10 Horrifying Declassified Secrets

Speculation as to what the government might be hiding from us is an easy way to bring a conversation to an end. But very often the truth is stranger than fiction.

Here are ten declassified secrets—things our governments actually did then went out of their way to cover up–that make many conspiracy theories look tame.

10. Operation PBSUCCESS

In 1997, the CIA finally declassified proof of their grubby involvement in the Guatemalan coup of 1954. But the 1,400 self-incriminating documents were just a fraction of the 100,000+ thought to be in secret archives. Even the CIA’s own historical review panel described their release–part of a wider dump of Cold War era documents–as “a brilliant public relations snow job.”

The coup had been nothing short of evil, violently reasserting capitalist oppression in a nation just beginning to recover from years of tyrannical rule. By the mid-20th century, governmental corruption had led to an obscene concentration of land ownership among a tiny minority of people–many of whom weren’t even Guatemalan. The US-based United Fruit Company, for instance, had acquired 42% of the land while paying zero tax and duty.

Things began to change in 1944 when the country’s first democratically elected president, Juan José Arévalo, took office. Introducing a series of progressive reforms–in health care, social security, and the protection of indigenous (Maya) rights–Arévalo was for most a light at the end of the tunnel. In 1951, the second democratically elected president, Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, continued this progressive reformist agenda by reclaiming land for the people.

At this point, despite receiving compensation for the land they had to give back, the United Fruit Company went crying to President Eisenhower. And in response the US government (covertly) went to war, arming and training paramilitary thugs to overthrow the peaceful, democratically elected government. Although Árbenz actually offered to meet with the US president to discuss a peaceful resolution, he looks to have been ignored. Ultimately, he was overthrown and replaced with yet another American-controlled dictator.

9. Compulsory sterilization

It’s a little-known fact that Sweden forcibly sterilized Romani women as part of its ethnic cleansing program. But they didn’t stop there. From 1934 to 1976, female Swedes as young as 15 were forcibly sterilized for having “no obvious concept of ethics.” Rebelliousness, promiscuity, “low intelligence,” and mixed race heritage were all grounds for sterilization. One young woman was sterilized simply because she couldn’t read a blackboard and was therefore assumed to be stupid. As it turned out, however, she only needed glasses.

Although Sweden may have had the most extensive program of this type, neighboring Norway and Denmark had similar programs of their own, sterilizing 40,000 and 6,000 women respectively. Canada and the United States were also into eugenics; North Carolina alone sterilized as many as 7,700 women before 1973—and most of them were black.

It wasn’t until 1999 that Sweden finally began compensating some of its victims. Many, having
“internalized the establishment view of themselves as useless,” had remained silent for years. Yet the same politicians who publicly denounced the program when it came to light continued to support compulsory sterilization of transgender women until as recently as 2013.

8. 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash

Barely 15 years after the US nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two nuclear bombs–each one hundreds of times more powerful than those dropped on Japan–were dropped on American soil. Who was to blame? Who else? The usual culprits when it comes to dropping nukes on civilian targets: The US military itself.

Apparently, the B-52 aircraft carrying them had broken up mid-flight due to a right wing failure and released the two Mark 39 bombs into freefall over North Carolina. One of them landed with the aid of an emergency parachute; the other hit the ground at terminal velocity. But the force of the crash had initiated the fuzing sequence–a mechanical procedure usually requiring human action–on both.

Of the seven steps needed to detonate them, the first bomb was down to the last. Specifically, the arm/safe switch was still in the “safe” position. However, on the other bomb, the arm/safe switch was in the “armed” position. By rights it should have exploded—killing tens of thousands of people immediately—and nobody seems to know why it didn’t.

Unnervingly, documents declassified in 2014 include a 1959 report from Sandia National Laboratories stating that “absolute” safety when transporting nuclear weapons is an illusion–a necessary sacrifice for designing effective nukes. The report also noted the likelihood that accidental detonations like this one would trigger a worldwide nuclear war. In other words, the United States would probably have interpreted their own mistake as an enemy attack and launched nuclear missiles on other nations.

7. Operation Northwoods

That the 9/11 terror attacks were evidently planned by the US government is often mocked by the establishment media for being unthinkably absurd. However, this politically correct position is essentially just one of faith–a rather desperate assumption that Uncle Sam would never plot to harm American citizens, no matter how much he stood to gain.

But it wouldn’t have been the first time.

In 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, tired of American corruption, he booted out the oligarchs for good. In response, having lost their favorite brothel and casino paradise, the US wanted revenge. Specifically, they wanted to invade; they wanted some reason–any reason–to remove Castro as head of state. (Sound familiar?) But even the arrival of Soviet missiles on the island could only be seen as a reasonably justified response to America placing its own missiles on the Soviets’ borders first.

By 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had had enough. If Cuba wasn’t going to do anything wrong, then America would just have to frame them. Ideas actually committed to paper as part of their proposal to the Secretary of Defense included (in their own words):

When he saw them, President John F. Kennedy was reportedly appalled and rejected the plans outright–which may have been among the reasons for his assassination the following year. Meanwhile, Castro “got to thumb his nose at the US for four more decades, a constant reminder … of the limits of US power.”

6. The Nazino affair

In the spring of 1933, 3,000 prisoners (some of whom had died en route) were dumped on Siberia’s remote Nazino (or Nazinsky) Island–a narrow, flood-prone strip of land in the frigid river Ob. They were given next to nothing–no tools, no shelter, and only a couple of handfuls of rye flour each once every 4-5 days. This they tended to consume right away, either dry as a powder or mixed with river water in their hats. Needless to say, the malnourished prisoners had little strength for anything, let alone building a self-sufficient community from scratch–the official reason for them being there. Some became so sick and numb that they slept too close to fires and burned to death in their sleep. But those who tried to escape were shot on the spot by the guards.

It wasn’t long before cannibalism took hold. Women, in particular, appear to have been targeted, many having been tied to trees so the flesh could be stripped from their breasts, calves, and other body parts. It was “just like shashlik [kebab meat],” said one of the surviving cannibals; “we made skewers from willow branches, cut [the meat] into pieces … and roasted it over the campfire.”

Tragically, many of these “settlers” had been sent to the island for little more than failing to produce identifying documents when asked by the secret police. And despite this sadistic “social experiment” being doomed from the start, officials continued to supply thousands more “settlers” until the project was exposed in the summer. By this time, of the 6,700 sent there, only 2,200 remained alive—and only 300 were fit for further work.

Based on the crusading, investigative reports of local Communist Party head Vasily Velichko, the island was evacuated within months. But it wasn’t until 1993 that Velichko’s reports were finally declassified for the public.

5. Vietnam war crimes

The My Lai Massacre is one of the ugliest, most unforgivable stains on the conscience of the US Army. On March 16, 1968, American soldiers raped, mutilated, and slaughtered more than 500 innocent civilians, including 173 young children, in a village in South Vietnam. Army officials tried to hide the war crime from the public, but it was exposed the following year. Before taking his story to the press, the soldier who blew the whistle, Ron Ridenhour, had attempted to raise the issue with President Richard Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several congressmen–all to no avail.

Crucially, the massacre was not committed by rogue soldiers. They had actually been ordered to wipe out the village–despite meeting with no resistance and finding no military-age males therein. Only one of the American soldiers was imprisoned, but he was released three years later; his commanding officer was never tried for the crime. Thankfully, the massacre contributed to anti-war sentiment not only among the American public but among other US soldiers as well.

However, it was far from the “isolated incident” that officials claimed it to be.

According to an archive of more than 9,000 declassified documents, hundreds of similar attacks took place–again on orders from above (such as “kill anything that moves”). Slaughters of ordinary Vietnamese families were commonplace and included the rape and torture of men, women, and children. Very few of those responsible were court-martialed or convicted, but not for a lack of evidence. And those who were sent to prison were generally acquitted before serving their full sentence. An interrogator who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, for instance, served just six months of his 20-year jail term.

But the cover-up continues. After The LA Times reported on the archive in 2006, the government reclassified and closed it to the public. It’s not entirely clear why. But perhaps it’s because such war crimes continue to this day (including the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by American soldiers in Baghdad before she, her 5-year-old sister, and the rest of her family were shot to death), exposing something twisted and dark at the very heart of US foreign policy.

4. Human radiation experiments

Between 1944 and 1974, the Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies deliberately exposed millions of US citizens to nuclear fallout and other dangerous radiation without their informed consent. The purpose of these experiments was to evaluate the risk faced by nuclear scientists working on the Manhattan Project. Naturally, they were shrouded in secrecy–often to the point where those administering the radiation to subjects were not even aware they were doing so.

When Eileen Welsome, a journalist for The Albuquerque Tribune broke the story in late 1993, it caused public outcry and forced the Clinton administration to release 1.6 million classified documents pertaining to the tests. The details were extremely disturbing:

In Tennessee after the Second World War, hundreds of pregnant women were fed radioactive iron, resulting in the early deaths of their children from conditions such as synovial sarcoma and acute lymphatic leukemia. In Massachusetts, MIT scientists fed radioactive iron and calcium to students with learning disabilities. In New York, terminally ill patients were fed radioactive calcium and strontium. Highly regarded hospitals throughout the country injected patients with plutonium during otherwise routine check-ups. Orphanages gave radioactive material to children. And the corpses of the victims were secretly snatched from cemeteries for testing.

Most subjects were disadvantaged in some way, whether that meant physically or socioeconomically. It was, for example, common to prey on the elderly and sick, as well as prison inmates (although many of those deemed terminally ill had in fact been misdiagnosed). However, some weren’t even American citizens. One subject, codenamed CAL-2, was a four-year-old Australian boy flown in to UC San Francisco to receive “special treatment” for bone cancer, only to be injected with plutonium that killed him eight months later.

Whatever justification might be offered for these tests–such as the stresses of the Cold War era, or the ends (scientific knowledge) justifying the means–they were in clear violation of the 1949 Nuremberg Code. This set of research ethics principles had been laid out to ensure that no-one ever repeated the atrocities of Nazi “doctors of death” like Josef Mengele and Aribert Heim. If their scientific contributions failed to justify the means, there’s absolutely no reason (besides American exceptionalism) to forgive the US its directly comparable crimes.

3. Operation Sea-Spray

In addition to dropping nukes on, irradiating, compulsively lying to, and terrorizing their own citizens, the United States government has also–repeatedly–used germ warfare against them.

From September 26, 1950, a US Navy minesweeper ship spent just under a week spraying Serratia marcescens—a bacteria with a bright red, easily detectable pigment—into the air two miles off the coast of Northern California. The aim was to simulate and measure the effects of a bioweapons attack, and in particular the susceptibility of big cities like San Francisco. After the bacteria had been sprayed, the military covertly collected samples at 43 sites to track its spread. And they found that most, if not all, of the city’s 800,000 residents had been infected. And the virus had also made its way out to the suburbs.

Naturally, the military hadn’t bothered to ascertain the safety of S. marcescens before using it so indiscriminately. Although the scientific literature hadn’t linked the bacteria to disease, neither had it conclusively found it to be harmless. One week after the test, 11 San Franciscans were hospitalized with urinary tract infections, and one man actually died. Furthermore, the test apparently left a permanent scar on the region’s microbial ecology. And since the military didn’t own up to their blunder, civilian scientists wasted a great deal of time trying to figure out the cause of the outbreak—the first of its kind on record.

Even so, it wasn’t until 1969 that President Nixon finally brought a halt to such testing (although Operation Sea-Spray wasn’t declassified until 1976). In the intervening years, the military conducted hundreds of similar tests in cities across the country. They sprayed bacteria and chemicals from trucks in Minneapolis, from airplanes over the Midwest, and released germs into the New York City subway system—exposing millions to potentially deadly viruses without their permission or even their knowledge. As The New York Times has noted, such tests weren’t even scientifically justified; the results were blatantly obvious. And, since the Army didn’t monitor its victims long-term, it’s unclear whether anyone else was harmed.

Interestingly, the British did the same to their own citizens—not only with S. marcescens, but with other bacteria to simulate anthrax—leading to birth defects and miscarriages throughout the UK.

2. Stargate Project

Stargate was one of a number of projects set up to investigate whether psychics could be used by the military. Evidently, the CIA, DIA, and other government agencies took telekinesis, telepathy, and especially clairvoyance or “remote viewing” seriously enough to continue funding the research for at least 23 years (1972-1995). By the (official) end of the project, the CIA concluded that psychics had no military value; but that didn’t mean their powers had been debunked—far from it. All it meant was that psychic abilities were too unconventional for use in military or intelligence operations.

In fact, the research strongly supported the reality of psychic phenomena and convinced many of the researchers involved. From describing hidden objects in detail and the interiors of enemy bases to spying through space and time, remote viewers’ observations were often surprisingly accurate. Two psychics even detailed the appearance of Jupiter, independently describing the same thick, rolling gas clouds and “tremendous winds” all before Pioneer 10’s 1973 fly-by returned the first ever close-ups of the planet.

