousin was able to smuggle herself back to France and alert the authorities. Tilly is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for extortion, imprisonment, and abuse. The once proud and wealthy Vedrines find themselves completely broke and living in social housing.

A Drunk Truck Driver Hits The Only Obstacle For 250 Miles

For over a millennia this lone acacia tree grew against all odds and survived all matters of climate change in the extremes of the Nigerian Sahara desert. It stood as a symbol of hope to tired travelers and stood as a symbol to everyone that no matter what you were up against you could prevail. And for years it did just that, all until one disastrous day in 1974.

This beautiful acacia was the sole tree in the region for over 250 miles of desert and used as a landmark for caravans and cherished the little bit of shade it provided.

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The actual miracle of how it survived in the desert is just a heartening fact in itself, yet when you couple it with the sad tale of how it was destroyed then we are reminded of how human senselessness continues to destroy wonders. You see this region would once have been a huge and plentiful forest, but over the years and due to climate change everything died leaving this one tree to stand. Trees seldom become famous and why should they? We see trees everywhere we walk and there are many around the world. But this acacia did and was known as the Tree of Ténéré, without a doubt it was the most isolated tree in the world.

In the 1930s the tree was even portrayed on official military maps for European commanders and the French even camped by it extensively. They knew that if the tree could survive there must be water, so dug down and did find a water source 100 feet underground! This tree that was only 10 feet tall had roots that gree down underground for over 100 feet. The estimates put the trees age to be over 300 years old, the only survivor of when the region was less arid and less extreme.

So how did it finally fall then? Not a let down by mother nature alas it was the carelessness of humans that made its downfall. A truck driver, who was allegedly drunk at the time, somehow managed to run into the only obstacle for over 250 miles. And there you have it, in one foolish deed, we destroyed a link to the past. Not only a link to the past but also an important cultural aspect of the Tuareg people who were a tribe from the region.

However its legacy does live on, the skeleton of the tree was relocated to a museum and built into a mausoleum. It is propped up like a relic from ancient Rome and reminds us that we always need to remember the past, to not make the same mistakes!

The Official Funeral For A Leg

When you search through the annex of history, sift through the dates, the names and the places. You would really be hard-pressed to find a stranger story than the time a leg was given a full-on official military burial.

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No, you are not dreaming that was indeed the sentence you just read and it was correct! We are of course talking about the time that general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna buried his amputated leg with full military honors and held an official funeral for it. The Mexican general was nicknamed the Napoleon of the West and led his forces passionately. He believed Mexico should be a greater nation and that the Americans should give back to them the Republic of Texas which they considered was one of their northeastern provinces.

But before all this comes to the tale of how he lost his leg, you see the general had been forced to retire due to his blundered attempt at handling the Texan revolutionaries. You see Mexico owed a huge debt to France, largely due to the destruction of French property during the riots of Mexico City. Yet Mexico was refusing to pay up, so France decided enough was enough and sent in the troops. France set up blockades around all the Mexican forts and was attempting to capture the main Mexican military base, Vera Cruz.

So in 1838 Mexico called on their infamous General to come and save the day. He put together an amazing defense but during the immense battle, his leg was blown completely off by cannon fire. With their only hope destroyed Mexico surrendered and agreed to pay the reparations to France.

Yet Santa Anna loved his leg, at the end of the day who doesn’t? It lets you walk and run. He ordered his leg to be buried with full military honors! The funeral even had cannon fire, speeches and poetry recited in the honor of his leg. And the leg itself? Of course, it was put in a crystal case and buried under an expensive monument in Santa Paula Cemetery.

Not only was this whole ordeal ridiculous, Santa Anna brought it up whenever he could! He was even able to use the fame of his buried leg to be elected president of Mexico!

Oh, You Have A Cough? Here Take Some Heroin

It sounds crazy, but there was a time when Heroin was a commonly prescribed medicine by doctors to treat everything from coughs to headaches!

Imagine that, you are in the office and have to inject yourself with heroin because you had a headache. Luckily for us, medicine has moved on and now we have the over-the-counter magic known as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Still, it does paint a funny picture, to think that what we see know as hard drugs were once a widely used medicine!

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It was known as Bayer’s heroin and was manufactured by Bayer Pharmaceutical Products. They marketed it as the cheapest product to treat coughs like bronchitis, phthisis or whooping cough. What is even more amazing it was actually even promoted to use on children as well!

When you think about Bayer company today, they are mostly known as for creating the wonder drug known as Aspirin. Probably they want us just to remember that! Yet they are actually also the creators of heroin. They were researching into a medicine that could be used as a cough suppressant that did not have bad side effects, at the time people used morphine or codeine which was known to be addictive. And if it also relieved pain? That was just seen as a bonus.

They sold this drug by the boatloads starting in 1898, under the name Heroin, mainly because initial test patients informed them it made them feel heroic. This surely should have raised some concerns? No flags were raised though and millions of free samples were sent to doctors. By 1899, they were producing over a ton of heroin a year. Imagine that today a legitimate pharmaceutical company producing a class A drug. Yet just a year later wide reports of addiction were surfacing all over the United States. Even so, the American Medical Association gave heroin a stamp of approval, allowing millions to buy the dangerous drug over the counter.

It took another seven whole years of wide reports of addiction and abuse before heroin was finally restricted to 1914 prescription only. And up until 1924 before it was banned completely by the FDA! Yet Bayer Pharmaceuticals had already gotten out of the heroin production industry in 1913, which does seem to give us a melancholy look into the corporate world of the 20th century. A time where it seems big powerful companies operated however they wanted and sold anything, no matter what the consequences were to the masses.

Do You Wake Up Early And Always Get Up On The Right Side Of The Bed?

Then you would have been well suited to be a knocker-upper!

Even though the invention of the alarm clock goes back to the time of ancient Greeks, they were not really a gadget that the everyday working man could afford back in the day. And at the height of the Industrial Revolution in Britain if you wanted to get paid, well you needed to make it to the factory on time. So how did those workers do it? They hired a knocker-upper.

This enterprising group of early birds made their living by waking you up for work. Up until the 1970s, many workers would wake up to the sound of tapping on their window or banging on their door. On the street the Knocker-Up would be walking down from house to house with a long stick, banging on their customer’s windows.

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It was a very common sight, especially in the northern industrial towns like Manchester or Bradford where people worked in shifts. It was also a notable profession in London where dockers slept and had very unusual hours due to the various tides of the river Thames. The profession spread out hugely in areas where the poorly paid factory workers could not afford their own watches but would lose their job immediately if they missed a shift.

They are even featured in Charles Dickens book Great Expectations, which notably also describes the story of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders.

The long stick method was actually quite ingenious, you see initially knocker uppers would ring doorbells and bang on doors. But they quickly realized they were waking up some people for free! Sometimes neighbors of a paying customer were just relying on them also to be woken up. So they made the window tapping stick which would be loud enough to wake up their paying customer but would not disturb anyone else. There are even reports of some knocker uppers shooting peas at their customer’s windows, with pea shooters!

Mostly it was a profession that ran in the family, though it was also a way the elderly could keep working. And who woke up the knocker uppers? No, they were a group of night owls. Normally the knocker-upper would sleep through the day and wake up at around 4 PM in the afternoon. Though there are also some reports of constables being knocker uppers, as a way to supplement their police pay, they would wake people up on their first round.

Once alarm clocks became cheaper, the profession quickly died out. However, they did continue for a couple decades in a specialized capacity. Some railway depots used them to call in workers for last-minute cover shifts before telephones.