Author Archives: Melissa

When Lincoln Was Almost Assassinated Nine Months Before He was Assassinated

In August 1864, the Sixteenth President of the United States of America was nearly assassinated about nine months before he was actually assassinated. This is the story. The Soldier’s Home Throughout the Civil War (1861-1865), President Abraham Lincoln and his family spent the summer and fall in a cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home in the country outside […]

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The Mystery of the Coral Castle

Between 1923 and 1951, a diminutive Floridian single-handedly and without heavy machinery moved 1,000 tons of limestone, creating out of it a castle. This is his story. The Builder Very little is known of the mysterious creator of the Coral Castle, Ed Leedskalnin. Born in Riga, Latvia in 1887 to a family of stonemasons, Ed immigrated to the U.S. sometime […]

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How the Tradition of Saying “Pardon My French” After Saying Swear Words Started

“Pardon my French, but you’re an asshole! Asshole!” –Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Centuries before Cameron shouted this over the phone to principal Ed Rooney, English-speaking people had been using the phrase “Pardon my French” to excuse their use of profanity. But why is it French and not Chinese, Swahili or nothing at all? The answer lies in European history. […]

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The Parasitic Sacculina That Bends Its Host to Its Own Will

Falling into the category of “you can’t make this up,” is the parasitic barnacle Sacculina. Shedding its hard shell and injecting itself into the body of a host crab, Sacculina becomes its puppet master, preventing the crab from molting, growing, regenerating, digesting and reproducing. Instead, the reprogrammed crab directs all of its energy to nourishing the Sacculina and caring for […]

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The Origin of the Republican Party

Pro civil rights, environmental legislation, peace, universal health care and progressive policies (including raising taxes)- your granddaddy wouldn’t recognize the GOP of today. Birth of a Party By the mid-19th century, the fabric of the United States was being torn apart by slavery. The famous 1820 agreement, the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited the spread of slavery in much of […]

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The Intriguing Ancient Underground City of Derinkuyu

Long ago, in the region surrounding Nevsehir and Kayseri, in central Turkey, an ancient people built, or rather dug, over 200 underground cities. The deepest of these, under the present day town of Derinkuyu, delves over 250 feet below the Earth’s surface, and boasts numerous tunnels, halls, meeting rooms, wells and passages. Because the city was carved from existing caves […]

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One of the Most Shocking CIA Programs of All Time: Project MKUltra

When the extent of the U.S. government’s domestic spying program was revealed this past summer, many were surprised and outraged: how could a government which so prizes liberty of its citizens covertly collect data on its own people? Yet, sadly, this is not the first time Uncle Sam, without permission or notice, secretly gathered information on its people and wasn’t […]

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Buzkashi (Goat Grabbing): The National Sport of Afghanistan Played with a Headless Animal Carcass

Beloved by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgz, Kazakhs, Pashtuns and Turkmens as well as Afghans, the equestrian sport known as Kokpar or Buzkashi is a rugged, and traditionally extremely violent, game similar to polo with one surprising twist; rather than hitting a ball with mallets toward a goal, players vie for control of a headless animal carcass. While at first glance this […]

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Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, a.k.a., The Red Baron, Crashed In His First Solo Flight

Even after our most heart breaking failures, parents, teachers and coaches encourage us to get back up and try again. Perhaps this is because they know that rather than being a permanent condition, failure is an opportunity to learn and improve. This was certainly the experience of Manfred von Richthofen. After cracking up his aircraft on his first solo attempt, […]

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The Origin of the English Alphabet

Often considered one of the more difficult languages to master thanks to the incredible amount of inconsistencies in the language, it should come as no surprise that the development of the modern English alphabet involved several languages, hundreds of years and a variety of conquers, missionaries and scholars. Origins of Alphabetic Writing Dating back nearly four thousand years, early alphabetic […]

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Chickens Were Initially Domesticated for Cockfighting, Not Food

Anyone who’s been chased around the yard by a pissed off chicken knows these birds are neither purposeless nor fearful. Descended from some of the fiercest creatures ever to roam the planet, the blood of today’s Gallus domesticus carries all of the pride, courage, fury and viciousness of its ancestors. Harnessing these qualities by the simple expedient of sticking two […]

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