Out of the Way People – WIF Tribal Travel

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The World’s

Most

Isolated Tribes

The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. These technologies are commonplace to us, but even in our very modern world there are still a small number of remote tribes living a way of life largely unchanged for thousands of years.

Some of these tribes are so isolated that we know very little about them; others are classified as uncontacted.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they are entirely unaware of or have never encountered anybody from the outside world. All too often they are painfully aware of our existence, as their territory is invaded and their people murdered.

The uncontacted tag simply means that they have no ongoing peaceful contact with the outside world.

This list takes a closer look at the dwindling number of isolated and uncontacted tribes that still cling to existence in what is all too often a hostile world. The rainforests and islands seem to harbor most of them.

8. The Man of the Hole

Deep in the Brazilian rainforest the Man of the Hole lives one of the loneliest existences imaginable. He has survived entirely alone for more than twenty years; so far as is known he has not spoken to another human being in this entire time.

The man has been monitored at a distance since 1996 by FUNAI, a branch of the Brazilian Government dedicated to the protection of indigenous peoples, but even so he remains something of an enigma. His tribe is unnamed, his language unknown, and he has only ever been captured on a couple of grainy photographs and shaky video footage.

We do know that the Man of the Hole, who is believed to be around sixty years old, digs deep pits to capture animals and survives by hunting small prey with a bow and arrow. All attempts to communicate with the man have failed, and he has fired arrows at those attempting to do so.

This aggression is entirely understandable. It’s believed the rest of his tribe were massacred by farmers in 1995, leaving the man of the hole as the last surviving member of his tribe.

7. The Piripkura Tribe

Whatever the Man of the Hole’s people once called themselves, sadly they are not the only tribe facing imminent extinction.

The Piripkura Tribe, known as the butterfly people for the way they flit through the forest, now number no more than three. One of these, a woman called Rita, chose to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and her ancestral rainforest home. She has explained how she made her decision after her family and most of her tribe were murdered.

This leaves just two men, an uncle and his nephew, known as Tamandua and Pakyi. Efforts have to be made to locate the pair every two years in order to maintain their protection, but they are highly elusive and understandably suspicious of outsiders.

They have only a few possessions, the most important of which by far is their palm bark torch. This is so essential that it had been kept continuously lit for almost twenty years. However, in 2018 the flame finally went out.

Tamandua and Pakyi were forced to ask for help. They made contact only for long enough for their torch to be relit, before they once again disappeared back into the rainforest.

6. The Kahawiva Tribe

Once a numerous and settled people who produced much of their food through farming crops such as corn and sweet potatoes, the Kahawiva Tribe are now threatened with extinction. Their old way of life has been destroyed, and the last few survivors eke out a precarious, nomadic existence in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.

The rainforest itself is priceless, but its raw resources are worth billions. Loggers, ranchers, and miners have steadily moved in to occupy the Kahawiva Tribe’s territory. However, in 1988 Brazil ruled that any land occupied by indigenous tribes belonged to that tribe.

In some respects this was good news, but the new laws all too often failed to afford Indian tribes any real protection and brought unintended consequences. Many Indians were simply slaughtered by the encroaching forces of civilization. If the Indians weren’t there, they couldn’t have any rights to the land.

There are now as few as twenty to fifty members of the Kahawiva Tribe remaining. The settlements and gardens where they once grew their food have been abandoned. They now exist as hunter gatherers, moving from place to place. This has meant changing their traditional way of life, but their mobility affords them better opportunity to rapidly flee deeper into the forest at the first sign of danger.

5. The Dani People

Spanning 309,000 square miles the island of New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. It had been discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1527, but deep in the heart of its forested interior the Dani People had lived almost entirely undetected for centuries. That was until they were spotted by an eagle-eyed anthropologist named Richard Archbold as he flew overhead in 1938.

The Dani People’s way of life was based around farming, hunting and gathering. Their tools were created from wood, stone, and bone, and each of the men wore little more than a penis gourd. Women did most of the work, such as tending crops and looking after the children, and pigs were the measure by which a man’s wealth was measured

When Richard Archbold published his account of the Dani People, and what he described as their paradise on Earth, it caused something of a sensation.

Perhaps fortunately for the Dani People the rest of the world would be distracted by World War Two for the next several years, and they were left to their own devices for a little longer. However, hostilities eventually came to an end and the mysterious tribe in new Guinea had not been forgotten.

Missionaries descended on the island, all of them intent on civilizing and converting the Dani People.

These once isolated people have now become something of a tourist attraction. However, even now there are a handful of scattered villages where life goes on for the Dani People almost entirely untouched by the outside world. Their numbers are dwindling rapidly as their young people increasingly abandon the old way of life, and it remains to be seen how far into the Twenty-first Century their traditions can survive.

4. The Korubo Tribe

Sydney Possuelo is a Brazilian explorer who has probably done more than anybody else in history to discover and protect South America’s most isolated tribes. He has devoted his life to fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, and he is rightly considered the world’s leading expert on remote Indian tribes.

Making first contact can be potentially dangerous, and this was certainly the case in 1996 when he led an expedition in search of the Korubo tribe.

Like many other Amazonian tribes, the Korubo are suspicious of outsiders. Many of them had been killed in clashes with ranchers, loggers, and other settlers. However, the Korubo tribe, also known as the club people in recognition of their favored weapon, fought back fiercely and had themselves killed many outsiders who trespassed on their territory.

Possuelo approached with caution, easing himself in gently by leaving gifts such as axes and knives for the Korubo Tribe to find.

This softly-softly approach proved successful, and Possuelo succeeded in convincing the tribe that he posed no threat. The tribe remain extremely isolated and rightfully suspicious of outsiders; what little we do know of them is largely thanks to Sydney Possuelo.

3. The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode

Across the globe something in the region of 31,000 square miles of forest is destroyed every year. This works out to an area roughly the size of Austria.

Nowhere is this deforestation happening faster than in Paraguay’s Gran Chaco Forest, where up to 14 million trees are cut down every month. This rapidly diminishing ecosystem is home to South America’s last uncontacted tribe outside of the Amazon basin.

The Ayoreo people are made up of numerous subgroups, the most isolated of these being the Totobiegosode, which translates as the people from the land of the wild pigs. For generations the Totobiegosode have lived off the forest, cultivating a few crops and hunting tortoises and boar. However, the destructive forces of civilization are drawing ever closer.

Hemmed in on all sides, with their ancestral lands being bulldozed to make way for cattle ranches and soy plantations, some Totobiegosode have emerged from the forest to ask for help. Others have been kidnapped and forced into slavery. As the outside world closes in, it brings diseases to which the tribe have no built up immunity. In recent years a tuberculosis epidemic has cut swathes through the community and cost many lives.

Nobody can be certain how many of the Totobiegosode still survive in the depths of Gran Chaco Forest or what the future holds for them. However, there was some good news in 1996 when the Ayoreo people were granted the land rights to 100,000 hectares of the Gran Chaco Forest. However, they believe this is less than half what may be needed to ensure the survival of their most isolated kin in the forest.

