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50 Things Turning 50 This Year

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We've looked at people, places, events, and things turning 25 and turning 30 in 2013. Here are some that are turning the big 5-0.

1. Beatlemania

Though the Beatles wouldn’t visit America until 1964, they were already making British girls go wild in 1963, with three UK number one singles (which stayed at the top for a combined total of 18 weeks) and a debut album that seemed to stay in the top 10 forever. When they visited the London Palladium to record a TV show in October, screaming fans crowded the streets, causing traffic jams at airports. The next month, they topped the bill at the Royal Variety Performance in London, where the Queen was somewhat more well behaved. 

2. The computer mouse

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Doug Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) invented the computer "mouse" in 1963 as an efficient way to control a pointer on a graphics display screen. With a small wooden box, moving around on wheels, and connected to a computer with a cable, “mouse” seemed like a logical name.

3. Weight Watchers

Housewife Jean Nidetch started the first Weight Watchers club after trying every fad diet, losing weight with each one, then regaining it due to her “promiscuous” eating habits. In 1961, despite all the past slimming, she weighed 214 pounds. She sought help from a New York obesity clinic, and invited overweight friends to form a group, meeting weekly to support each other through the dieting. From this club grew a multi-million-dollar empire.

4. Push-button telephones

The Bell System released the first publicly available push-button telephone in 1963. Still, dialing disks remained the standard method of entering numbers on telephones (hence “dialing”) for another 20 years, while push-button phones remained hi-tech and futuristic. 

5. Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt...

Michael Jordan turned 50 back in February. Johnny Depp will hit the half-century mark on June 9, which is probably why he’s starting to age. (He looks at least 30!) If it’s any consolation to him, he’s not the only one. Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino, Andrew Sullivan, Tori Amos, Edie Falco, Helen Hunt, John Stamos, Charles Barkley, Gary Kasparov, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Scarborough, Coolio, Julian Lennon, Jet Li, Conan O’Brien, James Hetfield, Norm Macdonald, Mike Myers, Steven Soderbergh, politician Rand Paul, and Japan’s Crown Princess Masako all will celebrate (or already celebrated) their fiftieth birthdays in 2013.

6. Marvel’s The Avengers

Nearly 50 years before the movie, Marvel Comics first published The Avengers, a superhero team comprised of some of their most popular solo characters—Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. (The last two haven’t yet made it to the big screen.) Since then, dozens of others have joined, including Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Black Widow, and Daredevil.

7. The X-Men

In November—the same month as the first issue of The Avengers and, again, years before the movies—Marvel also published the first issue of The Uncanny X-Men, about a team of young mutant heroes. They battled their arch-foe, Magneto, in the very first issue. 

8. Smiley face

Harvey Ball designed the smiley face in 1963 to cheer up and motivate the bored office workers at State Mutual Life Assurance Company. It was originally just the smile, but when cynical people turned it upside down to make a frown, Bell added two dots for eyes.

9. The Rolling Stones

They actually got together in London at the end of 1962, but in 1963 they recruited drummer Charlie Watts, released their first single (the Chuck Berry song "Come On," which they hated), and changed their name from “the Rollin’ Stones” to the Rolling Stones. In this, they were bucking a musical trend at the time: removing the G from any word ending in “ing.”

10. “Blowin’ in the Wind”

See what I mean? Bob Dylan’s peace anthem—also a hit that year for Peter, Paul and Mary—lost the G. So did Dylan’s song “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” and his new album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which turned him into a star that year.

11. “Surfin’ USA”

“Blowin’ in the Wind” wasn’t the only anthem that year to drop the G. The Beach Boys’ anthem for surfers everywhere (not just the USA) was bought by millions of kids that year, most of whom probably didn’t notice that they’d copied the tune from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

12. Compact cassettes

Before digital recording, this was the cheapest way for kids in the seventies and eighties to record, and the most compact and portable way to play their favorite albums. The first C60 cassettes (30 minutes each side) were produced by Philips in 1963.

