14 Facts About Alan Rickman, Master Criminals, And New York City
This week, we learned about an evil baron who tried to claim Arizona has his own, an artist who burned everyone’s debt away, and about a bunch of admitted murderers who got away with their crimes. If you prefer more legal ways to make money, you might want to hear about treasure, stunts, or how Shakespeare got his fortune. And if you speak any language at all, you’ll be interested to learn a bit of Portuguese or about some languages that don’t even use words.
Here's a look back at the facts we learned this week. These short summaries are not meant to be appreciated by themselves—each one links to a full article we put out this past week with much more info, so click every one that interests you, or we’ll seal you away behind a brick wall.
1. A sleepwalker drove 14 miles and killed his mother-in-law, while still asleep.
At least, that’s what he told the jury, who believed him and acquitted him.
2. In Kuşköy, Turkey, people have a whole language that consists of whistles.
A series of 20 sounds combine to make words, and their advantage over conventional speech is that each whistle can travel half a mile.
3. Tennessee used to tax drug dealers according to how much marijuana and cocaine they owned.
This “crack tax” proved lucrative for some years, till the courts ruled it unconstitutional.
4. A scammer claimed 20,000 square miles in Arizona.
James Reavis concocted a history about a Spanish royal family owning the land, and he presented his wife as its heir, making him a baron and forcing everyone to buy their own land back from him.
5. Portuguese has a word for “the day before yesterday.”
It’s anteontem. English used to have a word for this (eyeyesterday), but it’s long vanished.
6. New York City used to have a vast network of pneumatic tubes to carry the mail.
7. No one knows for sure how Edgar Allan Poe died.
He suddenly showed up in the gutter of a different town in someone else’s clothes. The obvious explanation (“drank himself to death”) doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but other theories exist.
8. Multiple studies have courageously compared apples with oranges.
These scientific studies note that the two are quite comparable, so the popular phrase about unfair comparisons should instead mention other objects, like “walnuts and elephants.”
9. People keep pulling swords from underwater, so salvation may be near.
For example, an eight-year-old Swedish girl named Saga Vanecek found 1,500-year-old Viking sword, and received $1,600 for it.
10. The Statue of Liberty’s base started out as a war fort.
11. To erase student debt, artist Papas Fritas just set it on fire.
He broke into the Universidad del Mar, a fraudulent for-profit college, burned its student loan records and displayed the ashes.
12. The first person to ride a barrel over Niagara Falls lost all her money trying to retrieve the barrel.
Annie Edson Taylor was 63 when she did the stunt, but her manager stole the barrel afterward, robbing her future appearances of their best prop.
13. Shakespeare got rich price gouging the hungry during a famine.
Authorities investigated him for this and also for evading taxes on the hundreds of acres of land he owned and rented out.
14. Alan Rickman wrote some choice insults about the Harry Potter cast in his diary.
Daniel Radcliffe may not be “really an actor but he will undoubtedly direct/produce,” he said, and as for Emma Watson, her “diction is this side of Albania at times.”