The struggle for land continues, and after a hard-fought, protracted battle the legal rights to another 18,000 hectares was secured from the government in 2019.

2. The Yanomami Tribe

The Yanomami Tribe are another of the isolated tribes that call the Amazon Rainforest home. However, their culture is rather different to most of the others. This is most apparent in that they don’t have any leaders. Rather than take orders from a chief, the tribe get together to discuss any important decisions that might need to be made. The outcome is only decided when group consensus is reached.

Around 20% of the Yanomami tribe’s diet is made up of the monkeys, birds, armadillo, and deer they hunt with bows and arrows. However, the hunter himself will never eat anything he has personally caught. It is instead shared out amongst others.

While the hunting is done almost exclusively by the men, the women use their extensive knowledge of the forest to gather berries and edible insects. It’s believed that they regularly make use of more than 500 different types of plants with which to provide medicine, body paints, dyes, poisons, and even hallucinogenic drugs.

In keeping with a hunter gatherer lifestyle, a typical working day of just four hours is enough to provide the Yanomami with everything they need to survive and thrive.

So far the Yanomami have fared better than many of South America’s isolated tribes, and it’s believed there are still around 35,000 of them living in up to 250 scattered villages across Brazil and Venezuela.

1. The Sentinelese

North Sentinel Island is a scrap of land covering barely more than 23 square miles. It can be found in the Bay of Bengal, just a few hundred miles from India, the world’s second most heavily populated country. Despite this, North Sentinel Island is one of the most remote and mysterious places on the planet.

Only a handful of outsiders have ever set foot on the island, and even fewer have made it off alive. It is home to the Sentinelese Tribe, arguably the most isolated tribe of anywhere on Earth, and somewhat paradoxically also one of the most famous.

Very little is known of the Sentinelese people. We don’t even have any clear idea of how many of them there are, with estimates ranging between anything from 15 to 500 individuals.

Their island home is under the protection of the Indian Government, which periodically attempts to take a census from the air. This is all that can be attempted; the Indian authorities have made it illegal to set foot on the island without permission, and permission to visit is almost never granted.

The law is designed not just to protect the islanders, who have no natural immunity to many common diseases, but also for the safety of any prospective explorers. The Sentinelese have shown little desire to interact with the wider world, they are skilled archers, and when they feel threatened they are prepared to defend themselves with force.

In 2018 this remote tribe became headline news across the world. An American missionary named John Chau paid local fishermen to illegally transport him to the island, where he intended to convert the locals to Christianity.

While there is no question that his actions were well intentioned, he placed both himself and the Sentinelese people in terrible danger.

Chau’s diary entry records that he offered gifts, only for a young boy to fire an arrow that struck his waterproof bible. The young American retreated but unfortunately failed to heed what was a very clear warning. His diary records that he determined to make another attempt to approach the Sentinelese people.

Sadly, his determination cost him his life. The Indian authorities concluded it would be too risky to attempt to recover his body.


Out of the Way People

WIF Tribal Travel

Curious Europe on a Dime – WIF Travel

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Interesting Facts

About Europe

Isn’t it scary how many people don’t know if Europe is a country or a continent? Wow…
What kind of expectations should we have from the poor, ignorant people if even the president called Europe a country?!

Now, let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wanted to say “countries like in Europe” and not “countries like Europe”

But it is a continent and a quite enchanting one at that.

10. Istanbul, the City of Two Continents

Since ancient times, Magical Istanbul has united Asia and Europe through the mighty Strait of Bosporus. Without a doubt, this amazing city is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world bridging two continents. Istanbul was Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, a program initiated by the European Union.

Throughout history, the city has been the capital of many empires. Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

If you are considering breakfast in Asia and lunch in Europe, Istanbul is the place for you!

9. Europe’s Most Famous and Active Volcanoes

Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. With a maximum elevation of about 3350 m, Mount Etna is a stratovolcano situated in Sicily, southern Italy.

The tallest European volcano is actually one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna erupted again this year and one of the most recent eruptions occurred at the end of July. You can look for updates on this topic browsing the website of Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia. An English version is available. The volcano’s eruptions have been documented since ancient times, more exactly since 1500 BC. It’s the longest period of documented eruptions in the world.

Stromboli is also one of the planet’s most active volcanoes. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie), a volcanic archipelago off the coast. According to specialists, Stromboli is the only active volcano on the European mainland.

Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption that completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, last erupted 67 years ago, in 1944.

Vatnajökull (Iceland) is the largest European glacier in volume and underneath its ice-cap are at least seven volcanoes located.

8. The Largest/Smallest Country in the World

Image result for vatican

Europe is home to both the smallest country in the world, Vatican City State

(Stato della Città del Vaticano), and the largest, Russia (by both population and area). China is the country with most neighbors (15), followed by Russia (14) and Brazil (10).

According to the CIA World Factbook, Russia’s area compromises 17,098,242 sq km (land 16,377,742 sq km; water 720,500 sq km), while Vatican’s area is only 0.44 sq km. The Vatican City State is a UNESCO world heritage centre, the only site to encompass an entire state.

7. The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. Sapanta, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sapanta is a unique cemetery and a major touristic attraction.  What is so unusual about it? The atypical design of the tombstones. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood. They are painted by hand in vivid colors such as red, blue, green, yellow and engraved with funny epitaphs briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these persons passed away.

The man behind this concept is Romanian craftsman Ioan Stan Patras, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian’s ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. Sapanta preserves this positive attitude towards death and welcomes it with a smile.

6. The Statue of Liberty was Constructed in France

 

Unknown to many of us, the famous Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi. The colossal neoclassical sculpture was constructed in France and given as a gift of friendship to the United States of America. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the brilliant French engineer behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris, made the statue’s steel framework.

The total overall height of the statue  is 305 feet, 6 inches, and the seven rays on Lady’s Liberty crown represent the seven continents.

Replicas of Lady Liberty have been created all over the world, the most famous being located in France.

5. Europe, the Meaning

Image result for europa myth

According to ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess. She was the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre. Zeus felt in love with Europa, so he decided to appear in front of her as a magnificent white bull to gain her trust. Zeus’s power of metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology.

The princess climbed on the bull’s back and was immediately carried to Crete, where Zeus revealed himself to Europa in all his glory. The king of Gods and Europa had three children – Sarpedon, Minos and Rhadamanthys.

Etymologically speaking, the word Europe comes from ancient Greek and means broad, wide-gazing, broad of aspect.

4. The Mediterranean Was Once a Desert

Image result for Messinian Salinity Crisis

In the last 40 years solid evidence has been found that the Mediterranean Sea frequently dried up completely in the past. The event is also known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The amazing story of the discovery is told in “The Mediterranean Was a Desert, Voyage of the Glomar Challenger”  by Kenneth J. Hsu.

According to Rob Butler, “the ‘Salinity Crisis’ in the Mediterranean represents one of the most dramatic examples environmental change outside of glaciated areas in the relatively young geological record.”

3. Greatest Empires

Many of the greatest empires in history were based in Europe. The British Empire was at one time the largest empire in the world. It covered more than 36 million square kilometres and had a population between 480 and 570 million people. At the peak of the Empire’s power, it was said that the “sun never sets” on it, because the sun was always shining on at least one part of the Empire. It covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface.

