Punta Mita has been described by Forbes Magazine as ‘the ultimate luxury travel destination.’ It was once a sleepy little fishing village, but today, Punta Mita is a dream come true for the more discerning traveler. With luxury gated homes and 5* resort hotels offering world-class service, not to mention highly rated golf courses, Punta Mita in Mexico is a top-tier destination.
Whilst there are several luxury branded hotels with a presence in Punta Mita, there are also many luxury Punta Mita lodging options for families and groups. If you want the freedom to come and go as you please and the added attraction of more square-footage for your money, a luxury Punta Mita villa on the shore is hard to beat.
Punta Mita is popular with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and the Kardashian family, but you don’t need to be an A-lister to enjoy a vacation there. So, if all this talk about luxury has whetted your appetite, here is a guide to the top ten things to do in Punta Mita.
1. Admire the Views
The village of Punta Mita is surrounded on three sides by sparkling water and beautiful beaches. Many of the most luxurious villas are located on the west coast, while some of the gated estates are on the north coast. If you want to go celeb-spotting, head to the eastern peninsula, as this is where several celebrities own beachfront real estate. Naturally, their properties enjoy some amazing views over Banderas Bay.
If you want a table with a view, head to the Tuna Blanca restaurant in Punta Mita. It’s ranked as the number one restaurant in Punta Mita. Serving a selection of Mexican dishes and seafood, Tuna Blanca has a lovely terrace with some of the best views in the area. You can watch out for Humpback whales while you tuck into a tasty meal.
2. Hang Out on the Beach
The beaches in Punta Mita are exceptional. This coast is rarely troubled by hurricanes, so the beaches remain pristine all year round. Punta Village sits on Banderas Beach. It is a paradise for sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts alike.
Bucerias Beach is a short 30-minute journey from Punta Mita. This five-mile stretch of stunning sand lies along Banderas Bay and is popular with local families. There are plenty of shells to collect, water sports to try, and if you want to try windsurfing, the conditions are ideal.
Hidden Beach is also known as the Beach of Love, which makes it a great honeymoon destination. The beach, which is set inside a large crater, is only accessible by boat, but it’s well worth visiting.
La Lancha Beach is also only accessible by boat, but it’s perfect for surfing. The waves here are always fierce enough to test your skills on a board.
Punta Mita has excellent scuba diving opportunities. The air and water temperature are perfect for scuba diving all year round. Head out to the Marieta Islands on a boat charter and explore the caves and tunnels. The coral reefs are home to abundant marine life, including dolphins, sharks, and rays.
El Morro is great for experienced divers. You dive up to 150 feet, go wall diving, and explore challenging caves and tunnels.
4. Go Fishing
Punta Mita is a great destination for keen fishing enthusiasts. The warm waters off-shore are teeming with marine life and there is no shortage of fish to catch. If you fish inshore, look out for grouper, snapper, and mahi-mahi. Book a fishing charter if you want to try deep sea fishing. The big game fishing season runs from June through to January, but the best catches are usually made in September and October. This is your opportunity to catch a marlin or sailfish. If you strike it lucky, you can take your catch home and grill it for a true ocean to table experience.
For those who don’t catch much worth eating, don’t worry, the local restaurants are renowned for their excellent seafood menus.
5. Go Snorkeling
There are just as many places to go snorkeling, too. Anclote Beach is perfect for snorkeling. Rent equipment on the beach and go looking for shoals of brightly colored fish swimming in the warm waters. Bucerias Beach is also popular with snorkelers and scuba divers.
6. Play Golf
Punta Mita has two world-class golf courses. Punta Mita Pacifico and Punta Mita Bahia are both Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses. You can find them in Punta Mita Resorts. Unfortunately, they are only accessible to members or guests staying at the Four Seasons or St.Regis.
Designed by Greg Norman, the Litibu Golf Course isn’t a beach side course, but it is just as challenging – and scenic. The Las Huertos Golf and Beach Club is perfect for casual golfers at all levels looking for a quick 9-hole challenge.
7. Book a Spa Visit
The Remede Spa at the St. Regis resort was recently voted the best luxury spa in North America. If you need to relax and unwind, this is the place to go. Book a rejuvenating skin exfoliating treatment or try flotation therapy. There are customized spa treatments to suit your every need.
It would be a shame to visit Punta Mita and ignore the local culture. The native Huichol Indians made Punta Mita their home thousands of years ago. They called the place a gateway to paradise, and it is not hard to see why. There are still several thousand Huichol Indians living in Punta Mita. Learn more about their culture, explore their history, and buy some of their artwork. Many of the local shops stock authentic fair-trade items made by local Huichol Indians. The Galeria Tanana in Sayulita is one of the best places to view art, textiles, and jewelry.
9. Go Shopping
Shopping for souvenirs is an essential part of any vacation. After all, family and friends will expect a few mementos of your trip! Whether you are shopping for designer clothing or locally-made gifts, you will be spoiled for choices in Punta Mita.
There are several luxury boutiques in the lobbies of the top resort hotels, including the Four Seasons. Punta Mita also has a few small shopping plazas showcasing local goods and imported items. Pick up clothing designed and made by local designers or gourmet food for your luxury villa. There are also plenty of small beach shops selling cheap souvenirs for the kids.
10. Dance the Night Away
You can’t visit Punta Mita without sampling some of the local nightlife at least once. The resort hotels have their own entertainment, but if you want to rub shoulders with the locals, head over to the Kupuri Beach Club. Drink a few margaritas, watch the sun sink over the horizon, and listen to some excellent live music. If you are feeling brave, cut a few moves on the dance floor.
For those who don’t have the moves, the local music scene provides plenty of options for an entertaining evening. Watch out for pop-up Latino music concerts and impromptu gatherings at restaurants. There is always something going on if you feel like being sociable.
Visit Punta Mita this year and you won’t be disappointed. That’s a promise!
It’s the holiday season, and if you’re anything like us you’re struggling to come up with that perfect gift for a certain someone in your life. Maybe it’s your wife, who refuses to give you any hints and is still mad about the vacuum cleaner from last year. Maybe it’s your best friend, who’s vastly more successful than you are and has everything he needs, including your simmering envy and scorn. Well, good news! The internet is littered with an ungodly amount of merchandise you’d never expect anyone to buy, let alone sell.
So if you’re still rushing for that perfect last minute gift, boy… have we got some ideas for you.
We’re going to start our outside-the-box thinking with something you may only normally consider if you dabble in serial murder: actual human teeth. Back in the day, it was eBay that dominated the “buy weird and creepy crap” market but Etsy has been coming on strong over the past couple years. And just to save you the suspense: yes, we’ll be revisiting Etsy shortly.
Now, we’re sure that buying teeth is probably totally normal to some people. Maybe, for example, you’ve got an artist friend who likes to work outside the traditional mediums. Instead of oils or clay, he uses… molars and canines? We’re sure he’s very good, though, and it wasn’t at all a mistake for him to quit his job as an accountant to pursue his creative vision full-time. And now you can become an enabler and supply him with more teeth than he’ll ever need, at a relatively affordable cost. Think of it this way: if you give him the teeth, he’ll probably spare you should he ever decide to… “farm” some on his own…
9. UFO Detector
The truth is out there, and so are aliens. Maybe. Honestly, they probably are but chances are pretty slim they’re going to be knocking on our doors anytime soon. But if they do ultimately visit Earth in general, and your neighborhood in particular, you want to be prepared, and you want your friends and family to be prepared, too. That’s where the UFO Detector–which is actually available (and eligible for Prime!) on Amazon–comes in.
For the low, low price of around $90 you’ll be able to detect that there are zero UFOs in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to detect that you got absolutely swindled until it’s far too late, and odds are you’ll be too lazy to try to get a refund. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.
8. Dead Mice Having Sex
What’s the perfect gift to show how much you care, and how unapologetically creepy you are? Why, real dead mice posed in sexually suggestive positions, of course.
We’re going to need a moment to figure this one out, because it’s so beyond bizarre and straight into borderline terrifying it’s insane. We know that taxidermy is a hobby many people enjoy, and typically, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, we’re more than a little suspicious of anyone who takes a dead rat, stuffs it, and poses it like a farmer about to sexually assault a sheep. Forget what Obi-Wan told Luke about Mos Eisley; apparently it’s Etsy is where you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Anyway, happy gift hunting, and good luck with the whole “supplying whoever created this monstrosity your home address” thing!
7. Their Favorite Celebrity
Alright, so you can’t actually buy a celebrity, or a human in general, on the internet. (And you shouldn’t buy one anyplace else, either… Carl.) Either way, if you want to act like a big-shot or have a family member who’s just dying to meet Cher but can’t get around the red tape of his restraining order, Millionaire’s Concierge is the answer. Well, probably not with that second part. Sorry, we don’t make the rules. The judge who ordered you to stay away from Cher does.
Hiring a celebrity for your best friend is easy and… well, not remotely cheap. Hiring for an enemy works, too. If you’ve always had it in for Conan O’Brien, for example, you can rent out Jay Leno for the paltry sum of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Probably not worth it, but if you’ve got more money than you know what to do with, renting a celebrity is a surefire way to prove money really can’t buy happiness no matter how much you wish it would.
If you’re anything like us, you wake up in the morning and unleash one heck of a stream of pee, preferably into an actual toilet. You drink some water, or maybe some Coke or, if you’re feeling feisty, a Royal Crown Cola, and repeat the process a little while later. Throughout the day, you produce an item–for free!–and just flush it away. You know what you could be doing with all that urine? Making bank, that’s what.
That’s because, believe it or not, people will pay pretty handsomely for pee. Clean pee, that is. Head to the website Urine the Clear and, well, based on the name you can probably guess who this particular “gift” is marketed toward. If you’ve got that weed-loving friend who’s got a pesky drug test he’s got to beat in order to keep his job, this will be the best present you could ever give him. Other than more weed, of course.
By the way, we’ll come back to bodily functions in just a little bit.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “What if Russia invaded my living room?” Sure you have. Who hasn’t? If Red Dawn Mortar Investments taught us anything, it’s that we need to be vigilant against invading forces in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the internet has provided a valuable resource in the defense against armed intruders: at , you can actually buy real, honest-to-god tanks.
“But surely, we’d never need that much firepower,” we hear you saying. (This is a casual reminder: we’ve planted listening devices all around your house.) Well, we’ve got news for you: when a regiment that’s 10,000 strong comes knocking on your front door, do you want to be left standing there, lamely holding a rolling pin? Come on, friend–we all know that rolling pin will be useless against such an enemy. Well, unless you can come to peaceful terms over baked goods. Anyway, these tanks will do the job of protecting you from Russian armies and also just look really intimidating in your yard should any neighborhood punks so much as think about toilet papering your house on Halloween.
A tank not enough to keep you safe or–dare we suggest–enforce your domination over the neighbors? Well, you’re in luck: now your ambition can expand to the nuclear variety! While other people are making resolutions about losing weight or saving money, you can resolve to become a global power!
Well, not really. But if you want to play around with radioactive material (maybe you’re looking to become a superhero or, even more fun, a supervillain?), it’s actually pretty easy to obtain actual uranium ore online. How easy? You can get it on freakin’ Amazon. We’re not exactly sure what you’d want to do with it when it arrives, and we’re not sure we want to know. It’s probably available for sale for science experiments, though if you’re giving this to your 12-year-old for the science fair, we’ve got serious concerns about your parenting. Either way, it’s surprisingly cheap to buy, and we look forward to the news broadcasts of your giant, mutated, rampaging cat wreaking havoc on your community.
