Original image
Getty Images

5 of History's Biggest Killjoys

Original image
Getty Images

Who would declare war on Christmas, alcohol, and sex? These extremely uptight people.

1. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658): Stole Christmas

Technically, it wasn't Cromwell himself (above) that stole Father Christmas from England in the 1640s. It was the government he presided over as Lord Protector. During the brief period between the execution of King Charles the First and the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, Christmas was forbidden.

Cromwell and the commonwealth government he led were strongly Puritan. Puritans thought celebrating such a solemn occasion as Christ's birth with feasting and parties was repugnant, and without Biblical base. They also thought that having a "Christ's Mass" sounded much too Catholic. They abolished all traditional Holy Days (holidays) except for Sunday, and set up the second Tuesday of each month as a secular day off.

Everybody hated it.

Cromwell died in 1658, and the monarchy, and Christmas, was restored in 1660... at which time Cromwell's corpse was dug up, hung from chains, decapitated, and thrown in a pit with his head impaled on a pike. Because you don't mess with Christmas.

2. Carrie Nation (1846–1911): Attacked alcohol with a hatchet

It is tempting to hate Carrie Nation. This angry woman took it upon herself to forcibly free America from the vice of alcohol (decades before the U.S. government attempted the same with Prohibition). But she did it with such style! In the beginning, she would just stand outside saloons singing hymns, or greeting the bartenders as they opened up with, "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls!"

Then things took a turn. God apparently told her to smash all of a local saloon's stock with rocks, so she did. She entered Dobson's Saloon in Kansas on June 7, 1899, shouting, "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate!" Smashing felt right, and garnered much publicity, so she got a hatchet to do the job more effectively.

Between 1900 and 1910 she was arrested 30 times for attacking the liquor supply of saloons, administering what she called "Hatchetations."

Some historians believe it was the death of her alcoholic husband that set Carrie down the road to violently enforced temperance. Others note the strain of mental illness running in her family (both her mother and daughter spent the majority of their lives institutionalized). Carrie died in 1911, and never saw Prohibition enacted in 1920, the same year women got the right to vote. That was not a coincidence. Historians believe her campaigns paved the way for the U.S. government's attempt (and fantastic failure) to save the country from demon alcohol.

3. Will H. Hays (1879–1954): Sanitized the movies

In the 1920s, movies didn't get rated. Though most early motion picture content is incredibly tame by today's standards (if you ignore the racism and sexism and other modern -isms), contemporary viewers still found much to be offended by.

A campaign began to make it illegal to distribute any movie that didn't represent excellent morals and piety. As it was, each state had its own motion picture board that would censor each movie as they saw fit. Divorce treated lightly? Out. Gold miners drinking whiskey? Out. Too much wiggle in Clara Bow's bottom? Out. And the studio that made the movie had to pay for it: the editing, the redistribution, everything.

So Hollywood called on Will H. Hays, manager of President Harding's successful campaign, to be the new president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. They wanted him to clean up the image of Hollywood and staunch the hemorrhage of money being paid to state censors.

He wrote rules for making clean movies, but at first, neither the studios nor the public liked them. In 1930, a group of Catholic priests presented Hays a code that one of them, Father Daniel A. Lord (who would be the REAL wet blanket here, except priests really don't count), had written. Hays thought it was perfect and implemented it.

The studios initially balked at having their art restricted. Then in 1934, under threats of boycotts and other financial woes, the MPPDA agreed to voluntarily send all films through the Hays Code censors before release. The code stayed intact until the 1960s, when modern lettered, age-appropriate ratings replaced them.

4. Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825): Purified Shakespeare

When Thomas was a boy, his father used to read the family Shakespeare. When he grew up, he realized that his father had been omitting or changing anything that was lurid. Lady Macbeth cried, "Out, crimson spot!" and Ophelia's drowning was most certainly an unfortunate accident.

And so, when Bowdler grew up, he and his sisters wrote (or rather, edited) The Family Shakespeare.

To Bowdler's credit, he did not want to remove the impurities of Shakespeare for the sake of the entire populace, just the soft impressionable minds of women and children. Still, his name became a verb, to bowdlerize: "Remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), esp. with the result that it becomes weaker or less."

5. Anthony Comstock (1844–1915): Totalitarian dictator of sex

Anthony Comstock was the nation's self-appointed chastity belt. As a traveling salesman in New York during the mid-19th century, he was disgusted by what he saw as a society sick and degraded by obscenity and pornography. At first he just took it upon himself to be an informant, supplying information to the police so they could do prostitution busts. Then he drafted his own anti-obscenity bill, and headed off to Congress.

Comstock's law against obscenity — which prevented the printing, sale, or distribution of sexually obscene literature or devices through the mail — passed in 1873. It also banned birth control devices, as well as information about birth control or sexual health. So Americans were the only soldiers sent overseas in WWI without standard issued condoms, and any married woman who wanted legal help from her doctor to prevent constant pregnancy was told to stop having so much sex.