Such accuracy makes some of the psychics’ other, at-present unverifiable observations all the more compelling. In 1984, for instance, one of the psychics—Joe McMoneagle—described the surface of Mars circa 1,000,000 BC. Among his observations were vast pyramids and other structures at a time of geological upheaval—severe dust storms, climate change, and the extinction of organized life. At first, he saw only the “shadow” or vague perception of beings that had ceased to exist. As he regressed to an earlier time, however, he saw the beings solidify; they were tall, thin, and dressed in light, close-fitting, silk-like garments. The researcher instructing McMoneagle also gave him a series of oddly precise coordinates to investigate and wrote down what he saw at each: warren-like caverns; an enormous obelisk; reflective squares; channels cut into valleys; and shelters for hibernation. McMongeagle was also instructed to approach one of the beings and ask them what was going on. “They’re ancient people,” he related, “They’re … dying … they’re looking for … a way to survive and they just can’t.” According to the being he spoke to (who considered McMoneagle’s astral form to be a hallucination), they were waiting for the return of some kind of scout ship sent to find another habitable planet to move to. When McMoneagle turned his attention to where that scout ship had actually gone, he described a “really crazy place with volcanos and gas pockets and strange plants.”

Of course, it’s easy to dismiss such an unverifiable account as mere fantasy—or it would be were it not for one important detail: McMoneagle wasn’t told to go to Mars. The target and time period (“The planet Mars. Time of interest approximately 1 million years B.C.”) were written on a small card in a sealed envelope that remained unopened until after the session was complete. McMoneagle later told a journalist that he thought he’d been looking at Earth and was deeply confused about what he was seeing. In fact, had he known the actual target beforehand, he probably would have refused to view it—just as he had done when asked to mentally examine a UFO. Apparently, he deemed such unverifiable targets useless for the purposes of the Stargate Project. As for the precise coordinates, and the interest in prehistoric Mars in the first place, they had come from an unnamed official in the Army. The session had been especially requested by this individual and sprung upon McMoneagle while he was napping in the “black box” containment room at Virginia’s Monroe Institute.

1. Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP)

For many, the holy grail of declassified secrets would be the disclosure of extraterrestrial life. Hence a lot of people were excited when, in July this year, the British government finally released the (alleged) last of its files on UFOs. Unfortunately, there was no proof of aliens—but the reports do show how seriously these unidentified aerial phenomena were taken. In fact, the UK operated two dedicated desks for decades—one to receive calls from the public, and the other to investigate sightings. They were both (officially) closed in 2000, despite there being no let-up in convincing reports from the region—such as this one from just last month.

The US government, meanwhile, apparently continues to investigate. As it turns out, they have been secretly funding the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to the tune of $22 million a year—despite having officially claimed to have shut the project down in 2012. And Luis Elizondo, the official in charge of the department, found the evidence so compelling that he became frustrated with the government for not allocating more resources to its study.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who helped to set up the program, agreed—even going so far as to request heightened security to protect what he considered extraordinary discoveries. These have included strange metal alloys and other materials recovered from UFOs (and stored at Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas). Researchers studying these items claim to have experienced certain “physical effects” from their encounters. One likened their bewildered approach to the materials to “what would happen if you gave Leonardo da Vinci a garage-door opener … He wouldn’t know anything about the electromagnetic signals involved or its function.”

Another official declared that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact.” And, alarmingly for some perhaps, he went on to admit that the United States is completely incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies found.

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10 Ridiculous Abilities People Mistakenly Claim They Have

Maybe it’s because people watch too many superhero movies, or just want to spice up their lives, but some like to imagine they have all kinds of powers. Powers that others–or at least most–simply lack. Whether it’s a 9 to 5 commuter who thinks they’re far better than most drivers who have ever lived, a person who thinks they have superpowers because they are good at drinking, or something similar, they all have the issue in common that they either have inflated a commonly acquired skill (one which they and others have to use every day) into something special, or they think they have a skill that simply doesn’t even exist.

10. People Who Think They See Auras Probably Have Synesthesia

Some people think they see visible auras around others, and claim it tells them about what kind of person you are. However, Dr. Jamie Ward is not convinced. She had a patient who had synesthesia and would see entire colors spread across her field of vision when hearing the names of her loved ones, and when she saw them in person, she would see visible auras of varying colors. Ward believes that this could be a clue to what is going on with people who claim to be able to see auras around others.

Dr. Ward says it is likely some form of synesthesia where the person strongly associates colors with people, and creates the illusion in their brain that there is a color surrounding the entire person. There is no evidence that there is any kind of energy field around someone that could make an independent aura, so this theory makes a lot of sense. Someone with synesthesia would be likely to associate colors very strongly with different people, and may even see a visible effect, using their subconscious to decide the color based on how they judge that person.

9. Being Super Good At Multitasking Isn’t Even A Thing

People love to brag about multitasking, but the truth is it isn’t even real. You actually cannot do two things at the same time, as your brain simply is not capable of doing so. When you think you’re multitasking, you are actually rapidly switching between the tasks, as your brain tries to juggle all the extra and unnecessary sensory input you’re throwing at it.

What this means is that your brain is now basically being overloaded, kind of like if you have too many programs running and are using too much RAM — your brain is going to get bogged down and you are actually going to be far slower at getting anything done. You simply won’t be the efficient maestro that you think you are, and are actually more likely to make mistakes while multitasking than not, because you are splitting your focus. It may sound efficient, but if you have to correct mistakes later or redo shoddy work, you may realize it wasn’t worth it.

8. The Ability To Tell When Random People You Don’t Know Are Lying To You

This is a classic power that many, especially in law enforcement, think they have. However, studies have shown most people aren’t better than 50% when it comes to guessing based on “judgment” alone. For those who really think they can do this subconsciously, they should be careful to make snap judgments. You don’t have a superpower; it’s just your brain making judgments based on the context and information it has at hand. But there are a lot of things missing, and you could be mistaken and cause unnecessary strife.

Now, you may potentially be quite good at sussing out lies from a close friend or family member, but that’s a quite different situation. Those are people you know very well, and they may have tells they don’t even realize you can exploit. Even in these cases, though, you should still be careful not to read too much into your own ability to detect lies — you still may be wrong. The truth is most experts who are actually good at catching people in lies are simply using the technique of listening carefully and looking for inconsistencies in your story.

7. Picking Up The “Energy” And “Vibes” Of People Around You

Some people like to claim, sort of similar to the aura power, that they can feel people’s “energies” around them. Some say this stresses them out in a crowd, and some have even claimed to be energy “vampires” who feed by going out into crowds and enjoying that delicious crowd energy and the “vibes” it supplies. A lot of people who think this feel they have a special power that others do not.

The more boring truth is that, similar to people’s belief in auras, people who believe they can feel people’s energies are just making judgments in their head about the people around them, and the state of the crowd, and internalizing that as positive or negative feelings. There is no special energy to pick up. But from birth, humans learn to read people’s faces and body language naturally — if you are worried about someone’s negative energy, it is likely just your brain warning you that something seems a little bit off about their behavior.

6. Being A Really Great Driver Who Is Much Better Than All The Other Horrible Drivers

One of the most commonly acknowledged facts, especially in the United States of America, is that most drivers think all other drivers are mostly pretty terrible, but think of themselves as well above average. While most people chuckle at this fact, they still go away thinking that they are one of the people who is truly above average. They don’t realize the joke may be on them, as they mock all the “other” bad drivers.

The obvious issue with this delusion is that, by the very laws of statistics, there will always be an average, and most people are going to sit pretty close to it. This means that unless you have driven professionally for many years, odds are you’re not significantly above the average of anyone.

Especially if you are young, have little experience driving, and little to no experience driving professionally of any kind, thinking yourself far above the likes of most drivers is pretty delusional. The fact of the matter is that most of the time you think someone else is a much worse driver than you, they probably made a mistake you have made before, or were unfamiliar with the area. More often than not your belief that everyone is far below you in driving skill is very mistaken.

5. Being Able To Discern News (And Political News) Far Better Than Anyone Else

America has a problem today where many truly cannot tell the difference between real and fake news. Part of the problem is the independent mindset of Americans, many of whom stubbornly believe that hearing about something, and having an opinion, suddenly makes them an expert. They don’t need to listen to or consult actual experts about the subject. Many Americans are simply uninterested in an expert take on most things anymore — they would prefer to hear from someone who seems more like a Regular Joe, saying something that sounds an awful lot like their own point of view so they don’t have to feel challenged whatsoever.

However, people should keep in mind that just because you listen to and read the news and pay close attention to politics doesn’t mean you understand all of the subtleties of the subjects being discussed, or are suddenly an expert on the matter. We aren’t saying you should simply listen to one expert and take their word as gospel, but reading up on several expert opinions, and then reading more background on the subject to better inform yourself will do you more good than you can imagine. The various experts out there you can listen to, though, are not simply watching political news more than you. They often have degrees in fields like political science, which makes them an expert and helps them parse complicated political developments that would confuse many of us.  

4. An Amazing Sense Of Direction That Beats Everyone Else’s

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This is another situation where a common skill that everyone must use is misinterpreted by some people as something special they can do far better than others. While reading a map in this day and age, or really being able to know directions almost instantly, would certainly be good skills to have, most direction know-it-alls don’t even have them. They just think they have some innate compass.

The truth is, humans don’t really have the special kind of directional sense that some animals do, and rely on our brains to read maps or follow patterns that we previously knew. If the person who claims to be so great at directions does not know the place he’s leading you through, he is unlikely to be much better. To make matters worse for those who think they are directional experts, nearly everyone is using GPS at least for backup to some extent these days, and GPS has been proven to weaken your directional and navigational skills over time. If someone is truly better at finding directions, it’s likely mostly learned, as they have figured out patterns that help them find their way in any situation, perhaps even at a young age.

3. The Ability To Become An Instant Expert At Anything With A Simple Google Search

One of the most infuriating aspects of the internet age is how so many people now think they have this ability to use “google-fu” and suddenly be a master of anything. These people probably don’t have the capability to do so much as a minor book report on the subject they’re looking into, but are now convinced they have the answer. Once they have “the answer” they don’t listen to any competing information, and are incapable of learning further about the subject.

What people are forgetting is that, if you really want to know, you need to understand. That requires more time reading expert opinions, reading up on background information, and poring over research studies and the like. There will often be competing sources on anything, and you may even see multiple experts with different opinions. Humans like to make judgments and resolve things — the brain simply feels more satisfied — but it isn’t really good for us in the long run. Sometimes the best decision is to actually not form such a strong opinion that you won’t feel right about changing it later, but to leave your mind open to many different possibilities.

2. People Who Think They Don’t Get Hungover At All May Want To Lay Off The Booze

A claim you will hear from young people in college, sometimes young people in high school, and especially older people who have a serious problem with booze, is that they can drink, and drink, and drink and they just don’t get hungover. Now, there are some people who actually have extra functioning kidneys they were born with, and those people actually can metabolize alcohol at a higher level, but this is absurdly, remotely rare.

Most people who are making the claim are simply mistaken about the damage they are doing to their bodies. The truth is that if you are a drinking a lot over a short period of time, you are doing temporary damage to your body that it now has to repair.

You have toxins that your body has to remove by working them through your natural waste system over time. If you drink heavily and hardly feel anything in the morning, it doesn’t mean you aren’t hungover, but that you have a drinking problem, have built up a tolerance, and are used to most of the ill effects enough that it has become normal for you.

There are many organizations that can help people with alcoholism and you are not alone — there are always people who would be happy to share strategies online or in person, and it’s never too late to stop drinking. The truth is that if you drink heavily on a regular basis and truly feel you aren’t even getting hangovers, you have become far too accustomed to the constant stream of booze in your bloodstream, and you need to give your poor liver and kidneys a break.

1. The People Who Think They Are The Whisperer Of All Animals Are Just Good With Theirs

A huge amount of people worldwide love animals — cultures have been keeping cats and dogssince about as far back as we can record history, and we have reason to believe they have been domesticating them for far longer. Even people who don’t own pets typically still find them to be adorable, and you can’t go anywhere on Facebook without seeing cat pictures, usually upvoted mindlessly by everyone who comes across them.

Seeing as many, many people own a pet, it may not be surprising that most people seem to think they are an expert not just with their pet, and not just with their type of pet, but with every type of animal imaginable. These are the people who see a dog or a cat, and instead of just enjoying its presence and petting it, have to go on to anyone within earshot about how great they are with all animals, to the point you wish they would just stop talking and move on to another subject. Or out of the room. Either is good, really. (You hear that, Doug?)

These people will often make thoroughly obnoxious displays where they make all kinds of weird sounds or movements that they somehow think are going to make the animal just come straight for them. These people forget that their own pet responds to these things because they trained it to at a young age, and like humans, most animals are very, very different. While there are real animal behavioral experts out there, unless that is your career you are probably not suddenly a beastmaster of taming your new neighbor’s cat. And quite honestly, just owning a pet doesn’t even necessarily make you an expert at taking care of that specific creature, either. Taking care of animals is hard work, and doing it right takes a lot of practice, and some trial and error.

10 Cases from Project Blue Book: the CIA’s Secret Hunt for UFOs

In 1947, World War II was over but tension between the United States and the USSR was still high. UFO sightings were abnormally high that year, because people were on high alert when looking at the sky. The CIA believed that it was always possible that the Russians invented weapons that were far superior to what America had at their disposal. After a few key incidents in the 1940s forced the government to question their understanding of UFOs, the CIA and the United States Air Force came together to create the top secret mission called “Project Blue Book.” The goal was to decide if these objects were a threat to the American people, and to also study the technology as much as possible.