Now, not everyone on your Christmas shopping list deserves to get something fun, like radioactive material or a giant vehicle of death and destruction. Some people might be, to borrow a phrase from a jolly fat man who likes wearing red velour suits and enticing children to sit on his lap, a bit naughty. And for those people that deserve worse than coal (it’s an energy source, so it’s still practical!), you can always send them a box of actual poop.
Obviously, if you wanted to save money you could just take a dump in a bag and leave it on their doorstep with a festive bow. But sometimes you want to get a little exotic, and that’s where Poop Senders comes in. You don’t have to be content with something as boring as human poop, or cat poop, or even the old classic, dog turds. Now, you can tell your boss (anonymously, of course) what you really think about him with some delightful elephant or gorilla dung. Sure, it lacks the personal touch of breaking into his house and leaving an upper-decker in his master bathroom, but it also comes with a considerably smaller chance of being arrested.
2. Human Skulls
We all know that one theater nerd who is super into Shakespeare. They’re always going on and on about the bard and how wonderful his writing is, pointing you toward lists on terrific websites that lay out just how much of the English language he created. Well, if that friend is a true fan of Big Willie Shakes, they’re going to want to be able to act out their favorite scenes with as much authenticity as possible. Like, for instance, the famous scene in Hamlet, with Yorick’s skull.
Most people perform the play with a cheap plastic skull, but that’s not good enough for your good friend. No no–they’ve got to have the genuine article. Obviously, that means sending them an actual human skull from a website called The Bone Room, which sounds like a completely different type of website that you’d usually open up an incognito browser page to visit. But it’s actually a purveyor of real human skulls, because that’s apparently a thing even non-Hamlet enthusiasts are hot after (yes, we know it’s mostly for medical/educational/scientific purposes, but it’s still weird). We won’t ask questions, and we definitely don’t want to know where the skulls are obtained. All we know is that, if we go missing and a beautiful, fresh skull pops up for sale, we’d suggest using it as a beer goblet.
1. Lunar Real Estate
For a lot of people, you aren’t really a successful adult until you own land. Generally that would mean a house in the suburbs, or a farm, or a little cottage on the beach. But why stop there? That’s the kind of thing your brother-in-law would boast about. And you know you can outdo him, right? So go on… buy a piece of… THE MOON.
Yeah, we’re talking about Earth’s actual moon. Obviously, you’ll probably never be able to set foot on your newly acquired (and shockingly affordable!) property, but should the occasion arise when you or someone you love needs to construct an evil moon lair, you’ll already have the space to work with. Lunar Land, which sounds more like an amusement park than a company, will happily sell you an acre of property on the Moon for… wait, $30? That’s it? Huh. This may be veering more into “cool” than “weird.”
Very little is known about the prehistory of America, making it a fascinating time period to investigate. Every day, old views and beliefs are being challenged, new ideas are being brought forth and questioned, and the field is wide open to speculation and ridicule.
Prehistory is the study of the time before history was recorded or written down. In America, prehistory begins before Europeans and their missionaries arrived to record details of the native people and America’s habitats and wealth. According to traditional historical events, history in America began in the 1400s. However, as we uncover more scientific data and discover more ancient artifacts, we find that Europeans may have come to America long before history was being recorded.
10. Camels Originated in North America
Imagine taking a stroll through the wilds of Northern Canada and meeting an animal that almost looks like a desert camel. This animal, called a camelop, lived in North America from 3.5 million to 11,700 years ago.
Researchers have discovered that the camel originated in North America and they believe that the camelop traveled across the Bering land bridge some three to five million years ago. Slowly, the animal migrated south, adapted to its new environment, and became what we now recognize as the camel of the Middle East.
While we have all been taught that the desert camel of today has a hump to help it survive harsh, desert conditions, that hump actually developed in North America. Researchers are discovering that the camelop’s hump developed out the the need to survive the harsh winters and long periods of darkness during prehistoric America. The humps later proved useful for survival in desert climates.
Why aren’t there any wild camels in North America today? Many of the camelops were hunted by early Americans for food. The camels also migrated farther south, into South America, where they evolved into the alpacas and llamas we know of today.
9. Bears as Big as SUVs
Predators were, of course, far larger in prehistoric America than they are today, and one of the largest predators was the short-faced bear. This monstrous bear was an amazing six feet tall when it walked on all four legs. However, when it stood on its hind legs, this monster bear was as tall as 12 feet and it weighed around 1,500 pounds.
Why was this bear so large? During the time of the short-faced bear, there were far more fierce predators living in America. These other predators included dire wolves and wild cats such as the American lion. The bear’s large size would have intimidated the other predators and given them a reason to hunt easier prey.
About 11,000 years ago, the short-faced bear became extinct. By this time, the smaller grizzly bear had made its home in North America and was competing for the same food as the larger bears. People during this time would have co-existed with this large predator and may have also contributed to the bear’s ultimate demise as its food sources dwindled.
8. Dire Wolves
Thanks to Game of Thrones, the dire wolf has returned to the public’s wild imagination, but few people realize that this wolf actually lived in prehistoric America. Its bones have been discovered from Alaska to Florida and Mexico. Numerous skeletal remains of the dire wolf have been found in the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles, California.
While little is known about the dire wolf, scientists believe that it may have hunted in packs. Surprisingly, their diets consisted mostly of other large animals, including bison and mastodons.
Dire wolves existed from 125,000 to 10,000 years ago. They weighed about 130 pounds and grew to a length of six feet from nose to tail. Sadly, like the short-faced bear and other large mammals, the dire wolf became extinct due to unclear causes.
7. When People Came to America
For the past few decades, people have been taught that the first people to arrive in North America 13,000 years ago had traveled across the Bering land bridge. Today there is a growing amount of evidence that this theory is incorrect.
Now scientists and researchers are saying that humans may have arrived in North America as long as 130,000 years ago. These early people crossed the water with boats and settled along the southern California coast.
Evidence that supports this theory was uncovered at a site where the remains of a mastodon were found. Scientists who studied the elephant’s bones discovered that the bones had been deliberately broken, as if early humans had cracked open the bones to get at the nourishing marrow. Hammer stones were also found at the site, further proving that early humans had used these stone tools to break open the bones.
Of course, this is not the only site proving that humans were in North America before the Bering land bridge was uncovered, but it is one of the oldest sites found so far.
6. Skeletal Remains of Giants
It almost sounds like a story out of a child’s imagination, but giant people did live and rule in North America’s prehistory. During the 1800s, newspapers across the United States reported on the findings of giant bones. Many of these bones, it was reported, were turned over the The Smithsonian Museum and were never seen again.
Today, archaeologists and amateur scientists continue to find skulls and skeletons of large people who lived in North America long ago. Many of these giant skeletons have been found inside burial mounds. Others have been found in caves and in seemingly random burial sites.
How tall were these early giants? The skeletons that have been found and examined place them at over seven feet tall, with some reaching a height of 10 feet tall.
And these were not random giants scattered across the United States. There are surviving legends and stories about entire tribes of tall people living in areas such as Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
5. There were Stone Builders
Many of us might envision early Americans as nomadic people who roamed the land and lived in temporary housing. While many early Americans were nomadic, there is also strong evidence of stone builders in prehistoric America.
Take, for instance, America’s Stonehenge found in Salem, New Hampshire. Called Mystery Hill, the stone constructions cover nearly 30 acres. Carbon dating shows that parts of the ancient site were constructed 4,000 years ago.
So far, ancient pottery, large fire pits, and tools have been uncovered at the site. The ancient stone structures still stand, and include dens, walls, and a sacrificial altar stone that weighs over four tons.
Ancient stone walls have also been discovered throughout the United States. One such wall was discovered in the Hudson River, 2002, with the use of sonar. The wall, completely underwater, was measured at a length of 900 feet and it has been estimated to be anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 years old.
It is unclear who built the ancient walls found throughout America, but there are theories that it could have been the Native Americans, Vikings, or Europeans who travelled to the region long before Christopher Columbus was born.
4. Wisconsin Copper Mining
Ancient copper mines with as much as 1.5 billion pounds of missing copper have been discovered in Wisconsin. According to the experts, the mines were operated by an unknown race between 5000 and 1200 BC.
Who were these people and what did they do with all that copper? No one is certain, but reports state that no burial grounds have been found to show who these people were. This could mean that they were not from the area and may have, in fact, come from European countries to mine the much needed metal.
Basic blacksmithing tools and pits have been uncovered near the mines. Hammered knives, axe heads, and other sharp weapons were also found, but these were not traditional Native American weapons.
The Ojibwa eventually migrated to the area along Lake Superior, but believed that spirits inhabited the old mines. By that time, all knowledge of who these ancient miners were was lost.
3. Windover Bog People
The discovery of the Windover Bog bodies made news all over the world in 1982 when a backhoe operator uncovered bones in a Floridian pond. Archaeologists were brought in and over the next few years 167 bodies were found along with thousands of human elements.
The bog burial was reminiscence of the ancient bog burials that have been discovered in northern Europe, and this has led to much controversy over the origins of the Windover bog people.
Carbon dating showed that the bodies were between 6,990 to 8,120 years old. Even more surprising was the condition of the bodies. Scientists who examined the remains discovered that 91 of the skeletons still had intact brain matter.
DNA testing was performed on the surviving brain matter and it was found that the DNA did not match the DNA of local indigenous people in Florida or any modern Native American groups. This has lead many people to believe that the DNA of these ancient bog people to be related to ancient Europeans who could have easily made their way to Florida by boat.
Only half of the Windover Bog has been excavated. The rest of the site remains intact so that in the future, as DNA technology improves, the site and its mysteries might be tackled once more.
2. The Chocolate Trade
Being addicted to chocolate is nothing new. The ancestral Puebloan people of New Mexico also had a thing for cacao. In fact, so strong was their love for the bean that a trading hub was built so that the Puebloans and the Mesoamericans from Central and South America could trade turquoise for the delicious beans.
This recent discovery shows that the early indigenous people were complex traders with good taste. Drinking vessels discovered in New Mexico were tested and found to contain traces of the cacao bean, proving that they drank their chocolate in the same way as the early Mesoamericans.
Besides the chocolate trade, parrots were also brought up to New Mexico to trade for local gems. Meanwhile, turquoise has been found in an ancient Mayan city where there are no turquoise deposits.
1. Buried Domesticated Dogs
Recent evidence shows that early Americans loved their dogs just as much as we do today. Canine burial sites, as old as 10,000 years, have been uncovered, including pet dogs carefully buried alongside people.
How these early domesticated dogs came about is a bit of a mystery. Some believe that early Americans domesticated wolves. While this is entirely possible, other scientists believe that some of these domesticated dogs traveled with people over the Bering land bridge. Of course, it is also probable that both of these events happened in American prehistory.
What remains today are findings that ancient people buried their dogs alongside their villages and in human burial grounds. Care and attention was given to these beloved pets as they were laid to rest, showing us that the ancient people of the Americas were not only smart and ingenious, they were also caregivers to their faithful, canine companions.
Diplomats are supposed to be tactful peacemakers. As emissaries of their home country in a foreign nation, they act as dignified officials who preserve the countries’ relationships in the best possible way. This role means that when they’re posted in a country, they have certain legal powers normal people can only dream about. The most famous of these is diplomatic immunity … and sadly, quite a few diplomats abuse this privilege to commit crimes.
10. Shuji Shimokoji, the wife-beating diplomat
Shuji Shimokoji is a long-term Japanese diplomat who has served his country since 1970.
