1307 — William Tell shoots an arrow of his son’s head

William Tell – or, in the languages of his native Switzerland: Wilhelm Tell (German); Guillaume Tell (French); Guglielmo Tell (Italian); and Guglielm Tell (Romansh) – is a legendary figure, as much a symbol of Swiss resistance to tyrannical rulers as Robin Hood is a British one. Also, and I don’t know if you’ve heard this, both of them were also seriously badass archers.

Although the reasons why differ, the basics of the story remain the same: Tell shot an arrow right through an apple balanced on his own son’s head. In some versions, he was forced to do this, in others, he wagers his ability to make the shot. In either case, the tyrant on the other side of the story is a Vogt named Albrecht Gessler, who is an enormous dick even by folk tale standards. Which is why the second part of the story about Tell’s archery prowess features him killing the Vogt (again, accounts differ: with an arrow, or with a crossbow bolt), and leading a popular rebellion in Switzerland.

The rebellion, by the way, appears to have been real. The apple-shooting, less so – it’s a fairly common motif in European folk tales. And Tell himself? Did he exist or not? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. He’s more important as a symbol than as a man.

1978 – The Jonestown Massacre occurs

Jim Jones was a weird kid, into death and religion, who would later become a Communist. Later still, he would found the People’s Temple, and move it – and most of the adherents of the religion – to a site in Guyana he named the People’s Temple Agricultural Project, but which is better known to history as Jonestown. Messianic fuckwits like Jones are a cowardly and superstitious lot, and Jones himself was about as well balanced as an up-turned egg.

In 1978, after the visit of Congressman Leo Ryan, Jones’ personal demons got the better of him. He ordered a mass suicide of his followers – although accounts vary as to just how voluntary this suicide was – and the shooting of the Congressman and his party. A total of 918 people died, including Jones and 908 of his followers. Almost all of them were Americans, and until the 9/11 attacks, it was the single greatest loss of American lives that ever took place in a single day.

Referenced in:

Guyana Punch — The Judys
Jimmie Jones — The Vapors
Reverend — Church of Misery
The Riverflow — The Levellers
Jonestown — Concrete Blonde
Guyana (Cult of the Damned) — Manowar
Carnage in the Temple of the Damned -– Deicide
Ballad of Jim Jones — Brian Jonestown Massacre