Speed Records at Daytona Beach

Early speed trials at Daytona, Florida. The name of Barney Oldfield was making headlines on March 16th, 1907. They proclaimed that he was the ‘speed king of the world’. At that time, the public – and experts -pondered about that sort of speeds the human body could endure and Oldfield – seen on the right – had just become the fastest human being on earth. He had driven his Benz at over one hundred and...

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Diana Mitford

Diana Mitford and Oswald Mosley. The true story of Diana Mitford is wonderfully scandalous and took place during an eventful period in history. The ingredients in her story include the British aristocracy, millionaires, the upper echelons of society, affairs, Hitler, royalty and more – mostly set in wartime Britain. But it is also the story of two people in love who were vilified by the general public – to some extent,...

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The Le Mans Disaster 1955

Le Mans, 1955. The prestigious and exciting Twenty Four Hours of Le Mans race, or Les 24 Heures du Mans, is the oldest sportscar race in the world, having been run since 1923. It is also one of the most dangerous. Twenty two drivers have died there in total but this figure doesn’t include serious injury or other personnel such as marshals, track employees and spectators. The worst of these events was the 1955 Le Mans race when a...

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Is Prince Philip Greek?

Is Prince Philip really Greek? Prince Philip is often known as ‘Phil the Greek’. Often, when people use this nickname, they also make sniggering comment about kebab shops. But is it really the case? It’s true that he was born on Greek soil – on the island of Corfu to be precise – but it’s also true that he doesn’t have a drop of Greek blood. The fact remains though that he is a prince of...

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Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull: The first woman to run for the US presidency. Her father was a con-man and an arsonist. He mother was illegitimate and illiterate. But that didn’t stop Victoria Woodhull from deciding that she wanted to be the president of the United States. She only went to school for three years. She was enchanted by clairvoyants and spiritualists. She was married when she was fifteen, had two children then was quickly...

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The DeAutremont Twins

Who were the DeAutremont brothers? Twins Ray and Roy were just twenty three when they attempted one of the most daring robberies in America. Their brother Hugh, who accompanied them, was a mere nineteen. The crime they committed in 1923 would have been laughable in its ineptitude had they not happened to kill four men during the debacle. But what of their earlier criminal career? This too proves without doubt that the DeAutremont...

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Reginald Warneford: Reckless Rex

Reginald Warneford: War hero. Known as Reckless Rex because of his devil-may-care attitude, Reginald was a First World War fighter pilot. He was the first pilot for bring down one of the fearsome Zeppelins that the Germans unleashed upon Britain in 1915. And just ten days later, an air crash took Reginald’s life. He had been born in India where his father was a railway engineer. It’s said that he received no formal...

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Grand Prix Gourmet: Azerbaijan – Dogva

Dogva recipe from Azerbaijan Until 2016 when the Grand Prix racing first went to Baku, I had no idea that there was such a place as Azerbaijan. As you can tell, I’m really shaky on matters geographical. But Baku, the largest city in Azerbaijan, is an incredible place. Dogva is a meat-free soup that can be served cold in the summer, warm in the winter, and is extremely tasty and easy to make. Traditionally, it is a soup served at...

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Eva, Zsa Zsa and Magda Gabor

Three sisters, twenty marriages, nineteen husbands and one child. The Gabor sisters were all born during the First World War. They were born in Hungary, all three ended up in the States and between them they married twenty times. There were fifteen divorces, a couple of annulments yet only one child resulted from these many unions.   Zsa Zsa Zsa Zsa Gabor was probably the most famous of the three sisters — and she was the...

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Mrs Miniver

Mrs Miniver: The woman who won the war. Well, not literally but Winston Churchill said that her contribution to the war was worth more than six ‘divisions of war effort’ and that she had done more for the war effort than a ‘flotilla of battleships’. So who was she? Even more surprising than Churchill’s praise was the fact that she was a fictional character. But it’s said that she affected the...

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Josephine Baker

The Joséphine Baker Story. Until I recently read a biography about Josephine Baker, I had only the haziest idea about who she was. Little did I know what a truly fascinating life she had. It’s amazing that someone who had such  a poor start in life could achieve so much. The book tells so many fascinating stories about her life – and it wasn’t always an easy one. She inherited her terrific looks from her mother,...

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Man Mailed Himself from England to Australia

Man mailed himself from England to Australia. In 1964, Australian athlete, Reg Spiers, was stuck in the UK. He desperately wanted to get home to Australia but couldn’t afford the fare. So his solution was to have himself mailed home as freight. The system allowed freight to be sent cash-on-delivery, so no up-front payment was required. Reg reckoned that he’d find a way to pay for his flight (in a box in the cargo hold)...

