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10 Middle Children Who Really Stood Out

They say that eldest children are more likely to be high achievers and youngest children are more likely to be rebellious, where does that leave middle children? Despite the fact that studies have shown that birth order has no bearing on personality or intelligence, the stereotype of the middle child as continually ignored, invisible, or inadequate persists. But not all middle children supposedly stay in the shadows of their older and younger siblings. Here are 10 middle children—from the worlds of literature, politics, philanthropy, sports, music, and acting—who really stood out.

1. ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Best known for writing A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most acclaimed authors of the 20th century. With his one older and four younger siblings, Hemingway grew up immersed in nature—often fishing and hunting—which heavily influenced his writing. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

2. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

Author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Connecticut in 1811. Besides novels, she wrote short stories, travel memoirs, textbooks, biographies, and religious works. As the sixth of 11 children, she was smack dab in the middle of her siblings. Although some of her siblings became notable in their own right—her brothers were ministers while her sisters worked to get women the right to vote and the opportunities for education—Beecher Stowe stood out for her contribution to the antislavery movement with her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

3. LARRY BIRD

February 1988. Getty

Born in Indiana in 1956, Larry Bird, along with his three older and two younger siblings, grew up poor. In high school, he focused on honing his basketball skills but later dropped out of college to drive a garbage truck. After his father committed suicide, Bird returned to school and began playing basketball for the Boston Celtics in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, his consistency, diligence, and skill on the court impressed fans, earning him the nickname Larry Legend. According to the former commissioner of the National Basketball Association, "Larry Bird has helped define the way a generation of basketball fans has come to view and appreciate the NBA." After retiring in 1992, Bird became a basketball coach and consultant.

4. WARREN BUFFETT

As one of the world’s wealthiest people, investor Warren Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha. Born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, Buffett had one older and one younger sister. As a teenager, he worked a paper route, sold soft drinks, and rented out land to make money. Although he’s now in his mid eighties, he’s still the chairman and CEO of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, and the billionaire contributes large sums of money to charities such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

5. PRINCESS DIANA

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Diana Frances Spencer—who later became Diana, Princess of Wales—had two older sisters and a younger brother. She used her power as a royal figure to work for humanitarian organizations around the world. Notably, throughout the 1980s and '90s, she raised awareness of the dangers of landmines, helped AIDS patients, and supported children’s hospitals. To honor her legacy, her younger brother, Charles Spencer, recently announced the Diana Awards, which will be given to London kids and teens who campaign for anti-bullying and other social causes.

6. SOFIA VERGARA

Although she’s now famous around the world for her starring role as Gloria on Modern Family, Sofia Vergara grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia as one of five kids. In the 1990s, she hosted Spanish-language TV shows for Univision, but a thyroid cancer diagnosis in 2000 forced her to pause her career. After treatment, she beat the cancer and has since campaigned to raise awareness for hypothyroidism, and has served as a spokeswoman for Synthroid, a thyroid medication.

7. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s older sister, Christine King Farris, is an author and teacher at Spelman College, and his younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King, was a minister and civil rights activist. But middle child MLK Jr. (born Michael King Jr.) will forever be remembered for his work to achieve racial equality and civil rights for all Americans. King led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, advocated for nonviolent forms of protest, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

8. BILL GATES

Like his friend Warren Buffett, Bill Gates grew up with an older and a younger sister. Born in Seattle in 1955, Gates started programming as a teenager and ultimately started Microsoft with Paul Allen. With his wife, Gates established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to focus on philanthropy. The foundation works to improve educational opportunities and global health.

9. AVRIL LAVIGNE

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Growing up with one older brother and one younger sister in a small Canadian town, Avril Lavigne said "see ya later boy" to her hometown and signed a record deal at age 16. She has since sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. In 2010, she established the Avril Lavigne Foundation to partner with nonprofits that focus on children and health. Her foundation has supported music therapy for sick children, sponsored Special Olympics athletes, and provided treatment for kids and young adults with Lyme disease.

10. THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Theodore Roosevelt, the second of four siblings, and was the youngest person ever to become president. A hero in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt served as New York’s governor and the country’s vice president before becoming president in 1901. He broke up monopolies, participated in the Panama Canal’s construction, won a Nobel Peace Prize, conserved lands for public use, and, hilariously, popularized a number of still-used phrases, such as square deal and pussyfooting.

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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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