A collection of strange events, offbeat history, and other odd and unusual little-known facts
Weirdness Happens -- Offbeat History
1868 Nov -- Thaddeus Stevens elected to U. S. Congress despite having died August 11, 1868
1871 Oct 8 -- The Great Peshtigo Fire
The same night the Great Chicago Fire started, a fire in the area of the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin killed over 1500 people, five times as many deaths as the Chicago fire.
Aftermath of the Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
1919 Jan 15 -- Molasses flood kills 21 in Boston
An enormous tank at a molasses factory ruptures, sending a 15 foot high wave of hot molasses pouring down the streets of Boston at 35 miles per hour, killing 21 and causing more than a million dollars damage. Part of the vat knocked the local fire station off its foundation, crushing the firemen in the debris. Four of the dead were not found for days, their bodies glazed with a delicious candy coating.
1938 Jun 24 -- 500 ton meteor narrowly misses destroying Pittsburgh
Newspaper photo of 1942 Los Angeles UFO attack
1942 Feb 25 -- Over 1400 rounds of anti-aircraft artillery are fired into sky in Los Angeles at unidentified object witnessed by millions
From 2:22 AM until 7:21 the area was blacked out because it was believed to be a Japanese attack. A picture in the next day's New York Times shows a shadowy object in the sky with numerous searchlights trained on it and several shells exploding around it...yet the object or objects were never identified. Shrapnel from the shelling showered several areas and a few shells exploded on the ground, shattering windows, knocking down power lines, a couple of them even exploding inside occupied houses. The only deaths reported the next day, however, were two from traffic accidents resulting from the blackout, and one of a heart attack. No enemy aircraft were shot down or recovered, and it was never determined what the object(s) were.
1945 July 28 -- B-25 bomber plane crashes into 78th floor of Empire State Building
1952 Dec 5 -- Deadly fog darkens London killing thousands
About four thousand people were killed when an incredibly thick fog blanketed London. Due to an unusual atmospheric inversion, the fog did not clear for 3 days and was combined with massive amounts of trapped smoke from homes and factories, producing a yellowish poisonous smog that added many hundreds of deaths from respiratory and heart failure to the numerous traffic accident fatalities.
House destroyed by atom bomb in South Carolina
1958 Mar 11 -- The accidental dropping of an atomic bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina
A B-47 leaving Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia for a field maneuver to North Africa experienced a malfunction of its bomb locking mechanism and inadvertantly dropped an atomic bomb on the crossroads named Mars Bluff near Florence, SC. The safety devices prevented a nuclear explosion, but the trigger composed of conventional explosives went off, creating a crater 75 feet across and 35 feet deep, damaging houses as far as a half mile away, knocking cars out of control on a nearby highway, and vaporizing the nuclear material, dispersing a ring of intense plutonium contamination in the surrounding area. Hardest hit was the home of William Gregg and his family. "It blew out the side and the top of my garage just as my boy ran inside with me. The timbers were falling all around us. There was a green foggy haze, then a cloud of black smoke. It lasted about 30 seconds.", said Gregg, who was knocked off his feet by the shock wave. Luckily, the four children playing nearby escaped with mostly minor cuts and scrapes, with the exception of Gregg's niece, who required 31 stitches. The house was destroyed in the blast: "When the smoke cleared, I looked at the house...the top was blown in and the side almost blown off." Gregg tried to laugh off the crater..."I always wanted a swimming pool", but later became bitter when the government paid him only $54,000 of the $300,000 he asked for, after two years of haggling. "That bomb came within fifty yards of wiping out my whole family", observed Gregg.
1961 Jan 3 -- The explosion of a nuclear reactor in Idaho Falls kills three
A chemical explosion at an experimental military reactor at the Idaho National Engineering Lab shattered the nuclear core and released such intense radiation that men were sent in rotating one minute shifts to attempt retrieval of the bodies of the victims, only one of which was recovered the day of the incident. Three young military technicians were killed by the explosion, which fortunately occurred at night, since during the day as many as 60 workers might have been in the building. One of the three victims was blown to the ceiling of the containment vessel and impaled there by a control rod. His body was not recovered for six days. All three were eventually buried in lead coffins in a high level waste disposal area.
