Waste Not, Want Not

Another gentleman, mentioned in the text-books … seemed to have a ruling passion against waste, which the court respected. The testator devised his property to a stranger, thus wholly disinheriting the heir or next of kin, and directed that his executors should cause some parts of his bowels to be converted into fiddle strings; that others should be sublimed into smelling salts, and that the remainder of his body should be vitrified into lenses for optical purposes. In a letter attached to the will the testator said: ‘The world may think this to be done in a spirit of singularity or whim, but I have a mortal aversion to funeral pomp, and I wish my body to be converted into purposes useful to mankind.’

— Basil Jones, “Eccentricities of Sane Testators,” Law Notes, November 1908


In 1911, Kansas farmer Charlie Faust approached New York Giants manager John McGraw and said that a fortune teller had predicted that he would pitch for the Giants and that they would win the pennant. Perhaps superstitious, McGraw let Faust suit up for the games and warm up on the sidelines. He pitched only two innings (and gave up one run), but the Giants did indeed win the pennant that year.

Faust remained with the club in 1912, and the team won the pennant again. They won again in 1913, but when the pitcher’s mental problems led him to be institutionalized in 1914, the Giants finished 10 games behind the Braves. When Faust died in 1915, at age 34, they finished last.

Lost and Found


It is a sad fact that dead babies figure largely in the contents of the railway Lost Property Offices. These are at once handed over to the police, and a formal inquest is held. Some little time ago, Mr. Groom tells me, a live child was found in a small box on the departure platform, close to the eight o’clock Scotch train. The little one was cosily packed in wadding, and was provided with a feeding-bottle. A few holes had been drilled in the box–which, by the way, was covered with wallpaper, and was addressed to a home in Kilburn. The authorities of this home, however, refused to take in the child, as no money had been sent with it. So the poor, lost property infant was handed over to the police, who, in turn, passed it on to the workhouse, where it was christened ‘Willie Euston,’ and lived for four years. I succeeded in obtaining a photograph of the finding of this child, and the incident is shown in the accompanying illustration. The official on the right gave his own Christian name to the poor little waif.

— William G. FitzGerald, “The Lost Property Office,” Strand, December 1895

The Great Outdoors

On Nov. 20, 1980, Leonce Viator Jr. went fishing with his nephew on Louisiana’s Lake Peigneur. He might have noted two worrisome things: Below the lake was a salt mine, and above it was a drilling rig.

The drill punctured the mine’s roof, and the resulting whirlpool devoured two oil rigs, 11 barges, a tugboat, a loading dock, “assorted greenhouses,” a house trailer, several tractors, countless trees, and most of the Live Oak Botanic Gardens. Amazingly, the water drained so quickly that Viator’s 14-foot aluminum boat was stuck in the mud at the lake’s bottom, and the pair were able to walk away.

No one was killed, but Lake Peigneur is now saltwater.

UPDATE: Viator’s boat wasn’t stuck in the mud — he tied it to a tree, ran to safety, and watched the hole eat both the boat and the tree. There’s good footage here, including the waterfall formed when the normally outflowing Delcambre Canal reversed itself to feed the whirlpool:

(Thanks, Kevin.)

The Crooked Forest

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Outside the village of Nowe Czarnowo in western Poland is a grove of 400 pine trees bent into curious crooked shapes. The surrounding trees are straight, but these were apparently deliberately bent north at their bases about 10 years after their planting in 1930. No one knows why.

(Thanks, Bullet.)

“Ping-Pong at Its Greatest Height”


This photograph, taken in mid-winter at the highest point in His Majesty’s home domains, shows two of the meteorologists enjoying a game of ping-pong alongside the observatory on the summit of Ben Nevis. The photo was taken when the snow reached an average depth of 7ft., and during the progress of the game the temperature was as low as 18deg. Fahr. The table, composed as it was of a solid block of snow, covered with baize, served its purpose admirably, and the game, if not played under the most favourable climatic conditions, can at least boast of ‘high’ scoring.

— Robert H. Macdougall of Ben Nevis Observatory, quoted in Strand, August 1902


When Marshall Bean left the Army in 1965 after eight years’ service, he inverted his name to avoid his creditors. His new driver’s license and Social Security card read Naeb Llahsram.

Unfortunately, this fooled the Army, too, which drafted him back again in 1966. It took him more than a year to convince them he’d already served.

“All this is his own fault,” an Army spokesman told the Associated Press. “It would not have happened in the first place if he hadn’t spelled his name backwards.”



Bored and industrious in 1902, the citizens of the Yukon built a 32-foot snowman on the border between Canada and Alaska.

In the spirit of brotherhood, they gave it two faces — King Edward looked out over the British domain, and Uncle Sam surveyed the American.

Out of Sight

Image: Look and Learn

In 1915, after being cut off from his regiment in northern France, British Army private Patrick Fowler found his way to the farmhouse of Marie Belmont-Gobert in the German-occupied town of Bertry. He implored her to hide him, but she had space only in an oaken cupboard in the living room.

Incredibly, Fowler spent three years and nine months in a space 5.5 feet high and 20 inches deep while more than 20 German musketeers were billeted in the same house. “He was there at times when unsuspecting Germans were actually sitting around the fire in the same room,” reported the New York World in 1927. “Often they came down to the ground floor quarters of the Belmont family and made coffee on the fire there.”

The Germans even made periodic searches. “[A German captain] and his men sounded the walls and floors for secret hiding places, uttered awful threats,” reported Time. “Mme. Belmont-Gobert only sat passive in her sitting room. At last the captain wrenched open the right-hand door of her large black armoire, snorted to see it divided into small shelves incapable of holding a rabbit, banged the right-hand door shut without opening the left-hand door, strode away.”

The Germans finally left Bertry on Oct. 10, 1918, and Fowler returned to his unit. Nine years later, in recognition of her act, the French government granted Belmont-Gobert a pension, and Britain named her a Dame of the Order of the British Empire. The cupboard resides today in the King’s Royal Hussars’ Museum in Winchester.



In January 1953, Albert Gunter was driving a double-decker bus across London’s Tower Bridge when “it seemed as though the roadway in front of me was falling away.”

“Everything happened terribly quickly,” he told Time magazine. “I realized that the part we were on was rising. It was horrifying. I felt we had to keep on or we might be flung into the river. So I accelerated.”

Gunter sped to the top of the rising roadway and jumped across the gap to land on the southern span 6 feet below. “I thought that might start going up too,” he said, “so I just kept right on till I got to the other bank.”

The bus broke a spring, the conductor broke his leg, 12 of the 20 passengers were injured, and Gunter got a £10 bonus.

(Thanks, Hugh.)