The diplomat had bruised his wife’s face and arms with his fists, and when questioned about his behavior, he insisted that wife-beating “was a cultural thing and not a big deal.” Canada disagreed and charged Shimokoji with assault. The diplomat entered a guilty plea, but thanks to his immunity, he was given an absolute discharge: No criminal record, no jail time served. That’s not to say he got away entirely without consequences, though. The Japanese officials were not exactly amused by Shimokoji’s comments about cultural wife-beating, and their Foreign Ministry ordered him to return home.
However, the crime did little to derail Shinokoji’s career in diplomacy. After some apologies, he went on to serve as a minister in Japan’s embassy in the US. He later served as his country’s ambassador to various countries, including Panama and Venezuela.
9. The American Soldier who killed a famous rock star
Diplomatic immunity is not necessarily limited to old men in suits. Almost anyone with the right credentials can have one, even soldiers. One of the strangest ways a soldier has ever claimed immunity happened in 2004, when Marine Staff Sergeant Cristopher VanGoethem killed a famous Romanian rock star … and immediately left the country under diplomatic immunity.
VanGoethem was working as a guard at the US embassy in Bucharest, when he ignored a stop sign and the SUV he was driving rammed into a taxi. The passenger of said taxi happened to be Teo Peter, a beloved Romanian rock star. Peter was killed in the crash, and a breath test by the local police showed that VanGoethem had been drinking. Before he could be arrested, the embassy officials intervened, and an embassy official escorted VanGoethem safely out of the country. Although the Romanian officials protested this, the US insisted that they would carry out their own investigations.
In 2006, a US court martial found VanGoethem not guilty of negligent homicide. They did, however, find him guilty of some lesser charges, such as obstruction of justice and making false statements.
8. Diplomats can just stop paying rent and landlords can’t do anything about it
A tenant with a steady, well-paying job seems like a dream for most landlords, but when the job in question gives the tenant diplomatic immunity, things can get a lot more difficult. If a diplomat decides to stop paying rent, there’s very little a landlord can do to persuade them. Diplomatic immunity makes them summons-proof, and you can’t even evict them. Sure, a landlord could try to make them sign a document that makes them waive their immunity for rent-related purposes, but even that is destined to fail: Diplomats can sign any document they want but they can’t legally stop being diplomatically immune if their country doesn’t officially strip the privilege from them.
This is a particularly big problem in New York, where the City Administrative Code prevents discrimination based on employment. This is normally an excellent thing, but in the context of diplomats who don’t want to pay rent, it’s a minefield — especially since the city has the highest concentration of people with diplomatic immunity in the whole country. As a result, some countries’ missions and embassies have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, and have no intention to pay.
7. A Qatari sheikh races through Los Angeles in his Ferrari
In 2017, Los Angeles witnessed a real life version of Grand Theft Auto V, when a yellow Ferrari and a white Porsche raced through the streets of Beverly Hills, ignoring traffic signs and recklessly zooming through residential areas. The race finally ended when the Ferrari pulled to a stop on a driveway in a rich area, its engine smoking.
The police immediately realized that this would be a difficult investigation. Although the drivers’ faces weren’t clearly visible in the surveillance footage, the cars were connected to Sheik Khalid Hamad Al-Thani, a rich motorsports enthusiast who may or may not be part of the Qatar royal family. At least one of the vehicles wasn’t registered to be brought into the US. And to make things even more complicated, when the Sheikh was contacted about the incident, he immediately invoked diplomatic immunity.
What makes this case particularly strange is that the police were suspicious about the Sheikh actually having any diplomatic protection. However, they were unable to do anything about it, because when they were still considering the charges, the Sheikh and his cars both disappeared from the country. The Beverly Hills authorities said that they’d look into charging the people involved with reckless driving, and possibly with false claims of diplomatic immunity. However, it looks like no progress on the case has been made, so we’re guessing their efforts haven’t been exactly productive.
6. Some diplomats freely traffic humans and the law can do nothing about it
A little known fact about diplomats is that when they’re operating at the highest level of immunity, they’re so untouchable that they can even freely traffic humans. Some diplomats happily abuse this ability by importing personal servants and domestic workers from their home countries, then confiscating their passports and keeping them around at slave wage. A 2008 Government Accountability Office investigation found 42 such workers in the US, but their true numbers are thought to be much higher. This is because the trafficked workers often live in fear of their “employers,” who keep them in restricted conditions and hold considerable power over them.
According to the organizations and investigating bodies keeping track of the situation, this is a problem most countries are at least somewhat aware of, but choose to carefully smooth over. Despite the fact that some of these workers are forced to work over 90 hours a week without breaks, rest or sometimes even food, the problem has persisted for decades.
The extremely few diplomats who have ended up in hot water because of their human trafficking have been relatively low-ranking ones who handled the job so badly that the country had no choice but to react. In a famous case from 2014, an Indian consular official named Devyani Khobragade was indicted on charges of visa fraud and false statements because she tried to obtain a visa for a domestic worker who wasn’t paid even the minimum wage. Even then, India tried to claim that Khobragade had full diplomatic immunity. When it turned out that she didn’t have one, they tried to get her one. Despite all this, it took enormous public pressure for the United States to deny the change in Khobragade’s assignment and indict her.
5. North Korean diplomats smuggle drugs and have many criminal side hustles
Life is pretty weird and horrifying for almost everyone living in North Korea. Still, things don’t necessarily get any better if you manage to land yourself a cozy diplomat gig and leave the country behind, even if it’s just temporarily. First of all, regardless of where you’re posted, you’re not going to be paid much more than you would in Pyongyang, which forces North Korean diplomats in expensive cities like London to shop in thrift stores. Since the country’s leadership also requires its embassies to be “self-sufficient,” the embassy staff is struggling to pay the bills or even buy food.
This poverty has caused North Korean diplomats to take up all sorts of criminal side hustles, with varying levels of success. In 1976, their embassy in Denmark asked to import 2.5 million cigarettes “for personal consumption.” When this pretty obvious attempt at smuggling was denied, two of the embassy’s diplomats were arrested because their cars were stuffed with half a ton of marijuana. Meanwhile, in Norway, the ambassador and his team were caught with 4,000 smuggled bottles of liquor and 140,000 cigarettes. And the list goes on. Between 1984 and 2004 alone, there were over 50 documented arrests of North Korean diplomats. Many of them were selling possibly state-produced crystal meth, and some experts believe that state-sanctioned drug trade might be pretty much an official part of the North Korean diplomat’s job.
4. A diplomat escapes child predator charges thanks to diplomatic immunity
Investigators often attempt to lure child predators by posing as underage kids online. In 2005, one sheriff’s deputy from Bedford County, Virginia caught a particularly big fish this way. Posing as a 13-year-old girl, he was soon targeted by a creepy guy who solicited a meeting with “her” at the local shopping mall. When the meeting took place and the sheriff’s men moved to arrest the man, they were in for an unexpected discovery: The child predator in question was Salem Al-Mazrooei,a diplomat working for the United Arab Emirates.
Al-Mazrooei immediately requested diplomatic immunity, and the Bedford County officials were forced to release him after confirming his identity. However, a particularly tenacious Commonwealth Attorney named Randy Krantz wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, and started a quest to prosecute Al-Mazrooei and get his immunity waived. Unfortunately, the UAE embassy was less than welcoming: While Krantz was under the impression they were reviewing the case, the embassy appears to have prepared for Al-Mazrooei’s quiet removal from the country. Still, although the US officials didn’t get to prosecute the man, they at least made sure that he isn’t welcome in the country: the State Department made sure that he could not enter US soil unless it was to answer the charges that are waiting for him in Virginia.
3. A diplomat escapes a manslaughter case after killing a cyclist with his car door
Berlin, 2017. A man casually opened the door of his Porsche without checking whether the path is clear. This resulted in tragedy, as the door opened directly in the path of a cyclist, who didn’t have the time to brake or swerve. He died on his way to the hospital. Normally, this would have led to an investigation and possible negligent manslaughter charges. However, in this case, the driver was a Saudi diplomat with immunity, and the police had no choice but to let him go.
Hundreds of cyclists protested the case, as did the victim’s widow. The German officials sent a verbal note to the Saudi embassy, but while the embassy did offer a heartfelt apology over the death, it became apparent that they were far more likely to quietly withdraw the driver from the country than they were to waive his diplomatic immunity. Still, at least some good came out of this particular tragedy: The public started paying attention to the massive number of traffic violations by diplomats stationed in Berlin: there were 22,880 offenses in 2016 alone.
2. Libyan embassy in London opens fire and kills a police officer
On April 17, 1984, an anti-Gaddafi demonstration took place in front of the Libyan embassy in London. Out of the blue, someone from inside the embassy opened fire at the demonstrators. The bullets injured 10 protesters. One of them also fatally hit police constable Yvonne Fletcher, who was present at the scene. The incident started a massive diplomatic incident. The London Metropolitan police sieged the Libyan embassy for 11 days, and the UK ultimately cut diplomatic ties with Libya. Still, PC Fletcher’s killer was never found.
When Gaddafi’s rule ended during Libya’s 2011 revolution, the British hoped that they could send investigators in the country to get to the bottom of the case. This turned out to be a hopeless effort, and it seemed that Fletcher’s murder would remain unsolved. The investigators made some progress when a former minister of the Gaddafi regime seeked political asylum in Britain and was arrested on suspicion of being involved with the case. Still, it’s unknown if this particular man had a role in Fletcher’s death, because in 2017, the police said that they’re dropping the murder enquiry. That’s not to say that they don’t know the identity of the people involved in the death — they’re actually pretty sure that they do. The problem is that they can’t show any of their evidence in court because of national security issues.
1. A killer with diplomatic immunity nearly destroyed the relations of Pakistan and the US
Like we mentioned earlier, the whole point of diplomats is that they preserve the peaceful relationship between countries. In 2011, Raymond Davis almost managed to do the exact opposite by single-handedly destroying the relationships of the United States and Pakistan. In a busy intersection in Lahore, Davis shot and killed two Pakistani men who approached his car on a motorcycle, with guns in their hands.
The way he did it was straight out of the handbook of a spy movie villain: He peppered the men with bullets through the windshield of his vehicle, then got out of the car and finished the man who was trying to flee with several bullets in his back. The spy vibe didn’t end there: After the killings, Davis radioed the American Consulate, and soon, a wildly driving SUV arrived to pick him up, driving in the wrong direction of a one-way street. This didn’t go well, as the car hit and killed a motorcyclist before picking up Davis, and escaped the scene. Davis was caught red-handed and arrested.
While searching the scene, the police found bullets, a mask, some cloth with an American flag on it, and a camera that contained secretly taken photos of Pakistani military locations. This confirmed everyone’s suspicions that Davis was a CIA operative spying on the country, and he was hauled away to prison. The case caused a massive anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, and it didn’t exactly help that the US government invoked diplomatic immunity: Even President Obama publicly called for Davis to be released.
Pakistan would not be budged. Noting that the diplomatic immunity of Davis wasn’t quite as airtight as the President made it seem, and angry that the CIA refused to acknowledge the man as one of their own, Pakistan took Davis to court. This did not go particularly well for them, as Davis was soon acquitted after the families of the deceased received mysterious monetary compensation that enabled Davis’ release under Sharia law, where the relatives of the victim can pardon the killer.
In the end, Davis got away with whatever it is he had been doing. Still, the whole incident was massively damaging to the relationship between the US and Pakistan, especially on the Pakistani side. Even after Seal Team Six entered Pakistani soil to take down Osama Bin Laden a few months later, the Davis case was still the one Pakistanis were more angry about.
