Winkie

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Animals_in_War_1939-1945_HU45623.jpg

On Feb. 24, 1942, a bedraggled carrier pigeon arrived at an RAF bomber base on Scotland’s Fifeshire coast. She was covered with oil and appeared exhausted.

The sergeant who examined her, George Ross, alerted his superior officer. The bird had been carried aboard a Bristol Beaufort bomber that had crashed in the North Sea after taking enemy fire over Norway the previous day. The pilot had been unable to radio his position as they went down, and rescue planes had been searching the freezing waters in vain all night for some sign of the four-man crew.

The bird’s arrival told Ross that they’d been searching in the wrong place. She had flown for 16 hours, but with oil-smeared wings couldn’t have covered more than 140 miles in that time. The rescue operation had been searching beyond that range. When they moved closer to shore they discovered the crewmen, freezing but safe, in a rubber dinghy within 15 minutes.

When the fuselage had broken up, the pigeon had somehow escaped into the oily water, struggled free, and then flown across 120 miles of ocean to the base, despite a natural fear of the dark and a dislike of wide expanses of water. When she arrived she was so exhausted that she was closing one eye intermittently.

“Winkie” was awarded the Dickin Medal at a dinner that December. She was cited “for delivering a message under exceptional difficulties and so contributing to the rescue of an Air Crew while serving with the RAF in February 1942.”

In a Word

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symposiast
n. a member of a drinking party

alate
adj. winged

dimication
n. fighting or strife

bouleversement
n. a turning upside down

“In Other Words,” an airman’s drinking song from World War I:

I was fighting a Hun in the heyday of youth,
Or perhaps ’twas a Nieuport or Spad.
I put in a burst at a moderate range
And it didn’t seem too bad.
For he put down his nose in a curious way,
And as I watched, I am happy to say:

Chorus:
He descended with unparalleled rapidity,
His velocity ‘twould beat me to compute.
I speak with unimpeachable veracity,
With evidence complete and absolute.
He suffered from spontaneous combustion
As towards terrestrial sanctuary he dashed,
In other words — he crashed!

I was telling the tale when a message came through
To say ’twas a poor RE8.
The news somewhat dashed me, I rather supposed
I was in for a bit of hate.
The CO approached me. I felt rather weak,
For his face was all mottled, and when he did speak

Chorus:
He strafed me with unmitigated violence,
With wholly reprehensible abuse.
His language in its blasphemous simplicity
Was rather more exotic than abstruse.
He mentioned that the height of his ambition
Was to see your humble servant duly hung.
I returned to Home Establishment next morning,
In other words — I was strung!

As a pilot in France I flew over the lines
And there met an Albatros scout.
It seemed that he saw me, or so I presumed;
His manoeuvres left small room for doubt.
For he sat on my tail without further delay
Of my subsequent actions I think I may say:

Chorus:
My turns approximated to the vertical,
I deemed it most judicious to proceed.
I frequently gyrated on my axis,
And attained colossal atmospheric speed,
I descended with unparalleled momentum,
My propeller’s point of rupture I surpassed,
And performed the most astonishing evolutions,
In other words — * *** ****!

I was testing a Camel on last Friday week
For the purpose of passing her out.
And before fifteen seconds of flight had elapsed
I was filled with a horrible doubt
As to whether intact I should land from my flight.
I half thought I’d crashed — and half thought quite right!

Chorus:
The machine seemed to lack coagulation,
The struts and sockets didn’t rendezvous,
The wings had lost their super-imposition,
Their stagger and their incidental, too!
The fuselage developed undulations,
The circumjacent fabric came unstitched
Instanter was reduction to components,
In other words — she’s pitched!

(From Peter G. Cooksley, Royal Flying Corps 1914-1918, 2007.)

Podcast Episode 170: The Mechanical Turk

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tuerkischer_schachspieler_windisch4.jpg

In 1770, Hungarian engineer Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled a miracle: a mechanical man who could play chess against human challengers. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet Kempelen’s Mechanical Turk, which mystified audiences in Europe and the United States for more than 60 years.