Other notable colonial empires were the Spanish Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire, the Portuguese Empire etc.

The Roman Empire, a pre-colonial empire, often described as the cradle of modern civilization, was one of the world’s most successful empires.

2. The Longest Names

Image result for Llanfair

Prepare yourself for some of the longest names officially recognized. It is hard to beat Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the M?ori name for a hill in New Zealand, but let’s give it a try.

A village in Wales, United Kingdom contains 58 letters and is the longest European one-word place-name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.” The shorter version of this name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Check out these other unusually long names: Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, located in Finland, Siemieniakowszczyzna in Poland and Newtownmountkennedy in Ireland.

1. Age of Migrations

The “Age of Migrations” remains one of the most unknown facts about Europe. There was a period in history, also called the Migration Period, when various tribes flooded Europe.

The first phase of the migration movement came to an end around 500 AD, when the Germanic tribes (Franks, Goths, Saxons, Vandals, Lombards etc.) established their own kingdoms in Central, Western, Southern and SE Europe. This period was followed by the second phase of the Migration Period ((ca. 500-700 AD), the migration of the Slavic people.

The invasions of the Avars and Bulgarians, the Muslim Conquest of Sicily, the Hungarian Invasions and the invasion of the Vikings are other important moments in European history.

This is how the rich course of history has shaped and defined Europe’s peoples and their intangible culture over the centuries.


Enchanting Europe on a Dime

WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 116

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 116

…“My Great-Great Grandfather Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged in London for dismembering his wife.”…

“I have a million credits stored up in my account and it’s burning a hole in my purse. I believe that you need new swim/tennis shorts and my bikini has a strap that is about to let loose.”

“You don’t have to buy me stuff, I can get by.”

“Not with me! And I’ve always wanted to have a guy to buy things for.”

“What about Larry?” He dares to go down that road.

“Let’s not go there. I am not in a good spot on that subject.”

“As long as you deal with him straight-up, after all you did agree to marry him somewhere along the line.”

“He knows where I stand Roy. I walked out on the station, violated my contract, and told him I was leaving the country with you. I think he gets the hint. If that makes me a coldhearted bitch, then so be it.”Related image

“Hey, I’m not trying to push my luck and I certainly do not want you to change your mind. If you are a coldhearted bitch, then I guess that I have taken a liking to coldhearted bitches.”

“C-H-B is harsh, but I’m not that same cutthroat TV reporter who called NASA out of the blue. It appears that you’ve made an honest woman out of me.”

“Speaking of acronyms, c-h-b you’re not, F-blank-B stands for what?”

“Nothing.”

Francine Nothing Bouchette… boy your parents had low expectations.”

“I didn’t get a middle name; in fact I changed my name for television. In my high school yearbook, Francesca Boucheletta was voted “Most Likely to Be Famous”, but no way that was going to happen with an Italian name like that; sounds more like a wine & appetizer.”

“An Italian with a French name?”

“How about you Roy?” He wasn’t to get off that easy.

“My Great-Great Grandfather Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged in London for dismembering his wife.”

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen

Francine immediately does an Internet search for the name, “I do not see the family resemblance.”

“I don’t know about that, but my parents did not want me to go to medical school… and I get queasy at the sight of blood, but I do like a bloody Mary from time to time and it is noon somewhere… want to join me F blank B?”

“The best place to find out about a new town is to talk with the bartender. We need to see what’s happening around here.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 116


page 110

Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


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Did You Hear About the…? – WIF Urban Legend

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Strange – World

As a species, human beings share a love of stories. Some are based on real events. Others are pure fiction, and in some cases the line between the two can be blurred or uncertain.

Urban legends tend to fall into the latter category, but they can be found in some form in every culture and society.

These are 10 examples of some of the stranger urban legends to be found.

10. Killer Electric Fans

South Korea is amongst the most scientifically advanced nations on the planet. Despite this it’s also home to a peculiar modern day urban legend that has little or no scientific support.

Some South Koreans believe that leaving an electric fan switched on overnight can be fatal. It’s not entirely inconceivable that an electric fan might on very rare occasions malfunction and catch fire, but this isn’t what believers are worried about. The fear is that anybody who goes to sleep in a closed room with an electric fan running might never wake up.

While this particular urban legend is almost entirely unique to South Korea, and while there’s very little evidence to back it up, it’s none the less prevalent enough that even major fan manufacturers issue warnings not to leave fans pointed at people overnight.

It seems that the roots of this particular urban legend can be traced back to 1927, when an article was published warning that electric fans circulating stale air could lead to nausea or even suffocation.

9. The Zambezi River God

In 1955 an Italian construction firm began work on the Kariba Dam on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River. It would produce huge amounts of hydroelectric power, but at the cost of forcing thousands of locals from their homes and their land.

Some warned that the Zambezi River God would be angered into unleashing floods and dire retribution. This serpent-like creature known as Nyaminyami is said to inhabit Lake Kariba and act as protector of the Tongan people.

The Kariba Dam engineers weren’t concerned. The giant structure’s defenses were designed to withstand anything up to a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

Despite their confidence, in 1957 the dam was hit by that thousand-year storm. Damage was extensive and several Italian construction workers were killed. Construction was delayed by several months until work could begin again.

In defiance of all their calculations a second even larger flood followed just one year later. Several more workers were killed, their bodies falling into the dam’s still-setting cement from where they could not be recovered.

Construction of the dam was finally completed, but not before 82 construction workers had lost their lives. Some believe the completed dam has cut the Zambezi River God off from his wife, and that even to this day he is working to destroy it.

If so then he seems to be making progress. Engineers warn that the Kariba Dam is now in dire need of extensive repairs and at risk of collapsing entirely, with catastrophic consequences.

8. Spring-Heeled Jack

With a population in excess of two million people, 1830s London was the most populous city in the world. It was a global hub of science, invention, and innovation, and in 1829 it introduced the first professional police force anywhere in the world.

Despite all this London was a city in the grip of fear. A mysterious figure was attacking young women across the city, and the police seemed powerless to apprehend him.

It wasn’t even clear if the menace was human. Eyewitnesses reported him as having a demonic appearance, the ability to spit flames, and even leap huge distances in one bound. He came to be known as Spring-heeled Jack.

Mass hysteria presumably played a part, but fear of Spring-heeled Jack was very real. The newspapers, who knew a juicy story when they saw it, were only too happy to run articles on this shadowy character.

In 1838 a man named Thomas Millbank, somewhat worse for wear in a London tavern, boasted that he was none other than the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack. He was promptly arrested for the attack on a victim named Jane Alsop. However, he soon had to be released. Jane Alsop remained adamant that her assailant had breathed flames. If Millbank had indeed been able to manifest this ability, he stubbornly refused to do so.

Whether there ever was a single real person behind the legend of Spring-heeled Jack is difficult to say for sure, but the legend lives on and occasional sightings continue to be reported even to this day.

