A Cautionary Tale


John Christian Frommann, doctor of medicine, and professor of philosophy at the college of Coburg, in Franconia, mentions a poor widow woman, aged twenty-six years, who lived out of the town in an unhealthy house, frequented by a great quantity of reptiles. This woman being accustomed to sleep with her mouth open, a snake half a yard long, and of proportionate thickness, crept into her stomach. She was attacked with different complaints, which the author describes at length; but by means of various medicines which he administered, he at length succeeded in making her bring it up, and ridding her of such a disagreeable inmate.

Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum, 1820

The Rohonc Codex


What is this? No one seems to know. In 1838 a local nobleman donated a 448-page illustrated manuscript to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as part of a larger library. It’s written in an unknown system of symbols, apparently from right to left, and illustrated with religious, secular, and military scenes. The paper was made in Venice in the 1530s, but the book may have been composed later.

Hungarian, German, and French scholars have been unable to decipher the text, despite more than a century of work. Possibly the whole thing was a hoax by Sámuel Literáti Nemes (1796–1842), a known historical forger. But no one really knows.

Wired Finns


The world’s top 10 consumers of coffee per capita per year, as of 2003:

  1. Finland: 11.4 kg
  2. Aruba: 9.2 kg
  3. Iceland: 9.1 kg
  4. Norway: 9 kg
  5. Denmark: 8.1 kg
  6. Sweden: 7.9 kg
  7. Bermuda: 7.5 kg
  8. Switzerland: 7.4 kg
  9. Netherlands: 6.8 kg
  10. Germany: 6.6 kg

The average American consumes 4.2 kilograms — more than 9 pounds — of coffee each year.

Murder at the Priory

In 1876, London barrister Charles Bravo took three days to die of antimony poisoning but refused to say who had poisoned him or why.

An inquest determined it was a case of willful murder, but no one was ever arrested or charged. To this day, no one knows who killed him.

“An Alphabetical Wooing”

Let others talk of L N’s eyes,
And K T’s figure light and free,
Say L R, too, is beautiful —
I heed them not while U I C.
U need not N V them, for U
X L them all, my M L E.
I have no words when I would tell
How much in love with U I B.
So sweet U R, my D R E,
I love your very F E G;
And when you speak or sign, your voice
Is like a winsome L O D.
When U R I C, hope D K’s,
I am a mere non- N T T.
Such F E K C has your smile,
It shields from N E N M E.
For love so deep as mine, I fear,
There is no other M E D.
But that you love me back again —
O, thought of heavenly X T C;
So, lest my M T heart and I
Should sing for love an L E G,
T’s me no more — B Y’s, B kind,
O, M L E, U R, I C!

— Anonymous, cited in Carolyn Wells, A Whimsey Anthology, 1906

Square, Man


“The span of a man’s outstretched arms is equal to his height.” — Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks

No Comment

Viagra keeps plants from wilting.

Israeli and Australian researchers found that a low concentration in water doubled the shelf life of cut flowers, from one week to two weeks.

“Strength and Sagacity of a Fox”

In 1815, a fox was caught in a trap, at Bourne, Cambridgeshire, with which he made off. He was traced in the snow the following morning, by the Earl of De La Warr’s gamekeeper, upwards of ten miles, and was taken out of the earth alive and strong. His pad was then in the trap, which, with three feet of chain at the end of it, is supposed to have weighed fourteen pounds. Another fox accompanied him the whole of the way, seldom being distant from him more than four or five yards.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824

Fleeting Beauty


“All Is Vanity” (1892), by the American illustrator C. Allan Gilbert.

Back up to get the full effect.


“Adults are only obsolete children.” — Dr. Seuss