The Quick 10: 10 Famous Soothsayers

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Oh, _flossers, beware the Ides of March!! If only Caesar had heeded the similar warning he received the day he was assassinated (more on that in a second). You don't have to go back to the days of Caesar to find yourself a soothsayer, though "“ there have been many prophets throughout history (some self-proclaimed). Here are a few of them, starting with the Ides of March man himself.

1. Caesar's Soothsayer. Caesar was warned the Ides of March would be an exceptionally bad day for him by an unnamed seer. The Ides came and were nearly gone when Caesar ran into the seer on his way to the Theatre of Pompey. He basically said to the seer, "So, the Ides are here and nothing has happened, don't you feel stupid?" and the seer responded, "They have come, but they are not gone." The seer was right, of course "“ Caesar was murdered almost as soon as he arrived, stabbed 23 times.

2. Joan Quigley. After Ronald Reagan nearly followed in Caesar's assassinated footsteps in 1981, Nancy Reagan sought the advice of psychic Joan Quigley, whom she had met on The Merv Griffin Show several years earlier. According to Time, no Presidential appearance was made without first consulting Quigley to see if stars aligned or not. For instance, "For the Reagan-Gorbachev Washington summit, she cast the charts of both men and determined that 2 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1987, was the most propitious moment for them to sign the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. At Nancy's behest, the entire summit was built around that hour." When the news broke that the Reagans were using a psychic, the activity was quickly hushed up.

3. The Brahan Seer. This prophet may not have existed at all, but his alleged predictions are legendary in Scotland. Employed by the third Earl of Seaforth, the Seer predicted some pretty bizarre and specific incidents, including that "The day will come when the MacKenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions; their castle will become uninhabited and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of the tower." He also supposedly predicted that the Bonar Bridge would be "swept away under a flock of sheep," and it was washed away in an 1892 flood (the frothy foam-current was said to look like sheep). Another infamous prediction was that when five bridges stretched over the River Ness in Inverness, there would be worldwide chaos. That one was true, too "“ there were five bridges over the river when Hitler invaded Poland. Sadly, one of the Brahan Seer's visions ended up being his undoing. He predicted that his employer, the Earl of Seaforth, was cheating on his wife with numerous women in Paris. Hearing none of it, Lady Seaforth had the Seer burned to death in a spiked tar barrel. Apparently she had never heard of the phrase "Don't shoot the messenger."

4. Nostradamus. No list of soothsayers would be complete without this guy. His prophecies pop up on a fairly regular basis and freak people out when they are able to apply his predictions to current events. Nostradamus himself would probably object to this behavior because he didn't see himself as a prophet and mentioned many times that he didn't guarantee the results of his predictions. One thing he did allegedly get right on the money, though? His death. On July 1, 1566, he is said to have told his secretary, "You will not find me alive at sunrise." He was right "“ the next morning, Nostradamus was found on the floor next to his bed, dead from edema (accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in body cavities). His predictions are far too numerous to mention here, plus, the interpretations and accuracy of each one have been much debated for years. Snopes has a good example of how his predictions get skewed, though.

5. Cassandra. Cassandra is a tragic tale (although most Greek myths are) "“ not only did she have to endure horrific visions of future events, she had to deal with the fact that no one would believe her, even when her visions came true. Word on the street is that when Apollo fell in love with her but discovered she didn't love him back, he exacted his revenge by cursing her with the burden of no one believing her warnings. Those warnings included the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death and her own death.

6. Pythia. Pythia was any priestess who manned the oracle at Delphi (you may have seen her brief, nude appearance in 300). Collectively, the Pythia made more than 500 predictions and statements that leaders would believe to the letter. For example, in the ninth century B.C., Pythia stated that "Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta." As a result, Lycurgus banned silver and gold money and made Spartans lug around coins made of heavy iron instead. And in 67 A.D., she said to Nero, "The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall." Apparently not liking to hear of his inevitable defeat, Nero had Pythia buried alive. He always thought he would die at the age of 73, but actually ended up committing suicide at the age of 30"¦ after a revolt by Galba, who was 73 years old at the time.

7. Edgar Cayce. Cayce was a renowned seer who made his predictions by lying down and entering a trance-like state. While he was in his trance, people would be invited to ask him questions about their future, specifically about their health. Cayce theorized that the unconscious mind had access to all kinds of information the conscious mind didn't. He made more than 20,000 predictions during the period that he was en vogue, from the early 20th century to his death in 1944. His predictions included things that happened (the Great Depression and Hitler) and things that have yet to happen (California crumbling into the ocean; the discovery of Atlantis).