13. ZIP Codes

Announced on April 30, 1963, and put into effect on July 1, ZIP—or Zoning Improvement Plan—codes gave the post office a better, more efficient way to sort mail. According to USPS, "The first digit designated a broad geographical area of the United States, ranging from zero for the Northeast to nine for the far West. This number was followed by two digits that more closely pinpointed population concentrations and those sectional centers accessible to common transportation networks. The final two digits designated small Post Offices or postal zones in larger zoned cities." The use of ZIP codes wasn't mandatory until 1967.

14. Tennis for women

The Federation Cup, the premier team competition in women’s tennis (now known as the Fed Cup), and the first tennis tournament to invite women from outside the U.S. and Britain, premiered in 1963. The first Federation Cup had no prize money, and teams had to meet their own expenses. Sponsorship would change that, and now, winning the Federation Cup could be quite a lucrative accomplishment.

15. The Fugitive

Almost three decades before Harrison Ford tried to find the one-armed man, the original TV series starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, on the run for a murder he didn’t commit. The final episode in 1967, in which the true murderer confesses, broke ratings records.

16. The Great Train Robbery

On August 8, in one of Britain’s most celebrated crimes, a gang of at least 15 men, armed and wearing masks, hijacked the night mail train from Glasgow to London, taking mailbags worth more than 2.5 million pounds. The most famous member of the gang, Ronald Biggs, was arrested soon afterwards, but escaped from prison in 1965 and fled to Australia. Pursued by police, he settled in Brazil for many years, with an income generated mainly by media interviews. He eventually returned home—and was promptly re-arrested. 

17. Hang-gliding

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Primitive hang-gliders, most of them dangerous, were used by daredevil birdmen before the Wright Brothers. However, it was in 1963 that an Australian, John W. Dickenson, adapted the flexible wing concept of earlier designs to make a new, vastly improved water-ski kite glider. In 2006, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale gave Dickenson the Hang Gliding Diploma (2006) for the invention of the “real” hang-glider.

18. Hover mowers

Lawnmowers had remained basically unchanged since the first rotary-blade mowers in the 1930s ... until Swedish inventor Karl Dahlman, inspired by the hovercraft, invented the Aktiebolaget Flymo, a mower that would hover above the grass, taking the weight out of mowing.

19. Hypertext

The word “hypertext,” the idea behind a common text based system for linking computer information that led to the internet (and the H in HTTP and HTML), was coined by Ted Nelson in 1963.

20. “I have a dream”

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speech was made in Washington on August 28, to a gathering of 200,000 people. President Kennedy, not a bad orator himself, also said a few words, but it was King who truly inspired the crowd (and millions of others): “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

21. “Segregation forever”

From the other end of the political spectrum, it should be mentioned that King was up against the likes of the governor of Alabama, George Wallace. When he was sworn in on January 14, he pledged “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” Many civil rights demonstrations followed. In September, an African American church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls. 

22. “Ich bin ein Berliner”

President Kennedy famously said these words in June at the Brandenburg Gate to boost the morale of West Berliners, more than a million of whom had turned out to greet him. Despite the urban legend, it really did mean “I am a Berliner” (as he had planned), and not “I am a jelly doughnut.” 

23. The election of Pope Paul VI

Following the surprise death of Pope John XXIII after only four years, Giovanni Battista Montini was elected Pope on June 21. Known for his liberal views and support of social reform, he would be the perfect Pope for the 1960s—though many didn’t believe that his reforms went far enough. He led until his death in 1978.

24. Iron Man

Two years before Robert Downey, Jr. was born, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created this superhero at Marvel Comics. In his origin story, Iron Man first built his armor to save his heart in Vietnam. As the years have worn on (and he hasn’t aged), the location has changed a few times. Most recently, he was serving in the Middle East.

25. Kenya

On December 12, Kenya became the 34th African nation to achieve independence, as the Duke of Edinburgh officially handed the nation to its new rulers.

26. Dead-donor kidney transplants

Kidney transplants had been successfully performed since 1958, but this was the first year that doctors successfully transplanted a kidney from a dead man, with the consent of his relatives. The kidney was cooled for preservation, then joined to the blood vessels of a living patient, bypassing his diseased kidneys.

27. Lava lamps

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The lamp with the psychedelic effect, soon to be part of many hip sixties bedside tables (even John Lennon had one), was invented by eccentric British entrepreneur Edward Craven-Walker. If you feel like going retro, you can still get one today.