The Mesoamerican civilization was a confederation of city-states and ethnic groups centered around the Valley of Mexico and united by the Nahuatl language. Although commonly referred to as the ‘Aztecs’ (a term popularized by Europeans in the 19th century), they referred to themselves by other names—including the Mexica or Tenochca. They weren’t an especially long-lived civilization, either; the Aztec empire was founded in 1428, less than 100 years before it ended.
Much of what we know about the Aztecs derives from a series of colorful, hand-painted manuscripts made from stretched deerskin or fabric weaved from agave plants. The works, similar to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics or modern-day comic books, featured a combination of writing and art to depict Aztec daily life, centered around its capital of Tenochtitlan in present-day Mexico City.
Advances in fields such as medicine, science, and astronomy can be found throughout the Aztec culture. And, yes, they also got into some weird, freaky stuff that led to copious amounts of blood and skulls. But to be fair, historians would be hard-pressed to find any religion without at least a few skeletons in its closet.
10. That old song and dance
Aztec warriors have a well-earned reputation as skilled fighters. Moreover, they would pummel their enemies while singing, dancing, and waving large banners—all of which gave new meaning to the term ‘war party.’
The use of musical instruments also held particular importance on the battlefield to help organize soldiers and send messages of enemy activity. The high-pitched sounds from pink-hued conch shells and the beating of drums helped to create a thunderous cacophony, made even louder with Aztec war cries.
According to one Spanish conquistador eyewitness: “While they are fighting they sing and dance, and from time to time utter the most frightful whoopings and whistlings in the world … and it is a certain fact that, to anyone who had never seen them fight before, their yells and manly appearance would be intimidating.”
Because the empire revolved around warfare both politically and economically, the warrior class enjoyed an exalted status in class and paved the only path towards upward mobility. Appearance featured prominently as well, providing some decorated soldiers with battle dress adorned with colorful feathers and animal hides.
9. Same day delivery. Fast!
The last Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma II, supposedly enjoyed a daily feast of 200 dishes, including fresh fish from the Atlantic coast located 250 miles away. To accommodate the Tlatoani (“one who speaks”), a team of relay runners served as couriers—a task underscoring the Aztec’s zeal to devotion—and their extraordinary talents for long distance running. Moreover, the route started and finished at an altitude of over 7,000 feet, making the feat much more impressive.
Aztec runners were also responsible for communicating important news. Placed at designated stations every 2.5 miles, the fast men ensured rapid delivery and response, especially on matters relating to military threats. When conquistador Hernan Cortes first arrived near Veracruz in the spring of 1519, authorities in the Aztec capital were alerted well ahead of the Spaniard’s march on Tenochtitlan.
Today, descendants of these runners can still be found in Mexico and the American Southwest, embracing the tradition of extreme endurance running and scaling new heights. It’s not surprising that Al Waquie, a Jemez Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, won the annual Empire State Building Run-Up six consecutive times.
8. Paddle power
At the peak of the Empire, Tenochtitlan flourished as one of the largest cities in the world, hosting over 200,000 inhabitants. And with its central location located on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztec capital required an elaborate system of canoes (acalli) to provide commercial and personal transportation.
The main urban hub operated within a sprawling network of bridges and causeways connected to the mainland; a series of canals created additional access to all sections of the city. Canoes were constructed from a single tree trunk, ranging from 14 to 50 feet in length. A skilled craftsman could produce a finished piece in about a week and typically featured a shallow draft and square bow.
According to the Mendoza Codex, larger vessels could support a load in excess of several tons, requiring both skill and muscle to power the tens of thousands of watercraft in use on a daily basis. Poles and paddles were also carved from wood—and the Aztecs believed the god Opochtli (derived from a rain deity) invented the elongated tool as a divine means to propel their boats.
7. Superfood for super people
Barrels of ink have been used by historians to write about the Aztecs’ sophistication in a wide range of fields. Advanced nutrition can also be added to the list. Nutrient-rich spirulina was used in spicy, chile-flavored sauces and served with staples such as a corn and tortillas, helping fuel the aforementioned Aztec prowess in fighting, killing, balling, paddling, running, etc.
Known to the locals as tecuitlatl, the blue-green algae was harvested from lakes in the Valley of Mexico. It would then be sun-dried and cut it into bricks, allowing the preserved foodstuff to remain edible throughout the year. The aquatic plant contains chlorophyll, high protein, and an essential amino acid (linolenic acid); it also yields an elevated content of vitamin B12, beta-carotene, and a variety of other vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
Spanish conquistadors, like petulant five-year-olds refusing to eat their veggies, derisively characterized the colorful food as “slime.” Following their conquest, efforts to control flooding led to most of the lake being drained, destroying the primary source of algae. Today, the area remains an entirely dry lake basin.
6. They disapproved of drink but venerated “drugs”
Because drunkenness was seen as destructive of social order and harmony, drinking was largely prohibited. The fifth cup of beverages like pulque (a type of maguey/agave beer) was said to be especially troublesome. Only those who could be trusted (the nobles and priests), or those who had some medicinal need for alcohol (the elderly), were permitted to drink it at all.
Psychedelic drugs (or plant medicines), on the other hand, were held in extremely high regard. Peyotl (peyote) was used for visions and prophecies, ololiuqui (morning glory) was used as an intoxicant in ceremonies, and teonanácatl (psilocybin mushrooms) were considered to be the flesh of the divine, reserved for the holiest of religious occasions. Many other plants, including pipiltzintzintli (possibly salvia), were also used by the Aztecs. A statue of the god Xochipilli, the Prince of Flowers, in a state of spiritual rapture on a base of such visionary plants attests to the value they held.
The missionaries, however, were appalled at the use of these plants. Seeing them as a tool of the Devil and the priests as essentially witches, they felt compelled to stamp out the practice—often violently.
5. Their lives were determined from birth
The Aztecs saw childbirth as a battle and the mother as a victorious warrior. The baby, meanwhile, was seen as her captive, a prisoner taken in war—which is apt considering they didn’t believe in free will.
For example, everyone could expect a fate based on the qualities inherent in their birth date according to the Aztec day count calendar—the 260-day tonalpohualli. The tonalpohualli consisted of 20 13-day “months,” each presided over by individual day signs, including animals (e.g. Lizard, Monkey), natural phenomena (e.g. Wind, Movement, Death), and manmade items (e.g. House). It was a little like the modern Western zodiac, in other words—but considerably more specific, and often devastatingly grim.
Those born on ‘2 Rabbit’ (the second day of the “month” of Rabbit), for instance, were apparently fated to a life of uncontrollable drunkenness, wallowing in their own filth, and rejection from everyone they met. Naturally, they were also at much greater risk of injury and death, whether by accident or as capital punishment.
The only way to mitigate such an unfortunate fate appears to have been a lifetime of penitence and piety, including night-time worship, hard work, fasting, cleanliness, and order. But the odds were stacked against them.
4. Their worldview was more rational than the West’s
Although missionaries attempted to align their own concept of sin with the Aztec concept of filth (or degradation) tlatlacolli, it wasn’t directly comparable. For one thing, the Aztecs’ avoidance of tlatlacolli was a pragmatic, not a faith-based, concern. The consequences of bad action were observable in this life, not deferred to the afterlife as punishment in the hereafter. (Indeed, the nature of the Aztec afterlife was determined not by the way one lived, but chiefly by the way one died.) Such actions—and only actions, not thoughts as well (as in Catholicism)—were to be avoided because they threatened the social order.
Hence they included things like theft, drunkenness, and adultery—but not sensual pleasure in general. The refusal to participate fully in life was an alien concept to the Aztecs. They saw earthly life as its own reward, not as something profane or subordinate to the afterlife. Life and its pleasures were to be enjoyed, not denied. The key, prioritising the pragmatic ideal of order (as opposed to the more subjective and arbitrary Catholic ideal of virtue), was moderation—not repression.
Underpinning this difference was the Aztecs’ fundamentally unified worldview. Nothing was unholy; everything was imbued—indeed made of—the same sacred energy-in-motion, teotl. In agreement with the non-duality teachings of ancient India (as well as the physicists of today), the Aztecs considered the appearance of separate objects to be illusory. And they saw no fundamental distinction between heaven and earth, life and death, man and nature, and so on; these were simply balancing aspects of a unified whole, similar to the yin and yang of Taoism. For them, Creation wasn’t a one-off act on a linear timeline toward Judgement Day; it was an eternal process of emergence, harmony, and change, the weaving of a grand cosmic tapestry in which teotl was at once the weaver, the thread, and the process of weaving itself.
Another thing the Aztecs had in common with the Hindus was their belief in a pantheon of gods—not as standalone entities but as facets of an essential unity.
In addition to the major deities—including Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent who re-created humans), Huitzilopochtli (the great warrior god of the Sun), and Tlaloc (the god of rain and water)—the Aztecs recognized well over 1,000 others. Most were associated with farming and other important aspects of Aztec life, but some were extraordinary to say the least—whether because of their long and complicated names (e.g. Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, the Lord of the House of Dawn) or because of what they represented. As well as being the god of divine ecstasy and visionary plants, for instance, Xochipilli was the patron of homosexual male prostitutes. Then there was Tlazolteotl-Tlaelquani, a goddess who ate excrement and other waste as a symbol of recycling and renewal.
Xipe Totec, meanwhile, another of the major deities, was associated with the flaying of skin, again as a symbol of regeneration. The Aztecs worshipped this god during the festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli, namely by flaying the skin of their bravest captive, painting it yellow, and wrapping it around somebody else. This person would then be treated as if they were the embodiment of the god.
2. They sacrificed humans—but don’t hold it against them
There were 18 months in the Aztec solar calendar, and almost all of them called for sacrificial rites. From Atlcahualo (February-March) to Izcalli (January-February), men, women, and childrenwere slaughtered in elaborate ceremonies—mostly focused on the removal of their hearts. According to the missionary Bernadino de Sahagún, many were flayed, burned alive, and hunted like animals as well.
Nowadays, in agreement with the conquistadors, most of us would find the practice abhorrent. However, as with any moral evaluation of the past (and especially of an alien culture), it’s important to consider the context. For one thing, the Aztecs had no fear of death, and they were under no illusion that life was more important. Furthermore, sacrificial victims were treated with respect—even reverence—and were said to be honored in the afterlife. It’s conceivable that many even welcomed such a fate. After all, even priests were known to sacrifice parts of their own bodies. Victims may also have been sedated with powerful deliriants like Datura innoxia, a plant common in Aztec medicine.
In any case, Spanish chroniclers—many of whom hadn’t even been to the New World—are known to have exaggerated the numbers. The friar Diego Durán, for instance, claimed that 80,400 people were sacrificed over four days at the Templo Mayor. But that would have meant 14 sacrifices per minute (more than the daily record of Auschwitz). Aside from anything else, the city of Tenochtitlan, with its population of 250,000, simply lacked the infrastructure for so much death. In fact, archeological evidence places the total number of sacrifices ever committed in the city at closer to 1,000.
So why do we characterize the Aztecs by this practice? It’s not like the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, ancient Egyptians, and many other cultures—including the heretic-burning culture from which the conquistadors came—didn’t practice it too.
1. Take me out… to the ballgame
The Aztec ballgame (ullamaliztli) played an important role in society both politically and spiritually. The physical contest also provided a thrilling spectator sport, showcasing several elements found in soccer and basketball. Additionally, large sums were waged on the games and intense rivalries between city-states often led to career-ending results (i.e. death) of the coaches and players. Over the years, scholars have debated which team was actually eliminated (as mentioned, sacrifice was considered a noble honor); nonetheless it was truly a sport to die for.
