World’s Strangest

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Does dried squash hold blood of Louis XVI ?

Scientists have confirmed the authenticity of a blood sample said to be from the French king. King Louis XVI of France was sentenced to death by behea…

The Time 18th-Century French Aristocrats Fled to Rural Pennsylvania

In 1793, the French Revolution was in full swing. Royal sympathizers—nobles, military officers, clergy, and other aristocrats—were guaranteed a sharp kiss from the guillotine. Frightened, thousands of aristocrats fled to neighboring countries like Austria and Prussia. A small handful of Nobles, however, escaped to a place so obscure that they were able to start their [...]

A Brief and Incomplete History of Launching Animals Into Space

Pretty much ever since humans discovered flight, we’ve been strapping animals into our new devices just to see what would happen. Over the last 330 years or so, we’ve launched dogs, cats, chimps, monkeys, roosters, ducks, spiders, fruit flies, silk worms, ants, bees, moss, turtles, rabbits, jellyfish, amoebae, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, goldfish, and one Enlightment-era [...]

The Political Hot Potato

Vital. Maligned. Mysterious. How well do you really know the potato? During the 16th century, Europeans fell in love with a number of exotic plants from the New World. But the potato wasn’t one of them. It would take two centuries and a spectacular PR campaign for people to even consider eating the ugly vegetable. But [...]

Carved Pumpkin May Hold Royal Blood

This gourd, dated 1793, was originally used to store gunpowder but may also have contained something much spookier. Carved into its surface are the words,“Maximilien Bourdaloue on January 21st, dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his beheading.” It was not unusual in those days for people to dip their hankies in [...]

Louis XVI relic tested for DNA

A decorative gunpowder gourd is thought to contain the dried blood of French King Louis XVI. Scientists conducted DNA tests on the blood and found tha…

Enter the Chamber of Horrors: Madame Tussaud

The subject of our final post for our week of women is Marie Grosholtz (1761-1850), although you probably know her as Madame Tussaud. The French-born, Swiss-reared Grosholtz was a wax model prodigy – she made her first wax figure (Voltaire, above left) at the tender age of 17. (Her life is so interesting we had [...]