Walking Like an Egyptian – WABAC Into History

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Horrifying Facts


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.


 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.

Walking Like an Egyptian

WABAC Machine2-001

– WABAC Into History

WABAC to the 1st Grammy Awards

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"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?


“Let’s attend the very 1st Grammy Awards, Sherman My Boy.”

1st Ever Grammy Awards Held.

No Rock and Roll!


Spin the disks of history

On May 4, 1959, the first ever Grammy music awards were held, with no category for rock and roll despite the fact that this new type of music had already long taken the country by storm.

The big winners with 2 Grammys apiece were: Ella Fitzgerald (Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female and Best Jazz Performance by an Individual, for compilations of a Irving Berlin song and a Duke Ellington song, respectively); Henri Mancini (Best Arrangement and Album of the Year, both for The Music from Peter Gunn); Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., better known by his stage persona of David Seville, (Best Comedy Performance and Best Recording for Children, both for “The Chipmunk Song”); and Domenico Modugno (Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “Volare“).

The only award in the Best Country and Western Performance category went to The Kingston Trio for their hit “Tom Dooley.”  Other major categories included Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male, which was won by Perry Como for “Catch a Falling Star,”  and Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus, which was won by Keely Smith and Louis Prima for “That Old Black Magic.”

The winners who most closely approached rock and roll were The Champs with “Tequila” for which they received the Grammy award for Best R&B Performance.

In all, only 22 Grammys were awarded that first year, far fewer than the 83 categories recognized in 2015.



WABAC to the 1st Grammy Awards

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

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"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?


“Let’s go back to 1885 Germany and check out the 1st gasoline engine, Sherman My Boy.”

 Daimler Patents the Gasoline Engine


Fill ‘er up…

On April 3, 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler had his internal combustion engine that was fueled by gasoline patented, paving the way for the development of what would become the main type of automobile engine.

Where is the hood?

Only 5 years later, fellow German Rudolf Diesel patented the rugged engine that bears his name, and the second most prevalent automobile engine was born.

Even before Daimler and Diesel, other Germans had done pioneering work in regard to engines. Siegfried Marcus patented his version of the internal combustion engine in 1864 and later patented a type of magneto used in all subsequent gasoline engines.  Nikolaus Otto patented his “Otto Engine” in 1876, the first practical 4-stroke-cycle engine.  Karl Benz was granted a patent for his two-stroke engine in 1879 and, in 1886, received the first patent for an automobile.  And later, in 1929, Felix Wankel patented his first rotary engine and, in the 1950s, developed it into a useful engine, lighter, smoother and more powerful than conventional engines.  Unfortunately, emissions standards forced changes to the Wankel or rotary engine and kept it from taking a larger chunk of the automobile market.

Although Germans did not invent fuel injection, German engineers certainly developed it further for their aircraft engines during World War II and continued the trend with gasoline-driven cars after the war.

With premier manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (Daimler-Benz), Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW (For some strange reason, I have run into many folks who think this abbreviation stands for “British Motor Works.”  It does not.  It stands for Bavarian Motor Works or, of course, the German equivalent.), German cars and engineering are generally the most respected and desired in the world.  Opel, another German automaker, has been in business since 1862 and building cars since 1899.  Today it is a subsidiary of General Motors and is designing and building cars that are sold under other GM nameplates such as Buick, Holden and Vauxhall.  The developer of high-speed highways (the autobahn), Germany needs cars capable of safely tripping along at high speeds with the handling to complement the power, and that is exactly what they produce.

Other countries also make powerful cars, and some of these cars even handle fairly well, but no other country makes cars with the panache of the German automakers.  You could buy a fancy Italian sports car for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will it be as reliable as a Porsche?  Will it be as safe in an accident as a Mercedes?

Ok, I admit I “buy American”!

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

WABAC to Real Life Adventurers

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"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?

Real Life Adventurers

Who Make Indiana Jones

Look Boring

Dr. Henry Thomas Jones, better known as Indiana Jones, is one of the most beloved film characters in history. While both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have said that Dr. Jones isn’t based on anyone specific, there are a few people who had amazing adventures in the pursuit of knowledge, and who risked life and limb just to satisfy their own curiosity. So while none of the people listed here carried a bullwhip, they all faced dangers for the sake of preserving history.

“Let’s start with 1922 Africa, Sherman My Boy.”

