The Bonnethead Shark (Sphyrna tiburo) looks like a miniature version of the Hammerhead Shark, and indeed it is the smallest of the ten species in the hammerhead family. Bonnetheads average about 3.5 feet long and can sometimes reach 5 feet. They are a common shark in shallow warm waters on both coasts, ranging seasonally from Brazil around the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Massachusetts, and from Ecuador to California. In Florida, they can be found in bays and estuaries for most of the year, though they tend to move further south during the winter. I occasionally encounter them while kayaking in Tampa Bay.
In June 1942, Japanese forces seized two islands in the Aleutians chain, part of Alaska. It was the first foreign occupation of American territory since the War of 1812, and the battles to retake the islands of Kiska and Attu were proportionately more deadly than the campaigns at Iwo Jima or Okinawa. Yet today, the Aleutians campaign is largely forgotten.
American troops land on Attu.
In the long history of conflict and warfare, four stand out as some of the strangest; the shortest war in history lasted just 38 minutes; the longest war in history did not kill anyone; the Australian Army lost a campaign against a flock of emus; two Central American countries were provoked into war by a soccer game.
Ruins of the Sultan’s Palace during the Anglo-Zanzibar War
For decades, fans of the paranormal have debated the supposed phenomenon of “Spontaneous Human Combustion” (SHC), in which people have apparently burst into flame from the inside, and are consumed almost totally while their surroundings remain unburnt. One of the most famous of these cases is that of Mary Reeser, who lived right here in St Petersburg, Florida, just half a mile from my apartment.
The apartment building on Cherry Street where Mary Reeser died.
In the early United States, labor unions were outlawed–they were considered to be illegal conspiracies in restraint of “free trade”. That changed in 1842, when, in the Hunt case, the courts ruled that collective bargaining was legal and that workers could form unions and associations.
The commemorative memorial in Haymarket Square, Chicago.
According to the history books, the most famous air ace in history, Manfred von Richthofen, “The Red Baron”, was shot down near Amiens in France on April 21, 1918, by Canadian ace Roy Brown. But modern analysis shows that the history books are almost certainly wrong . . .
Manfred von Richthofen
Harry S Truman is reported to have once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”. Ironically, Truman didn’t like dogs and never kept one. But in its long history, the White House has been inhabited by a long list of furred, feathered and scaled friends.
“Bo”, the Obama family’s First Dog.
In 1990, paleontologists working in South Dakota discovered the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found. Scientifically priceless, the fossil skeleton (named “Sue” after the person who found it) became the center of a legal controversy around Native American rights and Federal lands, was seized and confiscated by armed federal agents in a spectacular raid, and was crated up for years before finally being sold at public auction for a record price and ending up on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.
“Sue”, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.
By 1970, NASA was looking for a continued reason to exist. President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the Moon by 1970 had been reached; twelve men (only one of them a scientist) had walked on the moon in six separate landings. As far as the US Government was concerned, the Moon program (which had after all been largely a political stunt to top the Russians) had accomplished its purpose. Congress slashed funding for NASA, Apollo 17 became the last Moon mission. Three already-scheduled missions–Apollo 18, 19 and 20–were cancelled.
Skylab’s backup, on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
He carried out a string of often flamboyant bank robberies during the Great Depression, he became a dapper Robin-Hood-like folk hero to many, he bragged that no jail could hold him (and broke out of jail twice–once with a wooden pistol), and he defied the newly-formed FBI who proclaimed him “Public Enemy Number One”. He was the most famous of all the Depression-era outlaws, to the point where the 1930’s crime period is often called “The Dillinger Era”. But in the end, the long arm of the law finally caught up with John Dillinger . . .
The Biograph Theater, in Chicago, where John Dillinger was killed.
In 1898 two African lions, known locally as “The Ghost” and “The Darkness”, killed a number of workers on the East Africa Railroad at the Tsavo River and halted the project until they were hunted down and shot by a British foreman. The incident was described in a book titled The Man-Eaters of Tsavo that became, in 1996, the basis for a movie starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. Today, the mounted taxidermy skins of the two lions are on display in the Field Museum in Chicago. Join me below for the real history of the Ghost and the Darkness.
The Tsavo Man-Eaters, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.
She was one of the most successful fossil hunters in history and a central figure in the history of paleontology, her discoveries are displayed in major museums, she was a self-taught woman in a field dominated by men from Oxford and Cambridge, and she was even the subject of the childhood tongue-twister “She sells seashells by the seashore”–yet Mary Anning is today largely unknown and virtually forgotten.
A Plesiosaur skeleton collected by Mary Anning, on display in the British Museum of Natural History.
All of my posts here are draft chapters for a number of book series that I am working on for Red and Black Publishers. Several of these books are now available, both in paperback and as Kindle eBooks:
Hidden History: A Collection of Forgotten Mysteries, Oddities, and Unknown Stories From True History
Hidden History 2: Another Collection of Forgotten Mysteries, Oddities, and Unknown Stories From True History
Museum Pieces: The Forgotten History, Science, and Mystery Behind Some of the Most Interesting Museum Exhibits and Historical Places in the World
Museum Pieces 2: More Forgotten History, Science, and Mystery Behind Some of the Most Interesting Museum Exhibits and Historical Places in the World
So if you want to catch up on the stories that you missed, or see some of the ones that haven’t been published here yet, pick up a copy. They make great gifts. And please consider posting a review at Amazon. 🙂