On the 18th of December, 1795, several persons, near the house of Captain Topham, in Yorkshire, heard a loud noise in the air, followed by a hissing sound, and soon after felt a shock, as if a heavy body had fallen to the ground at a little distance from them. In reality, one of them saw a huge stone fall to the earth, at the distance of eight or nine yards from the place where he stood. When he first observed it, it was seven or eight yards above the ground; and in its fall, it threw up the mould on every side, burying itself twenty-one inches in the earth. This stone, on being dug up, was found to weigh 56 lbs.

Cabinet of Curiosities, Natural, Artificial, and Historical, 1822

Dinner for Two?

William Lamb was pretty cynical about fish. This apparatus, patented in 1894, assumes that a fish that sees itself in a mirror “will be made bolder by the supposed companionship, and more eager to take the bait before his competitor seizes it.”

“He will lose his caution,” Lamb wrote, “and take the bait with a recklessness that greatly increases the chances of his being caught on the hook.”

Who knows? Maybe it even works.

In a Word

n. one who lacks curiosity

“Blows Invisible”

Mr. Brograve, of Hamel, near Puckridge in Hertfordshire, when he was a young man, riding in a lane in that county, had a blow given him on his cheek: (or head) he looked back and saw that nobody was near behind him; anon he had such another blow, I have forgot if a third. He turned back, and fell to the study of the law; and was afterwards a Judge. This account I had from Sir John Penruddocke of Compton-Chamberlain, (our neighbour) whose Lady was Judge Brograve’s niece.

— John Aubrey, Miscellanies Upon Various Subjects, 1696

Daddy’s Coming

werewolf returning home

Werewolf Returning Home, a 1901 illustration by S.H. Vedder.

The Berbalangs

The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal isn’t known for its romance. But one 1896 article has become famous for its account of a bizarre episode in Southeast Asia. Ethelbert Skertchley describes the Berbalangs, a species of ghoul in the folklore of Cagayan de Sulu, an island in the southwestern Philippines. These creatures, he explains, can adopt an astral form when seeking human flesh. It’s all pretty scholarly until the end, when Skertchley describes his own encounter near a Berbalang village:

There was not a breath of air stirring, and we were in the middle of an open valley with no trees about when we heard a loud moaning noise like someone in pain. … Presently the sound died away to a faint wail and the sound of wings became audible, while a lot of little dancing lights, like fire-flies, only reddish, passed over us.

On leaving the village, Skertchley passed an isolated house, where his native companion indicated the ghouls must have gone. The next day the writer returned to the scene:

I entered the house and looked round, but could see no one; going farther in, I suddenly started back, for huddled up on the bed, with hands clenched, face distorted, and eyes staring as in horror, lay my friend Hassan–dead.

Nothing more is said. Skertchley concludes simply by writing, “I have stated above the facts just as they occurred, and am quite unable to give any explanation of them.” If the editors received any further information, they never published it.

The Pledge

“If a man should pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found the flower in his hand when he awoke — Ay! and what then?”

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Anima Poetæ, 1895

Small World

Proportions of national populations who are Internet users:

  • Norway: 88 percent
  • United States: 75 percent
  • Canada: 67.8 percent
  • France: 53.7 percent
  • Spain: 43.9 percent
  • Greece: 35.5 percent
  • Peru: 25.5 percent
  • Russia: 19.5 percent
  • South Africa: 11.6 percent
  • India: 3.7 percent
  • Iraq: 0.1 percent

Math Notes

9 + 10 + 11 + 12 = 13 + 14 + 15


Several Scholars went to steal Rabbits, and by the Way they warn’d a Novice among them to make no Noise, for fear of scaring the Rabbits away. At last, he espying some, said aloud in Latin, Ecce Cuniculi multi! and with that the Rabbits ran into their Boroughs: Wherewith his Fellows offended, and chiding him for it, he said, Who the Devil would have thought the Rabbits understood Latin!

The Jester’s Magazine, 1767