Jerusalem Syndrome

Between 1980 and 1993, 42 visitors to Israel experienced a peculiar psychotic episode with seven consistent clinical stages:

  1. Anxiety, agitation, nervousness and tension, plus other unspecified reactions.
  2. Declaration of the desire to split away from the group or the family and to tour Jerusalem alone.
  3. A need to be clean and pure: obsession with taking baths and showers; compulsive fingernail and toenail cutting.
  4. Preparation, often with the aid of hotel bed-linen, of a long, ankle-length, togalike gown, which was always white.
  5. The need to scream, shout, or sing out loud psalms, verses from the Bible, religious hymns, or spirituals.
  6. A procession or march to one of Jerusalem’s holy places.
  7. Delivery of a “sermon” in a holy place. The sermon was usually very confused and based on an unrealistic plea to humankind to adopt a more wholesome, moral, simple way of life.

These people had no history of psychiatric illness and arrived as regular tourists, with no special mission in mind. They recovered fairly spontaneously on leaving the country and were reluctant afterward to discuss the episode. No explanation has been found.

(Bar-el Y, et al. (2000) Jerusalem syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry, 176, 86-90.)

False Confidence

A 19th-century opening manual gives this line in the Queen’s Gambit Declined:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. Nf3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e5 6. Ndb5 d4 7. Nd5 Na6 8. Qa4 Bd7 9. e3 Ne7

false confidence

The authors say Black has the superior position. That may be a bit optimistic — do you see why?

More Bad Poetry

The verses of Puritan poet George Wither (1588-1667) fairly glow — if by “verses” you mean “drivelings” and by “glow” you mean “suck like a tarpit”:

Her hair like gold did glister,
Each eye was like a star;
She did surpass her sister,
Which passed all others far.
She would me honey call;
She’d, O she’d kiss me too;
But now, alas! sh’ ‘as left me,
Falero, lero, loo.

When Wither was taken prisoner by the Cavaliers during the English civil war, Sir John Denham pleaded with Charles I: “I hope your majesty will not hang poor George Wither — for as long as he lives it can’t be said that I am the worst poet in England.”

Thrilling Peril!

Amy, Bob, Cindy, and Dave are the last four colonists on Mars, which is being overrun by Hideous Sand Beetles. The last evacuation ship leaves in 16 minutes. To reach it, they must pass through the Soul-Freezing Tunnel of Yx, which can accommodate only two people at a time. And anyone passing through the tunnel must light his way with the Fabulous Oracle of Zeb. (Mars is very dramatic.)

  • Amy can travel the tunnel in 1 minute.
  • Bob can travel the tunnel in 2 minutes.
  • Cindy can travel the tunnel in 5 minutes.
  • Dave can travel the tunnel in 8 minutes.

This is a problem. If Amy and Dave go first, they’ll reach the other side in 8 minutes (Dave’s top speed). If Amy then runs back and escorts Cindy, and then Bob, she and Bob will be only halfway through the tunnel when the ship departs. Are they doomed?

Click for Answer

“Eating a Candle After Lighting It”

This is done by cutting a piece of apple the shape required, and sticking into it a little piece of nut or almond, to make it resemble the stump of a candle. The almond wick can be lighted, and will burn for about a minute, so that the deception is perfect. You can afterwards eat it in the presence of the company. … [T]his candle should be already in front of the audience, and should be placed in a candlestick, and if well introduced it goes down (in more senses than one) capitally.

— Frederick D’Arros Planche, Evening Amusements for Every One, 1876


Writing in the New York Mercury in 1863, Robert Henry Newell noted the curious pine-board epitaph of a Union fifer at Manassas:,M1

The lower portion “had to be inscribed figuratively, in order to get it all upon the narrow monument.” It means:,M1

“In all its praise of that quiet sleep in which there are no anticipations to be disappointed, no gluttony to make sick, and no Confederacies to guard against,–the verse will be plain to all.”

Bon Appétit!
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Menu proposed by Vincent M. Holst in Why Not Eat Insects? (1885):

  • Slug soup
  • Boiled cod with snail sauce
  • Wasp grubs fried in the comb
  • Moths sauteed in butter
  • Braised beef with caterpillars
  • New carrots with wireworm sauce
  • Gooseberry cream with sawflies
  • Deviled chafer grubs
  • Stag beetle larvae on toast

“Why on earth should these creatures be called loathsome, which, as a matter of fact, are not loathsome in any way, and, indeed, are in every way more fitted for human food than many of the so-called delicacies now highly prized?”

He has a point — viewed as livestock, house crickets convert energy to protein about 20 times more efficiently than beef cattle.