“A man who has to be punctually at a certain place at five o’clock has the whole afternoon ruined for him already.” — Lin Yutang

“A Note for Little Boys”

In order that all good little boys may know how much more lucky it is for them to be little boys now, than it was in the ancient times, be informed of the cruel manner in which even good little boys were liable to be treated by the law of the Ripuarians. When a sale of land took place, it was required that there should be twelve witnesses, and with these as many boys, in whose presence the price of the land should be paid, and its formal surrender take place; and then the boys were beaten, and their ears pulled, so that the pain thus inflicted upon them should make an impression upon their memory, and that they might, if necessary, be afterwards witnesses as to the sale and delivery of the land.

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857



These are the remains of Mary Jane Kelly, the fifth canonical victim of Jack the Ripper. Her mutilations were far more extensive than the others’, perhaps because she was the only victim killed in a private room. From the notes of police surgeon Thomas Bond:

“The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and the face hacked beyond recognition of the features. The tissues of the neck were severed all round down to the bone.

“The viscera were found in various parts viz: the uterus and kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side and the spleen by the left side of the body. The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table.”

She was last seen alive at 2 a.m. on Nov. 9, 1888, in the company of a “Jewish-looking man” as they walked to her room. Her fellow prostitute Mary Ann Cox, unable to sleep, heard someone leave the house at 5:45. In between, at about 4 a.m., two neighbors heard a faint woman’s voice cry “Murder!”

“Indian Corn”

Another candidate for worst poem of all time. This one is by the Rev. William Cook of Salem, Mass., from his 1873 booklet Talk About Indians:

Corn, corn, sweet Indian corn,
Greenly you grew long ago.
Indian fields well to adorn,
And to parch or grind hah-ho!
Where shines the summer sun,
And plied his hoe or plough
Blessings to men have you not gone
Making food of your dough?

In England, in France and Germany
At morn, at eve, at noon
Johnnie-cake and harmony
Increase the family boon.


The state nearest Africa is Maine.

Fairies Unmasked?


For 60 years, cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths maintained that the photographs they had taken in 1917 depicted real fairies and gnomes they’d encountered behind the family house near Bradford, England.

In 1981 they admitted that the creatures had been paper cutouts held up with hatpins.

But Frances maintained until her death that the photo above was genuine.

Money Talks

When, at the General Peace of 1814, Prussia absorbed a portion of Saxony, the king issued a new coinage of rix dollars, with their German name, EIN REICHSTAHLER, impressed on them. The Saxons, by dividing the word, EIN REICH STAHL ER, made a sentence of which the meaning is, ‘He stole a kingdom!’

— William T. Dobson, Poetical Ingenuities and Eccentricities, 1882

The Locked Gift


I want to mail a necklace to my wife, but anything sent through the mail will be stolen unless it’s sent in a padlocked box. A box can bear any number of padlocks, but neither of us has the key to a lock owned by the other. How can I mail the necklace safely to my wife?

Click for Answer

In a Word

n. a number raised to the eighth power


A medal struck of the 17th-century Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus included this motto:

ChrIstVs DuX ergo trIVMphVs

Rearrange the capital letters and you get MDCXVVVII, or 1627, the year in which the medal was stamped.

That’s a chronogram, and a pretty tame one, as these things go. In 1634 the Society of Jesuits at Brussels composed a remarkable congratulation to Ferdinand on his arrival in the Netherlands as governor; it contains 100 hexameters, every one of which is a chronogram adding to 1634:

AngeLe CoeLIVagI MIChaeL, LVX VnICa CaetVs.
Pro nVtV sVCCInCta tVo CVI CVnCta MInIstrant.
SIDera qVIqVe poLo gaVDentIa sIDera VoLVVnt. …

“Genius,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, “is an infinite capacity for taking pains.”