More Hidden & Questionable History

A few more snippets of history to ponder.

1.  In 1518, in the Alsace region, a woman suddenly began to dance violently and was unable to stop herself.  Within a short time, almost 400 people were afflicted with “Dancing Plague.”  It was so intense that many died of exhaustion.  While it was called the “Dancing Plague,” the “Standing Upright and Convulsing Plague” would have worked just as well for a name.  They weren’t actually dancing anything that would have been recognized back then (or now, for that matter, but I’ve never seen anyone twerk, which I’ve heard is like convulsions).  Just as quickly as it hit, it disappeared.  No conclusion was ever given, except mass hysteria.

2.  Jack The Ripper – Fortunately for Jackie, he was never caught.  Did he die?  Did he move?  Did he kill again?  Does it matter?  Honestly, the answer of who he as and what happened to him is moot.  Strangely, while most Americans have heard of The Zodiac, fewer have heard of The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run and the world knows about Jack The Ripper..  These three serials have a connection, no identity, they were never caught.  Stranger still, only Jack The Ripper has gained true notoriety.  The Zodiac killed far more and was less concerned with victimology than Jack (making him scarier).  The Mad Butcher victims were far more gruesome discovers, including some heads found by children.  The enduring question with Jack shouldn’t be who was he, but why did he achieve the fame?

3.  We all learned about the incredible defeat of the Invincible Spanish Armada, but it really wasn’t the English that did it.  Sorry to say, the Brits just cleaned up the mess.  Mother Nature defeated the Armada.  Bad weather and disease actually plagued the entire trip from Spain to England.  Of the 130 ships that set sail, a handful had suffered full mutiny by the time they reached the waters around England and several more were in the early stages of it.  Several surrendered without a single shot being fired by them or at them; desperate for medicine and mercy.  The storms that had plagued the travel had caused damages to hulls, masts, sails, and the strong winds that got them to England in a hurry, were indeed a major cause of that damage.  Giving credit where credit is due, no one else had ever beaten the Spanish Armada and history should allow England to capture that flag, but they had a whole lot of help.

4.   And since we are discussing the Spanish, let’s talk about The Spanish Inquisition.  This is not to be confused with other Spanish inquisitions or inquisitions that were being held all over the place around the same time, it’s the big one.  It started in 1478 or 1487, I don’t remember and I’m not going to look it up for this blog post… I’m sure you can Google it.  Anyway, the important thing about this particular Spanish Inquisition was the amount of time it lasted and the amount of power it had.  There had been other inquisitions.  Every country with a Catholic influence had a few.  During one German inquisition, 133 people were put to death.  This is far below the number killed during the Spanish Inquisition.  Most serious inquisitions lasted a few decades before fizzling out.  They also targeted the peasant class and clergy.  Not the Spanish Inquisition.  It lasted almost 300 years and it didn’t really care about class or standing or accomplishments.  Upon returning from the New World, even Columbus was hauled before the Spanish Inquisition and while, he didn’t come out and say it, he was most likely tortured during his time as their guest.  Also, most inquisitions were satisfied with rooting out witches, demons, and pregnant nuns.  The Spanish Inquisition had a much broader scope; Jews, Muslims, heretics, heathens, witches, demons, pregnant nuns, and even animals thought to be used in sabbats were brought before this lot.  I have no idea how you get a goat to rat out its accomplices, but they were pretty sure you could.  I also don’t know how you put a goat on a rack, but they may have just used a more conventional spit for torturing animals.

5.  The Iron Maiden – Last I researched, there were only 10 real iron maidens in the world.  Real means created before 1800.  They seem to be a decidely German-thing, as I think one has been found in Italy or France and all the others in the cellars of German castles, where they collected dust for centuries.  They are impressively scary, I got to see a real one in a museum in Berlin.  Short spikes give the impression that their function is to maim or kill very slowly and the eye spikes really do screw in and out of different holes to adjust for height.  Only one problem, there is absolutely no evidence that the iron maiden was ever a real torture device.  We are talking about a time period where torturers made detailed notes and kept copious journals and not one has ever mentioned the use of an iron maiden.  So what the hell are they?  The best guest, “torture art.”  We know that some people kept torture devices on display; real torture devices like Scavenger’s Daughter, Hanging Coffins, and even Breast-Rippers.  The popular theory (if there is such a thing about iron maidens), is that a master smith created the iron maidens for the wealthy to add to their torture art collections.  But maidens are heavy, cumbersome and expensive, so there weren’t a lot of them made.  Also, there may have only been one or two master smiths that were willing and able to create them.  So, consider my use of the iron maiden in Tortured Dreams complete fictional license.  We don’t even know if they would work or if the heavy metal doors would crush the victim long before the spikes could kill or maim them.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Maria D

     /  November 11, 2014

    Yeah….the Spanish Inquisition was just ridiculous! And I’m really not sure why Jack the Ripper is so notorious – there have been plenty of mass killers since then that have done a lot of worse things!



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