Nine unbelievable Boston facts

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Christmas ban

Everyone knows that Boston has a bedtime, but did you know that Boston also banned Christmas? That’s right — the Pilgrims banned Christmas for over two decades in the 17th century, punishing those who celebrated the holiday.

Art heist

(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The biggest art heist in history happened right here in Beantown. In 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, saying they were responding to a call. The guard on duty let them into the museum, only to be handcuffed to pipes in the basement while the thieves made off with a Rembrandt and a Vermeer (among others). In all, thirteen works of art were stolen, valued at over $500 million. Because Gardner insisted in Havisham-like fashion that nothing in her house be altered after her death, visitors can still see the empty frames where the thieves cut the paintings from their frames.

Statehouse surprise

There’s a golden pinecone on top of the gold dome of the Statehouse. No, really. There is.

(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The skin-ny on rare books

Boston’s Athenaeum houses rare and old books. It’s also home to one particularly grizzly book – the memoir of highwayman and bank robber, James Allen. If the record of his misdeeds doesn’t give you goosebumps, the book binding might – the book is bound in Allen’s own skin. Binding the memoirs of rascals in their own skin was oddly common after the French Revolution, but what is distinctive about Allen is that he specifically asked that his memoirs be bound in his own hide after his execution for one of his many exploits.

Resting in peace

The Forest Hills Cemetery is the resting place of some artists with Boston connections, such as Anne Sexton, E.E. Cummings, and Eugene O’Neill. But in 2006, artist Christopher Frost made a miniature village using a variety of architectural styles to replicate the homes of different people buried in the cemetery.

Get your kicks

From the outside, Bodega looks like a basic corner store, someplace you might go to pick up laundry detergent or a box of pasta. But if you step over to the Snapple machine and press a button, the wall cuts away, revealing a hip sneaker store.

The outside of Bodega (Google Maps)

The outside of Bodega (Google Maps)

Impossible bench

By Jamaica Pond, there’s a bench that looks like this:

(Photo by Jason Eppink, via Flickr)

(Photo by Jason Eppink, via Flickr)

Made by Massachusetts College of Art and Design professor Matthew Hincman, the bench wasn’t an immediate hit with the authorities, but eventually won approval from the Boston Art Commission to remain as a permanent installation.

Outdated laws

Boston is still hanging on to some outdated laws. Here’s two that might surprise you: It’s illegal to play the fiddle in public, and you can’t cross Boston Common without a shotgun in case of bears.

Boston’s worst

Finally, this guy is from Boston.

(Courtesy of Flickr)

(Courtesy of Flickr)

Yes, the popular  meme “Scumbag Steve” is from Boston. And his last name is — you guessed it – Boston.