Public Enemy Number One: The FBI’s Ambush of John Dillinger

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 . . .

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The Biograph Theater, in Chicago, where John Dillinger was killed.

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Tsavo Man-Eaters: The True Story of the Ghost and the Darkness

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.

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The Tsavo Man-Eaters, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

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Mary Anning and British Paleontology

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.

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A Plesiosaur skeleton collected by Mary Anning, on display in the British Museum of Natural History.

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A Shameless Plug

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
http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-History-Collection-Forgotten-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00KZ76IZ4

Hidden History 2: Another Collection of Forgotten Mysteries, Oddities, and Unknown Stories From True History
http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-History-Collection-Forgotten-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00NDE36V0/

Museum Pieces: The Forgotten History, Science, and Mystery Behind Some of the Most Interesting Museum Exhibits and Historical Places in the World
http://www.amazon.com/Museum-Pieces-Forgotten-Interesting-Historical-ebook/dp/B00HQLFAGK

Museum Pieces 2: More Forgotten History, Science, and Mystery Behind Some of the Most Interesting Museum Exhibits and Historical Places in the World
http://www.amazon.com/Museum-Pieces-Forgotten-Interesting-Historical-ebook/dp/B00NDEAZ9Q

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. 🙂

Florida’s Invaders–Burmese Python

Florida is the land of invasive species. Because of our status as a center for the importing of exotic pets and houseplants from overseas, and our neo-tropical climate, we have been invaded by everything from kudzu plants to green iguanas. And the grand-daddy of them all, the most famous and best-known of all Florida’s invasives, is the Burmese Python.

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When Whales Walked: The Evolution of Cetaceans

The whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on earth. The Blue Whale is over 100 feet long and weighs up to 190 tons–its tongue alone weighs more than an African Elephant, the largest living land animal. But the huge marine whales evolved from a small land-dwelling animal about the size of a large dog.

A phylogenetic blueprint for a modern whale

Reconstructed whale evolution (photo from Tumblr)

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Wild Florida–Salt Marsh Snake

Salt Marsh Snakes are unique animals. Close relatives of the water snakes, they are the only Florida species that are adapted to live in salt water, but they are also arboreal, spending much of their time in mangrove trees along the seashore. And, sadly, they are under intense danger, partly from loss of habitat and partly because of their close genetic relation to the more common water snakes.

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Forgotten mysteries, oddities and unknown stories from history, nature and science.