Chernobyl and the Elephant Foot

Posted on: January 15, 2018

The Elephant’s Foot is a solid mass made of melted nuclear fuel, portions of the nuclear reactor core, fission products, and control rods. This corium material melted through the bottom of the reactor vessel, oozed through pipes, ate through concrete, and eventually cooled enough to solidify. In 1986 this mass was discovered by researchers who attached a camera to a wheeled contraption and rolled it in the direction the incredibly high radiation readings were emanating from. The radiation levels from it were so high that anyone exposed to it for more than a few minutes would die. Thirty seconds was enough to cause dizziness and fatigue. Two minutes near it and your cells will begin to hemorrhage. By the time you hit the five-minute mark, you’re a goner. Even after 30 years, the foot is still melting through the concrete base of the power plant. Its existence makes the city uninhabitable to humans for at least the next 100 years. If it melts down into a source of ground water, it could trigger another explosion or contaminate the water of nearby villages.


Danes Torpedo a Town

Posted on: January 8, 2018

December 6, 1982, a Danish frigate the HDMS Peder Skram accidentally fired a harpoon missile during maneuvers in the Kattegat. The missile traveled 34 kilometers at low level and managed to take out several power lines before striking some trees and exploding. The fireball and subsequent shock wave destroyed four (thankfully) unoccupied summer cottages and damaged a further 130 buildings in the immediate vicinity. No human injury was reported.

The cause was a technical malfunction, as the launch key was not even activated. What?! This is what happens when software goes rogue. Just ask the Ariane 5 rocket…

Frank Hayes and a Sweet Kiss

Posted on: January 1, 2018

June 4th, 1923 in Belmont Park New York. A steeplechase took place in which a 20-1 outsider called Sweet Kiss, jockeyed by Frank Hayes overcome the odds to win. It was Hayes’s first ever win, but all was not what it seemed. The owner of the horse, Miss A.M. Frayling, came over to congratulate Franky boy on the win, alongside race officials, when Hayes fell out of the saddle and lay lifeless on the floor! It was only then that they discovered Frank Hayes was dead. It was suggested that he had a heart attack in the saddle mid race, due to his extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements. The horse went on to win the race by a head with Frank still on its back, making Hayes the only jockey to have ever won a race while dead. He was buried wearing his colourful racing suit three days later. The horse, now nicknamed Sweet Kiss of Death (at least by us) never raced again.


John “Mad Jack” Churchill

Posted on: December 25, 2017

A soldier in World War II, he was the only man who fought the war with a sword and a longbow. He enlisted in the British Army

The tldr; of Churchill is  he:

  • charged at Nazi garrisons waving his sword and screaming “Commando!!!”;
  • recorded the longest confirmed kill with a longbow;
  • stood at the fore of a landing craft playing the bagpipes before proceeding to charge the enemy in a kilt;
  • interned in a VIP prisoner of war camp because the enemy thought he was related to Winston Churchill;
  • he escaped from the prisoner of war camp; and
  • he captured over 30 prisoners at sword point.

When victory in Europe was assured he was sent to Japan and by the time he arrived in India (en route) the bombs had landed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was quoted as saying “if it wasn’t for those damn yanks we could have kept the war going another 10 years”. The guy loved a little bit of a battle.

In recounting the tales of Churchill, it was said that he was “one of those unusual men designed to lead others in combat, and such men are often restless in times of peace.”1

Churchill had been in the army initially from 1926 for a decade, before retiring and turning to commercial ventures. He returned, though, in 1939 with the outbreak of the second World War saying that “[I was] back in my red coat; the country having got into a jam in my absence.”


  1. Robert Barr Smith,

HH Holmes imposed in front of the Murder Hotel

HH Holmes

Posted on: December 5, 2017

Dr Henry Howard Holmes was an American serial killer of the 19th century, that’s the 1800s for people that get confused by these things. Actually, his name was Herman Webster Mudgett, but like all good serial killers he needed an alias (actually he changed it to avoid prior scandals). He is most famous for creating the “Murder Hotel”. For the 1983 world fair in Chicago, he built a hotel where his victims would come and find themselves trapped for him to kill! He purchased a two-story building, added a third floor, and kept firing the architects and hiring new ones so that no one would know the true design of the hotel. He was crazy, not stupid.

He’s known as America’s first serial killer, admitting 28 murders, though it’s believed he was responsible for many more.

Some rooms were sealed shut and were used as gas asphyxiation chambers, others were lined with iron plates and had blow torches built into the walls to burn his victims. The rooms had alarms to alert him if anyone tried to escape. The basement had a surgical table spattered with blood, jars of poison, boxes of bones, he even had his own crematorium, vats of acid and lime pits that could dissolve bodies. Chutes from the rooms led to the basement for efficient disposal.

Edit: A reader has raised that there is also speculation that HH Holmes may also be Jack the Ripper. There are similarities between the two in the manner of their murders, and the timeline does not cause any issues to this theory. As with all Jack the Ripper theories though, there is no concrete evidence of his identity so it is up to you to believe if you want to. Thanks to Kris Wright for contacting me about this.


