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    20 Facts That Shocked, Surprised, And Spooked Me This Week

    While recording "Monster Mash," Bobby Pickett and Lenny Capizzi used household items to make the spooky sound effects: the cauldron sound was achieved by blowing bubbles into a glass of water, and they replicated the sound of a coffin opening by scraping a rusty nail. Despite the song's success in America, it wasn't as well received in England. The BBC elected not to play the song because they thought it was "too morbid."

    1. Despite having only 1,000 residents, Vatican City has the world's highest crime rate, clocking in at about 1.5 crimes per citizen. Most of the crimes committed in Vatican City are thefts, many of which involve pickpocketing tourists. There is no prison in Vatican City and only one judge, so many criminals are taken into Italy. In 2007, Vatican City issued its first-ever drug conviction after a man was found with cocaine in his desk at work.

    2. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was an early 2000s TV staple, but it actually originated on screen as a TV movie! Melissa Joan Hart, who plays Sabrina, said that her mother actually played a key role in bringing the original comic book to the screen. "My mom doesn't get nearly enough credit for her job as the woman spearheading the show," Hart told Marie Claire. "She is the one who was handed the Archie Comics book on a playground at my sister's school in Manhattan and sold it to Viacom as a Showtime movie." The movie premiered in April 1996, and also starred Ryan Reynolds.

    After the initial success of the movie, Hart said that her mom knew it would be a hit TV show. "She always knew it would make an incredible series but no one would listen, until she cut together a trailer from the movie and pitched it to all four major networks at the time." There was even a bidding war between ABC and NBC for the series, with the show ultimately going to ABC because Hart and her mother liked their "TGIF" programming lineup. Despite the bidding war, Hart claimed that ABC didn't initially support the show. "They were counting on Clueless the show to be the big hit; we were just the little show that would follow that," Hart said. "But we ended up being the fan favorite."

    3. The goblin shark, often known as a "living fossil" because they've been around for so long, is maybe one of the creepiest species of sharks out there. Goblin sharks use their long snouts, which are covered in special sensing organs, to sense electric fields in the ocean. That's not the only thing they use their snout for: They can extend the snout to help them ambush and kill their prey. Goblin sharks are rare, and it's believed they haven't evolved in over 70 million years.

    4. You've probably seen the memes poking fun at warnings to check your child's Halloween candy for drugs, razor blades, and other unsafe substances, which got me wondering if there has ever actually been any instances of poisoned Halloween candy. Turns out, the warning has been around since the 1970s, likely stemming from the tragic case of Timothy O’Bryan, an 8-year-old who died on Halloween in 1974 after his father allegedly fed him laced candy.

    Just a few days before Halloween, Ronald Clark O'Bryan, Timothy's father, took out a $40,000 life insurance policy on both his son and his daughter, Elizabeth. O'Bryan was supposedly in debt and allegedly saw the policy as a potential way to get out of financial trouble. O'Bryan then reportedly laced some Pixy Stix with cyanide, then persuaded his son to eat one before bed. In order to collect on the policy, O'Bryan had to cover up the murder, so he allegedly decided to distribute the rest of the Pixy Stix to trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood so he could pin the poisoned candy on someone else.

    O'Bryan ultimately distributed the Pixy Stix to at least four other children, including his daughter. Luckily, it is believed that none of the children consumed the candy. Authorities were able to catch onto O'Bryan's scheme because one of the children allegedly had a hard time opening the Pixy Stix packaging, which O'Bryan had resealed with staples. O'Bryan was executed in 1984 for his crimes. Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Denver who has been studying allegations of strangers poisoning Halloween candy, told Smithsonian magazine that in his 30 years of research, he has never found an instance where a stranger poisoned, then distributed, Halloween candy to children.

    5. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there has been tons of speculation of exactly how much the royal family is worth. One big-ticket item that was also a source of personal passion for Queen Elizabeth was her stamp collection, which is valued at a whopping £100 million. The collection, known as the Royal Philatelic Collection, has been around since 1864 and contains stamps from both England and other Commonwealth countries. Elizabeth reportedly added many stamps to the collection and was known for showing it off to visitors.