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Today in history: June

What happened on this day in June? 1st Sgt Pepper album released 1967 Nissan Motor Company founded 1934 Crete falls to Germany 1941 Helen Keller died 1968 Marilyn Monroe born 1926 Germany launched the first Zeppelin raid against England 1915 She’s Leaving Home released 1967 2nd: The Ways of the World published 2015 Reg Spiers sentenced to death 1987 Queen Elizabeth II crowned 1953 Peter Sutcliffe born 1946 Wallace Hartley born...

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Cat out of Hell, by Lynne Truss

Cat out of Hell, by Lynne Truss. This is a wonderful laugh-out-loud mystery and suspense novel that is intriguing, funny and thought-provoking all at the same time. It’s also  horror story – of sorts. It’s been described by the Sunday Telegraph as a ‘masterpiece of comic writing’ and is definitely the sort of book that you’ll want to read in one sitting. I admit to taking time from my working day...

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Why Did Henry VIII Marry Six Times?

Why did Henry VIII marry six times? There was a very good reason indeed. But I was talking to someone recently who truly believed that Henry VIII married six women because he was a horny old goat who just liked to trade wives in for a newer model. Henry had a much greater goal and one that was, in those times, incredibly important to the country. In 1524, King Henry was in his early thirties. He was incredibly tall and good looking,...

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Cilla Black

Liverpool’s Cilla Black. When the Mersey sound of the Beatles started to dominate the hit parade in the early nineteen sixties, there was only one girl singer who was part of this phenomenon. Young Priscilla White started working as a cloakroom attendant at the now famous Cavern Club in Liverpool; the venue where the Beatles played their early gigs. And it was the Beatles who discovered that the red-haired Cilla  should have...

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The Dionne Quintuplets

Who were the Dionne quintuplets? When Elzire Dionne discovered that she was pregnant in 1933, she already had five children. By May the following year, she had doubled the size of her family. And she was only twenty five She and her husband Oliva lived in a farming neighbourhood in a French-speaking area of Canada. During the early part of her pregnancy, Elzire thought she might have had a miscarriage (I won’t go into details)...

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The Dreamland Fire of 1911

Coney Island: The Dreamland Fire, 1911. Have you ever thought, like me, that places such as fairgrounds, circuses and amusement parks have a vaguely creepy side to them? At these places, much of what we see is illusion. Nothing is as it appears to be. This was especially the case in the early nineteenth century and in Victorian days. Dreamland, a huge amusement park on Coney Island, was the perfect example.In many ways, it was...

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Zoran Music: Dachau Artist

Who was Zoran Mušic? There are hardly the words to describe what happened at the Nazi concentration camps. But Zoran Music, an artist from Austria, was incarcerated in Dachau and secretly drew the horrors of life there. After graduating after studying art, he decided to travel. He was arrested by the Nazis when he was making sketches of buildings. They assumed he was a spy. Story has it that he was tortured and then interrogated by an...

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What is Synesthesia?

What is synesthesia? For many years, people thought I was weird –  and I’m not going to say that they were wrong in some respects – when they realised that I associated different colours to letters of the alphabet. It just seems normal to me. Now I stop them in their tracks (Me? Weird?) with this simple sentence ‘I am a synesthete’. You might be too. Synesthesia describes a phenomenon which, when a person...

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The Bonnie and Clyde Death Car

What happened to Bonnie and Clyde’s car? In March 1934 a roofing contractor from Kansas was looking for a new car. Jesse Warren chose a Ford V-8 and he paid $785 for it. Jesse had only been the proud owner of the car for a few weeks when it was stolen – by the notorious outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Bonnie and Clyde only enjoyed the car for a few weeks because on May  23rd they were ambushed by the police in...

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Grand Prix Gourmet: Quiche Monaco

Quiche Monaco recipe Everyone should have a great quiche recipe in their repertoire. Quiche is incredibly adaptable and you can vary the fillings depending on your taste and the ingredients you have to hand. This delicious version features wonderful goat cheese and some additional fabulous flavours. Use your favourite pastry recipe or, which is what I do these days, use frozen. The great thing about quiche is that it can be served as...

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Why Is There No Friday At Monaco?

Why don’t they have Friday at Monaco? Of course, they have Fridays. They don’t have a six-day week that goes – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. That would be daft. But to new fans of Formula One, it’s quite a common question and one that we experienced afficionados are accustomed to. It sounds like a silly question but it makes perfect sense to us. You see, when the Formula One...

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Nicholas Winton: The British Schindler

Nicholas Winton: War hero. In the winter of 1938, Nicholas Winton was a twenty eight year old banker living in London. He heard about the Jewish refugees in  Czechoslovakia so instead of going on his planned skiing holiday, he went to Prague and in the months to follow personally arranged for 669 Jewish children to be transported to the safety of England. And yet at the time, he told no-one about what he was doing.It was only...

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Scandal: John Lennon and Alma Cogan

Yoko Ono did not break up the Lennon’s marriage. Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of John, died on April 1st, 2015. Four days later, a newspaper broke the story that she had told a reporter, back in 1989, that it wasn’t Yoko Ono that had split up the Lennon marriage. Cynthia had revealed, the newspaper said, that the breakup of the marriage was due to a once-famous but then-fading British singer called Alma Cogan (pictured)....