Captain Edward Ruppelt was head of the project. He recorded over 12,000 individual incidents that had been reported to the government, and coined the term “Unidentified Flying Object.” Ruppelt used science and psychology to study the data on UFO sightings, eliminating the vast majority that had been reported due to logical explanations. He spent far more time studying the truly unbelievable cases that defied logical explanation. These fell under an “extraterrestrial theory” — as in, the possibility that these were objects from another world.

10. The Kenneth Arnold Sighting

In 1947, a pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying a private plane in Idaho when he spotted 9 silver discs flying over Mount Rainier. They were moving so fast, he estimated that they must have been flying over 1,200 miles per hour, at least 10,000 feet in the air. This was nearly double the average speed of any airplane used during the war. Arnold estimated that these objects were more than 100 feet wide.

He reported this sighting to the authorities immediately. The government debated whether these objects were real, or if Arnold had imagined them. There were no weather balloons in that area, so there truly was no explanation they could come up with to explain what he saw. The press ate up this story, and after speaking to Arnold, they coined the term “flying saucer” to describe these flying objects that he had seen.

9. The Roswell Incident

Even if you’re not into UFO research, nearly everyone has heard of the Roswell Incident. This was yet another huge case in 1947 that lead to the creation of Project Blue Book. A silver disc crashed on Foster Ranch, which was just outside Roswell, New Mexico. Witnesses rushed to the crash site, and claimed that they saw a spaceship.  Members of the Air Force from a nearby base showed up to examine the crash site, and they carried away all evidence that they could find. Some witnesses claim that they saw the agents carry away small bodies of aliens from the crash. That same day, they told the press that they had discovered a real “flying saucer.”

The very next day, the government retracted their statement and released photographs of agents kneeling next to materials from a broken weather balloon. The Air Force said that the bodies people witnessed being carried away were actually test dummies that had been tied to the balloons. The space probes that fell from the sky truly did look like flying saucers, but the government was unwilling to explain this technology to the public until years later.

However, for UFO believers, this information was too little too late, and they believe the government is just coming up with rational explanations to satisfy public inquiry. On top of that, the Air Force officer who arrived on the scene, Jesse Marcel, gave an interview in which he said that he did not believe this crash was actually a weather balloon, but he was forced by his commanding officer to lie to the press for fear of losing his job. He said that the metal he picked up from the crash was as thin as the foil inside of a pack of cigarettes, and yet it was so strong he couldn’t bend or dent it — even with a sledgehammer.

8. Dahl and The Men In Black

In June of 1947, a man named Harold Dahl was on his boat in Puget Sound with his son and dog. About 1,500 feet above, they could see silver donut-shaped objects flying in the sky. One of the objects began to fall. The metal debris sliced his son’s arm, and it killed their dog. Dahl told his boss about the incident. He didn’t believe him, so he went to see for himself. He also witnessed these same UFOs in the sky. A few days later, a man wearing a black suit and fedora showed up, threatening to ruin Dahl’s life if he ever told anyone about what he saw that day on the boat. Obviously, Dahl still told people about it. This became known as the “Maury Island Incident.” This is considered to be the first sighting of “Men in Black.”

We now know that this incident occurred mere months before the Project Blue Book initiative started. It was incidents like these that made it necessary to have a task force looking after these UFO cases, and taking testimonies seriously with scientific inquiry, rather than threatening to silence the witnesses with Men in Black. 

7. The Kinross Incident

In 1953, air traffic command at the Kinross Air Force Base in Michigan detected an unidentified flying object soaring over Lake Superior at 500 miles per hour. The blip failed to communicate over the radio, so a pilot named Lt. Felix Moncla, Jr. and his radar assistant, Lt. R. R. Wilson, jumped in a jet to chase after this UFO. Air traffic control watched the jet and the UFO blip on the radar, and then, both objects suddenly vanished at the same time. They described it as the mystery blip “swallowing” the other.

The Air Force sent rescue planes to search for the jet, and even dove into the water all over Lake Superior looking for the crash. None of its remains were ever found. The agents of Project Blue Book investigated the scene of the missing aircrafts, and alluded to the fact that they had seen similar incidents happen before, but were not allowed to say what they knew. In later years, the US government tried to claim that the mystery blip was an airplane from the Canadian Royal Air Force, but the Canadian government has firmly denied that it was one of their planes.

6. The Levelland Case

In 1957, two men in Levelland, Texas, witnessed a “rocket” taking off in the middle of a field, and then flying toward their truck at full speed. Their engine failed, and it was impossible for them to drive away. They were scared for their lives, so they jumped out of the vehicle and into a nearby ditch. As they rocket flew over them, they felt an immense amount of heat. As soon as the rocket was far away, their truck started back up again. They drove home and called the police. Sheriff Weir Clem (as if you needed further evidence that this took place in Texas) thought this was a prank, and decided to brush off that first phone call. That same night, several other people called in to say that a glowing ball of light descended from the sky and hovered near their cars, causing all of their engines to fail simultaneously. After the ball flew away, their cars worked again.

There were a total of 15 calls to the police who all reported similar incidents at different times, in different locations around the city. Sheriff Clem jumped into his car to investigate, and at 1:30 a.m. that night witnessed the phenomenon first-hand. His police cruiser stopped working for a moment, until the UFO went away.

The government investigated the scene, and took the statements from the witnesses. They blamed it on a lightning storm, even though there was no storm that night. The government called it “ball lightning,” which is an unexplained phenomenon that has been recorded since the 1800s. This is interesting, though, because ball lightning is incredibly rare, and it only occurs during thunderstorms. So it doesn’t make sense that this would happen multiple times in one night, hours apart from one another, on a clear night. It also doesn’t account for the reports of the rocket. A professor named Allen Hynek, who assisted during Project Blue Book, wasn’t satisfied with the explanation either. He wrote that there is “absence of evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out headlights.”

5. The Lubbock Lights

In August of 1951, a group of college professors were sitting together in a backyard in Lubbock, Texas. They noticed bluish-green lights flying above them in formation, similar to a flock of birds. Over the course of that week, several other people in the town noticed these same lights appearing at night. A man named Carl Hart managed to take 5 photographs. While they were in black and white, it was clear these lights were clustered in a formation, and that it doesn’t look like any aircraft that we know of. The photographs were published in local newspapers, and even made their way into Life Magazine. When studying the photographs, Edward Ruppelt from Project Blue Book noted that every time a light moved, it was in a pattern. They were traveling at 600 miles per hour, over 2,000 feet in the air.

In 1997, an incredibly similar sighting happened over Phoenix, Arizona that was witnessed by over 20,000 people. Many witnesses claim that they saw one gigantic airship, and the lights were in a V formation on the edge of the UFO. The Air Force eventually came forward to say that they had been conducting a mission called “Project Snowbird” where they were test-piloting jets in the middle of the night, and dropped several flares from the sky. However, people have tried to recreate the phenomenon by dropping flares from planes, and it didn’t look anything like the Phoenix Lights. The timing reported by the government also didn’t add up. For both incidents, there is no rational explanation that actually makes sense.

4. The Washington DC UFO Incident of 1952

On July 19, 1952, air traffic control at Washington National Airport spotted 7 unidentified blips on their radar. Witnesses all over Washington DC could also see these objects. They were described as orange lights that would hover, and then randomly move at extreme speeds, before hovering in place again. People were so scared of what they saw in the sky, and they were calling the police so much, the city’s communication system completely crashed.

The government claimed that these were weather balloons. However, weather balloons are so small they don’t normally show up on airport radar, and there are never 7 in a cluster. They were also moving faster than any airplane the air traffic controller had ever seen. The agents working with Project Blue Book knew that these UFOs were very real, but the widespread panic in Washington DC was a sign that people could not handle even the possibility of aliens and UFOs. From then on, the government began taking the stance that if anyone claimed UFOs were real, they would start gaslighting them. Witnesses who reported incidents were now questioned about their sanity, or accused of using drugs. The public was no longer reporting everything they saw in the sky, for fear of earning a reputation of being crazy.  

3. Barney and Betty Hill

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In 1961, married couple Barney and Betty Hill were on their way home from vacation. They were driving through a rural part of New Hampshire in the middle of the night when they spotted a flying object above them. They thought that it was a satellite, so they pulled the car over to look with their binoculars. At the time, satellites were still a very new technology, so it was exciting to spot one. The Hills could see that it was an aircraft roughly 1,000 feet off the ground, so they assumed it was a low-flying airplane. They describe the UFO as being shaped like a pancake with windows all around it. The craft did not need to turn around, and it could move back and forth freely at high speeds, so there was no way their car could drive fast enough to escape.

When they looked at their watches, they realized that 2 hours had passed the blink of an eye, and they had no memory of that lost time. After this incident, they both began to have horrible nightmares almost every night. It got so bad, they needed to seek help from a psychiatrist.

Both Barney and Betty Hill went under hypnosis separately to help them recover their suppressed memories of that night. They both remembered identical incidents of being abducted by the beings on the craft, and having experiments conducted on them. There are over 10 hours of these interviews.

When Barney goes through his memories, he is very calm and rational for most of the interviews. Then, in the moments when he describes interacting with the aliens, he has fits of screaming and extreme fear. He talks about trying to run, or reaching for his gun. At one point, as he is reliving his memories in a dream-like state. He says, “I don’t understand. Are we being robbed?” When he is asked to describe what the aliens looked like, he said that one was like a friendly red headed Irishman, while another had an “evil” face, “like a German Nazi.” Everyone on the ship wore black military uniforms, and they all had “slanted eyes.” He also insinuated that he could communicate with these people without speaking. He said, “They’re in my brain.”

In the adaptations of Barney and Betty Hill’s encounter, artists always make these men in uniform out to be far more alien-like than described in their testimony. However, they repeat on multiple occasions that they were abducted and experimented on by men. The agents from Project Blue Book interviewed the Hills, and they were told to keep their story a secret. This case is considered to be the first recorded alien abduction story.

Since the Hills were a mixed race couple in the 1960s, they began receiving death threats. In a lot of ways, this incident ruined their reputations. They would not have gained anything from lying about this. Something clearly happened to them — but whether it was aliens, or some advanced technology here on Earth, we may never know.  

2. Portage County UFO Chase

In 1966, a Portage County, Ohio police officer named Dale Spaur was investigating an abandoned vehicle when he witnessed a glowing aircraft rising out of the woods. He could hear a loud engine, and feel a huge amount of heat blowing on him as it rose into the air. When it was in the sky, he could see that it was a silver, disc-shaped UFO. He chased after it in his squad car, and got on his radio for backup. Other police officers joined in the chase, and they followed the object for 86 miles.

Government agents from Project Blue Book showed up to listen to testimony from the police officers. The officers were told that they saw light refracting off of the planet Venus, which was apparently visible that day. At this point, new leadership had taken over Project Blue Book. Instead of performing experiments and making actual scientific inquiry into the cases, they would just show up and debunk everything. This incident completely ruined Spaur’s life. He became the laughingstock of the town, labeled as “crazy” for believing in UFOs. His wife left him and took their kids, he was fired from his job, and he had almost nothing left. He had to move to West Virginia to work in a coal mine, where he fell 70 feet down a shaft and broke his back. He never backed down from his story, but says that he wished he’d never seen anything that day. 

1. The Phenomenon of Blank

The CIA hired a nuclear physicist named Edward Condon to go through Edward Ruppelt’s reports with the goal of debunking his findings. Condon had worked on the Manhattan Project, and he was an expert in nuclear weapons. In 1968, he released what is now known as the Condon Report, which basically declares that an extraterrestrial explanation of UFOs is unlikely.

Project Blue Book was disbanded in 1969, and the internal government memo claimed that the CIA had concluded that UFOs were not dangerous, and that extraterrestrial life did not exist. But 20 years later, someone high up in the government was sending letters to William Sessions, who was the director of the FBI at that time. Even though these were declassified documents, the identity of the writer was still redacted. This person wrote several letters to Sessions about the possibility of having the FBI pick up where the CIA and Air Force left off.

Apparently, they had both agreed that UFOs and aliens may actually be real. In one of the letters, the anonymous writer says to Sessions, “You may recall that while you were in Fort Smith visiting your father, I called and briefly mentioned my desire to discuss the phenomenon of (BLANK) in general, and the role of the U.S. government participation.” In the same letter, the writer mentions a government cover-up involving “alien bodies.” For whatever reason, the FBI redacted a single word — The phenomenon of what, exactly?

Whoever wrote these letters had an incredibly powerful position in the government. They had access to top secret information. They mention receiving phone calls from the Pentagon, and having the director of the FBI’s personal phone number. Whoever this person was, the government doesn’t want us to know — possibly because it may have been a well-known name. At the very end of one of the letters, the anonymous person writes about their mutual friend, “P.S., As the ultimate challenge, why not ask President Bush himself?”

10 Hotly Debated Theories About Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler is history’s most reviled, and perhaps even its most influential, figure. He was, more than anyone else, the architect of the Second World War, a conflict that changed the world forever.

He has been the subject of more books, films, and documentaries than any other individual, living or dead. However, despite this intense and enduring interest, there is still a great deal about Hitler that we do not know for sure.

These are 10 of the most debated theories about the life and death of Adolf Hitler.

  1. Was Hitler a brave soldier?

In the Second World War, Adolf Hitler (pictured above on the far right) was one of the most powerful men in the world, but in World War One he never rose beyond the rank of corporal. Nonetheless, he served in the Imperial German Army for several years, even being awarded the Iron Cross, one of Imperial Germany’s highest medals for valor.

