Yeah, we keep using that word… And in this case, it means exactly what you think it means. Two of the following stories are true, and one is false. Can you figure out which is which?
1. Chicken, Alaska
In the late 1800’s, the Gold Rush hit. Miners traveled far in search of the precious metal, heading for the far north of Canada and Alaska. Food was sometimes scarce in the Yukon, but a particular area near the South Fork of the 40-Mile River was abundant in Ptarmigan, a small bird which bears a resemblance to a chicken. The miners kept themselves alive by hunting the Ptarmigan.
In 1902, the town was to become incorporated, the second town in Alaska to do so. The name “Ptarmigan” was suggested. Many people liked the name, but felt the quotation marks were too presumptuous. The name was shortened to Ptarmigan.
The only problem was that nobody could agree on the correct spelling. They didn’t want their town name to be the source of ridicule and laughter, so they chose Chicken instead.
2. The Trial of a Dead Man
Pope Stephen VI is chiefly remembered in connection with his conduct towards the remains of Pope Formosus, his predecessor but one. The rotting corpse of Formosus was exhumed and put on trial in January of 897. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff. Formosus was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for receiving the pontificate while he was the bishop of Porto, among other charges. The sentence was that the corpse was stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; it was then re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber River.
3. The Real Scarlet Pimpernel
The inspiration for “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, which is set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution, is actually a real man. The English knight and member of the navy Sir Thomas Fellowes (1778–1853) managed to save as many as sixty convicted French aristocrats from the guillotine by the use of bribes, force and selling information. According to his own journal, many of the escapes involved smuggling captives through the aqueduct tunnels under Paris, which were largely unguarded by the new Republic government. His grandson met Baroness Orczy in 1901 and told her the family story, prompting her to write a play about the first “masked hero” two years later.
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