In an early version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories, the tales of Middle Earth are brought to our world by Ottor Wǽfre, who would go on to be the father of both the author of Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain.
The origins of the modern piggy bank are lost to history, but the oldest extant piggy bank comes from 12th century CE Java.
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was so incensed at a poor 1936 performance of his epic work Opus clavicembalisticum (at that time the longest piano piece in history) that he banned it for forty years.
In 1986 the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole a Picasso from a Melbourne art gallery; they threatened to destroy the painting if the government did not create an art prize called the Picasso Ransom. The culprits were never found.
The pig toilet was once a key sanitation building in rural China, Korea, and India. It was ruthlessly efficient, combining a toilet for people with a sty for pigs.
People with central hypoventilation syndrome, also known as Ondine’s curse, can forget to breathe.
On a sidewalk in New York City is a triangle mosaic about 70cm wide. It is perhaps the smallest parcel of private land in the city, and it exists entirely because of spite.
On June 22, 1948, eight hundred and two African-Caribbean migrants arrived in Britain on the HMT Empire Windrush. Amongst this historic first wave of “reverse colonization” were the soon-to-be-famous calypsonian singer Lord Kitchener.
The Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas has a deceptive title. The real Wenceslas’ reputation for goodness was mainly posthumous, as was his rank and title. Also he may have been murdered by his brother after a drunken fight.
From 1966 until 2016, English artist Tom Phillips created a new story out of the Victorian novel A Human Document; he did not add any words, but selectively drew or painted over each of its pages to surface something entirely new.
John Nevil Maskelyne was a turn of the century stage magician who created the first levitation trick, built an automaton that could play whist, revealed the secrets of card sharks, and invented the pay toilet.
Andrea Bocelli’s Teatro del Silenzio only hosts one concert a year; every other day, the open-air theatre is silent.
A Bangladeshi engineer named Fazlur Rahman Khan revolutionised the design of skyscrapers by modelling them on bamboo tubes.
From 1951 to the 1980s the PATSY Award celebrated the greatest animal actor in Hollywood; from 2001 to today the Palm Dog Award celebrates the greatest canine actor showing at Cannes.
Around 1730 a German secret society recorded their initiation rituals in an encrypted manuscript. In 2011, that cipher was finally decoded.
The opening riff of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” bears a strong resemblance to the 1984 song “Eighties”… which in turn bears a strong resemblance to the 1982 song “Life Goes On.”