Atomic Bomb Shelter

Ruth Colhoun atomic bomb shelter 1951

Ruth Colhoun and her children climb the stairs down into their new underground atomic bomb shelter in Van Nuys, California, 1951.

E.B. White

Portrait of E.B. White by Jill Krementz

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. if it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. but i arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. this makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. white, 1976

Photo by Jill Krementz

Wicked Bugs

Wicked Bugs by Amy StewartWicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart, author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Plants, is a darkly comical look at the creepy crawlies that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs.

Some of the strange (and disturbing) facts from Wicked Bugs:

Members of Christopher Columbus’s crew cut off their own toes, so desperate were they to rid themselves of infestations of the CHIGOE FLEA, which burrows under toenails and lays eggs there.

An infestation of typhus-infected BODY LICE helped bring down Napoleon Bonaparte’s army during the failed 1812 campaign against Russia. A century later, during the Russian Civil War, Vladimir Lenin declared, “Either socialism will defeat the louse, or the louse will defeat socialism.”

The Marquis de Sade was arrested and jailed after offering prostitutes candy made with the powdered remains of SPANISH FLY, which he intended as an aphrodisiac. (It’s actually quite toxic.)

Henry Morton Stanley, the man who found David Livingstone in Africa, left an epidemic of TSETSE FLIES infested with sleeping sickness in his wake, wiping out up to two-thirds of the region’s population.

Carole Hargis attempted to murder her husband by slipping a TARANTULA’s venom sac into a blackberry pie.

In his classic horror tale “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote of a murderer listening to the ticking of the DEATH-WATCH BEETLE. According to superstition, the sound signals impending death.

In 1838, British diplomat Charles Stoddard was captured in Uzbekistan and thrown into the bug pit, where he was fed to bloodsucking ASSASSIN BUGS. The insects did not kill him; to accomplish that, he was beheaded in 1842.

Clay bombs filled with PLAGUE-INFESTED FLEAS were developed by the Japanese during World War II. They planned to drop the bombs over California, but the end of the war put a stop to that.

In 1939 the London Zoo killed its BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS, along with other venomous snakes and insects, as a precaution against the possibility of their being liberated during air raids.

The U.S. Department of Defense is developing computer chips that can be implanted in CATERPILLARS in the hopes of controlling their flight paths as butterflies and using the computer chips to transmit data from enemy territory.

One in four people on the planet is infested with ROUNDWORMS, creatures larger than a pencil that live in the small intestine.

BITING MIDGES have been blamed for breaking up marriages in Queensland, Australia, perhaps because swarms of the annoying pests have forced couples to spend more time together indoors.

Get Wicked Bugs right here.

Seely's Castle in Asheville, North Carolina

Seely’s Castle and the Satanic Mountains of Asheville

Was the imposing mansion known as Seely’s Castle the secret headquarters for Satanic rituals in Asheville, North Carolina?

Wicked Plants: Amy Stewart’s Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart explores the dark side of the plant kingdom, delving into the most infamous horticultural homicides.

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart is an A-Z guide to some of the most vicious plants and their long history of horticultural homicide.

Journey into the dark side of the plant kingdom with a tree that sheds poison daggers, a glistening red seed that stops the heart, a shrub that causes paralysis, a vine that strangles, a leaf that triggered a war and more plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, or otherwise offend.

Wicked Plants by Amy StewartMenacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.

A few of the grim facts from the book:

MONKSHOOD (Aconitum napellus) contains a toxin so powerful that Nazi scientists used it in poisoned bullets.

Dr. James Livingstone reported on the use of ordeal poisons in Africa such as CALABAR BEAN (Physostigma venenosum). If the accused vomited the bean, they were innocent, but if it killed them, that proved their guilt.

The deranged behavior that led to the Salem witch trials may have been caused by ERGOT (Claviceps purpura), a fungus that grows on rye and causes wild hallucinations.

The KGB used ricin, the poison in CASTOR BEAN (Ricinus communis), to murder communist defectors.

Dr. Thomas Cream, a 19th-century serial killer, slipped STRYCHNINE (Strychnos nuxvomica) to his patients and was eventually hanged for his crimes.

The ghastly symptoms of pellagra, a syndrome caused by eating too much CORN (Zea mays), could have inspired European myths of vampirism in Bram Stoker’s Dracula: pale skin that erupted in blisters when exposed to the sun, sleepless nights, an inability to eat normal food, and a morbid appearance just before death.

POISON HEMLOCK (Conium maculatum) killed the Greek philosopher Socrates, who in 399 BC was convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens, among other offenses.

Claudius, Emperor of Rome from 41 to 54 B.C., died under mysterious circumstances. Historians believe his symptoms point to poisoning by muscarine, a toxin found in several species of DEADLY MUSHROOMS. Who fed him his final meal? One expert suggested that “Claudius died of de una uxore nimia, or one too many wives.”

WHITE SNAKEROOT (Eupatorium rugosum) causes cows to produce poison milk, resulting in the deadly illness called milk sickness that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother.

DAPHNE (Daphne spp.), a beloved winter shrub, produces attractive red berries so toxic they could kill a child.

States are cracking down on the sale of DIVINER’S SAGE (Salvia divinorum), a tender, flowering salvia that is widely traded on the Internet for its hallucinogenic properties.

Absinthe, that pale green, highly alcoholic drink from the 19th century that was believed to cause hallucinations and madness, gets its bad reputation from WORMWOOD (Artemisia absinthium).

Get Wicked Plants right here.

Amy Stewart’s follow up to Wicked Plants is Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects