United States Invaded! – WIF Almanac

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10 Times

the United States

Was Almost Invaded

The Red Scare of the 1950s. The Japanese invasion panic of WWII. Fears of ISIS troops running amuck in our major cities… the US has long been a country worried that someone’s gonna invade it. Aliens, Commies, North Korea, you name it. Someone, somewhere, has fantasized about America being dominated by it.

 The most ironic part of all this is how unlikely it actually is. A massive nation bordered by allies to the north and south, the US is almost comically difficult to attack. In WWII the Nazis didn’t even try. The Imperial Japanese occupied a measly handful of Alaskan islands. The last time an enemy nation directly carried out a successful invasion was when the British burned down the White House in the war of 1812, and even they were eventually repulsed.

But that hasn’t stopped other powers from dreaming of marching troops over American soil. Some of the following plans were deadly serious. Some were mere fleeting ideas. One or two even actually succeeded. Terrified at the thought of the US being invaded? The following suggest you needn’t worry.

10. The Kaiser’s Crazy Pre-WWI Invasion Plan

What do you picture when you hear the words “Kaiser”, “America”, and “war” in a sentence? We’re betting it’s 1917 and images of US troops poring onto the battlefields of France as Woodrow Wilson sits in the White House. If the Kaiser had had his way, you’d be imagining something very different: the dawn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt as president, and Germany launching an insane invasion of the eastern seaboard.

Nearly a decade and a half before WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was already planning a gigantic cross-Atlantic war. At the time, the US was backing the construction of the Panama Canal, leading Berlin to worry Germany would be excluded from Pacific trade. The Kaiser had already been toying with an invasion of America since 1897. The new canal seemed the ideal pretext to order the bombardment of Manhattan.

The plan itself was audacious. As German ships shelled Manhattan, sixty troop carriers would land on the Atlantic seaboard with orders to attack. Roosevelt would be forced to sign away the Panama Canal, or watch Washington and Boston burn. Incredibly, the invasion nearly went ahead. The order was about to be given to attack when German chief of staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, vetoed the plans for being completely insane.

9. Canada’s Crazy Post-WWI Invasion Plan

Yep, you read that right. Canada, the country so nice even Denmark thinks it’s soft, once planned to invade the USA. And not at some sane point, like in the aftermath of the War of 1812. This plan was mooted only three years after the countries had fought side-by-side in WWI. Known as Defense Plan No. 1, it was borderline insane.

The rationale for making a plan was, incredibly, Canadian fears the US would invade first if they didn’t. Rather than sitting around waiting to be annexed, Ottawa figured they should attack first. The problem was the US army was clearly better trained, better equipped, and much bigger than the Canadian one. So Lt.-Col. James “Buster” Sutherland Brown drew up an attack plan that avoided having the Canadian army fight at all costs.

Instead, Canadian troops would launch lightning strikes on northern American cities, occupying Maine, destroying Detroit and the Twin Cities, and burning Seattle and Portland. They’d then retreat as the US army mobilized, pausing only to blow up bridges. Once safely back in Canada, they’d scream “look you guys, America is attacking!” and sit back while Britain mobilized the Empire’s troops to save them.

Not surprisingly, everyone thought this was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard. Buster’s successor ordered all copies of the crazy plan burned.

8. The Nazi Plan to Bomb New York

For about half a century, successive German regimes were fixated on bombing New York City. After the Kaiser’s wacko plan above was shelved, Adolf Hitler took up the mantle. And, boy, was he serious about it. According to Albert Speer, Hitler was obsessed by the idea of New York in flames. From 1937 onwards, at least part of the Nazi war machine was consistently looking for ways of attacking the Empire State.

Their first plan was to develop a long-range bomber that could fly to America and back from occupied France without having to refuel. Known as the “Amerika” aircraft, it would do to NYC what the Blitz did to London. While the Nazis eventually managed to develop planes that could nearly fly 10,000 kilometers on a single tank, they didn’t quite hit the 11,800 kilometers needed to make bombing NYC viable. So they switched to rockets. As V2 rockets crashed down on London, the Nazis began construction of an “Amerika rocket” that would’ve crashed into New York at supersonic speeds, killing hundreds.

The scariest part is how close some of these projects got to completion. The Amerika rocket was almost ready at the war’s end. Had the Nazi state held out just a few months longer, it seems likely that Hitler would’ve realized his dream of seeing Manhattan on fire.

7. Japan’s Plan to Annex Hawaii

The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the biggest losses of American life in a single action. So imagine how much worse it could have been if Japan had followed it up with an invasion of Hawaii. Back in 1941 it was a terrifying possibility. Had one faction of the Japanese Imperial army had their way, it might even have become reality.

The idea came from Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese naval strategist who orchestrated the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto was convinced the US was significantly stronger than Japan and that a massive, early propaganda victory would be needed to shake American morale. With an invasion of the US mainland out of the question, it stood to reason that Hawaii was the only sensible target. Yamamoto’s plan called for the Japanese to follow up Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the island, securing a quick Japanese victory.

Given the way the US public freaked when Japan occupied a few lumps of rock off the coast of Alaska, it’s fair to say Hawaii being annexed would probably have sent the county nuts. In the end, though, Yamamoto’s superiors disagreed. Pearl Harbor was bombed, but Hawaii itself spared.

6. Pancho Villa’s Successful “Mexican Invasion”

There are very few people who aren’t dead, 19th century Brits who can say they successfully invaded the US and burned an entire town. Pancho Villa is one of those people. A Mexican Revolutionary leader, he started life as America’s golden boy in the huge unrest happening south of the border. But then the government of Woodrow Wilson switched support to his rival, Venustiano Carranza, and threw Villa under the bus. Villa responded by unleashing hell on any American who crossed his path.

First, he managed to kidnap 18 Americans inside Mexico and had them all slaughtered. But his crowning achievement came on March 9, 1916. Followed by a band of 1,500 guerillas, Villa crossed the border onto US soil. His troops surrounded the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. A few hours later, the citizens were dead, and Columbus itself was in flames.

It marked the last time in US history that a town on American soil was laid siege to and destroyed by foreign attackers. The US responded by invading Mexico, supported by Carranza’s government. Although the carnage they caused was enough to dissuade Villa from ever attacking America again, they were unable to capture the rebel leader. Villa wouldn’t be assassinated until 1923.

5. Japan Partially-Occupies Alaska

Although Pancho Villa’s ‘invasion’ of New Mexico would be more dramatic, it was the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska that really scared the public. That’s because both are part of the island chain that makes up the far-western fringe of Alaska. And while Alaska wasn’t yet a state in 1942, it was an American territory. In the same way that we’d freak out about a hostile force occupying Puerto Rico today, Americans of the time went loopy at Attu and Kiska’s annexation.

After Pearl Harbor, it was probably the biggest psychological blow of the entire war. The public fretted the Japanese army would proceed along the Aleutian chain until they conquered Alaska proper. Only a few months before, the Battle of Los Angeles had seen antiaircraft guns pepper the LA sky when someone thought they saw a Japanese plane, and now the Imperial army was making a real move on America.

Yet nothing like what the press and public feared ever came to pass. Japan had neither the resources or the inclination to occupy the whole of Alaska. In fact, some historians think they only grabbed Attu and Kiska to distract US attention from their attack on Midway Island. Whatever the truth, the occupation only lasted 14 months before the US retook the islands.

