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5 Mentally Ill Monarchs

Throughout history, kings and queens typically inherited their positions. Therefore, it's not surprising that some royals were not really up for the job. Here are five monarchs who suffered mental illnesses that affected their ability to rule.

1. Charles VI of France (1368-1422)

Charles' peculiar behavior started around 1392, after he'd suffered from a fever and seizures. Thereafter, he experienced periodic attacks of insanity lasting several months. During his bouts of madness, Charles would forget his name, the fact that he was king, and that he had a wife and children. At times he also believed he was made of glass, and that he'd shatter if someone approached him. He even ordered that iron rods be put in his clothing so he wouldn't break. He ran around the castle howling like a wolf. Charles' strange behavior exhausted his wife Isabeau of Bavaria, so she found him a mistress to keep him busy. Her name was Odette de Champdivers and she resembled Isabeau so much that Charles couldn't tell them apart even when he was sane. Meanwhile, Isabeau gallivanted with Charles' younger brother, Louis of Orleans, and probably bore at least one of his children.

It's now believed that Charles probably suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). His doctors tried to cure him by drilling small holes into his head. They accomplished this through the element of surprise "“ group of men with blackened faces hid in Charles' room and jumped out at him. Inevitably, the treatment didn't work and Charles' son-in-law was declared regent.

2. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584)

ivan-terrible.jpgIt's uncertain if Ivan's cruel behavior was the result of a traumatic childhood, mental illness, or his way of maintaining control over Russia's rebellious factions. Both his parents died when he was young, so he was raised by two aristocratic families who used him as a political tool. Ivan was often starved, terrorized, and exposed to all types of violence, including executions. This clearly took a toll on him; even at an early age, he took delight in throwing cats and dogs over the Kremlin walls.

While Ivan's behavior was never really stable, he seemed to become completely unhinged following the death of first wife, Anastasia. He rampaged against boyars who had disagreed with him in the past. He sent the oprichniki (secret police) to wreak havoc in cities that wanted to break away from his control. Men would be rounded up into buildings that would be set on fire while women were stripped naked and used as target practice. Ivan utilized typical medieval punishments including decapitation, hanging and impaling, but he also devised new methods like roasting his "enemies" over a spit or throwing them into bear pits.

Some argue that Ivan showed signs of schizophrenia because his behavior swung from one extreme to the other. He would dress like a monk and preach to his officials about the importance of leading a moral life, but hours later take part in drunken orgies with them. He would personally torture prisoners, but then go to church where he would bang his head on the ground and beg for forgiveness.
His most egregious act was killing his own son. It happened when Ivan saw his pregnant daughter-in-law dressed too provocatively, and started to beat her. When his son came to her defense, Ivan struck him in the temple causing his death. Ivan's act changed the course of Russian history as his second son, Feodor, who became tsar was mentally deficient. Contrary to legend, however, Ivan did not blind the architect who designed St. Basil's Cathedral, the colorful, onion-domed structure located in Moscow's Red Square.

3. Joanna the Mad (1479-1555)

joanna-mad.jpgShe was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish monarchs who funded Columbus' journey to the New World. Mental illness ran in Joanna's family "“ her grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, was prone to depression and hysterics. Joanna was an attractive and educated woman when she married Philip the Handsome, son of the Holy Roman Emperor. Although their marriage was arranged, Joanna fell hopelessly in love with him. Philip found her appealing enough to father six children. However, he was not ready to give up the life of a philandering monarch.

Joanna's clinginess caused much resentment. Philip flaunted his affairs shamelessly, causing Joanna to lash out at one of his Flemish mistresses by cutting off her hair. Philip realized his jealous wife was cramping his style, so he kept her under house arrest when they lived in his kingdom of the Netherlands. On a trip to Spain, her mental illness became evident when she stayed out in the cold, barely dressed, for almost two days, crying outside the castle gates. What caused her to lose it completely was when her beloved Philip died. Joanna refused to leave his body, and she opened his coffin everyday to embrace his rotting corpse. She was finally convinced to bury her husband after three years. She was confined from 1509 until her death.

4. George III of England (1738-1820)

king-george-iii.jpgGeorge was the English king who lost the American colonies. One of the most famous stories about his insanity is that while he was being driven through a park by carriage, he mistook an oak tree for Frederick the Great, the Prussian king. He got out of the carriage, and shook one of the tree's branches and began a conversation with it. (Some claim that this story was fabricated by anti-monarchists). The truth is that George really did have mental problems that manifested themselves during several periods of his life, beginning around 1765. During these times he suffered from insomnia and talked incessant nonsense for hours. It is now suspected that King George suffered from porphyria, a genetic metabolic disorder that causes depression, hallucinations, constipation, red or purple urine, and severe abdominal pain.