7. The Black Bird of Chernobyl

The mere mention of Chernobyl is enough to conjure up feelings of unease. The name is inextricably linked to the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen, and it’s seared into our collective consciousness as something dark and terrifying.

Most people know the story well enough. A nuclear reactor in the Soviet power plant melted down, and only good fortune and heroism prevented a far greater disaster that would have rendered much of Europe uninhabitable.

The supernatural aspect of the story is less well known. Thousands of people were evacuated after the meltdown, but many still speak of a horrifying apparition that appeared as a harbinger of disaster.

In the weeks leading up to the catastrophe they claim to have seen a terrifying humanoid creature with huge wings, and eyes that glowed like hot coal. This airborne apparition came to be known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl.

Whether this was an urban legend created after the disaster or whether it has some basis in reality is impossible to say for certain.

6. The Deadly Drop Bear

Australia is home to some of the deadliest animals in the world. If the snakes, spiders, jellyfish, and the lethal blue-ringed octopus weren’t enough, there’s also the drop bear.

The creature is said to be a relative of the koala, but considerably less appealing. Roughly the size of a leopard or a large dog, drop bears are ambush predators.

They live in the forests where they hide in the canopy waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass beneath. Dropping from the trees they use their powerful arms and venomous bite to subdue their prey, and sometimes even attack humans.

In reality the drop bear is an urban legend created to scare and amuse tourists, and occasionally play pranks on unsuspecting journalists. Curiously enough, however, during the last Ice Age Australia was home to a carnivorous marsupial that lived and hunted from the trees, similar to the mythical drop bear.

5. Bodies in Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney is one of the world’s most famous cities, and it seems to be Australia’s hot spot for urban legends. If they are all to be believed then there is a secret network of tunnels beneath the streets, a hidden lake populated by giant albino eels, escaped big cats on the loose, and even a prehistoric river monster.

Other urban legends are linked to Sydney’s architecture, such as Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The bridge opened in 1932 and became famous across the world. However, its construction came at a cost in human lives. The official figures state that sixteen people were killed in falls, construction accidents, and in one case from tetanus after suffering a crushed thumb.

Local legend has it that this is not the full tally of fatal accidents. Several workers are rumored to have fallen into the structure as it was being built. Since these dead bodies would be bad for publicity, not to mention difficult and expensive to retrieve, their grisly demise may have been covered up.

4. The Wendigo

In November 2019, Gino Meekis was hunting grouse in the forests of northwest Ontario. Whilst there he heard a wailing noise unlike anything he’d encountered in more than twelve years of hunting.

Gino was sufficiently unnerved to pull out his phone and take a recording, and that subsequently sparked an online debate as to what exactly was responsible for the eerie noise.

One suggestion was a grizzly bear, but that species had never been sighted in the region. Others speculated it may have been a wendigo.

Bumping into a grizzly in the forests is dangerous, but it would be vastly favorable to an encounter with this terrifying supernatural beast.

The Wendigo of legend is said to be fifteen feet tall with a stinking, rotting, emaciated body. Its lips are tattered and bloody, and it’s haunted by a constant hunger for human flesh. The beast is constantly hunting for victims, but no matter how much it eats it can never satisfy the craving.

This monstrous creature has made its way into modern medical parlance. The thankfully rare psychological condition of Wendigo Syndrome is characterized by a desire to consume human flesh.

3. The Rock Star’s Parakeets

There are plenty of urban legends surrounding animals or beasts whose existence is questionable at best.

This one is slightly different as it concerns tens of thousands of parakeets that have made their home in London’s parks.

The parakeets definitely exist, but they equally definitely aren’t indigenous to Britain, and nobody is entirely sure where they came from.

One popular suggestion is that Jimi Hendrix is responsible. He’s said to have released two of the birds, Adam and Eve, into the skies of London whilst stoned in 1968. The multitude of parrots now resident in England are said to be descendants of this first pair.

The idea has even been investigated by researchers at Queen Mary University. Unfortunately, whilst it’s possible that Hendrix may have added to the parakeet population, they concluded the birds are too widespread to all be descended from a single pair.

2. Aka Manto

The yokai are a group of supernatural beings and monsters that populate Japanese folklore. Varied in their appearance and temperament, some are benevolent, others are cruel, and one has an unusual predilection for women’s bathrooms.

Descriptions of Aka Manto’s appearance varies, but he is always depicted as wearing a mask and a red cape. The supernatural being is said to periodically appear in public or school toilets offering the occupier a choice between red and blue toilet paper.

Neither of these is a good option. Choosing the blue paper results in being strangled to death, but opting for the red paper is no better and leads to death by laceration.

Aka Manto is also wise to anyone who might try to trick their way past him by requesting different colored toilet paper to the ones he offered. Their fate is to be dragged off to the underworld and never seen again.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Politely declining Aka Manto’s offer of toilet paper will cause him to leave in search of another potential victim.

The legend of Aka Manto can be traced back to at least the 1930s, and he’s said to be still haunting public toilets to this day.

1. NASA’s Billion Dollar Pen

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite into space. It didn’t do anything other than whizz around the planet emitting regular beeps, but it was sufficient to spark a hugely expensive space race with the United States of America.

America would claim victory by landing men on the moon in 1969, but there were a huge number of challenges to overcome before that point could be reached.

Even something as simple as writing proved to be problematic in space. It turned out that regular pens just didn’t work in zero gravity.

The American response was to begin a lengthy research project and sink billions of dollars into a solution. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union took a cheaper but far more straightforward approach and used pencils instead.

Many people are aware of this story, but it’s not actually true. It’s an example of a particularly successful urban myth, one that’s now so firmly embedded in our collective psyche it’s unlikely to ever go away.

The reality is that the American space program, just like the Soviet one, initially switched to using pencils. When a pen was developed that could be used in space, it was designed independently of the U.S. Government or military by an inventor named Paul C. Fisher.

NASA approved them for use in space and purchased a grand total of 400 of them at the modest price of $2.95 each. The Soviet space agency bought some too.


Did You Hear About the…?

WIF Urban Legends

Masquerade Merrymaking – WIF Into History

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Infamous Impostors

in History

For most of us, the idea of pretending to be someone else day in and day out sounds exhausting, if not impossible. Not for everyone, though. Some people slip into a new identity as easily as you slip into a new pair of shoes. In fact, history is full of impostors who donned new guises and successfully pretended to be someone else entirely for money, power, or, in some cases, just for fun.

8. Lord Gordon-Gordon

The real name of Lord Gordon-Gordon is lost to history, but we know that he was a 19th century British con man who was successful in impersonating a Scottish landowner. He swindled many people, most notable being one of the richest men in America, the notorious railroad magnate Jay Gould.

When the con man decided to adopt the guise of a Scottish aristocrat around 1868, he became Lord Glencairn in London. With the right look and the proper demeanor, he slowly gained the trust of others and persuaded them to grant him money loans or services on credit. When the fraud was exposed in 1870, Lord Glencairn disappeared from London and Lord Gordon-Gordon emerged in America.

There, he was even more successful as real Scottish lords were few and far between. He was aided by the fact that Gordon-Gordon was able to deposit tens of thousands of dollars in a bank. It was the money left over from his British swindles, but it instantly gave him credibility.