While there isn’t much good to say about Hitler, history does record that he was a brave soldier who danced with death on a regular basis. This was certainly the version of history put forward by the Nazis, but recent research suggests his war record may have been vastly inflated.

Dr. Thomas Weber of Aberdeen University tracked down every diary entry and letter he could find written by the men who had served in Hitler’s regiment. They revealed that Hitler may not, as previously believed, have served as a regimental runner – a dangerous job that would have seen him delivering messages to the frontlines under heavy fire.

It seems that he had instead been employed to deliver messages between company headquarters. This would have placed him several miles behind the front-lines. Weber argues that Hitler’s medals for bravery were awarded simply because his job brought him into contact with the officers who issued the medals, rather than for any specific act of heroism.

While this might not be enough to completely overturn the general consensus concerning Hitler’s military service, it certainly brings it into question.

  1. Was Hitler partly Jewish?

The details of Adolf Hitler’s family tree on his mother’s side have been established with a good degree of certainty. The same cannot be said for his father. Alois Schicklgruber, who later changed his name to Hitler, was an illegitimate child. Since nobody knew who the young Shicklgruber’s father was, that space was left blank on his birth certificate.

Historians have invested considerable effort in attempting to work out the true identity of Adolf Hitler’s paternal grandfather. The mystery has never been solved, but one of the potential candidates put forward was a Jew by the name of Leopold Frankenberger.

The suggestion that he might be partly Jewish dogged Hitler throughout his life, but thanks to modern techniques scientists have been able to attempt to provide an answer.

Some 39 of Hitler’s closest surviving relatives gave saliva samples in order for their DNA to be tested. The results found a chromosome called E1b1b1, which is very rare amongst Europeans, but is associated with the Berbers of North Africa and Jewish people. This suggests that Hitler might well have been related to the very people he despised.

  1. Did Hitler murder his niece?

Geli Raubal was said to be a beautiful young woman. Adolf Hitler apparently agreed, and in 1929 the pair became entwined in a love affair. This was despite the fact that Hitler was 19 years her senior and also her half-uncle.

Hitler was by all accounts utterly besotted, and Geli accompanied him everywhere. For a time, it appears that Hitler’s infatuation was reciprocated, but the future Fuhrer’s obsession soon became suffocating. He refused to let Geli leave his side and became enraged if she dared to speak to another man.

The couple shared an apartment in Munich, and neighbors reported that on the evening of September 18, 1931 a huge row erupted between Hitler and his niece. The next morning Geli was found shot dead with Hitler’s revolver at her side.

Sections of the press speculated that Geli had been murdered by her lover in a fit of jealous rage.

Unfortunately, the truth will probably never be known. Hitler had not yet seized power, but his connections and influence within Germany were considerable. He had many friends in high places. These included the pro-Nazi Minister of Justice for Bavaria, who ensured that Geli’s body was swiftly removed from the country for burial in Austria. Claims that she had suffered a broken nose in addition to the gunshot wound that claimed her life could no longer be verified one way or the other.

  1. Was Hitler really blinded by poison gas?

On November 11, 1918 the slaughter of World War One finally came to an end as the armistice came into effect. For the vast majority of soldiers on either side the overriding emotion was of relief that they had survived. That was not the case for Adolf Hitler.

Having been caught in a poison gas attack some weeks earlier he had been temporarily blinded and was undergoing treatment in a field hospital. When news reached him of what amounted to Germany’s capitulation, he fell to his knees and broke down in tears. At least, that’s the story that Hitler always told, and despite him being one of history’s most prolific liars it went unchallenged for almost a century.

In 2011 the historian Thomas Weber decided to take a closer look into Hitler’s claims. Hitler’s Great War medical records had long since been lost or destroyed. However, a renowned German neurosurgeon named Otfrid Forster claimed to have seen them. Weber found letters that Forster had written to his American colleagues during the 1930s. According to Forster, Hitler had been hospitalized due to hysterical blindness and not poison gas.

If this is accurate, then it would not be at all surprising that Hitler invented a different narrative to portray himself in a more heroic light.

  1. Did A British soldier spare Hitler’s life?

Henry Tandey was a war hero, one of the most decorated soldiers in the entire British Army, and perhaps a man who unwittingly missed an opportunity to prevent the Second World War.

Legend has it that Tandey and Hitler met face-to-face on a World War I battlefield. Tandey allegedly had Germany’s future leader at his mercy, but he chose to let him live rather than gun down a defenseless opponent. It’s a remarkable story, even more so since its source can be traced back to none other than Adolf Hitler himself.

In September 1938 Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew to Germany in an optimistic but ultimately doomed attempt to secure peace in Europe. While there he noticed a picture of a British soldier, Henry Tandey, displayed on the wall of Hitler’s study. It seemed very odd indeed that an arch-nationalist such as Germany’s Fuhrer would choose to display a picture of a British soldier.

Hitler explained that he’d noticed Tandey’s photograph in the press and recognized him as the man who spared his life during the Great War.

It may be that Hitler was mistaken. Perhaps he even invented the story to bolster the myth of himself as a man protected by providence and destiny. However, Tandey confirmed that he had indeed spared the lives of several Germans. It is possible that one of those men was Adolf Hitler.

  1. Was Hitler a weak dictator?

At the height of his power Adolf Hitler presided over a vast empire that spanned almost all of continental Europe, and a sizeable chunk of North Africa. The conventional image of Hitler is as the overlord at the center of this vast web, making all the important decisions and pulling all the strings.

Some historians, most notably Hans Mommsen, have argued that this picture credits Hitler with far more control than he ever actually wielded. Advocates of the weak dictator theory accept that Hitler was the most powerful man in the Reich, but they argue that he was either unable or unwilling to exercise the kind of direct control over his subordinates that the likes of the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin insisted upon.

Rather than Hitler dictating his decisions from above, many policies were implemented from below as his henchman, such as Himmler and Martin Bormann, fought turf wars amongst themselves and attempted to dream up schemes to please their Fuhrer.

On this reading Hitler never really had a grand plan, he was instead buffeted around by the forces of history and the chaotic nature of the brutal party apparatus he had created.

  1. Was Hitler obsessed with the occult?

Nazis are one of the go-to staples for any fiction writer in need of a baddie. Frequently, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark, those Nazis are attempting to harness supernatural powers.

This isn’t actually a million miles from reality. Several members of Hitler’s inner circle were fascinated by and firmly believed in the power of the supernatural and magic.

Heinrich Himmler created a special unit within the SS to collect information on witches and magic, and the German Navy even set up the National Pendulum Institute in Berlin. While the British used sonar to hunt down German U-boats, the Germans attempted to locate British shipping by dangling   pendulums over maps of the Atlantic Ocean.

The biggest believer of all was Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s second in command, who in 1941 stole a Messerschmitt fighter aircraft, flew to Scotland, and attempted to broker a peace deal between Nazi Germany and the thoroughly bemused British. It seems that Hess’s astrologer had convinced him he was destined to be the man to bring the war to an end.

Quite how convinced Hitler was of the existence of supernatural powers is debatable. However, there is no question that he often spoke of a force he called “providence” protecting him and guiding his actions.

  1. Was Hitler suffering from Parkinson’s disease?

During his rise to power Hitler proved himself to be an exceptionally shrewd, manipulative, and cunning politician. He later demonstrated these same abilities on the international stage as he routinely outmaneuvered the established statesmen of Europe.

As World War Two progressed, Hitler’s agility of mind abandoned him as his mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly. His decision making became so poor that the Allies abandoned plans to assassinate him, on the grounds that his mistakes were helping to shorten the war.

By 1945 visitors to Hitler’s Berlin bunker were shocked to find their Fuhrer had become a physical wreck. His left hand shook uncontrollably, and he dragged his leg behind him as he walked.

The stress and strain of directing a world war that seemed increasingly certain to lead to his death no doubt played their part in Hitler’s dramatic decline, but some neuroscientists believe Hitler was suffering from the degenerative mental and physical impact of Parkinson’s disease.

Bruno Ganz, the actor who played Hitler in the 2005 film Downfall, was convinced this was the case and attempted to portray this in his performance.

  1. Was Hitler a junkie?

Adolf Hitler didn’t smoke, didn’t touch alcohol, and didn’t eat meat. He reportedly even abstained from coffee. Nazi propaganda portrayed him as having dedicated his entire life in the service of Germany: he had neither the time nor the inclination to pursue Earthly pleasures.

The reality, which has only recently begun to emerge, was that Hitler spent much of the war doped up on a terrifying cocktail of drugs.

Hitler’s slide into addiction began when he fell ill in 1941, and his personal physician, Theodor Morell, treated him with a course of injections of methamphetamine.

Hitler, not surprisingly, found this perked him up to no end. Morell soon became indispensable to Germany’s leader; accompanying Hitler everywhere he would administer opiates to help his Fuhrer sleep and cocaine to pep him up before important meetings.

While Hitler didn’t see himself as a junkie, he needed drugs in order to function and was almost certainly severely addicted. In early 1945 the factories that produced the drugs he relied on were destroyed by Allied bombers, cutting off much of his supply. Hitler was forced to go cold turkey, and some historians have speculated that it may have been this, and not Parkinson’s disease, that accounted for his mental and physical deterioration as the war in Europe approached its end.

  1. Did Hitler survive the war?

Of all the theories swirling around Adolf Hitler perhaps the most infamous, and the most persistent, is that he may have somehow survived the destruction of his murderous Third Reich.

We know with a good deal of certainty that Hitler was still in Berlin on his birthday of 20 April 1945, just two weeks before the city fell. However, Berlin was ultimately captured by the Soviets, and Stalin’s secret police prevented even Georgy Zhukov, the senior Soviet commander on the entire Eastern Front, from inspecting Hitler’s bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery.

By the time the Americans and British were finally allowed access, Hitler, whether alive or dead, was long gone. With the lack of any physical remains to examine, the FBI and the CIA initially remained open to the possibility that Hitler may just have escaped.

It was by no means entirely implausible; even in the final months of the war Hitler still had the ability to call upon immense resources had he chosen to attempt to flee. However, the weight of evidence indicates this was most likely not the case.

Dozens of mutually corroborating eyewitness accounts place Hitler in Berlin as the Soviet Red Army closed in around his bunker. The U-boat in which he was rumored to have escaped was recently found wrecked in the North Sea between Denmark and Norway, and in 2018 the Russian National Archives allowed experts to study a set of teeth said to belong to Hitler. A team of French pathologists compared them with x-rays taken of Hitler’s teeth in 1944 and found them to be an exact match.

Most World War Two historians believe that Adolf Hitler committed suicide amidst the ruins of his shattered Reich in April of 1945, but rumors that he escaped to South America, or even Antarctica, do not easily die.


Top 10 Movies that Mess with Your Mind

Sometimes, it’s satisfying to take a break from formulaic movies. Don’t misunderstand, no film fan worth your time is above the pleasures of a kinetic action scene or a shameless romance. The appeal still remains for the novelty of a movie experience that makes you try to ponder its symbols, technique, and intricacies, and perhaps provide a memorable new perspective for a viewer to take with them.

Now, let’s also make it clear: This isn’t a list about arbitrary nonsense either. No art is needed for that. A computer algorithm can write a script where superficially artistic things happen. As it happened at least one was said to have written a commercial by now (although that turned out to likely not be true.) This is about movies that have structure and when the creators break film-making rules, it’s with a purpose in mind.

You can find all kinds of movies that mess with your mind on CHILI.com. Wait, you never heard of CHILI? Well, CHILI is a fully pay per view platform which provides a wide range of titles thanks to the agreements with the most important producers, local and independent distributors. CHILI is available on Smart TVs, Blu-ray players, PCs, tablets and smartphones.

10. Eraserhead

The most popular interpretation of David Lynch’s 1978 debut film is that it’s about a printing factory worker in a bleak town named Henry Spencer who accidentally impregnates his girlfriend Mary, and they have an inhumanly deformed baby. The reason that’s only the most popular interpretation is because Lynch has explicitly said in interviews that in the following decades no one came close to accurately interpreting his grim debut (he has said the true intended meaning has something to do with the Holy Bible, but that’s as revealing as he’s gotten.)

So what keeps compelling people to try? Because Lynch’s movie not only has the loose structure of a comprehensible if grim story, it also has teases for the audience that seem to play off how abstract certain surreal scenes are. For example, during a scene where Henry meets his girlfriend’s mother, there’s a loud, off-putting squeaking noise through much of the scene, leaving the viewer anxious about what that noise is and what it could mean… then revealing it’s a benign litter of puppies. Later, when Mary leaves Henry, there’s an extended scene where she’s messing with the end of the bed while Henry’s lying on it. It’s framed from Henry’s POV so we can’t see what she’s doing, and we’ve seen enough surreal imagery with ominous sounds that it could be anything. It goes on for a deliberately extended period of time. Then with a pop, she pulls her suitcase out from under the bed. In short, Lynch’s trick was to know that just showing harrowing tableaus would be off-putting, and that including some comedy and pleasant surprises would make the movie less predictable, one of the keys to its intrigue lasting for decades.

