Trial by Cake

sigeberht-of-east-anglia-1611Trial by cake might sound like a fabulous desert—a bit like Death by Chocolate. But it’s actually an ordeal found in Anglo-Saxon law, and it involved eating bread and cheese to determine a person’s guilt or innocence.

The ordeal included things like setting a cross made of poplar under the accused person’s right foot. But the main test was whether he could swallow about an ounce of bread and cheese. Choking on the bread or turning pale was a sure sign of guilt, while being able to easily swallow it proved innocence.

The Anglo-Saxons definitely didn’t have the oddest ordeals in history though. For more odd and interesting trials, check out this list over at Mental Floss.

Comet Catastrophe

comet-halleyToday, it’s exciting to see a comet streak across the sky. But in 1910, when Halley’s Comet approached, it sparked mass hysteria and had people rushing out to buy “comet-protecting umbrellas.” Yes, umbrellas.

Newspapers even reported that the comet would “snuff out all life on Earth,” and shady entrepreneurs were quick to smell an opportunity. Besides umbrellas, they sold things like gas masks and anti-comet pills.

The comet passed by without harm, of course—which means we can still see these great links to the original newspapers, thanks to the US Library of Congress.