He settled in Minnesota and announced his intention to invest in railroads. This way, he made the acquaintance of Jay Gould and convinced him that he owned a lot of stock in the Erie Railroad. Keen to do business together, Gould gave him half a million dollars as a sign of good faith – some in money, the rest in stock. This was intended as a guarantee – Lord Gordon-Gordon was only supposed to hold onto the money, not spend it. However, when he began selling stock shares, Gould realized he had been swindled. The industrialist tried to settle matters in court, but the “lord” fled to Canada.

This almost caused an international incident as Gould’s associates crossed the border and tried to kidnap Gordon-Gordon to bring him to justice. They were caught and arrested and a U.S. militia wanted to invade Canada to secure their release.

The con man thought himself safe in Canada, but authorities eventually decided to extradite him. Not wanting to face prison, Lord Gordon-Gordon shot himself on August 1, 1874.

7. Wilhelm Voigt

On October 16, 1906, a German captain walked into an army barracks in Berlin and commandeered ten soldiers who accompanied him by train to the town of Köpenick east of the capital. There, the captain placed the mayor and the treasurer under arrest for embezzlement and confiscated over 4,000 marks from the local treasury as evidence. At first, this sounded like a typical corruption bust, but there was a catch – the “army captain” was just some guy dressed in uniform who changed in his civilian clothes and left with the money.

His name was Wilhelm Voigt. In his late 50s at that time, he had spent half his adult life in and out of prison for various crimes. In 1906, he assembled a full captain’s uniform by buying various used parts from different shops around Berlin. He looked, walked and talked like an officer and, for German soldiers, that was enough apparently. They followed his orders without question, even the sergeant who allowed his men to travel with Voigt.

The impostor was caught ten days after his impersonation and was sentenced to four years in prison. However, unlike most other con men, Voigt’s brazen actions amused the public, both in the German Empire and abroad. He became regarded more as a folk hero than a criminal and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him after two years.

Voigt was keen to take advantage of his newfound popularity and began making appearances in theaters, restaurants, amusement parks, and wherever else he was welcomed. Decades later, the memorable affair even became the subject of a play called “The Captain of Köpenick.”

6. John Deydras

One day in 1318, a one-eared man walked into Beaumont Palace in Oxford and declared himself to be the true Edward II and, therefore, the rightful King of England.

This man’s name was John Deydras, sometimes recorded as John of Powderham, and all we know about his past is that he worked as a clerk and may have been the son of a tanner. According to his story, though, he was actually the son of Edward I, better known as Edward Longshanks. However, when he was an infant, a sow bit off his ear while he was playing in the castle courtyard. Fearing that she would be severely punished for her carelessness, his nanny substituted him with another boy from the village who ended up becoming Edward II of England.

Of course, Deydras had no proof for this wild story and modern historians opine that the man was likely mentally ill since making such an accusation was basically a death sentence back then. However, Edward II was said to have been amused by Deydras and, given that nobody took the story seriously, the king may have even wanted to spare the man and keep him as his court jester.

Unfortunately, Deydras really picked the wrong time for his little stunt. Edward was deeply unpopular at that time for his military failures against the Scots led by Robert the Bruce. Moreover, his wife, Queen Isabella, was “unspeakably annoyed” by Deydras and wanted him gone. Not surprisingly, though, she wasn’t nicknamed the She-Wolf of France for nothing.

As a result, Deydras was arrested and tortured. He confessed that the whole thing had been a lie, claiming that he had been put up to it by his cat who was actually a demon. Both man and feline were executed.

5. Cassie Chadwick

Elizabeth Bigley was a 19th century Canadian swindler who ran cons ever since she was a teenager. She started off with some minor forgery before moving to the United States where she pretended to be a clairvoyant in several different cities. She also married twice, each time under a different pseudonym, but neither marriage lasted long and, eventually, Bigley was sentenced to nine years in prison for forgery in 1889.

She was paroled in 1893 and went to Cleveland where she adopted the name Cassie Hoover. A few years later, she became Cassie Chadwick after marrying again, this time to a wealthy, respected doctor named Leroy Chadwick. This new relationship granted Cassie access to some of Ohio’s richest and most influential people and, with the unwitting help of one of her husband’s friends, Chadwick embarked on her most ambitious con.

In 1897, she took a trip to New York City. There, she met an aquaintance of Dr. Chadwick, a lawyer named James Dillon. Cassie asked him to accompany her on an errand and the man obliged. Together, they traveled to Fifth Avenue and stopped in front of one of the most lavish buildings in the entire city. It was the mansion of Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world. Chadwick went inside while Dillon waited in the carriage, puzzled over what business she could possibly have in there.

In reality, all Chadwick did was ask to speak with the head housekeeper under the pretense of checking the references of a maid she wanted to hire. She never met Carnegie, but that was irrelevant to the con – all that mattered was that she spent some time inside his house.

When she left, Dillon obviously asked about her business. Chadwick confessed that she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie and even showed the lawyer some promissory notes (forged, of course) worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, also mentioning that she stood to inherit millions more. She swore Dillon to secrecy, knowing full well that the attorney would tell everyone in Ohio.

Once her story was out, Chadwick found it easy to secure massive loans from every bank she walked into. She was counting on the fact that nobody would be so bold as to ask Carnegie about an illegitimate daughter and she was right…for a while. Chadwick kept her scam going for seven years. Then, in 1904, a banker demanded she pay back a loan worth almost $200,000. She was unable so the banker asked Carnegie who said he had no idea who Cassie Chadwick was. She was convicted of fraud and died in jail a few years later.

As far as Andrew Carnegie is concerned, we did an entire video about him on our sister channel, Biographics, so check the link in the description if you want to learn more about him.

4. Lambert Simnel

The death of King Edward IV of England in 1483 led to one of the most enduring mysteries in English history – the fate of his two sons, the so-called Princes in the Tower. When they were 12 and 9 years old, respectively, they were locked inside the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who took the throne for himself and became King Richard III. He was killed two years later at the Battle of Bosworth Field, putting an end not only to his reign, but also to the House of York and the Wars of the Roses. After him came Henry VII, first king from the House of Tudor.

As for the two princes, it is generally accepted that the two died in the tower, but there have been people who emerged claiming to be one or the other and, therefore, the rightful heirs to the throne.

One of these people was Lambert Simnel who, curiously, was hailed as not one, but two different heirs. As a boy, Simnel was under the care of a priest named Richard Simon who became convinced that his pupil came from royalty. At first, he proclaimed that the boy was Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger of the two princes who survived his incarceration in the tower. Later, he amended his claim, saying that Simnel was actually Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, a different member of the House of York who had been imprisoned by King Henry VII as a young boy.

Unbeknownst to most people, Simon included, the real Edward Plantagenet was still alive inside the Tower of London and it would be over a decade until he was actually executed. However, Simon’s claim was convincing enough that Lambert Simnel was taken to Ireland where he was crowned King Edward VI and an army was raised to dethrone Henry. The two sides met in 1487 at the Battle of Stoke Field where Simnel’s supporters were decisively defeated.

