“Curious Post-Office”

The smallest post-office in the world is kept in a barrel, which swings from the outermost rock of the mountains overhanging the Straits of Magellan, opposite Terra del Fuego. Every passing ship opens it to place letters in or take them out. Every ship undertakes to forward all letters in it that it is possible for them to transmit. The barrel hangs by its iron chain, beaten and battered by the winds and storms, but no locked and barred office on land is more secure.

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882

You Can’t Keep a Bad Man Down


Frankenstein nearly came true in 1803, when Italian physicist Giovanni Aldini ran electric current through the newly dead body of murderer George Forster.

The prison record states that “on the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.”

One witness reportedly died of fright, but there was really no cause for alarm. If Forster had returned to life, the prison planned to re-execute him — after all, he’d been sentenced to “hang until he be dead.”

“The Tartarian Lamb”

Tartarian Lamb

Another sighting of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, previously discussed here:

This singular production of nature, which is one of the curiosities of the East, though not commonly known, has heretofore engaged much of the attention of the learned naturalists. To the eye, though a perfect vegetable in its internal form, particularly at a distance, it carries an exact resemblance of the animal whose name it bears. It has four stalks or stems, which appear like feet, and the body is covered with a brownish kind of down, which has the medicinal quality of stopping blood; its head also bears an exact resemblance to the representation we have given of it.

Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, 1803

Collateral Damage

In 1958 the U.S. Air Force mistakenly dropped an atom bomb on South Carolina. A B-47 was over Mars Bluff when navigator Bruce Kulka accidentally released the device. Its fissionable core was stowed elsewhere, fortunately, but the bomb still contained thousands of pounds of conventional explosives. It fell 15,000 feet into the home of William Gregg, where it created a mushroom cloud and left a 75-foot crater.

Presumably they raised his insurance rates.

Great Balls of Fire


1861 came with its own entertainment: Earth passed through the tail of a brilliant comet. Observers watched streams of material converge toward its distant nucleus, and by day its gas and dust obscured even the sun.

Sorry you missed it? Sit tight — it’ll be back in 200 years.

“Extraordinary Facts in Acoustics”

An intelligent and very respectable gentleman, named Ebenezer Snell, who is still living, at the age of eighty and upwards, was in a corn-field with a negro on the 17th of June, 1776, in the township of Cumminton, Mass., one hundred and twenty-nine miles west of Bunker Hill by the course of the road, and at least one hundred in an air-line. Some time during the day, the negro was lying on the ground, and remarked to Ebenezer that there was war somewhere, for he could distinctly hear the cannonading. Ebenezer put his ear to the ground, and also heard the firing distinctly, and for a considerable time. He remembers the fact, which made a deep impression on his mind, as plainly as though it was yesterday.

— Charles Bombaugh, Facts and Fancies for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1860


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Lightning-prints are appearances sometimes found on the skin of men or animals that are struck by lightning, and are currently believed to be photographic representations of surrounding objects of scenery.

At Candelaria, in Cuba, in 1828, a young man was struck dead by lightning near a house, on one of the windows of which was nailed a horse-shoe; and the image of the horse-shoe was said to be distinctly printed upon the neck of the young man. On the 14th of November, 1830, lightning struck the Chateau Benatoniére, in Lavendée. At the time a lady happened to be seated on a chair in the salon, and on the back of her dress were printed minutely the ornaments on the back of the chair. In September, 1857, a peasant-girl, while herding a cow in the department of Seine-et-Marne, was overtaken by a thunder-storm. She took refuge under a tree, and the tree, the cow and herself were struck with lightning. The cow was killed, but she recovered, and on loosening her dress for the sake of respiring freely, she saw a picture of the cow upon her breast.

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882