Do the lions of Budapest’s Chain Bridge really have no tongues?

According to a Hungarian legend, the architect had been so embarrassed that he committed suicide.

At the time of its construction, Chain Bridge was considered to be one of the wonders of the world. Chief engineer Adam Clark was supposedly so proud of his masterpiece that he challenged people to find a flaw in it. When it was pointed out that the guardian lions had no tongues, he was so ashamed that he jumped off the Chain Bridge, becoming the first person to kill themselves there.

The lions were sculpted by János Marschalkó in 1852, who also created other iconic sculptures around Budapest. Béla Tóth (a noted collector of Hungarian anecdotes) writes that the lions having no tongues was indeed a popular topic of conversation in 19th century Budapest.

Apparently, Marschalkó let the rumors swirl for a bit before issuing a public challenge: he bet a considerable amount of money that when a lions open their mouths like his sculptures do, their tongues would not be visible. He then took his doubters to a circus, where he proved he was right. According to an article from November of 1897, he then donated the money he won for charitable purposes.

But to address to original legend; neither Adam Clark, nor János Marschalkó committed suicide. And the lions do have tongues – although they cannot be seen from the angle that pedestrians see them from.

Photo: Zsolt Andrasi/flickr.com

The legend of the paperclip

Why did Norwegians wear paperclips during World War II? Did it really become a symbol of resistance because of a misconception?

A blog post on Today I found out delves into the historic significance of paperclips in Norway. During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded Norway in order to make the transport of Swedish steel easier. The royal family and government fled to London, and the country was governed by the puppet government led by Vidkun Quisling.

According to the Today I found out article, students of the University of Oslo found an unorthodox way of expressing their hatred of the occupying forces: they started wearing paperclips, paperclip bracelets and paperclip jewellery. Symbols related to the royal family and state had already been banned, and they wanted a clever way of displaying their rejection of Nazi ideas. According to the article, the paperclip was chosen because (in addition to binding things together and signifying unity) it was invented by Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor and patent clerk.

However, the paperclip wasn’t invented by Vaaler. In addition, it’s fairly possible that this misconception had nothing to do with why the students chose the paperclip as their symbol of non-violent resistance.

While Vaaler did indeed file a patent for a certain paperclip design in 1899 (in Germany) and then in 1901 (in the United States); it was never manufactured. This is because there was already a more functional design already being mass produced in Europe.

Despite this, a number of encyclopaedias wrongly identify Vaaler as the inventor of the paperclip, and there have been monuments and stamps created in his honour (depicting a design Vaaler had nothing to do with). The misconception seems to originate from the 1920’s, when Norwegian patent agent Harald Foss identified Vaaler as the inventor of the paperclip, not noticing that he patented a different paperclip design.

However, even though the legend of Vaaler inventing the paperclip originates from the 1920’s, it didn’t become well-known until the 1950’s. Norwegian encyclopaedias from the 1950’s make no mention of the paperclip being chosen because it was invented by Vaaler, and one from 1974 suggests that the idea of the paperclip symbolizing resistance originated from France. Therefore, the assertion of Today I found out is uncertain at best.

Just to illustrate how quickly legends like this begin to mutate: in 1998, high school students from Tennessee decided to collect paperclips in order to commemorate murder of 6 million Jews during World War II. During this campaign, a couple more misconceptions were born. One site referencing the campaign states that “Norwegians wore them on their clothes to show support for Jews during World War II”, while another site wrote that the “symbol of resistance originally honored Johan Vaaler, the Norwegian Jew who invented the paper clip”.

As for who actually invented the paperclip; while there are plenty of claimants, no one is quite sure. In the 1870’s, the British Gem Manufacturing Company has already mass produced them. While it’s uncertain whether these clips were similar to the ones we use today, an advertisement from 1894 depicts one nearly identical to today’s paperclips.

Photo: flickr.com/TRIUMF Lab

Was Franz Ferdinand’s Car Really Cursed?

According to the rumor, the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand sat when he was assassinated caused the death of multiple people over the years. According to Smithsonian.com the legend of the cursed car originated in the 50’s, but it seems that the rumor is much older.

On the 28th of June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie Chotek were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. This event is widely acknowledged to have sparked the outbreak of World War I.