4. The Kaiser’s Plan to Have Mexico Invade Texas

Despite his reputation as a fearsome warmonger, Kaiser Wilhelm sometimes seems more like a supervillain from a cruddy Saturday morning kids’ show. He even had a knack for coming up with the sort of easily-defeated plans Skeletor would be embarrassed by. Chief among those was the time he tried to convince Mexico to launch an unprovoked invasion on Texas.

It was January 1917, and the US was a mere four months away from joining WWI. Rather than do everything in his power to keep the Americans out, the Kaiser had foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann telegram the German ambassador to Mexico, instructing him to make Mexico an offer they could almost certainly refuse. With German financial and military backing, the Mexicans would invade America, while also trying to convince the Japanese to join in the war. In return, Mexico would be able to reclaim territory recently taken by Texas.

For a plan that relied a whole lot on Mexico taking arms against the US, it failed to recognize that there were literally no scenarios where Mexico could defeat the American military. On top of this, the British managed to intercept and decode the Zimmerman Telegram and make its contents public. Mexico wisely decided to keep out of the war. The US, meanwhile, decided to join in, achieving the exact opposite of what the Kaiser had hoped for.

3. Britain and France Almost Join the Civil War

In the early days of the Civil War, the Confederacy really believed it could get the European powers on its side. The South was the main exporter of cotton to the continent. European countries, it was believed, would all rather recognize the Confederacy than face a cotton shortage. In the end, Britain and France nearly did join in the war… but not due to any cleverness on the South’s part. Instead, they almost attacked the Union over a badly-bungled Yankee mission to arrest two Confederate diplomats.

At the time, the diplomats were traveling on the British ship Trent to drum up European support for their cause. The North seized the ship, arrested the two Confederate men, and then let the Trent continue on her way. Unfortunately, holding a neutral ship up was in violation of international law. When the British found out, they hit the roof.

London immediately began drawing up plans for war, including an attack from Canada and a bombardment of the Union ships blockading Confederate ports. At the same time, France announced it would back Britain in any conflict with America, raising the insane possibility of the US Civil War spilling over into WWI’s unnecessary prequel.

Ultimately, the Union apologized to Britain and let the arrested men free. The UK and France backed off, and the prospect of a Confederacy with powerful friends never materialized.

2. Japan Successfully Occupies Guam

A small island in the Pacific, Guam was taken from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War and has been classified as an unincorporated US territory ever since. In WWII, it was also the site of Japan’s most successful invasion of American territory. Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Army seized the island. What followed was a thirty month horror show of rape, forced labor, murder and torture.

The occupation of Guam was the closest the Japanese got to interring American citizens en masse and it shows just how lucky we are that they never got any closer. Chamorros (Guam natives) were beheaded, worked to death, and forced into concentration camps in the heart of the jungle. They were beaten, their women raped, and their children mutilated. Then the American navy attacked to retake the territory, and the shelling killed even more Chamorros.

Eventually, on August 8 1944, US forces succeeded in liberating Guam. It marked the end of Imperial Japan’s hopes of invading and occupying America.

1. The Confederacy Nearly Takes Washington, DC

We mentioned earlier that no enemy nation has successfully invaded the American mainland since the British burned the White House. Depending on how you define a nation, the Brits might have almost had some company. In 1864, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, Confederate troops under Jubal Early nearly pulled off an impossible trick. They came within a hair’s width of successfully invading and destroying Washington, DC.

It’s impossible now to imagine how this could’ve affected our perceptions of the war. The destruction of the Federal capital at the hands of Southern rebels would’ve thrown the entire Yankee force into disarray. And it nearly happened by accident. Early just happened to march near Washington at a time when Union defenses were stretched so thin his army could break through. So he rallied his troops, and nearly pulled off the impossible.

We say ‘nearly’ because one factor stood in his way: his men were just too dang tired. After relentless days of marching in the middle of a suffocating heatwave, they simply couldn’t move fast enough. To Early’s dismay, his men weren’t up to the job. Washington was saved.


United States Invaded!

– WIF Almanac

Cowboy Confidential – Old West Misconceptions

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Common Misconceptions

About Cowboys

Image result for old west

They’re the guys with the thousand yard stare. The one with six-shooters in their holsters, a broad-brim hat on their heads and enough jagged iron in their guts to break down even the toughest steak. They are the cowboys, and everyone knows they’re the coolest, calmest, most-heroic folk in America history.

 Or are they? What if we were to tell you that the cowboys you think you know are nothing like the real ones? That your mental image of cowboys could do with slightly less stoicism and gunfights… and more camels, examples of poor personal hygiene, and venereal diseases. Here are 10 little-known, crazy facts about the men who really tamed America’s wild west.

10. Most Cowboys Didn’t Carry Guns

gun

The gun-totin’ cowboy is the only cowboy most of us can picture. He’s Clint Eastwood on the way to a shootout. John Wayne blowing away bad guys. Yet take your Blu-Ray player back to the 19th century and show a genuine cowboy these films and he’d likely look at you askance. Why? Because real cowboys only rarely carried weapons.

Sure, you might need them when you were out on a cattle drive or whatever. But when you got to town? Check that baby at the door. Most towns in the wild west enacted strict gun control, just to make sure the sort of shootouts we see in movies didn’t happen on a daily basis. Even the infamous Tombstone didn’t let its cowboys walk round armed. The Gunfight at the OK Carrol only came about because Doc and Earp were trying to enforce gun laws.

The city wasn’t alone. Dodge City, Wichita, and others all stopped their visitors from packing heat. So how did cowboys solve problems without their pistols? We’re glad you asked…

9. They Almost Never Got in Fights

It’s said that “the true story of the American West is one of cooperation, not conflict.” Although 90 percent of westerns involve people getting shot, a barroom brawl, a violent posse riding into town, or (more likely) all three, the truth of the frontier was that acting tough was a good way to wind up dead. If you wanted to survive, you basically had to get on with your neighbors.

This meant no high noon showdowns, no thuggery, and no murders. Even in the roughest, toughest cattle towns, the murder rate was generally lower than that of most modern American cities. Bank robberies, too, were rare. In 2005, the University of Dayton calculated that there were more bank robberies in modern Dayton in a single year than there were across the entire Old West in a typical decade.

There were exceptions, of course. In the immediate post-Civil War period violence sporadically flared up, and Native American tribes often experienced the brutal side of the frontier. But these were the exceptions. Even notorious outlaws were less violent than their reputation suggests. Billy the Kid, for example, spent way more time rustling cattle than he ever did robbing banks or shooting people.

8. Many Were Ravaged by Venereal Diseases

old west

If your mental image of a cowboy is John Wayne acting all moral and clean-cut, you might not want to read this entry. The reality of cowboy life was dirty from beginning to end. Cowpokes often went days on end without bathing. They were smelly. Often covered in grime and stale sweat. But dirtiest of all was what was happening inside their bodies. Y’see, it’s now thought that many citizens of the frontier were crawling with venereal diseases.

Depending on where you were in the Old West, between 50 to 90 percent of the local prostitutes were likely carrying STDs. And since many cowboys liked to, ahem, avail themselves of these ladies’ talents, that meant a whole bunch of cowboys were riding around with a growing bacterial menagerie between their legs.

