Wait a Minute …

Every May and December, thousands of Catholics gather in Naples to witness a miracle: The dried blood of Saint Januarius, which is kept in small capsules, liquefies when it’s brought near his body.

Januarius was martyred in 305, and the “miracle of the blood” has been happening since at least 1389, which is pretty impressive.

But investigator Joe Nickell notes that a thixotropic gel such as hydrated iron oxide remains highly viscous until it’s stirred or moved. And the same miracle is claimed for several other saints … all in the Naples area. Hmm.


Canny sheep sometimes resist going down the slaughterhouse ramp to their deaths. So workers sometimes train a goat to go down first, triggering the herding instinct and solving the problem. The goat isn’t harmed and can be used over and over for this purpose.

It’s called a judas goat.

Group Portrait

This is the largest gathering of human beings in the history of the world — in January 2001, 70 million Hindu pilgrims met in Prayaga, India, for a religious festival called the Kumbh Mela.

Three years later, 30 million met in Ujjain.

Equidistant Letter Sequences

If you take the text of Genesis 26:5-10 and break it into lines of 33 characters each, the words Bible and code appear, word-search-style, in the resulting grid.

That looks pretty nifty, but in fact you can find almost anything in a long text if you look hard enough. Using the same technique in 1997, Australian mathematician Brendan McKay found that Moby Dick had predicted the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, including the assassin’s first and last names, the university he attended, and even the motive (“Oslo,” referring to the Oslo accords). That Melville — what a genius.

The “Temple of Justice”

The U.S. Supreme Court building is pretty spiffy. It has its own cafeteria, a 450,000-book library and a basketball court on the fifth floor (which staffers call “the highest court in the land”).

It’s so spiffy that when it opened in 1935, some justices were embarrassed. Harlan Fiske Stone called it “almost bombastically pretentious … wholly inappropriate for a quiet group of old boys such as the Supreme Court.” Others called it “the Temple of Karnak” and suggested that justices ought to enter the courtroom riding on elephants.

One worrying note: The building’s frieze depicts Moses delivering the Ten Commandments, but his beard obscures some of the Hebrew, so the visible text reads:

Commit Adultery

But let that pass.


Justo Gallego Martínez of Spain joined a Trappist monastery as a young man, but he had to leave in 1961 when he contracted tuberculosis. So he decided to build his own cathedral, on a plot of land he had inherited in the Spanish village of Mejorada del Campo.

He has no plans, permissions, permits or even the blessing of the Catholic Church — he’s basically been improvising for 40 years, with the help of six nephews and the occasional volunteer, using recycled construction materials, old gas drums and bricks from a nearby factory. But he’s doing pretty well — that dome is 40 meters high.

“If you think you can win, you can win,” wrote William Hazlitt. “Faith is necessary to victory.”

We’ve Seen This

There are two similar chapters in the King James Bible.

They are 2 Kings chapter 19 and Isaiah chapter 37.

The first 14 verses of each chapter are identical, word for word.

Bad PR

In 1974, Pope Paul VI elevated Archbishop Jaime Lachica Sin of the Philippines to the College of Cardinals.

That made him Cardinal Sin.

Footloose" alt="

“When the lusty and fyne man should holde a young damosel, or a woman by the hand, and keeping his measures he shal remoue himselfe, whirle about, & shake his legges alofte (which the daunsers call crosse capring) for pleasure, doth not she in the meane while make a good threede, playing at the Moris on her behalfe: but I pray you: what can ther by there of God, of his worde, or of honestye in such folishnes: I holde my tounge, that is, I speake nothing of their wordes, amorous deuises, or deuises of loue, wanton communications or speeches or markes only knowen to the Ladye, or Gentlewoman. It is true, that a man will say to me, that he must reioyce and be mery, which thing also I graunt, but yet not with a worldly, dissolute, and leuse ioy.”

A Treatise of Daunses, Wherin It Is Shewed, That They Are As It Were Accessories and Dependants (or Thynges Annexed) to Whoredome, 1581

A Personal Problem

“In the town of Ratisbon a certain young man who had an intrigue with a girl, wishing to leave her, lost his member; that is to say, some glamour was cast over it so that he could see or touch nothing but his smooth body. In his worry over this he went to a tavern to drink wine; and after he had sat there for a while he got into conversation with another woman who was there, and told her the cause of his sadness, explaining everything, and demonstrating in his body that it was so. The woman was astute, and asked whether he suspected anyone; and when he named such a one, unfolding the whole matter, she said: ‘If persuasion is not enough, you must use some violence, to induce her to restore to you your health.’ So in the evening the young man watched the way by which the witch was in the habit of going, and finding her, prayed her to restore to him the health of his body. And when she maintained that she was innocent and knew nothing about it, he fell upon her, and winding a towel tightly about her neck, choked her, saying: ‘Unless you give me back my health, you shall die at my hands.’ Then she, being unable to cry out, and growing black, said: ‘Let me go, and I will heal you.’ The young man then relaxed the pressure of the towel, and the witch touched him with her hand between the thighs, saying: ‘Now you have what you desire.’ And the young man, as he afterwards said, plainly felt, before he had verified it by looking or touching, that his member had been restored to him by the mere touch of the witch.”

— “How, As It Were, [Witches] Deprive Man of His Virile Member,” Malleus Maleficarum, 1487