10. Wendell Phillips


Born in 1922 and achieving his degree in paleontology in 1943, Wendell was 27 when he went on his first expedition to Africa. His most famous expedition came a year later — he led a team to a remote part of the Arabian Desert, in what’s now known as Yemen. The expedition, sponsored by none other than Dodge and Coca-Cola, led to Phillips and his team excavating two major sites. The first was the Qataban Kingdom of Tinna. The other was Marib, which was apparently the home of the Queen of Sheba.

When the crew went to Marib, they left an area controlled by Britain. Not only did they have to do delicate excavations in an inhospitable environment, they had to do it while watching out for tribesmen. One man was beaten with rifle butts, while another was held captive for 28 days. They were finally run out when the tribesmen started firing rifles over their heads. Phillips never returned to Marib, but his findings showed how important the Middle East incense market was thousands of years ago.

9. Qadir Temori


In 2007, the Afghan government sold copper mining rights to a Chinese mining company. To get to the $100 billion worth of copper, they have to go through the Mes Aynak archeological site. Mes Aynak is the home of a 2000-year-old Buddhist city and relics that date back 5000 years.

When the mining rights were sold, only 10% of the site had been excavated. So Qadir Temori, the head of the Afghan archaeological department in Kabul, knew that it was up to him and his team to race the clock and excavate as much as they could. With pressure from the Chinese company, Temori and his team also had to avoid run-ins with the Taliban and deal with their own hostile government. The site was set to be destroyed in 2013, but the plan was pushed back to the end of 2015. Temori and his desperate excavation process was featured in a documentary, Saving Mes Aynak.

8. Farish Jenkins


Born in 1940 in Manhattan, Farish Jenkins was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps before he attended Yale. He graduated with a PhD, and while his title said he was a paleontologist, he had a berth of knowledge in areas that included anatomy, zoology and vertebrate paleontology. After graduating he became a professor at Harvard, where he was known as a charming and charismatic teacher. His personality wasn’t the only thing that made Jenkins a colorful character — he was also known for wearing his Czechoslovak rabbit-fur hat, sporting a pocket-watch and carrying a flask of vodka and a gun.

His fieldwork took him to Africa, where he got a picture beside a black rhino. After the picture was taken the rhino charged at him, but he was able to make it back to his vehicle without being injured. He also traveled to northern Canada and Greenland to collect fossils, all while dealing with extreme weather and polar bears. While these expeditions were dangerous, they were also quite successful. One of his major finds was a fossil known as Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million year old fish with legs, rudimentary ears and a snout. It serves as a clue as to how creatures started living on land instead of water.

7. Jim Patton


Jim Patton has been the curator at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkley for over 40 years. Throughout Patton’s career he’s traveled to remote parts of the world to study mammals, and along the way he’s been shipwrecked five times. The first and most dramatic wreck happened off the coast of Mexico in 1966, while he was still a student. He and a Mexican fisherman were on a small rowboat when they were caught in a downpour that nearly sank their boat. The boat ended up smashing against the rocks in a cove, where they were stranded for 10 days and forced to survive on rats. Another time, off the coast of Costa Rica, his boat caught fire in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He spent a day on a life raft with 13 other people. His final shipwreck happened in 1992 in a river in the Brazilian Amazon, when his boat sunk in less than a minute. So while he may be a great adventurer and curator, you may not want to get on a boat with him.

6. Ivan Šprajc


Despite modern technology, there are still many areas in the world especially in South America, that remain unexplored. Due to the denseness of the Amazon rainforest, most expeditions need to be done on the ground. The man who’s leading many of the most successful searches is Ivan Šprajc, an Associate Professor at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Šprajc went to university in Mexico, where he got his PhD in anthropology. He’s since gone looking for Mayan ruins any time he gets funding.

Hacking through dense jungles with a machete isn’t without its perils. During his treks, he has come across jaguars and pumas, but the biggest dangers are poisonous snakes and insects. The lattre can infect people with leishmaniosis, which causes terrible skin sores, and Chagas disease, which can be life-threatening. While there are many dangerous aspects of his job, Šprajc says, “It’s tough work, but it’s dead romantic.”

5. Hiram Bingham III


Hiram Bingham III was born in Hawaii and earned a PhD from Harvard. In 1906 he began exploring remote areas of South America, and in 1907 he was appointed lecturer at Yale.

