The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History

Khalid Elhassan - July 18, 2020

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
The Battle of Waterloo. Daily Mail

10. “Indebted to the Bones of Their Children For Their Daily Bread

Centuries ago, those killed in action were not usually honored. Instead, they were stripped of valuables. Those “valuables” included their very corpses. The dead of Waterloo had their teeth pulled out, to get fashioned into dentures. Waterloo was such a bonanza for Britain’s denture industry, that sets made of human teeth were known as “Waterloo dentures” for years afterwards.

Even their bones – like the bones of those killed in other Napoleonic battles such as Austerlitz and Leipzig – were shipped to Britain, and ground into fertilizer. Back then, many people did not think that there was anything weird about using the bodies of the fallen heroes of one of the country’s most iconic battles as fertilizer. As a correspondent wrote in The Observer in 1822: “the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread“.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Aztec priest performing the sacrificial offering of a living human’s heart to the war god Huitzilopochtli, from the Codex Megliabecchi. Eon Images

9. The Weird Scam That Snowballed Into Human Sacrifice

Lying and scamming have many drawbacks, not least among them the difficulty of keeping the deception going once suspicions are aroused. When that happens, one option for the scammer is to simply cut and run. Another is to double down, and defend the original lie and scam with more lies and scams. The latter option could easily snowball, as illustrated by a series of weird events that took place in the small Mexican town of Yerba Buena, Tamaulipas.

Brothers Santos and Cayetano Hernandez, two small-time crooks, arrived there in 1962, and convinced the impoverished and mostly illiterate inhabitants that they were prophets of the old-time Aztec gods, and would lead them to hidden treasure. By the time it was over, things had gone seriously awry, and descended into a grisly cult that cut out the hearts from the chests of its still-living victims, then drank their blood.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Aztec gods. Wikimedia

8. Transforming Scam Victims Into Sex Slaves

Santos and Cayetano Hernandez took advantage of the gullibility of Yerba Buena’s residents, who bought the crooked brothers’ claims to be prophets of the Aztec gods. The scammer siblings established a religious sect whose members met in nearby caves, and they reduced their followers, male and female, to sex slaves whom they abused in drug-fueled orgies.

As time went by, however, some of the victims grew impatient at constantly getting screwed – figuratively and literally – by the Hernandez brothers, who were taking their sweet time in revealing the hidden Aztec treasured. So the siblings decided to double down on the weird, and up the ante by recruiting some help to help keep the scam going. They found it in Magdalena Solis, a Monterrey prostitute whom they coached into pretending to be a reincarnation of the Aztec goddess Coatlicue, and Magdalena’s brother, Eleazar Solis, who also doubled as her pimp.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Magdalena Solis. Bizarrepedia

7. Adding an Aztec Goddess to the Mix

Santos and Cayetano Hernandez brought Magdalena Solis and her brother Eleazar to Yerba Buena, and introduced her as the reincarnated goddess Coatlicue. Magdalena embraced her role enthusiastically. Too enthusiastically, as it turned out: she developed a religious delusion, became convinced that she really was Coatlicue, and took over the cult.

The Hernandez brothers had been content to exploit their followers for sex. However, the new leader, Magdalena Solis, was into sadomasochism. Before long, things took a turn for the gruesome and the gruesomely weird. When two members tried to leave the cult, Magdalena ordered them murdered. That was bad enough, but then she began demanding human sacrifices, claiming that she needed the blood to keep her young forever.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
The goddess Coatlicue. Encyclopedia Britannica

6. Human Sacrifice

As the reincarnation of the goddess Coatlicue, Magdalena Solis devised a human sacrifice ritual, in which her followers brutally beat, burned, cut, and maimed a victim. They then drained his or her blood into a chalice and drank it down while using marijuana and peyote. The blood-filled chalice first went to Magdalena, who then passed it on to her “high priests”, the Hernandez brothers, then to her own brother Eleazar, and finally to the remaining cult members.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
One of the caves where the Yerba Buena human sacrifices were carried out, and where the cultists barricaded themselves for a last stand. Amino Apps

Things finally began to unravel in May of 1963, when a fourteen-year-old kid was wandering around, and saw something weird that halted him in his tracks: a human sacrifice ritual being performed in a cave. Shocked at what he had witnessed, he ran over fifteen miles to the nearest police station. The policemen were skeptical, but the following day, they sent an investigator over to take a look. He and the kid headed out to see the caves – and neither was ever seen alive again.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Magdalena Solis in custody. Amino Apps

5. Curtains For the Cult

The disappearance of a cop while investigating the claims of weird and grisly goings-on in Yerba Buena convinced the authorities to take the matter seriously. Police and soldiers flooded the town, and Magdalena Solis and her brother Eleazar were arrested. In the meantime, Cayetano Hernandez was killed by a disgruntled cult member. Santos Hernandez and many other cultists barricaded themselves in caves and were killed in shootouts with soldiers and police.

After the dust settled down, Mexican authorities uncovered the bodies of eight cult victims, including that of the police investigator and the kid who had first tipped off the cops. Magdalena and her brother were tried, convicted, and sentenced to fifty years behind bars, while many of her surviving followers were sentenced to thirty years.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Allison Digby Tatham-Warter. Reddit

4. A Weird Quirk

Try as one might, it is hard to come up with a more British-sounding name than Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter (1917 – 1993). A British Army paratrooper, Tatham-Warter indulged in the weird quirk of going into battle carrying an umbrella. The son of a wealthy landowner who died when Tatham-Warter was eleven from the lingering effects of WWI injuries, he graduated from Sandhurst – Britain’s West Point – in 1937.