Fortunately for Simnel, King Henry understood that the boy was simply a puppet used by people to rally Yorkist supporters. Therefore, he pardoned Simnel and allowed him to work in the royal kitchen. When he got older, he became a falconer before disappearing from the history record.

3. Fred Demara

Known as “the Great Impostor,” Fred Demara adopted numerous identities and spent most of his lifetime pretending to be someone else. Some of his alter egos included a psychologist, a biologist, a law student, a Trappist monk, a teacher, a dean of philosophy, a prison warden, and, most shocking of all, a naval surgeon who actually performed medical procedures during the Korean War.

It won’t surprise you to learn that we don’t know a lot of accurate information about the lifelong swindler as most of the details surrounding him were provided by Demara himself after he sold his story to Life magazine. He was born Ferdinand Waldo Demara in 1921 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Allegedly, he had a very high IQ and a photographic memory which helped him take on identities that often required a higher education. His family started off rich, but lost it all during the Great Depression which convinced a teenage Demara to run away from home and embark on his life as a professional impostor.

It would seem that the two career paths that genuinely appealed to Demara were as a monk and a military man. He joined several monasteries and military branches throughout his life, but never lasted more than a few years in each before running away and starting over again.

When Demara joined a religious educational group known as the Brothers of Christian Instruction, he met a Canadian doctor named Joseph Cyr. He later adopted Cyr’s identity and secured a position as trauma surgeon aboard the Canadian destroyer HMCS Cayuga during the Korean War. Apparently, he was successful in performing sutures, minor surgery, and, on one occasion, even extracting a bullet from a chest wound.

After Demara became a minor celebrity in the late 1950s, he found it much harder to assume new identities. Instead, he tried living as Fred Demara and parlayed his newfound fame into a few TV appearances and even one movie role in the 1960 horror film The Hypnotic Eye.

2. George Psalmanazar

George Psalmanazar is the only known alias of a Frenchman who purported to be a native of Formosa who both dazzled and horrified 18th century London with tales from his homeland.

The man was born sometime around 1679 in southern France. Whilst traveling through Europe, he adopted the guise of an Irish pilgrim. However, people could often tell he was lying, so he decided he needed something more exotic. He then pretended to be a Japanese heathen, but later switched to something even more far-flung and claimed to be a native of the island of Formosa, known today as Taiwan. He even began practicing strange rituals and eating unusual food which was enough to convince most Europeans that he was from someplace far, far away. On his travels, he met a Scottish chaplain named Alexander Innes who “converted” him to Christianity, christened him George Psalmanazar and brought him to London.

The stranger’s story proved popular in England. He claimed to have been kidnapped from his native land by Jesuits who then imprisoned him for refusing to convert to Catholicism. This played well in a country where anti-Catholic sentiment was high, only enhanced by Psalmanazar’s conversion to Anglicanism.

In 1704, the Formosan wrote and published a book titled “An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island Subject to the Emperor of Japan.” It was a hit, although most of the facts were either fabricated, exaggerated or taken from travel reports of other civilizations. It contained a fake language, a fake calendar, and fake religious ceremonies performed to worship the Sun and the Moon.

Most shocking were Psalmanazar’s claims of how common cannibalism and human sacrifice were in his society. According to him, the Formosan High Priest Gnotoy Bonzo commanded 18,000 boys under the age of 9 to be killed each year so that their hearts could be offered as sacrifices. The rest of their bodies were eaten. To ensure a steady supply of children, men were allowed to take on as many wives as they wanted.

Of course, the Formosan fascination only lasted a couple of years before people moved on to the next craze. This eventually prompted Psalmanazar to confess that the whole thing was a fraud, but he suffered no serious consequences for his deception. He even had admirers, most notably the playwright Samuel Johnson, who appreciated his success as an impostor.

1. The False Dmitris

The end of the 16th century brought a succession crisis in Russia known as the Time of Troubles. It started in 1598 after Fyodor I died without heirs. This prompted the appearance of several pretenders to the throne all known as False Dmitry because they all claimed to be the same person – Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible.

The real Dmitry died in 1591 when he was only 8 years old under controversial circumstances. He was killed by a stab wound – some say he was assassinated, others that the young prince accidentally stabbed himself during a seizure. A few years later, a third story arose purporting that the alleged assassins killed a different boy while the real Dmitry was hidden away, waiting for the opportune time to return. This version opened the door for people to come forward as the rightful heir to the throne.

The first False Dmitry appeared around 1603 in Poland-Lithuania. He was the most successful of the bunch. He gained the backing of the Polish lords and found plenty of Russian supporters as well. He raised an army and intended to challenge Tsar Boris Godunov, but there was no need for this. In 1605, Godunov died of an illness. His teenage son, Fyodor II, became the new tsar, but only lasted a couple of months before being assassinated and replaced with Dmitry.

False Dmitry reigned for almost a year, but he had his own enemies who plotted against him. One of them was Vasili Shuisky. He convinced the people of Moscow that Dmitry was planning to massacre them with the help of his Polish followers. They stormed the Kremlin and killed Dmitry and, according to legend, cremated his body and shot the ashes out of a cannon towards Poland.

Shuysky became Tsar Vasili IV. In 1607 came False Dmitry II who was accepted as the real Dmitry by Tsaritsa Marina, the wife of the first False Dmitry who, presumably, would have accepted anyone to gain back her power. He actually assembled a large army and had several military successes, but was killed in 1610 while drunk by one of his own followers.

Lastly came False Dmitry III. He gained the allegiance of the Cossacks, but was betrayed by a group who kidnapped him and took him to Moscow in 1612 where he was executed. The crisis, as well as the line of False Dmitris, ended a year later when Michael I became the new Tsar of Russia, thus beginning the 300-year reign of the House of Romanov.


Masquerade Merrymaking

WIF Into History

Sick Puns #40 – WIF Wit and Humor

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Diseased (Sick) Puns

 

The flipside of contagious gum disease is an infectious smile.

 

Which illness are witches most prone to? Crone’s disease.

 

When Wally discovered he had Lyme disease he was really ticked off.

 

The mathematician did not practice safe six and ended up with a binarial disease.

 

She could only compose music in 3/4 time. She had waltz timer’s disease.

 

The retired track official has started forgetting things. He has old timer’s disease.

 

He liked to study infectious diseases. It was in his blood.

 

Don’t kiss birds or you may get an untweetable canarial disease.

 

Chronic illegal parkers suffer from parking zones disease.

 

Those who write about disease become ill-literate.



Sick Puns #40 –

WIF Wit and Humor

 

Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate – WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

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Your Brain

is Crazier

Than You Think

The human brain is, so far as we know, the most complicated thing in the universe. It exists in the lonely darkness of the skull, but by interpreting electrical signals from the senses it’s able to build up a detailed picture of the world around it.

Quite how accurate this picture is, and how closely one person’s version of reality matches with that of another, is not known for sure. It is nonetheless an impressive trick.

There’s still a great deal we don’t understand about the human brain, and it may well be that we’re never going to be smart enough to figure it out completely.