Although precise figures are hard to come by today, we know that new recruits to the US Army between 1876 and 1896 were frequently diseased, suggesting many of the general population were, too. Some have even suggested that crazy behavior by guys such as the Wild Bill Hickok might have been due to syphilis, making them act all eccentric.

 7. Plenty Didn’t Do Any Riding Whatsoever

cowboys

Close your eyes. Picture a cowboy. Got him? Right: What animal did he appear with?

Despite the name, almost none of you said ‘cow’. For a good reason. Cowboys in modern mythos are almost completely inseparable from their horses. The image of them riding across the high plains on a long cattle drive is one charged with romance and the spirit of adventure. For many cowboys, that was exactly what life was like.

But not for all of them. For a significant minority, their job description involved absolutely no riding whatsoever.

This was especially true at the end of the era, from about 1885 onwards. A dry summer and a terrible winter had convinced many ranchers to keep their cattle close to home. For a huge chunk of cowboys, that meant the romance of the plain was suddenly replaced with menial labor like mending fences and checking penned cows for disease. If they got to ride anything at all, it would likely be a haymow. Unsurprisingly, most hated such work.

6. Some That Did Ride Rode Camels

camel

Here’s a classic western scene. The sun stands at high noon, baking the lifeless city streets. A tumbleweed blows through the dust. A shadow appears on the horizon. It’s the cowboy. He emerges out of the heat haze, skin like cracked leather… and proceeds to ride into town on the back of his Arabian camel. Wait, what?

It’s true. In certain parts of the Old West, horses were as rare as they are in big cities today. Instead, ranchers had their cowboys ride on the backs of camels that had been imported in the 1850s, and accidentally released into the wild at the height of the Civil War.

Because of the harsh conditions on the frontier, it had been theorized camels would cope much better than horses with the heat. The US Government agreed. At great cost it imported hundreds of camels to Camp Verde, only for war to break out. When the Confederates seized the camp they released the camels. For the next few decades, enterprising ranchers occasionally caught a few, broke them in and gave them to their cowboys to work with.

 5. ‘Brokeback’ Encounters Were Surprisingly Common

brokeback

Remember 2005? That was the year Brokeback Mountain hit cinemas and Heath Ledgerproved he didn’t have to be in clown makeup to provide a magnetic performance. The movie was also controversial among some who thought it was grafting our modern notions of sexuality onto a historic setting (in this case, the 1960s).

Interestingly, this is the one criticism that can easily be refuted. According to historian and author Patricia Nell Warren, gay encounters were way more common in the Old West than we ever realized.

A lot of this is thanks to the conditions cowboys had to endure. Long stretches of time away from women, surrounded by other men, led to occasional ‘one-off’ trysts simply as a way of relieving sexual tension. Within that mix, you had a handful of genuinely gay cowboys, who’d often fled out West as a way of achieving anonymity. Because manpower was scarce, it was impractical for landowners to refuse to hire them due to their sexuality.

As social historians John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman noted in their book Intimate Matters, there are even surviving love poems written from cowboys to one another. It might have been frowned upon by the rest of society, but on the Frontier, homosexuality was relatively open.

4. Black Cowboys Were Also Surprisingly Common

black cowboys

Quick: how many westerns can you name that feature black cowboys? Most of us can probably only get Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles. As a result, you might think African-American cowpokes were a rarity on the frontier. You’d be wrong. By some estimates, as many as one in four cowboys were black.

It makes sense when you think about it. Cowpunching, as it was often called, was a dirty, difficult, badly-paid, working class job. In the post-Civil War era, those were exactly the sort of jobs newly-emancipated slaves might be expected to do. And as we mentioned above, the Old West was one area where employers couldn’t afford to turn a good pair of hands away, no matter what the color of their skin was.

That’s not to say everything on the frontier was racial harmony. Way into the 20thcentury, black cowboys were expected to do the hardest, toughest jobs of all. They were the ones breaking in wild horses, doing all the cooking on wagon drives, and holding the cattle down at branding time. On the other hand, black cowboys often had a degree of autonomy and responsibility they would have lacked in other jobs. Perhaps that’s why so many ex-slaves chose to head out West.

3. Outlaws Were Shameless Self-Promoters

billy the kid

When you hear that robbers today are live-Tweeting their own break-ins, it’s tempting to assume we’ve hit rock bottom as a culture. Such nonsense would never have happened in the stoic Old West, right? Kinda. Although photographs of Pat Garrett playing on his smartphone have yet to surface, outlaws of the cowboy era were just as narcissistic as today’s criminals. When conducting major crimes, they frequently handed out press releases.

Jesse James was notorious for this. When holding up a train, he’d pass witnesses a carefully-written note, boasting about his own exploits. He wasn’t the only one. Billy the Kid deliberately inflated his kill-count from 8 to 21, and boasted about his violent temper. In fact, the Kid almost never got involved with shooting, robbing or hold ups. The main reason the law went after him was because he kept rustling cattle.

On the other side, the good guys were equally image-conscious. Wild Bill’s nickname actually referred to his gigantic nose, similar in size to a duck’s bill. It was only by effort he made out it referred to his ‘wild’ and dangerous nature, thereby terrifying local criminals.

2. The Rest of the Country Considered Them Suspicious and Dirty

cowboys2

The cowboy is enshrined in legend as the epitome of American values. While other eras and professions have their draws, it’s impossible to think of a historic figure today more beloved by the entire nation. Which just goes to show how times change. In the early days of the Frontier, cowpunchers were regarded as ill-educated vagrants at best, and dangerous carriers of disease at worst.

Around the Deep South, cowboys were considered trespassers who used public land for their own gain. The North generally considered them illiterate (they usually were). Even along the Great Plains, there was much resentment. Cattle drives routinely trampled the crops of farmers and Native Americans, and it was the cowpunchers themselves who got the blame. Many people even feared they would spread dreaded ‘Texas Fever’ throughout the land. It’s safe to say that, during the golden age of the cowboy, most of America regarded them as a smelly nuisance.

It wasn’t really until the early 20th century that pulp novelists and early Hollywood began to transform these tough, dirty, uneducated men into folk heroes. Fast forward to today and that’s the image that remains.

 1. Modern Germans Love Them

german flag

Of all the countries in the world, which do you think has fallen for the cowboy myth the hardest (aside from the good ol’ US-of-A, that is)? Nope, it’s not Canada. Not Australia. Not even Great Britain. The country most obsessed with the cowboy today? Germany.

For some reason, Germans go nuts over cowboy-related stuff. Hundreds of clubs exist across this mountainous European nation, where people go on weekends to dress as cowboys and pretend they’re living in 19th century Texas. It’s estimated that several tens of thousands of Germans do this every single week, with many, many thousands more holding a passing interest in such exploits.

Nor is this a completely modern thing. Back in the 1930s, the Nazis venerated cowboys almost as much as they did genocide. Hitler himself was known to be a huge fan of westerns, often reading cowboy books between bouts of conquest and megalomania. For some reason, this very un-German tradition has taken deep root in a country far more ordered and rule-abiding than the Old West ever was. Which just goes to show, we guess, that you never can tell what the future has in store.