28. Cleopatra


Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s most notorious movie, this was the most expensive film ever made, still recalled as one of the great big-budget duds. Still, it was the number one box-office film of the year, and did indeed make a profit—eventually.

29. The Alphanumeric APS2

Twenty years before Microsoft Word, this was the first phototypesetting machine to generate characters onto a cathode ray tube, leading to the next generation in phototypesetting. If you went back in time, and you didn’t know better, you could swear that you were witnessing early personal computers (and in a way, that’s what they were).

30. Lilies of the Field

A milestone film, this would make Sidney Poitier—playing an unemployed construction worker—the first African American to win an Oscar for best actor.

31. Lamborghini

Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his company in Italy in May 1963, and debuted the first protoype model, the 350 GTV, at the Turin Auto Show in November that same year. (Lamborghini's first production model, the 350 GT, would be manufactured in 1964.)

32. Women in space

Twenty years before Sally Ride became the first female astronaut, 26-year-old Lieutenant Valentina Tereshkova became the first female (human) cosmonaut, when the Soviet Union sent her to circle the Earth 43 times in the Vostok 6 spaceship. Before joining the space program, she worked in a textile factory, and enjoyed skydiving in her spare time.

33. The Eruption of Mount Agung

As in most years, some of the greatest death tolls were caused by nature itself. On March 17, the holy volcano of Mount Agung erupted on the idyllic Indonesian island of Bali, killing 11,000 people. 

34. Modesty Blaise

Writer Peter O’Donnell and artist Jim Holdaway created a British comic strip heroine who proved that a female superspy could be just as cool, capable, sexy and multitalented as James Bond. The strip continued until 2001, still written by O’Donnell. The movies—three have been made so far—haven’t been quite so successful, though Quentin Tarantino has reportedly considered doing one.

35. “Be My Baby”

Decades before he was jailed for murder, Phil Spector was a brilliant, cocky, 23-year-old record producer who already had 11 top-20 songs to his credit. In December, fans heard his greatest production so far: “Be My Baby,” performed by the Ronettes (named after the lead singer Veronica Bennett, who later married him). This was possibly the best example of his famous “wall of sound,” with as many as 30 guitarists and pianists playing as one, every note painstakingly arranged by Spector. It was a nice song, but the innovative production made it a masterwork.

36. Nanoseconds

The new fraction of a second was introduced worldwide, mainly for use in future science fiction movies to describe the speed of unimaginably fast things. For the record, a nanosecond is a billionth of a second. Also in 1963, we were given picoseconds (trillionths of a second) and femtoseconds (1 x 10-15 of a second). How quick is that? Let’s just say that there are more femtoseconds in one second than there are seconds in 31 million years.

37. The killing of Medgar Evers

In one of the milestone tragedies of the era, the Mississippi civil rights leader was shot in the back on the night of June 12. This only served to mobilize the civil rights movement—both black and white protesters—which was supported by President Kennedy. 

38. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

The U.S., the USSR and Britain signed a treaty in Moscow on August 5, banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. Later, 113 other nations also signed—most of whom didn’t even have nuclear plants—and the Cold War ended (well, 27 years later).

39. The Nutty Professor

Jerry Lewis introduced his most famous character—or characters—in this film about a gawky professor who concocts a potion to temporarily turn himself into a debonair playboy (with a passing resemblance to Lewis’s former comedy partner Dean Martin, with whom he’d acrimoniously split). Unlike Eddie Murphy years later, Lewis didn’t play anyone else in the film—though as the director and co-writer, he had plenty to do.

40.

Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece, which has appeared in many lists of the greatest films ever made, premiered in February. Many film buffs, however, were perplexed by its title. Fellini explained that he had added up his feature films: seven films as sole director, plus three collaborations counting as half each. Simple!

41. The Profumo affair

The polite world of British politics was dealt a blow with the revelation that John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, was having an affair with 21-year-old former showgirl Christine Keeler, who was also in a liaison with Soviet naval attaché Eugene Ivanov. By the end of the year, Profumo had resigned from the government for lying to the House of Commons, Keeler was jailed for perjury and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had resigned, and Dr. Stephen Ward, a central figure in the scandal, had taken his own life before he could be sentenced. 