    6. Did you know that the terrifying spooky season classic Scream is actually partially based on a true story? Kevin Williamson, who wrote the film's script, said that he was inspired by a 1994 episode of the show Turning Point that discussed the case of Danny Rolling, who was known as the Gainesville Ripper. Rolling killed five college students near the University of Florida over a period of a few days in August 1990.

    The crimes reportedly caused intense panic on the University of Florida campus. Many students left town, and the school had to beef up their on-campus security. There were reports of an uptick of students purchasing weapons, with some even telling the media that they were sleeping with knives in their beds. Just a few days after what would end up being the final murder, police announced that they had a suspect: Edward Lewis Humphrey, an 18-year-old student who had just been arrested for attacking his grandmother. Humphrey lived at the same apartment complex where one of the murders had taken place. Other residents claimed that he had a crush on one of the victims. Once Humphrey had been taken into custody, the murders stopped, so police believed they had solved the case.

    Despite the authorities' confidence that Humphrey was the killer, they continued to follow additional leads. By January 1991, they believed that Danny Rolling was actually behind the murders. Rolling had previously been arrested several times and had been on the run since May 1990 for allegedly shooting his father in the head. In September 1990, just a few weeks after the murders, Rolling was once again arrested, this time for armed robbery in Ocala, Florida, located less than an hour away from Gainesville. As the police began to dig deeper into Rolling's history, they found that he had been suspected of several murders in 1989 and that the circumstances of those crimes closely resembled the murders in Gainesville.

    In January 1991, Rolling was given three life sentences for the armed robbery. This gave the prosecution more time to put together a convincing case that he was the one responsible for the murders in Gainesville. In 1994, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Before his execution in 2006, Rolling allegedly said that he was possessed by a demon named Gemini. Williamson claimed that after watching the show about the Gainesville Ripper, he was terrified to go to sleep because he feared that someone with a knife was waiting for him outside. He channeled that feeling while writing Scream and used the terror Rolling inflicted on Gainesville as fodder for the film.

    7. Vampire finches live on Wolf Island, located at the northwest corner of the Galapagos Islands. Because there are very few water sources near Wolf Island, the birds had to turn to another source of hydration: blood. They use their sharp beaks to attack other birds, with their most common prey being the Nazca booby. The finches often will pull out their feathers and drink the blood from the resulting wound.

    8. Olympus Mons, a volcano located on Mars, is believed to be the biggest volanco in the entire solar system. It's 16 miles tall and 374 miles wide, making it approximately the same size as the state of Arizona. For comparison, the tallest volcano on Earth is Hawaii's Mauna Loa, which rises just 6.3 miles above sea level.

    9. In 1851, Monemia McKoy, a slave in North Carolina, gave birth to twins that she named Millie and Christine. The twins were conjoined, connected at their lower spine. By the time they were 2 years old, the girls had been taken from Monemia and sold to various fairs and "freak shows," which took them all over the United States and Canada. Doctors around the country examined them before they were sold to prove that they weren't fraudulently claiming that they were conjoined. At some point during their early childhood, the girls were sold to someone in England and were sent overseas to perform.

    During this time, Joseph Pearson Smith had been attempting to track down the twins. Smith, who owned their mother, was technically the "last rightful owner" of the girls and had hired a private detective to bring them home. The detective found that the twins were performing in Birmingham, England. Smith brought them back to North Carolina when they were nearly 6 years old. Once the twins were back in America, they expressed a desire to continue performing, and they developed a song and dance routine. Millie and Christine soon became known as the Carolina Nightingale. While Smith and his wife agreed to manage their career, they also ensured that the girls learned how to read and write.