Cowboy Confidential

wif-confidential-001

– Old West Misconceptions

Walking Like an Egyptian – WABAC Into History

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Horrifying Facts

About

Ancient Egypt

"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“To the land of Pharaohs and mummies Sherman My Boy.”

Ancient Egypt is one of the most fascinating places in the historical record. Their obsession with life after death, their grand pyramids and golden treasures, and the multitudes of evidence they left behind of their great works have captured the imaginations of people for thousands of years. However, underneath the veneer of mysticism and historical grandeur, Ancient Egypt was not always the most fun place in the world to live. Their justice system was often unfair and cruel, some of their medical practices were horrifying, and their devotion to the gods often went to insane lengths.

waybac-machine

 10. An Outbreak Of Cholera Was Once Linked To Food Wrapping Paper Made From Mummy Bandages

There was a time when anything involving Ancient Egypt was considered a fad. Mummies were imported to Europe to be unwrapped at parties, and many, many mummies were illegally smuggled out of Ancient Egypt. The truth is, there were a lot of mummies around and no one really felt much respect for them – even at the time, very little proper historical significance was attributed to them.

For this reason getting hold of mummy bandages was not only cheap, but in some cases cheaper than paper. An enterprising businessman in the early 1900s in the United States decided that he could save some money making wrapping paper for food, and imported in some old brown mummy paper to do the trick. Unfortunately for him, his plan failed when people started catching cholera, and the use of mummy paper to wrap food was abandoned.

9. Servants Were Sometimes Put To Death To Be Buried Alongside Their Masters

Those who were sacrificed this way would not necessarily feel that they were being murdered, though. The Ancient Egyptians had a complicated relationship with death, and were obsessed with carrying on with life after death. In a way, they were far more obsessed with life than they were with death. Those servants who were sent to die and be buried with their masters were considered privileged to be allowed to follow a powerful figure into the afterlife to serve them. However, it was still likely nerve wracking to know that your fate was tied to the random death of a person you work for.

8. Mummy Used To Commonly Be Eaten As A Medicine In Europe

To most people cannibalism is literally the most awful taboo imaginable. The idea of eating human flesh, even in circumstances where you have no other choice, is something that immediately turns the stomach of most humans. Even when talking about incidents like the Donner party, where people would have been pushed to the limit, and likely only ate those who were already dead, people still speak of it in hushed tones, terrified at the very prospect of being faced with such a horrible decision.

However, back in the 1600s and 1700s in Europe, a craze swept around where people were crushing up bits of human of various kinds and eating it in order to attempt to cure themselves of various ailments. It started out with people crushing up mummyand putting it in a tincture, claiming it could cure all kinds of different things, but ended up with people drinking blood to cure blood related illnesses, and even bits of crushed skull to deal with problems of the brain. While most today consider cannibalism obscene, there was a time in Europe when consuming the remains of other people was considered perfectly normal and good for your health as well.

7. If You Disrespected The Sun God They Would Immolate Your Entire Being

In Ancient Egypt violent crime was fairly rare, but one of the most awful crimes you could commit was any form of offense or disrespect toward the Sun God. If you vandalized or robbed a temple, committed any form of personal disrespect, or were otherwise found guilty of any offense related to the Sun God, you were usually sentenced to be burned alive. This punishment was only reserved for the greatest of offenses and was usually accompanied by a ritual that sacrificed the individual to the gods. While the Ancient Egyptians rarely practiced actual human sacrifices, this is one of the few exceptions.

While burning alive is painful enough to begin with, it was considered the most horrific death of all by Ancient Egyptians because of the ritual significance of the act. They believed strongly in preserving the physical body for life after death, and believed that destroying the person’s physical body completely by burning would leave them with no vessel in the afterlife. While the gods could still technically intervene to help this person, it was about as terrifying a punishment as a believer in Ancient Egyptian society could imagine.

6. It Was Extremely Common For Ancient Egyptian Police To Beat Confessions Out Of People

In Ancient Egypt, they had a well put together system of laws and a group that essentially acted as police, but that doesn’t mean things were really all that fair. Just like in older European societies, forcing confessions out of people was incredibly common; in fact it was basically standard practice. Usually, to elicit confessions people would be beaten with sticks, often on the bottom of the feet – a torture known as bastinado.

 Those who were tortured into confessing were expected to not only admit to what they did, but explain where anything they stole might still be hiding and rat out every single one of their accomplices. These people could then also be beaten to ascertain any further accomplices as well. Unfortunately, like many imperfect legal systems, it will never be possible to quantify just how many innocent people may have been punished for a crime because they were forced into confessing something they didn’t do. Sadly, false confessions under torture are an incredibly common phenomenon, because people will do almost anything to make torture end when it is painful enough.

5. If You Violated The Law, You Were Considered Guilty Until Proven Innocent

One of the cornerstones of the modern legal system is the presumption of innocence – innocent until proven guilty. It is one of the reasons many people have long touted the Western legal systems, where at the very least, you will receive a fair and somewhat speedy trial, where you know that the system isn’t already presuming guilt before you have had a chance to defend yourself. And while Ancient Egypt had a fairly advanced legal system, in this area they were particularly lacking.

In their legal system, the guilt of the accused was presumed from the very beginning, and it was the job of the accused to prove their innocence. While judges would always do their best to not play favorites, beatings were common to prove guilt – as we mentioned earlier – and were more likely to be applied to the accused party, even though they could have been innocent. Even witnesses could be beaten if necessary if the judges felt it was needed to get more information about the case. While there is no evidence that Ancient Egyptians abused this system regularly by falsely accusing each other, it seems the system would almost benefit those who would abuse it more than it would the innocent.

4. Sometimes If You Were Accused Of A Crime, Your Guilt Would Be Decided By The Magic Of Oracles

In the later days of Ancient Egypt, the priesthood started to gain an increasing control on the daily lives of Egyptians and of the decisions made by the rulers of the land. The priests’ influence and power over the common people increased continually over the years, and before long they were being consulted for far more than they ever had been before. Those in power knew better than to question the priests too much, as they were considered to be able to contact and gain the support of the gods, and also would be able to potentially influence large amounts of people to do their bidding.

This meant that in the latter days of Ancient Egypt, the priesthood now found itself involved in matters of court. They would bring in a statue of the Sun God and set papyri before it with different options for important decisions – in court they were generally two papers deciding innocence or guilt. The statue was supposed to turn toward the correct paper, showing the will of the gods. Of course this gave the priests a chance to manipulate the statues movements and essentially decided court cases based on their own opinions and whims. Unfortunately, this meant that many Ancient Egyptians were at the whim of a con artist while in court; one who everyone believed, but who likely knew full well that he was making up all of the stuff about the gods’ will.

3. Using Birth Control Was An Incredibly Disgusting Horror Show

Today people will use condoms, take pills, or try to predict monthly cycles in order to avoid pregnancies when they are not ready for procreation at that moment. And as many people know, birth control has existed for many thousands of years. Researchers have found evidence of sheepskin condoms from long ago, and the Ancient Romans are said to have used a plant for birth control so frequently that they made it go entirely extinct. However, most of these methods are fairly reasonable ways to deal with birth control, especially compared to the methods used by the Ancient Egyptians.