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Who Was Margaret Hamilton?

The lady you see in the photograph is Margaret Hamilton. Do you recognise her? The chances are that you’ve seen her on the screen, especially in her most famous role. She played that part in an old movie – you can tell from the photograph that she’s not an actress of today but she was still appearing on the screen in 1982. Although her most famous part was in a movie dating from 1939, I imagine that a good percentage...

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Who Was Ellen Church?

Ellen Church: The first air hostess. In 1930, Ellen was ideally qualified to become the first air hostess. She was a registered pilot and a qualified nurse. In those days, airlines wouldn’t employ female pilots (for reasons known only to them) but Ellen persuaded them that cabin crew should be trained in nursing. Flying was a rather hazardous business in those days — you only have to think of the large number of...

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Freaks: The movie with so many questions

Freaks: The film that asks so many questions Freaks is a movie made in 1932.  Could such a film be made today? Probably not. When the film was first issued, it was banned in the UK for over thirty years.There are reports of cinemagoers fainting, screaming or running from the theatres. And this wasn’t because of any chilling special effects. Yet the version that was released had been extensively cut – with the worst parts...

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Alice de Janze & Raymund de Trafford

The day Alice de Janzé shot her lover. It was March 25th, 1927 and Alice had a date to meet her lover, Raymund de Trafford for lunch in Paris. Actually it would be more accurate to describe him as her ex-lover. This meeting, at the Maison Lapérouse restaurant overlooking the River Seine ended at the Gare du Nord, with a detour to Monsieur Guinon’s gun shop on the Avenue de l’Opera. When they arrived at the station, Alice...

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Kathleen Kennedy

Four months before he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, American president John Kennedy visited Ireland. Most people thought that he then flew directly to London from the US but in fact, he detoured to the tiny village of Edensor in England. There he laid a wreath on the grave of his younger sister, Kathleen. How had she died and why was she buried in a country churchyard in Derbyshire? Who was Kathleen Kennedy? Kathleen Cavendish...

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Amelia Earhart

The making of Amelia Earhart. Amelia Earhart became world famous for flying planes. Lots of other women were flying at the time, but Amelia became the  female pilot. Today, she is known for her mysterious disappearance but during her lifetime, her popularity was largely due to the skilled promotion and public relations created by her husband, George Putnam. Amelia was always an adventurer and was a tomboy as a child. She’d...

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ValuJet Flight 592

The crash of ValuJet Flight 592. This was the worst aviation accident in Florida and happened on May 11th, 1996. The plane crashed into the Florida Everglades. There were no survivors. The aircraft took off from Dallas-Fort Worth at 8.20 in the morning. It was bound for Miami and there was a scheduled stop in Atlanta. Everything went as usual. At 2.30 in the afternoon, the plane was cleared for takeoff from Miami Airport for its...

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Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. When I was  kid, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films often used to be shown on the television on Sunday afternoons. Despite the fact that they were about thirty years old by that time, they were truly entrancing. I loved the music, the dancing, the humour and most of all, Ginger Roger’s  frocks. But it was one of those wonderful dresses – the one you see above – that cause chaos when...

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All the Queen’s … Pigeons

The Queen and her racing pigeons. It’s widely known that Queen Elizabeth II is extremely fond of horse racing but did you know that she’s also a pigeon fancier? She keeps a stable (if that’s the right word) of racing pigeons in the grounds of the Norfolk royal residence, Sandringham. She has over two hundred pigeons and is said to be extremely knowledgeable about the birds, their care and of course, about pigeon...

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Who Was Mr Simpson?

For anyone who is familiar with the history of the twentieth century, the name of Mrs Simpson is well known. She was the American divorcée who captivated the then king of England, Edward VIII. Famously he abdicated from the throne in order to marry her whereupon they became known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Their story, somewhat erroneously referred to as the ‘love affair of the century’, has been recreated in...

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Nicole Hughes Maxwell

Who was Nicole Hughes Maxwell?  Nichole Hughes Maxwell transformed herself from a Californian socialite into a South American explorer and ethnobotanist. She later said that the wild animals,the witch doctors and the swamps held no fear for her – not,that is, compared to her pre-expedition lunch with top executives of  pharmaceutical company.”I hate asking for money’ she said. But she did receive a grant to continue...

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The Superga Air Disaster

In May 1949, a man who couldn’t get his passport renewed, another who was ill with influenza and an injured footballer were the luckiest men in Italy. For they could not be on the trip when their colleagues in the Torino football team  all perished in a tragic air crash when they were on  their way back from playing a friendly match in Lisbon. When the accident happened, on May 4th, there were thirty one people in the plane....

