Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

Ranavalona I. Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar wasn’t known by the warm-and-cuddly nickname “Ranavalona the Cruel” for nothing. In 1845, the queen felt she needed a break from politics and the palace. She wanted to go on a buffalo hunt. Naturally, she brought along her entire court and slave community. About 50,000 people marched for four months on the wild and completely unprofitable expedition. One-fifth of the party dropped dead from exhaustion as supplies ran low. Photo Getty Images.

The Serial Killing Queen of Madagascar

A Queen Can be just as Bloodthirsty as a King Can

‘She is certainly one of the proudest and cruel women on the face of the earth, and her whole history is a record of bloodshed and deeds of horror.’

– Ida Pfeiffer (explorer)

Ranavalona I (1778 – 1861) was the infamous ruler of the Madagascar Kingdom of Merina. When Queen Ranavalona I. suspected someone of disloyalty, she invited them to a “meal” consisting of three servings of chicken skin and a dose of poison from the tangena tree. If the guest regurgitated all of the chicken, he was absolved of the alleged crime. But if the accused failed to vomit up all three pieces of skin, or keeled over dead, guilt was established and the survivor was hauled off … for execution.

Once upon a time in the Indian Ocean, there was a magical land called Madagascar located off the south east coast of Africa. This lush, ravishingly beautiful tropical island, ‘a paradise on earth’ which is now known mainly for its vanilla beans and cuddly cartoon animals, was teeming with vast tracks of rain forest and rich arable land. But there was a serpent in this Garden of Eden, and her name was Ranavalona. In her 33 year reign, she proved to be just as ruthless and cruel as any male tyrant that had sat on a throne. She established a reign of terror in the name of preserving its traditions and independence which resulted in the death of more than a 1/3 of her subjects.

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Although Hitler was a Chancellor, he didn’t have as much power. The Communist party was still a threat. Then a key event happened. The Reichstag – German Parliament – was burned a few months after Hitler came to the power and the blame was assigned to the Communists. Following the burning, President Hindenburg clamped down the Communists and repressive measures were taken on all other political parties.

How Adolf Hitler Came to Power

The story of why Hitler came to power is about the reasons why the German people lost their senses and allowed a vicious madman to come to power. Hitler was a brilliant speaker, and his eyes had a peculiar power over people.   He was a good organiser and politician. He was a driven, unstable man, who believed that he had been called by God to become dictator of Germany and rule the world. This kept him going when other people might have given up. His self-belief persuaded people to believe in him.

Hitler’s rise to power was based upon long-term factors – resentment in the German people, the weakness of the Weimar system – which he exploited through propaganda (paid for by his rich, Communist-fearing backers), the terror of his stormtroopers, and the brilliance of his speeches.

During the ‘roaring twenties’ Germans ignored this vicious little man with his programme of hatred.   But when the Great Depression ruined their lives, they voted for him in increasing numbers.   Needing support, and thinking he could control Hitler, President Hindenburg made the mistake in January 1933 of giving Hitler the post of Chancellor.

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We all know of “the luck of the Irish” but this strange escape tale shows us just how lucky some Irish can get.

The Wild Geese

The Catalpa escape created a dazzling international sensation in its day. Its intelligent heroes were celebrated as using Irish wit and ingenuity to extricate themselves from their perceived injustice

This is the most successful prison break in Australian history. It was an international rescue effort that took years to organise, and which finally freed six Irish prisoners from Fremantle gaol. The rescue ship was an American whaler called The Catalpa. The escape was so dramatic that it’s now a symbol of human resilience, even resurrection.

In 1876, after 8 years of incarceration in Western Australia, six Irish political prisoners escaped on board the American whaler Catalpa. Under the pretext of a whaling voyage, the Catalpa and its unassuming captain had sailed from New Bedford to liberate the prisoners.

On Easter Monday, 1876, six Irish political prisoners, known as military Fenians, were rescued from ‘a living tomb’. This was how the world’s toughest prison, Fremantle gaol, was described by its inmates. The rescuer was one Captain Anthony, a Quaker sea captain who had no connection with the Irish cause. He put his crew, his family, his financiers and his own life in danger to sail from New Bedford in America to Perth in Western Australia on a trip that was disguised as a whale hunt. Why? Because, as he told his grandson, it was the right thing to do.

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Princess Margaret and John Bindon. During this lunch, the now famous photograph of Bindon and Margaret together was taken. A T-shirt worn by the gangster was emblazoned with the words “Enjoy Cocaine”.

Princess Margaret and John Bindon. During this lunch, the now famous photograph of Bindon and Margaret together was taken. A T-shirt worn by the gangster was emblazoned with the words “Enjoy Cocaine”.

The Princess and the Gangster

She was a princess, at one time second in line to the throne. He was one of London’s most notorious criminals. Together, they created one of the biggest hidden scandals in royal history.

John Bindon (Biffo, The Guv’nor, Big John) enjoyed fighting, he was an English actor and bodyguard who had close links with the London underworld.He grew up in Fulham – and then a rather more rugged borough than it is now – and from an early age showed a propensity for aggro. As is the case with most of these gangsters’ stories, he came from a poor background, but was, under the circumstances, “very well brought up” by a loving mother.