In Ancient Egypt, they believed that a mixture of mostly honey and crocodile dung, which was then plastered all over the vagina, was a great way to avoid getting pregnant. For some reason, they decided that this was an effective spermicide – although it actually would be more likely to increase the chance of pregnancy. While it is understandable for them to believe it could have worked as birth control considering their knowledge at the time, it is also horrifying to imagine how often they would have to come into physical contact with crocodile dung on the most intimate parts of their bodies.

2. The Death Penalty In Ancient Egypt Was Rare, But Extremely Brutal When Enacted

Life in Ancient Egypt could be quite harsh and beatings were, as we’ve mentioned a few times now, both a common method of extracting confessions and also a common punishment. However, while many people know that Ancient Egypt could be fairly strict in terms of punishing miscreants, like much of the Ancient world they were also very much against wantonly dishing out the death penalty.

While the option existed under the law, it was very, very seldom used. In fact, there was even a time period of roughly 150 years where no official state sanctioned executions for crimes were carried out in the empire of Ancient Egypt. However, when someone had done something bad enough, such as murder, or treason, the death sentence they were punished with was often quite brutal. While we mentioned earlier that burning alive was a punishment of choice for serious offenses to the gods, there were other forms of capital punishment they also employed that were similarly painful and awful, such as decapitation, drowning, and even impalement on a stake.

1. The Legends Of Ancient Egyptian Curses Simply Will Not Go Away

Countless legends and stories have been told about the idea of a mummies curse and the concept goes farther back than many think. Even before the opening of King Tut’s tomb, stories were already cropping up about mummies taking revenge when their remains were disturbed. However, the most popular legend claims that 26 people were involved in opening the tomb, and then they all started to die under mysterious circumstances – with the expedition leader himself succumbing very quickly to blood poisoning.

Searches of the tomb have revealed mold spores but nothing that is deemed particularly dangerous – not strong enough to damage you just by being in the room for a bit, certainly. Some have theorized that perhaps there was a strange disease involved that showed up as blood poisoning, but most scientists dismiss this, pointing out that the whole thing is silly anyway, since only six of the 26 people involved had anything involving a recent death after the event. However, while there may be no logical evidence that curses exist, it doesn’t mean that the Ancient Egyptians didn’t try. Many tombs have various symbols around them, cursing those who disturb their remains in the hopes they will be attacked by vicious animals such as lions or snakes, or even punished by the gods themselves.


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Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

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Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

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Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

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The White House – WIF Fun Facts

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Fascinating Facts

About

the White House

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One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Presidential homes in the world is the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over 6,000 people visit it every day, and it is one of the top tourist attractions in America’s capital. Of course, besides being a famous monument, it is also a home that is steeped in history.

 These are 10 of the most fascinating facts about the White House and the people who lived in it.

10. They Had A Design Contest To Build It

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States. Congress also ordered that the capitol buildings, including the President’s House needed to be built within 10 years.

In order to find architectural plans for the house where the President would live, Congress held a contest. At the urging of George Washington, Irish-born architect James Hoban submitted his plans, which Encyclopedia Britannica said was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin.

Hoban won the contest and his reward was $500 and a lot in D.C. He was also hired on to oversee the construction of the President’s House, which started in 1793. The second President, John Adams, moved into the house in 1800, before it was actually finished.

The total cost of building the President’s House (its name before the White House) was$232,372, which is the equivalent of about $100 million today.

9. It Was Built By Slaves, Freed Slaves, And Immigrants

In July 2016, former First Lady Michelle Obama made some waves during her speech at the Democratic National Convention when she said “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” After the comment, several prominent people said it wasn’t true, or justified the use of slavery by saying they were “well-fed” slaves. However, Obama’s statement was totally correct.

According to the book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, about 400 of the 600 people who built the Capitol, including the White House, were slaves. The other 200 were about 50 freed slaves and the remainder were poor immigrants.

The White House Historical Association confirms that slaves did help build the White House, but they weren’t government owned. Instead, they just rented them out from slave owners. Because that totally makes it OK, right?

8. The British Burned It Down

In June 1812, the United States, which was only 36-years-old at the time, declared war on Great Britain. There were several underlying reasons for the war, but one of them was to take over Canada, which was a British colony, and make it part of America.

Throughout the war, each side had major victories and suffered terrible losses. One of the biggest military defeats for the Americans happened on August 24, 1813, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. In retaliation for sacking York, which is now Toronto, the President’s House was relieved of a few souvenirs before it was set ablaze. The ensuing fire nearly destroyed the building. After torching the President’s House, several other prominent buildings in Washington were burned to the ground.

Rebuilding started soon afterwards and the White House was restored to its original architectural plans. In fact, James Hoban, who oversaw the original construction, was rehired to oversee the reconstruction to make it as close to the original as possible. The reconstruction was completed by 1817, just in time for President James Monroe to move in.

After the Burning of Washington, the Americans fought back against the British and won several important victories. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Part of the treaty was that any captured territory by either side would be returned.

What’s interesting is how this part of history is taught in schools in the United States and Canada, who have had uninterrupted peace with each other since the War of 1812. In the United States, students are taught that the War of 1812 was a war that earned the respect of the British and strengthened the nation as a whole, allowing them to expand westward.Canadian students, on the other hand, learn that the War of 1812 was the one time that the aggressive Americans tried to invade Canada and for their troubles, they got their capital and the White House burned down.

7. Why Is The White House White?

One myth about the White House is that it’s white to cover up the fire damage that was caused when it burned down in 1814. However, that isn’t true because it was white before it was set on fire. In 1798, a lime-based whitewash was painted on to protect the porous stone from cracking. Usually, the whitewash would have weathered and faded away. However, instead they kept reapplying the whitewash until 1818, when it was painted with lead-based white paint.

The house was originally called the President’s House, but since it was distinctively white, its nickname was the white house for almost a century. It wouldn’t officially become the White House until 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

6. Pets There Have Included Alligators, Badgers, Bears, and a Dog Named Satan

Besides being home to the First Family, the White House has also had its fair share of pets. Out of 45 Presidents, there are only three Presidents who have no record of owning a pet: Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump.

In most cases, the pets were dogs or cats. Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan, for instance. However, it’s also been home to some more exotic pets. Calvin Coolidge had a menagerie and the main attraction was a 600 pound pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Two different Presidents had alligators roam the White House grounds – Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Supposedly Adams kept a gator in the bathroom in the East Room and used it to scare guests.

Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. However, supposedly Congress made him donate the cubs to a zoo.

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah and was given a bear, which his children named Jonathan Edwards, by a group of voters in West Virginia. However, he didn’t have the proper accommodations for the bear, which Roosevelt called “queer-tempered,” and he ended up donating the bear to the Bronx Zoo.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Shower

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was a relentlessly hard worker who was known for getting things done. He was also a man with a strong sexual appetite who seemed to be obsessed with his own genitals. He was known to whip it out whenever and where ever he wanted to. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he had some odd requests when it came to his shower.

According to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, Johnson wanted to have several nozzles that switched from hot to cold. He also wanted the pressure to be intense, like a fire hose. Finally, he wanted a nozzle pointed directly at his genitals and to shoot up his rear end.