The car in which Franz Ferdinand sat in at the moment of his death was a Gräf & Stift made in 1910. The rumor has it that the subsequent owners of the car had their fair share of “troubles” as well:

“The first owner after the Archdukes’ death was a General Potiorek. He developed mental problems and later died in an insane asylum. An army captain, the next owner; died in an accident after hitting and killing two peasants on the road. The governor of Yugoslavia bought the car, he had four accidents in four months while driving the car; the last resulted in the amputation of his right arm. The governor sold the car to a doctor, who lost his life when the car overturned and crushed him. With each successive owner the tragedies continued. They were either injured or killed in accidents while in possession of the car. In all, thirteen people associated with the car died—it was then taken out of service. Today this supposedly haunted Graf & Stift automobile is displayed at the War History Museum in Vienna—the bullet holes from the assassination are still visible.”

While it’s certainly true that the car can be found in the Museum of Military History in Vienna, the other details of the rumor could not be verified by either Smithsonian or Snopes. According to Smithsonian, the story of the cursed death car did not begin to make the rounds until decades after Franz Ferdinand’s death. The article suggests that the legend dates only to 1959, when it was popularized in a book called Stranger Than Science, written by Frank Edwards, who was a relatively well-known American ufologist in the 50’s and 60’s.

However, according to the archives of the Hungarian newspaper Délmagyarország, the legend of the cursed car is much older. An article from 1927 reports on the Berlin correspondent of the “Ewening Post”, whose job would have been to investigate another accident related to Franz Ferdinand’s car. According to Délmagyarország the reporter was sent to Hungary; only to find that the story was completely false.

evening_franz

This article is important in showing that the legend was well-known overseas well before Frank Edwards’s book came out.

As for anyone interested in another account of Franz Ferdinand’s car; we’d recommend the book titled “Das Auto von Sarajevo”. According to its writers, the aforementioned car was put on exhibition in the Museum of Military History in Vienna from 1914 to 1944. The car was severely damaged during World War II, and was moved to its current place (a different wing of the same museum) after its restauration was complete.

Photo: Hemmings Daily / Délmagyarország

Was this really the first camera ever built?

It may be big, but it certainly wasn’t the first. With that being said, its historical significance can’t be denied.

“The first camera ever built. Taken with the second camera ever built”

– this is the caption that often accompanies the picture above.

While the picture is genuine, it was taken in 1900, so more than 50 years after the first camera was built. The Mammoth Camera (as it came to be known) was created by George R. Lawrence. According to the Hoax of Fame, it was the biggest camera built at the time; it weighed over 400 kg and took 15 people to build.

So who would ever need such a huge camera? According to Simon Baker, it was the Chicago & Alton Railway company, who wished to take a picture of their newest train, the Alton Limited. In 1900, this train was described as follows:

“No train of cars had ever before been built with windows of the same size, shape, and style from mail car to parlor car, the cars in no train heretofore had all been mounted on standard six-wheels trucks, no former effort had been made to have every car in the train precisely the same length and height, and no railway, except the Alton Road, had ever caused the tender of its locomotives to be constructed to rise to the exact height of the body of the cars following, the hood of its locomotives to the exact height of the roofs of the cars.”

alton

So they ordered the Mammoth Camera to be built for hyping purposes; and the picture taken was sent to Paris, for the 1900 World’s Fair.

However, when the picture arrived in Europe, many people were sceptical, as no one has ever seen a picture of this size.

In order to quell the people’s doubts, the French ambassador to the United States was invited to Chicago to inspect the camera. After he verified the camera, the giant picture of the Alton Limited was exhibited and Lawrence received a prestigious award for “evolving art and science of photography”.

13 scary horror legends and myths from around the world

Horror-related urban legends from Singapore to Scotland; as told by Reddit users.

  1. Singapore

A user told the story of how he couldn’t sleep because of the sounds of dropping marbles:

“I grew up in Singapore. Almost every night, if you stay awake long enough, you can hear marbles being dropped on the floor of the apartment above you. This happens to almost everyone I know; we’ve just gotten so used to it that we don’t notice it anymore. It’s still really creepy though since most of the time the apartment above us is owned by an elderly couple who don’t have children (and who obviously don’t play with marbles at 3AM) or it’s empty. It’s just something that we can’t explain and it’s something that immigrants often ask us about.”