Teams competed on a rectangular court made of stone measuring 100 to 200 feet long known as the tlachtli or tlachco, featuring ornately carved stone rings. Players attempted to place a hard rubber ball (ulli) through a stone hoop—an extremely difficult feat that would signal the end of the game. However, points could also be scored involving markers on the walls surrounding the court and other skilled plays. Spectators viewed the action from an arena often adorned with skull racks of previous sacrifice victims—a macabre Hall of Fame players may have wanted to avoid entering.
The rough, fast-paced sport required the ball to remain in play using only the head, elbows, knees, and hips. Players wore deerskin guards for protection against injuries—as well as constantly hitting the ground to prevent the ball from landing. It’s also worth noting the game’s origins date back 3,500 years to the region’s mother culture, the Olmec (‘the people of rubber’), making it the oldest recorded ball game in the world.
World War I, or the Great War, started out as smaller scale conflicts amongst a hotbed of international hostilities and shifting alliances. While as famous as a conflict can get, World War Iis often misunderstood or simply inadequately known. In this list, we share some of the most intriguing, downright shocking or just plain weird facts and happenings that define World War I as it happened.
10. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the Queen of England’s Grandson
It might come as a great shock for many people to realize that the official German head of state during World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm, was half English. Even more shocking, considering the nature of the conflict between the Central Powers and Allied Powers, it was particularly scandalous that this man, the figurehead in the German regime fighting in WWI, was no less than the grandson of the Queen of England, Queen Victoria! It is true that war can quickly lead to conflicting loyalties and blurring between military conflict and family conflict, and between international boundaries and familial lines.
Interestingly, the Queen had assisted in marrying her eldest daughter, who also held the name Victoria, in marrying the Prussian Prince William. Their son, Kaiser Wilhelm II, became the warmongering, anti-British German Emperor. The Kaiser’s English-born mother, Vicky–the daughter of Queen Victoria–expressed significant concern over the attitudes of the Kaiser in the time leading up to the First World War. Interestingly, the Kaiser suffered from nerve damage during a poorly handled birth that permanently paralyzed his arm. His mental state left much to be desired, including a burning obsession with military dominance.
9. Japan and Italy Sided with the Allied Powers
Japan and Italy might be well known participants in Axis combat in the Second World War, but a lesser known fact is that Japan and Italy fought on the side of the Allied Powers in World War I. The Kingdom of Italy was a combatant nation in the Great War that never became involved in violence on the side of the Central Powers despite prior agreements to support the Central Powers. Instead, for a time, the Kingdom of Italy remained neutral, having entered the pre-war Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany. Then, Italy made the decision to join the war on the side of the Allied Powers in 1915 as an outcome of the Treaty of London. This action was not a popular one.
It was made in spite of increasingly vociferous anti-war protests from many members of the Italian public, who saw war as a greatly unwanted occurrence that would serve only to bring a negative outcome for the country overall. Japan might at first seem to be well out of the way in the European theater, but the fact is the Japanese headed far west and even defended British shipping in the Mediterranean. German operations in the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific were significantly hindered by Japanese actions, curbing the sweep of the roving Imperial German Navy.
8. Urine Soaked Handkerchiefs Mitigated Gas
World War I was not just a war where mechanical means of fighting were advanced, with air battles between planes standing out prominently. World War I was also the war of the chemical weapon, revolutionizing attacks through chemistry. After the turning point where German forces used chlorine gas on April 22, 1915 at Ypres, Belgium, poison gas attacks became definitive elements of the conflict. From that day onward, poison gas was used to devastating effect in World War I by both the Central Powers and the Allied Powers. The use of chemical warfare showed the dangers of high-tech chemical engineering and led to profound legal considerations on what constituted acceptable bounds of wartime conduct.
Chlorine gas attacks caused burns and could inflict blindness, but despite the advancement, a means of addressing deadly gas attacks was decidedly low tech and biological in nature. Holding urine-soaked cloths to the face provided a crude, but better-than-nothing means of mitigating the effects of chlorine gas. Further development of gas masks offered a much greater level of protection, especially against more dangerous forms of gas attack. As the conflict progressed, the scale and variety of chemical weapon attacks grew, spurring intense efforts to design and manufacture proper gas masks.
The time of the Third Reich may have been a violent betrayal of Jewish Germans, but prior to the tyranny of the Hitler era that sparked World War II hostilities in Europe, German Jews went above and beyond in efforts to show loyalty to their Fatherland. In the time of World War I, anti-Semitism was already an ever-present reality and many Jewish Germans wanted to show loyalty to their country through action. Sadly and ironically, Jewish air aces and other prominent Jewish veterans of WWI were treated violently and swept under the rug as their achievements starkly contrasted with the lie-filled hate speech of Nazi rhetoric.
In the wake of Germany’s loss in World War I, Jewish Germans were targeted as scapegoats. While some German Jews received acknowledgement under the Nazi regime for past contributions in WWI, the overall treatment of Germany’s WWI veterans by the National Socialist regime was exceptionally harsh. Formerly recognized combatants in WWI who were Jewish Germans were treated as enemies to be eliminated by the country they had served. Even high scoring German Jewish fighter pilots, including aces from WWI who had received decorations with the utmost recognition, were removed from war records under the fanatical Nazi regime, as in the case of ace pilot Fritz Beckhardt, also arrested and imprisoned for his relations with his non-Jewish wife. Others were sent to die in concentration camp conditions, as in the case of observer and gunner Berthold Guthmann.
6. The Christmas Truce
World War I was defined as a conflict of exceptional violence, scale, and novelty of awful new weapons and tactics used to obliterate enemy troops. Yet amongst the chaos, an unusual Christmas Truce took place, notably starting between British, French, and German troops in 1914, as combatants took initiative to celebrate Christmas and exchange greetings. Small talk was made, while different degrees of what came to be called “fraternization” took place along the Western Front. In some locations, talks, trading, and singing of Christmas songs occurred, while less friendly truces at other conditions included simply ceasing fire and giving each side the opportunity to go about retrieving and burying their dead.
Holiday season games were pursued amongst ceasefire conditions, while barter offered conveniences and comfort. In other instances, amidst the growing violence of World War I, killing was avoided by warring parties who took a “live and let live” approach that saw enemy soldiers declining to attack each other. Despite the faint hopes of peace that seemed to be presented by soldiers who simply didn’t kill each other, the fate of World War I was to get worse. Crackdowns on fraternization followed, with failure of a truce to take place in Christmas of 1915.
5. British Tanks were Gendered
Machines are often given human names to lend nostalgia, nuance, or a touch of fond personalization. An entire model might be given a name, or an individual machine such as a boat or plane or can be named. Yet it might come as an amusing surprise amongst the ghastly nature and unprecedented mechanization of World War I that Mark 1 British tanks were gendered as male tanks or female tanks in how they were described. The naming difference in British tanks was also not random. With the different gender labeling options there came a profound difference in tank armament.
The male tanks were armed with heavier weapons, while female tanks came equipped only with machine guns. Between the two types of machine, short work could be made of enemy forces. “Male” Mark 1 tanks equipped with a genuinely terrifying pair of 6-pound guns plus four machine guns were considered male tanks in their classification. In contrast, “Female” Mark 1 tanks came with six machine guns. The male tanks that boasted the long barrel 6-pound guns experienced some difficulties due to the ungainly length of the barrels. To resolve these operational challenges, male tanks were eventually set up with short barrel six-pound guns.
4. Hitler’s Mustache Explained
Associated with rambling hate speech and authoritarianism while being a widespread subject of ridicule, the notorious toothbrush mustache displayed by Austrian immigrant-turned-German National Socialist Worker’s Party leader Adolf Hitler has a surprising history and origin. It might come as a surprise to many students of wartime history, but the toothbrush mustache of Adolf Hitler—made notorious through countless photo depictions–was originally much larger, being formed as a more typical mustache. The distinctive shape of the mustache came about because of the need for the future malfeasant to wear a gas mask in battle. In order to fit a protective gas mask, Hitler’s full mustache had to be trimmed to shape.
During the hostilities of World War I, Hitler was involved in a gas attack where he received injuries that included temporary blindness. Evidently the horrors of gas attacks did nothing to give the future dictator second thoughts about systematically commissioning the gassing of his personally declared enemies and the millions of innocent victims he sought to eliminate. The account of Hitler’s mustache being trimmed into the compact toothbrush shape is depicted with some cinematic licence in History channel’s Emmy-nominated miniseries The World Wars.
3. Germany Tried to Provoke a Mexican Attack on the USA
World War I spanned an incredible range of countries around the globe as it spread in scope and scale. Increasing agitation and provocation were among the reasons for the mad growth of the conflict. One of the most unusual and little-known plots of World War I unfolded as Germany attempted to rile Mexico into attacking the United States and taking the states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. The plan ultimately did not unfold but the attempt to stir further battlefields into action succeeded in further highlighting the deadly threat of the virulent spread of global hostilities and provocation.
In what was known as the Zimmermann Telegram, German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann contacted German Ambassador Heinrich von Eckardt, outlining a proposal for Mexico to accept financial assistance for war from Germany, and then embark on a plan to take US territory and expand Mexico’s borders. The Mexican president requested government evaluation of the offer, but in the end, refused it. The offer became part of US justification for war against Germany. The effort to essentially sponsor a bordering country to engage in war constituted a threat to American national security that was far too close to home.
2. Chinese Labor Corps Deployed in Europe
During World War I, the sheer scale and mechanization of fighting meant that wartime operations were messy and technically challenging. Explosions, deaths, and generally catastrophic conditions of all kinds necessitated lots of work to address the damage. At the same time, preparations of supplies, munitions, and wartime infrastructure including trenches, sandbags, delivery routes, and artillery positions took a great deal of staffing to accomplish. The Chinese Labor Corps from rural parts of China offered their services and played a notable role in equipping, organizing, and cleaning up the practical aspects of wartime operations on the Western Front.
Building roads, loading trains and boats,and burying the dead were some of the projects in which these workers engaged. Unfortunately, the workers were paid very little for their hardworking contributions and suffered many losses among their crews during the Spanish Flu epidemic. A significant number of the workers were from the coastal province of Shandong in Eastern China. Some of the workers were well educated. Chinese engineers operated the Tank Corps Central Workshops in France. A lack of awareness of contributions from the approximately 140,000 Chinese workers who provided valuable services in World War I has begun to be addressed through written accounts and monument construction.
1. Child Soldiers Fought for Britain
Child soldiers might seem like a horror of “Third World” militias under a dysfunctional military dictatorship or a rogue cult. Yet the First World War led to a strange circumstance where Britain saw a shocking 250,000 combatants who were mere boys, many well under the legal age of combat service of 19 years, serving their country. Of these young people, a number served with dedication and bravery–many going to their deaths. While one might wonder how such an occurrence could happen with supposed protections in place, it was, in fact, quite easy.
Without modern documentation rigor such as birth certificates and a reliance on medical exams, instead of reliable documents attesting to the age of candidates it was possible to lie one’s way into active combat service. Wartime propaganda helped to stir up some extra desire to fight, even among those who were legally too young. Seeing the urgency of wartime affairs and perhaps having an extra dose of youthful bravado meant that those without very much knowledge or experience would rush in to get involved. Parental or community supervision was not always helpful, either. Members of parliament, headmasters, and even parents were complicit in many underage service sign-ups.
In the beginning of the Marvel Universe, there was just one omnipotent being who created the universe. After the Big Bang, a number of celestial beings came into existence. The universe eventually split off into multiple universes, hence why they call it the “Marvel Multiverse.”