When the plumber said it couldn’t be done, Johnson himself called the plumber and chewed him out. To inspire him, Johnson said, “If I can move 10,000 troops in a day, you certainly can fix the shower.” So the plumber tinkered with the shower and it ended up with four nozzles. One time, an usher apparently tried the shower and it pinned him to the wall.

When Nixon moved into the White House in 1969, he ordered the plumber to get rid of Johnson’s shower.

4. Market Value

Before Donald Trump was elected President, we could say with certainty that the White House would never go on sale; but now, who knows what will happen? He is a real estate mogul, after all.

If he were to put it on the market, what would be a fair asking price? Well, the real estate website Zillow came up with an estimate for the house, which is a single family home with 142 rooms on six floors and about 55,000 square feet, and sits on an 18 acre lot. If you were to include all the historical artifacts with it and the hot tub that was installed under Bill Clinton (because of course Slick Willie installed a hot tub), then it would cost $398 million. Or if President Trump wanted to rent it out, it would cost $2,079,473.

3. The White House’s Deadly Water Supply

The ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, holds two Presidential records and the common belief is that these two records are connected. The first is that Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, which he did outside on a cold and miserable March day without a coat. The second record is that he was President for the shortest amount of time. He died on April 4, 1841, 32 days into his presidency, from what was believed to be pneumonia, which he caught while giving his long inauguration speech.

However, according to Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who did a modern-day medical investigation, Harrison most likely died of Typhoid Fever and not of pneumonia. The source of the typhoid fever was the White House’s water supply. Mackowiak also thinks that the water in the White House killed President James K. Polk, who died in 1849, three months after leaving the White House, and president Zachary Taylor, who died in office in 1850.

2. Does It Have Secret Passages?

One of the most mythical elements of the White House is its secret passages and tunnels. For example, it was rumored that John F. Kennedy used the tunnels to sneak out of the White House to meet Marilyn Monroe. However, that’s all they appear to be – myths.

While there have been renovations of the White House over the years, including additions, the White House wasn’t really designed to house things like tunnels and secret passages. The closest thing to a secret lair is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which was built after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Council of National Defense urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to move out of the White House because they thought it was a “firetrap.” His compromise was to build a bomb shelter in the White House.

The Presidential Emergency Operations Center is in the basement of the East Wing. It serves as the communication center and it is able to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s also important to note that the shelter is not the same as the Situation Room, which is in the basement of the West Wing.

One notable time it was used was on September 11, 2001. Vice President Dick Chaney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, were evacuated from their offices into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

1. It Was Almost Torn Down In 1945 Because It Was In Such Bad Shape

By 1945, the White House had been lived in for 145 years and it was in rough shape. Besides being nearly destroyed in 1814, there was another fire in the White House on Christmas Eve 1929. The White House was hosting a party and when the fire started in the West Wing, Herbert Hoover left the party to oversee the removal of papers and documents from the Oval Office, while the First Lady kept the party going. The fire ended up gutting the West Wing, including the Oval Office.

Another problem was that the White House wasn’t constructed to have indoor plumbing and electricity and that was all added well after it was built. This added a lot of stress to the structure of the building. It got to be so bad that Harry S. Truman thought it was going to collapse. In fact, his daughter’s piano fell through a floor into the room below it.

The condition of the White House got to be so bad that it would have been cheaper to tear it down and build something new in its place. However, since it was a national monument Truman was against the idea. They chose to gut the interior of the White House and rebuild it as close to its original design as possible. The reconstruction took four years, during which time Harry and Bess Truman lived in Blair House, which is across the street from the White House.


The White House

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Pilgrim Thanksgiving – Food For the 1st Settlers

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Foods the Pilgrims

Likely Ate

at the First

Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, there is no actual menu for the first Thanksgiving in 1621. There is some debate, however, whether or not turkey was on the table. There is even one story where the original intent was to hunt for turkey, and all the Pilgrims wound up bagging was a bunch of crows instead. We would guess that those were a wise bunch of birds.

So let’s assume that turkey became a holiday symbol later on, and look at some of the other foods that may well have been served at that first Thanksgiving. Keep some napkins handy, because you are about to start drooling something fierce.

10. Eel

Serving Eel for Thanksgiving

It is well known that Squanto took pity on the Pilgrims, and helped teach them how to live off of the land and water. One of the hunting methods that Squanto taught them was to spear eels, who were curled up in muddy areas during colder weather. As a matter of fact, the feast made when the Pilgrims made peace with the leader of the Massosoit tribe was a feast of eels. The hunting of eels is also backed up by Pilgrim accounts. So yes, instead of cranberries, the first Thanksgiving would have probably featured a second helping of eel. Just like Grandma used to make.

9. Dried Fruit

dried fruit for Thanksgiving

Fruit was considered to be more of a snack by the Pilgrims. However, there was not refrigeration to store fruits. The solution, particularly when out of season or when you did not have a budget to ship them in from Spain, was to dry the fruits and eat them later. Drying could be done either outside or in shelters, to keep away flies. In addition to sun-drying fruit, there was also the option of oven-drying fruits in cooler climates. Dried fruit, such as raisins, would have been a treat or dessert to eat at the first Thanksgiving table. Also, you might have wanted to store a few in your pocket for later.

8. Lobster

stuffed-lobster thanksgiving

While lobster is more of a delicacy today, the Pilgrims would have seen the crustacean as a staple of their diet. The Patuxet Squanto was again instrumental in teaching the Pilgrims to catch and cook lobsters. The Pilgrim Edward Winslow even sent a letter back to England in 1622 detailing the feast (which is reported to have lasted up to five days) and lobster was really put over as a major dish. This letter electrified the imagination of all who read it, and started to turn the Harvest Feast into Thanksgiving. So it might be a great idea to spend a Thanksgiving rolling out that very traditional Lobster Feast. Just don’t forget to remove the rubber bands afterwards. They’re chewy.

7. Hardtack

hardtack thanksgiving

To be fair, “Hardtack” was also a name applied to these biscuits served primarily during the Civil War. They were often derided, and would frequently be infested with bugs. Hardtack existed during the Pilgrims’ era too, would often be eaten in darker places (so they didn’t have to see the bugs) and dipped into liquids. The dipping had a dual purpose. First, it would lighten the biscuits’ rock hard jaw-breaking consistency. Plus, it killed the maggots, a recommended step for any good dish, really.

Hardtack is rather easy to make, as well as plentiful. if you’re sick of warm, soft, buttery rolls at your Thanksgiving, consider these glorified stones for all your future meals. Just  keep an eye out for any wriggling maggots that somehow survived the Dipping Holocaust.

6. Samp

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When the pilgrims and the Wampanoag broke hardtack together, they would have enjoyed a helping of samp on the side. Samp, a derivative of a primarily-English porridge, is a mixture of corn and milk mixed into a rather soupy consistency. In the 1600’s book Two Voyages to New EnglandJohn Josselyn states that the Samp would be boiled by the gallon after the corn was ground into a flour and stirred in a combination of milk and water. Samp could have either been a side dish or a full meal, depending on the situation. Photo and Samp recipe.

5. Maize

corn-rainbow2

Because it grew better than English grains, Pilgrims referred to Maize as “Indian Corn.” The corn was planted in the spring, with the Wampanoag using small herring fish as fertilizer for its growth. The corn would have been dried out by November, meaning the Pilgrims would not have eaten corn-on-the-cob at Thanksgiving. The corn would have been shucked, as well as ground. This would have been primarily done to make into a meal, or to cook into bread. Either way, maize would have been a staple of Pilgrim diets at the time of the first feast.

