“Astonishing Natural Phenomenon”

On the 27th of August, 1814, while the Majestic, Capt. Hayes, was cruising off Boston, a strange figure was perceived in the eastern horizon, about two o’clock in the morning; which, as the sun arose, gradually became more distinguishable, and, at length, assumed the perfect appearance of a man, dressed in a short jacket and half boots, with a staff in his hand, at the top of which was a colour hanging over his head, marked with two lines, perpendicularly drawn at equal distances, and strongly resembling the French flag. The figure continued visible as long as the rays of the sun would permit it to be looked at. On the 28th the figure displayed itself in the same posture, but rather broken. On the following morning, it seemed entirely disjointed, and faded into shadow, until, at last, nothing more could be seen than three marks on the sun’s disk. — Captain Hayes, his officers, and about 200 of the crew, witnessed the spectacle, both with the naked eye and through glasses. In superstitious times, such a phenomenon would have been construed into a providential warning or ominous token of some unexpected event; in this enlightened age, however, it may be easily accounted for by the reflective power of the atmosphere, which is well known to be wonderful. Most probably the figure represented was some one ashore, or on the deck of the Majestic.

Courier, June 13, 1815

The Rock Garden of Chandigarh

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Like Sabato Rodia and Justo Gallego Martínez, Nek Chand knew the value of imagination. In the late 1940s, the Indian roads inspector started collecting building materials from local demolition sites and in a hidden forest gorge began to realize his vision of the divine kingdom of Sukrani.

Amazingly, he kept it a secret for 18 years — by the time the authorities discovered it in 1975, it had grown into a 12-acre complex of sculpture-filled courtyards. After some havering, they decided to let him keep it, and today Chand’s secret rock garden is visited by 5,000 people a day.

Jeffrey Hudson


Jeffrey Hudson was only 18 inches tall, but his life was enormous. Born in 1619, the “rarity of nature” was served in a pie to a delighted Queen Henrietta, who adopted him. Thereafter he played in court masques for Inigo Jones, undertook a mission to France, observed the Spanish siege of Breda, won a duel (on horseback!) against the queen’s master of horse, was captured by Barbary pirates and enslaved in North Africa, returned to London, and was imprisoned for his Catholicism. He died in 1682, both small and great.

Well Rounded

Image: Wikimedia Commons

There’s something odd about Illinois’ Bull Valley Police Department — it has no square corners.

The house was built by George Stickney, a spiritualist who believed spirits could be caught in 90-degree angles. Stickney used to hold seances on the second floor; he had lost nine of his 12 children and possibly was trying to reach them.

Whatever the truth, the house seems a poor place for a police department. There are numerous rumors of paranormal activity, and so far two officers have quit.


Last week, while the sexton of Tynemouth Church was digging a grave in North Shields Church Yard, he imagined he heard a feeble voice under his feet, pronounce the word ‘murder!’ but looking down, and perceiving nothing, he plucked up his spirits and resumed his work. No sooner, however, did he begin to make use of his spade, than the same awful sound vibrated three times in his ears: the courage of the astonished Moses forsook him — the spade dropped from his grasp, and, with the agility of an harlequin, he skipped out of the grave, and fled from the church yard, to the no small amusement of those who were in the secret. A soldier practising ventriloquism, who was placed at a convenient distance, conveyed the sound.

Times, Oct. 29, 1808

“Port Coon Cave”

Port Coon Cave

The above is a sketch of a cave which well deserves a place among our collection of Wonders. It is called Port Coon Cave, and is in the line of rocks near the Giants’ Causeway. It may be visited either by sea or by land. Boats may row into it to the distance of a hundred yards or more, but the swell is sometimes dangerous; and although the land entrance to the cave is slippery, and a fair proportion of climbing is necessary to achieve the object, still the magnificence of the excavation, its length, and the formation of the interior, would repay greater exertion; the stones of which the roof and sides are composed, and which are of a rounded form, and embedded, as it were, in a basaltic paste, are formed of concentric spheres resembling the coats of an onion; the innermost recess has been compared to the side aisle of a Gothic cathedral; the walls are most painfully slimy to the touch; the discharge of a loaded gun reverberates amid the rolling of the billows, so as to thunder a most awful effect; and the notes of a bugle, we are told, produced delicious echoes.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860

Skunk Ape

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The skunk ape is Florida’s answer to Bigfoot, a large primate that reportedly lives east of Interstate 75, near Myakka River State Park.

In December 2000, an anonymous writer mailed two photographs and a letter to the Sarasota sheriff’s department. “Is someone missing an orangutan?” she asked, identifying herself as a grandmother who had taken the photos when she found the beast stealing apples from her backyard. “It is hard to judge from the photos how big this orangutan really is. … I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall in a kneeling position. … It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep ‘woomp’ noises.”

That’s a bit hard to swallow. If the skunk ape is 7 feet tall kneeling then it must be nearly 10 feet tall standing. The largest male orangutans are 4 feet 5 inches. The letter writer says she was standing within 10 feet of the monster when it stood up (“an animal this big could hurt someone seriously”), but she stood there anyway and took a second picture. And why send an anonymous typewritten letter?

There have been other “sightings” since this one, but of course no evidence. Nice photos, though.