The Poison Squad

The Poison SquadForget about Thor and Iron Man. History is full of real superheroes, like the bow-tied young men known as the Poison Squad.

What was their feat? For five long years, starting in 1902, they sat down to meals “laced with increasing amounts of suspected poisons”—all in the name of making food safer for you and me.

Their efforts led to what’s now known as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Atlas Obscura has photos and the rest of the Poison Squad‘s fascinating tale.

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.