We’ll also sit down with Paul Erdős and puzzle over a useful amateur.

Intro:

Lewis Carroll sent a birthday wish list to child friend Jessie Sinclair in 1878.

An octopus named Paul picked the winners of all seven of Germany’s World Cup games in 2010.

Sources for our feature on the Mechanical Turk:

Tom Standage, The Turk, 2002.

Elizabeth Bridges, “Maria Theresa, ‘The Turk,’ and Habsburg Nostalgia,” Journal of Austrian Studies 47:2 (Summer 2014), 17-36.

Stephen P. Rice, “Making Way for the Machine: Maelzel’s Automaton Chess-Player and Antebellum American Culture,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, 106 (1994), 1-16.

Dan Campbell, “‘Echec’: The Deutsches Museum Reconstructs the Chess-Playing Turk,” Events and Sightings, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 26:2 (April-June 2004), 84-85.

John F. Ohl and Joseph Earl Arrington, “John Maelzel, Master Showman of Automata and Panoramas,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 84:1 (January 1960), 56-92.

James W. Cook Jr., “From the Age of Reason to the Age of Barnum: The Great Automaton Chess-Player and the Emergence of Victorian Cultural Illusionism,” Winterthur Portfolio 30:4 (Winter 1995), 231-257.

W.K. Wimsatt Jr., “Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature 11:2 (May 1939), 138-151.

Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, “Playing Checkers With Machines — From Ajeeb to Chinook,” Information & Culture 50:4 (2015), 578-587.

Brian P. Bloomfield and Theo Vurdubakis, “IBM’s Chess Players: On AI and Its Supplements,” Information Society 24 (2008), 69-82.

Nathan Ensmenger, “Is Chess the Drosophila of Artificial Intelligence? A Social History of an Algorithm,” Social Studies of Science 42:1 (February 2012), 5-30.

Martin Kemp, “A Mechanical Mind,” Nature 421:6920 (Jan. 16, 2003), 214.

Marco Ernandes, “Artificial Intelligence & Games: Should Computational Psychology Be Revalued?” Topoi 24:2 (September 2005), 229–242.

Brian P. Bloomfield and Theo Vurdubakis, “The Revenge of the Object? On Artificial Intelligence as a Cultural Enterprise,” Social Analysis 41:1 (March 1997), 29-45.

Mark Sussman, “Performing the Intelligent Machine: Deception and Enchantment in the Life of the Automaton Chess Player,” TDR 43:3 (Autumn 1999), 81-96.

James Berkley, “Post-Human Mimesis and the Debunked Machine: Reading Environmental Appropriation in Poe’s ‘Maelzel’s Chess-Player’ and ‘The Man That Was Used Up,'” Comparative Literature Studies 41:3 (2004), 356-376.

Kat Eschner, “Debunking the Mechanical Turk Helped Set Edgar Allan Poe on the Path to Mystery Writing,” Smithsonian.com, July 20, 2017.

Lincoln Michel, “The Grandmaster Hoax,” Paris Review, March 28, 2012.

Adam Gopnik, “A Point of View: Chess and 18th Century Artificial Intelligence,” BBC News, March 22, 2013.

Ella Morton, “The Mechanical Chess Player That Unsettled the World,” Slate, Aug. 20, 2015.

“The Automaton Chess Player,” Scientific American 48:7 (February 17, 1883), 103-104.

Robert Willis, An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player, of Mr. de Kempelen, 1821.

“The Automaton Chess-Player,” Cornhill Magazine 5:27 (September 1885), 299-306.

Edgar Allan Poe, “Maelzel’s Chess-Player,” Southern Literary Messenger, April 1836, 318-326.

You can play through six of the Turk’s games on Chessgames.com.

Listener mail:

Nicholas Gibbs, “Voynich Manuscript: The Solution,” Times Literary Supplement, Sept. 5, 2017.