Comstock also founded the utterly terrifying New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose agents were granted the right of search, seizure, and arrest by New York state. For every bookseller they had arrested for selling obscene material (like James Joyce novels), and for every Broadway play they had shut down, they received 50 percent of the fines the violator had to pay. The society dissolved in the 1950s.

More from The Week...

4 NSA Terms You Should Know


Are Digital Cameras Doomed?


How Wolves Are Helping Feed Hungry Grizzlies in Yellowstone

The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

Original image
The Hospital in the Rock
Budapest’s Former Top-Secret Hospital Inside a Cave
Original image
The Hospital in the Rock

At the top of a hill in Budapest, overlooking the Danube River, sits Buda Castle, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site visited by thousands of tourists every year. Directly underneath the castle, however, lies a less-frequented tourist attraction: a series of ancient, naturally formed caves with a colorful and sometimes disturbing history.

The entire cave system is over six miles long, and most of that has been left unchanged since it was used as cold storage (and a rumored dungeon) in the Middle Ages. Between 1939 and 2008, however, a half-mile stretch of those caves was built up and repurposed many times over. Known as Sziklakorhaz or The Hospital in the Rock, its many uses are a testament to the area’s involvement in World War II and the Cold War.

At the start of World War II, the location served as a single-room air raid center, but operating theaters, corridors, and wards were quickly added to create a much-needed hospital. By early 1944, the hospital had officially opened inside the cave, tending to wounded Hungarian and Nazi soldiers. After less than a year of operation, the facility found itself facing its largest challenge—the Siege of Budapest, which lasted seven weeks and was eventually won by Allied forces on their way to Berlin.

As one of the few area hospitals still operational, the Hospital in the Rock was well over capacity during the siege. Originally built to treat around 70 patients, close to 700 ended up crammed into the claustrophobic caves. The wounded lay three to a bed—if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all. Unsurprisingly, heat from all those bodies raised the ambient temperature to around 95°F, and smoking cigarettes was the number one way to pass the time. Add that to the putrid mix of death, decay, and infection and you’ve got an incredibly unpleasant wartime cocktail.

A recreation inside the museum. Image credit: The Hospital in the Rock 

After the siege, the Soviets took control of the caves (and Budapest itself) and gutted the hospital of most of its supplies. Between 1945 and 1948, the hospital produced a vaccination for typhus. As the icy grasp of the Cold War began to tighten, new wards were built, new equipment was installed, and the hospital was designated top-secret by the Soviets, referred to only by its official codename LOSK 0101/1.

Eleven years after facing the horrors of the Siege of Budapest, in 1956, the hospital hosted the casualties of another battle: The Hungarian Uprising. Thousands of Hungarians revolted against the Soviet policies of the Hungarian People’s Republic in a fierce, prolonged battle. Civilians and soldiers alike lay side-by-side in wards as surgeons attempted to save them. During the uprising, seven babies were also born in the hospital.

Surgeons lived on-site and rarely surfaced from the caves. The hospital’s chief surgeon at the time, Dr. András Máthé, famously had a strict "no amputation" rule, which seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but in the end reportedly saved many patients' lives. (Máthé also reportedly wore a bullet that he’d removed from a patient’s head on a chain around his neck.)

The Hospital in the Rock ceased normal operations in December 1956, after the Soviets squashed the uprising, as the Soviets had new plans for the caves. With the Cold War now in full swing, the still-secret site was converted into a bunker that could serve as a hospital in case of nuclear attack. Diesel engines and an air conditioning system were added in the early '60s, so that even during a blackout, the hospital could still function for a couple of days.

The Hospital in the Rock

The official plan for the bunker was as follows: In the event of a nuclear attack, a selection of doctors and nurses would retreat to the bunker, where they would remain for 72 hours. Afterward, they were to go out and search for survivors. Special quarantined rooms, showering facilities, and even a barbershop were on site for survivors brought back to the site. (The only haircut available to them, however, was a shaved head; radioactive material is notoriously difficult to remove from hair.)

Thankfully, none of these nuclear procedures were ever put into practice. But the hospital was never formally decommissioned, and it wasn’t relieved of its top-secret status until the mid-2000s. For a while, it was still being used as a storage facility by Hungary’s Civil Defense Force. The bunker was maintained by a nearby family, who were sworn to secrecy. In 2004, it was decided that responsibility for the site fell solely on St. John’s Hospital in Budapest, who were seen as the de facto owners in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By 2008 the bunker was renovated, refurbished, and ready to be opened to the public. Today it operates as a museum, with exhibits detailing life in the hospital from various periods of its history, as well as the history of combat medicine as a whole. The sobering hour-long walk around the hospital concludes with a cautionary gaze into the atrocities of nuclear attacks, with the final walk to the exit featuring a gallery of art created by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Another part of the caves beneath Buda Castle. Image credit:Sahil Jatana via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The caves beneath Buda Castle have certainly had a bumpy history, and walking through them now is chilling (and not just because they keep the temperature at around 60°F). A tour through the narrow, oppressive hallways is a glimpse at our narrowly avoided nuclear future—definitely a sobering way to spend an afternoon.


More from mental floss studios