Jack the baboon worked for the South African railway for nine flawless years

Jumper, Jack, the signal levers and the trolley. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

In the late 19th Century, a railway signalman called James Edwin ‘Jumper’ Wide worked for the South African railways as a guard in a town called Uitenhage. He got his nickname from his dangerous habit of jumping or swinging from one railcar to another.

Unfortunately for Jumper, this predictably went horribly wrong one day. While leaping from one railcar to the next, he slipped on some canvas and fell under a moving train. The heavy steel wheels severed his legs below the knees.

Jumper Wide was lucky…


To win the civil war, the future Emperor Augustus used some very underhanded tactics

Photo by iam_os on Unsplash

Fake news seems to be everywhere these days. But it is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of notable people stretching the truth and either exaggerating or flat-out lying about their rivals or their own achievements.

Sometimes the effects of these lies are minor or disappear within a year or two. However, in some notable cases, the resulting changes can last considerably longer and completely change a society or civilization. One of the most remarkable examples of this led to the rise of the first Roman Emperor: Augustus. …


She was also arrested, her head shaved, and narrowly avoided execution

Madame Tussaud self-portrait waxwork Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Marie Tussaud is world-renowned for her waxwork museums. She was an incredible wax sculptress, and her ability to capture famous likenesses led to her fame. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is her remarkable story.

Her skills elevated her to the top of elite Parisian society in the 19th century — just before the French Revolution. This led to a death sentence and eventually to her casting wax heads from the real ones piled at the base of the guillotine. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Early life and the start of an amazing career

Marie was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1761. Her father, Joseph…


Ghosts, spirits, myths and demons in the Land of Smiles

Working as a freelance journalist in Thailand, I have covered a vast array of topics but few were as interesting to research as an article I wrote called ‘Ghosts and Spirits of Thailand’. My editor renamed it ‘Haunted Thailand’ which I will be the first to admit is a much snappier title. I had been commissioned to write an 800-word piece on the more popular ghosts and/or hauntings in the country but after a brief bit of investigation, I realised that would not be enough. The subject was fascinating. …


Fewer cats led to more plague bearing rats, or so the story goes

Photo by Mark Rimmel on Unsplash

People have mixed attitudes toward cats. Some people love them and some not so much. But historically speaking, the pendulum has swung much further to each extreme.

The Egyptians worshipped cats for thousands of years, associating them with the goddess Bastet. Their love for them was so well known that in the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, the invading Persians painted the image of Bastet on their shields and drove cats and other sacred animals before them, hoping the Egyptians would give up rather than risk hurting the animals. …


And cases have shot up over the last 50 years

IMAGE: Budimir Jevtic on Shutterstock

A little over two hundred years ago, no one even knew hay fever existed. There were people suffering from it, but it was so rare it had gone unnoticed.

At the beginning of the 19th century, a British physician called John Bostock started to search for what caused a mysterious summer illness that had affected him every year since childhood. He scoured the UK for similar sufferers but was only able to find 28 cases.

To put that in perspective, 16 million people are now affected each year in the UK. Currently, in the West, hay fever affects between 10…


By most definitions, you have 9 or 21. And seeing dead people isn’t one of them

Photo by Solstice Hannan on Unsplash

Everyone knows you have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. This belief probably originates with Aristotle and his writing in De Anima, where he states these five.

A sixth one means you are psychic or see dead people. (That was a joke.)

Except, by any way you measure them, five is incorrect. You have… well, it’s debated. Part of the problem comes from how we define what a sense is. Different people will give you different answers depending on their speciality and personal definition.

The most common replies would be 9, 21 or several hundred.

First, let’s look…


They join chimpanzees and parrots in being able to pass the test

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was originally a study conducted in the 1970s to test self-control and delayed gratification in human children.

Animal researchers have also tried the experiment on various animals and found large-brained vertebrates and certain birds were able to pass the test. Surprisingly, cuttlefish can now be added to the list.

But what exactly is the experiment, and how did they test it on underwater invertebrates?

What is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment?

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment has taken a few different forms, but generally, they involve a preferred reward if the child chooses to wait. …


The stones were dismantled and then rebuilt 140 miles away

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

In the twelfth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a tale about Merlin traveling to Ireland and stealing the ‘Giant’s Dance’ — a magical stone circle. Merlin then rebuilt it in England as a memorial for the dead. While the story seems more of a myth, there has been increasing evidence that there may be some truth in it.

A century ago, a geologist called Herbert Thomas reached the conclusion that the ‘bluestones’ of Stonehenge were originally from the Preseli Hills of western Wales, 140 miles from Salisbury Plain. …


For six weeks during World War 2, a reindeer called Pollyanna lived on the HMS Trident

Polyanna and the HMS Trident. Photo credit: RN Submarine Museum

In 1941, the British and Russians were on the same side against the Nazis. Their submarines patrolled the Arctic circle, and the British often used Soviet ports for repairs. In a bizarre act of diplomacy, a fully grown reindeer was presented as a gift from the Soviet Union and ended up living on a British submarine for six weeks. It adapted well to life onboard — a little too well as it turned out.

A British captain dines with a Russian admiral

The captain of the HMS Trident, Commander Geoffrey Sladen, was invited to dinner with a Russian admiral while his vessel underwent repairs in a Soviet port.

Jason Ward

Freelance Writer, Author. Lives in Asia. www.jasonwardwriter.com Or email: thewordofward@gmail.com Top writer in History and Culture.

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