Another user attempted to explain this by saying that these sounds probably came from the water pipes, caused by a phenomenon known as water hammer. This however, proved to be a controversial explanation.

  1. Scotland

According to a legend, after someone found an underground passage beneath Edinburgh Castle and City Council, they sent a young boy to investigate:

“In Edinburgh, a passage was supposedly found underneath Edinburgh Castle and the City Council were obviously concerned about the security risk. The opening, however, was extremely small, so they decided to send down a young boy with a drum (so he could beat it and they’d know where it led.) The elders then followed the boy’s drumming from above ground as it led them down the High Street. The drumming stopped just next to the Tron Kirk. They decided just to block up the tunnel to prevent anything coming out of it, leaving the boy to his presumed fate. Apparently, to this day, on quiet nights, a faint drumming can be heard beneath the High Street just near the Tron…”

  1. England

An English user shared a horror story regarding the underground:

“A young woman gets on the last overground train out of central London that night. Most people are sleeping, nodding off, reading. She sits down on one of the few remaining seats and pulls out her book. After a little while she realises she’s being stared at intently by the girl opposite her. Sitting between 2 men, who themselves are staring at her, this girl continues to keep intensely staring at the woman. Unnerved but determined to keep her cool she continues reading and doing her best to ignore the people opposite.

A few minutes pass and they reach the next stop. A man walks on board and sits in the only remaining place – the seat next to the woman – pulls out a newspaper and starts doing a crossword. The train starts running again and she settles back into her book, still doing her best to ignore the 3 intimidating people opposite. The man doing the crossword lets a piece of his broadsheet paper flop onto her book. Annoyed, the woman is about to brush it off her page when she sees a message scrawled in pencil and underlined in such a way as to implore urgency: “get off train next stop”.

Her heart beating hard and feeling the tight walls of the train closing in on her, she decides to take heed of the message and hastily exits the train next stop, ready to attack the man if he attacks her.

As the train pulls away, the young woman and man stand on the platform. She turns to him and asks why she had to get off the train.

“That girl opposite you, staring at you… you didn’t notice?” he asks, visibly unnerved

‘Yea, some people are just like that I guess, it’s London bu-“

“She wasn’t staring” he interrupts “she wasn’t alive”

The next day 2 men were arrested for the murder of a 16 year old girl. They were taking her body out into Epping forest to dispose of her. Unable to find a car, they took her on the train, eyes rolled open, wedged inbetween them to keep upright.”

According to a different version of this story, there were only 5 people on the train: the victim, the killers, the girl and the stranger. There are other versions of this legend out there, too, some of which can be found on Snopes.

  1. Philippines

A university-related story from Philippines:

“One is at a medical school, where a student is about to go home after studying cadavers alone at night. As she enters the elevator (a man is already inside), they both hear a woman running, asking the student to wait and not close the elevator door as she will also use the elevator. But the student quickly pushes the button to close the door, prompting the other man inside the elevator to ask the student, “Why did you close the door? You just made her wait at the dark floor!” To which the student replied, “She’s wearing a red tag on her wrist! And that red tag is only for cadavers!” The man was shocked, then said, “Ohh… so something like this?” as he raised his arm to show the red tag on his wrist.”

  1. Brazil

“In Brazil there’s an urban legend about a man who kidnap children with a bag if you are not near your parents or alone, people call him “Homem do saco”, something similar to “Bag man” in a literal translation. If he got a children, you will never see that children again, some say he ate then.”

The “Homem do saco” stories seem to originate around the 19th century, with some saying that it was born of the fear of immigrating gypsies at the time.

  1. Poland/Russia/Ukraine

A kidnapping-related horror story from Eastern Europe, found on Wikipedia:

“Black Volga refers to an urban legend widespread in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Mongolia, mainly in the 1960s and 1970s. It was about a black (in some versions red) Volga limousine that was allegedly used to abduct people, especially children. According to different versions, it was driven by priests, nuns, Jews, vampires, satanists or Satan himself. Children were kidnapped to use their blood as a cure for rich westerners or Arabs suffering from leukemia; other variants used organ theft as the motive, combining it with another famous legend about kidney theft by the KGB.”