4. Pumpkins

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The classic image of Pilgrims making pumpkin pie for the first Thanksgiving is not quite accurate. The Pilgrims would likely have dug out the contents of the pumpkin, and refilled it with eggs and other items. The pumpkin would then have been cooked to a blackened outside shell. In this way, the pumpkin would have served as an edible pot, with the contents being scooped out and served. So pumpkins were likely a big part of the first Thanksgiving feast, though they were not specifically mentioned until the account of the second Thanksgiving feast.

3. Wild Fowl

THanksgiving Goose

Far moreso than turkey, it was quite likely that ducks or geese were served at the first Thanksgiving. The simple fact is that ducks and geese were more plentiful in autumn to hunt than turkeys were. There is also the great possibility that Passenger Pigeons, which have been extinct for over a century, would have been plentiful at the time. Swan may have also been on the menu.

One reason to use these birds over turkey is the issue of preparation. Smaller fowl can be spit roasted, which would make them easier to cook for a large crowd. Back then, turkey would have to be boiled prior to stuffing, which was a much bigger pain back in the day. It would have simply been easier to feed a crowd with birds other than turkey.

2. Fish

atlantic white cod for thanksgiving

Fish, specifically Atlantic White Cod, would have been a staple of most any meal done by the Pilgrims. Cod was plentiful, as well as desired for its lean white meat. The Pilgrims were quite intent on fishing, except they were terrible at it. Squanto and others taught the Pilgrims not only to fish, but also to use the rest of the fish as fertilizers for crops and oils.

Of course, cod would not be the only seafood on the menu. There would have also been quahogs (clams,) which were steamed. Bass and oysters would have been plentiful as well. In short, the bulk of the first Thanksgiving would have most likely been a seafood feast.

1. Deer (Venison)

roast venison - deer meat

While we’re doubtful about turkey being on the first Thanksgiving menu, there is no question about deer meat being on the table. According to Edward Winslow, author of the only known account of the event, the Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast. Winslow was extremely specific about the deer portion of the meal, and only vaguely referred to the bird meat as “fowl,” so you can guess which dish was his favorite that day. What can we say; some people are simply partial to red meat.

So if someone kills Bambi this Thanksgiving, they’re not heartless murderers of all thing innocent and childlike; they’re simply following a proud tradition dating back to 1621. Not to worry though; if you’re squeamish about killing your own deer, there are plenty of exotic meat markets out there willing to charge youridiculous amounts of money for the right to enjoy the ultimate hipster holiday treat.


Pilgrim Thanksgiving

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– Foods of the Settlers

Ancient Egypt Handbook – WIF Into History

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Unusual Facts About

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt has long been a fascinating subject not only to historians, but to average people all over the world. They had many mystical practices that have long kept us intrigued. From their unique burial practices to their awe inspiring pyramids, they have left us with a feeling of mystery and wonder. Architects, Egyptologists, and experts on many different subjects consider the Ancient Egyptians a fascinating subject of study and have long hoped to one day discover all of their secrets. However, while there are many mysteries yet about the Ancient Egyptians, there are also many fascinating things we have already discovered in regards to them that most people are not aware of.

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10. Ancient Egyptians Kept Baboons and Other Monkeys as Pets and for Ritual Significance

baboon

Most people are well aware that Ancient Egyptians did put some historical significance in certain animals — namely cats. Cats are known to be the number one go-to pet for Egyptians. Some are said to have been buried with their owners to accompany them in the afterlife. And while cats were very valued and had a certain religious and ritual significance, they were not the only animal in that category.

While it may not sound quite as dignified, monkeys, especially baboons, were kept around for their ritual significance in magic and religion — which were basically one and the same — and just to enjoy as fun pets. They had to go to great trouble to get their hands on these baboons because they were not native to the area. Historians believe they would have had to be imported by ship. Nevertheless, they became so important that they show up in a lot of religious imagery associated with the gods and found themselves a permanently revered place in Ancient Egyptian history.

 9. They Went to Great Lengths to Remove Body Hair, and Both Genders Often Wore Wigs

wigs

In many depictions of Ancient Egyptians they are shown with very little hair on their heads, but many people may not realize the full extent of the work they went to in removing body hair. Children of both genders would wear a small lock on the side of their head that would be cut off when they reached adulthood. Apart from this, both men and women were bald.

Not only that, but both men and women went to great trouble to remove all body hair constantly from all parts of their body. This was a normal part of hygiene in Ancient Egyptian society, but would have been quite extreme to people today. Of course for women and men fashion was still very important, so wigs were quite common, especially among the upper class.

There are many theories as to why they did this. Most historians figure it was either something to do with the heat of the area, and that the Ancient Egyptians hypothesized that removing all hair would keep them cooler. Some people think that it was simply because they were incredibly obsessed with cleanliness. Most of these theories are quite reasonable, but ancient alien theorists believe they were trying to look like their former reptilian overlords the Anunnaki.

8. The Book of the Dead Was Not Originally a Unified Text

book of the dead

 The Book of the Dead has been featured in countless movies, books and other media at this point, which hasn’t really done much to help people understand what it actually was. Most people think of it as something like the Egyptian version of the Bible or the Koran, but that isn’t really accurate — at least not originally. The Book of the Dead was in the beginning much more like the Wiccan idea of a “Book of Shadows” — a journal you filled with your combined knowledge of all spells you had learned from others, read from other books and found important, your own created spells and wisdom you yourself came up with over time.

For a long time in Ancient Egypt, Books of the Dead were still very personal, they were rarely organized in any particular order, and there was no unifying structure on what should and shouldn’t be included. It wasn’t until the 26th dynasty that any kind of real organization or order was put in place, and even then historians have still not been able to make proper sense of it.

Egyptologists have managed to collate together 192 different spells from books of the dead, but not a single one contains every spell, meaning that there is, as far as they know, not one single unified text anywhere to accept as the official, correct one.

7. The Racial Identity of Ancient Egyptians is Extremely Controversial

egyptians

No matter where you live in the world, there are likely controversial race issues around you. These issues have existed as far back as humans have recorded history, and have often led to bloody wars and massacres. While racial tensions still cause violence around the world, we are at a low point historically, and now many people are taking the battle for race to academia, where heated arguments are had over whether revered historical groups or people belong to a certain race.

 Everyone respects and admires the Ancient Egyptians, so it likely comes as no surprise to many that groups with an agenda will go to great lengths to attempt to define Ancient Egyptians as whatever race helps them make a convenient political point. After a recent DNA test of King Tut’s mummy, some people claimed it was evidence that he was of Western European origin, and others said the results were entirely flawed and rushed.

In the past people have also claimed the Ancient Egyptians were of Nordic stock, and many have speculated and tried to claim with great passion that they were black africans similar to many today. Historians, on the other hand, believe that they were a fairly racially diverse society that looked similar to many artistic depictions of them. Obviously they would have had somewhat darkened skin from the sun, but were not none for being an entirely homogenous group.

