History books are full of grisly details about who got stabbed, what town got burned to the ground, and which kings married their cousins -- so imagine the stuff that gets edited out. Or, you know, read about it in this article instead. As part of our continuing quest to tell you the stuff your teachers didn't want you to know, here are some gruesome and little-known addenda to some of the most famous moments in history.
You've probably seen this illustration a hundred times, but can you name everyone in it?
Library of Congress
The Illuminati members behind the curtain don't count.
That's obviously John Wilkes Booth on the right, followed by Abraham Lincoln going, "But I wanna know what happens next! D'aww ..." and first lady Mary T, but unless you're a history buff you probably don't know that the other two are Union Army Major Henry Rathbone and his wife, Clara Harris, daughter of a prominent U.S. senator. Rathbone is best known for trying to stop Booth and getting a piece of that dagger you see up there for his trouble, and not so much for the Kubrick-esque horror that his life later spiraled into.
Rathbone was seriously injured while attending the most disastrous double date in history, and though he physically survived the attack, his mind never recovered. The officer blamed himself for failing to stop Booth, and even though he eventually married Clara two years later, wedded life only added to his insanity.
National Archives and Records Administration
Love couldn't cure all. They'd have blamed Hollywood, but it didn't exist yet.
Eventually, Rathbone's mind deteriorated to the point that on Dec. 23, 1883, he decided to deck the halls with his family's blood. While serving as a U.S. consul in Hanover, Germany, Rathbone tried to kill his three kids, and when his wife stopped him, he fatally shot and stabbed her, then stabbed himself -- mentally replaying Booth's actions from 18 years earlier.
The police found Rathbone covered with blood and completely out of his mind. According to a widely repeated but unconfirmed report, he claimed that there were people hiding behind the pictures on his wall.
There were, but it wasn't clear why that justified murder.
Rathbone spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum, where he complained of secret machines in the walls blowing gas into his room and giving him headaches. He died in 1911, becoming the last casualty of the Lincoln assassination nearly half a century after the fact. Incidentally, the house in Hanover where he lived is looking for a caretaker! This could be a new start for us, Wendy.
When most people picture the High Renaissance, they probably imagine Italian folks in posh clothes admiring the works of da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others. What they do not usually picture is this:
"Naw, man, I'm clean. Now hurry up, I got other clients."
Yes, while Renaissance Florence may have been a good place for the arts (and parkour, if Assassin's Creed II is to be believed), at the same time, Italy experienced something more closely akin to a zombie movie during the first major outbreak of syphilis in 1494. Yeah, before antibiotics, this particular STD was less "secret shame" and more "literally rots your fucking face off." According to one description, the disease (which may have been carried over from New World cooters to Naples bumholes via French dongs) "caused flesh to fall from people's faces, and led to death within a few months." More specifically, the outbreak caused "the complete destruction of the lips, others of the nose, and others of all their genitals."
Meaning, it was not out of place to see victims shambling around who had lost "hands, feet, eyes, and noses to the disease." So if today's Renaissance fairs were accurate, about half the people would look like Walking Dead extras.
Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images
As though we needed another reason to want to shoot them.
As horrifying as the thought of having undead genitalia may seem, the worst part is actually the phrase "within a few months" -- that means that the afflicted somehow lived for months in this condition, the whole time screaming with pain as their flesh "was eaten away, in some cases down to the bone." Which is appropriate, because "the bone" is why you get syphilis in the first place.
In short, for a brief period during the time of the great Renaissance masters, it was common to see people, never mind a whole army of Frenchmen, walking around with their faces falling off their exposed skulls until they finally dropped dead. Why the fuck wasn't this in Assassin's Creed II?
Italy's Mount Vesuvius is infamous mainly for erupting so hard on Pompeii's face that the entire Roman city (and all its dick sculptures, since it was the sex capital of the empire) remained buried in ash for the next millennium and a half. What you may not know is that the gods were actually merciful to Pompeii compared with the horror that went down in Herculaneum, which was a smaller city situated even closer to Vesuvius when it started ejaculating magma everywhere.
Pictured, from left to right: Vesuvius, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.
What Pompeii experienced was a classic disaster flick: huge cloud of smoke, people running, blanketing ash, and maybe a subplot about Tara Reid reconnecting with her ex-husband and showing some sideboob. Herculaneum, on the other hand, experienced a full-blown supernatural horror movie due to them being hit with "superheated pyroclastic flows of molten rock, mud, and gas," which is a fancy way of saying that a whole bunch of people went like this:
Seriously. The human skull is loaded with lots of liquids, and if you heat it up super quickly, it reacts much like a hamster in a microwave. We know this because that's precisely what happened at Herculaneum when everyone in the city was hit by a cloud of gas with a temperature of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In less than two-tenths of a second, "skin vaporized, ... brains boiled, and skulls exploded." Like, without any shotguns or grape shot. It just happened all on its own, just as Mother Nature intended. From the inside.
Here's hoping this doesn't happen to the fine folks in Naples, who stubbornly insist on living in the precise spot where Vesuvius patiently waits to wipe them out again.