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The Great Jacksonville Fire

Jacksonville fire: 1901. Friday, May 3rd, 1901 was a beautiful day in Jacksonville, Florida. The sky was blue and there was no wind – it was perfect Floridian weather. At the Cleveland Fibre Factory, workers were sitting outside enjoying their lunch and there was a delicious smell of food cooking on a wood burning stove from a nearby shanty. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the smell that was floating through the air –...

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The Loch Ness Monster

Couple saw Nessie ambling across the road. The Loch Ness Monster was a thing of myth and legend dating originally from 565 AD. But the modern news about the ‘existence’ of the Loch Ness Monster was originally broken in the  Scottish press in May 1933. A few months later,a Mr and Mrs Spicer reported that they too had seen the monster who was casually ambling across a country road adjacent to the loch. He (or she) was...

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Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna: Early years. For many of us, Ayrton Senna was the greatest racing driver ever. Even those who aren’t race enthusiasts know that the World Champion Brazilian was tragically killed racing at Imola in 1994. But what about his early life?  Ayrton Senna: Ten things you might not know It’s often said that Ayrton was from a wealthy background but that’s relative. It’s true that for many people in his...

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Batley Variety Club

Yorkshire entertainment: The Batley Variety Club It all started with two Yorkshiremen, James Corrigan and Peter Fleming. Both were from fairground families so they knew a thing or two about entertaining the public. James was married to a girl from Batley in Yorkshire and his new wife Betty and his friend Peter joined him in their dream – to bring Las Vegas-style entertainment to the sleepy Yorkshire town of Batley. Batley was...

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Lunch with Hitler

Traudl Junge was only twenty two years old when she became one of Adolf Hitler’s private secretaries. This was in 1942. The secretaries had little work to do and one of their duties was to dine with Hitler to keep him amused, keep his mind off the war for a short while and of course, to supply him with an audience. Initially Traudl found her boss to be rather charming and pleasant company. This was to change as the war...

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The Murder of Sir Harry Oakes

Sir Harry Oakes: A true life murder mystery. This story of a brutal murder has all the ingredients required to make an excellent thriller or film – but these events actually happened. The victim was a hugely wealthy businessman, we also have a Nazi spy, a beautiful socialite, the Mafia, exiled royalty and more fascinating characters and the scene is set in the beautiful Bahamas during the Second World War. The murder took place...

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So, Prince Philip swears

And this is news? In July 2015, the newspapers and the internet were full of the news that Britain’s Prince Philip had ‘appeared to use’ the f-word during a photo shoot.  Have they nothing better to report? Blimey. Royals today are no longer expected to don suits of armour and go jousting. Neither do they live in fear of being usurped and sent to the Tower to have their heads cut off.  But it does seem a little...

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Prince Philip

Ten facts you might not know about Prince Philip. Prince Philip married Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) in 1947. Few marriages have lasted as long. The prince has been hugely misunderstood in the press during all his public life but he is quite a character and there are many misconceptions about him. Here’s a selection of interesting facts that you might now know. Amaze your friends with your knowledge of royal...

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Paul McCartney: Real or Fake?

Paul McCartney died on November 9th, 1966 Or so certain people would have us believe. And recently, it’s said, Ringo Starr confirmed this. Nonsense? I think so. But according to conspiracy theorists, the bloke you see here isn’t Paul McCartney at all. It’s an imposter who has been playing the part for almost fifty years. Yes, that’s a long time to live someone else’s life, isn’t it? What’s the...

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The Aberfan Disaster

The Aberfan disaster of 1966. Aberfan is a small mining village in Wales. On the misty morning of October 21st, 1966, the village’s children had just entered the classrooms of the small local school. It was just after nine o’clock. Suddenly, a loud roaring noise was heard. One teacher was sure that it was an aeroplane that was about to crash and she ordered the children to get under their desks. It was in fact, tens of...

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The Mysterious Porthole Murder

A shipboard romance – and murder: True story. They were an unlikely couple but it’s hardly surprising that they got together. In October 1947, the liner Durban Castle was making its way on a voyage between Cape Town and Southampton. Eileen Gibson (known as Gay) was a twenty one year old actress and a first class passenger aboard the ship. James Camb was also on board but the thirty one year old was an employee; he was a...

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Princess Viktoria’s Disastrous Marriage

Princess Viktoria of Prussia: Ruined by her young lover She was born into a privileged and wealthy royal position. And yet when Princess Viktoria died at the age of  sixty three she was penniless and disgraced – thanks to her choosing the wrong man. Her grandmother was Queen Victoria. Her mother was Victoria’s eldest daughter and had married Frederick III, the German Emperor and King of Prussia. Her brother was Wilhelm II,...

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Who Was Monica Proietti?

Monica Proietti: Machine Gun Molly Monica Proietti was the mother of two children and old twenty seven years old when she died. This young mother was killed in a gun battle with the law. I know that sounds like a story from the Wild West but this took place  in Montreal in 1967. Monica was known as Machine Gun Molly  and was a known criminal – with a curious background. She’d been married when she was only seventeen,...