6. There Were Way More Pyramids Than People Realize

pyramids

Whenever we hear about the pyramids, we hear about the great Pyramids at GizaEgypt. These pyramids have been visited by countless tourists, have been excavated and explored and suffered damage over the years — they have quite a story to tell. People have speculated endlessly on how they were built, and if it may have even been alien visitors from another planet. These theorists will go to great lengths to make these particular pyramids and the exact positioning of them on the sand to be incredibly significant. Many of these theorists are convinced that the pyramids are also not burial chambers at all.

However, the pyramids were almost certainly burial chambers, and if the theorists realized how many pyramids were built, they may realize how little sense the theories make. The Ancient Egyptians built, at least as far as Egyptologists are currently aware of, somewhere getting close to the neighborhood of 100 pyramids, none of them as large as the ones at Giza but they are all quite sizeable. Huge pyramidal chambers could only be afforded by the richest Egyptian citizens in the ancient days, but they were built for many Egyptians, and were hardly a strange occurrence at all.

The truth is that there are many theories on how the various pyramids could have been built, and many of them are possible solutions. We just don’t know exactly how they did it. They also could have used somewhat primitive, but effective, building techniques that we simply have not thought of ourselves.

5. Some of the Richer Citizens in Ancient Egypt Were Incredibly Fat

fat egyptian

 In the United States and much of the developed world today, obesity has become a very serious health issue. Many people are simply not getting enough exercise and not eating the right foods — or simply overeating in general, and it is causing them serious issues. Apart from the simple strain on the body of excess weight, the massive amounts of sugar intake can cause people to develop a type of diabetes as well.

While most people would think that the Ancient Egyptians were quite thin and muscular, like all societies, the way we look at what is preserved of history can skew our perceptions. Most of what we knew was based on builders and a few rich pharaohs, so it was hard to accurately gauge the true fitness of a person from an ancient society. However, recently remains were found of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, showing that she had been incredibly obese and likely also had diabetes due to her extreme overeating.

While it’s hard to say because surviving mummies are rare these days, if one rich citizen such as a pharaoh could be fat both socially and in terms of resources, it is quite likely that plenty of other richer, more privileged Ancient Egyptian citizens were also fat as well.

4. So-Called “Mummy Parties” Have Caused Much of History to be Lost Forever

mummy party

Many people today bemoan how children or young people will be out distracted running around with a phone trying to catch a virtual animal that they can use to virtually battle people, but the hobbies of the young people of yesteryear would have had them much more horrified. As we have mentioned, many people have long been fascinated with Ancient Egypt, but this got really strange in the early 1900s when Egypt fever was at a pitch in Europe.

 It started slowly, and like many fads quickly grew out of control. People would bring back mummies as souvenirs from travels to Egypt, all to happy to take advantage of the lax laws of the time, and then have parties where they unwrapped the mummy in their home with all their friends around. This obviously permanently damaged precious pieces of history that could have yielded scientists with incredible information in the future with proper DNA analysis.

Some people may just say “it was a different time,” but it is hard to imagine any time period where it would be normal and acceptable to invite your pals over for a fun afternoon of unrolling a several thousand year old dead body. Regardless, it is almost impossible to estimate just how much damage this wanton and careless destruction of Egyptian culture — in the name of enthusiasm — has cost us in terms of our knowledge of them.

3. Ancient Pharaohs Were Sometimes as Crazy as Roman Emperors

hatshepsut

Whenever someone wants to think of an example of tyrants who ruled with a combination of insanity and delusional grandiosity, they tend to immediately name someone like Emperor Nero or Caligula. If they can’t think of a specific name, they just generically compare them to the Roman Emperors. They were known for eating absolutely ludicrous feasts, making all kinds of bizarre personal demands and generally abusing their power and position to an insane degree. However, while the Roman Emperors may have been crazy, the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt came before them, and they were often just as strange or even stranger.

 The Pharaoh Hatshepsut, despite being female, was also known for usually wearing men’s clothes as well as a mock up of a male’s beard, in order to look like a male pharaoh. Some historians also believe she may have wore black and red nail polish, kind of like some teenagers today. While she presented herself as a man to receive proper respect as a ruler, and seemed to enjoy mens clothes, there is also no evidence she was anything but straight.

However, even Hatshepsut pales in comparison to Pepi II when it comes to crazy. Pharaoh Pepi II became Pharaoh at a very young age, and as such it may not be surprising that the power quickly went to his head, and he began abusing it greatly. He personally hated flies, and so to ensure that they would never land on him, he came up with an ingenious and cruel idea to keep them off his body. He kept several slaves nearby at all times, covered in honey, so the flies would bother them instead of him. It seems to have never occurred to him that he could have just as easily spread the honey on inanimate objects instead of people.

2. Not Everyone in Ancient Egypt was Elaborately Mummified

mummy

When many people think of Ancient Egypt they mostly just assume that the society mummified everyone — and that this was just their idea of a burial. However, while the elite certainly wanted the most elaborate process available, with the most pomp and circumstance, many people did not have the means for very much. In today’s world, loved ones of the deceased who aren’t particularly rich often have to go with more budget options instead of the elaborate ones they prefer, even going so far as to use cremation in some causes simply because it is much less expensive.

In Ancient Egypt, they had a similar situation, where while everyone would have loved to have an elaborate ceremony, many of the poorer or less well to do citizens would have to make do with less complete, or more hasty forms of mummification that wouldn’t preserve the body as long or as effectively. These ceremonies would probably involve some prayers and other spells, and would sometimes be a simple burial in the sand. Only those with some means could afford to bury their dead in what was essentially a mausoleum — something very few can afford today.

In many cases, the reason we mostly think of Ancient Egyptians being preserved are because the ones we have to study are the ones that managed to stick around to be studied. We know from inference that apart from the many mummies destroyed by unwrapping parties, that there had to be many that were simply never mummified fully, or buried in any marked grave or structure, and decayed thousands of years ago, lost forever to the sands of time.

 1. Punishments for Breaking the Law Could be Extremely Harsh

punishment

In the Ancient world, punishment could often be harsh, but in Ancient Egypt, it was probably still far harsher in many cases than most people would imagine. Today, punishments mostly consist of being sent to a prison where the state sometimes has you do labor, but rarely if ever makes any real money from it. In the ancient world, labor was considered much more important and resources were very valuable. Those who needed to be punished were either killed outright or were given their due and sent right back to work to continue producing for the collective.

In Ancient Egypt, the crime for stealing in one text is described as “100 blows and five wounds” and some studies carried out on skeletons found in Amarna, an Ancient Egyptian city, have given researchers reason to believe this may have been a real punishment. They have found skeletons with gashes on the shoulder blade area, and believe the men were not attacked, but were likely being punished and were then sent right back to work.

 However, while punishments for stealing could be quite harsh, those for crimes of a sexual nature could be much harsher. Women were often treated more strictly, and if a woman was caught cheating she literally had her nose cut off to spite her face, while a man simply had to take a severe beating of 100 blows. Of course, while this may seem like a double standard, the penalty for a man raping a woman was also very strict — if a man were judged to have raped a freeborn woman, he would be castrated. Like some ancient cultures, many punishments also included the removal of limbs, and execution for serious offenses like grave robbing.


Ancient Egypt Handbook

WIF History-001

– WIF Into History