Annalee Newitz, “The Mysterious Voynich Manuscript Has Finally Been Decoded,” Ars Technica, Sept. 8, 2017.

Natasha Frost, “The World’s Most Mysterious Medieval Manuscript May No Longer Be a Mystery,” Atlas Obscura, Sept. 8, 2017.

Sarah Zhang, “Has a Mysterious Medieval Code Really Been Solved?” Atlantic, Sept. 10, 2017.

Annalee Newitz, “So Much for That Voynich Manuscript ‘Solution,'” Ars Technica, Sept. 10, 2017.

“Imaginary Erdős Number,” Numberphile, Nov. 26, 2014.

Oleg Pikhurko, “Erdős Lap Number,” Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick (accessed Sept. 15, 2017).

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Alex Baumans, who sent this corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Cash and Carry

During the London Gin Craze of the early 18th century, when the British government started running sting operations on petty gin sellers, someone invented a device called the “Puss-and-Mew” so that the buyer couldn’t identify the seller in court:

The old Observation, that the English, though no great Inventors themselves, are the best Improvers of other Peoples Inventions, is verified by a fresh Example, in the Parish of St. Giles’s in the Fields, and in other Parts of the Town; where several Shopkeepers, Dealers in Spirituous Liquors, observing the Wonders perform’d by the Figures of the Druggist and the Blackmoor pouring out Wine, have turn’d them to their own great Profit. The Way is this, the Buyer comes into the Entry and cries Puss, and is immediately answer’d by a Voice from within, Mew. A Drawer is then thrust out, into which the Buyer puts his Money, which when drawn back, is soon after thrust out again, with the Quantity of Gin requir’d; the Matter of this new Improvement in Mechanicks, remaining all the while unseen; whereby all Informations are defeated, and the Penalty of the Gin Act evaded.

This is sometimes called the first vending machine.

(From Read’s Weekly Journal, Feb. 18, 1738. Thanks, Nick.)

Hidden Mothers

In the 19th century, photographic subjects had to hold still during an exposure of 30 seconds or more. That’s hard enough for an adult, but it’s practically impossible for an infant. So mothers would sometimes hide in the scene, impersonating a chair or a pair of curtains, in order to hold the baby still while the photographer did his work:

More in this Flickr group.

Podcast Episode 169: John Harrison and the Problem of Longitude

john harrison

Ships need a reliable way to know their exact location at sea — and for centuries, the lack of a dependable method caused shipwrecks and economic havoc for every seafaring nation. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet John Harrison, the self-taught English clockmaker who dedicated his life to crafting a reliable solution to this crucial problem.

We’ll also admire a dentist and puzzle over a magic bus stop.

Intro:

Working in an Antarctic tent in 1908, Douglas Mawson found himself persistently interrupted by Edgeworth David.

In 1905, Sir Gilbert Parker claimed to have seen the astral body of Sir Crane Rasch in the House of Commons.

Sources for our feature on John Harrison:

Dava Sobel and William H. Andrews, The Illustrated Longitude, 1995.

William J.H. Andrewes, ed., The Quest for Longitude, 1996.

Katy Barrett, “‘Explaining’ Themselves: The Barrington Papers, the Board of Longitude, and the Fate of John Harrison,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 65:2 (June 20, 2011), 145-162.

William E. Carter and Merri S. Carter, “The Age of Sail: A Time When the Fortunes of Nations and Lives of Seamen Literally Turned With the Winds Their Ships Encountered at Sea,” Journal of Navigation 63:4 (October 2010), 717-731.

J.A. Bennett, “Science Lost and Longitude Found: The Tercentenary of John Harrison,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 24:4 (1993), 281-287.

Arnold Wolfendale, “Shipwrecks, Clocks and Westminster Abbey: The Story of John Harrison,” Historian 97 (Spring 2008), 14-17.