1971 -- Scientific simulation of a mudslide kills fifteen in Japan
1982 -- Truck driver Larry Walters flies his lawn chair at altitudes up to 16,000 feet
Truck driver Larry Walters of North Hollywood, CA, attached 42 weather balloons to his lawn chair and flew at altitudes up to 16,000 feet over Long Beach, before using his pellet gun to descend. The FAA eventually fined him $1,500 for piloting a "civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an airworthiness certificate". Other charges of failing to establish and maintain proper communications with a control tower, and operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner", were considered resolved as part of the settlement.
1982 Nov -- Texas State Senator John Wilson reelected despite having died almost two months earlier
1986 Aug 22 -- Killer gas cloud kills 1734 people
1734 people in Cameroon died when a geyser of hot hydrogen sulfide erupted from the bottom of Lake Nios, a submerged volcanic cone, and blanketed the surrounding villages.
1986 Sep 6 -- Two dogs shot in the name of national security
At Forbes Field near Topeka Kansas, two dogs copulating on the runway were shot by security officers so that Air Force One could land safely.
Schematic patent drawing of device to keep a disembodied head alive
1987 May 19 -- Patent granted for a Device For Perfusing An Animal Head
Patent #4,666,425 is granted to inventor Chet Fleming, St. Louis, Mo., and assigned to The Dis Corporation, St. Louis, Mo. for a device whose purpose is to keep a disembodied head alive.
1989 Oct 4 -- Ebola outbreak in Reston ,Virginia
Assorted Obscure Facts
Florence Nightingale used to carry her pet owl in her pocket whenever she travelled.
Of the four U. S. Presidents shot by assassins, Robert Todd Lincoln was nearby when three of them died.
John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin once saved Robert Todd Lincoln's life.
Three of the original thirteen U. S. colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia) did not ratify the Constitution until 1939.
Paul Revere was a shameless forger and was once court martialled for refusing to obey orders.
Robert E. Lee had freed his slaves before Ulysses S. Grant.
Benjamin Franklin was once knocked unconscious while trying to electrocute a turkey.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Helen Keller was a radical socialist.
There is no record of any accused witches ever being burned at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts.
Ho Chi Minh was once a pastry chef at the luxurious Carlton Hotel in London.
Fidel Castro was once a Hollywood extra, appearing in such films as Esther Williams' "Bathing Beauties". He also once tried out unsuccessfully for the Washington Senators when he was a pitcher at the University of Havana.
Lord Horatio Nelson suffered from almost constant seasickness.
There is a glacier in Montana which contains millions of grasshoppers trapped by a snowstorm over two hundred years ago.
The wingspan of a Boeing 747 is longer than the Wright brothers first flight.
Strange and Stupid Deaths
1930 Oct 9 -- William Kogut, a prisoner at San Quentin, committed suicide with a deck of playing cards, by meticulously scraping off the red spots, which at that time contained explosive compounds, and making a small bomb, with which he blew off his head.
1971 -- William G. Hall of England committed suicide by boring eight holes in his head with an electric drill.
1974 -- Robert Hershey, an employee of the Pepperidge Farm plant in Downington, PA drowned by falling into a vat of chocolate.
1982 Feb 4 -- David M. Grundman was shooting a giant saguaro cactus with his sixteen gauge shotgun just for fun, in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona. After one blast, he was about to playfully shout 'Timber', when a large limb of the cactus, severed by the shotgun blasts, fell off and crushed him to death.
1982 Apr 15 -- Michael Scaglione, 26, was playing the City Park West Municipal Golf Course in New Orleans when he made a bad shot, and in his anger, hurled the club against his golf cart. The club broke in two, and the sharp broken shaft rebounded, stabbing him in his neck and severing his jugular vein. He might have survived if he left it in, but he then pulled it out and bled to death before he could be saved.
1987 May 1 -- Four people were killed when a skywriting plane crashed into another small plane near Orlando, Florida. The skywriting plane was in the process of drawing a happy face at the time of the collision.
1990 Jun 5 -- Jessie Sharp, 28, disappeared forever in front of numerous witnesses when he tried to kayak over the 180 foot drop of Niagara Falls, wearing neither a helmet or a life jacket.