Auroral Sounds


Ever since ancient Rome, people have reported hearing the aurora borealis. It’s been described as a crackling, hissing, buzzing, or whistling.

Modern science can’t explain such sounds (yet), and so far no one’s managed to record them, so for now the jury’s still out.

Related: In 1881, correspondent F.C. Constable wrote to Nature of walking home during an electric storm in Karachi when “I heard all round me the constant crackling or rustling of blazing flames. Towards the north-west across a low arc near the horizon pale sheet lightning swayed quickly to and fro. There was no rain at the time, that came heavily afterwards. The sound of flames was close round me, and others had the same experience. No one I can find has ever seen lightning so completely fill the air or heard such strange sounds.”

Love Padlocks


In the 1980s, in the Hungarian city of Pécs, lovers began to clamp padlocks to this wrought-iron fence as a symbol of their commitment.

Now that the fence has filled up, people have begun attaching locks to fences and statues throughout the town center, and the custom has spread to Hungary, Latvia, Italy and Japan.

“Love is a lock that linketh noble minds,” wrote Robert Greene, “faith is the key that shuts the spring of love.”



Is there an aquatic church we don’t know about? Three centuries after John Stow’s sea monk escaped, a “bishop-fish” was caught and taken to the king of Poland. It gestured to a group of Catholic bishops, appealing to be released, and when they granted its wish it made the sign of the cross and swam away.

Another bishop-fish was reportedly caught near Germany in 1531. This one refused to eat and died after three days.

Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, who described it in his Historia Animalium, also refers to monk-fish caught off Norway and in the Firth of Forth. Someone ought to take up a collection.

The Ding Hai Effect

Adam Cheng isn’t very popular among stockbrokers. That’s because every time the Hong Kong actor stars in a new television show, there’s a sharp drop in global stock markets.

No one can explain it, but it’s happened eight times since 1993, when Cheng first starred as Ding Hai in the dramatic series Greed of Man. Only once, in 2004, has a new Cheng series not been accompanied by a drop in the stock market.

Desert Downpour

A “magic tap.” Can you see how it’s done?

Click for Answer

Richard Sharpe Shaver

Amazing Stories was full of, well, amazing stories, but Richard Sharpe Shaver insisted that his were true. Between 1943 and 1948, Shaver and editor/publisher Ray Palmer told of cavern cities filled with evil robots that kidnapped and tortured unwary humans. Shaver insisted he had been a prisoner for several years.

Strangely, the first story brought a flood of excited letters corroborating Shaver’s tale. One woman claimed she had been abducted from a Paris subbasement and raped and tortured before good robots freed her. “Shaver Mystery Club” chapters began to spring up, and Amazing gained about 50,000 subscribers.

The stories petered out as the sensation ran its course, though the clubs persisted into the late 1950s. By the 1970s, Shaver was insisting that certain rocks were “books” created by ancient Atlanteans. Today it seems he was not a misunderstood visionary but a troubled schizophrenic with a compelling imagination.

The Forevertron


The Forevertron is the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. Salvage expert Tom Every spent decades collecting 320 tons of antique machinery, including dynamos built by Thomas Edison and an actual decontamination chamber from the Apollo project. It’s in southern Wisconsin.

The Coso Artifact

In 1961, three prospectors in California found a sparkplug encased in solid rock.

It was originally thought to be 500,000 years old, which would put it in a class with the Kingoodie Hammer and the Dorchester Pot.

More recent investigations say the “rock” is just a concretion of iron oxide produced by the rusting plug, which may date only from the 1920s … but discoverer Mike Mikesell says he destroyed a diamond-edged blade in cutting through it.

Rock-Cut Architecture

You think your job’s bad. This was carved by hand from solid rock.

India has more than 1,200 such structures, the earliest dating to 8000 B.C.

“The Tomatina”

The world’s largest food fight takes place each year on the last Wednesday in August, when the town of Buñol, Spain, holds its annual tomato festival. Local trucks dump more than 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes into the streets, and there’s a general free-for-all among up to 25,000 people.

Reportedly, when it’s over, rivers of tomato juice up to 12 inches deep run through the town, and area fire engines hose down the streets.

This has been going on since 1944, and apparently it has no political or religious significance — they do it just for fun.