William E. Carter and Merri Sue Carter, “The British Longitude Act Reconsidered,” American Scientist 100:2 (March/April 2012), 102-105.

Robin W. Spencer, “Open Innovation in the Eighteenth Century: The Longitude Problem,” Research Technology Management 55:4 (July/August 2012), 39-43.

“Longitude Found: John Harrison,” Royal Museums Greenwich (accessed Aug. 27, 2017).

“John Harrison,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers (accessed Aug. 27, 2017).

J.C. Taylor and A.W. Wolfendale, “John Harrison: Clockmaker and Copley Medalist,” Notes and Records, Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, Jan. 22, 2007.

An Act for the Encouragement of John Harrison, to Publish and Make Known His Invention of a Machine or Watch, for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea, 1763.

John Harrison, An Account of the Proceedings, in Order to the Discovery of the Longitude, 1763.

John Harrison, A Narrative of the Proceedings Relative to the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea, 1765.

Nevil Maskelyne, An Account of the Going of Mr. John Harrison’s Watch, at the Royal Observatory, 1767.

John Harrison, Remarks on a Pamphlet Lately Published by the Rev. Mr. Maskelyne, 1767.

An Act for Granting to His Majesty a Certain Sum of Money Out of the Sinking Fund, 1773.

John Harrison, A Description Concerning Such Mechanism as Will Afford a Nice, or True Mensuration of Time, 1775.

Steve Connor, “John Harrison’s ‘Longitude’ Clock Sets New Record — 300 Years On,” Independent, April 18, 2015.

Robin McKie, “Clockmaker John Harrison Vindicated 250 Years After ‘Absurd’ Claims,” Guardian, April 18, 2015.

Listener mail:

Charlie Hintz, “DNA Ends 120 Year Mystery of H.H. Holmes’ Death,” Cult of Weird, Aug. 31, 2017.

“Descendant of H.H. Holmes Reveals What He Found at Serial Killer’s Gravesite in Delaware County,” NBC10, July 18, 2017.

Brian X. McCrone and George Spencer, “Was It Really ‘America’s First Serial Killer’ H.H. Holmes Buried in a Delaware County Grave?”, NBC10, Aug. 31, 2017.

Daniel Hahn, The Tower Menagerie, 2004.

James Owen, “Medieval Lion Skulls Reveal Secrets of Tower of London ‘Zoo,'” National Geographic News, Nov. 3, 2005.

Richard Davey, Tower of London, 1910.

Bill Bailey reads from the Indonesian-to-English phrasebook Practical Dialogues:

A few photos of Practical Dialogues.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Oskar Sigvardsson, who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Unto the Breach

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schlacht_von_Azincourt.jpg

In 2004, engineers Richard Clements and Roger Hughes put their study of crowd dynamics to an unusual application: the medieval Battle of Agincourt, which pitted Henry V’s English army against a numerically superior French army representing Charles VI. In their model, an instability arises on the front between the contending forces, which may account for the relatively large proportion of captured soldiers:

[P]ockets of French men-at-arms are predicted to push into the English lines and with hindsight be surrounded and either taken prisoner or killed. … Such an instability might explain the victory by the weaker English army by surrounding groups of the stronger army.

This description is consistent with the three large mounds of fallen soldiers that are reported in contemporary accounts of the battle. If the model is accurate then perhaps French men-at-arms succeeded in pushing back the English in certain locations, only to be surrounded and slaughtered, rallying around their leaders. By contrast, modern accounts perhaps incorrectly describe a “wall” of dead running the length of the field.

“Interestingly, the study suggests that the battle was lost by the greater army, because of its excessive zeal for combat leading to sections of it pushing through the ranks of the weaker army only to be surrounded and isolated.” The whole paper is here.

(Richard R. Clements and Roger L. Hughes. “Mathematical Modelling of a Mediaeval Battle: The Battle of Agincourt, 1415,” Mathematics and Computers in Simulation 64:2 [2004], 259-269.)

