“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

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.


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

“The Everest of Aviation Mysteries”


Two weeks before Lindbergh’s famous crossing, two French war heroes set out in a biplane to attempt the first nonstop transatlantic flight from Paris to New York.

They took off early on May 8, 1927, and were sighted at the French coast and later off Ireland. But no further sightings were made, and after 42 hours the White Bird was listed as lost.

Possibly she was simply the victim of an Atlantic squall. An extensive search between New York and Newfoundland discovered nothing. But witnesses there claimed to have heard the aircraft, and scattered sightings were reported on a line south from Nova Scotia into coastal Maine. Later, struts and engine metal were found that are not manufactured in North America.

But none of this is conclusive, and no definitive trace of the wooden craft has yet been found — in particular, its engine. In 1984 the French government declared officially that the pair might have reached Newfoundland. But whether they did remains unknown.

Shouldn’t This Rhyme?

“Husband,” says Joan, “’tis plain enough
That Roger loves our daughter;
And Betty loves him too, although
She treats his suit with laughter.”

For Roger always hems and coughs,
While on the field he’s ploughing;
Then strives to see between the boughs,
If Betty heeds his coughing.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890