His most famous find was in 1911 when he was hiking in Peru searching for Vitcos, the last capital of the Incas. Bingham’s Peruvian guide offered to show him some ruins he knew about, so they made a trek that involved crossing a log bridge tied together with vines. Then they had to climb a steep mountain slope.At the top, 2000 feet above the river below, they came across a series of walls. It was the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. While there’s some controversy over whether Bingham was the first Westerner to find Machu Picchu, he was definitely the first to go public. Today it’s a World Heritage site, and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites ever discovered.

4. William Montgomery McGovern


Born in 1897 in Manhattan, William Montgomery McGovern spent most of his childhood in Asia. As a child, his mother took him to Mexico just to witness the revolution. For schooling, he received a divinity degree from a Buddhist temple in Kyoto when he was 20, then got his PhD from Oxford at 22. He also had a knack for languages — he spoke 17 of them and wrote an instructional book on colloquial Japanese.

After finishing school, McGovern set out to explore remote parts of the world. His first adventure had him travel to the “forbidden city” of Lhasa in Tibet. He crossed the Himalayas, but during his trek there was a snowstorm and he came down with dysentery. Yet he was able to sneak into the city by wearing a disguise — he darkened his skin with walnut juice, put lemon juice in his blue eyes to make them darker, and wore the clothes of a servant. That made him one of, if not the first Westerner, to ever make it inside the city. Once in, he told government officials who he was and that he was sick. They hospitalized him, but when the local monks found out that an outsider had snuck into the city, they surrounded the hospital and threw rocks at it. McGovern put his servant’s disguise on, left the hospital and joined the angry crowd in hurling rocks.

Just a few years later, he spent two years looking for Incan ruins in the Amazon and the Andes. McGovern lost one of his crew-members to drowning, and on another occasion McGovern was forced to shoot a 28-foot anaconda that was charging their boat. At some point McGovern and his crew were forced to live off of monkey meat, and he also participated in a ceremony with a Native tribe that involved drinking a hallucinogenic concoction.

After his years as an adventurer, McGovern settled down and became a professor at Northwestern at the age of 32. He taught Political Science and, because of his unique knowledge of Asia, he was a special adviser to President Roosevelt during World War II. He died at the age of 67 in 1964.

3. Percy Fawcett


Born in 1867, Percy Fawcett came from a family of adventurers and explorers. Prior to Fawcett’s excursions, he was a member of the Royal Artillery and then went to work with the British Secret Service. In 1901, he started studying map-making with the Royal Geographical Society. In 1906, he set out on his first of seven trips to South America. He made some important geographical discoveries and incredible headway in mapping out previously uncharted areas of the continent. He saw things that were amazing to people of the early 20th century,like a 62-foot anaconda, a double-nosed Andean tiger-hound and giant Apazauca spiders. His reports about his trips to the Amazon inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a friend of Fawcett’s, to write The Lost World.

Fawcett is most famous for his theory about the Lost City of Z. After looking at local records and legends, he thought there was a lost civilization hidden somewhere in the Brazilian Amazon. Financed by a group called “The Glove,” Fawcett, his oldest son Jack, his friend Raleigh Rimell and two Brazilian laborers set off on April 20, 1925 in search of the Lost City. On May 29, Fawcett sent a telegraph to his wife. That was the last anyone saw or heard of Fawcett and his crew.

Since then, many adventurers have tried to trace Fawcett’s footsteps to find out what happened. It’s believed that they either succumbed to to illness or were killed by natives. A fringe theory is that Fawcett never planned to return to Britain, but instead wanted to set up a cult in the heart of the Amazon.

2. Roy Chapman Andrews


Born in Wisconsin in 1884, Roy Chapman Andrews finished his schooling in 1906 and got a job at the American Museum of Natural History. His main area of interest was marine life, and he traveled to places like Alaska, Indonesia, China, Japan and Korea to observe life and collect bones. During his travels he narrowly escaped death no less than 10 times — he was almost torn apart by wild dogs, he had a nasty encounter with a python and he was nearly killed by bandits.

Andrews really gained fame with his expedition in the Gobi Desert. On the first expedition they found dinosaur bones, the first time dinosaur fossils were found north of the Himalayas. On their second expedition they found mammal fossils from around the same time period, which are incredibly rare. On the third expedition, Andrews and his team made a groundbreaking discovery — fossilized dinosaur eggs. Experts had long thought that dinosaurs laid eggs, but there had been no evidence of it.