Podcast Episode 168: The Destruction of the Doves Type

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In March 1913, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson threw the most beautiful typeface in the world off of London’s Hammersmith Bridge to keep it out of the hands of his estranged printing partner. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll explore what would lead a man to destroy the culmination of his life’s work — and what led one modern admirer to try to revive it.

We’ll also scrutinize a housekeeper and puzzle over a slumped child.

Intro:

Gustav Mahler rejected the Berlin Royal Opera because of the shape of his nose.

In 1883, inventor Robert Heath enumerated the virtues of glowing hats.

Sources for our feature on the Doves Press:

Marianne Tidcombe, The Doves Press, 2002.

The Journals of Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, 1926.

“The Doves Press” — A Kelmscott Revival,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 1901, BR9.

“The Revival of Printing as an Art,” New York Tribune, Sept. 14, 1901, 11.

“The Doves Press Bible,” Guardian, March 10, 1904.

“The Doves Press,” Athenaeum, Jan. 12, 1907, 54-54.

“The Doves Press,” Athenaeum, June 13, 1908, 729-730.

Dissolution of the partnership, London Gazette, July 27, 1909, 5759.

“Doves Press Type in River: Memoirs of T.C. Sanderson Tell How He Disposed of It,” New York Times, Sept. 8, 1926, 27.

Arthur Millier, “Bookbinding Art Proves Inspiration: Doves Press Exhibit Reveals Devotion to Lofty Ideals,” Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1933, A2.

Charles B. Russell, “Cobden-Sanderson and the Doves Press,” Prairie Schooner 14:3 (Fall 1940), 180-192.

Carole Cable, “The Printing Types of the Doves Press: Their History and Destruction,” Library Quarterly 44:3 (July 1974), 219-230.

Marcella D. Genz, “The Doves Press [review],” Library Quarterly 74:1 (January 2004), 91-94.

“Biographies of the Key Figures Involved in the Doves Press,” International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, Dec. 22, 2009.

“The Doves Type Reborn,” Association Typographique Internationale, Dec. 20, 2010.

“The Fight Over the Doves,” Economist, Dec. 19, 2013.

Justin Quirk, “X Marks the Spot,” Sunday Times, Jan. 11, 2015, 22.

Rachael Steven, “Recovering the Doves Type,” Creative Review, Feb. 3, 2015.

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, “The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery,” Gizmodo, Feb. 16, 2015.

Rich Rennicks, “The Doves Press Story,” New Antiquarian, Feb. 24, 2015.

“One Man’s Obsession With Rediscovering the Lost Doves Type,” BBC News Magazine, Feb. 25, 2015.

“15 Things You Didn’t Know About the Doves Press & Its Type,” Typeroom, Oct. 20, 2015.

“An Obsessive Type: The Tale of the Doves Typeface,” BBC Radio 4, July 28, 2016.

Sujata Iyengar, “Intermediating the Book Beautiful: Shakespeare at the Doves Press,” Shakespeare Quarterly 67:4 (Winter 2016), 481-502.

“The Doves Type”, Typespec (accessed Aug. 20, 2017).

“Raised From the Dead: The Doves Type Story,” Typespec (accessed Aug. 20, 2017).

“History of the Doves Type,” Typespec (accessed Aug. 21, 2017).

“Doves Press,” Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum (accessed Aug. 20, 2017).

“Doves Press Collection,” Bruce Peel Special Collections, University of Alberta (accessed Aug. 20, 2017).

Listener mail:

Becky Oskin, “Yosemite Outsmarts Its Food-Stealing Bears,” Live Science, March 3, 2014.

Kristin Hohenadel, “Vancouver Bans Doorknobs,” Slate, Nov. 26 2013.

Jeff Lee, “Vancouver’s Ban on the Humble Doorknob Likely to Be a Trendsetter,” Vancouver Sun, Nov. 19, 2013.

Jonathan Goodman, The Slaying of Joseph Bowne Elwell, 1987.