In some cases, there are multiple copies of these beings, as well, so the versions of their stories may actually change depending on the comic series they were published in. With that in mind, we’re going to do out best to talk about these character as accurately as we can. Today, we’re going to go over 10 of the gods and celestial beings that rein over the multiverse…
10. The Celestials
After the creation of the universe in the Big Bang, a race of 2,000-foot tall creatures wearing robot-like armor called The Celestials came into existence. They were the very first race of living beings, and they are responsible for pretty much every significant event in human evolution. They are constantly experimenting, and they make improvements on mankind, including the mutant X-gene that is responsible for the X-Men’s powers. The Celestials also created other powerful cosmic entities like the Eternals and the Deviants.
Celestials never truly die, they are just reborn into a new body. That makes them practically immortal. Even though they are all individuals, they contain a sort of telekinetic hive-mind. So, if you communicate with one, you’re talking to them all. Mere humans could never understand the Celestials’ end-goal, but there is a theory that they are experimenting over time, trying to create a perfect species, and destroying the creatures they deem to be unworthy.
9. Uatu the Watcher
There is yet another race that appeared after the Big Bang called the Watchers. They are equally as powerful as the Celestials, and the two have been at odds for billions of years, because they have polar opposite philosophies about how to deal with lesser life forms. As their name suggests, the Watchers have a strict rule that they should only observe life in the universe for the sake of gathering data without actually interfering. But one Watcher named Uatu broke those rules. He had been watching over Earth, and felt compassionate toward humans and their many issues, so he stepped in to help Earthlings.
Unfortunately for him, he was exiled from the Watchers after breaking the rules. So he decided to make a new home on the moon, and he serves as a middleman between superheroes and celestial beings. Uatu has appeared in multiple Marvel comics over the years, and he has helped saved the planet more than once. While we have yet to learn a lot about them in the films, the Watchers made a brief appearance with Stan Lee in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. In fact, you know all of those Stan Lee cameos in the MCU? Turns out he may have been playing Uatu all along.
8. The Phoenix Force
The Phoenix Force is the force of life and passion that exists in the energy throughout the multiverse. It does not have a true physical form, but it usually appears in the comics in the shape of a phoenix made of flame. It is the guardian of all creation, and it guards the powerful M’Kraan Crystal.
Normally, the Phoenix Force does not interact with living things, but it becomes a sort of soulmate with the X-Men character Jean Grey. When she was a child, Jean’s best friend was killed during a car accident, and she used her telepathic powers to attempt bring her back to life. The Phoenix Force was so impressed by her power that it spared Jean’s life. We don’t want to go into too much more detail with this one, since it just might give away too many spoilers for the upcoming Dark Phoenix movie in 2019. (Of course, if you were a fan of the X-Men cartoon in the ’90s, you no doubt know the general storyline regardless of whether you’ve read the comics.)
7. Galactus The Devourer
The cosmic supervillain named Galactus the Devourer has what is called “The Power Cosmic,” which is the ability to survive anything, even if the entire universe collapses in on itself. In order to maintain this level of power, Galactus consumes entire planets for sustenance, and throughout the Marvel comics, he very nearly has Earth for lunch more than once.
He has appeared in the Fantastic Four and the Avengers comic books, and he also appears in the 2007 movie Rise of the Silver Surfer. Which makes sense, since the Silver Surfer is one of the heralds of Galactus–which is how he got his powers in the first place.
6. Master Order and Lord Chaos
Master Order and Lord Chaos were two more cosmic entities created at the beginning of the universe. As their names suggest, they are on the polar opposite ends of existence, and are constantly having a power struggle over causing order and chaos.
But they don’t just fight with each other. Master Order and Lord Chaos both fight with the Living Tribunal and Galactus, and they created a being known as “The In-Betweener” to help them accomplish their goals. In this process, the brothers were merged together into one cosmic entity called Logos, which appeared as a villain in the Black Panther comics. They have yet to appear in any of the movies.
Eon is the “cosmic custodian” of the universe, because he helps to make sure that the planets are functioning properly in order to maintain life. He is also credited for causing some of the world’s unexplained phenomena. Of course, the planet Earth is a particular favorite of his, since it has nurtured so many of these superhuman Marvel heroes.
Eon chose Captain Marvel to become the protector of the universe, and Captain Marvel (all of the various iterations) is of the only superheroes who just may be strong enough to defeat Thanos. We can’t go into too much more details, because presumably, Captain Marvel will become a very important character in Avengers: Endgame if the end credits scene in Infinity War is any indication.
So, if you saw Deadpool 2 and wondered how Juggernaut was so powerful, he has Cyttorak to thank for that. Cyttorak is a demon who was once worshiped by humans, until he was banished from Earth. He was one of eight supreme beings known as the Octessence, each of whom crafted a totem that would imbue a human who found it with immense power. This person was known as an Exemplar, with the goal being for the eight Examplars–each having found a gem and taking its power–to lead an immense war with an eighth of the Earth’s population behind each, and only one faction remaining when the blood and dust settled. And that’s why Juggernaut is not only immensely powerful, but also endlessly bloodthirsty.
The true identity of Juggernaut under that helmet is a man named Cain Marko, who is actually Charles Xavier’s stepbrother. They clearly don’t get along with one another, which is part of why he becomes the nemesis of the X-Men. After finding the power of Cyttorak, Juggernaut’s physical strength made him virtually unstoppable, and there are very few who can even possibly attempt to take him on.
3. Eternity and Infinity
Eternity and Infinity are twin beings that represent the universe itself, and they first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1965. It is believed that Stan Lee was hoping to introduce Eastern philosophy into the Marvel Universe. They are supposed to be one the most powerful cosmic beings, and in each of the Marvel multiverses, they appear in a different way. Normally, they do not have a physical body, and only take physical form when they are communicating with the Marvel characters.
Eternity created the Infinity stones, and it’s believed that whoever holds the Infinity gauntlet has the power to control the universe. This would mean that in the next Avengers movie, Thanos could actually overtake all of eternity, if he so chose. While the characters have not played a role in a main storyline yet, some believe that Eternity may have been an Easter egg in the movie Ant-Man.
2. The Living Tribunal
The Living Tribunal first appeared in the Dr. Strange comics in the 1960s. His purpose is to balance magical energy in the multiverse, so he only shows up when there is some kind of upset in the cosmos. The Living Tribunal is a floating head with three faces that represent equity, revenge, and necessity. He’s like the judge of the universe, and when all three faces agree, it implements justice when someone has gone too far.
In 2006, there was an additional fourth face added to the Living Tribunal, which was a reflection of the person who gazes upon it. He is supposed to carry out the will of the “One-Above-All,” who you will learn about riiiiight… now:
1. The One-Above-All
The One-Above-All is omnipresent and omnipotent. He sees all, knows all, and he can change anything across any dimension of universe. This means that none of the other characters we have mentioned in this list are more powerful than he is. He also created many of the other gods and cosmic entities that we see in the Marvel comics.
Basically, he is God… like, with a capital G. His job is to make sure there is a balance of power in the multiverse, and that existence doesn’t devolve into chaos. He rarely appears in the comics, but when he does, it is in various forms to various characters. So we never get to learn what he truly looks like.
Awhile back, we talked a bit about some of the differences between Brits and Americans. Of course, we only scratched the surface with that list, so today, we decided to give it another go. Here are 10 more things that are different between British and American people…
10. Tea vs. Coffee
It’s no surprise to anyone that British people drink tea every single day. Well, multiple times a day, actually. It’s appropriate to suggest putting the kettle on in nearly every social situation, and if you don’t, it’s considered to be very rude. Americans, on the other hand, are all about getting their morning cup of coffee. Even today, with tea coming back in style in the US, Starbucks had to close down all 3,300 of their Teavana stores in 2017, because tea simply wasn’t popular enough in the United States.
Just about everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, and how ultimately Americans made the switch over to coffee. But not everyone knows when and how British people got into their tea drinking habit in the first place. In 1662, a Portuguese woman named Catherine of Braganzabecame the Queen of England. She drank imported tea every day, and served it to her guests in the royal court. Since so many British people like to copy whatever happens to be in fashion with the royal family, other people started drinking tea, too, and the tradition stuck.
9. The McMansion vs. The Traditional British Home
In the United States, the farther west you go, the newer the houses become. On the East Coast, there are far more houses that have survived from the 1700 to 1800s, but for the vast majority of Americans, owning a brand new house is a status symbol that shows that you have truly “made it” in society.
After the end of World War II, the United States went through a period known as “the baby boom,” and there was a massive amount of houses built in suburban areas throughout the 1950s as people settled down to have a family. It became part of the “American Dream” to buy a house in a new development. Unfortunately, not all of those houses were built to last forever. In fact, they often were put up so quickly that many have since been torn down and replaced with a completely new build.
In England, they don’t exactly have tons of building materials or land at their disposal, so there is a tradition of making due with what they’ve got. There is much more of a practice of reusing and repurposing what’s already there. It’s not at all uncommon for people to live in Victorian or Edwardian homes that have been fixed up or extended with each new generation. Even if they can afford to build a new house or completely modernize a home, many English people actually wantto keep original details intact, because it’s part of the property’s history and character.
8. Gym Rats vs. Outdoor Exercise
In America, almost everyone who exercises has a gym membership. If you don’t already have one, every January, people start their New Year’s resolution to get more exercise, and usually pay for a membership… only to slip back into their old habits. You just may be one of the millions of people who paid for a monthly membership fee that you continue to pay for just in case you feel like going to the gym some day. In England, people do go to the gym as well, but there are far more people getting exercise by incorporating long walks or riding a bike into their daily lifestyle.
A study has shown that in the United Kingdom, 80% of people are not getting the recommended daily amount of exercise, and yet the percentage of obese people living in the country is lower, which would seem to indicate that they must have healthier habits overall.
7. Christmas Pudding vs. Apple Pie
In both England and the United States, Christmas Day is usually spent with your family exchanging presents around the Christmas tree. In the UK, though, Christmas dinner includes a cracker (not an edible one like a Ritz cracker, mind you… that would be absurd), which is filled with toys, bad jokes, and a paper crown. Santa Claus is called Father Christmas, and people eat Christmas pudding instead of apple pie (despite the fact apple pie was invented in England). They don’t have the massive lights displays in their front yards, but they do have the Christmas Pantomime, which is an annual play put on by celebrities.
The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, which is a lot like Black Friday in the US. There are great sales in the shops, and everyone takes time to relax and unbox the presents they received the day before.
6. Plastic Bags vs. Totes
In nearly every store in England, they now charge a few cents for each plastic shopping bag you use, and you always have to bag your own groceries. So it has become far more common to see people carrying reusable totes. In the United States, grocery stores like Shoprite have employees whose sole job is to be a bagger, and plastic bags are given out for free. Items are bagged no matter what, even when it’s totally unnecessary. In fact, Americans often have to go out of their way to insist to employees that they do not want a bag.
Certain cities and states in the US have tried to cut down on using plastic bags to save the environment, but there has been a pushback among people who would rather have the convenience of getting free bags.
5. HVAC vs. Suck it up, it’s weather!
Since it’s generally cooler all year round, British homes almost never have air conditioning or ceiling fans. They simply open a window if they want some fresh air. Heat is different as well, because it comes from radiators and fireplaces or wood stoves, whereas most American homes have central heating and cooling. In the United States, most people keep their houses and apartments at a comfortable 70 degrees no matter what time of the year it is.
