In a Word

contesserate
adj. leagued together in friendship

onerary
adj. suitable for carrying a burden

sciscitation
n. questioning

panier de crabes
n. a dangerously controversial topic (literally, “basket of crabs”)

Podcast Episode 125: The Campden Wonder

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Campden_House_gates_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1990405.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

When William Harrison disappeared from Campden, England, in 1660, his servant offered an incredible explanation: that he and his family had murdered him. The events that followed only proved the situation to be even more bizarre. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe “the Campden wonder,” an enigma that has eluded explanation for more than 300 years.

We’ll also consider Vladimir Putin’s dog and puzzle over a little girl’s benefactor.

Intro:

In 1921, Pennsylvania surgeon Evan O’Neill Kane removed his own appendix. (Soviet physician Leonid Rogozov did the same 40 years later.)

John Cowper Powys once promised to visit Theodore Dreiser “as a spirit or in some other astral form” — and, according to Dreiser, did so.

Sources for our feature on the Campden Wonder:

Sir George Clark, ed., The Campden Wonder, 1959.

“The Campden Wonder,” Arminian Magazine, August 1787, 434.

“Judicial Puzzles — The Campden Wonder,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, July 1860, 54-64.

Andrew Lang, Historical Mysteries, 1904.

J.A. Cannon, “Campden Wonder,” in The Oxford Companion to British History, 2015.

Bruce P. Smith, “The History of Wrongful Execution,” Hastings Law Journal, June 2005.

Frances E. Chapman, “Coerced Internalized False Confessions and Police Interrogations: The Power of Coercion,” Law & Psychology Review 37 (2013), 159.

Listener mail:

Tim Hume, “Vladimir Putin: I Didn’t Mean to Scare Angela Merkel With My Dog,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2016.

Roland Oliphant, “Vladimir Putin Denies Setting His Dog on Angela Merkel,” Telegraph, Jan. 12, 2016.

Stefan Kornelius, “Six Things You Didn’t Know About Angela Merkel,” Guardian, Sept. 10, 2013.

Wikipedia, “Spall” (retrieved Oct. 7, 2016).

Associated Press, “Boise City to Celebrate 1943 Bombing Misguided B-17 Crew Sought,” Nov. 21, 1990.

Owlcation, “The WWII Bombing of Boise City in Oklahoma,” May 9, 2016.

“World War II Air Force Bombers Blast Boise City,” Boise City News, July 5, 1943.

“County Gets Second Air Bombardment,” Boise City News, April 5, 1945.

Antony Beevor, D-Day, 2009.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle is from Paul Sloane and Des MacHale’s 2014 book Remarkable Lateral Thinking Puzzles.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

For Short

Telegraph companies generally charged by the length of a message, so enterprising customers started using codes in place of common phrases. Here are some sample codes, from the ABC Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code of 1901:

Nalezing – Do only what is absolutely necessary
Nalime – Will only do what is absolutely necessary
Nallary – It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be an advantage
Naloopen – It is not absolutely necessary, but well worth the outlay

If you and I both have a copy of the code book, then I can send you the word Nallary in place of the phrase “It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be an advantage” — a savings of 10 words or 51 characters without any loss of information.

Most of these code books are pretty hard-headed (here’s another), but there’s a wonderful exception — Sullivan & Considine’s Theatrical Cipher Code of 1905, “Adapted Especially to the Use of Everyone Connected in Any Way with the Theatrical Business”:

Filacer – An opera company
Filament – Are they willing to appear in tights
Filander – Are you willing to appear in tights
Filar – Ballet girls
Filaria – Burlesque opera
Filature – Burlesque opera company
File – Burlesque people
Filefish – Chorus girl
Filial – Chorus girls
Filially – Chorus girls who are
Filiation – Chorus girls who are shapely and good looking
Filibuster – Chorus girls who are shapely, good looking, and can sing
Filicoid – Chorus girls who can sing
Filiform – Chorus man
Filigree – Chorus men
Filing – Chorus men who can sing
Fillet – Chorus people
Fillip – Chorus people who can sing
Filly – Comic opera
Film – Comic opera company
Filler – Comic opera people
Filtering – Desirable chorus girl

It’s in the public domain, but I haven’t been able to find the full text online — I’m getting this from Craig Bauer’s (excellent) Secret History: The Story of Cryptology. I’ll update this post if I manage to find more.