7-8. Sweden

Two short stories regarding immigrants:

“- Immigrants moving in to a new apartment, breaks up floor and starts growing potatoes there. Some might say this is based on one real incident, but I haven’t found any evidence of it. What’s funny about it is that the ethnicity of the immigrants change according to the latest big wave of immigrants, so chronologically: The immigrants of the story have been Greeks, Turks, Chileans, Yugoslavs and Arabs.

– Related legend, though more obscure: Immigrants raising pigs in the bathtub for food.”

  1. France

A French Reddit user told an old story from Orleans:

“It says that in the 60’s, there was a clothes and lingerie shop in Orleans where the fitting rooms were in fact traps. Women were kidnapped and sent to some prostitution network.”

Certain versions of this legend may include Jewish shop owners, crooked cops, secret tunnel systems and submarines.

  1. India

“In India there was this urban legend in Delhi about a mad scientist creating a monkey-man. This creature escaped and haunted Delhi for a long time. People were supposedly attacked. Nobody ever found out what happened. In the end, years later, we got a bunch of good movies and a comic book series on it.”

  1. South Korea

A story about a honeymoon gone wrong:

“There is a story about this newly weds who go on their honeymoon to either China or India. During the trip, the wife disappears without a trace, and the husband is forced come home, failed to find out anything about what happened to the love of his life. Couple years later, he goes to see a circus with friends, and there, he finds his missing wife, performing as a freak. Luckily, she was perfectly alright, except she now has no legs, arms, nor ability to speak.”

12-13. China

And last, but not least, two bus-related stories from China:

“One night around midnight, some drunk gets on a bus and falls asleep on his seat. There’re about a dozen people inside the bus. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the drunk wakes up to an old guy getting on the bus. The old guy looks around the bus, and chooses to sit next to the drunk. The drunk is a bit annoyed, but doesn’t think too much of it. He then drifts off again. Suddenly, he wakes up again to the old guy grabbing his collar and shaking him violently. The old guy yells at him, “Little fucker pretended to be asleep and tried to steal my wallet!” Of course he does no such thing. So he defends himself, “No I didn’t! I was drunk and sleeping, you crazy old man!” They causes too much of a ruckus, so in the end, the driver has to throw them both off the bus. As soon as they get off, the guy immediately lashes out. Yet the old man holds up his hand and stops him. “I just saved both of our lives, young man,” he says. “You were too drunk to notice. None of the other passengers had feet!” (Here’s the deal with “no feet.” When Chinese ghosts “walk,” their heels don’t touch the floor, or they just downright flow).”

“One night, a young female driver is driving a bus full of passengers along a dark and quiet road in between cities. All of a sudden, three guys appear by the road asking for a ride. Since they are all willing to pay the fee, the driver has no choice but to let them in. However, as soon as she gets the money and is ready to take off again, one of the guys holds a knife against her side. And the other two starts to walk down the aisle, also with their knives out. Turns out they are robbers. After taking the passengers’ valuables, the robbers notice the driver is a young and attractive woman. So they rape her, in front of everybody. There is this one guy who tries to stop the rape from happening, but eventually gets beaten by the bad guys. After the rape, the bad guys demand the driver to keep driving. But the driver looks that the good Samaritan and screams, “I want him out of my bus!” The guy is dumbfounded. “You didn’t stop them, you useless piece of shit! Get off my bus!” So the poor guy is thrown off the bus by those robbers. He has to walk all night to get to a small town for help. While in the police station, the news is on the TV, saying that a bus full of passengers goes off a cliff, and no one on the bus, including the female driver, survives the crash.”

This story inspired an award-winning short film:

Photo: pexels.com

Does stress really cause ulcers?

Even around the end of the 20th century, medical experts were convinced that stress was the main cause of ulcers, before spicy food, smoking and heavy drinking. Although research findings have since cast a serious doubt on this, public opinion still seems to favour this theory.

Peptic ulcer is a break in the lining of the stomach, the first part of the small intestine or occasionally the lower oesophagus. According to Great Discoveries in Medicine, peptic ulcer had the lifetime prevalence rate of 10% in the 20th century.

