Overly-Elaborate Duels

Today let's talk about people clearly with more creativity than is good for them. I found the first part of this story on the Strange History site here. WARNING–do not click on that link if you are squicked out by pictures of spiders. There is a giant tarantula picture right at the top of the page.

Strange History recounts an 1887 news article that reports duel by tarantula:

"A Toledo (O) special dispatch says: Particulars of a strange duel  have reached Toledo, O, through the arrival of W.C.Martins, a wealthy coffee merchant from Mexico. Letters just received from A. A. Germane, a coffee-buyer at Tampico, Mex., show that Senor Victoria, a mining speculator, and Senor Pedrazo, an extensive ship-owner, were the principals. The letters give the following account tof the duel. A few weeks ago Senor Victoria and Senor Pedrazo met a ball given by one of the chief ladies of the Spanish society. The gentlemen, while heated with wine, quarreled in the presence of the lady, whom both admired. Senor Victoria challenged Senor Pedrazo. The latter accepted the challenge and stipulated that the duel must take place in a dark room. As he had the choice of weapons he demanded that Victoria meet him in the room in which were placed one hundred tarantulas of the most poisonous kind. According to their agreement they would devote their energies to killing the tarantulas instead of fighting each other. Neither must leave the room until all the poisonous spiders were killed. Pedazo, it is thought, expected that Victoria would never accept the weapons. But Victoria declined to back down and the duel was fought in a room as dark as a dungeon. There were no seconds, and no one at Tampico suspected the truth. When the doors were broken open both men were found on the floor dead, surrounded by dead and living spiders."

What's that you say? You wish there were MORE ridiculous tarantula duels featured on this blog? Well, you're in luck, because in 1892, THIS happened:

"A tarautula is a large insect of the spider tribe and its bite is as deadly as that of a rattlesnake. The details of a remarkable duel which recently occurred at Las Vegas show the horror with which this terrible spider is regarded in South America. Two young men, an American and a Mexican-fell out over a young woman they both loved, and the result was that the enmity became too great to be carried, and it was determined to end it in a duel. The matter came about in an unusual way, however, and it was not a regular challenge and acceptance, but while in company of mutual friends the Mexican taunted the American with being a member of a race of cowards, and said the Americans had no bravery. The American, of course, disputed this and said he would test the Mexican’s bravery if he wished it. He would be in willing to go into a dark room with the Mexican and there decide the point.

"But the stipulation was that in the dark room there should – also be a lot of tarantulas turned loose. If either of them came out alive was to of have the girl. If either showed the white feather and came out before the death of the other or before all the tarantulas were killed he should give up all claim to the girl. The Mexican was disposed to refuse, but the fear of being looked upon as a coward caused him to accept. The room was prepared, and the two men went in. There were at least a dozen tarantulas in the room and also two scorpions. The American walked boldly into the room and took his stand, while the Mexican followed, but was hesitating in his manner. The doors had been closed but a short time when the Mexican was heard to scream out that he was bitten and was dying. The doors were opened and he staggered out and fell to the floor. The American walked out unhurt, and then it was found that the Mexican had not been bitten at all, but had scratched his hand on a protruding nail in the wall and had thought it a spider’s bite."

While I think this was STUPID, the American in this story actually comes across as pretty bad ass. Although this may just be another exaggerated Wild West story that they loved importing to the east and passing off as fact.

BUT WE'RE NOT DONE YET because the year 1896 also contained nitwits who love to get into pissing contests. Presumably not the same nitwits, but you never know.

"A unique gathering took place at Umritsur recently, an account of which is given in the Siam Free Press. The leading sapadhas (snakecharmers) of Lahore and Umritsur assembled in the latter town to decide once and for all by actual demonstration as to which of the two cities possessed the most skilled handlers of the deadly reptiles, and curers of bites inflicted by them. The match came off at convenient place inside the Hathi Darwaza. The Lahoris were led by Mahomed Bux, the veteran ustad, and his, if possible, more famous pupil. Shahab Diu. The Umritsarias were headed by the famous Nubboo and a Jhewar, whose name was not disclosed.

"The test was fearful. Both parties respectively were to bring out the most venomous snake they possessed, and that side was to be regarded as victorious whose leader could show that he was not all distressed by the bite of the reptile produced by the rival party. The police tried to prevent matters reaching the point of actual test, but it said they were prervailed upon not to interfere. It fell by lot to Umritsur to place in the ‘akhara’ its champion ophidian. Amid breathless silence and inconceivable, though suppressed, excitement, a thin little earth-coloured ‘samp,’ looking exactly like a dried twig, was let out of an earthen pot, and it forthwith proceeded to coil itself up into Jelabian knot, with its flat little head erect and alert in the middle. The vast assembly visibly shuddered as it recognised the most poisonous variety of the dreaded ‘karundia’ of the desert.

"But Shahab Div did not hesitate a moment. He advanced with a set face, and deliberately put his forefinger near the jaws of viper. It struck like lightning. The awfulness of the scene can be imagined when the great Lahori master held out his hand with the death-dealing adder dangling from finger, the crooked fangs buried deep in the ball. When all had satisfied themselves that there was nothing underhand, he shook off the little brute. Then came the turn of Lahore to try the nerve of Umritsur. The representatives of the latter had not yet done with their vaunting when Mahomed Bux pulled out from a box glittering, beautifully-marked serpent, a little larger in size than its Umritsur brother. Nubboo stepped out of the Umritsur ranks and stretched out his arm, but a closer look made him turn pale and withdraw precipitately. All Umritsaria Sapad has admitted they had not the courage to tackle the Lahore champion, so the victory the capital was undisputed."

I guess the moral of the story is that, win or lose, coward or brave man, you are all nominees for the Darwin awards.

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One Response to Overly-Elaborate Duels

  1. vivian_lake says:

    >>>Presumably not the *same* nitwits, but you never know.

    I kind of want all those duelists to be the same people. Two guys keep fighting each other in ridiculous snakes-and-spiders-involving duels for the love of the same woman who doesn’t give a damn about either of them. They die, then come back to life, it starts all over again. Sometimes there’s reincarnation instead of resurrection, but they still the same people. Eventually, the woman gets fed up with that nonsence and finds the way to either die permanently or to get resurrected/reborn as geographically far away from her “suitors” as possible. Guys are still stuck in their own Venomous Groundhog Day, only now they don’t even remember *why* are they fighting…


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