8. The Amazing Criswell. The Amazing Criswell was"¦ well, maybe he was amazing, but not for the accuracy of his predictions. He ran around with Ed Wood and Vampira; the movie Ed Wood suggests Criswell never believed he was psychic and only made his wild predictions because of the fame they brought him. But at least one source who knew him in real life said Criswell once stated, "I had the gift, but lost it when I started taking money for it." His crazy predictions included a ray from outer space that would cause metal to turn to rubber and cause terrible disasters in amusement parks; that by the time the world came to an end in 1999 we would all have resorted to cannibalism; that Mae West would become President of the United States and take a rocket to the moon; and that JFK wouldn't run for re-election in 1964 because something was going to happen to him. Oh wait"¦

9. The Nechung Oracle. The Nechung Oracle is one of a handful of Oracles still regularly used today. He's the State Oracle of Tibet, in fact, and lives with the Dalai Lama. Perhaps the most famous of the Oracle's predictions dates back to 1947, when he accurately predicted that Tibet was headed for times of trouble. He also predicted that the Dalai Lama would have to flee Tibet in upcoming years, and in 1959, exactly that happened.

10. Madam Marie. Madam Marie made her living telling fortunes on the Asbury Park Boardwalk for more than 70 years. The strongest evidence for her prediction accuracy is that she declared fellow Boardwalk busker Bruce Springsteen would become famous. He returned the favor by immortalizing her in song: in "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," he sings, "Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do." Thanks to Bruce, Madam Marie gained somewhat of a celebrity following and told fortunes for Judy Garland, Diane Keaton, Ray Charles, Elton John and Woody Allen, among others.

Did I leave out your favorite? Psychic Sylvia Browne? Miss Cleo? Or is it all a bunch of crap? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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11 Amazing Facts About Alligators

Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images
Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images

Alligators are pretty terrifying as they are, but scientists are making discoveries about the reptilian ambush predators that only add to that reputation.

1. Alligators have an extremely powerful bite.

You really, really don’t want to be bitten by an alligator. A 2004 study of wild and captive alligators found that large individuals bite down with 13,172 Newtons—or 2960 pounds—of force, one of the most powerful bites ever recorded for a living animal [PDF].

2. Alligators can consume almost a quarter of their body weight in one meal.

Alligators don’t have a problem with their eyes being bigger than their stomachs. Thanks to a special blood vessel—the second aorta—they’re able to shunt blood away from their lungs and towards their stomachs, stimulating the production of strong stomach acids to break down their meals faster. Juvenile alligators are capable of eating about 23 percent of their body weight in a sitting, which is equivalent to a 180-pound person eating more than 41 pounds of steak au poivre at a meal.

3. Alligators eat their young.

One of the biggest threats to an American alligator? Other alligators. When alligators are born they’re small enough to be light snacks for their older neighbors, and a 2011 study estimated that, in one Florida lake, bigger alligators ate 6 to 7 percent of the juvenile population every year.

4. An alligator's stomach can dissolve bones.

Alligator resting on a log in a swamp
cbeverly/iStock via Getty Images

An alligator stomach is a hostile environment. Their stomach acids have a pH of less than 2—in the range of lemon juice and vinegar—and most soft-bodied prey is totally digested in two to three days. If you wound up in a gator stomach, however, you'd stick around a bit longer. Bone and other hard parts can take 13 to 100 days to disappear completely.

5. Alligators have antibiotic blood.

Alligators are tough—and not just because of the bony armor in their skins. Serum in American alligator blood is incredibly effective at combating bacteria and viruses, meaning that even alligators that lose limbs in mucky swamps often avoid infection.

6. Prehistoric ancestors of today's alligators lived 70 million years ago.

Alligator forerunners and relatives have been around for a very long time. The largest was Deinosuchus, a 40-foot alligatoroid that lurked in coastal habitats all over North America around 70 million years ago. Damaged bones suggest that unwary dinosaurs were a regular part of the “terrible crocodile's” diet. Fortunately, modern American alligators don’t come anywhere close to measuring up.

7. Alligator pairs often stick together.

A decade-long genetic study of Louisiana alligators found that some females paired with the same males multiple times, with one in particular choosing the same mate in 1997, 2002, and 2005. Even some females that mated with multiple partners still showed long-term fidelity to particular males.

8. Alligators love fruit.

Baby alligator riding on an adult's back
BlueBarronPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

Alligators aren’t strict carnivores. They also eat fruit when they get the chance, and might be important seed-dispersers. That might not sound so scary at first, but just watch this video of an alligator mashing a watermelon.

9. Despite their short legs, alligators can climb trees.

While on the lookout for alligators, you should remember to occasionally look up. American alligators, as well as several other species of crocodilian, are surprisingly accomplished climbers [PDF]. As long as there’s enough of an incline for them to haul themselves up, gators can climb trees to get to a better basking spot, or get the drop on you, as the case may be.

10. Alligators use tools to lure their prey.

Alligators might be reptilian innovators. Scientists have observed Indian and American species of alligator luring waterbirds by placing sticks and twigs across their snouts while they remain submerged. When the birds go to pick up the twigs for nesting material, the gators chomp. 

11. Alligators have no vocal cords, but they still make sounds.

Alligators are among the most vocal reptiles, despite not having vocal cords. By sucking in and then expelling air from their lungs, they can make different sounds to defend their territory, call to mates or their young, or fight off competitors—such as a guttural hiss or a frankly terrifying bellow.