These expeditions weren’t without their dangers either. In one instance, Andrews was coming back from a supply run and was driving down a steep slope. At the bottom there were four bandits on horses holding rifles. Andrews sped up and scared off three bandits, before pulling up to the remaining man and shooting a hole through his hat. Another incident involved vipers that made their way into their camp — Andrews and his men ended up killing 47 snakes that night.

Andrews wrote several popular books about his expeditions, and in 1934 he became director of the American Museum of Natural History. He retired in 1942, and passed away in 1960.

1. Otto Rahn


One of the possible main influences for Indiana Jones was a German named Otto Rahn. Rahn is a bit of a legendary figure, and no one’s really sure what stories about him are true. Born in 1904, from a young age he was obsessed with the Holy Grail, the cup that collected Jesus’ blood as he was crucified. While in University, Rahn became convinced that a small Christian sect called the Cathars, living in what is now France, had the Grail. They were massacred in 1244, but from his research Rahn believed that three Cathar knights escaped. So in 1931 Rahn travelled to Languedoc, where the Cathars lived and died, and found a complex series of caves that had been used as an underground Church.

Rahn wrote a book about his travels and called it The Crusade Against the Grail. The book caught the attention of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. Like Rahn, Himmler was obsessed with finding the Grail. He wanted Rahn to join the SS, who would fund his search. Himmler was dead serious — he had a castle prepared to house the Grail.

So Rahn, who was openly homosexual, joined the SS, telling a friend that he couldn’t exactly turn down a request from its leader. Rahn hunted for the Holy Grail without success, and Himmler grew frustrated. After Rahn was involved in a drunken sexual escapade with another man, Himmler sent him to be a guard at Dachau. What Rahn saw at the concentration camp disgusted him, and he sent his resignation to Himmler. That went about as well as you’d expect.

In March 1939 the SS went kill Rahn, and he was apparently given the option of committing suicide. So he climbed to his favorite spot in the Tyrol Mountains and ingested poison. The 34 year old was found dead the next day. Rumors and legends persist that Rahn didn’t really die, but tricked the Nazis and escaped to live out the rest of his life in Italy.

WABAC to Real Life Adventurers

WABAC to Women in Aeronautics – You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

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"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?

“Let’s head for 1910 France and watch the 1st female pilot get her wings.”

First Woman Issued Pilot’s License


Look up to see…

On March 8, 1910, the Aero-Club of France issued pilot license #36 to Raymonde de Laroche, making her the first licensed female pilot in the world.  Although sometimes referred to as the first woman to fly an airplane, it is likely that 2 other women had flown before her.  Note: A female aviator is also called an “aviatrix.”

Can it be?

Laroche had been born Elise Raymonde Deroche in France in 1882.  Despite the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, the fervor over the new aeronautical industry was in Europe, not North America, and Laroche took her keen interest in the new sport to Chalons, east of Paris, where she undertook training.  When she made her first flight, it was a solo flight as the crude airplane could only fit the pilot.

Although legally able to fly, La Roche was not permitted to fly for France duringWorld War I and instead drove officers to and from the front, often under fire.

Obviously, flying was a dangerous activity in those early years, and Laroche had been seriously injured in a plane crash in 1910 and again in an automobile crash in 1912.  Not dismayed, she continued her flying and after the war, she picked up where she had left off, becoming a test pilot.  During that time, she achieved some records for altitude and distance flying.

Unfortunately, her career came to a quick and early end in 1919 when an experimental airplane she was either flying or flying in crashed, killing both her and the other pilot.

A statue of Laroche stands at Le Bourget Airport, and her feats were celebrated March 6-12, 2010 on the 100th anniversary of her earning a pilot’s license when over 225 girls and women were introduced to planes and piloting.  Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is timed to coincide with March 8 and was created to honor the contributions and accomplishments of women in aviation. (Note: International Women’s Day also falls on March 8 of each year.)

WABAC to Women in Aeronautics

– You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

Roman Language Leftovers – WABAC to The Rubicon

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"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?

“Let’s go back to the time of the Emperor Ceasar and try not to fall on your gluteus maximus.”
“Do I have one of those?”