This did not, however, stop him from stealing a bicycle as soon as he was old enough, and soon he was running a gang of urchins. One thing led to another and his misdemeanors became more serious. He beat up a coal deliveryman when he was 13 years old and soon his reputation as a hard man was assured. A life of crime awaited him, the highlight of which was his involvement in the robbery of a “cursed” emerald from a jeweller in Hatton Garden.

In the nineteen seventies and eighties, the world was rocked by a series of scandals which involved a violent criminal, movie stars, gangsters, the aristocracy, London gangland and even members of the British Royal family. The common thread that ran through these seemingly unrelated sections of society was the man, John Bindon.

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The women of the Magdalene Laundries spent their lives scrubbing, bleaching and ironing.

The women of the Magdalene Laundries spent their lives scrubbing, bleaching and ironing.

Magdalene Laundry Survivors

You could even be sent to one of these institutions for petty crimes such as not paying your train ticket and condemned to a life of slave labour

Worked to the bone, beaten and abused, the experiences of women held in the ‘care’ of the nuns in Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries, is the stuff of nightmares. Also known as Magdalene asylums, Magdalene Laundries were cruel and medieval institutions in which women were imprisoned, stripped of their human rights, and abused sexually and otherwise.
The Magdalene Laundry was a place where women and children passed through as slave labourers to orders of the nuns in mid twentieth century Ireland, and the complicity of the church and society that tried to keep their stories hidden.

The laundries were set up in 1922 when the newly independent Irish state delegated welfare duties to the religious orders.
Named after the Bible’s redeemed prostitute, Mary Magdalene, the workhouses were used to reform ‘fallen women’ but they soon expanded to take in girls who were considered ‘promiscuous’, unmarried mothers, the criminal, mentally unwell and girls who seen as a burden on their families.
They were the forgotten women of Ireland, kept under lock and key, forced to clean and sew, and to wash away the sins of their previous life while never being paid a penny. Some stayed months, others years. Some never left. They were the inmates of Ireland’s notorious 20th century workhouses, the Magdalene Laundries.

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Saparmurat Niyazov is depicted on the 10,000 Manat Banknote.

Saparmurat Niyazov is depicted on the 10,000 Manat Banknote.

Serdar Turkmenbashi The Great

World’s Craziest Dictator

He renamed a month after him; banned recorded music, video games and beards!

If you think Saddam Hussein was fond of himself, just visit Turkmenbashi’s country. There’s a poster or a statue of him in nearly every public space.

In 1991, after the fall of Communism and the USSR, Turkmenistan found itself independent for the first time in a hundred years. The new president, Saparmurat Niyazov, was the obvious successor – he’d been the Communist Party’s puppet governor since 1985. But easing a country of five million people into a new era of self-sufficiency and autonomy was not the highest item on Niyazov’s agenda. He was more concerned that decades of Soviet control had left Turkmenistan with no national identity. So, in 1993, Niyazov took it upon himself to create the country in a new image: his own.

He was not only a brutal dictator, but also a dictator who ran his country like it was his own private Disney World. The country, Turkmenistan, is a former Soviet republic sitting strategically between Iran and Afghanistan. And the man who ran it is Saparmurat Niyazov.

He’s known by his citizens, and by decree, as “Serdar Turkmenbashi” – which means “Great Leader of all Turkmen.”

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As a passenger aeroplane flies seemingly very close to Petit, and the top of the World Trade Center, in this image taken from the ground – some 1,350 feet below – the enormity of the Frenchman’s achievement is made clear. Photo AP

As a passenger aeroplane flies seemingly very close to Petit, and the top of the World Trade Center, in this image taken from the ground – some 1,350 feet below – the enormity of the Frenchman’s achievement is made clear. Photo AP

Is it a Bird, a Plane, or Superman?

On a shimmering day in August 1974, Philippe Petit balanced precariously on a wire 110 stories above Manhattan – and looked down…

To me it’s so simple, that life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion; to refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge, and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope.

-Philippe Petit

People in Lower Manhattan stopped in their tracks to watch a strange event in the sky—not a bird, not a plane, and certainly not Superman. In 1974, just a year after the Twin Towers were completed, a French tightrope artist, Philip Petit set out to achieve his ultimate goal: to string and walk a wire between the Towers.

Combining the cunning of a second story man with the nerve of an Evel Knievel, a French high wire artist sneaked past guards at the World Trade center, ran a cable between the tops of its twin towers and tightrope walked across it in the early morning.

Hundreds of spectators created traffic jam shortly after 7:15 A.M. in the streets 1,350 feet below as they watched the black clad figure outlined against the gray morning sky tiptoeing back and forth across the meticulously rigged 131-foot cable.