“Housekeeper Admits Shielding Woman by Hiding Garments in Elwell Home,” New York Times, June 17, 1920.

“Elwell Crime Still Mystery,” Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1920.

“Housekeeper Gives New Elwell Facts,” New York Times, June 25, 1920.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Dean Gootee.

Please visit Littleton Coin Company to sell your coins and currency, or call them toll free 1-877-857-7850.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 167: A Manhattan Murder Mystery

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In May 1920, wealthy womanizer Joseph Elwell was found shot to death alone in his locked house in upper Manhattan. The police identified hundreds of people who might have wanted Elwell dead, but they couldn’t quite pin the crime on any of them. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the sensational murder that the Chicago Tribune called “one of the toughest mysteries of all times.”

We’ll also learn a new use for scuba gear and puzzle over a sympathetic vandal.

Intro:

The Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants played a three-way baseball game in 1944.

Avon, Colorado, has a bridge called Bob.

joseph elwell

Sources for our feature on Joseph Elwell:

Jonathan Goodman, The Slaying of Joseph Bowne Elwell, 1987.

Joseph Bowne Elwell, Bridge, Its Principles and Rules of Play, 1903

“J.B. Elwell, Whist Expert and Race Horse Owner, Slain,” New York Times, June 12, 1920, 1.

“Seek Young Woman in Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, June 13, 1920, 14.

“Scour City Garages for Elwell Clue,” New York Times, June 14, 1920, 1.

“‘Woman in Black’ at the Ritz Enters Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, June 16, 1920, 1.

“Two Men and Women Hunted in New Trail for Slayer of Elwell,” New York Tribune, June 16, 1920, 1.

“Housekeeper Admits Shielding Woman by Hiding Garments in Elwell Home,” New York Times, June 17, 1920, 1.

“Mrs. Elwell Bares Divorce Project,” New York Times, June 17, 1920, 1.

“Swann Baffled at Every Turn in Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, June 19, 1920, 1.

“‘Mystery Girl in Elwell Case Is Found,” Washington Times, June 19, 1920, 1.

“Elwell, Discarding Palm Beach Woman, Revealed Threats,” New York Times, June 20, 1920, 1.

“Elwell, the Man of Many Masks,” New York Times, June 20, 1920, 12.

“Elwell Traced to Home at 2:30 on Day of Murder,” New York Times, June 21, 1920, 1.

“‘Unwritten Law’ Avenger Sought in Elwell Case,” New York Times, June 22, 1920, 1.

“Think Assassin Hid for Hours in Elwell Home,” New York Times, June 23, 1920, 1.

“Admits Breakfasting With Von Schlegell,” New York Times, June 23, 1920, 3.

“Officials Baffled by Contradictions Over Elwell Calls,” New York Times, June 24, 1920, 1.

“Housekeeper Gives New Elwell Facts,” New York Times, June 25, 1920, 1.

“Pendleton, Amazed Awaiting Inquiry in Elwell Case,” New York Times, June 28, 1920, 1.

“‘Bootlegger’ Clue in Elwell Case Bared by Check,” New York Times, June 29, 1920, 1.

“Elwell Rum Ring Bared by Shevlin,” New York Times, July 2, 1920, 14.

“Viola Kraus Again on Elwell Grill,” New York Times, July 3, 1920, 14.

“The People and Their Daily Troubles,” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1920: II2.

“Says Witness Lied in Elwell Inquiry,” New York Times, July 7, 1920, 11.

“Whisky Is Seized in Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, July 10, 1920, 10.

“New Elwell Clue Found by Police,” New York Times, July 11, 1920, 16.

“‘Beatrice,’ New Witness Sought in Elwell Case,” New York Tribune, July 11, 1920, 6.

“Says He Murdered Elwell,” New York Times, July 14, 1920, 17.

“Quiz Figueroa Again in Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, July 17, 1920, 14.

“Chauffeur Quizzed in Elwell Mystery,” New York Times, July 20, 1920, 8.