Words and Phrases We Got

From the Romans 


Roman roots

On January 10, 49 B.C., Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River as he marched toward the city of Rome with his legions.  Since it was forbidden to cross the Rubicon with an army, it was seen as a threat to the Republic, and by doing so, Caesar made a bold statement about his intentions to seize power.

Ever since, when we say someone has “crossed the Rubicon,” we are talking about someone who has taken a fateful and irreversible step, such as when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Unearthing Italy

The Romans also gave us the Latin jacta alia est which translates into “the die is cast,” a meaning similar to crossing the Rubicon in that it describes events that  have already been set in motion and cannot be stopped or undone.   Unlike many other Latin phrases, usually we say this one in English.  Another phrase used in English rather than Latin and attributed to Caesar is, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Have you ever heard about a man being “worth his salt?”  This is another one of those Latin sayings that is more commonly repeated in English.  Some Roman soldiers were paid in salt which was a valuable commodity those days, and a worthy person who rightly earned his pay was said to be “worth his salt.” Nowadays, this description sounds so much better than “worth his minimum wage.”

Many legal, scientific and academic terms are largely derived from Latin and are still said in Latin.  Examples include: habeas corpus; pro bono, corpus delicti; quid pro quo; pro rata; in situ; in utero; rara avis; pro tem; ad hoc; id est (ie.); exempli gratia (e.g.): and et cetera (etc.)  Even the scientific classifications of plants and animals are in Latin.  Those sexy Roman devils also gave us some of our sexual lingo such as: coitus interuptus; fellatio; cunnilingus; labia; mons pubis; and pizza (don’t ask!).

The Romans also left a legacy of entire languages, with Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian (well, duh!) being descended from Latin and known as “Romance Languages” because of their Roman origin.  (I have not checked to see if “New Jerseyian” as an Italian dialect is considered to be a “Romance Language.”)

We also inherited the names of some of our months and days from the Romans as well as architectural terms such as aqueduct (aqueductus) and collosium (Coliseum) and medical and biological terms such as Caesarian section and gluteus maximus.  Latin influences are everywhere!  What would the Catholic Church do without Latin?  Speak Esperanto?

Of course, there are so many more examples of Latin used in English and other modern languages and societies.  If you missed seeing any of your favorites in this article, mea culpa!

Roman Language Leftovers

– WABAC to The Rubicon

Rock ‘n Rollin’ with WIF

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"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?

“I feel like shaking my tail, Sherman MY Boy. Let’s go to the 1st Rock and Roller in 1959 New York City.”


November 21, 1959: Alan Freed, Originator of the Term “Rock and Roll” is Fired 


Let Rock ‘n Roll

Into some real music history

On November 21, 1959, music DJ and rock and roll legend Alan Freed was fired by WABC in New York for refusing to sign a statement that he had never taken “payola,” bribes from record companies to play and promote certain records.

Freed is credited with being the man who popularized the term “rock and roll” while he worked as a DJ and song promoter in Cleveland.  In the 1950s, he appeared in movies that brought rock to the big screen, and he even had his own television show similar to what American Bandstand later became.  Sadly, his television show was cancelled after only 4 episodes because Frankie Lymon of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers could be seen dancing with a white girl in a crowd scene!alanfreed2

After his 1959 firing, he became a broken man, unable to get another high profile job.  In 1962, he was charged with bribery and was convicted of 2 counts, receiving a fine and suspended sentence.  Three years later, at age 43, he died of uremia and cirrhosis, probably from alcoholism.

Alan Freed is fondly remembered by the rock and roll community and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with the first group of inductees in 1986.

Rock ‘n Rollin’ with WIF

Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs

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"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?

“I have an itch I need to scratch, Sherman My Boy… set our time machine to 1957 Texas, the sight where hundreds of people saw an egg shaped UFO.”
“I didn’t know eggs could fly.”

The Levelland UFO Case


Just what’s up?

On November 2, 1957, the North Texas prairie town of Levelland (population around 10,000 at the time) was the scene of one of the better documented UFO incidents.  Numerous witnesses reported seeing an extremely bright object, often described as egg shaped and 100 feet long, often at or near the ground.

Looking skyward…

Among the witnesses were many credible people, including the fire chief and the local sheriff.  Some witnesses reported that the bright object landed or hovered on the road in front of their cars, causing the cars to experience electrical and motor problems such as dashboard gauges going wild, lights going out and engines sputtering or even dying.  Some witnesses reported a bright red object going across the sky at high speed.