The attempts to cure George were more interesting than his actual illness. Besides being restrained in a chair with iron clamps for hours, he was also bled, forced to vomit, and starved. A recent study based on the examination of King George's hair shows high levels of arsenic, which was administered to him as part of the cure "“ but probably just worsened his condition. In the last ten years of his life, his son and heir, George IV, served as regent

5. Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886)

ludwig.jpgThe Mad King of Bavaria was eccentric, sensitive, escapist, flamboyant and most likely schizophrenic. As a teenager, he heard voices in his head and enjoyed dressing up as a nun. When Ludwig became king, his first order of the day was to seek out his beloved composer, Richard Wagner, who had been in hiding from his debtors. Ludwig paid off Wagner's debts, put him up in a swank apartment in Munich and awarded him a hefty salary. Bavarian ministers didn't like how Wagner manipulated the king and they forced the composer to leave.

Ludwig then focused his attention on building fantastic castles. The most famous is Neuschwanstein "“ the later inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. He paid for the castles with his own money and soon found himself in debt, but still wanted to build more. Nobody knew that a century later, Ludwig's extravagant hobby would pay off in the form of tourism.

Over time, Ludwig became a hermit, living only with his servants, and occasionally inviting his horse to dine with him. He loved Marie Antoinette, the French queen executed during the French Revolution half a century before his birth, and set up chairs to entertain deceased members of the French royal court.
Ultimately, the Bavarian ministers and members of the Wittelsbach family realized Ludwig needed help, as he was both an embarrassment and a great expense for Bavaria. Psychiatrist Bernhard von Gudden declared him insane and Ludwig was ordered to step down. Ludwig was taken to Berg castle. That same evening, he and Dr. von Gudden went for a stroll around the gardens. Hours later, the two men were found dead, their bodies floating in the lake on the castle grounds. To this day, no one knows what really happened to them.

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15 Incredible Facts About Pigeons
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Though they're often described as "rats with wings" (a phrase popularized by the movie Stardust Memories), pigeons are actually pretty cool. From homing instincts to misleading rump feathers, here are 15 things you might not know about these avian adventurers.

1. THEY MIGHT BE THE FIRST DOMESTICATED BIRD.

The common city pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the rock pigeon, might be the first bird humankind ever domesticated. You can see them in art dating back as far as 4500 BCE in modern Iraq, and they've been a valuable source of food for thousands of years.

2. THEY WON OVER CHARLES DARWIN—AND NIKOLA TESLA.

Pigeon-breeding was a common hobby in Victorian England for everyone from well-off businessmen to average Joes, leading to some fantastically weird birds. Few hobbyists had more enthusiasm for the breeding process than Charles Darwin, who owned a diverse flock, joined London pigeon clubs, and hobnobbed with famous breeders. Darwin's passion for the birds influenced his 1868 book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, which has not one but two chapters about pigeons (dogs and cats share a single chapter).

Nikola Tesla was another great mind who enjoyed pigeons. He used to care for injured wild pigeons in his New York City hotel room. Hands down, Tesla's favorite was a white female—about whom he once said, "I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman and she loved me. When she was ill, I knew and understood; she came to my room and I stayed beside her for days. I nursed her back to health. That pigeon was the joy of my life. If she needed me, nothing else mattered. As long as I had her, there was a purpose in my life." Reportedly, he was inconsolable after she died.

3. THEY UNDERSTAND SPACE AND TIME.

In a 2017 Current Biology study, researchers showed captive pigeons a series of digital lines on a computer screen for either two or eight seconds. Some lines were short, measuring about 2.3 inches across; others were four times longer. The pigeons were trained to evaluate either the length of the line or how long it was displayed. They found that the more time a line was displayed, the longer in length the pigeon judged it to be. The reverse was true too: If the pigeons encountered a longer line, they thought it existed in time for a greater duration. Pigeons, the scientists concluded, understand the concepts of both time and space; the researchers noted "similar results have been found with humans and other primates."

It's thought that humans process those concepts with a brain region called the parietal cortex; pigeon brains lack that cortex, so they must have a different way of judging space and time.

4. THEY CAN FIND THEIR WAY BACK TO THE NEST FROM 1300 MILES AWAY.

A pigeon flying in front of trees.
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The birds can do this even if they've been transported in isolation—with no visual, olfactory, or magnetic clues—while scientists rotate their cages so they don't know what direction they're traveling in. How they do this is a mystery, but people have been exploiting the pigeon's navigational skills since at least 3000 BCE, when ancient peoples would set caged pigeons free and follow them to nearby land.