Tatham-Warter served in India, where he lived it up, enjoying what rich British scions of the day did, like tiger hunting and pig-sticking. When WWII broke out in 1939, he did not go out of his way to seek an active assignment that would take him away from his fun. However, his brother was killed in the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, and upon hearing the news, Tatham-Warter volunteered for active service with the Parachute Regiment. It set him on the path to becoming a legend.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Men of the 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden. Wikimedia

3. Armed With an Umbrella

Upon joining the paratroopers, Tatham-Warter was put in charge of a company in the 1st Airborne Division. It did not take long before he built a reputation, such as by procuring a Dakota airplane to fly his fellow officers to a posh party in London’s Ritz Hotel. However, although Tatham-Warter partied hard, he also worked hard, and his company was chosen to spearhead the attempt to seize the Arnhem Bridge in Operation Market Garden on September 17th, 1944.

Tatham-Warter was worried about radios’ unreliability, so he trained his men to respond to Napoleonic era bugle calls. He also had trouble remembering passwords and came up with an innovative and weird solution: carry an umbrella. He reasoned that even if he forgot a password, any paratrooper who saw him would immediately realize that “only a bloody fool of an Englishman” would carry an umbrella into battle.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Depiction of Allison Digby Tatham-Warter in ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Reddit

2. Charging Into Battle While Wearing a Bowler Hat

Upon landing near Arnhem, Tatham-Warter led his company to the bridge. He and his men wound their way through backstreets, to avoid German armored cars on the main thoroughfares. In heavy fighting over the next few days, he was often seen strolling through the wrecked town, wearing a paratrooper’s red beret instead of a helmet, with a pistol in one hand, and an umbrella in the other.

Tatham-Warter’s umbrella actually came in handy, when a German counterattack placed armor on the Arnhem Bridge. He led his men in a charge, bearing a pistol and his trusty umbrella, and adding to the weird scene by wearing a bowler hat. He reportedly even managed to disable a German armored vehicle by thrusting his umbrella through its viewport, poking out the driver’s eye or otherwise incapacitating him.

The Fart That Killed 10,000 People, and Other Weird Moments From History
Allison Digby Tatham-Warter pictured in forged identity papers after fleeing the Nazis. Brits at Their Best

1. Capture and Escape

Operation Market Garden called for the paratroopers to hold the Arnhem Bridge for two days, until relieved. However, the relief force got stuck, and after eight days, a wounded Tatham-Warter and the surviving paratroopers surrendered. The weird adventures were not over yet, however. He was sent to a hospital, but once the German nurses were out of sight, he snuck out. A friendly local woman put him in touch with the Dutch Resistance, who furnished Tatham-Warter with civilian clothes and fake identity documents that described him as a deaf-mute. He then spent weeks bicycling around, helping the Resistance.

During those escapades, Tatham-Warter helped push a German car out of a ditch without arousing suspicion. Eventually, he gathered about 150 Allied soldiers on the lam in the Dutch countryside and led them to the safety of friendly lines. Allison Digby Tatham-Warter was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, and after the war, he settled in Kenya, where he lived out his days as a safari operator until his death in 1993.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Medium – From Fart to Destruction: 4 Ugly Fart Stories in History

History of Yesterday – 7 Farts That Changed History

Brits At Their Best – Armed With an Umbrella

Business Insider, June 16th, 2017 – Spinach Doesn’t Have As Much of a Key Nutrient Needed in Your Blood as You Might Think

Business Insider, September 26th, 2018 – The Story of Wojtek, the 440 Pound Bear That Fought the Nazis in WWII, Is Being Made Into a Movie

Cracked – How a Petty Scam Ended in Bloody Human Sacrifice

CrimeZZZ Net – Serial Killers Hernandez, Cayetano; Hernandez, Santos; and Solis, Magdalena

Daily Beast – How a Fart Killed 10,000 People

Daily Mail, July 3rd, 2013 – Sorry Popeye, Spinach DOESN’T Make Your Muscles Big: Expert Reveals Sailor’s Love of the Food Was Due to a Misplaced Decimal Point

Dawson, Jim – Who Cut the Cheese? A Cultural History of the Fart (1998)

Folk Texts – Breaking Wind: Legendary Farts

Grunge – The Fart That Caused 10,000 Deaths

Grunge – US Presidents Who Were Really Weird People

Historic UK – Queen Elizabeth I

History Extra, November 1st, 2013 – Where the Pulverized Bones of Soldiers and Horses Who Died at the Battle of Waterloo Sold as Soil Fertilizer?

Josephus – The Wars of the Jews, Book II

New York Times, November 2nd, 2015 – Gunter Schabowski, Whose Gaffe Helped Burst the Berlin Wall, Dies at 86

Patton, George S. – War as I Knew It (1995 Edition)

Pegasus Archives – Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter

Ryan, Cornelius – A Bridge Too Far (1974)

Smithsonian – John Quincy Adams Once Approved an Expedition to the Center of the Earth

Smithsonian Magazine, November 25th, 2015 – Reagan and Gorbachev Agreed to Pause the Cold War in Case of Alien Invasion

Wired, January 28th, 2015 – Well That Didn’t Work: The Rolling Rocket Bomb Designed to Kill Nazis Almost Killed a Dog Instead

History UK – Ww2 Heroes – The Story Of Major Digby Tatham-Warter

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