Before the 1980’s, even medical experts were convinced that ulcers were mainly caused by stress. Smoking and eating spicy food were thought to be secondary risk factors, suggests 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. This belief was probably based on the observation that whenever we’re stressed, our stomachs contract. However, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren’s Nobel Prize-winning research illustrated that this illness has strong links to bacteria called H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori).

In 1979 two Australian pathologists, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, noticed that many (about 80%) of their gastric ulcer patients had a mysterious bacteria clinging to the tissues of their biopsy specimens. They theorized that these bacteria (the H. Pylori) had something to do with ulcers, but they were not taken seriously by the medical community.

In order to prove their theory, Barry Marshall designed a dangerous experiment. He drank a brew containing billions of H. Pylori bacteria to show that they are the main cause of ulcers. As he recalled in an interview:

“So what I thought would happen – I thought it would take hold and I would have no symptoms and be perfectly well for a few years and ultimately get an ulcer. So I was surprised when after a week I developed bad breath, and everyone in the family was complaining about me, and then all my laboratory friends put me in my own private lab and I had nobody else in there, it was so bad, and I started having vomiting attacks every morning, which was very, very weird, and I noticed there was no acid in the vomit. So weird things were happening at that point”.

However, Marschall ultimately didn’t get a stomach ulcer, so he couldn’t decisively prove the link between H. Pylori and ulcers. The proof emerged when researchers along the globe reported that their ulcer patients showed improvement after the H. Pylori infection was treated with antibiotics.

With all of this being said, many people (like Marshall himself) don’t get ulcers even after getting H. Pylori infections. This would indicate that there are other factors that lead to the development of ulcers, and stress could be one of them. It seems clear, however, that stress isn’t the main cause of this illness.

Photo: pexels.com

Did a waiter really leave an empty crossword as a suicide note?

In 1926, a waiter committed suicide in Budapest, Hungary. Supposedly, all he left behind was an empty crossword as an explanation.

I first heard about this story a couple years ago and decided to follow this up by examining the 1926 editions of Az Est (a prevalent Hungarian newspaper at the time). While I found that the year’s headlines were dominated by the counterfeit franc scandal, I did find a brief report of the suicide case.

keresztrejtv

According to Az Est, at midnight on the 3rd of March, a young man visited Café Emke in Budapest and ordered a coffee. After he had been served, he went to the nearest payphone and attempted to call a number multiple times, unsuccessfully. Around 1 a.m., the cloakroom attendant heard a strange sound from the toilet. When she opened the door, the young man laid on the ground, bathed in blood with a gun in his hand. The cloakroom attendant quickly called the police and the ambulance, who were unable to save him.

Upon further investigation, the police managed to establish the young man’s identity. His name was Gyula Antal; he worked as a waiter. Besides his ID papers, another notable item on his person was an envelope, which had “The reason for my suicide” written on it. When they opened the envelope, they found an empty crossword. According to Az Est, the police started working on it, although “the complicated crossword was yet to be solved”.

According to the newspaper the young man had been living in poverty for a while, and he was forced to move out of his apartment a couple days earlier, because he couldn’t pay the rent. His landlord said that when moving out, Gyula had to leave his clothes behind to settle his debts.

Knowing the precise date of the suicide, I decided to look at other newspapers (Pesti Hírlap, Pesti Napló, Budapesti Hírlap, 8 Órai Újság, Kis Újság, Világ, Népszava, Újság) and police magazines (Közbiztonság, and Csendőrségi Lapok) as well in a local microfilm archive. Despite my efforts, I didn’t find out whether the crossword was ever solved. Közbiztonság, a monthly police magazine reported in April 1926:

“First it was thought that the young man killed himself because he couldn’t solve the crossword. Then, it came to light that the he made this crossword and hid his reason for the suicide within it. Our policemen and detectives are hard at work at solving this, although this may not be necessary. The reasons for someone committing suicide are pretty apparent. Joblessness, famine, hopelessness. Although these reasons seem pretty mundane without being hidden in a crossword”.

As Közbiztonság suggests, suicides weren’t very newsworthy at the time in Budapest. Nicknamed the “City of Suicides”, in 1926 its suicide rates were astonishingly high. On March 4th for instance (so the day after the suicide in question), 10 people attempted to take their own lives.

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