Self-Help

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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

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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.

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.