Adventures in Parenthood

In March, 1802, a child of Jonathan White’s, Southgate, Chichester, about six months old, had a small double-bladed knife, nearly two inches and a half in length, given it to play with in the cradle. The infant swallowed it, and, as may be supposed, soon became uneasy in its stomach, though otherwise healthy. On the 24th of May, the shortest blade was discharged by the bowels; the back of it was very much corroded, its edges ragged, uneven, and saw-like; the rivet was entirely dissolved. On the 16th of June, after more than usual uneasiness, and the rejection of food, the child vomited one side of the horn handle, very much softened, and bent double; a small bit of iron passed a few days after; and on the 24th of July, another bit of a wedge-like shape, much corroded, and full of holes, and, apparently, the large blade. The child was now much emaciated, the faeces blackish, and the abdomen inflamed externally. On the 11th of August, the back of the knife, and soon after, the other side of the horn handle, were vomited; and the infant, thereafter, recovered entirely. This case, fully authenticated, has been published.

Literary Gazette, July 11, 1818

The Hard Way

Son of a U.S. vice president, Michael Rockefeller shunned the easy life and sought adventure in New Guinea.

Apparently he found it. In November 1961 he and an anthropologist were three miles from shore when their pontoon boat overturned. After drifting for some time, Rockefeller told his companion, “I think I can make it” and swam for shore.

He was never seen again.


Russian spell to invoke a werewolf, cited in The Book of Werewolves (1865) by Sabine Baring-Gould:

He who desires to become an oboroten, let him seek in the forest a hewn-down tree; let him stab it with a small copper knife, and walk round the tree, repeating the following incantation:

On the sea, on the ocean, on the island, on Bujan,
On the empty pasture gleams the moon, on an ashstock lying
In a green wood, in a gloomy vale.
Towards the stock wandereth a shaggy wolf,
Horned cattle seeking for his sharp white fangs;
But the wolf enters not the forest,
But the wolf dives not into the shadowy vale,
Moon, moon, gold-horned moon,
Check the flight of bullets, blunt the hunters’ knives,
Break the shepherds’ cudgels,
Cast wild fear upon all cattle,
On men, all creeping things,
That they may not catch the grey wolf,
That they may not rend his warm skin!
My word is binding, more binding than sleep,
More binding than the promise of a hero!

Then he springs thrice over the tree and runs into the forest, transformed into a wolf.

“A gentleman,” said Lana Turner, “is simply a patient wolf.”

The Gävle Goats

There are good Swedes and bad Swedes. The good ones build a three-ton straw goat every Christmas, and the bad ones try to burn it down. This has happened almost every year since 1966, when the first goat went up in flames on New Year’s Eve. The forces of good have brought in police guards, webcams, soldiers, volunteers, and dogs, but the bad guys have usually won. In 1976 the goat was even run over by a car.

What all this means is a question for sociologists, but it’s become a local industry. In 1988 English bookmakers began laying odds on the goat’s prospects, and now “goat committees” stock up on flame retardant and extra straw. They’re up against a tough foe, though: In 40 years of struggle, only four arsonists have been caught.

“Preservation of a Pig”

May 30, 1811. The workmen, on removing the rubbish of part of the cliff, near Dover Castle, that fell down a few months before, by which a mother and her children were killed, and their bodies found the next day, discovered a hog that was buried in the ruins at the same time, and was supposed to have perished; but, strange as it may appear, he was found alive, making it exactly five months and nine days since the accident. At that time the animal weighed about seven score; when he was found, he was wasted to about 30 pounds; but is still likely to do well.

National Register, June 2, 1811

“New Mode of Revenge”

Monkeys in India are more or less objects of superstitious reverence, and are, consequently, seldom or ever destroyed. In some places they are even fed, encouraged, and allowed to live on the roofs of the houses. If a man wish to revenge himself for any injury committed upon him, he has only to sprinkle some rice or corn upon the top of his enemy’s house, or granary, just before the rains set in, and the monkeys will assemble upon it, eat all they can find outside, and then pull off the tiles to get at that which falls through the crevices. This, of course, gives access to the torrents which fall in such countries, and house, furniture, and stores are all ruined.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860

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.