We do know that a lot of strange and extraordinary things are going on inside our heads. These are ten reasons why your brain might be crazier than you think.

10. Your Brain’s too Complex for a Supercomputer

Japan’s K computer is one of the fastest and most powerful supercomputers in the world. Its 88,000 processors are capable of an astonishing 10.51 quadrillion computations per second, and it chews its way through roughly the same amount of electricity as a medium-sized town.

Since becoming operational in 2011, at which point it was ranked as the fastest computer in the world, the machine’s capabilities have been harnessed for medical research, disaster prevention, and modelling climate change. In 2014 it was used to create the most accurate simulation of a human brain’s activity ever attempted.

Only a mere 1% of the brain’s entire neural network was simulated, anything more would have been too much even for a machine as powerful and sophisticated as the K Computer. Even then it required some heavy lifting, and it took the Japanese machine some 40 minutes to replicate just one second of brain activity.

The K Computer is due for retirement in August 2019, having been surpassed by ever faster and more powerful machines. Even these are not yet capable of replicating the complexity of the human brain.

9. Memory Capacity

In 2007 a Canadian named Dave Farrow broke a world record when he successfully memorized a sequence of 3,068 playing cards.

While this is an extraordinary achievement, particularly for those of us who struggle to remember where we left our keys, it only scratches the surface of the human brain’s memory storage capacity.

Until recently this was believed to come in at somewhere around one and ten terabytes, but recent studies suggest the true total is several orders of magnitude greater.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe the average human brain can store over a petabyte of data. That’s the equivalent of 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text, or around 2% of the total number of written words in every language in all recorded history.

Much of this capacity is devoted to such things as ensuring you don’t wake up having forgotten how to read a book or drive. By necessity, only a fraction of the remainder is available to you at any one time. It would be enormously inconvenient if you had to trawl through your memories of everywhere you’d ever been to work out where you lived.

8. Half a Brain can be Enough

Human brains are by no means the largest brains in the world. That particular distinction belongs to the sperm whale, whose brains are around six times as heavy as our own. However, comparing brain size with body mass is a far better indication of intelligence. By this measure the humble tree shrew comes out on top, with humans placing in second.

Surprisingly, it’s possible to remove an entire hemisphere of a human brain with no negative impact on the individual’s intelligence or memory.

In rare cases surgeons have no option other than to perform a hemispherectomy in order to prevent a patient’s seizures. In an adult this would be catastrophic, but the outcomes for children who undergo the procedure at a very young age are surprisingly positive. Their brains are able to adapt in a way that an older brain could not.

A recent study found that not only are most of the children who underwent the procedure seizure free, many were thriving. One had even gone on to become a state chess champion.

7. You Might Not Have Free Will

It seems obvious that humans have free will. We make thousands of decisions every day, and every time we act on these decisions we experience free will first hand. There is, however, a strong case to be made that free will is nothing more than an illusion conjured by our brains.

While it used to be believed that mind and matter were two separate entities, we can now say with a good deal of confidence that mind does not exist independently. The brain seems to be entirely material, which suggests that it must obey the law of causality – that every effect must have a specific cause.

This leaves little or no room for free will. Any decision we make or action we take is an inevitable result of the brain state which immediately preceded it, going back to even before the moment we were born.

This sounds odd, but it’s an established fact that humans are terrible judges of their own behaviour. They can be manipulated into acting in a certain way; when asked why they have done so they will subconsciously post-rationalize the action and insist they had made a decision based on their own free will.

The question of whether free will really is an illusion is far from settled, and a new $7 million study has just been launched in an attempt to come to a definitive answer.

6. Brain Plasticity

In 2014 a Chinese man visited his doctor’s surgery in Great Britain complaining of headaches and strange smells. Scans revealed a parasitic worm burrowing its way through the unfortunate man’s brain, and doctors believed it had most likely been in there for as long as five years.

That he had been able to function for so long with such relatively manageable symptoms is testament to the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganize and rewire itself.

Whenever we learn a new skill, or even form new memories, the brains physical architecture remodels itself. The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with spatial navigation, is significantly larger in London taxi drivers than in the average person. Differences in brain structure have also been found between musicians and non-musicians.

The brain’s 90-billion or so neurons are linked by trillions of connections. Learning a new skill forms new links, while recalling a memory strengthens existing links. Our brains are constantly changing, adapting, and forming new connections. It’s this brain plasticity that means stroke victims are often able to make a full recovery despite suffering permanent damage to parts of their brain.

5. Your Brain Might be a Secret Genius

For 31 years Jason Padgett’s existence was relatively unremarkable. He worked as a futon salesman, and his free time revolved around drinking and picking up women.

That all changed in 2002 when he became the victim of a vicious, unprovoked assault outside a nightclub. Padgett managed to stagger to a hospital across the street, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a severe concussion.

Padgett’s life would never be the same again. The violent attack had somehow unlocked a previously untapped ability in his brain.

Whereas previously he had shown no particular interest or aptitude for mathematics, the attack had transformed him into a mathematical genius. Even the way he saw the world had been profoundly changed. It looked as though it was pixelated, and everywhere he looked he saw complex mathematical shapes known as fractals.

While Padgett’s experience was extremely unusual, it wasn’t entirely unique. There are other instances of people suffering a brain injury, only to come into possession of extraordinary new abilities.

Acquired savant syndrome is rare, with only a few known cases across the world. But some scientists believe almost any human brain could potentially be rewired to unlock the genius within.

4. You Remember the Past all Wrong

Our memories are fundamental in determining our sense of self. Without them we would be both literally and figuratively lost in the world. Considering their profound importance to us, it’s surprising just how unreliable our memories are, and how little we know about how they are formed.

Conventional wisdom has it that memories are recalled through connected neurons across the brain all firing at the same moment. Other research suggests that memories physically reside within brain cells.

However it’s done, the results aren’t terribly reliable. Memories aren’t recorded perfectly ready to be retrieved with total clarity at some future date.

According to research conducted by neuroscientists such as Daniela Schiller, each time we recall an event our memory of it is brought into an unstable state within the brain. When it is stored back into memory again our recollection of that event is slightly altered.

We use our memories to tell ourselves a story of who we are, but our source material is deeply unreliable.

3. When You Go on a Diet, Your Brain Eats Itself

The human brain is made up of something in the region of 90 billion neurons. Until recently it was believed that all of these are present from birth. We now know that through a process called neurogenesis it is possible for even adult brains to create brand new neurons. This is good news as we’ll lose plenty of neurons as we navigate our way through life.

Obesity, smoking, alcohol, and cocaine have all been linked with killing off brain cells and even physically shrinking the size of the brain, and a recent study suggests that even dieting can cause the brain to cannibalize itself.

Despite only weighing about 3 pounds, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy, and when there’s fewer calories than expected coming in it doesn’t seem to much like it.  The neurons start cannibalizing each other, which sends out an urgent message to the body that it needs to eat something in the very near future. This explains why losing weight can be so difficult.

