Valeria Messalina was the third wife of emperor Claudius. She was notorious for being an absolute nymphomaniac.
She married Claudius in A.D. 38 and they had two children, who were rumoured to have actually been fathered by Caligula as she was a frequent attendee to his many banquets and orgies.
After Caligula was finally murdered, Messalina, although now empress, did not suppress her urges.
At night she would even dress up as a prostitute and incognito she would trade as a prostitute – such was her insatiable appetite for men.
She once challenged the famous Roman prostitute, Scylla, to a sex-athon, whereby the winner was the one who copulated with the most men. The competition lasted for 24 hours and Messalina won with a score of 25 partners.
In 48 A.D. she plotted with one of her lovers, Sillius, to have Claudius murdered and even had a secret marriage ceremony with him. However, one of Claudius’s advisors Narcissus, exposed the plot to him.
Claudius was heartbroken and could hardly believe his own ears, but was eventually persuaded to have her and Sillius promptly executed.
Messalina was given the option of suicide but she could not bring herself to take her own life.
Between 1827 and 1828, William Burke and William Hare murdered 15 people over the course of a year to make extra money, selling the bodies as cadavers for university students to dissect.
These murders took place starting in November of 1827 to October of 1828.
At the time, it was very difficult for universities to get human bodies for students to dissect. The only ones that could legally be acquired by universities were those from executed convicts.
This had once been an adequate supply, but thanks to certain legal changes that resulted in a drastic reduction of executions and thanks to the fact that the study of anatomy had become more popular as medical science progressed, there began to exist a huge shortage of human bodies.
In order to get around this problem, college professors and private tutors would sometimes pay under the table for bodies, no questions asked.
It was not uncommon for people known as “resurrectionists” or “body snatchers” to watch cemeteries and, when a fresh body was buried, they would dig it up. They’d then take any valuables that may have been left with the person.
Finally, if the body was fresh enough, they’d take it to sell. This practice became bad enough that relatives of a deceased loved one would often stand in shifts over the grave for several days to keep the body safe from being stolen while it was still fresh.
As author Hugh Douglas noted: “(Resurrectionists) could open a grave, remove a body and restore the soil between patrols of the night watch…. Relatives of the subject could mourn by the grave the following day, unaware that their loved one was gracing some anatomy slab in Edinburgh.”
William Burke and William Hare took this practice a step further.
Rather than wait for people to die, they began a year long killing spree, providing a steady stream of bodies for Dr. Robert Knox who was a private lecturer, teaching anatomy classes to University students.
The murder spree started relatively innocently enough. At the lodging house that Hare operated they had an elderly gentlemen named Donald who owed Hare £4 in rent when the old man died.
Knowing that one could sell a body to universities, they decided to fill the coffin with bark and steal the body to sell to make up for the loss of the rent money the dead man owed.
They originally intended to sell the body to Professor Alexander Munro of Edinburgh Medical College, but after making inquiries were re-directed to Dr. Robert Knox, a private lecturer, whose assistant instructed them to bring the body after nightfall.
When they arrived with the body, it was inspected by Dr. Knox’s assistants and Burke and Hare were offered £7.10s, which would be around £730 today, or around $1100.
Research by a University of Southampton professor has revealed the story of the medieval plumbers who maintained a complex water supply system, which was centuries ahead of its time.
A unique network of subterranean tunnels, partly dating back to the 14th century, still lies beneath the streets of Exeter, Devon.
These once channeled fresh drinking-water from springs outside the town-walls to public fountains at the heart of the city.
Professor Mark Stoyle is a historian at the University of Southampton who this week publishes the first comprehensive history of the tunnels. He says: “People from all social backgrounds relied on the system to provide their drinking water, so it was vital to keep it running smoothly.
The city retained a plumber to carry out regular maintenance and he, in turn, hired in a team of workers to help with specific jobs.”
Originally, the water was carried in lead pipes buried underground, but they regularly sprang leaks and had to be dug up, so local people came up with a novel idea, building a labyrinth of stone-lined, vaulted tunnels to house the pipes.
These tunnels — now known as ‘the underground passages’ — allowed quick, direct access below ground for the plumbers to carry out repairs..
Professor Stoyle says: “The tunnels gave maintenance access to the pipes which was way ahead of its time — providing the kind of opportunity to quickly mend a fault that modern utility companies can only dream of. Imagine if today there was no more digging up the roads to mend a water main!
“Even so, conditions for the plumbers were often very difficult — they were working by candlelight and creeping along the passages in extremely cramped conditions as they tried to find and repair the leaks.”
Professor Stoyle has examined hundreds of original documents relating to the plumbers’ activities, including accounts detailing payments for supplies like lead, candles and lanterns.
He has also discovered a mass of evidence about the individual craftsmen who worked to keep the city fountains flowing.
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was marketed as nothing short of a miracle syrup for mothers, struggling to get their children and infants into a pain-free sleep.
Image: US National Library of Medicine via The Quack Doctor.
First hitting the market in 1845, the story goes that it was a pair of chemists that first marketed the medicine in quantity.
It was based on an old home remedy from the real Mrs. Winslow, the mother-in-law of one of the chemists. A nurse who often cared for young children, she had concocted the “soothing syrup” and, in all fairness, it did exactly what it claimed to do.
It also contained 1 grain of morphine per fluid ounce, along with some alcohol for good measure.
In addition to relieving teething pain and helping children get to sleep, it was also said to be one of the best remedies on the market for diarrhea and other stomach issues – a now-known side effect of the morphine.
The New York Times even published a series of letters in December of 1860, written by parents who were grateful for the fast-acting syrup that allowed not only their child to sleep, but the whole family.
There were no more endless nights, no more crying, no more hours upon hours of pain, all thanks to a remedy that cost a mere 25 cents per bottle.
It’s not known how many children and infants died from the syrup, but in 1868, one of the developers and manufacturers of the formula – the son-in-law of Mrs. Winslow – was testifying in court.
At the time, he went on record as stating their annual sale was more than 1.5 million bottles, but it was decades later in – 1911 – before the American Medical Association spoke out against the dangers of the syrup.
And it was almost another two decades before it was finally off the market.