The My Way Killings

Posted on: August 21, 2017

In the Philippines a disproportionate number of people were killed during the singing of the song My Way by Frank Sinatra in karaoke bars. It got so bad that some bars removed it from their selections and people still refuse to sing it. Opinions differ over whether the possible connection is due to the coincidence that the song was simply frequently sung amid the nation’s karaoke bars where violence is common or to the aggressive lyrics of the song itself. The number of killings is reported to be between six and 12.

North Sentinel Island

Posted on: August 21, 2017

North Sentinel Island is in the Bay of Bengal, between India and Myanmar. No one knows a lot about the island, because the Sentinelese who live there, often violently, reject any contact with the outside world, and are among the last people worldwide to remain virtually untouched by modern civilization. There are stories of people going there and being killed. After the Primrose grounded on the North Sentinel Island reef on 2 August 1981, crewmen several days later noticed that small dark-skinned men carrying spears and arrows were building boats on the beach. The captain of Primrose radioed for an urgent drop of firearms so his crew could defend themselves. They did not receive any because a large storm stopped other ships from reaching them. However, the heavy seas also prevented the islanders from approaching the ship. Again, that is islanders who were building ships to get out in the water to kill some near visitors!

Ramon Artagaveytia

Posted on: August 14, 2017

On 24 December 1871 Ramon survived the fire and sinking of the ship America, close to the shore of Punta Espinillo, Uruguay. Reports were that the ship had been racing another into the harbour and high boiler pressures had led to a fire. There were 114 first class, 20 second class and 30 “popular” class. Only 65 passengers survived, one of whom was Ramon who survived by jumping into the sea and (literally) swimming for his life. The whole thing left Ramon emotionally scarred.

On April 10, 1912 Ramon boarded another ship…the Titanic. Two months before this he wrote to his cousin with all his hopes for a successful sailing. Here is a snippet from the poor guy’s tragic letter “At last I will be able to travel and, above all, I will be able to sleep calm. The sinking of the America was terrible!… Nightmares keep tormenting me. Even in the most quiet trips, I wake up in the middle of the night with terrible nightmares and always hearing the same fateful word: Fire! Fire! Fire!…I have even gotten to the point where I find myself standing in the deck with my lifebelt on…”

About a week following the disaster, Mr Artagaveytia’s body was pulled from the North Atlantic by the MacKay-Bennett, the recovery vessel chartered by the White Star Line to search the scene of the wreck for victims.


Queen Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffrey Hudson

Sir Jeffrey Hudson

Posted on: August 7, 2017

Sir Jeffrey Hudson (1619 – circa 1682) was a court dwarf of the English queen Henrietta Maria of France. He was famous as the “Queen’s dwarf” and “Lord Minimus”, and was considered one of the “wonders of the age” because of his extreme but well-proportioned smallness. He fought with the Royalists in the English Civil War and fled with the Queen to France but was expelled from her court when he killed a man in a duel.

Being fed up with the constant ridicule, having essentially been the youngest child of the court, Hudson challenged the brother of William Crofts to a duel. Yes, I know we don’t know who William Crofts is, but apparently a big enough deal to be written in this way. Anyway, the exact offence leading to this challenge is unknown, poor old Crofts thought it was a bit of a joke. He turned up to the duel armed with a large squirt. That is basically a syringe style water pistol. Hudson responded to this by shooting him in the head. He was initially sentenced to death, but the Queen had this commuted to exile, and he was sent back to England.


Agricultural Bank of China Robbery

Posted on: August 7, 2017

This is the biggest bank robbery in the history of China. The year was 2007, and involved the embezzlement of nearly 51 million yuan (~US$6.7 million) from the Handan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China in Hebei province between March 16 and April 14, 2007. The crims were two vault managers employed at the branch. Our story focuses on one of these legends though, a man by the name of Ren Xiaofeng. Ren was OG for the stealing, having kicked things off by stealing 200,000 yuan (~US$26,000) in October of 2006 with the complicity of two guards. Being the clever man that he was, the master plan was to purchase tickets for the Chinese lottery, with the intention of winning a sufficiently large prize that he could return the missing funds before their absence was noted, and still have money left over for himself. Despite the absurdity of this, Ren was successful and he was able to return the 200,000 to the vault.

Rather than resting on his laurels and reflecting on just how lucky he had been, Ren did what so many have done before and decided to go hard or go home. He joined forces with another manager, Ma Xiangjing, to perpetrate the same crime on a far larger scale. During March and April 2007, they stole 32.96 million yuan (~US$4.3 million), and spent almost the entire amount on lottery tickets. This time the lottery did what it is supposed to, and they lost it all. In desperation they doubled down, stealing six cash boxes containing a further 18 million yuan (~US$2.3 million) on April 14, spending 14 million in a single day in an effort to recover their losses. They recouped only 98,000 yuan (~US$12,700). So for those of you struggling to keep up with the maths here, they owe the bank about 50.96 million yuan and have around 5.8 million of those. Fair to say that they have stuffed it.

The end game was all the accomplices getting 5 years in prison, and the two leaders of the exploit being sentenced to death, a sentence that was carried out on April 1, 2008.