Articles by Mike Dash

Past Imperfect

The Murderous Story of America’s First Hijacking

Earnest Pletch’s cold-blooded killing of Carl Bivens was just one chapter in the strange life of the mechanic, farmhand and erstwhile carnie

A pre-war daguerrotype of James R. McClintock. Inventor, likely crook, possible spy.

The Amazing (If True) Story of the Submarine Mechanic Who Blew Himself Up Then Surfaced as a Secret Agent for Queen Victoria

The leading mechanic of the famed H.L. Hunley led quite the life, if we can believe any of it

George Fabian Lawrence, better known as “Stoney Jack,” parlayed his friendships with London navvies into a stunning series of archaeological discoveries between 1895 and 1939.

The Commoner Who Salvaged a King’s Ransom

A furtive antiquarian nicknamed Stoney Jack was responsible for almost every major archaeological find made in London between 1895 and 1939

Portrait of a young revolutionary: Friedrich Engels at age 21, in 1842, the year he moved to Manchester–and the year before he met Mary Burns.

How Friedrich Engels’ Radical Lover Helped Him Father Socialism

Mary Burns exposed the capitalist's son to the plight of the working people of Manchester

An Arab city of the early medieval period. Urban centers in the Middle East were of a size and wealth all but unknown in the Christian west during this period, encouraging the development of a large and diverse fraternity of criminals.

Islam’s Medieval Underworld

In the medieval period, the Middle East was home to many of the world's wealthiest cities—and to a large proportion of its most desperate criminals

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The Octogenarian Who Took on the Shoguns

A tribesman who led a doomed revolt against Japan in 1669 still inspires new generations of Ainu nationalists

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The Trial That Gave Vodou A Bad Name

An 1864 case that ended with the execution of eight Haitians for child murder and cannibalism has helped define attitudes toward the nation and the religion ever since

A contemporary painting depicting—rather sensationally—the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. The events surrounding their deaths have attracted abundant rumor and legend, none stranger than the suggestion that the car that they were murdered in was cursed.

Curses! Archduke Franz Ferdinand and His Astounding Death Car

Was the man whose assassination began World War I riding in a car destined to bring death to a series of owners?

The “fairy coffins” discovered on Arthur’s Seat, a hill above Edinburgh, in 1836. Were they magical symbols, sailors’ memorials—or somehow linked to the city’s infamous mass murderers, Burke and Hare?

Edinburgh’s Mysterious Miniature Coffins

In 1836, three Scottish boys discovered a strange cache of miniature coffins concealed on a hillside above Edinburgh. Who put them there—and why?

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The Vengeance of Ivarr the Boneless

Did he, and other Vikings, really use a brutal method of ritual execution called the "blood eagle"?

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The Secret Plot to Rescue Napoleon by Submarine

In 1820, one of Britain's most notorious criminals hatched a plan to rescue the emperor from exile on the Atlantic isle of St Helena -- but did he try it?

A photo sometimes said to depict members of Chiloé’s murderous society of warlocks—founded, so they claimed, in 1786 and destroyed by the great trial of 1880-81.

Into the Cave of Chile’s Witches

Did members of a powerful society of warlocks actually murder their enemies and kidnap children?

The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga

The funeral of James Idle in the village of Hullavington, on August 29, 1914

“The Grave Looked So Miserable”

A yard on an Antiguan sugar plantation in 1823. A windmill powers the rollers used to crush the cane before it was boiled to release its sugar.

Antigua’s Disputed Slave Conspiracy of 1736

Does the evidence against these 44 slaves really stack up?

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White Gold: How Salt Made and Unmade the Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos had one of the world's first, and largest, salt industries

William Crockford—identified here as “Crockford the Shark”—sketched by the great British caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson in about 1825. Rowlandson, himself an inveterate gambler who blew his way through a $10.5 million family fortune, knew the former fishmonger before he opened the club that would make his name.

Crockford’s Club: How a Fishmonger Built a Gambling Hall and Bankrupted the British Aristocracy

A working-class Londoner operated the most exclusive gambling club the world has ever seen

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The Early History of Faking War on Film

Early filmmakers faced a dilemma: how to capture the drama of war without getting themselves killed in the process. Their solution: fake the footage

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Uncovering the Truth Behind the Myth of Pancho Villa, Movie Star

In 1914, the Mexican rebel signed a contract with an American newsreel company that required him to fight for the cameras. Too good to be true? Not entirely

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The Unsolved Mystery of the Tunnels at Baiae

Did ancient priests fool visitors to a sulfurous subterranean stream that they had crossed the River Styx and entered Hades?

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