The reason for this goes back to #9, and the fact that many British houses are so old they cannot accommodate a modern HVAC system, or it would cost tens of thousands to install and make functional. In America, all newer houses are always built with central heating and cooling installed, so they might as well use it, even if it racks up the energy bills.
4. Small Talk vs. Silence
In America, it’s common to make small talk with people you’re sitting next to you on the train, in the elevator, or with the cashier at the grocery store. And if you go down south, it’s like a Twilight Zone where suddenly everyone is smiling at you and telling you to have a nice day. In the UK, though, it’s very rare for people to talk to one another in public places.
In Great Britain, you’re going to be met with a lot of silence. People don’t generally make eye contact with one another, and will stare at their phones or read the newspaper on public transportation to avoid interacting with other people. According to The Guardian, one third of the total population avoids small talk altogether, because they fear having an awkward interaction, want to be left alone, or they are just honestly not sure what to say.
3. Extremes vs. Moderation
In America, people tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to a lot of things, and there is a stereotype that they jump into doing something instead of thinking too hard about it first. For example, people do crash diets without thinking about the health consequences, or jump into buying something simply because they have the impulse. And don’t get us started on the ludicrously huge food portion sizes and eating “challenges.”
There is a stereotype that Brits are generally very sensible people who will think about something long and hard before they do it, because they fear the consequences of something going wrong, and they tend to be much better at living life in moderation. They also tend to follow the rules and carry on traditions. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and plenty of British people are capable of reacting based on their emotions, especially with the recent political debates over Brexit.
2. Mandatory Vacations vs. Obscene Amounts of Overtime
In America, there is a culture of having a lot of pride in working hard, because they are taught that it’s the key to getting everything you want out of life. For some people, taking a break isn’t even an option. Many full-time salary positions offer only one week of paid vacation, and one in four Americans do not get any paid time off at all. That one week off is often used up for family emergencies and sick days, and many people have “stay-cations” because they need the time to get all of their errands done on their days off. Burnout is very common in America, and there is a lot of talk recently about practicing self-care.
In the United Kingdom, no one needs to be told about self-care, because it’s already part of their culture. It is an actual law in the UK that every single person needs to get to get a minimum of five weeks of paid vacation, as well as paid maternity leave. This means that everyone has plenty of time to relax, and even an average person can afford to go on a one or two week international holiday.
1. Large vs. Small Cars
In the UK, roads are usually very narrow, because the streets in villages were often converted from the times when people were riding in horse-drawn carriages. It only makes sense to drive smaller vehicles, because they are often the only kind that will actually fit on the road. You almost never see anyone driving pickup trucks or SUVs, unless they are actually a construction worker of some kind.
In the US, roads are constantly being widened, and there is even a practice of having the government buy up private property just so they can create new highways. So the size of a vehicle is rarely a problem. Since they have so many options, people judge one another for the cars they drive. Many people feel obligated to buy a nice car, even if they’re not rich. To make matters worse, a study has shown that 80% of Americans have some kind of road rage.
Not many people today know a lot about the Incas, which is unfortunate. They had one of the most incredible ancient societies in human history. Their kingdom was based in the city of Cusco, which is now in modern day Peru. While the Inca society started quite small, they managed to amass an empire that spanned about 2,500 miles in less than one hundred years. This feat was all the more considerable because they didn’t have the type of thriving trade economy that many ancient societies relied on. Instead, they were a much more socialist society, where money didn’t exist and the government made sure everyone had what they needed.
10. The Ancient Inca’s Bodies Evolved To Adapt To Extremely High Altitude
The Ancient Incas had a thriving empire that expanded throughout the Andes and surroundings areas. Some scientists wondered how people like the Incas and other mountain dwellers were able to not only survive, but thrive in climates at high altitudes. By studying people who live in the area and their genetic makeup, which gives us an understanding of their Inca ancestors, scientists were able to determine that the Incas evolved to where they were not as bothered by the lower oxygen climate.
Human beings are great adapters, and recent genetic advances have indeed proven that those whose ancestors grew up high in the mountains are simply better at handling it than the rest of us. This is why in a different part of the world, native Sherpa guides who help people climb Everest rarely, if ever, need any oxygen at places where most travelers would die or pass out without it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to help fend off the Spanish invaders, who came to conquer and loot all the wealth of the Inca people.
9. They Built Earthquake-Resistant Buildings, Some Of Which Still Mostly Stand Today
There are still quite a few old ruins, some largely intact, from the days of the Incas. These ruins reside in what is now modern day Peru, an area that is still known for a lot of seismic activity. While today a lot of houses in the region are built quite cheaply and cannot take earthquakes particularly well, the Inca Empire had a really good idea of how to build to resist the damage of earthquakes, and they took the time and expense to earthquake-proof a lot of their buildings.
They had a lot of interesting geometric features that they had carefully figured out helped the structure stay stable during extreme and sometimes prolonged shaking, but their most marvelous feat was the way they designed their buildings blocks to fit almost perfectly together, while still having enough room to jostle around in an earthquake and not actually break. In fact, the fits were so perfect that the pieces would not only not break, but basically settle right back into the proper position when the earthquake was over. Many expensive buildings in earthquake prone areas today are still not this protected from earthquakes.
8. The Incas Performed Human Sacrifices On Both Adults And Children
The Incas were one of many, many ancient civilizations who practiced human sacrifice, and like many they also sometimes sacrificed children to their gods. Now, while Inti the sun god was the main focal point of their religion, the Incas had many gods and happily assimilated many more over the years. In order to appease these gods and ensure good harvests or other such things, sometimes sacrifices needed to be made. Scientists discovered the remains of some Inca child sacrifices, including the mummy of a girl who had been sacrificed — the mummy was incredibly well preserved for being so many hundreds of years old (you guessed it — that’s her, pictured above).
Scientists who studied the mummy found some very interesting things. The mummy had mostly not had coca leaves in her diet before the last year of her life, but as far as their studies could tell, in her last year her coca consumption went way up and her lifestyle changed greatly. In her very last week, she consumed a great deal of alcohol. This gives us a picture of how the process works. Children, as we know from some historical records, were often chosen way in advance for child sacrifices and were treated very well and showered with luxuries for a year. The girl now had access for her last year to a lot of food and drugs she didn’t have before, but she also consumed them in a way that showed extreme levels of stress, because she knew she was fated to die.
7. The Emperor’s New Groove Is A Disney Depiction Of The Ancient Incas
Many people have seen the Disney animated film The Emperor’s New Groove. For those who need their memories refreshed, it is about a selfish Inca Emperor named Kuzco who acts incredibly arrogant, pampered and demanding — he even plans to wipe out an entire village to build a theme park. He ends up turning into a llama because of evil magic from his adviser, and learns a lot of lessons as he pals up with a peasant named Pacha. Some have wondered if The Emperor’s New Groove is a good depiction of Inca life, and surprisingly, according to those who study Incan history and have compared the two, it was refreshingly accurate.
Kuzco is a reference to the modern day city of Cusco, and the way Kuzco himself behaves is stereotypical of the incredible power wielded by the Sapa Inca, which was the Inca version of an emperor but even more important, as he was viewed as a literal god. While Inca royalty were not known for being quite as cruel and callous as Kuzco with their power, they did wield it ultimately. Further, apart from a few cartoon exaggerations, most of the animation is a pretty good depiction of what life in the old Inca Empire would have looked like. The biggest problem is probably Yzma, who likely would not have been such a high-up adviser to the Sapa Inca, because she was a woman.
6. The Incas Were A Powerful Society That Conquered Many Peoples
For those who don’t know much about the Incas, they simply think of them as “something like the Mayans” or just another South American civilization that built a lot of large stone structures. However, the Incas managed to build an empire that spanned 2,500 miles and at its height reached all the way from what is now modern day Ecuador to modern day Chile. Despite not being nearly as bloodthirsty or vicious as the Aztecs, and not being known for the same level of conquering brutality, they managed to amass a well functioning society that was doing quite excellent up until European explorers started arriving on the continent.
One of the most incredible things about this accomplishment was that the Incas had no real form of money. In a way, they were more or less a socialist society, although just like many modern day socialist societies, there still tend to be a few at the top that are extra comfortable. Regardless, in Inca society money wasn’t really a thing. You got what you needed from the government and you worked for the good of all. No one really went hungry, and overall quality of life was excellent, especially for the ancient world.
5. Some Inca Nobles Were Allowed To Have Multiple Wives If They Wished
The Inca society, like many throughout history, was not entirely fair. There were peasants, nobles, and of course the royal family themselves, who provided three very distinct classes of people to the kingdom’s hierarchy. The peasants did most of the grunt work, while the nobles got to take care of most of the more intellectual pursuits — the royal family of course just ruled and enjoyed the finer things in life. However, while nobles were more respected in general, perhaps the place where the law was most obviously different was in terms of marriage.
Peasants had to follow the same marriage rules most of us have to follow today: You could only marry one person. However, if you were a noble, it was an entirely different story. Polygamy was perfectly acceptable, and you could indeed take multiple wives if you so desired. However, despite the fact that this was inherently unfair, there isn’t anything in the historical records that indicate the average peasant was bothered by this. This is probably because peasants didn’t really have money or personal property beyond what was needed, and would not have been able to afford another wife anyway.
4. The Leaders Attempted To Bring Everyone Under Inti, The Sun God
The Inca people had a lot of gods, as we mentioned earlier, and were not shy about grabbing up new ones that sounded good to them. This was a smart strategy that a lot of the bigger empires like the Incas and the ancient Romans employed, because it allowed conquered peoples to feel more like simply submitting without any more fight, instead of fighting to the death over a dispute about a god and faith. However, while you were allowed to keep your gods, you still had to accept that they were lesser to the Inca sun god Inti.
The Sapa Inca, who was supposed to be a god himself, decreed that Inti was the supreme god above all others, and that all had to respect him as the most important deity of all. It is likely that the sacrificial mummy the scientists discovered recently was a sacrifice meant to appease him, and ensure that the weather provided for a proper harvest.
3. Like The Romans, They Were Known For Borrowing From Conquered Peoples
As we mentioned earlier, the Inca were known for borrowing from other cultures, but it wasn’t just when it came to other people’s gods. Like the Romans borrowing all sorts of mathematical and other advances from the Greeks, the Inca believed in doing the same with the people that they conquered, so they were simply not as brutal as a lot of conquerors of old. They made sure to keep their enemies’ infrastructure mostly intact, and learned from the people they defeated.
Perhaps this is why they were able to create such a lasting and peaceful society where people had enough to eat, and felt fine with their place in the universe even though they had no consumer power to go buy goods, and no money or wealth that they were able to save up on their own. The Incas were able to create an almost ideal socialist society that spanned 2,500 hundred miles because they respected the people they took over, and made them part of their great society instead of trying to destroy them and just replace them with more of their own citizens.
2. Your Clothing Was Based On Social Standing, and the Emperor Only Wore Clothes Once
In Ancient Inca society, as we mentioned, everything was basically just supplied by the government and you were given what you needed from storehouses when you needed it. This meant that, unsurprisingly, as close as they could be to an ideal communist society, they also tended to give the nicer, more comfortable fabrics to the richer citizens. If you were a peasant you could be expected to be given the coarsest fabric in the kingdom, while the nobles were given much softer, more comfortable clothes to wear.
However, it was the Sapa Inca himself who truly got the most ridiculous clothing privileges, and it may have been this kind of absurd abuse of power that caused the Disney writers to portray Kuzco, the Sapa Inca, as an incredibly obnoxious, spoiled, and pampered man-child. You see, the Sapa Inca was considered so holy and important that not only did he get to wear crazy feathered headdresses and the finest fabrics available, but he never wore the same clothes twice.