    In the 1870s, Millie and Christine embarked on a tour of Europe, where they learned how to speak German, French, Italian, and Spanish. The media marveled at how intelligent the girls were, and soon, they were commanding over $25,000 for their performances. They later purchased the plantation where they had been born, developed a school for Black children, and anonymously supported multiple colleges. They died within hours of each other in 1912.

    10. While some claim that the nursery rhyme "Jack and Jill" was written about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the rhyme actually originated about 30 years before Louis and Marie were found guilty of their crimes. It's actually more likely that the song is about Charles I, who was the king of England in the 17th century. Charles attempted to increase the tax on alcohol. At the time, alcohol was measured in "jacks and gills." When his attempts to increase the tax failed, he instead shrunk the sizes of "jacks and gills," and thus, the price of the alcohol "came tumbling after," as the classic rhyme goes.

    11. In 2015, Burger King introduced a new iteration of their classic Whopper: a burger with a black bun, just in time for Halloween. After eating the burger, people noticed that their poop was bright green and began blaming the burger. CBS even reported that #greenpoop was trending! Turns out, Burger King used several different shades of food coloring to turn the buns black. Dr. Ian Lustbader, a gastroenterologist, told CBS that while most of the food coloring was probably absorbed by the gut during the digestion process, the residual colors likely mixed with stomach bile, resulting in the green poop.

    12. The "Monster Mash" is a Halloween classic, so let's unpack the history of the beloved spooky song! Bobby Pickett, a member of the doo-wop group the Cordials, decided to mix things up while performing a rendition of the song "Little Darlin'," and infused an impersonation of horror actor Boris Karloff into the spoken portion of the song. After seeing the audience's positive reaction to the performance, Pickett said his bandmate Lenny Capizzi told him that he believed they could turn the joke into a full-length song. Pickett said that at first, he was wary of making a joke song because he had aspirations of becoming a "serious actor," but changed his tune a few weeks later after his agent died.

    After deciding to proceed, Pickett and Capizzi ended up writing the track in only an hour. While recording it, they used household items to make the spooky sound effects: the cauldron sound was achieved by blowing bubbles into a glass of water, and they replicated the sound of a coffin opening by scraping a rusty nail. When "Monster Mash" was released in 1962, it immediately shot up the charts. In a very meta moment, Boris Karloff, the song's initial inspiration, covered it on an episode of his show. Despite the song's success in America, it wasn't as well received across the pond in England. The BBC elected not to play the song because they thought it was "too morbid."

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    13. Chances are, you've visited a Spirit Halloween to pick up a Halloween costume at some point. Spirit Halloween originated in 1983 as Spirit Women's Discount Apparel. After noticing how many people were visiting a nearby costume store, founder Joseph Marver decided to turn Spirit into a seasonal pop-up chain store for Halloween decorations and costumes. The chain is actually part of Spencer's Gifts, which acquired Spirit in 1999. The store, which typically is open from August to early November, now accounts for nearly half of Spencer's yearly earnings.

    14. Although plenty of Stephen King's novels and short stories have been turned into blockbuster movies, King also wanted to find a way to support filmmakers who were just starting out. In 1982, King created the Dollar Baby program, which allows budding filmmakers to purchase the rights to one of his short stories for only $1. The catch? The films can't be commercially distributed, and a copy of each film must be sent to King himself.

    King said that he was inspired to start the program after people began inquiring about making short films based on his work around 1977. By 1982, he had officially started the Dollar Baby program. "I have made the dollar deal, as I call it, over my accountant’s moans and head-clutching protests 16 or 17 times as of this writing," King revealed in 1996. Frank Darabont, who went on to direct other King adaptations like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, was one of the beneficiaries of the Dollar Baby program. In 1982, Darabont bought the rights to the short story "The Woman in the Room." King enjoyed the short film so much that he later allowed it to be commercially distributed.