42. The most peaceful violent protest in history

One of the most shocking images of the peace protest movement occurred on June 13, when Buddhist monk Quang Doc set fire to himself, then sat meditating on the streets of Saigon as his body was engulfed in flames. This ritual suicide was a protest against the unfair treatment that the Buddhists felt that they suffered under the South Vietnamese government, led by President Diem.

43. Skateboarding

The first skateboard probably dates back to the 1940s, as something for surfers to use on the streets when the waves weren’t happening. It became a sport in 1963, however, following the surf craze. It was now called “skateboarding,” even though surf music stars Jan and Dean still had a hit song the next year with “Sidewalk Surfin’” (no G, of course). The first world championship was held in 1966, though the “world” didn’t really extend beyond the U.S.A.

44. Science of Being and Art of Living

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s famous tome, which introduced the practice of Transcendental Meditation, would inspire thousands of people to meditate, even though it was self-published and only available through The Age of Enlightenment Press. He had already started teaching TM in the West (after starting in his native India), and would become guru to many, including the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Mia Farrow, Stevie Wonder, Peggy Lee, and Joe Namath.

45. The Birds

Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s final masterpiece (though he would direct another five films), this movie—in which a village is attacked, for no given reason, by murderous flocks of birds—still proves that a horror film doesn’t need eerie music (or, indeed, any music) to scare the pants off audiences. 

46. Astro Boy

The tiny, robotic superhero Tetsuwan-Atom had already been the hero of Japanese comics (manga) since 1951 when he debuted on Japanese television. The same year, animation cels were added for a U.S. version, Astro Boy, which was sponsored by NBC and syndicated nationwide.

47. Zanzibar

Though this East African country had been a sultanate hundreds of years earlier, it gained independence from Great Britain in December as a constitutional monarchy. A month later, after the violent Zanzibar Revolution, it became the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. In April 1964, the republic merged with the United Republic of Tanganyika, and they were renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. After one of the shortest histories of any nation, Zanzibar has been a semi-autonomous region ever since.

48. "Pop art" at the Guggenheim

The first large exhibition of this new and super-cool art style at New York’s Guggenheim Museum opened in March, featuring such artists as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

49. The JFK assassination

The biggest news story of the year. When President Kennedy was murdered on November 22, watched by scores of horrified onlookers, the nation—and the world—was in tears. Though Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, we are still debating who was really responsible. 

50. Doctor Who


Courtesy of WhatCulture

One of the biggest fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2013 will be for an event that was barely noticed at the time. The first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast in Britain by the BBC on November 23, 1963—and was upstaged by the Kennedy assassination the day before. The most famous Doctor Who monsters, the Daleks, would make their debut the next month.

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(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
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Animals
The Time Carl Akeley Killed a Leopard With His Bare Hands
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.

Carl Akeley had plenty of close encounters with animals in his long career as a naturalist and taxidermist. There was the time a bull elephant had charged him on Mount Kenya, nearly crushing him; the time he was unarmed and charged by three rhinos who missed him, he said later, only because the animals had such poor vision; and the time the tumbling body of a silverback gorilla he'd just shot almost knocked him off a cliff. This dangerous tradition began on his very first trip to Africa, where, on an otherwise routine hunting trip, the naturalist became the prey.

It was 1896. Following stints at Ward’s Natural Science Establishment and the Milwaukee Public Museum, Akeley, 32, had just been appointed chief taxidermist for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and he was tasked with gathering new specimens to bolster the 3-year-old museum's fledgling collections. After more than four months of travel and numerous delays, the expedition had reached the plains of Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia, where Akeley hunted for specimens for days without success.

Then, one morning, Akeley managed to shoot a hyena shortly after he left camp. Unfortunately, “one look at his dead carcass was enough to satisfy me that he was not as desirable as I had thought, for his skin was badly diseased,” he later wrote in his autobiography, In Brightest Africa. He shot a warthog, a fine specimen, but what he really wanted was an ostrich—so he left the carcass behind, climbed a termite hill to look for the birds, then took off after a pair he saw in the tall grass.

