The Nakhla Dog

In June 1911, a meteorite fell to earth in Alexandria, Egypt. A local farmer named Mohammed Ali Effendi Hakim claimed that one fragment had landed on his dog. If it’s true, this would be the first recorded instance of a meteorite killing an animal. But it’s hard to verify without evidence — the dog, if it ever existed, was vaporized.

Clara

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An enterprising rhinoceros could make a pretty good living in 18th-century Europe, where people clamored to see such an outlandish creature. A rhino named Clara toured the continent for 17 years in a special wooden carriage, meeting royalty in England, France, Prussia and Poland and posing for portraits and sculptures. The French navy even named a ship after her.

She died in 1758, probably wondering what all the fuss was about.

“Canine Fidelity”

August 18, 1765. One Carr, a waterman, having laid a wager, that he and his dog would leap from the centre arch of Westminster Bridge, and land at Lambeth, within a minute of each other; he jumped off first, and the dog immediately followed him; but the faithful animal not being in the secret, and fearing his master should be drowned, laid hold of him by the neck, and dragged him to the shore, to the no small diversion of the spectators.

Annual Register, 1765

No Forwarding Address

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Percy Fawcett set out to solve a mystery and only compounded it. In 1925, after studying ancient legends, the British archaeologist became convinced that the dense Matto Grosso region of western Brazil concealed a lost city that he called “Z.” In May he set out with two other men into the uncharted jungle, leaving a note that none should try to rescue them if they did not return.

They didn’t. The decades that followed brought many rumors: Fawcett had been murdered by Indians, killed by a wild animal, stricken with amnesia or felled by illness. In all, 100 rescuers in 13 expeditions have died trying to discover what happened to him. To this day, no one knows.

Daniel McCartney

Daniel McCartney never needed a diary — he could remember every day of his life since age 9. On his death in 1887, the Cardington, Ohio, Independent published this account:

That the reader may more clearly understand what has just been written, I will give Mr. McCartney’s answer to a question of my own: ‘Wife and I were married on the 28th day of January, 1836; give the day of the week, the kind of weather, etc.?’ He gave answer in a few seconds. ‘You were married on Thursday, there was snow on the ground, good sleighing and not very cold; father and I were hauling hay; a sole came off the sled, we had to throw the hay off, put a new sole on the sled and load up again before we could go.’

The writer (whose name is not given) met McCartney again a dozen years later and asked the same question. McCartney gave the same details.

“Singular Expedient”

A strange story is that related in a paper on ‘English and Irish Juries,’ in All the Year Round. The president judge in the case, Sir James Dyce, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, astonished at the verdict of acquittal in so plain a case, sought an interview with the foreman, who, having previously obtained a promise of secrecy during his lifetime, confessed that he had killed the man in a struggle in self-defence, and said that he had caused himself to be placed on the jury in order to insure his acquittal.

— Charles Bombaugh, Facts and Fancies for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1905

In Other News

March 15, 1761, Tregoney, in Cornwall. As some tinners were lately employed on a new mine, one of them accidentally struck his pick-axe on a stone. The earth being removed, a coffin was found. On removing the lid they discovered a skeleton of a man of gigantic size, which, on the admission of the air, mouldered into dust. One entire tooth remained whole, which was two inches and a half long, and thick in proportion. The length of the coffin was eleven feet three inches, and depth three feet nine inches.

Annual Register, 1761

Bridge to Nowhere

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On Nov. 7, 1940, photographer Leonard Coatsworth was halfway across Washington’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge when he felt it move strangely:

“Just as I drove past the towers, the bridge began to sway violently from side to side. Before I realized it, the tilt became so violent that I lost control of the car. … I jammed on the brakes and got out, only to be thrown onto my face against the curb… Around me I could hear concrete cracking. … The car itself began to slide from side to side of the roadway.”

Gripping the curb, he crawled 500 yards back toward the toll plaza, turned and watched his car plunge into the Narrows. With it went his daughter’s dog, Tubby, who was too terrified to jump out.

The bridge had been competently designed, with supports by Golden Gate designer Leon Moisseiff, but no one had counted on its twisting and buckling in the wind.