The U.S. Air Force was contacted and sent a team from Project Blue Book out to investigate. (Project Blue Book was an ongoing Air Force investigation of UFO incidents from 1952 to 1970.  Previous studies had been started in 1947.)  The investigation team discounted some of the witnesses as not reliable due to confusion and/or poor education, and their official conclusion was that the remaining witnesses had been experiencing “ball lightning,” also known as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” the weather that evening of the incident being ideal for it.  That was their explanation for the visual phenomena as well as the effects on automobiles.

Prior to closing Project Blue Book, the Air Force produced The Condon Reportsummarizing the events that had been compiled and recorded and concluded that there had been no evidence found of extraterrestrial activity.

Critics of the investigation of the Levelland UFO and of Project Blue Book find it questionable that the Air Force did not interview 9 of the 15 witnesses and that the incident was not mentioned it in the project’s final report.  Outside investigators claim the alleged ball lightning was not the cause of the phenomena, as their study of weather reports indicated no sign of an electrical storm or conditions favorable for ball lightning.  They also expressed their doubt about the ability of ball lighting to cause electrical disturbances and to even stop cars.

Did the Air Force cover up yet another UFO incident?  Are the folks in Levelland good intentioned but deluded at the same time?

Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs

SEA Where the WABAC Takes Us

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"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?

“Let’s Sea where the WABAC takes us, Sherman My Boy.”

On September 1, 1952, The Old Man and the Sea, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ernest Hemmingway novel,  was first published.  Many great novels have centered on ships and men at sea.  In the Marine Corps we used to say, “The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is the fairy tale starts Once upon a time, while the sea story starts This is no sh*t!”  Here 10 great sea stories involving the tales of sailors and seamen and their ships are listed.  What tales would you add to the list?

Over the Bounding Mane……

10. The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk, 1951.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning fictional story of a mutiny against a captain whose crew believes he is nuts would rank higher if it were not so depressing.  Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the movie (1954) and did such a great job that he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

9.  The Raft, Robert Trumbull, 1942.


This book is a true story of 3 US Naval aviators who had to ditch their plane early in the Pacific War (World War II) and their subsequent struggle for survival as they waft on an 8-foot by 4-foot inflatable raft for 5 weeks.  Of course they probably survived for this book to be written, but any more details are left to you to find out in the 213 pages of the book.

8.  HMS Ulysses, Alistair MacLean, 1955.

MacLean got his inspiration for this book while serving in the Royal Navy in World War II during which time he made a couple of arctic voyages.  This story is a tale of the harrowing conditions sailors experienced on the arctic convoys, fighting the weather even more so than U-boats or bombers.  After reading this novel, arctic convoy duty will not sound romantic anymore.

7.  The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway, 1952.

Hemingway wrote this tale of an old Cuban fisherman who goes out on his small boat alone to fish with a handline.  Down on his luck, the fisherman needs a decent catch to survive, and he manages to hook the fish of a lifetime.  His battles with the enormous fish, his victory and then the long trip back to as sharks take bites  off of his mighty marlin have an aura of sadness that is hard to describe.  At least he manages to impresses the townspeople with the carcass of the giant fish.

6.  Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen, 1982.

This great movie was based on a 1973 novel by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim.  It gives a powerful and compelling depiction of life at sea that captures the closeness and squalor of the conditions on a U-boat during World War II and especially the terror and hardships the men went through.  You may never want to go on a submarine after watching this, but you will have a bit more respect for those who do.  Recommendation:  Watch the German-language version with English subtitles.  It gives a better feel for the urgency and despair in the voices of the officers and men.  Honorable mentions to Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward Beach and The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy.

5.  The Horatio Hornblower Series, CS Forester, 1945-1966.

This epic 12-book series details the career of a Royal Navy officer from midshipman to admiral during the Napoleonic Wars (mainly).  Forester (a pen name) also wrote The African Queen (1935), another good boat book that was made into a classic movie (1951).