Philippe Petit went to New York for the first time in January 1974. The twin towers of the World Trade Center would be formally dedicated on 4 April: but even then they were not fully complete or occupied. When he sneaked into the north tower for the first time, the buildings were still under construction. He rode elevators and ran up staircases to evade security guards. It took him an hour to get to the roof. The next day he returned with his friend Jim Moore, a photographer, and took the same route to the 110th floor. Philippe explained what he had in mind. He showed Jim the drop. Jim just went white. ‘You’re insane,’ he whispered.

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madgasserofmattoon

Mad Gasser of Mattoon

There is no greater phantom attacker in the history of the unexplained in America than the legendary “Mad Gasser of Mattoon,” a bizarre figure who wreaked havoc in a small Illinois town in 1944. This creature turned out to be so elusive that law enforcement officials eventually declared him nonexistent, despite dozens and dozens of eyewitness reports and actual physical evidence that was left behind at the scene of some attacks.

Towards the end of World War II, the sleepy town of Mattoon came under attack by a madman. Or perhaps it came under attack by many madmen and women, who believed that they were under attack by a madman. Who was the “mad gasser” of Mattoon?

By the end of August the town of Mattoon, Illinois was baking in the heat and people kept their windows open at night to let in the cool night air. In 1944 they kept those windows open only a crack, because many of the men were away, fighting in World War II, and even civilians were instructed to be on the alert. People were told to keep their eyes open for suspicious activity. The entire country was on edge.

And so, on August 31st, when a couple woke up smelling something sweet and feeling strange, they were understandably freaked out. The two people had wildly different symptoms. The husband was up on his feet, vomiting. The wife thought perhaps she’d left the gas on, but when she tried to get up to check, found she couldn’t move. Later the same night, in a nearby house, a child got sick in bed while its mother was too incapacitated to get up and comfort it. A few nights later, another woman smelled a sweet substance and felt herself being slowly paralyzed from the legs upward. She screamed enough that her neighbours heard her and came running.

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Emery Kolb took this photo of the Hydes while at the rim. Photo: Cline Library

Emery Kolb took this photo of the Hydes while at the rim. Photo: Cline Library

The Legend of Glen & Bessie Hyde

Mystery of a newlywed couple that vanished on a boating trip in the Grand Canyon

Glen and Bessie Hyde were young, good-looking and adventurous.

But their desperation for fame cost them their lives. The Hydes vanished while rafting down the Colorado River. Their bodies were never found. The trip, ostensibly a honeymoon getaway, was really a scheme to bring them wealth and acclaim. Idaho farmer Glen Hyde and his bohemian wife Bessie almost made it. They travelled 600 miles on the Green and Colorado Rivers in a massive wooden boat called a sweep scow. The boat was found intact, still holding the couple’s food, diary, guidebook, gun, clothing and boots, just 46 miles from the mouth of the Grand Canyon. But one of the biggest-ever Grand Canyon searches failed to turn up any sign of the honeymooners.

The early days of Grand Canyon River running are riddled with disaster; by 1928 only forty-five people had managed to fully traverse the entire length of the Grand Canyon by boat. This group, comprised solely of men, accomplished their feats using traditional and modified rowboats. In 1928, newlyweds Glen and Bessie Hyde wanted to make their mark on Grand Canyon history by taking a different kind of boat, the sweep scow, down the river. What ensued in the fall and winter of 1928 became one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in Grand Canyon to this day. The “Honeymoon Couple,” as they came to be known, mysteriously disappeared on their journey in the canyon, no bodies ever surfaced, and nobody knows what happened.

It was an age of adventure and headline-making firsts. Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean just the year before. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to make the flight in June 1928.

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Photo of the Day

26 Feb 1938 --- John Harvey Kellogg Age 86 --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

26 Feb 1938, John Harvey Kellogg Age 86. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Dr Kellogg‘s Prescription

If Cereal Won’t Cool the Libido, Try Surgery – Kellogg, and the Crusade for Moral Fibre

For people the world over, a bowl of corn flakes is the go-to breakfast of choice.

But for the majority of those who look forward to their morning bowl, it will come as a surprise that they were invented to stop people masturbating.

John Harvey Kellogg, who first created the cereal in the late 19th century, originally intended it to be a ‘healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal’. Mr Kellogg, a physician, was uncomfortable about sex, believing it was unhealthy for the body, mind and soul.

He was celibate, having never consummated his marriage and keeping a separate bedroom from his wife.

Cornflakes were designed as a bland food that would not “over stimulate” the senses, and thus reduce the risk that the consumer would engage in “self-stimulation,” Corn Flakes were just a small part of the bizarre health regime designed by Kellogg and implemented in his Battle Creek, Michigan Sanitarium.

As a rule, there’s usually more to hapless folk wisdom than bad science, and so it is with myths about masturbation and other aspects of sexuality. In America, a peculiar flowering of such myths took place in the 19th century. Though the predictable culprits — Victorian prudery, evangelical Christianity, entrepreneurialism — are part of the picture, the lesser-known reality is their century-old relationship with whole-grain foodstuffs. That is, thanks to certain influential health advocates back then, sex and diet were inexorably linked and for both, healthy meant bland.

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