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Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

My colleague, Andy Royston, recently wrote an article about the music of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He referred to the standard of music in 1960 until the time when the King-Goffin combo came up with Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. In fact, he referred to 1960 music as being ‘drivel’ and cited as an example, Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Now on the basis of quality music, I will admit that Bikini isn’t...

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Isadora Duncan

Who was Isadora Duncan? Although she was American, Isadora Duncan was virtually unknown in the States during her short and rather scandalous lifetime. A free-spirited dancer, she found her fame in Europe. When she first appeared on the stage in Victorian New York, the public was scandalised. One critic wrote: “This woman is an outrage, scandalous and a threat to all decent societies. She should be locked up at the earliest...

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Dr Buck Ruxton

Dr Buck Ruxton. Murderer. When we were kids, we used to sing a daft little song about Dr Buck Ruxton. We had no idea what it was about really. It was only later that I discovered that Ruxton was actually a murderer whose case had caused a sensation in England in the nineteen thirties. Ruxton was born in India and given the somewhat elaborate name of Buktyar Rustomji Ratanji Hakim. He studied medicine in India and then went to...

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Frances Reynolds: Life on the Run

Frances Reynolds: Wife of Great Train Robber, Bruce. Frances was just sixteen years old when Bruce Reynolds started courting her. She knew that he operated on the wrong side of the law but she was in love. She understood his rebellious character. So when he went on the run, she was with him. After Bruce and his colleagues had pulled off the Great Train Robbery in 1963, the couple had no choice. They had a small baby, Nick, but Franny...

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Seymour Worsley, The Lady in Red

The Scandalous Lady Worsley. In the eighteenth century, England was rocked by the scandalous story of Lord and Lady Worsley and her lover, George Bisset. There were many scandals amongst the aristocracy in those days but the case Seymour Worsley was seen to be one of the worst – certainly the most entertaining. Born as Seymour Fleming to a wealthy family, she married Sir Richard Worsley when she was only seventeen. The couple...

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Who was Sarah Winchester?

The mysterious Winchester House. When Sarah Winchester was widowed, she started to create one of the most bizarre homes ever seen in America. Why? It’s quite simple, it was to keep evil spirits away. Obviously really, isn’t it? No? Well, it was to Sarah. Sarah’s late husband was William Winchester, the man who made rage rifles ‘that won the West’. The distraught widow, who had discovered spiritualism some...

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Steve Fossett

Steve Fossett: Mystery. In late September 2008, a hiker was out in the Sierra Nevada in California with his wife and a couple of friends. The hiker had heard that there was an abandoned mine nearby so left the rest of the party to see if he could locate it. He didn’t – but he found something far more remarkable, although he didn’t realise it at the time. He found a pilot’s license and some banknotes. The...

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The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

In the mid nineteen fifties a contractor on Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys, was digging fill from a rock pit. He unearthed a gruesome discovery. He found three intact cars. Their out-of-state licence plates showed that they had been there since 1935. The skeletons of the occupants were still inside the vehicles. It was easy to explain what had happened to those vehicles twenty years before. They must have been visiting the...

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Who Was Edgar Rice Burroughs?

Who was Edgar Rice Burroughs? Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of the most successful American authors of the twentieth century. Although he wrote about several subjects, he will always be mainly remembered for his Tarzan series. Burroughs was born into a wealthy Chicago family. However, he was considered the black sheep of the family.  He took to heart the advice ‘go west, young man’ and spent time working in ranches and...

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Today in history: September

What happened on this day in September? 1st Edgar Rice Burroughs born 1875 Titanic found by Robert Ballard 1985 Lily Tomlin born 1939 Germany invaded Poland 1939 Lady Iris Mountbatten died 1982 Princess Anne announced divorce 1989 2nd George Harrison married Olivia Arias 1978 Labor Day Hurricane 1935 Jean Spangler born 1923 3rd Steve Fossett disappeared 2007 Britain declared war on Germany 1939 Denby Dale Pie 1988 4th Robert Dudley...

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Lady Anne Savile

Who was Lady Anne Savile? Actually, she was Princess Anne of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg but Anne Savile, her maiden name, is considerably less effort to type. She was a rather eccentric aviator in the times when flying was still new and extremely dangerous – as she discovered. Lady Anne was born into a wealthy and titled British family. Her father was the Earl of Mexborough. When she married Prince Ludwig of...

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The Angels of Mons

The Angels of Mons: Did they save British soldiers in the First World War? Many people believed so at the time. The First World War – and the following years – saw a huge increase in the belief of spiritualism and the supernatural. We can understand this. So many young men were killed in the conflict and it was comforting for their loved ones to believe that they had gone to’a better place’ — and that...

