Master of the Genre in Death: H.P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born into a rather wealthy New England family and enjoyed a comparably happy childhood. Comparably, because he was a sickly child, his health remained frail all his life and because his father died when he was five years old.

Lovecraft was also a prodigious child, capable of reciting short poems by 2 and able to read by 3 years of age.

This early ability to read later helped him to study on his own when illness prevented him from attending school for any length of time. His favorite book and main inspiration during his childhood was Arabian Nights, from which he would eventually draw the inspiration for one of his most famous characters: The mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, author of the dreaded Necronomicon.

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Battalion of Death: Russia’s All-Female Fighting Force

Peasants, widows and royalty all wanted to serve Mother Russia in the Great War. Some were nurses, others support troops, but on occasion women would put Mosin-Nagant rifle to shoulder and fight quietly as front line troops.

Cossacks and Siberian sniper units were reinforced by female recruits, but the concept of all-female infantry units was viewed with skepticism. Yet with the fall of the Tsar Nicholas II regime in the spring of 1917, and the war against Germany lingering, the Provisional Government needed fresh bodies to send to the frontlines.

And from the vast Russian multitudes a select number of women stepped forward to become soldiers in the 1st Women’s Battalion of Death. Hundreds of women, between the ages of 18 and 40, would turn out to be inspected by the tough commanding officer: Captain Maria Bochkareva. Yet few would pass muster.

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Crooked House

Not the Agatha Christie novel, but those who have read the Stephen King story Rose Red will find this piece of architectural confusion vaguely familiar.

The story begins in Connecticut when heiress and widow Sarah Winchester consulted a spiritualist for advice following a depression brought on from the deaths of her only daughter in 1866, her father-in-law in 1880 and her husband, wealthy gun magnate William Winchester, in 1881. She had assumed that the Winchester family was cursed from the deaths that had occurred.

The medium she consulted was reputedly psychic and told Sarah Winchester that the family were indeed cursed — by the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifle. The medium advised her to move west and build a new house for herself and the spirits.

The twist was that if Sarah Winchester was to ever halt construction on the house, she would also die. Continue reading “Crooked House”

What If Friedrich III Had Lived?

Historically, Friedrich III was already terminally ill with cancer when he ascended the throne in 1888 and died 99 days thereafter.

He was married to Princess Victoria, eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and held Great Britain in high regard (half of his personal medical staff was British).

Friedrich was on excellent terms with his parents-in-law; took rather liberal views and there are indications that he wished to turn the German Empire into a constitutional monarchy modeled after the British.

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Scatter! Britain’s Secret Tank Weapon

From a narrow slit in the thick steel hide of the British tank a light burst out. The blinding 13-million candlepower light pierced the darkness when a moment later the solid beam of light changed on the command of “Scatter!”

Reaching into the inky night the shaft of light began to strobe. It dazzled and disoriented the enemy who unwisely tried to take aim at its brilliant flicking beam. With the adversary illuminated and confused, the tank rolled through the countryside ready to finish off their foe. Continue reading “Scatter! Britain’s Secret Tank Weapon”

Tobacco’s Golden Era

This shows Hollywood stars Clark Gable and Joan Crawford indulging in a cigarette in the 1934 film Chained.

Despite the many health risks associated with smoking tobacco, in the Golden Era, cigarette smoking was a fashion statement that showed the smoker to be a classy person. Indeed, many a student bedroom is adorned with the iconic photograph of Audrey Hepburn with cigarette holder clinched betwixted gloved fingers.

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A7V Sturmpanzerwagen

Whenever a new technology is introduced, whether on the battlefield or at home, there is always a brief period when inventors, unfamiliar with the new concepts, begin experimenting with designs and plans, trying to push innovation to the limit. While these experiments occasionally produce useful results, the great majority end up on the scrap heap of history.

One such forgotten experiment was the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, an early German attempt at creating a battle-ready tank. Continue reading “A7V Sturmpanzerwagen”