Every now and then, a strange but true historical fact will be posted on social media. And sometimes you may read them and think that there is no way that they are real. However, fact can be stranger than fiction. I found three strange but real historical facts which I found interesting.
First, John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States of America, is the earliest former President with living grandchildren. That’s right, a man who died 153 years ago still have living grandchildren. How is this possible? John Tyler’s son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Sr was born in 1853 when Tyler was 63. Lyon Tyler than had two sons, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. (born 1924) and Harrison Ruffin Tyler (born 1928) when he was 71 and 75. As of 2015, those two sons are still alive at the ages of 91 and 87. It is strange to think that a man who was president in 1841 still has living grandchildren. Strange but true.
Second, the swastika has become a symbol of hate and Nazism but for over 3,000 years, it was actually a symbol of goodness and good luck. The symbol, which in Sanskrit means “well-being” had been used by cultures all over the world including Greco-Romans, Celts. Early Christians, Jews, Hindus and Native Americans. I learned the true meaning of the swastika from an episode of History Detectives (originally aired July 13, 2009) when a Native American rug was investigated because it had the swastika symbol. According to Navajo legend, the swastika symbol is known as the Whirling Log and is used in healing ceremonies. It is associated with the narrative of a man (sometimes called the Culture Hero) who takes a journey down the San Juan River and during his adventures encounters Yei figures. From the Yeis, he learns knowledge that he brings back to his people. It is sad that a symbol that once meant for well-being not only brings images of hate and evil.
Lastly, Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) issued the papal bull, Vox in Rama which condemned a German heresy known as Luciferian. It was issued to King Henry, son of Emperor Frederick II of Germany in June 1233 and then to Archbishop Siegfried III of Mainz, demanding that all efforts be taken to stop the practice. In the bull, the association of cats with devil worship is first made, according to historian Donald Engels. Engels claimed, the bull was “a death warrant for the [cat] which would be continued to be slaughtered without mercy until the early 19th century.” It is believed that very few black cats survive in Western Europe as a result. If that is true or not hasn’t been substantiated. There is the belief that the sudden lack of cats led to the spread of disease because infected rates ran free. The most devastating, the Bubonic Plague, killed 100 million people. One false association can led to the devastation of millions. Strange but possibly true.
So, if you ever come across a strange piece of information don’t just dismiss it as false internet information because it could be true. As Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Therefore, things can happen beyond what we could possible imagine could happen.