In Mexican wrestling the mask is sacred, and its loss in the ring is the ultimate insult. The first Mexican wrestler to lose his mask was El Murciélago Enmascarado, The Masked Bat, and it all happened eighty years ago.
In Japanese folklore, turtle monkey demons can steal your soul… by pulling it out of your anus. Fortunately, they have easily detachable arms and like cucumbers.
In 1947 the English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a letter to the dystopian future he thought was coming and buried it. Twenty-two years later the letter was uncovered. It had not aged well.
In southern and south-eastern Asia and the Pacific, teeth were blackened or lacquered to keep them intact and healthy.
Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books have a long history in the Soviet Union and Russia, from illegal translations in the 1960s to a film in the 1980s to an unauthorised retelling sympathetic to the orcs in the 1990s.
When a location is abandoned by humans, nature returns. Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling calls these feral landscapes involuntary parks.
The heart symbol may have originated with an ancient Roman form of birth control, a plant that is probably now extinct.
In 1983 a Boeing 767 with 61 passengers ran out of fuel while twelve thousand metres off the ground. The metric system was to blame.
In 1725 Professor Beringer of the University of Würzburg dug up some extraordinary fossils: they contained the name of God written in Hebrew. A book, a court case, and the ruining of several careers ensued.
Shengguan Tu is a board game from a millennium ago that charts players’ rise through the many layers of Chinese bureaucracy.
In 1953 No Kum-Sok defected from North Korea. He brought a MiG-15 Soviet jet fighter with him.
From 1996 onwards vast swathes of peat swamp in Borneo were cleared to make rice paddies. But then the swamp caught on fire.
Mix egg yolks, dates, honey, vinegar, oil, wine, shallots, and herbs, and then add a roasted flamingo. This is Apicius, one of the earliest surviving cookbooks.
Imagine a neighbour talking to a neighbour talking to a neighbour in a long chain of communication. At the start of the chain, they are speaking Portuguese. At the end of the same chain, they are speaking Italian.
The Poison Damsels of ancient Indian mythology were assassins who could kill someone with a look or a touch.