If you’re under the impression that history is full of dry, yawn-inducing occurrences, you are sorely mistaken.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we find instances that surprise, amuse and even ‘appall’ us.
Here are five bizarre, but true, historical events:
1. The 1904 Summer Olympics was a disaster
In particular, the Olympic marathon that occurred in St. Louis, US, is considered to be the most bizarre part of the disastrous event. Firstly, the entire course was incredibly dusty, and breathing in the dust caused all kinds of injuries for runners. To top it off, the event organiser purposely withheld providing water to the runners to test the effects of dehydration! Next, Fred Lorz, who finished in first place, was only able to do so because he hitched a ride in a car to the end of the course – he later claimed he did it as ‘a joke’. The second-place finisher, Thomas Hicks, was given rodent poison as an attempt to enhance his performance – he was carried across the finish line.
2. Unsinkable Sam, the cat with nine lives
Although his given name was Oscar, a black and white tabby cat was honoured with the nickname ‘Unsinkable Sam’ by the newspapers, in the 1940s, because of his enormous spirit. Oscar started out aboard the Nazi ship Bismarck, which was sunk by the British ship HMS Cossack in 1941. When he was found floating on a board after the ship sank, the Britons took him aboard and called him Oscar. Later, during World War II, the HMS Cossack sank after being hit by a torpedo, which killed 159 onboard. Oscar survived and was rescued again. He then found himself aboard the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier that was also torpedoed. Well, Oscar survived that event too, and later retired in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was provided lodging in a seaman’s home. He died of old age, 14 years later!
3. Khutulun’s challenge
A descendent of the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, Khutulun wasn’t just a noblewoman – she was a wrestler. Confident in her abilities, Khutulun would challenge any suitor who approached her to a wrestling match. She refused to marry unless she was defeated, and would always wager some of her suitor’s horses, in case she won. No one beat her, and Khutulun ended up a rich woman – with some records saying she gained up to 10,000 horses as a result of her victories. Some accounts state that Khutulun did eventually marry a Mongol ruler named Ghazan, but it was because she fell in love with him.
4. The other Hemingway
You likely know about famous American author Ernest Hemingway. But did you know his younger brother, Leicester Hemingway, started his own country? He sailed a barge, made out of bamboo, out to sea and declared it a micro-nation – half-independent and half part of the US. He referenced an obscure law, the Guano Islands Act of 1856, to do this, since the law allowed US citizens to claim ownership of unclaimed islands that had guano deposits. Hemingway called his raft country ‘New Atlantis’ and wanted to use the public attention to raise money so that he could turn the raft into an oceanographic research facility. However, a tropical storm sank New Atlantis in 1966, just two years later.