13 Salty Facts About Mr. Peanut

Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

On January 22, 2020, in a morbid bit of pre-Super Bowl marketing, Planters took to the internet to announce that Mr. Peanut—the dapper little legume who has been peddling Planters peanuts for more than a century—has died at the ripe old age of 104. In order to pay tribute to the literal face of America's peanut industry, we’ve assembled some facts and history about this shell of a man.

1. Mr. Peanut was created by a 14-year-old.

Mr. Peanut wasn’t hatched from a cynical ad firm brainstorming session. His adorable visage was the product of a 14-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia named Antonio Gentile. Gentile entered a contest held by the Planters Chocolate and Nut Company in 1916 to crown a new peanut mascot. The aspiring Don Draper sketched out a doodle of a “Mr. P. Nut” strutting with a cane. After getting freshened up by a graphic designer—including donning his trademark spats and monocle—Gentile’s design was picked up and he was awarded $5.

(Postscript: The Gentile family became friendly with the Obici family, owners of the Planters empire, and Gentile’s nephews once suggested that the Obicis helped put him through medical school; he became a surgeon.)

2. Mr. Peanut has a full name.

According to Planters, Mr. Peanut is something of an informal moniker. The full name given to him by Gentile was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

3. Mr. Peanut once weighed more than 300 pounds.

Although peanuts can be a highly sensible snack, full of healthy fats and protein, they can also be a source of too many calories. Case in point: the 300-pound cast iron Mr. Peanut, a display item made in the 1920s and 1930s. Planters would use the heavyset mascot on top of a fence post at their Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania factory.

4. Mr. Peanut survived the Great Depression.

During the economic downturn of the 1930s, things like “snacks” and “nutrition” suddenly became optional rather than expected. Though many food products struggled to cope with slimmed-down wallets, Planters plastered Mr. Peanut on bags of peanuts that sold for just five cents each. Declaring it a “nickel lunch,” the company was able to use the affordability of peanuts as a selling point.

5. Mr. Peanut went to war.


Getty Images

Specifically, World War II. When the U.S. entered the conflict, Mr. Peanut volunteered for service as a character featured on stamps and propaganda posters.

6. Mr. Peanut is a monocle enthusiast.

Food mascots rarely take sides on hot-button issues, but Mr. Peanut made an exception in 2014 when a fashion movement threatened the return of the monocle. After getting wind of men wearing the single-lens reading accessory, Mr. P issued a press release stating that he took notice of the “hipsters” following in his “stylish footsteps” and implied few could pull it off. The monocle has yet to fully re-emerge.

7. Mr. Peanut's Nutmobile predates the Wienermobile.


Planters

Though the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile usually takes most of the engine-driven PR credit, Planters actually introduced the NUTMobile, a shell-shaped portable advertising car, in 1935—a year prior to the Wienermobile’s introduction. A Planters salesman designed and drove the car, adding a decorative Mr. Peanut passenger behind him. (Mr. Peanut did not operate the vehicle because Mr. Peanut is not real.)

8. Mr. Peanut is in the Smithsonian.

How influential has Mr. Peanut been to the food industry? In 2013, the Smithsonian admitted his cast-iron incarnation into its National Museum of American History. The statue was exhibited as part of a series on marketing for the institution’s American Enterprise series; Antonio Gentile’s family also donated his original sketches for posterity.

9. Fans didn't want Mr. Peanut to change.


Planters

For the company's 100th anniversary in 2006, Planters held an online vote to see whether peanut aficionados wanted to see Mr. Peanut experiment with a sartorial change: Fans could vote for adding cufflinks, a bow tie, or a pocket watch. In the end, the ballot determined they wanted to keep him just the way he is.

10. Mr. Peanut has a fan club.

Mr. Peanut has appeared in so many different licensed products in an effort to expand his popularity—clocks, peanut butter grinders, and coloring books among them—that a collector was having trouble keeping track of them all. In 1978, Judith Walthall founded Peanut Pals, a Mr. Peanut appreciation club that circulates a newsletter and holds conventions. You can join for $20—practically peanuts.

11. Mr. Peanut has remained mostly silent.


mazmedia via YouTube

Mr. Peanut was already a few decades old when television came into prominence, which afforded him an opportunity to jump off packaging and magazine pages. Despite the new medium, Planters decided they liked him best when he didn’t talk—at all. The mascot was silent all the way up until 2010, when Robert Downey Jr. was commissioned to deliver his first lines. Bill Hader took over voicing duties from Downey in 2013.

12. Mr. Peanut found a buddy.

When Planters unveiled an updated Mr. Peanut for contemporary audiences in 2010, he was sporting a grey flannel suit as well as a new sidekick—Benson, a shorter, single-peanut tagalong. A Planters spokesman clarified to The New York Times that the two are “just friends” and live in separate residences.

13. In the 1970s, Mr. Peanut ran for Mayor of Vancouver.

Amid a burgeoning alternative art scene in 1970s Vancouver, a performance artist named Vincent Trasov decided it would be interesting to run for mayor of the city while in the guise of Mr. Peanut. Hailing from the “Peanut Party” and meant to be a commentary of the Nixon-era absurdities of politics, he was endorsed by novelist William S. Burroughs and received 2685 ballots—3.4 percent of the vote.

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