4.  The Odyssey, Homer, c. 800 B.C. 

While Odysseus and his men make their way back to Greece after the Trojan War, they experiences a nightmarish 10-year voyage in which they visit all sorts of magical lands and encounter all kinds of natural, supernatural and “whatevernatural” entities that hinder their journey.  The egotistical Odysseus (Ulysses as he is known in Latin) makes things harder than they have to be, and he ends up being the only one to make it home.  Many parts of the story have made their way to film, including an exceptional television version starring Armand Assante in 1997.

3.  Mutiny on the Bounty/Men Against the Sea/Pitcairn Island, Nordoff and Hall, 1932.

This trilogy follows the men of the HMS Bounty, a medium-sized sailing vessel.  In the first book, the HMS Bounty is on an assignment to transport breadfruit trees from the South Seas to the Caribbean.  The tyrannical Capt. Bligh (played by Charles Laughton 1935, Trevor Howard 1962 and Anthony Hopkins 1984) pushes and punishes his crew until they can take no more and finally mutiny.  The second book chronicles the struggles of Capt. Bligh and his loyal men as they are adrift in a small boat as they attempt to make their way back to England.  The final book tells the story of the Bounty mutineers as wanted fugitives and the life they try to make for themselves.  All books are based on true events but highly fictionalized.  In the three movie versions mentioned above, Fletcher Christian, the main mutineer, is played by Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.

2.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne, 1870.

This novel is the quintessential submarine story and has been made into a movie more than once.  Captain Nemo and his ship Nautilus are so famous that the first US Navy nuclear sub was named the USS Nautilus.  Verne, a visionary, managed to describe technology that did not even yet exist at the time he wrote the book.  Nemo and his ship show up again in another Verne book, The Mysterious Island (another must read).  Both books are novels you wish would never end.

1.  Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, 1851.

Moby-Dick is the story of an enormous and mighty white whale and a peg-legged captain who is obsessed with him.  The opening line of the book, “Call me Ishmael,” is one of the most famous introductions ever.  It may be a long book, but it is never boring.  Incredibly, although the book was not successful for many years following initial publication, it now is regarded as one of the greatest American novels of all time.  Even D.H. Lawrence considers it the greatest of all sea stories.

SEA Where the WABAC Takes Us



The WABAC Machine – Wasted Military $$$$$$

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"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?

“Well Sherman my Boy, today let’s hopscotch around the globe looking for kool military-type stuff.”

10 Weapons That Never (Or Barely) Went into Service


It seemed like a good idea……

On March 25, 1958, the Canadian supersonic interceptor, the Avro Arrow made its first flight. Designed to fly at Mach 2+ it seemed like a good airplane, but was mysteriously cancelled prior to production, with all partly assembled units and prototypes destroyed.  Other promising weapons have suffered the same fate, some of which may well have been effective while others faded away due to insurmountable problems.  Here are 10 weapons that are distinguished by their novelty, size, or unrealistic projected abilities.  Tell us the never deployed weapons you think should be on this list.

Uncovering the waste…..

10. Avro Arrow.

A supersonic interceptor designed to shoot down Soviet bombers with air to air guided and un-guided missiles, including nuclear armed missiles.  Designed and built in Canada, with possible markets in Europe as well, it was cancelled abruptly with inadequate explanation resulting in much speculation as to the reasons why.  Since the feared Soviet bomber attack never came, the Arrow would never have fulfilled its mission even had it been built.

9. Nakajima Kikka.

Based on the successful German Me-262 turbojet fighter, the Kikka was developed too late to be used against US bombers, and of the 20 or so examples made, only 2 were complete enough to have flown.  Not quite as big or as capable as the Me-262, the Kikka still would have been an improvement over the piston engine fighters Japan was fielding toward the end of the war and may have taken a serious toll on allied aircraft and ships.

8. Project Habakuk.

A British idea to use sawdust mixed with ice (called pykrete after inventor G. Pyke) to form an enormous unsinkable aircraft carrier intended for use against German U-boats in World War II.  Such a vessel would perhaps start as a natural iceberg smoothed flat and coated with pykrete, hollowed out to house aircraft and crews.  Requiring a length of at least 2000 feet in order to accommodate heavy bombers, further requirements that the “ship” be torpedo proof and able to withstand any wave the ocean could throw at it made development extra difficult and time consuming.  Engine pods would be mounted on the sides, but designers never did figure out how to steer such a sea monster.  Nowhere near as stupid as it first sounds, this project might have gone into production if it had been ready before the war ended.