9. Van Diemen’s Land

This 2009 movie is based on true events and tries very hard to treat them with due respect. It follows a band of eight convicts sent to a penal colony on the island of Tasmania, the de facto leader Alexander Pearce having been sent from Ireland for stealing six pairs of shoes. In 1822 the group broke out for the settlements on the Eastern side of the island. In the harsh Tasmanian Wilderness, in desperation they had to resort to cannibalism. Despite the nightmarish situation, director Jonathan Auf Der Heide made sure to restrain the violence and gore to avoid making an exploitative movie. Yet during its premiere multiple audience members vomited and others fainted at the film. These were presumably people that by 2009 had seen far more graphic footage. How was Auf Der Heide’s film having such an extreme effect accidentally?

According to the director, the trick he sort of backed into was downplaying the violence. The lack of graphic, heightened imagery and special effects took away some of the distancing effect that some cinematic technique inevitably has. As he put it, “… when it becomes a reality, murder can be mundane and clumsy and ugly.” Not that directorial restraint in and of itself is the magic bullet for a movie to reach an audience on a visceral level, but it worked unintentional wonders here.

8. A Ghost Story

This 2017 movie written and directed by David Lowery may be the most polarizing film featured on this list, with a large gap between the critical and audience consensus on sites like Rotten Tomatoes for instance. The story is that Casey Affleck’s character known only as “C” dies, his ghost (which is literally rendered as the actor under a sheet) haunts the home of his significant other “M” played by Rooney Mara. “M” doesn’t know that “C” is there, tries to endure the grieving process, and eventually leaves their home, but “C” can not leave with her. Trapped at the home, it eventually crumbles around him. Then time loops around, and “C” finds himself not only haunting “M” for a time but himself.

The most memorable aspect of the movie is how it plays around with the passage of time. The movie will play events that are meant to carry particular emotional weight in real time, and moments where the characters feel numb or disconnected flow by much faster. By far the most noted example of this is a scene where M eats most of a whole pie. For four minutes in a single, darkly lit take where Mara is sitting on the floor. Instead of just showing a few seconds of binging to get the point across, Lowery lingers so that it by turns it becomes depressing, uncomfortable, then disgusting and harrowing. It turns the sadness of grief from something that can have some kind of aesthetic into essentially torture for everyone involved, including the audience. Seeing the actress eat the pie in real time lets the audience know that the actress actually did it instead of using editing to make the scene go down easier. No blaming audiences if they’d rather do just about anything with their time than watch that, but the creative choice clearly struck a chord with many.

7. Enter the Void

The plot for this film is essentially simplicity itself. A low-level drug dealer named Oscar is living in the wake of a severe childhood trauma. He goes to make a sale, the police raid the site of the transaction, he tries to scare them off by saying through a closed door that he has a gun, and consequently gets gunned down. The lives of his sister and colleagues spiral out of control as a result.

But what will make an impact on a viewer is very likely not its story or characters. It’s how Gaspar Noe tells his 2009 story so immersively from the perspective of Oscar, complete with showing what Oscar sees what he trips on DMT and his death visions. Almost all from literal first person POV, even as he drifts from his body into the neon-drenched Tokyo skyline. He drifts above scenes of his sister hooking up with a club manager (which results in an unwanted pregnancy) and one of his associates becoming a dumpster scrounging homeless person. He also travels into the past and sees the automobile accident that shaped his life as it ended his idyllic family life. There are several scenes that are simply flashing strobe lights in the audience’s eyes, as if to simulate the “light at the end of the tunnel” effect as the cerebral cortex shuts down. Noe himself unusually tried to take all ambiguity out of the ending, saying in an interview that all the events in the film after Oscar gets shot are hallucinations and that while he wrote the movie he was completely areligious. But whatever an audience member’s view of life, it provides a very convincing vision of entering the afterlife and reincarnation.

6. Blue

There are very, very few movies that are more minimalist than Derek Jarman’s 1993 film. That’s not to say nothing happens in it. The soundtrack is full of narration by the director, Nigel Terry, and Tilda Swinton where the protagonist speculates about the things to see, his life experiences, his medical treatment, rejecting all acts of shallow charity and pity that have been extended to him. But all there is to see throughout the entire movie is an unbroken blue screen. That’s because when he was making it, Derek Jarman was dying of AIDS and his vision would intermittently have flashes of blue light as he went blind from retinal damage.

The Washington Post said that the effect of watching it was “an unyielding bout of suffocation.” It also described how the effect was at time “nauseating,” and considering that at the time he was making it Jarman described himself as a “walking lab” from all the pills he was taking, including experimental ones, then that means he certainly got some viewers to relate. The Independentmentioned while watching it the “eyes play tricks on you,” indicating that it also imparted at least a little of his own hallucinatory headspace.

5. Sátántangó

Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s 1994 film sounds like the setup for a novel John Steinbeck would write. A farming community (a former collectivist farm, as it’s based on a 1985 novel written in the Soviet Union) has received a government subsidy. From hardened criminals to abusive older children, we see the various ways that the cunning take the shares of the cash from the unsuspecting. The movie stretches seven and a half hours with a much smaller cast than a film like that would usually involve (unless you count the cows in it as cast members) but since it’s conveniently divided into twelve parts watching it is more akin to watching a miniseries.

The time commitment isn’t the most daunting sounding aspect of Sátántangó to the uninitiated. This movie shows its various subplots mostly in very long takes that often amount to traveling from place to place on foot, or even walking around buildings. Additionally, certain scenes are replayed from different points of view. Sound boring? For many it will be. But it also has the effect of removing any sense of quaintness to the rundown rural setting. Even though the images are filmed in crisp black and white, they feature muddy, sloshing paths. The effect is that being inside the village can seem so oppressive and uncomfortable for the viewer that they become numb to the wickedness of the many thieves. Even such severe crimes as a girl who learns her peers tricked her into burying her money and responds by going home to abuse her cat become much more, if not exactly sympathetic, then at least more understandable. Viewers will likely come away from it completely disabused of any notions they had of pastoral rural life.

4. The Matrix

Oh, were you expecting this list to only include arthouse/cult movies? No way, commercial success is no barrier to effective technique. While surely many others have commented to death on its use of Hero’s Journey structure, color, etc. in 2017 vlogger Patrick Willems shared with the internet a novel observation. It was a simple but highly effective method that the Wachowskis used for keeping the audience unsure: Sound mixing during scene transitions.

For example, during the scene where protagonist Neo is interrogated by the villainous Agent Smith and a cybernetic tracking device modelled after a crayfish is put in his navel as Neo screams, the same sort of scream Neo makes as he wakes up in bed. This match of edit and sound mixing mimics an earlier scene where Trinity introduces Neo to the idea of entering a new world at a club, and immediately after he wakes up. But on the sound mix the musical score shifts in rhythm and pitch to resemble the buzzing of an alarm clock before transitioning in bed to the next scene, helping to sell the notion that the previous scene was a dream through connected sound and establishing a pattern in the movie. It’s a perfect illustration of how movies need to set up rules and frameworks if change in the flow of events is going to have an mean something to audiences and how even the subtlest filmmaking methods can be important.

3. The Shining

Since 1980 the mystique of Stanley Kubrick’s loose film adaptation of Stephen King’s horror story in the Overlook Hotel has only increased. Its trademark scenes of overt horror (the eerie twins, the door being axed open, the blood from the elevator, etc.) have been discussed at length and by this point parodied or patisched even more often, such as in the 2018 blockbuster Ready Player One. Lately, though, a belief has emerged that give credit for the movie’s effectiveness for something seemingly trivial. It’s the presence of continuity errors.

In the wake of Rodney Ascher’s 2013 documentary Room 237these errors have become a relatively hot topic in film circles. One of the main errors is the physical impossibility of the Overlook Hotel as pointed out in videos by Rob Ager (who noticed because his friend was trying to create a fan level in the video game Duke Nukem to resemble the Overlook Hotel.) For example, for the interview at the beginning of the film, the office it takes place in has a window to the outside. Yet in the movie, when comparing the location of that office to the hallways protagonist Jack Torrance later walks through, it becomes clear that the office is completely enclosed by the building. The window is “impossible” as Ager put it. Another significant error is that Grady, the previous caretaker who killed his family in a murder suicide before the events of the film, is named Charles Grady at the beginning but is named Delbert Grady later on, which is a pretty bizarre mistake for everyone involved in the production to miss. It adds to a theme suggested by the final shot of the movie that somehow these characters have been reincarnated and will visit this hotel again and again over the years.

If all this was intentional, it wouldn’t have been the first time for Kubrick. In A Clockwork Orange, during the scene where protagonist Alex DeLarge is drugged, Kubrick intentionally futzed with the portions of the meal laid out in front of him to disorient the audience. To expand that notion out from a scene to a feature film would be pretty ambitious even by his standards.

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock

This 1975 film not only launched the career of future The Truman Show and Master and Commander director Peter Weir. It’s been credited with revolutionizing Australian cinema and effectively making films from down under an international force to be reckoned with. Little wonder that it was sufficiently beloved to be remade in 2018 as a TV series.

What helps hook Picnic at Hanging Rock is its seeming normalcy. It begins with the class of a finishing school in Adelaide of 1900 going on a day out. While they’re there, four of the girls vanish. Subsequent search parties can’t find a trace. One man tries going it alone, and goes blind. Hanging Rock refuses to even hint what caused the women to vanish or what made the subsequent investigation have such odd occurrences. Then one of the women returns, but she can’t remember anything that happened to her around Hanging Rock. Aside from the hypnotic score by pan flutist Zamfir, it’s also so mundanely, meticulously told that many believed the wholy fabricated story was based on a real unexplained mystery. Little wonder that when it was initially released, despite containing barely any onscreen violence, it was treated as a horror movie.

1. The Battery

No one would call this 2012 movie an art film and its makers didn’t aspire for it to be one. It’s a buddy zombie film, The Battery of the title refers to a duo in cricket who pitch and are at bat. One such battery is traveling through countryside with a few mates trying to find shelter. It was not a massive hit or a critical darling. Its budget was a paltry $6000. So what’s it doing in the #1 position on this list?

Because creators Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim hit upon a brilliantly simple and cheap way to add a subconscious effect to their movie through infrasounds. Infrasounds are a type of white noise that’s usually outside the range of conscious human hearing. Such machines as air conditioners, generators, and anything else that produces a 19 hz or lower sound. Because they register subconsciously, they provide stimulus that often puts humans on edge without being aware why, which was exploited considerably for the sound mix of this movie. It just goes to show that for all the artistry and cleverness that many directors try to put into their movies. People are still people, and susceptible to the most basic tricks.


10 Useful Web Services

As you’re probably aware there are lots of web-based services nowadays, and you may even have tried using some in the past. While each service undoubtedly can be useful in certain situations, there are some that are far more useful in a much wider range of circumstances than others. In fact, a good place to start would be with this list of the top 10 most useful web services:

  1. Online Video Converter

Videos nowadays come in many different formats, and at some point, or other you may have difficulty playing one of them on a device or platform. The easiest way to fix that would be to convert it to a compatible format – which is what Online Video Converter will let you do.

All you need to do is click and add the file that you want to convert to upload it to Online Video Converter. It will allow you to upload any videos that are up to 100MB large and convert them to MP4 – which is the most widely-supported format.

If you want a more comprehensive converter you can use the desktop version that will let you convert to and from any format you require and has a wide range of other features.

  1. IFTTT

Ever want to put your phone on silent automatically at a particular time? Sync your iOS photos with Google Drive? Get notifications if it is going to be cold or rainy tomorrow? With IFTTT you’ll have access to tons of handy triggers that automate online services including Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Instagram, Google Drive, and more.

The handy triggers created in IFTTT are called applets, and you can opt to build your own and share them – or use applets that others have already built.

  1. Google Translate

As its name suggests, Google Translate will provide you with an immediate translation of any text that you paste into it. It supports a wide range of languages and will even automatically detect the language of the text that is pasted.

While the translation won’t be perfect, it is normally good enough to give you an idea of what the passage you’ve pasted is about. One of its more helpful features is the fact that you can paste a website URL if you need it fully translated.

  1. Can I Stream It

Platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon offer up a wide range of content – but as you may have noticed not all TV shows and movies are on all platforms. If you want to find out which service you need to stream a show or movie, Can I Stream It will give you an answer.

The way it works is easy: All you need to do is enter the name of the TV show or movie you want to watch, and Can I Stream It will let you know all the places it can be streamed, bought, downloaded, or even rented online. As more and more streaming services start to provide exclusive content, this web service is likely to continue to become more and more useful.

  1. What Font Is

Have you ever spent ages browsing through fonts to figure out which font is being used on an image or website? All you need to do next time round is head over to What Font Is and upload the image or paste the URL and it will let you know.

If the font isn’t one that is publicly available, What Font Is will suggest the closest match that is.

  1. LastPass

Remembering all the different really secure passwords that you use can be difficult – and creating a file listing them is far from secure. By using LastPass you can encrypt and save your passwords and any other important data – and access them via the website or its mobile apps.

Although the basic service is free, if you want access to the official mobile apps and additional multifactor authentication options, you’ll need to pay a yearly subscription.

  1. ManualsLib

Like many people you probably don’t keep the manuals of all the products that you buy – which can be annoying if you ever actually need them. Rather than trying to find them on the manufacturer’s website, ManualsLib will let you quickly search through a massive collection of PDF manuals for all types of products.

In short, you’ll be able to find the manuals that you need much more quickly and easily, and can then opt to read them online or download them to any device that you prefer.

