In 1947, the British navy set off one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history in an attempt to destroy German military fortifications on Heligoland.
People with central hypoventilation syndrome, also known as Ondine’s curse, can forget to breathe.
In 1822 a white stork landed in Klütz, then a town of the German Confederation, and finally unlocked the secret of where the birds go in winter.
In 2008, a whole beach in northwestern Jamaica was reported stolen: five hundred truckloads of sand went missing and were never recovered.
The first jump scare in horror film history; that time Porky Pig swore; the first (and last) time Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton appeared on screen together; and the obscure British comedy routine that became the most repeated TV broadcast in the world.
The women who carry goods worth billions across a north African border; the island that is in both France and Spain; the houses that are in both Canada and the United States; and the points where three time zones meet.
According to the Platform Sutra, the fifth patriarch of Chan Buddhism held a poetry contest to determine his successor. But it became a contest for the soul of Chan Buddhism itself.
A pair of Sicherman dice have numbers ranging from 1 to 8 on their faces, but roll two of them together and they produce the same totals as a pair of normal dice.
Pobeda Ice Island was first discovered in 1840. It was seen again in the 1910s, but was gone by the late 1920s. By the 1960s it was back, only to disappear again in the 1970s.
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.
Seven and a half years of the Talmud; Saint Nick and the Christmas cannibals; the reason Buddha would not play Jenga; and the church ladder in Jerusalem that has stayed in the same place since 1728.
The price of twelve days of Christmas; the Christmas cannibalism song; the birth of the slow TV Yule log; and the mistranslation that led to some of the world’s most famous Christmas carols.
Going from house to house singing Christmas carols is a long-held tradition. But what if the wassailers turn up with a goat or a horse’s head? And what if they take you with them?
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.
One variety of bacteria has only ever been isolated from the wreck of the RMS Titanic; another type of bacteria has only ever been found inside clean rooms used to assemble spacecraft.