But the ostriches eluded him at every turn, so he returned to camp and grabbed the necessary tools to cut off the head of his warthog. However, when he and a “pony boy” got to the spot where he’d left the carcass, all that remained was a bloodstain. “A crash in the bushes at one side led me in a hurry in that direction and a little later I saw my pig's head in the mouth of a hyena travelling up the slope of a ridge out of range,” Akeley wrote. “That meant that my warthog specimen was lost, and, having got no ostriches, I felt it was a pretty poor day.”

As the sun began to set, Akeley and the boy turned back to camp. “As we came near to the place where I had shot the diseased hyena in the morning, it occurred to me that perhaps there might be another hyena about the carcass, and feeling a bit ‘sore’ at the tribe for stealing my warthog, I thought I might pay off the score by getting a good specimen of a hyena for the collections,” he wrote. But that carcass was gone, too, with a drag trail in the sand leading into the bush.

Akeley heard a sound, and, irritated, “did a very foolish thing,” firing into the bush without seeing what he was shooting at. He knew, almost immediately, that he'd made a mistake: The answering snarl told him that what he’d fired at was not a hyena at all, but a leopard.

The taxidermist began thinking of all the things he knew about the big cats. A leopard, he wrote,

“... has all the qualities that gave rise to the ‘nine lives’ legend: To kill him you have got to kill him clear to the tip of his tail. Added to that, a leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.”

Akeley beat a hasty retreat. He’d return the next morning, he figured, when he could see better; if he’d wounded the leopard, he could find it again then. But the leopard had other ideas. It pursued him, and Akeley fired again, even though he couldn’t see enough to aim. “I could see where the bullets struck as the sand spurted up beyond the leopard. The first two shots went above her, but the third scored. The leopard stopped and I thought she was killed.”

The leopard had not been killed. Instead, she charged—and Akeley’s magazine was empty. He reloaded the rifle, but as he spun to face the leopard, she leapt on him, knocking it out of his hands. The 80-pound cat landed on him. “Her intention was to sink her teeth into my throat and with this grip and her forepaws hang to me while with her hind claws she dug out my stomach, for this pleasant practice is the way of leopards,” Akeley wrote. “However, happily for me, she missed her aim.” The wounded cat had landed to one side; instead of Akeley’s throat in her mouth, she had his upper right arm, which had the fortuitous effect of keeping her hind legs off his stomach.

It was good luck, but the fight of Akeley’s life had just begun.

Using his left hand, he attempted to loosen the leopard’s hold. “I couldn't do it except little by little,” he wrote. “When I got grip enough on her throat to loosen her hold just a little she would catch my arm again an inch or two lower down. In this way I drew the full length of the arm through her mouth inch by inch.”

He felt no pain, he wrote, “only of the sound of the crushing of tense muscles and the choking, snarling grunts of the beast.” When his arm was nearly free, Akeley fell on the leopard. His right hand was still in her mouth, but his left hand was still on her throat. His knees were on her chest and his elbows in her armpits, “spreading her front legs apart so that the frantic clawing did nothing more than tear my shirt.”

It was a scramble. The leopard tried to twist around and gain the advantage, but couldn’t get purchase on the sand. “For the first time,” Akeley wrote, “I began to think and hope I had a chance to win this curious fight.”

He called for the boy, hoping he’d bring a knife, but received no response. So he held on to the animal and “continued to shove the hand down her throat so hard she could not close her mouth and with the other I gripped her throat in a stranglehold.” He bore down with his full weight on her chest, and felt a rib crack. He did it again—another crack. “I felt her relax, a sort of letting go, although she was still struggling. At the same time I felt myself weakening similarly, and then it became a question as to which would give up first.”

Slowly, her struggle ceased. Akeley had won. He lay there for a long time, keeping the leopard in his death grip. “After what seemed an interminable passage of time I let go and tried to stand, calling to the pony boy that it was finished.” The leopard, he later told Popular Science Monthly, had then shown signs of life; Akeley used the boy’s knife to make sure it was really, truly dead.

