Oddities

“A Marine Monster”

http://books.google.com/books?id=i3cFAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage&rview=1#PPA93,M1

Sea serpent witnessed from the S.S. City of Baltimore in the Gulf of Aden, Jan. 28, 1879. Maj. H.W.I. Senior of the Bengal Staff Corps told the Graphic of “a long black object” “darting rapidly out of the water and splashing in again with a noise distinctly audible.” The creature advanced to within 500 yards:

“The head and neck, about two feet in diameter, rose out of the water to a height of about twenty or thirty feet, and the monster opened its jaws wide as it rose, and closed them again as it lowered its head and darted forward for a dive, reappearing almost immediately some hundred yards ahead. The body was not visible at all, and must have been some depth under water. … When the monster had drawn its head sufficiently out of the water, it let itself drop, as it were, like a huge log of wood, prior to darting forward under the water.'”

Senior’s statement is countersigned by two other witnesses, including the ship’s surgeon.

Moore’s Paradox

This is an absurd statement:

It’s raining, but I don’t believe that it is.

This is not:

It was raining, but I didn’t believe that it was.

Why?

“A Lucky Find”

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/653801

During the month of April, 1733, Sir Simon Stuart, of Hartley, England, while looking over some old writings, found on the back of one of them a memorandum noting that 1500 broad pieces were buried in a certain spot in an adjoining field. After a little digging the treasure was found in a pot, hidden there in the time of the civil wars by his grandfather, Sir Nicholas Stuart.

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

“The Day the Clowns Cried”

On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire during a performance in Hartford, Conn., and more than 160 people were killed in the ensuing blaze.

Among the victims was a young blond girl in a brown dress, whose body was assigned number 1565 by the morgue. A photograph was circulated locally and then throughout the United States, but no one came forward to claim her.

To this day no one knows who “Little Miss 1565″ was or how she came to be at the circus that day.

05/23/2013 UPDATE: Connecticut investigator Rick Davey has identified the girl as 8-year-old Eleanor Cook, who had attended the circus with her mother, Mildred. Eleanor received only minor burns in the fire but was trampled by the crowd, and efforts to identify her were unsuccessful. Mildred confirmed her identity to Davey.

(Thanks, Patricia.)

Lex Talionis

http://books.google.com/books?id=Jg0xAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=%22The+Criminal+Prosecution+and+Capital+Punishment+of+Animals%22#PPR2,M1

In 1386, the tribunal of Falaise sentenced a sow to be mangled and maimed in the head and forelegs, and then to be hanged, for having torn the face and arms of a child and thus caused its death. … As if to make the travesty of justice complete, the sow was dressed in man’s clothes and executed on the public square near the city-hall at an expense to the state of ten sous and ten deniers, besides a pair of gloves to the hangman.

— E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906

A Polyhedral Mystery

What is this? Well, it’s a dodecahedron, but what was its purpose? More than 100 of these objects have been found between England and Hungary; this one was discovered among Roman ruins near Frankfurt. Typically they’re made of bronze or stone, with a hollow center and a round hole in the middle of each face, and they range in size from 4 to 11 centimeters.

The Romans likely made them in the second or third century, but strangely they appear in no pictures from that period and they’re not mentioned in Roman literature.

Best guesses so far: survey instruments, candlesticks, or dice.

See Other Sign

Pity the sign makers in this Welsh village:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:LlanfairLARGE.jpg

That’s the longest place name in the United Kingdom. It’s Welsh for “St. Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.”

That doesn’t take the prize, though. The longest place name in an English-speaking country belongs to a hill on New Zealand’s North Island:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:New_Zealand_0577.jpg

It means “the summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who traveled about, played his flute to his loved one.”

Forward in Reverse

Excerpt from the St. James, Mo., Leader, June 4, 1931:

Plennie L. Wingo, a man walking around the world backwards, stopped in St. James long enough to get some new toe taps for his shoes. This was the 4th pair he had wore out. He started from Fort Worth, Texas, April 15th, and has been walking ever since. He wears periscopic eyeglasses, fastened over his ears like regular spectacles, which enables him to see where he is walking. He will continue on 66 to St. Louis then on Highway 40 to New York where he will secure passage to Europe. Wingo expects to complete the trip in about four years. He depends entirely on the sale of postcards for his expenses. He averages about 20 miles per day.

