Polly Adler and a friend

The House that Polly Adler Built

She entered the brothel business without apology and set out to become the best madam in America

The Potala Palace, Lhasa: home to nine successive Dalai Lamas, a number of them suspiciously short-lived.

Murder in Tibet’s High Places

The Dalai Lama is one of the world's most revered religious leaders, but that didn't prevent four holders of the office from mysteriously dying

A German mint hard at work producing debased coinage designed to be palmed off on the nearest neighboring state, c.1620

“Kipper und Wipper”: Rogue Traders, Rogue Princes, Rogue Bishops and the German Financial Meltdown of 1621-23

It is tempting to think of the German hyperinflation of 1923 as a uniquely awful event, but it pales in comparison to what happened in the 17th century

The Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, site of the deadly race run between condemned grand viziers and their executioners.

The Ottoman Empire’s Life-or-Death Race

Custom in the Ottoman Empire mandated that a condemned grand vizier could save his neck if he won a sprint against his executioner

John D. Lee, seated on his coffin, moments before his execution.

The Aftermath of Mountain Meadows

The massacre almost brought the United States to war against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but only one man was brought to trial: John D

Colonel Tom Parker—the title was awarded to him by Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis in 1948 for political services rendered—claimed until 1982 to have been born in West Virginia. In fact he was a Dutchman, and the circumstances under which he left the Netherlands in 1929 remain a puzzle to this day.

Colonel Parker Managed Elvis’ Career, but Was He a Killer on the Lam?

The man who brought The King to global fame kept his own past secret. But what exactly was Tom Parker hiding?


The Mysterious Mr. Zedzed: The Wickedest Man in the World

Sir Basil Zaharoff was the archetypal "merchant of death"—an arms salesman who made a career out of selling to both sides in a conflict

Headline from the San Antonio Light, November 12, 1933

The Man Who Wouldn’t Die

The plot to kill Michael Malloy for life-insurance money seemed foolproof—until the conspirators actually tried it

Izzy Einstein (left) and Moe Smith share a toast in New York City

Prohibition’s Premier Hooch Hounds

Everyday Science and Mechanics (February, 1936)

Mobsters Tremble Before the Crime-Fighting, Red Flying Gondola

Science-fiction pioneer Hugo Gernsback predicted that, as long as police officers were stuck on terra firma, criminals always would have the edge


Pollster George Gallup Jr. Looks to the Year 2000

Ferdinand Pecora

The Man Who Busted the ‘Banksters’

Marc Bloch: Historian. French Resistance leader. Hero.

History Heroes: Marc Bloch

Scholar created a whole new way of looking at history, but found time to fight in two World Wars–latterly, aged 60, as a leader of the French Resistance

Upon his arrest for murder, Roscoe Arbuckle was booked into custody and denied bail.

The Skinny on the Fatty Arbuckle Trial

When the million-dollar movie comedian faced a manslaughter charge, the jury was indeed scandalized—at how his reputation had been trashed

The "Chandos Portrait" of Shakespeare–dating to c.1600 and one of only two that may have been painted from life–is thought to be the work of the playwright's "intimate friend" John Taylor of the Painter-Stainers' Company (though it may not show Shakespeare at all). Its be-earringed playwright, pictured without the usual ruff, seems to show an altogether tougher character than the figure that appears in more familiar likenesses.

William Shakespeare, Gangster

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity and the Roots of Faked Footage

The horror movie franchise is just the latest in a long history of movies using so-called "recovered" films

Aftermath of the Black Tom explosion on July 30, 1916

Sabotage in New York Harbor

Explosion on Black Tom Island packed the force of an earthquake. It took investigators years to determine that operatives working for Germany were to blame

The Turkish flag flown, and rifles used, by Gool Mohammed and Mullah Abdullah during the Battle of Broken Hill, January 1, 1915.

The Battle of Broken Hill

While Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire were fighting World War I, two Afghans opened up a second front in an Australian outback town 12,000 miles away

A crowd gathers at the scene of the Wall Street bombing in September 1920.

Anger and Anarchy on Wall Street

In the early 20th century, resentment at the concentration of wealth took a violent turn

King Ananda Mahidol of Siam in 1939

Long Live the King

A gunshot rang out in the king's bedroom in June 1946, ending one reign and beginning another. Uncertainty over how it happened has persisted ever since

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