The Weirdest Things That Have Ever Happened in London
London can be very weird, and if you need proof, look no further than pretty much any Boris Johnson photo-op -- or you can just dive into these fascinatingly strange events that've marked the capital's bizarre history:
That time there was a beer floodThis is one kind of liquid damage that might not be covered by insurance. In 1814 the streets of London were plunged under a deluge of beer from a mysterious explosion at a local brewery that created a destructive wave that havoc on Tottenham Court Rd. Two houses were ruined and eight people kicked the beery bucket.
The flying bouncy castle incidentOne part art installation, one part bouncy castle where the walls changed colours, this inflatable structure (named Dreamspace V, and designed by artist Maurice Agis) was meant to stay securely on the ground. Except it didn’t. In 2006, it somehow managed to get untethered and take to the sky, soaring 50ft into the air and landing 150ft away taking the people inside along for the ride. Two deaths and thirteen injuries later, they still have no clue what caused it.
When birds traveled in timeBig Ben, with its massive four-sided clock, is one of the most iconic sights in London, and is generally regarded as unimpeachably reliable, except when, in 1945, a flock of starlings decided (consciously or not) to turn back time by all landing on the minute hand simultaneously. Their combined feathery weight pushed back the clock -- and the city -- by five minutes.
When a skyscraper melted carsYes, we’re talking about the Walkie-Talkie building. Its powers were first observed while it was still under construction, when a reflected sunbeam melted parts of an unluckily parked Jaguar. Despite the addition of a “sunshade,” there were reports of shoes and bicycle seats becoming scorched, and even an egg cooked from the bright reflection. The destruction doesn’t stop there: the downdrafts created by the shape has caused winds so strong they have literally knocked people walking on the street below off their feet. And the weirdest thing? The architect had the exact same problem in another city, and STILL didn’t change the design.
When pollution killed 4,000 people
While these days most of us are no strangers to pollution warnings in big cities, in 1952 it was a bit more unusual. A combination of cold weather, coal smoke, and windless conditions covered the city with a smog storm that lasted for days. Far worse then the semi-normal “pea souper,” it managed to make its way inside homes and in the course of five days killed nearly 4,000 people with another 100,000 people becoming incredibly ill. With modern technology it is even speculated that the death toll made its way up to over 120,000.
When there was a train service for dead peopleNo really. Back in 1854, the dead were overcrowding London’s cemeteries and as a result they started moving burials out to Surrey, using the London Necropolis Railway to shift the bodies. It had its own platform in Waterloo fully equipped with private mourning rooms, funeral areas, and even a hydraulic lift to move the deceased ready for their final journey.
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Haley Forest is a London writer who considers herself to be one of the weirder things to happen to the capital, too. See the proof at @HCForest.