  1. Print Friendly

Essentially Print Friendly will take any webpage and style it to be more appropriate for printing. It will remove any ads, navigation, and other unnecessary elements automatically, saving you both paper and ink in the process.

  1. Mailinator

If you want to sign-up for an online service but would rather not have your email spammed with the countless offers and promotions that eventually follow – Mailinator is your answer. It will give you a temporary email address that will automatically be destroyed after a few hours.

In short you could use the temporary email to sign-up and use online services without ever disclosing your real email. It will let you check and authenticate your account, so that it will be fully active.

  1. Ookla Speedtest

Are you sure that you’re getting the internet speed that you’re paying for? With Speedtest you can check and find out exactly how fast your connection actually is.

Not only is this useful to let you make sure your connection speed is what it should be, but it is also a useful tool for any activity that requires a stable connection. For example, if you’re going to be placing an important video call or conference, checking your internet speed in advance can be very helpful.

See how each of these web services can be useful? The best part about them is that because they’re entirely web-based they’re literally just a click away, and you can try them out for yourself at any time.

10 Epic Stories of Legendary Norse Gods

The Vikings are remembered for being some of the most powerful warriors in history who sailed the open sea to conquer new lands. They believed in gods and goddesses, all of which deeply influenced their lifestyle. For the Vikings, they were never forced to pray to any particular god or goddess. Most people would gravitate toward their favorite god and pray to the ones whose personalities resonated with them the most.

Norse mythology is strange, to say the least, and it’s full of interesting characters. The Vikingsnever wrote their history down, so the stories were passed along by word of mouth. So we may never know the original stories told of the Norse gods, but that won’t stop us from learning about these fascinating tales of magic, power, and scandal…

Freya

Freya by Penrose

Freya by Penrose

Goddess of beauty, love, sex, and fertility. Conversely, Freya (or Freyja) is also often associated with war and death. She was known for being a free spirit who slept around with a lot of the gods, including Odin. Freya lives her best life as an independent woman riding around on a chariot pulled by cats.

Freya rules over the 9th realm called Folkvangr, which is considered to be a beautiful version of the afterlife set aside for civilians, whereas the brave Viking warriors got to spend their time with Odin in Valhalla.

Balder

Odin's last words to Baldr (1908) by W. G. Collingwood.

Odin’s last words to Baldr (1908) by W. G. Collingwood.

Balder (or Baldr, or Baldur) is the son of Odin and Frigg, and is the god of light, joy, and innocence… So, basically, he was the Norse version of Mr. Rogers. As you might imagine, he isn’t actually very powerful, because you can’t weaponize love and happiness, unless you’re a Care Bear. Either way, humans loved Balder. But since people love to talk about death and destruction far more than rainbows and kittens, most stories about Balder are about the way he died.

Balder kept having nightmares about his death, so his mother, Frigg, made it so that no living creature could harm a hair on his head. The other gods didn’t mind that she was the helicopter parent of the century. They thought this was great, actually, because it meant they could stab Balder and throw things at him without fear of actually killing him.

Loki was very jealous of this immortality, so he transformed into Balder and appeared before Frigg, asking if there was any kind of loophole that would kill him. She told him that mistletoe would do him in. So Loki found some mistletoe, and tricked Balder’s disabled brother, Hod, into throwing mistletoe at him. Hod assumed it would just bounce off like everything else he lobbed at Balder’s head, but the mistletoe pierced his heart.

Frigg

Frigg And Her Maidens

Frigg And Her Maidens

Wife of Odin, Frigg is the goddess of motherhood and marriage. However, you may remember that we mentioned that Freya and Odin had a fling. Well, don’t worry, Frigg got her revenge by sleeping with Odin’s brothers, Ve and Vili. Frigg resides in the hall called Fensalir, and is often depicted sitting by her husband’s side. She has the power to see anyone’s future, but unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to stop Loki from killing her son.

Many scholars believe that Freya and Frigg both originate from the same story of just one female goddess, and the stories were split apart at some point in history. This would actually make a lot of sense, considering that Freya is the ruler of another afterlife, just like Odin.

Loki

Loki is the son of a frost giant (yeah, the movies were accurate there), and the trickster god. Loki gets into a lot of trouble, and tangles webs of his misdeeds. Any time Loki sees something going well for other people, he can’t help by try to ruin their lives out of jealousy. He pops up in story after story, kind of like every supervillain in a ’90s cartoon (or, ya know… an entire cinematic universe… ). However, whenever he screws something up, he is forced by threats of violence until he fixes the problems he created in the first place. He becomes a catalyst for change in the otherwise peaceful lives of the gods.

Loki fathers several monstrous creatures, and even once gave birth to an 8-legged horse, and gave it to Odin as a present. He is also the father of the goddess named “Hel.” As her name suggests, she is the ruler of the underworld. You may remember her from Thor: Ragnarok being portrayed as his sister, Hela, however. So… they were a little less accurate on that one.

Tyr

Tyr feeding Fenrir

Tyr feeding Fenrir

Before Odin came on the scene, the god Tyr was one of the earlier figures in Norse mythology as the god of war. In Roman mythology, there are similar stories told of Tyr’s conquests, only they change his name to the god “Mars.”


As you might imagine, Tyr is always incredibly brave, and he once saved the word from a giant wolf creature named Fenrir. This was an abomination fathered by Loki and a frost giant. Ugh, Loki. Are there any shenanigans to which he won’t get up?

Anyway, Tyr used magical cord to bind Fenrir’s legs, and he put his hand into the wolf’s mouth as a sign of trust and good faith. However, once Fenrir realized that Tyr had trapped him forever, he bit off his hand. On the day of Ragnarok, or the Apocalypse, Tyr was supposed to guard the gates of Hell, and he fulfilled his duties by holding a spear of justice in his one good hand.

Sif

Image result for sif

Sif is like the Norse version of “Mother Earth,” and she is the beautiful blonde wife of Thor. If you’re a fan of the MCU, you may know her as part of “Lady Sif and the Warriors Three” but… well, that’s not exactly how things shake out for her in actual mythology. Again, no one likes to talk about stories of singing to birds and planting trees, so everyone always talks about the day Loki gave her a bad haircut.

Loki got jealous of how fabulous Sif looked, so decided to chop her hair off until she was completely bald. Tragically, not everyone can pull off a bald head as well as Simon Whistler, so Thor threatened to kill Loki if he didn’t fix it. Loki had to get the help of magical dwarves who crafted magical, glowing gold hair that now grew naturally out of Sif’s head.

Bragi

Image result for Bragi

God of poetry and wisdom, Bragi is yet another one of Odin’s sons. He is known for taking a cup and speaking some inspirational words. If you need a best man to give a great toast you at your wedding, Bragi’s your guy.

They say that Bragi’s tongue was covered in Norse runes that gave him the power to always say the most eloquent words. He supposedly gave the power of art and poetry to human beings. There was a tradition to drink out of “The Cup of Bragi” when a king died, and words were said in his honor.

Forseti

Image result for Forseti

Forseti is the son of Balder, the god of rainbows and cupcakes we mentioned earlier in this list. It would seem that Foresti didn’t take after his dad’s carefree spirit so much, and he decided to practice law, instead. As the Norse god of justice, Foresti acts as the judge in serious matters in Asgard. Kind of like Judge Judy, but with a much smaller paycheck and — we’re just guessing here — much worse television ratings.

He lives in a giant courthouse called Glitner that shines with golden pillars and silver ceilings. Forseti acts like the mediator and listens to the arguments between the gods, and makes the final decision of who is right and wrong.

Odin

Image result for Odin

Odin is the chief god in Norse mythology, and he is often called the “father of the gods.” From his throne in the world of Valhalla, Odin can witness what happens in all 9 worlds of the universe. He only needs wine to survive, so he drinks it all day, every day. Kind of like your Aunt Kathy.

Odin sends his pet ravens to spy on the world and bring him news and secrets, and he also has two loyal wolves who protect him. His weapon of choice is a spear called “Gungnir,” which is guaranteed to never miss its target.

Aside from being a powerful warrior, Odin is known for his wisdom. He hung himself on the World Tree with his own spear for 9 days, in order to gain an immense amount of knowledge through powerful songs and runes. We won’t judge but, like… he could have just used Wikipedia.

Thor

Image result for Thor

Last and certainly not least, we have the god of thunder, Thor. With red hair and glowing eyes, Thor is known for being one of the most powerful gods. He’s also said to be nearly as handsome as Chris Hemsworth. Thor was also one of the most popular for the Vikings, by far, because he would supposedly answer their prayers without requiring any kind of human sacrifice.

Thor carries his mighty hammer, “Mjolnir,” which comes to him when he calls, and he also has a belt that doubles his strength. His power allows him to channel thunder at will while he rides along in his goat-drawn chariot with his furry friends named Gap-Tooth and Tooth Grinder.

10 Times Santa Ended Up on the Naughty List

In the conventional Christmas tale, Santa is the one who keeps track of good and bad behavior, so he can dish out presents or lumps of coal to recipients when he makes his annual rounds. However, sometimes Santa (or at least some of his impersonators) has been the one who belongs on the naughty list. Below are 10 of these rogue Santas, whose transgressions range from mild to horrific… .

10. Making it a Green Christmas

Depending on your perspective, this Santa wasn’t all bad. Christmas did come late—this happened in January 2015—and Santa brought only one present (weed), but he was passing it out by the handful to surprised patrons of a Buffalo Wild Wings in Seaside, California. Despite not being dressed in Santa-like garb, and having a black beard instead of a white one, Randy Lange, 57, claimed he was Santa and told recipients he had a gift for them. He did wrap the marijuana (in napkins from the restaurant) and didn’t forget the employees, even putting some pot into the tip jar.

However, employees were unmoved by the gift–and the potential for additional sales from customers with the munchies–and called local authorities. The responding officers found two pounds of marijuana on Lange (in addition to what they collected from recipients) and arrested him for “furnishing marijuana.” Seaside Police Sergeant Nick Borges classified the situation as “very unusual,” further adding. “I didn’t believe the call when it came out and even when we were investigating here, it was just surreal, I didn’t believe him.” Lange, who “did not appear surprised at all” when police showed up, was arrested without incident and held on $30,000 bail. According to Sgt. Borges, the would-be Santa said, “he expected to be arrested for doing this at some point. Sounded like this was not his first time.”

9. Hitting the Picket Line

When you hear that Santa was arrested for protesting at a Walmart, you might think he just wanted to shut down the competition. However, Karl Hilgert, who was dressed as Santa when he was arrested at an Ontario, California Walmart in November 2013, was there to support more than 100 Walmart workers from stores across Southern California who were protesting for better wages. At the beginning of the day, Hilgert announced his plans to “get arrested for civil disobedience,” and, along with nine others, followed through on his vow and was arrested when the group refused to leave a nearby intersection. Hilgert offered an officer a candy cane as he was read his Miranda warning, and was then cuffed and taken into custody.

This wouldn’t be the last Santa arrested for protesting at a Walmart. In 2014, Michelle Pariset, a social justice organizer, dressed as Santa and was one of about 40 people arrested while protesting low wages and poor working conditions at a Rancho Cordova, California Walmart on Black Friday. Pariset said that she was the last to be arrested and the officer who did so noted, “I’ve never arrested Santa Claus before.” When Pariset was loaded onto a police bus with other protestors, the group began singing, “Here comes Santa Claus.” Pariset, who noted that “the beard was itchy,” says of her arrest, “I would do it again. Fighting for fair pay is important.”

8. Stealing a Helicopter

Sometimes Santa just needs a break from the sleigh. It isn’t entirely without precedent for Santa to give the reindeer a day off before their big day and to take an alternate form of transportation to some of his pre-Christmas appearances. Santa has been known to show up in vehicles including a swamp boata hot air balloon, and even a jet ski.

So when Santa wanted to rent a helicopter from an air taxi service for a Black Friday “surprise” in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015, no one was too concerned. However, the surprise was that Santa, along with his accomplice, hijacked the helicopter, forcing it to fly to a small farm outside the city. There, Bad Santa and his friend met another accomplice, tied up the pilot, and flew away. The pilot eventually managed to escape and alert police, but authorities were unable to locate Santa, his partners in crime, or the helicopter. The helicopter, a Robinson R44, has a maximum range of 550 kilometers, suggesting that Santa’s final destination was likely pretty far south of the North Pole.

7. Artfully Stripping Down

Some early Black Friday shoppers lined up outside the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlborough, Massachusetts in 2014 just after midnight got a surprise visit from Santa. However, the real surprise was what Santa was wearing—or more accurately, what he wasn’t wearing. 18-year old Eric Watterson was wearing a Santa hat as he ditched his robe and streaked by shocked shoppers in line outside the mall—but not much else. Watterson was wearing sneakers, a thong, and the Santa hat, which he had strategically positioned over…ahem…his Christmas package. According to a local police detective, “Several people in line were shocked, alarmed and disturbed.” Tweetsfrom those who witnessed Santa’s unveiling indicate that some viewers also found it pretty funny, and the mall’s general manager called the incident a “non-event,” noting that no one had complained and saying that overall, it was a “very positive day.”

The police who responded were less-than-amused, taking Watterson into custody and charging him with open and gross lewdness and disturbing the peace. Dan Enders, the photographer/friend who accompanied Watterson, later explainedthat they were college students who were home on break and were, “simply staging a satirical photography piece on Black Friday.”