1. Like Many In The Americas, Disease Was The True Cause Of Their Downfall
Unfortunately, like many in the Americas, the ultimate downfall of the Incas turned out to be their susceptibility to European diseases. When European explorers arrived on the shores of the Americas, they brought diseases like smallpox with them — diseases to which the Europeans had already built up resistances. The population of the Incas, like many in the Americas, were absolutely gutted by smallpox and other diseases — the first major outbreak of smallpox took out roughly 50% of their population.
This plays into the misconception that the Spanish, or any European force, would have had a ghost of a chance at walking in and taking over the Inca Empire, or any similar empire, if not for the fact that most of their population had already died. The truth is that the story of European technology being more advanced wasn’t really so. Back then, guns didn’t really give a serious advantage over bows and were sometimes the lesser choice. The reality was that if the Incas had been anywhere near their full strength of numbers, they would have put up one heck of a fight and quite possibly have repelled the Spanish invaders, sending them back home with their tails between their legs.
Started by Allan Pinkerton in 1850, the Pinkerton Detective Agency grew so large that it became, at one point in history, the biggest private law enforcement organization in the world. It gained notoriety for being a muscle-for-hire service to industrialists who wanted to deal with pesky strikers and unionists. However, it also handled some thrilling cases where Pinkertons took on some of America’s most infamous criminals.
10. Frank and Jesse James
The infamous Jesse James was once Allan Pinkerton’s number one target. In 1874, he was tasked by the Adams Express Company to bring the James Gang to justice following a train robbery. Pinkerton sent a detective named Joseph Whicher to apprehend the outlaws.
Whicher intended to infiltrate the James farm by posing as a laborer. However, his plan backfired when his true identity was discovered. His body was found just a day later.
Afterwards, Pinkerton sent several operatives who rallied a local posse and went after the gang. However, in a misguided attempt to evacuate people from inside the farmhouse, the Pinkertons threw an incendiary device through a window which injured Jesse’s mother and killed his 8-year-old half-brother Archie. This turned the locals against them and the posse ended up running the detectives out of town. With public opinion not in their favor following the botched raid, Pinkerton decided to stop pursuing the James brothers.
9. The Assassination of Governor Steunenberg
Many Pinkerton detectives had plenty of stories to share, but none more so than James McParland, who tackled some of the agency’s most high-profile cases. In 1905, McParland investigated the assassination of Frank Steunenberg, Governor of Idaho.
The suspect was known as Tom Hogan, but later admitted that his name was Harry Orchard. He made little attempt to conceal his crime and a search of his room uncovered evidence which proved that he built the bomb that killed the governor. However, McParland dug a little deeper and managed to get more information during interrogation. Orchard was born Albert Horsley in Ontario, Canada. He admitted he assassinated the governor for his support of the mining companies under the orders of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). In fact, Orchard claimed to have killed at least seventeen other people for the WFM.
The bomber directly implicated several prominent labor leaders such as Charles Moyer and William “Big Bill” Haywood and later testified against them in court. They were officially charged with Steunenberg’s murder a year later, but were all acquitted.
8. The Missouri Kid
In early 1903, Pinkerton operative Charles Schumacher was trailing two men who robbed the bank in Union, Missouri of $115,000. His posse finally tracked them down to a farmhouse and demanded their surrender. A gunfight ensued and Schumacher was shot five times and later died of his wounds. Both killers escaped.
After the murder of one of their own, Pinkertons pursued the criminals all over the country, crossing into Canada at times and even posting a lookout in the Philippines. The break in the case came when detectives were able to inspect a house that the two outlaws previously occupied. They discovered a charred but intact piece of paper in the stove. Still legible were the words “George Collins” and “Hartford.” Collins was one of the criminals and Hartford, Connecticut was his hometown. That is where Pinkertons finally caught up to him in March.
His partner-in-crime was 20-year-old William Rudolph, better known as “the Missouri Kid.” He managed to escape prison while George Collins was convicted and hanged. The Kid continued his crime spree for six months before being arrested in Kansas. Rudolph was actually pardoned by the governor so he could go back to Missouri and stand trial for Schumacher’s murder. The Missouri Kid was convicted and executed in May 1905.
7. The Farrington Brothers
While not remembered today as well as other outlaws of the Old West, the gang led by the Farrington Brothers was once one of the most feared in the country. Trained guerillas under Commander Quantrill, Hillary and Levi Farrington took to robbing after the Civil War was over. They were finally arrested by the Pinkertons in 1871 after a gun battle where Hillary shot William Pinkerton in the side.
The criminals were placed on a paddle steamer headed for Columbus, Kentucky. On route, Pinkerton offered Hillary Farrington a drink at the bar. The criminal accepted, but requested to be taken in through the backdoor so people wouldn’t see him in handcuffs.
Of course, this was all a ruse. As soon as he found himself on the deck alone with Pinkerton, Farrington attacked and tried to seize his gun. A fight ensued and, although the killer managed to grab the gun, William Pinkerton landed an uppercut that threw Farrington over the rails and into the churning paddle of the boat, which diced him to bits.
His brother Levi met an equally deadly, but less grisly fate in Tennessee at the hands of a mob seeking justice for his murder of a deputy sheriff.
6. The Gold Bullion Theft
On August 6, 1901, the Selby Smelting & Lead Company’s plant near San Francisco was robbed of 37 bars of gold bullion worth over $280,000. At the time, this was the largest theft of gold bullion in U.S. history.
The thief used a railroad tunnel for access and burrowed underneath the building’s walk-in safe. He then cut a hole in the floor and left with as much gold as he could carry. The investigation was headed by a three-man group consisting of the former police chief, the captain of the detectives, and W.B. Sayers, the superintendent for the Pinkerton San Francisco office. James McParland was brought in on the case and, soon enough, they had a suspect. The cap of Buck Taylor, a former plant employee, was found in the tunnel. He was arrested and a search of his home revealed mud-covered clothes.
Police had enough evidence to convict Taylor, but it was McParland who obtained a confession and, more importantly, the location of the stolen gold. Buck Taylor was actually Jack Winters, a criminal from the East Coast, who gave up where he stashed the bullion in hopes of a more lenient sentence. McParland later wrote in a report that he believed Winters never intended to keep the stolen gold, but rather to “stumble” upon it and return it in exchange for the reward.
5. The Fatty Arbuckle Trial
Arguably, the most famous Pinkerton operative of all time was Sam Hammett, but it had nothing to do with his detective career. After he retired from police work, Hammett changed his first name to Dashiell and wrote detective stories like The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. In his previous life, he also helped investigate the Fatty Arbuckle case.
Roscoe Arbuckle was one of the highest-paid stars of the 1910s, but today he is mostly remembered for the shocking end of his career. After a party in November 1921 which caused the death of a young actress named Virginia Rappe, Arbuckle was charged with her rape and manslaughter. In the end, he was acquitted of all charges and issued an apology from the jury.
Rappe died of a ruptured bladder and peritonitis. This was alleged to have happened when the rotund Arbuckle laid down on her. Sordid rumors even claimed that the actor caused the damage when he used a bottle or a piece of ice to penetrate her.
During the trial, his defense team asked the Pinkertons to help prove that Arbuckle was the target of a conspiracy. They showed that Rappe’s party companion and the main witness for the prosecution, Maude Delmont, had a history of extortion and blackmail. Moreover, they proved that Rappe had previous bladder problems which were exacerbated by her drinking bootleg alcohol. This secured Arbuckle’s acquittal, but his career never recovered.
4. The Molly Maguires
Perhaps the most notorious piece of police work conducted by the Pinkertons occurred during the 1870s when James McParland went undercover to take down the Molly Maguires.
The Maguires were a secret group of Irish immigrant coal miners active, mostly, throughout Pennsylvania. At a time when tensions between mine owners and unionists were at their highest, the Molly Maguires took part in numerous violent conflicts. These included sabotage, beatings, and 16 murders, at least.
McParland managed to infiltrate the brotherhood because he could look and act the part. An Irish immigrant himself, the detective posed as a tough murderer-on-the-run named James McKenna. Slowly, but surely, he gained the trust of the Maguires and spent almost three years as one of them, gathering evidence against the organization.
McParland’s efforts led to dozens of arrests. Twenty men were sent to the gallows. The case made McParland famous and even inspired the Sherlock Holmes story The Valley of Fear. Historians later debated some of the detective’s more outlandish accusations and even questioned if he lied on the stand to secure convictions.
3. The Reno Gang
The Reno Gang is remembered today for perpetrating the first train robbery in U.S. history on October 6, 1866. This is only partially correct as it was actually the first robbery of a moving train during peacetime.
After the robbery, detectives led by Allan Pinkerton himself were hot on the trail. They arrested three members of the gang, but charges were dropped after the only witness was gunned down. The gang pulled off several more robberies, traveling from state to state with detectives always right behind them. In Indianapolis, the Pinkertons surrounded and arrested John Reno, one of the leaders of the gang. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
This turned out to be his lucky break as a vigilante group formed in Jackson County to stop the criminals. On three separate occasions, vigilantes captured members of the Reno Gang who were already in police custody and lynched them. All ten robbers except for John Reno died this way in 1868. Six of them were hanged from the same tree in a place which became known as Hangman Crossing, Indiana.
2. Marm Mandelbaum
Fredericka Mandelbaum (she’s the looker with the fan on the far right) rose through the ranks of New York City’s criminal underground during the mid-to-late 19th century to become the “Queen of Fences,” a shadowy figure who built an empire on stolen goods.
By the 1880s, the New York District Attorney decided it was finally time to take down “Marm” Mandelbaum. There was just one problem, though. By then, she had so many connections that it was impossible to conduct a sting operation using the police without her hearing about it. That’s why he turned to the Pinkertons.
A detective named Gustave Frank was the one to infiltrate Marm’s operation. He posed as a shady silk dealer and secured an introduction with Mandelbaum. She was extremely cautious about working with new people, but Frank played his role very well. He learned everything there was to know about the silk trade and showed himself to be very adept at dealing with the commodity. Eventually, Mandelbaum agreed to do business with him. This led to a raid on her house where police recovered numerous stolen goods. Marm jumped bail and fled to Canada, where she spent the rest of her life.
1. H. H. Holmes
H. H. Holmes was a notorious serial killer who gained infamy for allegedly luring unsuspecting out-of-town victims attending the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to his hotel later dubbed “the Murder Castle.” Besides this, he was also an unrelenting con man who always had a scheme in play. It was, in fact, an insurance fraud attempt that first brought him to the attention of Pinkerton detectives.
In 1894, Holmes enlisted the help of an associate named Benjamin Pitezel. The goal was to take out a life insurance policy on Pitezel, fake his death and then cash out. This required a corpse which resembled him, but Holmes took a different course of action. Instead of replacing Pitezel, he simply murdered his cohort.
Pitezel’s wife Carrie was aware of the scam and was convinced by Holmes that her husband was traveling to avoid suspicion. She even allowed three of her children to go with him as she thought Holmes was taking them to see their father.
Meanwhile, the insurance company received a tip about the scheme and hired the Pinkertons. Initially, they investigated the fraud, but became convinced that the dead man was actually Pitezel and that Holmes had killed him. Detectives tracked down the murderer and arrested him in Boston on November 17, 1894. However, the children weren’t with him.
Detective Frank Geyer retraced the movements of Holmes in an effort to locate the missing kids. He found the remains of Alice and Nellie Pitezel in Toronto while their brother, Howard, was killed and disposed of in Irvington, Indianapolis.