7. P-75 Eagle.

General Motors got into the airplane business with what would have been an impressive piston engine (propeller driven) fighter plane in World War II, but like so many weapons, events moved faster than the airplane could be developed and only 13 of the 2500 ordered were ever made.  Kind of a composite of several previous aircraft rolled into one, the Eagle would have been fast (433 mph) and climbed like nothing else, as well as having a devastating 10 X .50 caliber machine gun armament.  By the time it would be ready for mass production the war would be over or nearly over and the current production of P-51 Mustangs was not only adequate to do the job, but much cheaper as well.  In any case, jet aircraft would make the Eagle obsolete even as it rolled off the assembly line.

6. Panzer VIII Maus.

Designed by the Germans in World War II as the largest tank (or any enclosed armored land vehicle), this monstrosity weighed over 200 tons (US) and stood 12 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and over 33 feet long!  Armed with a 128 mm main gun and an additional 75 mm gun (and a machine gun for protection against enemy foot soldiers) the Maus had an impressive 1200 horsepower engine to move it along at only 8 mph. Oh, and it would only travel 40 miles off road before running out of fuel.  Weighing nearly as much as 4 fearsome Tiger tanks, you might think the Maus (German for mouse) would not be cost effective or efficient, especially since no normal bridge could hope to support its weight, but Adolf Hitler was fascinated by outlandish and huge weapons so it probably would have been produced if the Soviets had not overrun its factory.  Only one complete prototype was made.

5. YB-49 Flying Wing.

Intended to become the main nuclear weapon delivery system, this “tailless” bomber intrigued aeronautical engineers with the inherent advantages of such a layout.  Of course, there are also disadvantages to every design, and in the case of the YB-49 the lack of computers to monitor and control the flight of the futuristic looking bomber meant the USAF would select the B-36 as its heavy nuclear bomber instead.  The YB-49 was in itself an evolutionary advancement from the YB-35, and the B-2 Spirit is the modern version, now complete with all the necessary technology to make the flying wing concept work.

4. MBT-70.

A joint venture of Germany and the US in the 1960’s, the MBT-70 was supposed to be developed to serve both countries as their main battle tanks.  With a huge 152 mm gun that could also be used to launch anti-tank guided missiles and with a hydro- pneumatic suspension to allow the tank to take advantage of terrain by “kneeling” down or raising itself higher, development was taking too long and costs were skyrocketing.  The last straw was that the tank would have been obsolete before it was fielded, causing both countries to cancel the project and build completely new tanks (the M-1 Abrams and the Leopard II).

3. USS United States CVA-58.

This ship was to be the first of a proposed 5 enormous aircraft carriers authorized by President Truman in 1948.  The mighty ship would be different from any other previous (or subsequent) aircraft carrier in that it would carry 12 to 18 heavy bombers instead of the traditional smaller bombers usually on ships.  Over 1000 feet long and 190 feet wide, the behemoth would require over 5000 men to crew the ship and its airplanes.  Cancelled less than a week after the keel was laid, the event caused an uproar known as “Revolt of the Admirals” and caused the Navy Secretary to resign.  Ship protection would have been provided by 8 X 5 inch guns, 16 X 3 inch guns, and 20 X 20mm automatic cannons (huge machine guns).  The US Navy instead received 4 USS Forrestal class carriers, the first carriers with angled flight decks.

2. The “Spruce Goose.”

More correctly known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the giant wooden flying boat with 6 massive propeller engines only had one example built and only flew once, for a short distance.  One of Howard Hughes’ pet projects, the H-4 was made of plywood, not spruce, and was designed to carry 750 soldiers.  Intended for use during World War II, development took longer than expected and the war was over before the plane was ready.  The project was cancelled, and although Howard Hughes promised he would “leave the country” if the project failed Hughes did not leave, though he kept 300 men employed keeping the giant aircraft preserved! (That number was reduced to 50 after 15 years.)

1. XB-70 Valkyrie.

What would have been the fastest bomber ever built, the Soviets designed the MiG-25 Foxbat specifically to shoot it down.  Designed to fly at Mach 3 at high altitudes, the Valkyrie was made obsolete before it flew when Soviet anti-aircraft missiles became capable enough to make high altitude bombers almost useless, regardless of speed.  The Concord SST Mach 2 airliner (now retired) was its legacy.

The WABAC Machine – Wasted Military $$$$$$