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The Secret Life of Charles Lindberg

Charles Lindbergh’s secret life. Charles Lindbergh became a hero in 1927 when he flew nonstop from New York to Paris. Five years later he gained the sympathy of the public when his young child was kidnapped and murdered. Yet he fell from grace during the Second World War and after his death, his secret private life was discovered. Lindbergh had not one but three secret families. In 1941, before the United States joined the war,...

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Prince George – The Forgotten Royal

Who was Prince George? Prince George was a member of the British royal family but his name is little-known today. He was a good looking prince – he was rather dashing and loved fast airplanes, fast cars and, as you might imagine, fast women too. There are still stories coming to light about his life – we may still find out more about this somewhat mysterious character. His life was a short one and we were left with three...

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The Berners Street Hoax

Theodore Hook, Berners Street and the Sanderson Hotel. For two hundred years the Berners Street Hoax has been thought of as one of the most bizarre – and certainly chaotic -practical jokes in history. If you’ve ever seen the Marx Brothers film, A Night at the Opera, this event is said to have been the inspiration for one of the funniest scenes. Theodore Hook, the man you see on the right,was the person responsible. He wasn...

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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Who was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu? In the eighteenth century, Lady Mary was known for her sharp satiric writing about prominent personalities. Not all this work survives however, because of her daughter. Her daughter was scandalised by her mother – who she considered to be extremely eccentric –  so when Lady Mary died, her papers were destroyed. Lady Mary was renown for her wit and her beauty but there was another side to...

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Why is Fort Lauderdale called Fort Liquordale?

Why is Fort Lauderdale nicknamed Fort Liquordale? When I first came to live in Fort Lauderdale and heard people refer to it as ‘Fort Liquordale’ I thought it was a reference to the craziness that descended on our area during Spring Break – especially in the last century. But I was wrong. It was bootlegging.    Bootlegging in Fort Lauderdale In 1920 the American government, in its wisdom, decided to ban the...

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Who Was Bernarr MacFadden?

Bernarr MacFadden: Millionaire, eccentric and health nut. He fully expected to live to be a hundred and twenty. He often predicted that he would in his health magazine and his over one hundred books. He was a bodybuilder and chose to subsist, so he maintained,on a diet of nuts, carrots and beet juice. He also recommended exercise, relaxation and that sex should be performed only for the purposes of reproduction. (He was married four...

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The Last Men Hanged in Britain

Gwynne Evans & Peter Allen: The last people to be hanged in the UK. A double hanging for murder. The men you see here both have the dubious distinction of being the last person to be hanged in the UK. Why? Because they were both hanged for murder at exactly the same time – eight o’clock on the morning of 13th August 1964. Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans had committed a senseless and brutal murder and despite the fact that...

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Who was Pancho Barnes?

Who was Pancho Barnes? She was no beauty, that’s for sure, but she was one of the fastest-living, hardiest partying girls of the last century. She was married four times, was a Hollywood stunt pilot and spent her way through several fortunes.   The girl who was destined to escape from Mexican rebels by dressing as a man, and who could out-party, out-drink and out-everything most men she met, was born with the demure name of...

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Who Was Jackie Cochran?

Jackie Cochran: The mystery. Jackie Cochran isn’t as well known as her counterpart and contemporary, Amelia Earhart.  But nevertheless she was the first woman – and in some cases, the first person – to achieve an enormous number of aviation feats and challenges. But who was she and what was her background? For many years, this was the accepted story. She did not know exactly when she was born, or where. She had no...

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Florida’s German Invasion

In early summer 1942 a German submarine, U-584, lay off the coast of Florida close to Jacksonville. On June 16th it surfaced and a small rubber inflatable dinghy was launched. Four men hastily climbed into the tiny craft. They wore swimming trunks and woollen caps. They each had a suitcase containing a variety of American made clothing. Also, they loaded four wooden crates into the dinghy – these contained explosives. They also...

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Vintage TV: What’s My Line

Hooked on What’s My Line from the nineteen fifties and sixties. I truly could spend hours watching old videos of the 1950s and 60s television show, the panel game What’s My Line. It’s like another world. Well, I guess 1950s New York was another world. Take a look at this great photograph.   The panel and the host would dress as though they were going out for the evening. Bow ties were usual for the men and the...

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Oakwell Hall, Yorkshire

Oakwell Hall, Yorkshire If you’re familiar with Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, then you know Oakwell Hall. For Oakwell, a place she knew well, became the house ‘Fairfield’ in the novel. In the 1840s,Oakwell in Yorkshire was a school for girls. It was due to her friendship with one of the students there, Ellen Nussey, that Charlotte Bronte came to know the hall. But the building is much older than that. If you...

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Plane Lost in the Andes for Fifty Years

What happened to the British South American Airways Avro Lancastrian Star Dust? In 1947, an aircraft flying over the treacherous Andes Mountains, and all the passengers and crew aboard, disappeared into thin air. The radio operator sent a strange message which has not been deciphered to this day and the aircraft wasn’t seen again – for over fifty years. The plane, Star Dust, was a converted World War 2 bomber. The crew...

