The Extremely Real Science behind the Basilisk’s Lethal Gaze
According to the extramission theory of vision, our eyes send out beams of elemental fire that spread, nerve like, to create the visual field.
Why Did “Thieves’ Cant” Carry an Unshakeable Allure?
If thieves’ cant—a language known only to criminals—was the Devil’s cabinet, bourgeois society couldn’t help but peep inside.
The Cadaver Synod: Putting a Dead Pope on Trial
Why did Pope Stephen VI go to such great lengths to destroy an enemy who was already dead?
Public Dissection Was a Gruesome Spectacle
Renaissance-era anatomists taught people to “knowe thyself” by reading the books of bodies.
When Dancing Plagues Struck Medieval Europe
The tarantella is named for a peasant woman from southern Italy whose tarantula bite started a contagious dancing fever!
Elixirs of Immortal Life Were a Deadly Obsession
The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose
Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.
The Tangled History of Weaving with Spider Silk
Spider silk is as strong as steel and as light as a feather, but attempts to industrialize its production have gotten stuck, so to speak.
A Recipe for Flies and Frogs
And other wonders of spontaneous generation.
There’s Someone Buried under the Floor!
The story of a building that will not stand until a living human being is imprisoned in its foundations is so common as to form it own genre.