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6 Deaths That Were Greatly Exaggerated

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Will we ever know the secrets that death holds? Maybe not, but this post is about six people who've come as verifiably close to returning from the dead as possible: those who were believed to be dead. Read on ... if you dare!

1. The Cast of Cannibal Holocaust



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Still one of the most controversial films ever made, the 1980 Italian exploitation-fest Cannibal Holocaust depicted such realistic and horrifying violence that Italian authorities believed it was an actual snuff film. Ten days after its release, prints of Holocaust were confiscated and its director was arrested on suspicion of murder. Not helping matters much was the fact that the film's cast had signed agreements saying they would lay low for a full year after the film's release, fueling rumors that they were, in fact, slaughtered for the camera. Finally, facing life in prison, the director voided his actors' "no-media" contracts so they could come forward to clear his name.

2. Marcus Garvey

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After suffering a stroke in 1940, black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey became incapacitated. Rumors began to circulate that he had died, and before Garvey could quell them, he ran across a premature obituary for himself in the Chicago Defender which described him as a man who died "broke, alone and unpopular." According to people close to Garvey, upon reading it he let out a loud moan and collapsed to the floor, where he suffered a second stroke. By the following morning, he was dead at fifty-three.

3. Things to do in Texas when you're dead

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In his sixteen-year career, major league relief pitcher Bill Henry played for the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, boasted 46 wins, and even pitched in the 1961 World Series. More surprising than the career the humble Texan never dreamed possible, however, was the news that he had died. In August 2007 the Lakeland, Florida Ledger reported that Henry had passed away at the ripe old age of 80, and the story was picked up by the Associated Press and distributed nationally. But Bill Henry didn't live in Lakeland, where he had supposedly died -- he lived (and still lives) in Deer Park, Texas. Once the Ledger got wind of the truth, a very strange story came to light: another man named Bill Henry, a salesman from Florida, had stolen the ball player's identity long ago, and for more than 20 years had been passing himself off as the retired major league pitcher. The fake Henry, who was 83 when he died, had fooled everybody -- including his wife -- who later said "I was married to somebody that I maybe didn't know." (How did the impostor explain the incorrect birthday listed on his baseball card? "A printing error," he insisted.) The man even gave lectures twice a year at a Florida college entitled "Baseball, Humor and Society." (Maybe it was a subtle reference to his humorous baseball-related prank on society?) After the matter was cleared up, however, the real Bill Henry harbored no ill feelings. "I just hoped maybe it helped him in his [sales] career," he said. (I'm not sure I'd be so nice about that kind of thing, myself -- though imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.)

4. The Not-Quite-Canonized Thomas a Kempis

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Well-known medieval author-monk Thomas a Kempis, it is said, was accidentally buried alive in 1471. A most decidedly low-temperature dude in life -- he spent most of his time engaged with quiet devotional exercises and copying the Bible by hand -- he was apparently not so cool under pressure when it came to death. When he was exhumed some time later, scratch marks were found on the underside of the coffin, and splinters of wood under his fingernails. As if it wasn't bad enough to be buried alive, when the Church discovered the tragedy, they promptly shut down efforts to canonize Kempis as a saint. Their reasoning? "Surely no aspiring saint, finding himself so close to meeting his maker, would fight death in this way!" Talk about adding insult to being buried alive ...

5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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In 1816, the writer heard his name mentioned in a hotel by a man reading a coroner's report in the newspaper, who remarked that "it was very extraordinary that Coleridge the poet should have hanged himself just after the success of his play, but he was always a strange mad fellow." Coleridge replied: "Indeed, sir, it is a most extraordinary thing that he should have hanged himself, be the subject of an inquest, and yet that he should at this moment be speaking to you." (Now that's what I call a killer comeback!) Turns out a man had been found hanging from a tree in Hyde Park -- an apparent suicide -- and the only identification he had was the name "S.T. Coleridge" written on the inside of the collar of his shirt. Coleridge thought the shirt had probably been stolen from him.

6. Hiroo Onoda, the soldier who wouldn't die

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A Japanese soldier stationed in the Philippines during World War II, Hiroo Onoda was presumed dead after the Allies recaptured the country in 1945. But he and a few comrades had fled into the jungle to hide, and for 29 years, that's where he stayed. Unwilling to believe that the war had ended, he and his scrappy fellows continued to launch mini-attacks against Filipino citizens, killing dozens over the years. In 1959, he was declared legally dead in Japan, and by 1972, when the last of his compatriots were killed in gunfights with local forces, Onoda was finally alone. He stayed for two more years, until the Japanese government found Onoda's old commanding officer from the war -- he had become a bookseller many years before -- who was flown to the jungle, where he informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms. Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer's order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his Arisaka Type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. After the war, Onoda wrote a book about his experiences and started a nature camp for kids designed to teach them survival skills. (So far, all of his campers have returned alive.)

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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