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Summer Pudding. Grand Prix Gourmet, Britain

Summer pudding with strawberries and blackberries. This was a popular dessert in our family when I lived in England and we still love it. It’s easy to make and inexpensive, especially when strawberries and blackberries are plentiful. In fact, you can use other berries too and the fruit will go even further if you add chopped apple. This recipe is incredibly versatile. It’s quick to prepare too. The pudding requires just a...

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Yorkshire Day

Yorkshire. Yorkshire, as all right-thinking people know, is known as ‘God’s Own County’ and quite right too. We’re lucky here at JAQUO because we have several Yorkshire writers. (As you would expect from a magazine of such quality). This means that JAQUO has quite a few articles about God’s Own County – the people and the places, the history and the food – which you can see here in our...

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Leitzel: Queen of the Air

Leitzel: Love and tragedy in the circus. In the early twentieth century, the name of Leitzel was famous. And yet few people today know her story. Born in Germany in 1892, she became the darling of the circus. Yet her rags-to-riches story is fascinating, as was the story of the love of her life … and her tragic end. She was born into a performing world and soon became a talented acrobat. She was the product of a female acrobat...

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The Empire State Building

Empire State Building: Trivia. What do you know about the Empire State Building? Here’s a series of weird and wonderful facts. Bore Fascinate your friends with Empire State Building trivia 🙂 For the golden anniversary of the building’s opening in 1981, workmen opened the time-capsule that had been buried in its cornerstone. The contents hadn’t stood the test of time. The items within it had rotted away during their...

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Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine

Sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. In the golden era of Hollywood, few theatregoers realised that these two top actresses were sisters. Olivia was the eldest of the two. They were both born in Japan, to British parents. Their father was a patent attorney who had moved to Japan to further his career. He taught there and also ran his own law firm. The mother of the two girls was an actress who had given up her stage career...

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Jackie Kennedy: The Pink Suit

Jackie Kennedy: The pink suit. In early November, 1963, John and Jackie Kennedy were at the White House enjoying a private dinner with newspaper columnist Joe Alsop and his wife, Susan. After dinner, John Kennedy asked his wife to show their guests the pink suit that she intended to wear during their forthcoming trip to Texas. Jackie was reluctant at first but went to her room and fetched the plain, pink suit. Yes, that one. Looking...

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Alcock and Brown

 Who were Alcock and Brown? If you asked people to name pioneers of aviation, which names do you think you’d hear? Charles Lindbergh would be one. Amelia Earhart would probably get a mention too, as would the Wright brothers. But Alcock and Brown were the first to fly across the Atlantic non-stop. Sadly, they are largely forgotten now. Many people believe that this distinction should go to Charles Lindbergh but he was the first...

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The Yorkshireman and the Sahara

Eric Jackson: Petrol in My Blood If you’re looking for a great read, full of adventure, humour and history, then I definitely recommend Petrol in My Blood by Eric Jackson. This is the autobiography of a Yorkshireman, born in a gipsy caravan in 1924, who started life with humble origins. Written when the author was in his eighties, the book spans generations and it’s a miracle that, because of his adventures, that he...

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Irrepressible:  The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford

Irrepressible:  The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford. Jessica, almost always known as Decca, was one of the famous aristocratic Mitford sisters who were notorious in the  twentieth century. There were six sisters (and one brother who died in the Second World War) and all drew notoriety in their own way. As society girls,they were constantly in trouble during their teens. Their mother always remarked that if ever she saw newspaper...

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British Prince Charles Edward: Nazi

The British prince who was a Nazi official. The grandson of Queen Victoria who was a top Nazi. Born in 1884, Prince Edward Charles was a member of the British royal family. His father, Prince Leopold, had been Victoria’s youngest son. Nevertheless, during the Second World War he was a top-ranking member of the Nazi Party. Because of this, you’re unlikely to find details of him in most history books, especially those...

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Marni Nixon

Who was Marni Nixon? Is the name unfamiliar to you? The chances are that you don’t recognise the face either. But it’s very likely that you know her voice. Marni was responsible for some of the most famous singing voices heard on the silver screen.. Have you heard the soundtrack from My Fair Lady for example? Or seen the film? That’s not Audrey Hepburn that you’re listening to – it’s the voice of...

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Will Camilla be Queen?

Will Camilla be Queen? In 2005, it was announced that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker -Bowles would be married. They had been living together for quite some time. The queen and the practically-minded royal family approved wholeheartedly. Princes William and Harry had come to know her well and were delighted. And yet a poll showed that only seven percent of British people wanted her to eventually be queen. Yet ten years later, as the...

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The Great Pearl Heist

Joseph Grizzard and the Great Pearl Heist. Who was Joseph Grizzard? Joseph Grizzard was a cultured man. He was elegant, wealthy, owned a lovely home and had a wife and children. He was also a criminal mastermind. A Londoner, he had been born in 1866 and despite humble beginnings, by the Edwardian Era he was a wealthy man – thanks to crime. He was wonderfully urbane. In 1909, he was having a small dinner party at his home when...

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Who Was Julia Stanley?

Julia Stanley: Which version do you believe? Julia Stanley will go down in history. But her life is surrounded by myths and legends. What is the truth? Let’s look at the facts. She was born as one of five sisters in Liverpool in 1914. She wasn’t from a wealthy family but they were not poor either.  After the death of the girls’ mother, the father ruled over the household with an iron fist. When Julia was fourteen,...

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The Bobbed Haired Bandit

The Bobbed Haired Bandit. In 1989 it was clear to Ed Cooney Jr that his mother, now aged eighty five, was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Ed had been a computer programmer and had moved to Florida when he retired. His mother Celia, having no other family except Ed and his brother, had also moved from New Jersey to the Floridian sunshine. Ed didn’t realised that his mother had lived in Florida before – or anything...

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Did Ruth Ellis Really Shoot her Lover?

Did Ruth Ellis really shoot David Blakely? The world certainly thought so in 1955. It’s said that on Easter Sunday of that year, she had followed David Blakely – a racing driver – to outside a London pub. When she confronted him – their relationship had been stormy of late – she took a revolver from her handbag and shot him repeatedly. He died at once. Ruth did not run away or try to hide. She was...

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Hetty Green

Who was Hetty Green? Hetty Green was at one time one of the richest women in the world, certainly in the United States. She was born in 1834 to a wealthy family. She also had the advantage of being the only offspring her parents managed to bring up. She’d had a younger brother but he had died as a child. However, her parents – especially her father – had particularly wanted a son so Hetty never felt loved. But she...

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Who was Marli Renfro?

Marli Renfro: You know her well. The chances are that if you like movies, you know who Marli Renfro was but you might not recognise the name. What’s more, I’m willing to bet that you’ve seen her completely naked. She was in one of the most famous films – ever. But few people know her name. She was born in America in 1938. She grew up to be very attractive and she was only in her early twenties when she took...

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Guy Bradley: Murder in the Everglades

Guy Bradley: A true story about an environmental murder. Does environmental murder seem to be strange description? This is the true story that took place in the Florida Everglades in 1905. At and before the turn of the century, there was a huge fashion in America that dictated that the truly stylish woman wore hats decorated with bird plumes. In order to satisfy the trade, beautiful birds – many endangered – were shot in...

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Who Was Carrie Buck?

Who was Carrie Buck? Carrie Buck was a victim of a curious belief that was sweeping the United States in the nineteen twenties. Various powerful men were becoming increasingly concerned about the health of the general population. Strange though it seems to us these days, many people thought that the answer was the sterilisation of people who were mentally or physically imperfect. The USA had previously had an open-door policy when it...

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The Mysterious Death of Wallis Simpson

What happened to Wallis Simpson after the Duke of Windsor died? Wallis was of course, the Duchess of Windsor. Her husband the duke had formerly been King Edward VIII and famously he abdicated in 1936 so that he could marry her. Their affair and subsequent marriage had tongues wagging on both sides of the Atlantic and was the constitutional crisis of the twentieth century. They had a curious, scandalous and rather sad married life but...

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Cremorne Gardens, London

Cremorne Gardens, London Cremorne Gardens provided a popular place for entertainment in the Victorian era. Close to the Battersea Bridge, it offered all sorts of amusements for the population. It sounds so very genteel, doesn’t it? It gives the impression of well-bred ladies strolling in their finery and holding their parasols to shield their fair complexions from the sun. The name evokes an image of elegant gentlemen, courtesly...

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The Last Escaper: Peter Tunstall

The Last Escaper. True stories from Peter Tunstall,  Colditz prisoner of war. In the Second World War many British men, often RAF pilots, became prisoners of war in Germany. Their planes had been shot down and then men, often only in their late teens or early twenties, were captured and imprisoned by German soldiers. This is the story about one of them – Pete Tunstall. RAF pilot Tunstall was only twenty one when he was shot down...

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William Grover Williams: Racing Driver and Spy

The curious life and death of Grand Prix driver, William Grover Williams. Yes, William Grover was a racing driver and some motorsport historians will probably know his name because he was the winner of the inaugural Monte Carlo Grand Prix in 1929. But his life was much more fascinating than that last sentences implies.   He was British, having had an English father and a British mother. It was evident that he had a huge interest...

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Graham Hill

Graham Hill On December 5th, 1975, racing driver Graham Hill was due to appear at a ceremony at which the British Racing Drivers Club was going to honor his achievements as a racing driver. Hill had won the  Grand Prix Championship, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours race during his racing career. But instead, over two thousand of his friends and colleagues attended his funeral. He had retired from racing just five months...

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