6. Throwing a Wild Party

Michael Andrew Ward goes by a lot of names. Most commonly, he goes by Mike Busey (he is the nephew of actor Gary Busey) and he has also dubbed himself the “King of Rock and Roll Debauchery.” In December 2012, he took on another identity—Santa—throwing “Mike Busey’s End of the World Sexy Santa Holiday B-Day” party at his Florida home, which he refers to as the “Sausage Castle.” When an undercover investigator visited the Sausage Castle shindig, which had a $20 cover, he was able to purchase a Bud Light from the venue’s unlicensed bar.

Ward, still clad in his Santa Claus suit (though baring a tattoo-covered chest that looked decidedly un-Santa-like) was taken into custody and booked into the Osceola County Jail on charges of selling alcohol without a license. After posting bond the following day, an unrepentant Ward shared a photo of himself in the back of police cruiser in full Santa garb and informed the world, via a tweet, “Last Night I Got Arrested For Throwing A EPIC Party! I Never Had Some Much Being Arrested! Thank You For All,” adding offenses against grammar and spelling to his list of holiday misdeeds.

5. Breaking and Entering… While Dressed as a Zombie

This Santa didn’t come through the chimney, but instead wandered unsteadily into a St. Paul, Minnesota home in October 2014. Brock Quinn Johnson, a student at a nearby college, had been attending a Zombie Pub Crawl and was wearing a Santa suit and zombie makeup when he came in through the unlocked front door of a home near the university that was definitely not his. Instead of leaving presents, Johnson barfed all over himself and then fell asleep on the couch.

The teenagers who lived there were home without their parents, and were terrified by the invasion of zombie Santa. The 14-year-old called 911 and screamed to neighbors (who struggled to process his account of a Santa suit-clad intruder with a zombie head) for help, while his sister hid in the bathroom. When police arrived, they woke Johnson up and he had no idea where he was. They cited him for trespassing and took him to a local detox center. According to the father of the traumatized teens, “The police did a nice job of calming them down and explaining the individual meant no harm,” though he also noted, “No one will ever think of Santa the same way.” Unsurprisingly, once you see a vomit-covered zombie Santa passed out on your couch in October, it takes some of the sparkle out of the holiday season.

4. Dealing Drugs Out of a U-Haul

We’re not sure where he stashed the sleigh, but this Santa, Isaac Geiger, was using a U-Haul to hold his goodies instead. After Jacksonville, Florida police received “numerous” complaints about drug activity in the area, they spotted Geiger, who was wearing a red Santa suit, hat, and beard, repeatedly retrieving items from the U-Haul and walking away. According to police, the Santa Claus outfit made him “very distinguishable.” Once Geiger saw the police, he took off running, but his Santa getup got the better of him, causing him to trip and fall. Undaunted, Geiger allegedly continued to resist arrest, rolling over onto his jolly belly, using it to cover his hands to avoid the cuffs. Eventually, after backup arrived, and Geiger attempted one more run (after which he was tackled by police, further muddying his already rough-looking Santa suit), this Santa was taken into custody.

Police found a plastic baggie under the Santa suit and cash in Geiger’s pocket. In the U-Haul, police found marijuana (including a large bag sitting on the driver’s seat), ecstasy, molly, pills, and more money. Geiger faced several felony charges related to drug possession with the intent to distribute and resisting arrest. He was booked into the Duval County jail, where he traded the Santa suit for a jail uniform, and faced the prospect of spending Christmas 2016 (and perhaps many subsequent Christmases) behind bars and far from the North Pole.

3. Groping a Teenage Elf

This particular Santa spent December 24, 2013 not delivering presents to children around the world, but instead in court, facing indecent assault and battery charges. Herbert Jones was playing Santa at a Massachusetts mall when he allegedly pinched the butt of his 18-year-old photography assistant, who was dressed as an elf. According to the elf/complainant, this creepy Santa had previously said he wished she “were a few years older and I was younger.”

Jones was escorted from the mall by police in his street clothes, so children were spared the spectacle of seeing Santa in police custody. A judge allowed Jones to go free on bail, with the condition that he couldn’t play Santa for the rest of the Christmas season. Jones denied that he pinched the elf, saying her butt had merely brushed against his hand when she walked by his chair. Sure, Santa. Blame the butt. He didn’t deny making the comment about wishing he were younger, but said that he merely meant that he wished he could be young again so he could make different life choices. We’re guessing that this incident would be one of the “life choices” that this Santa would like to revisit.

2. Robbing a Bank

This Santa showed up at the First National Bank in Cisco, Texas on December 23, 1927. Rather than leaving presents, however, this Santa–who had grabbed a pistol and tucked it under his suit–demanded that a bank cashier open the safe and fill his sack with cash and bonds. How did this strange crime come together? A group of four ex-cons had planned the robbery of the Cisco Bank. Marshall Ratcliff, already a convicted bank robber, lived in Cisco, so he donned the Santa suit so that he wouldn’t be recognized during the robbery.

At first, townspeople were delighted to see “Santa,” with several kids following Ratcliff and his accomplices through town and into the bank. Tellers even yelled out greetings to Santa as the group entered, but the Christmas spirit quickly faded when Santa’s accomplice pulled out a gun and yelled “Hands up!” The plan started falling apart when a woman and her daughter, who had stopped into the bank hoping to meet Santa (whom they had seen entering) realized there was a robbery in progress, slipped out the door, and alerted authorities.

A shootout ensued, but by grabbing two girls to use as hostages, the robbers managed to escape. Two of the robbers, including Ratcliff, were hit by gunfire. Louis Davis, who received the more severe injury, was quickly abandoned by his accomplices and died of his wounds later that night. After an exhaustive manhunt, which left eight townspeople and police wounded and two police officers dead, the remaining three robbers were taken into custody. One was executed.

Ratcliff, who tried to escape the death penalty by pleading insanity, then tried to escape jail–mortally wounding a jailer in the process. He did get out of jail, but not the way he planned. An angry mob dragged him out and lynched him in the street. Robert Hill, the only surviving bank robber, was eventually paroled, changed his name, and became a productive citizen.

1. Shooting Up a Party

Dressing up as Santa for a Halloween party is a bit of an odd choice, but it wouldn’t have been newsworthy if not for the subsequent carnage that this Santa caused. Randall Jones was arrested, still dressed as Santa, in the aftermath of the 2017 party at his Austin, Texas home. Jones was described by partygoers as “highly intoxicated,” when guests convinced him to go to his room and calm down.

According to witnesses, Jones came out a short while later, holding a gun, and fired it into the ground. When one of the guests, Michael McCloskey, tried to confront Jones to protect the others he suffered multiple gunshot wounds, eventually dying of his injuries. Three other partygoers were also shot, one of them seriously. A guest who called 911 alerted the dispatcher to the identity of the perpetrator, saying, “the one with the pistol is dressed like Santa Claus… This guy is out of control.” When police arrived, they found Jones a block away at a neighbor’s house, “clothed in a blood-stained Santa Claus costume.” Jones, who had placed his semi-automatic gun on the neighbors’ welcome mat, was waiting for police. He apologized, and told officers he wanted to be left alone and to go to sleep. Jones was initially charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but the third charge was upgraded to murder after McCloskey, who was hailed as a hero, died of his injuries at the hospital.

10 Gruesome Execution Methods in the Gladiatorial Arenas

The executions that took place inside the arenas of Ancient Rome were never quick and easy. They were, instead, a public display of cruelty and savage creativity. Brutal executions were meant to keep the public in line and to show those who stepped out of line what would happen to them if they did not immediately change their ways.

Public executions were intentionally meant to be humiliating and degrading to the condemned. There was to be absolutely no honor in his or her death. This is why criminals, male and female, were often brought into the arena in the nude. It was to further shame them in the eyes of the Roman people.

10. Net and Bull

Animals played a large part in many of Rome’s executions. Amphitheaters across the Roman Empire had been built to hold bears, leopards, bulls, alligators, and other deadly animals, and they were all used, at one point or another, to execute criminals.

One popular method of execution involved placing a criminal in a net. The net was either hung in the air or was left on the ground and a bull was brought out. The animal attendants, all slaves, would then antagonize the bull until it viscously attacked the netted criminal.

After the criminal had been flung about and gored by the animal’s horns, he or she (women were not excluded from this form of execution) was then taken out of the netting. The throat was then sliced to further ensure total death.

Besides being placed inside a net, female criminals might also be tied to the bull horns in order to be gored to death.

9. Death by the Sword

The sentence of ad gladium was death by the sword. Now this could mean just about anything, as long as the prisoner was killed with a sword.

In early Rome, beheadings were rather common, but when it came to presenting bloodshed during the games at the arena, the people demanded brutal deaths that included suffering and lots of bloodshed.

Sometimes criminals were made to face off with a gladiator. These events showed desperate men, sometimes armed and sometimes unarmed, who had no choice but to either confront the fully armed gladiator or run around inside the arena until they were captured by the blade.

Criminals and non-citizens of Rome were forced to face humiliating deaths. It was part of their punishment, as a quick death was not enough to show the enemies of Rome that traitors and slaves were at the complete mercy of the ruling class. The emperor controlled both the lives of its people and their deaths, and it was done without mercy.

8. Crucifixion

Crucifixion is perhaps the most well known form of Roman execution. When it came to the arena and the exhibition of death, bringing about the end of a criminal or slave had to excite the crowd, and crucifixion could deliver the wow of mortal suffering to the viewers.

Death by crucifixion in the arenas was, no doubt, extremely painful. Oftentimes, the criminal’s legs were broken before being suspended. When the criminal was in position, he would slowly die by asphyxiation and blood loss.

Despite its popularity, archaeologists have only discovered the remains of two people who died by crucifixion. Both of the remains were male and both showed evidence of having a nail driven through their feet to a wooden cross. There was no evidence that a nail had been driven through their hands or wrists, so it is believed that their arms were tied into position.

7. Trampled to Death

Elephants were often featured in the amphitheaters across the Roman Empire. Sometimes they were simply put on display and a few of the elephants were trained to do tricks for the crowd. Elephants were also featured in the great beast hunts inside the arena where emperors and other members of the ruling elite would kill them with spears.

Because of their size and stature, elephants were also used in executions. For example, in 167 BC, general Aemilius Paullus had elephants trample the captured men who had attempted to desert his army.

This form was execution was also used in the arenas. Slaves and criminals were thrown to the enraged and frightened elephants to be trampled to death. Any who survived the trampling would have their throats cut.

Being trampled by elephants was considered to be an undignified death among the Romans and a well deserved form of execution for the traitors of Rome.

6. The Fire Dance

Death by fire, a sentence called crematio or ad flammas, would have been a horrible vision of pain and suffering within the arena. Slaves and criminals who were given this sentence were made to wear colorful clothing that had been soaked in a flammable substance. Then, while standing in the center of the arena, they would have been ignited.

As their clothes burned, the victims were forced to dance for the Roman public as the pain of fire burned away their flesh. Their shrieks of pain would have been horrifying to us, but to the ancient Romans, the death cries were not only entertainment, but the auditory proof of a well deserved death.

Under Nero, death by fire took on new heights of cruelty. For the unfortunate people condemned by fire, Nero had them wear clothing of papyrus dipped in wax and resin. The victims were essentially turned into human candles and when they were lit, they burned brightly.

5. Self Castration or Death

Sometimes those who were sentenced to death were given an alternative, although that alternative was never very pleasant. For example, one convict was given the choice between being burned alive or sticking his hand into a fire to reenact a scene from Roman’s history. The convict, as would any sensible person, choose to stick his hand in the flame in the hopes of delaying his eventual death.

Self castration was also offered as an alternative to a painful death in the arena. Wanting reenactments of the mythical, self castrating Attis, a slave or criminal might be offered the role. The only way historians believe that the victim would have agreed to such a terrible fate was by offering the victim a choice. Either die by the hands of absolute cruelty or perform this terrible deed which might allow you to live the rest of your life as a slave and eunuch.

4. Mock Battles

The executions of prisoners of war, criminals, and slaves took place between the morning beast hunts and the afternoon gladiator events. There were, under normal circumstances, just a small group of people to be executed. These small groups of convicts would die together, alone, or in pairs.

However, on rare, extravagant occasions, a large group of people, usually prisoners of war, were scheduled to die in the arena. During these great events, the head of the event, usually the emperor, would plan out immense battle reenactments that required anywhere from hundreds to even thousands of victims.

Mock land and naval battles were staged, using the prisoners of war as sacrificial players. The battles were to the death and always drew a huge crowd because the outcomes of the battles were unpredictable.

3. Mythological Executions

In the ancient Roman mind, it was not enough to simply read the myths of Greece or act them out on the stage. Instead, the Romans chose to have the myths reenacted in the flesh and blow for blow.

For female criminals who were sentenced to die in the arena, this often meant reenacting the sex scenes. Unfortunately, those sex scenes included Pasiphae and the bull, as well as a scene from The Golden Ass by Apuleius.

In the words of Martial, a Roman poet who witnessed one of these arena events, “Believe that Pasiphae was mated to the Dictaean bull; we have seen it, the old legend has won credence.”

As for one of the events involving Lucian the ass and a condemned woman, a wild panther was set loose after the deed was done and put a final end to the bound woman.

2. Killed by Wild Cats

When criminals were to be executed by wild beasts, a sentence called ad bestias, and it could be performed in a number of ways.