“Elwell Evidence Put Up to Whitman,” New York Times, April 2, 1921, 11.

“Confesses Murder of Elwell and Says Woman Paid for It,” New York Times, April 7, 1921, 1.

“Admits Elwell Murder,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1921, I1.

“Confessed Elwell Slayer Identifies Woman Employer,” New York Times, April 8, 1921, 1.

“Confessed Slayer of Elwell Is Sane, Alienist Declares,” New York Times, April 9, 1921, 1.

“Harris Admits His Elwell Murder Tale Was All a Lie,” New York Times, April 11, 1921, 1.

“Elwell and Keenan Slayers Are Known,” Fort Wayne [Ind.] Sentinel, Oct. 17, 1923, 1.

“Elwell’s Slayer Known to Police,” New York Times, Oct. 21, 1923, E4.

“Fifth Anniversary of the Elwell Murder Finds It Listed as the Perfect Mystery,” New York Times, June 12, 1925, 21.

“Elwell Cut Off,” New York Times, April 12, 1927, 19.

“Murder of Elwell Recalled in Suicide,” New York Times, Oct. 15, 1927, 21.

“Joseph Elwell Murder in 1920 Still Mystery,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 21, 1955.

David J. Krajicek, “Who Would Want to Kill Joe Elwell?” New York Daily News, Feb. 13, 2011.

Douglas J. Lanska, “Optograms and Criminology: Science, News Reporting, and Fanciful Novels,” in Anne Stiles et al., Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections, 2013.

Kirk Curnutt, “The Gatsby Murder Case,” in Alfred Bendixen and Olivia Carr Edenfield, eds., The Centrality of Crime Fiction in American Literary Culture, 2017.

Listener mail:

Paul Rubin, “Burning Man: An Attorney Says He Escaped His Blazing Home Using Scuba Gear; Now He’s Charged with Arson,” Phoenix New Times, Aug. 27, 2009.

Michael Walsh, “Autopsy Shows Michael Marin, Arizona Man Who Was Former Wall Street Trader, Killed Self With Cyanide After Hearing Guilty Verdict,” New York Daily News, July 27, 2012.

“Michael Marin Update: Canister Labeled ‘Cyanide’ Found in Arsonist’s Vehicle, Investigators Say,” CBS News/Associated Press, July 12, 2012.

Ed Lavandera, “Ex-Banker’s Courtroom Death an Apparent Suicide,” CNN, July 11, 2012.

At the guilty verduct, Marin put his hands to his mouth, apparently swallowed something, and collapsed in court:

Alex Papadimoulis, “Suzanne the 1000th Malone,” The Daily WTF, Jan. 15, 2008.

Oxford Dictionaries, “What Are the Plurals of ‘Octopus’, ‘Hippopotamus’, ‘Syllabus’?”

“Octopus,” “Ask the Editor,” Merriam-Webster.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Oliver Bayley. Here are some corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

Please visit Littleton Coin Company to sell your coins and currency, or call them toll free 1-877-857-7850.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Case Closed

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“Witchfinder general” Matthew Hopkins hanged 300 women during the English Civil War, accounting for perhaps 60 percent of all executions for witchcraft at that time. After days of starvation, sleep deprivation, and forced walking, the accused women produced some extraordinary confessions:

Elizabeth Clark, an old, one-legged beggar-woman, gave the names of her ‘imps’ as ‘Holt,’ a ‘white kitling;’ ‘Jarmara,’ a ‘fat spaniel’ without legs; ‘Sacke and Sugar,’ a ‘black rabbet;’ ‘Newes,’ a ‘polcat;’ and ‘Vinegar Tom,’ a greyhound with ox-head and horns. Another called her ‘imps’ ‘Ilemauzar’ (or ‘Elemauzer’), ‘Pyewackett,’ ‘Pecke in the Crowne,’ and ‘Griezzell Greedigutt.’

This proved their guilt, Hopkins said — these were names “which no mortal could invent.”