" A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. "
Oscar Wilde

Back in the day


General Tom Thumb Marries Lavinia Warren

General Tom Thumb, born Charles Sherwood Stratton, began touring with circus pioneer P.T. Barnum in 1843 at the tender age of five. Stratton's short stature—he was a mere 3 feet, 4 inches (102 cm) tall when he died—and his comedic impersonations quickly made him an international success. In 1863, Stratton married Lavinia Warren, another performer in Barnum's show. Their marriage was front-page news, and thousands joined them at their wedding reception. What marks Stratton's grave?



Fatal Hilarity

It appears that people can and do die of laughter. The 3rd century BCE philosopher Chrysippus, for example, is said to have laughed himself to death while watching the antics of a drunken donkey; and in 1410, Martin I of Aragon succumbed to a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughter. More recently, a UK man died of heart failure after laughing for 25 minutes at a TV show featuring a Scotsman in a kilt battling a vicious black pudding. In what ironic way did the prophet Calchas die?

Born on a day like today


Mark Spitz

During the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, Jewish-American swimmer Mark Spitz took home seven gold medals, a feat unequaled by any other athlete in a single Olympiad until 2008. Spitz also set new world records for each of the seven events in which he took the gold. He retired from swimming at the age of 22, but about 20 years later, filmmaker Bud Greenspan offered to pay him one million dollars if he succeeded in qualifying for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Did Spitz qualify?

Last updated on Wednesday, 10th February 2010

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