Their navigational skills also make pigeons great long-distance messengers. Sports fans in ancient Greece are said to have used trained pigeons to carry the results of the Ancient Olympics. Further east, Genghis Khan stayed in touch with his allies and enemies alike through a pigeon-based postal network.

5. THEY SAVED THOUSANDS OF HUMAN LIVES DURING WORLD WARS I AND II.

Pigeons' homing talents continued to shape history during the 20th century. In both World Wars, rival nations had huge flocks of pigeon messengers. (America alone had 200,000 at its disposal in WWII.) By delivering critical updates, the avians saved thousands of human lives. One racing bird named Cher Ami completed a mission that led to the rescue of 194 stranded U.S. soldiers on October 4, 1918.

6. TWO PIGEONS ALMOST DISTRACTED FROM THE DISCOVERY OF EVIDENCE OF THE BIG BANG.

In 1964, scientists in Holmdel, New Jersey, heard hissing noises from their antenna that would later prove to be signals from the Big Bang. But when they first heard the sound, they thought it might be, among other things, the poop of two pigeons that were living in the antenna. "We took the pigeons, put them in a box, and mailed them as far away as we could in the company mail to a guy who fancied pigeons," one of the scientists later recalled. "He looked at them and said these are junk pigeons and let them go and before long they were right back." But the scientists were able to clean out the antenna and determine that they had not been the cause of the noise. The trap used to catch the birds (before they had to later be, uh, permanently removed) is on view at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

7. YOU CAN TRAIN THEM TO BE ART SNOBS …

Japanese psychologist Shigeru Watanabe and two colleagues earned an Ig Nobel Prize in 1995 for training pigeons, in a lab setting, to recognize the paintings of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso and to distinguish between the painters. The pigeons were even able to use their knowledge of impressionism and cubism to identify paintings of other artists in those movements. Later, Watanabe taught other pigeons to distinguish watercolor images from pastels. And in a 2009 experiment, captive pigeons he'd borrowed were shown almost two dozen paintings made by students at a Tokyo elementary school, and were taught which ones were considered "good" and which ones were considered "bad." He then presented them with 10 new paintings and the avian critics managed to correctly guess which ones had earned bad grades from the school's teacher and a panel of adults. Watanabe's findings indicate that wild pigeons naturally categorize things on the basis of color, texture, and general appearance.

8. … AND TO DISTINGUISH WRITTEN WORDS.

In a 2016 study, scientists showed that pigeons can differentiate between strings of letters and actual words. Four of the birds built up a vocabulary of between 26 and 58 written English words, and though the birds couldn't actually read them, they could identify visual patterns and therefore tell them apart. The birds could even identify words they hadn't seen before.

9. FLUFFY PIGEON FEET MIGHT ACTUALLY BE PARTIAL WINGS.

A white pigeon with curly feathers and fluffy feet.
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A few pigeon breeds have fuzzy legs—which hobbyists call "muffs"—rather than scaly ones. According to a 2016 study, the DNA of these fluffy-footed pigeons leads their hind legs to take on some forelimb characteristics, making muffed pigeon legs look distinctly wing-like; they're also big-boned. Not only do they have feathers, but the hindlimbs are somewhat big-boned, too. According to biologist Mike Shapiro, who led the study, "pigeons' fancy feathered feet are partially wings."

10. SOME PIGEONS DISTRACT FALCONS WITH WHITE RUMP FEATHERS.

In a life-or-death situation, a pigeon's survival could depend upon its color pattern: Research has shown that wild falcons rarely go after pigeons that have a white patch of feathers just above the tail, and when the predators do target these birds, the attacks are rarely successful.

To figure out why this is, Ph.D. student Alberto Palleroni and a team tagged 5235 pigeons in the vicinity of Davis, California. Then, they monitored 1485 falcon-on-pigeon attacks over a seven-year span. The researchers found that although white-rumped pigeons comprised 20 to 25 percent of the area's pigeon population, they represented less than 2 percent of all the observed pigeons that were killed by falcons; the vast majority of the victims had blue rumps. Palleroni and his team rounded up 756 white- and blue-rumped pigeons and swapped their rump feathers by clipping and pasting white feathers on blue rumps, and vice versa. The falcons had a much easier time spotting and catching the newly blue-rumped pigeons, while the pigeons that received the white feathers saw predation rates plummet.