Wingo had covered 8,000 miles by October 1932, when Istanbul authorities denied him a visa and he gave up and went home.

His wife had divorced him in absentia.

“Monster of Monsters”

http://books.google.com/books?id=i3cFAAAAMAAJ&printsec=titlepage&rview=1#PPA91,M1

Declaration made before a stipendiary magistrate at Dale Street Police Court, Liverpool, by the captain and crew of the British barque Pauline, July 1875:

We the undersigned, captain, officers, and crew of the barque Pauline, of London, do solemnly and sincerely declare that on July 8th, 1875, in latitude 5° 13′, longitude 35° W., we observed three large sperm whales, and one of them was gripped round the body with two turns of what appeared to be a large serpent. The head and tail appeared to have a length beyond the coils of about thirty feet, and its girth eight or nine feet. The serpent whirled its victim round and round for about fifteen minutes, and then suddenly dragged the whale to the bottom, head first.

GEORGE DREVAR, Master,
HORATIO THOMPSON,
HENDERSON LANDELLO,
OWEN BAKER,
WILLIAM LEWAN

Miraculous

Curiously, St. Teresa of Ávila died on the same night that the Catholic world switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

The switch occasioned a 10-day correction — so Teresa died on Thursday, Oct. 4, 1582, and the next day was Friday, Oct. 15.

“A River of Ink”

In Algeria there is a river of genuine ink. It is formed by the union of two streams, one coming from a region of ferruginous soil, the other draining a peat swamp. The water of the former is strongly impregnated with iron, that of the latter with gallic acid. When the two waters mingle, the acid of the one unites with the iron of the other, forming a true ink. We are familiar with a stream called Black Brook, in the northern part of New York, the inky color of whose water is evidently due to like conditions.

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

Nowhere Man

welbeck abbey

Only the poor are crazy — rich people are “eccentric.” William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck certainly fit that bill. When he inherited the dukedom of Portland in 1854, he retired to his estate in Nottinghamshire, holed up in the west wing, and had all the other rooms painted pink.

That was just the beginning. Apparently struck with a pathological shyness, the duke had all his doors fitted with letterboxes and would let not even a doctor in. His tenants were instructed not to acknowledge his presence, and only one valet could see him in person.

He wouldn’t go out, but he did go down, employing hundreds of workmen to create a vast underground complex with a library, an observatory, a billiards room and 15 miles of tunnels, one of which was wide enough to accommodate two carriages.

No one knows what he did down there — the ballroom had a hydraulic lift that could carry 20 people, but he never invited anyone to see it. He left the house only at night, preceded by a servant who was ordered to carry a lantern 40 yards ahead of him. He died in 1879, departing a lonely world of his own making.

The Eltanin Antenna

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eltanin_Antenna.jpg

What is this? The oceanographic research ship USNS Eltanin discovered it off the Antarctic coast in 1964, at a depth of 13,500 feet — that’s 2.5 miles down.

It could be an alien ship buried under the seafloor. It could be ancient technology left by a forgotten civilization. It could be a well-hidden gift left by time travelers from the remote future.

Or it could be a sponge, Cladorhiza concrescens. You decide.

Wait a Minute …

If you use Microsoft Windows, you’ve seen the Webdings and Wingdings fonts. They’re “dingbat” fonts — in place of letters they offer small clip-art images and symbols.

Well, here’s “NYC” in Webdings:

NYC webdings

And here’s “NYC” in Wingdings:

NYC wingdings

Make of this what you will.

Undisturbed

A remarkable discovery was made early in the last century at the Elizabethan manor house of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, only a portion of which remains incorporated in a modern structure. Upon removing some of the wallpaper of a passage on the second floor, the entrance to a room hitherto unknown was laid bare. It was a small apartment about eight feet square, and presented the appearance as if some occupant had just quitted it. A chair and a table within, each bore evidence of the last inmate. Over the back of the former hung a priest’s black cassock, carelessly flung there a century or more ago, while on the table stood an antique tea-pot, cup, and silver spoon, the very tea leaves crumbled to dust with age. On the same storey were two rooms known as ‘the chapel’ and the ‘priest’s room,’ the names of which signify the former use of the concealed apartment.