Altamura Man

altamura man

About 150,000 years ago, a Neanderthal man was exploring the Lamalunga Cave in southern Italy when he fell into a sinkhole. Too badly injured to climb out again, he died of dehydration or starvation. Over the ensuing centuries, water running down the cave walls gradually incorporated the man’s bones into concretions of calcium carbonate. Undisturbed by predators or weather, they lay in an immaculate state of preservation until cave researchers finally discovered them in 1993.

This is a great boon for paleoanthropologists — “Altamura Man” is one of the most complete Paleolithic skeletons ever discovered in Europe — but there’s a downside: The bones have become so deeply involved in their matrix of limestone that no one has found a way to remove them without destroying them. So, for now, all research must be carried out in the cave.

Downtime

Recreations listed in Who’s Who by eccentric Scottish MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn:

1975: Creative
1976: Creating
1977: Bunking and debunking
1979: Upholding what’s right and demolishing what’s left
1980: Giving and forgiving
1981: The cure and eradication of British tick fever
1983: Being blunt and sharp at the same time
1984: Philanthropy and philogyny
1986: Ornitholatry
1987: Serving queens, restoring castles, debunking bishops, entertaining knights, befriending pawns
1988: Snookering the reds and all other proctalgias
1989: Draining brains and scanning bodies
1990: Growling, prowling, scowling and owling
1991: Loving beauty and beautifying love
1993: Drawing ships, making quips, confounding Whigs and scuttling drips
1995: Languishing and sandwiching

In 1973 he listed his recreations as “Making love, ends meet and people laugh.” He said, “I think most people, if they were honest, will admit that those were their main recreations — apart, perhaps, from Ted Heath, who would probably miss out on the first and third.”

(from Neil Hamilton, Great Political Eccentrics, 1999.)

Exeunt

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/rideau-1196355

In 1943 Alexander Woollcott died of a heart attack during a radio show in which he was discussing Hitler with four other people. Listeners noticed only that he was unusually quiet.

In 1958 Tyrone Power succumbed to a heart attack while filming a fencing scene in Solomon and Sheba.

In 1960 baritone Leonard Warren died during a performance of Verdi’s La forza del destino at the Met. He was about to sing Morir, tremenda cosa (“to die, a momentous thing”).

In 1968 Joseph Keilberth collapsed while conducting Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in exactly the same place that Felix Mottl was similarly stricken in 1911.

In 1984 British comedian Tommy Cooper collapsed and died during a performance on a TV variety show. Cooper was famous for pratfalls, and for some minutes the audience assumed that his struggles were part of the act.

In 1991 Redd Foxx died of a heart attack while shooting his sitcom The Royal Family. At first onlookers thought he was joking, as his character Fred Sanford was famous for faking heart attacks.

In 1996 tenor Richard Versalle died at the Met during the première of Janácek’s The Makropulos Case. He had just sung the line “Too bad you can live only so long.”

(Thanks, Kyle.)

Moving Day

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tandil_moving_stone_1890.jpg

Something significant happened in Tandil, Argentina, on Feb. 29, 1912 — a 300-ton stone that had perched impossibly on the edge of a local hill suddenly tumbled to the bottom and broke into pieces.

Whether this happened due to vandalism or to blasting at a local quarry is unknown — there were no witnesses.

In 2007 the town replaced it with an exact replica. To date, it’s still there.

Backup

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eisenhower_d-day.jpg

On D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower carried this note in his wallet:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

He threw it away the next day, but an aide retrieved it. Today it’s in his presidential library.

Unquote

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“Blasphemy depends upon belief, and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.”

— G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1906

One Salad, To Go

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HNLMS_Abraham_Crijnssen_Covered_In_Branches.jpg

Stranded in Java after the Japanese invasion of 1941, the Dutch minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen found a unique way to sneak out: The crew covered the decks with jungle foliage and painted the hull to resemble cliffs, giving the ship the appearance of a small island.

Traveling only at night and anchoring near shore, the minesweeper gradually made her way to West Australia, becoming the last Allied vessel to escape Java and the only one of her class in the region to survive.

(Thanks, Paul.)