On 31 March, 1923, the first U.S. dance marathon ended in New York City but began a strange fad with sometimes fatal consequences!
Less than a decade later, in 1932, a young woman dropped dead after dancing non-stop for 48 hours in a dance marathon!
And when the people raided a ballroom during a Marathon World Championship, the promoters simple transferred the contestants, who were still dancing, into a van.
From there they were taken onto a sloop, a small sailing ship, which sailed out of territorial waters and so beyond the area of police control. The plan worked perfectly, until the contestants got seasick.
Marathon dancing competitions brilliantly depicted in the movie “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”, which were the rage in the 1930’s, were more than just tiring, and often torturous, dance sessions.
Contestants had their teeth extracted during these marathons; others got married. A few even went mad!
If you are wondering why so many people bothered to take part in these competitions, it is because the prizes were simple too good to resist – the top prize was as much as $2,000!
You may not think that large enough a sum to entice thousands of people to sacrifice sleep and food for days on end.
But remember, 60 years ago, $2,000 was a lot of money. Plus, these marathons took place during the period when times were hard.
To win or survive almost to the end of a marathon usually meant that one could become an instant celebrity. The rules of these seemingly endless dancing sessions were strict: out of every hour, contestants had to spend 45 minutes in constant motion.
Only 15 minutes were allowed for rest (not sleep), first aid and toilet needs. And this grueling schedule went on for 24 hours a day.
It was pure entertainment for the large audience which often turned up to watch. Many brought presents for their favorite contestants.
Other placed bets on the final outcome. And there were some who simple enjoyed watching the judges mercilessly torture the weaker contestants by speeding the music and flicking with towels at their swollen legs.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest marathon lasted over 30 weeks; however, in 1933, this form of ‘entertainment’ was banned in the USA.
They can be as big as great white sharks, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes.
Their maximum speed is a lethargic 1.7 miles per hour, many are almost blind, and they are happy to eat rotting carcasses.
They may be common throughout the ocean, but you’ve probably never heard of them. Meet the Greenland shark.
Looking like nothing so much as a chunk of weather-beaten rock, Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) can grow up to 7.3 metres (24 feet) long, making them one of the largest of all fish, and the biggest in the Arctic.
But they prefer to live in deep, cold water, so humans rarely see them.
Studies in the Arctic have revealed a few snippets of information about Greenland sharks, and more data is now starting to come in from elsewhere.
It turns out that Greenland sharks are bizarre, and may be crucially important for the ocean ecosystem.
Greenland sharks only come close to the surface in places where the shallow water is frigid enough for them – primarily in the Arctic.
The yawning caves near the town of Zugarramurdi in northern Spain may not be covered in impressive rock formations, but the cavernous space has long been rumored to have been home to witchcraft and other pagan practices that were once the focus of the largest single witch trial in history.
According to popular belief, during the 17th century (and before) these wide rock enclosures were witness to bonfires, wild parties, and other generally pagan festivities staged by the town locals.
The caves themselves were carved by the Olabidea stream which is said to originate in Hell itself, which may be where the stories of witchcraft began. However the haunting space could easily be taken for a hotbed of black magic via its atmosphere alone.
Whether true or not, the caves and the town of Zugarramurdi caught the attention of the Spanish Inquisition’s witch hunters who investigated the area and identified a number of citizens who were tried at the largest witch trial in history (over 7,000 cases were seen).
A number of the accused were put to death and the town and its large caves were forever associated with the dark arts.
Today the town embraces this legacy and in addition to establishing a Witch Museum, the town holds a raucous yearly feast in the Cave of Zugarramurdi.
Every year, around the time of the summer solstice (a pagan holiday) scores of lamb are roasted on spits in the traditional manner and bonfires are lit in and around the cave.
Hundreds of people flock to the event to celebrate the area’s supposed occult history, and thankfully not one of them is burned at the stake.