Close observation revealed that the white patches distract birds of prey. In the wild, falcons dive-bomb other winged animals from above at high speeds. Some pigeons respond by rolling away in midair, and on a spiraling bird, white rump feathers can be eye-catching, which means that a patch of them may divert a hungry raptor's focus long enough to make the carnivore miscalculate and zip right past its intended victim.

11. DODOS WERE RELATED TO TODAY'S PIGEONS.

Two blue and green Nicobar pigeons.
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Though most of this list focuses on the rock pigeon, there are 308 living species of pigeons and doves. Together, they make up an order of birds known as the columbiformes. The extinct dodo belonged to this group as well.

Flightless and (somewhat) docile, dodos once inhabited Mauritius, an island near Madagascar. The species had no natural predators, but when human sailors arrived with rats, dogs, cats, and pigs, it began to die out, and before the 17th century came to a close, the dodo had vanished altogether. DNA testing has confirmed that pigeons are closely related to the dodo, and the vibrant Nicobar pigeon (above) is its nearest genetic relative. A multi-colored bird with iridescent feathers, this near-threatened creature is found on small islands in the South Pacific and off Asia. Unlike the dodo, it can fly.

12. AT ONE POINT, MORE THAN ONE-QUARTER OF ALL THE BIRDS LIVING IN THE U.S. MAY HAVE BEEN PASSENGER PIGEONS.

Wild/feral rock pigeons reside in all 50 states, which makes it easy to forget that they're invasive birds. Originally native to Eurasia and northern Africa, the species was (most likely) introduced to North America by French settlers in 1606. At the time, a different kind of columbiform—this one indigenous—was already thriving there: the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). As many as 5 billion of them were living in America when England, Spain, and France first started colonizing, and they may have once represented anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the total U.S. bird population. But by the early 20th century, they had become a rare sight, thanks to overhunting, habitat loss, and a possible genetic diversity issue. The last known passenger pigeon—a captive female named Martha—died on September 1, 1914.

13. THEY'RE REALLY GOOD AT MULTITASKING.

According to one study, they're more efficient multitaskers than people are. Scientists at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum put together a test group of 15 humans and 12 pigeons and trained all of them to complete two simple jobs (like pressing a keyboard once a light bulb came on). They were also put in situations wherein they'd need to stop working on one job and switch over to another. In some trials, the participants had to make the change immediately. During these test runs, humans and pigeons switched between jobs at the same speed.

But in other trials, the test subjects were allowed to complete one assignment and then had to wait 300 milliseconds before moving on to the next job. Interestingly, in these runs, the pigeons were quicker to get started on that second task after the period ended. In the avian brain, nerve cells are more densely packed, which might enable our feathered friends to process information faster than we can under the right circumstances.

14. PIGEONS PRODUCE FAKE "MILK."

Only mammals produce genuine milk, but pigeons and doves (along with some other species of birds) feed their young with something similar—a whitish liquid filled with nutrients, fats, antioxidants, and healthy proteins called "crop milk." Both male and female pigeons create the milk in the crop, a section of the esophagus designed to store food temporarily. As is the case with mammal milk, the creation of crop milk is regulated by the hormone prolactin. Newly-hatched pigeons drink crop milk until they're weaned off it after four weeks or so. (And if you've ever asked yourself, "Where are all the baby pigeons?" we have the answer for you right here.)

15. ONE STUDY SUGGESTS THAT, GIVEN THE RIGHT CONDITIONS, THEY'RE AS GOOD AT IDENTIFYING CANCER AS DOCTORS.

We've already established that pigeons are excellent at differentiating between artists and words, but a 2015 study revealed they can also distinguish between malignant and benign growths in the right conditions. Researchers at University of California Davis Medical Center put 16 pigeons in a room with magnified biopsies of potential breast cancers. If the pigeons correctly identified them as either benign or malignant, they got a treat, According to Scientific American.

"Once trained, the pigeons' average diagnostic accuracy reached an impressive 85 percent. But when a "flock sourcing" approach was taken, in which the most common answer among all subjects was used, group accuracy climbed to a staggering 99 percent, or what would be expected from a pathologist. The pigeons were also able to apply their knowledge to novel images, showing the findings weren't simply a result of rote memorization."

Mammograms proved to be more of a challenge, however; the birds could memorize signs of cancer in the images they were trained on but could not identify the signs in new images.

No matter how impressive their results, "I don't anticipate that pigeons, no matter how good they become at pathology or radiology, will be playing a role in actual patient care—certainly for the foreseeable future," study co-author Richard M. Levenson told Scientific American. "There are just too many regulatory barriers—at least in the West."

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
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More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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