    15. While filming A Night to Remember, a 1958 movie that re-created the Titanic tragedy, Lawrence Beesley, who survived the shipwreck, attempted to jump in one of the movie's pivotal scenes. Beesley claimed that he wanted to symbolically go down with the ship, and he tried to sneak on-camera while they were filming the sinking. Director Roy Ward Baker allegedly refused to let Beesley in the scene because it would have been a union violation that could have led to filming delays.

    16. According to Google search trends, the bestselling Halloween costume across all 50 states is your tried-and-true witch. Other costumes that are popular around the country include Spider-Man, dinosaurs, fairies, and other pop culture options, like Harley Quinn and characters from Stranger Things.

    17. Richard Nixon was a huge football fan who attempted to use the game to his political advantage. Nixon actually played football at Whittier College, although he allegedly was a benchwarmer who rarely saw any field time. After college, he even supposedly tossed around the idea of becoming a sportswriter. Once he became president, Nixon went to football games in order to appear relatable to his constituents. After attending a game between the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, Nixon was reportedly furious that the media didn't report that the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    As tensions revolving around ending the war in Vietnam swelled in 1969, Nixon's administration enforced "National Unity Week," which essentially involved showing "'pro-administration propaganda' at football games." On Nov. 15, 1969, Nixon allegedly sat inside the White House and watched a football game while a massive anti-war protest waged on right outside. "The trouble…isn’t that he watches football but that he makes such an obvious and cheap political gesture of it," the Partisan Review reported.

    Nixon also attempted to use his political power to influence his favorite teams. He was known to show up at Washington Redskins (now called the Washington Commanders) practices and even called up coaches to suggest certain plays. During a 1971 playoff game between the Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, the Redskins ran an unusual reverse play that resulted in a loss of yards, then a blocked field goal that ultimately allowed the 49ers to win the game. In the locker room, one player claimed that coach George Allen had been given "executive orders" to call the bizarre play, with many assuming the call came from Nixon. In 2012, ESPN reported that the play was likely a gag Allen and Nixon, who were friends, set up as a joke to garner media attention.

    18. Scientists have found that anesthesia doesn't just affect humans, but all living things! A study found that anesthesia is effective in plants and even parts of cells like the mitochondria. During the study, researchers put a Venus flytrap to sleep using anesthesia and found that the gas silenced the nerves that trigger the plant's trapping mechanism.

    19. It is believed that an early monkey species migrated from Africa to South America over 30 million years ago using "natural rafts" made from vegetation and debris. Fossils found in Peru show evidence that a species that was previously believed to only have lived in Africa likely lived in South America about 32 million years ago. When the monkeys made their alleged journey, South America and Africa were located closer together than they are now, and sea levels were also much lower. Scientists have reasoned that the journey was likely not purposeful, and they think that a storm pushed the monkeys out to sea.

    20. And finally, Alice Coachman was the first Black woman from any country to win an Olympic gold medal. Coachman was born in Georgia. While she displayed athletic talent from a young age, Coachman's father discouraged her from playing sports because it wasn't seen as a feminine pursuit at the time. By the time Coachman was in fifth grade, her teachers encouraged her to take up competitive running. Coachman was unable to practice at any local training facilities because they were segregated, and instead had to create her own training program. Her talent caught the eye of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and she transferred to the historically Black school to train.

    In 1943, Coachman entered Tuskegee's college program, where she won four national championships for sprinting and high jumping. Many encouraged her to try out for the Olympic team. The Olympics had been canceled in both 1940 and 1944 because of World War II, but Coachman ended up trying out for the team in 1948. Although she competed with a back injury, she ended up beating the existing high jump record during the Olympic trials. In August 1948, Coachman won the gold medal in the high jump. She also set a new Olympic record. Not only did she become the first Black woman to win a gold medal, but she also was the only American woman to win a medal during the 1948 Olympics.

    Coachman retired from track after the Olympics and became a teacher and track coach. In 1952, she became a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, making her the first Black female athlete to endorse a major consumer brand. Coachman was inducted into nine Hall of Fames and went on to establish the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which helped young athletes who needed financial assistance to compete. Coachman died in 2014.