2. Your Brain Doesn’t Have Pain Receptors

When our bodies suffer physical injury, pain receptors fire warning signals up the spinal column to the thalamus, which serves as the brain’s sorting house for sensory signals. The message is then passed on to the regions of the brain that deal with physical sensation, thinking, and emotion. This results in the deeply unpleasant sensation of pain.

If the brain itself is injured, this doesn’t happen. It doesn’t have any pain receptors of its own. This means it’s quite possible for surgeons or neuroscientists to poke around in somebody’s brain with them fully conscious and in no discomfort. The patient is then able to assist doctors in mapping out the brain, helping to ensure no damage is done during the operation.

One Brazilian man named Anthony Kulkamp Dias even kept himself entertained by playing guitar whilst undergoing brain surgery.

1. Synesthesia can be Learned

Synesthesia is a condition that causes two or more of a person’s senses to become mixed up. One of the most common types is to perceive numbers as having a particular color. However, it comes in a wide variety of flavors, such as tasting words or perceiving the days of the week as having specific personalities or appearances.

The condition is often associated with particularly creative people. The famous physicist Richard Feynman saw equations in colors, and this may have helped him win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1965.

Around 1-in-300 people are born with synesthesia, but it’s possible to train your brain to experience it. A study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom had subjects read books where certain words appeared in a certain color.

After several weeks of training most of the group reported seeing those colors even when reading standard black text. However, it seems the effects were not permanent, and within a few weeks the synesthesia had worn off.


Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate –

WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #128

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #128

…Caught in a lie, the manager nervously shuffles unrelated papers, “Oh my, yes, here you are… from Tallahassee, Florida, lovely area, Florida…

Pan American Mailing Card

…eth·nol·o·gy – the study of the characteristics of various peoples and the differences and relationships between them…

Ethnology

Herbert Love, with his typically calm demeanor, steps in to ask, “If President McKinley were to reserve rooms, would you ask him for a deposit?”

“Preposterous! We do not have time for this nonsense.”  

“Please answer the simple question.”

 “If he were to stay here, which is unlikely, no we would not.”

  “I recommend you check your records closely, because these rooms were reserved by the White House. If you would like, ring up the Statlers Hotel and speak to the President’s chief of staff.”

Caught in a lie, the manager nervously shuffles unrelated papers. “Oh my, yes. Here you are… from Tallahassee, Florida, lovely area, Florida. You have the entire eighth RightlyProudfloor, our best rooms. How did we miss that, O’Reilly? Please have dinner on us, uh, uh this evening for your inconvenience.”

   “No sir, we has promised to eat with the Presidint, we has,” chimes in a rightly proud and vindicated Willy Campbell.

  “Perhaps to-to-tomomorrow?” he stammers.

  “We like our grits with pork gravy,” punctuates John Ferrell, emboldened by leverage.

  “Grits, pork, yes, anything else?”

  “Yes, as a matter of fact,” says Harv, finishing what he started, “we would like Mr. O’Reilly here to serve us.”

  “But I’m not schedul–” He is cut short.

 “Yes you are. I will take over for you while you train for waiting tables,” corrects the manager.

Palace of Horticulture

The Palace of Horticulture

This is quite a study in prejudice; North and South, white and black. Suitable and that which is definitely not, is what the Pan-American Exposition is all about. In a rapidly shrinking world, the importance in understanding cultures of other countries and principalities may be the only thread that can hold a delicate weave together.

What is keeping the United States concurrent? There is a lot to be said for the greatest democracy the world has known, knowing what the alternatives are. The cries for freedom, religious and personal, as set forth in the Constitution, are reverberating from coast to coast, Canada to Mexico… with the possible exception of the Hotel Niagara lobby.

Do they live in a perfect world? No, but human beings are, with their sinful nature irrevocably in place, far from it. God created a perfect planet, giving it day and night, water and land and creatures for each. Then came man. There goes perfection.


Alpha Omega M.D.

“Put me off at Buffalo!”

Episode #128


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #73

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #73

…”Young lady, people, no matter what color,” Martha Asserts, “are not meant to be property of a fellow human being – period, and end of subject”…

Abigail-001

Back to the real world. Abigail and James manage to maintain a several-step-stagger for their stairway decent, for appearance sake at least, that they may not have been spending quality time exploring bodily nooks & crannies.

Introductions are made, though one is not needed. Herb Love is her rescuer, warmly received – kind of a stabilizing influence.

Rescue-001 Willy Campbell is another story. She is startled to see him. He immediately reverts to his subservient roots, dropping his head to avoid eye contact.

And she is bright enough to make the connection between her late father’s former slave and Herbert Love; awful recollections, previously buried beneath tons of denial. The destruction of Fort Sumter South, flood back to the present.

‘The Campbells is gone!’ are the cries she remembers hearing that fateful day, more than a year hence.

“You killed my father!” is Abbey’s cry now. “You killed my father and destroyed our lives.”

“I weren’t there, Miss Abigail, I swear!” Willy scrambles to explain.

  “Yes, I believe you are correct, Willy Campbell. You were not there and because Justice2-001you were not, the rest of our people revolted against us and burned and pillaged and killed every white man they could lay their hands on… including my own Father. Why, why… why!!!???,” she asks futilely as she beats her small hands against the chest of the obviously dismayed black man.

Herbert Love steps to Willy’s defense, pulling the distraught girl away. She is detached from reason, to the point of not responding to even her dear James’s loving touch.

“You are all in this together, aren’t you. It makes sense to me now!” Her alleged co-conspirators are guilty of nothing, excepting a deep-seated dislike of the “business as usual” in the south that they treasure. “You just happened to be passing by that day? I think not, sir. I remember seeing every one of you, just like it were yesterday!”

“We did not intend for any harm to come to your father. There was no way to know what effect the freeing of the Campbells would have on others,” Love appraises. He is not in the business of apologetics.

You had no right stealing our property!” she furthers.

“Young lady,” Martha sternly asserts, “people, no matter what color, are not meant to be property of a fellow human being – period, and end of subject.”

“You have slaves, Joseph and his helpers.” Abbey tries to make a weak connection.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong! Joseph is a paid foreman and is free to leave if he no longer likes his job or position.” Martha is fighting the girl’s preconceived notions. “Take Olla, for instance. She left out our house for different situation. She did not even bother properly explaining why she wanted to leave, but that is not the point. The point is, is that she wanted to leave, free to keep her money, in her name at the Lewis State Bank as a matter of fact

… Free is the key word. Were the Campbells or any of the others, free to leave? … I will answer for you in your mute ignorance. NO! If you would take the time, look at things long and hard you might get a clue as to why you are clinging to archaic belief system.”

Abigail Smythwick-Ferrell shrinks in the face of Martha’s human rights passion. She falls to the floor in a heap, like her legs had suddenly turned to gelatin. The shock of recurring lost memories has sapped her strength. James rushes to her side, cradling Abbey’s head, stroking her long, light brown hair.

Martha Ferrell retrieves smelling salts from her handbag, opening the tiny jar and waving it in front of the young woman’s nose. Ammonia inhalants, along with subconscious realization cause her to stir, to the great relief of all.

Sometimes pain must precede progress.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Abigail-001

Episode #73


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