— Allan Fea, Secret Chambers and Hiding-Places, 1908

No Return

The Milanese airship Italia reached the North Pole in 1928, but on the way back to base it encountered worsening weather and crashed to the ice. Ten men were thrown from the cabin; the chief engineer managed to throw them some supplies before he and five others were drawn helplessly away with the drifting envelope.

Nine of the castaways eventually reached civilization, but no trace of the airship or its captives has ever been found.

See also Hope Springs Eternal.

Earthquake Lights

Witnesses reported seeing “immense columns of flame” shortly before the earthquake that destroyed the Greek cities of Helike and Boura in 373 B.C. Numerous accounts since then have told of aurora-like lights accompanying earthquakes.

They were thought to be a myth until photographs were taken during a Japanese quake in the 1960s, and several corroborating videos have appeared since then. But why they occur is still a mystery.

“Singular Accident”

On the 25th of February 1823, a span of horses with a sleigh and lumber box, broke away from the five mile house on the old Schenectady road, and were not heard of until the 17th of March inst. when they were found in a swamp, about a mile and a half from the four mile house. One of the horses, having been thrown down, had, in this situation, eat off half the neck yoke, and the end of the tongue of the sleigh. He was found dead. The other was alive, having remained twenty days, during the most inclement part of the season, without food or water, except what he obtained from browsing in the short space of a hundred feet. Both horses were still in the harness when found, and the articles in the sleigh were found as they had been left.

— “American paper,” cited in The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824

“Dürer in the Forest”

Etching by Hungarian artist István Orosz.

Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

Contrary Motion

contrary motion

No matter how fast a train is moving forward, certain parts of it are moving backward:

The flanges of its wheels.

A Traveling Companion

SIR,—In reference to your paragraph in your yesterday’s issue [of the Malacca Straits Times Overland Journal], relating to our having seen a sea-monster answering to the popular notion of a sea-serpent, I am prepared to vouch for the correctness of the statement already made to you by the doctor and a passenger by my ship.

Being on the bridge at the time (about 10 A.M.) with the first and third officers, we were surprised by the appearance of an extraordinary monster going in our course, and at an equal speed with the vessel, at a distance from us of about six hundred feet. It had a square head and a dragon black and white striped tail, and an immense body, which was quite fifty feet broad when the monster raised it. The head was about twelve feet broad, and appeared to be occasionally, at the extreme, about six feet above the water. When the head was placed on a level with the water, the body was extended to its utmost limit to all appearance, and then the body rose out of the water about two feet, and seemed quite fifty feet broad at those times. The long dragon tail with black and white scales afterwards rose in an undulating motion, in which at one time the head, at another the body, and eventually the tail, formed each in its turn a prominent object above the water.

The animal, or whatever it may be called, appeared careless of our proximity, and went our course for about six minutes on our starboard side, and then finally worked round to our port side, and remained in view, to the delight of all on board, for about half an hour. His length was reckoned to be over two hundred feet.

JOHN W. WEBSTER,
Commander, S.S. Nestor.
Singapore, 18th September 1876.

“Cat-Concert”

Some years ago there was a cat-concert held in Paris. It was called ‘Concert Miaulant,’ from the mewing of the animals. They were trained by having their tails pulled every time a certain note was struck, and the unpleasant remembrance caused them to mew each time they heard the sound again.

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

The Hopeh Incident

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hopeh_incident_1.jpeg

Japanese student Masujiro Kiru found this photo in a scrapbook left by his father. Apparently the scene is Tsientsien Street in Hopeh, China, around 1942. UFO enthusiasts note that two people appear to be pointing to an object in the sky. It could be a bird, it could be a hat, it could be man-lizards from Aldebaran. You decide.

“Hatching Partridges”

In the year 1819, as a cat belonging to Mr. W. Allwork of Goudhurst, was prowling through the meadows, it was observed to kill a partridge, and, on examining the spot, a nest was found, containing eighteen eggs, which were taken up and that evening deposited in an oven that had been recently used. On the following morning, when the oven was opened, the whole of the eggs were found hatched, and the young ones running about, but in catching them three were unfortunately killed; the remaining fifteen were put into the nest, and placed in the meadow where it was taken from on the preceding evening. In a short time the old cock partridge was attracted to the spot, and in a few minutes it departed with the whole brood, in the presence of several persons; since that time they have been freqently seen by the gamekeeper of T. Wallis, Esq.

— “Edinburgh Paper,” cited in The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824