Category:
Customs

Life in America:  1971





Posted By: Paul - Sat Mar 08, 2014 - Comments (3)
Category: Customs, 1970s

Rat Burning Festival

Nowadays we have the Burning Man festival. But back in the 19th century, they had the Burning Rat festival.


Some years since a gentleman, who had just returned from Rome, informed me that he had witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a large number of rats, after having been dipped into spirits of turpentine and set on fire, being turned loose at the top of the flight of steps which leads from the Vatican to the Plaza below. A great crowd of persons was assembled to witness the spectacle, which took place at night; and I think my informant stated, was customary on the evening of a particular day of the year: the miserable rats, which left the top step of the flight like living balls of fire — amidst the shouts of the populace — arrived at the bottom mere masses of scorched flesh.

Is this custom still kept up at Rome? If so, on what day in the year?

From: Notes and Queries. Nov 28, 1857.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that the correspondent ever received a reply to his question.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 05, 2014 - Comments (9)
Category: Animals, Customs, Foreign Customs

Life in America:  1915









Posted By: Paul - Mon Feb 17, 2014 - Comments (5)
Category: Customs, 1910s, North America

Life in America:  1959









Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 20, 2014 - Comments (2)
Category: Customs, 1950s, North America

Life in America:  1947






Posted By: Paul - Sun Nov 10, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Culture and Civilization, Customs, 1940s, North America

Life in America:  1953









Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 24, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, 1950s, North America

Life in America:  1977





Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 14, 2013 - Comments (0)
Category: Customs, 1970s, North America

Life in America:  1933







Posted By: Paul - Thu Jun 20, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Customs, 1930s, North America

Life in America:  1961







A semi-random slice across the weirdness of history. The first of an occasional series.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jun 03, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, Food, Sports, Advertising, 1960s

Virginia O’Hanlon, Santa Claus Skeptic

Virginia O'Hanlon is famous as the young girl who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if Santa Claus was real, prompting a reply from Francis P. Church, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." But you have to feel a bit sorry for O'Hanlon, because almost every year after that, until she died in 1971, reporters sought her out to do follow-ups to find out if she still believed in Santa Claus. It must have been frustrating to be asked the same question, year after year.

O'Hanlon as a young girl

O'Hanlon was always very gracious about the repetitive questioning, (seems like she was a very nice lady), and would say that of course she believed in Santa Claus — except for 1935 when she must have been in a dark mood, because in that year she came close to saying that she no longer believed. She told a reporter:

I still keep my faith in the ultimate kindness of human nature, but how can I, or anyone, believe in the Santa I knew as a child when today there is so much misery and suffering in the world?

If Santa lives today, he lives only in the childish joy of those he has made happy. How can he live in the crying hearts of those he has forsaken? Little children, such as I was, trust in Santa Claus as a miraculous munificence through which all things are made possible. There will be a tree, there will be loved ones about, gaiety and cherished toys that have been dreamt about for months.

Those whom Santa visits think of Christmas as a beautiful, sacred occasion which it should be — but today seldom is. But for every child tucked into bed Christmas night with his new toy, there are hundreds, no thousands, who huddle in ragged bed clothing sobbing in the night at a fate at best cruel.




In subsequent years she returned to giving simpler, more upbeat answers. The clip below shows her on the Perry Como show in 1960.


And here she is in 1966, looking slightly frazzled. Perhaps the questioning was finally getting to her.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 24, 2012 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, Holidays

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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