Akeley’s arm was shredded, and he was weak—so weak that he couldn’t carry the leopard back to camp. “And then a thought struck me that made me waste no time,” he told Popular Science. “That leopard has been eating the horrible diseased hyena I had killed. Any leopard bite is liable to give one blood poison, but this particular leopard’s mouth must have been exceptionally foul.”

He and the boy must have been quite the sight when they finally made it back to camp. His companions had heard the shots, and figured Akeley had either faced off with a lion or the natives; whatever the scenario, they figured Akeley would prevail or be defeated before they could get to him, so they kept on eating dinner. But when Akeley appeared, with “my clothes ... all ripped, my arm ... chewed into an unpleasant sight, [with] blood and dirt all over me,” he wrote in In Brightest Africa, “my appearance was quite sufficient to arrest attention.”

He demanded all the antiseptics the camp had to offer. After he'd been washed with cold water, “the antiseptic was pumped into every one of the innumerable tooth wounds until my arm was so full of the liquid that an injection in one drove it out of another,” he wrote. “During the process I nearly regretted that the leopard had not won.”

When that was done, Akeley was taken to his tent, and the dead leopard was brought in and laid out next to his cot. Her right hind leg was wounded—which, he surmised, had come from his first shot into the brush, and was what had thrown off her pounce—and she had a flesh wound in the back of her neck where his last shot had hit her, “from the shock of which she had instantly recovered.”

Not long after his close encounter with the leopard, the African expedition was cut short when its leader contracted malaria, and Akeley returned to Chicago. The whole experience, he wrote to a friend later, transported him back to a particular moment at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which he’d visited after creating taxidermy mounts for the event. “As I struggled to wrest my arm from the mouth of the leopard I recalled vividly a bronze at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, depicting the struggle between a man and bear, the man’s arm in the mouth of the bear,” he wrote. “I had stood in front of this bronze one afternoon with a doctor friend and we discussed the probable sensations of a man in this predicament, wondering whether or not the man would be sensible to the pain of the chewing and the rending of his flesh by the bear. I was thinking as the leopard tore at me that now I knew exactly what the sensations were, but that unfortunately I would not live to tell my doctor friend.”

In the moment, though, there had been no pain, “just the joy of a good fight,” Akeley wrote, “and I did live to tell my [doctor] friend all about it.”

Additional source: Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
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crime
Meghan Markle Is Related to H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer, According to New Documentary
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network

Between staging paparazzi photos and writing open letters to Prince Harry advising him to call off his wedding, Meghan Markle’s family has been keeping the media pretty busy lately. But it turns out that her bloodline's talent for grabbing headlines dates back much further than the announcement that Markle and Prince Harry were getting hitched—and for much more sinister reasons. According to Meet the Markles, a new television documentary produced for England’s Channel Four, the former Suits star has a distant relation to H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.

The claim comes from Holmes’s great-great-grandson, American lawyer Jeff Mudgett, who recently discovered that he and Markle are eighth cousins. If that connection is correct, then it would mean that Markle, too, is related to Holmes.

While finding out that you’re related—however distantly—to a man believed to have murdered 27 people isn’t something you’d probably want to share with Queen Elizabeth II when asking her to pass the Yorkshire pudding over Christmas dinner, what makes the story even more interesting is that Mudgett believes that his great-great-grandpa was also Jack the Ripper!

Mudgett came to this conclusion based on Holmes’s personal diaries, which he inherited. In 2017, American Ripper—an eight-part History Channel series—investigated Mudgett’s belief that Holmes and Jack were indeed one in the same.

When asked about his connection to Markle, and their shared connection to Holmes—and, possibly, Jack the Ripper—Mudgett replied:

“We did a study with the FBI and CIA and Scotland Yard regarding handwriting analysis. It turns out [H. H. Holmes] was Jack the Ripper. This means Meghan is related to Jack the Ripper. I don’t think the Queen knows. I am not proud he is my ancestor. Meghan won’t be either.”

Shortly thereafter he clarified his comments via his personal Facebook page:

In the 130 years since Jack the Ripper terrorized London’s Whitechapel neighborhood, hundreds of names have been put forth as possible suspects, but authorities have never been able to definitively conclude who committed the infamous murders. So if Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll could have done it, why not the distant relative of the royal family's newest member?

[h/t: ID CrimeFeed]

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