In one account of death by beasts, the murderer was strapped to a trolley and placed before a leopard. An arena slave cracked his whip and drove the wild cat into a maddened frenzy. It grabbed the criminal’s head between its giant paws and proceeded to bite and claw him until his blood poured out of his body. Being tied in place, there was no way the man could fight back, and it forced him to endure the true horrors of his punishment.

In other accounts of wild cats used in executions, the victim was tied to a post that had been set up in the arena for such events. The cat would be let loose and the victim shredded to the cheers of the crowd.

Sometimes criminals were handed wooden swords and were sent into the arena to fight off a wild animal who had been deliberately angered by the arena slaves. These criminals had no hope of beating back the animals with a wooden sword, but the moment of death would be prolonged as the victims desperately tried to fight back against jaws and claws.

One method of execution that was favored by the audience was to simply allow the criminal to run around the arena. The wild cat or cats were set free to chase after the victim until he was caught and sufficiently mauled and battered.

There were detailed specifications on how long a death by beast should take. Because there were plenty of executions to be completed within a certain amount of time, executions by animals could not take too long. On the other hand, they did not want the deaths to be too quick.

Those who managed to survive a wild cat attack usually had their throats sliced open so that there was no hope in escaping death.

1. Under Rule of the Pope

It would be erroneous to blame all of the brutal executions that took place in the Colosseum on the ancient Romans. While arguments can be made that the Pagan executions were beyond brutal, the same can be said of the executions that occurred after Rome had been Christianized.

By the 700s AD, the once great Colosseum had fallen into a terrible condition. It was no longer a place for the games, but a place for public punishment and execution. For example, under Pope Stephen III, a criminal was taken to the Colosseum and had his eyes and tongue savagely ripped out.

Eventually, executions were performed elsewhere and, for a while, the Colosseum became an open market. Later still, it was used for dwelling spaces and workshops. Other amphitheaters throughout the former Roman Empire were turned into safe havens, homes, and fortresses. Some were even turned into places of worship where the Christian religion would obliterate the region’s Pagan past.


10 Unusual Christmas Traditions From Around the World


In the United States, Christmas is celebrated in ways that are, at least to Americans, fairly banal by now. America and a lot of Western countries with extremely similar traditions (many of which are provide the origin of US traditions) have a Santa Claus figure who brings gifts to the good children, many people go to church, and of course, there’s all the delicious food and time spent with family. However, while these traditions are perfectly enjoyable, many other countries or cultures have Christmas celebrations and traditions that many Americans might find quite zany, but would also likely consider to be a lot of fun.

10. The Japanese Eat KFC On Christmas

In America and many Western countries, Christmas dinner is usually an absolutely ridiculous affair. Aside from a giant turkey being fairly traditional, people will also go to great lengths to make side dish after side dish, sometimes spending the whole day (or even days before) preparing the meal. However, in Japan, things are done a bit differently. Now, people in Japan don’t really celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday (most Japanese people are Shinto), but over the past few decades, they have made up their own Christmas tradition that they are now quite wild for.

It started out in 1970, when the manager of the first KFC in Japan, Takeshi Okawara, heard some Americans talking about how hard it was to get a turkey in Japan for Christmas and how much they missed that, and he had a lightbulb moment to bring Americans who had moved to Japan a taste of Christmas. He created what he called, at the time, the KFC Party Barrel, and it took off with the Japanese public — even those who knew little or didn’t care about Christmas. Nowadays, people reserve their KFC Christmas order weeks in advance, and lines on the day of stretch out the door, often reaching 10-times usual sales. These are not your normal KFC boxes, either, as they often contain things like chocolate cake and champagne as well.

9. The American Jewish Tradition Of Eating Chinese And Going To The Movies

In recent years, a meme has been passed around showing a sign written — supposedly by the Chinese Restaurant Association of America — saying they don’t understand why Jewish people eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas, but that they appreciate the business all the same. While the meme is of dubious veracity, the tradition itself is certainly real. It stretches all the way back to 1899, when Jewish newspapers would criticize Jewish people for eating at Chinese restaurants, for fear of breaking Kosher.

Today, most American Jews do go out for Chinese on Christmas, and often go to see a movie as well. This isn’t because Jewish people have a religious reason that forces them to eat Chinese on Christmas, as the alleged meme suggests, but because it’s the only thing that is ever open. Of course, when it comes to doing something besides eating, you are pretty much just left with going to the movies, which has also become a very common tradition for American Jews. It’s a way for them to not feel entirely left out, or at least stuck inside, on a day where most places shut down.

8. The Catalan Poop Log

Some people may think Mr. Hanky from South Park is bizarre and gross, but oftentimes truth is actually both stranger, and grosser, than fiction. In the Catalan region of Spain, people still celebrate the holidays with a traditional poop log. The log isn’t made out of actual poop — it is made out of wood. However, the log is made up to look kind of like a sentient poop log, and is brought out on the feast of the immaculate conception. Children spend the days up until Christmas Eve ritually “feeding” the log every night, and even go so far as to make sure it’s tucked in with a nice warm blanket.

On Christmas Eve, the children beat the fake poop log with sticks and sing songs about having good bowel movements, before finally removing the blanket to find treats and gifts underneath the log. This is may sound disgusting to most people, but to the people of Catalan, it is a tradition that goes back a long way, and has its roots centered in wishings of good health. Another strange tradition in Catalan is a man named Caganer, who is depicted as a statue of a man squatting and defecating, often by the nativity scene. While some may consider this disrespectful, it is really just a ritual to bring fertility in farming for the next year.

7. The Chinese Sort Of Celebrate Christmas, But In A Very Different Way Than Most Countries

As many people know, China isn’t exactly all that friendly to religious people. While laws restricting religion have relaxed somewhat over the years, it is still not easy to be religious. If you want to join the Communist Party, and have any real power in the country, you have to entirely denounce religion. Christmas is observed by many non-Christians in China, but the observation is much more secular, as China has had a real war on religious celebrations for quite some time.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun time; you just cannot expect it to have the religious solemnity or significance you are used to. Chinese people celebrate it more like a holiday where you go out and spend time with friends, instead of staying at home to be with family like many do on Christmas. In China, Santas will show up at the mall — typically in groups — with several of Santa’s “sisters” instead of the usual elves. The sisters are usually good-looking young women dressed vaguely like American “elves.” Giving away apples on Christmas is also a common tradition, often decorated with various well wishes since the word apple sounds close to the greeting for Christmas Eve in Mandarin.

6. In Venezuela, They Roller Skate To Church On Christmas Day

As a country, Venezuela is going through a rough patch right now, but their economy and government were in a much better position not even that long ago — they’ve recently had a dramatic drop in oil production that’s had an enormous impact on the nation. Despite the toll the oil drop has taken on their economy and political stability, the country still has a certain sort of whimsy about it, and there are some Christmas traditions that will likely live on even in the worst of times.

One of the strangest traditions in Venezuela is that they like to roller skate to church on Christmas Day. In fact, the government is so used to this happening that they close the streets until about 8 a.m. on Christmas morning to make the roads safer for the ridiculous amount of people who go to church as a family… on roller skates. Some of the priests are not particularly enthralled, and will attempt to get their congregations to refrain, but it hasn’t seemed to have slowed down the tradition in the least.

While no one knows what the reason behind the tradition is for sure, some suggest it may be an alternate to sledding or other winter sports often enjoyed around that season, as Venezuela does not have the climate. As well as riding around on roller skates, Venezuelans (if they can afford it) like to repaint their houses before Christmas, and firecrackers and other noisemakers and fireworks are a common sounds and sights on Christmas Day.

5. The Night Of The Radishes Is Celebrated The Day Before Christmas Eve In Oaxaca, Mexico

In Oaxaca, Mexico, every year on December 23 the town celebrates the Night of the Radishes, or Noche de Rabanos. This tradition sounds particularly bizarre, but it has roots (er, no pun intended) in practicality. Merchants back in 1897 were trying to find a way to attract shoppers going to and from church services, and started carving their radishes into crazy shapes, or making radish people or other ornaments. The mayor at the time was so pleased that he decided to make it an official celebration from then on.

People sometimes queue up for very long lines just to see and buy all the various radish sculptures and carvings that people have made. As the years have gone by, the radishes have become increasingly elaborate and large, but it isn’t size that really gets you the prize. The radishes are carved into figurines, or have scenes from the nativity or traditional Mexican culture carved in, and the very best artistic design gets a 12,000 peso prize. Now, these radishes aren’t really meant to be eaten, and go bad pretty quickly since they’ve been carved (you wouldn’t eat a Jack-o-Lantern, after all, right?, but the tradition has now become more about a celebration of art and culture than actual food.   

4. La Befana — The Italian Christmas Witch

While some in the United States and other countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day or the Epiphany, only certain countries display particular reverence to them, and very few actually place more importance on either than Christmas. To most countries, these are sort of auxiliary holidays that are part of the “extended Christmas.” However, some countries don’t believe Christmas really ends until the Epiphany, and Italy in particular actually treats more Epiphany with more importance than Christmas itself, at least in terms of gift-giving traditions.

They do have a Santa figure named is Babbo Natale that is starting to catch on a bit more, and he’s pretty similar to most versions of Santa. However, their Christmas Witch, known as “La Befana” and the Epiphany Holiday she holds sway over is still much more popular. Her legend goes that the Three Kings were heading to the infant baby Jesus to give their gifts, and getting others nearby to go with them when she gave an excuse of being busy cleaning up her house. She realized her mistake the next day and rushed, still holding her broom to bring the baby a gift. But alas, it was too late. In order to make up for missing out on giving the newly born savior a gift, she has roamed the Earth ever since on her broom, giving toys to all the good little boys and girls, and coal to all the bad ones.

3. The Story Of “The Boy Who Ate Santa’s Cookies” Is Of Completely Unverifiable Veracity

Another tale that has been passed around is one the internet claims to originate from South Africa, and it tells the story of a boy named Danny who mischievously ate the cookies that were left out for Santa Claus. In the morning, his grandmother was so angry that she beat him to death. Seems a little harsh, but hey, she worked hard on those cookies. Anyway, now parents in South Africa tell this as a cautionary tale to their children so they won’t eat Santa’s cookies. In some versions of the tale, the boy comes back as some kind of ghost in order to haunt children who eat Santa’s cookies.

Now, while it’s an interesting (if horrific) story and definitely something that could be told by parents as a morality tale to their children, we were unable to find any verification online that the story is actually a real South African fable, or if it was made up whole cloth on the internet in order to troll people, or simply to amuse. Regardless, it is an interesting legend, and even if South African parents are not telling this story to their children, it does bring up some amusing questions. If Santa were real, what would he do if he found out you ate his cookies? Would you immediately make the naughty list? And just how naughty would Santa find you to be for your crime? And if you’re from South Africa, please let us now… is this a genuine fable? And do your grandmothers really get that made about cookies?

2. The Tradition In Spain Of Eating 12 Lucky Grapes And Wearing Red Underwear

While Spain has many normal Christmas traditions that, like many Western countries, place a great emphasis on the holiday, they also have some rather strange ones. Now, the strangest, and some of the oldest traditions in Spain technically occur during the New Year’s celebration, shortly after Christmas — but still during the days of Christmas. On Old Night, the day before the New Year, everyone gathers around their TVs or in Puerto De Sol in Madrid, and prepares for the clock tower to count down for the New Year. First, the bell rings four times, and then people wait for another twelve chimes that signal each month of the year. Fair enough, that’s pretty close to what Americans do on New Year’s Eve.

The quirky difference, though, is that on each chime people attempt to eat a grape, and the goal is to eat twelve grapes — seeds and all — before the last chime ends. If you can manage this feat, you will have good luck for the coming year. Another strange part of the tradition involves wearing red underwear under your clothes for luck, and it is said that if you got the underwear from someone else as a gift, it will make you even luckier. And we say if you’re getting red underwear from someone else, chances are you’ve already gotten quite lucky. High five.

While this tradition may seem strange, it’s completely harmless (well, unless you choke on the grapes), and helps everyone ring in the New Year, and enjoy the Christmas Season, in a festive and silly way.

1. The Ukrainian Story Of The Spiderwebs And The Christmas Tree

Ukraine and many of the surrounding areas of Eastern Europe have traditionally had less wealth and prosperity than their neighbors to the west (though that’s been changing a bit in certain countries). In fact, for most people living in Eastern Europe, much of their existence has been marked by a long and unending struggle. For this reason, it probably does not surprise many that the type of Christmas legends to come out of countries like Ukraine are often rather grim. One of the most famous stories from Ukraine tells the story of a spider, and how it saved one family’s Christmas.

In some stories the mother of the family is a widow, and in others there is still a father, but the family — which includes a boy and a girl — is always desperately poor. They are so poor that they cannot afford anything to decorate their Christmas Tree, and they lament it the night before. In order to give them a good Christmas and boost their spirits, a spider in the house hears their plea and overnight, spins webs on the tree in order to beautifully decorate it for the family. When the family wakes up, they go to the tree and it is decorated beyond their dreams. To make things even better, when the sun shines on the tree, the webs turn to silver and gold, and they never need to worry about money again. In some versions the webs turn to precious metals because of the spider, and in other versions because of divine intervention. But in every story, the spider is a benevolent figure trying to help a poor family have at least one good day.