“Fairy Castles”


On Oct. 21, 1796, at about 4 p.m., “a number of spectators” witnessed a curious mirage in clear weather near Cork, Ireland:

It appeared on a hill, on the county of Waterford side of the river, and seemed a walled town with a round tower, and a church with a spire; the houses perfect, and the windows distinct. Behind the houses appeared the mast of a ship, and in the front a single tree, near which was a cow grazing: whilst the Waterford hills appeared distinctly behind. In the space of about half an hour the spire and round tower became covered with domes, and the octagonal building, or rather round tower, became a broken turret. Soon after this change, all the houses became ruins, and their fragments seemed scattered in the field near the walls; the whole in about an hour disappeared, and the hill on which it stood, sunk to the level of the real field. The hill and trees appeared of a bright green, the houses and towers of a clear brown, with their roofs blue.

From Curiosities for the Ingenious, 1825.

The Cardrona Bra Fence

Image: Wikimedia Commons

If aliens are studying us, they must be baffled sometimes.

In late 1999 four women’s bras appeared on a wire fence in southern New Zealand. That’s innocent enough, but by February the number had grown to 60. In October it reached 200, and by the following February nearly 800.

Why? Who knows? The local council waited until September to clear the fence — by which time it had accumulated more than 1,500 bras.

See also Love Padlocks and Shoe Trees.

“Extraordinary Prediction”

It is recorded of the poet Dryden, by Charles Wilson, in his ‘Life of Congreve,’ that having, strange to say, belief in astrology, he was careful to ascertain to the second the time at which his son Charles was born. He then calculated the boy’s nativity, and was alarmed to discover that evil influences prevailed in the heavens. … He concluded that in his eighth year, and on the day of birth, his son’s life would be seriously endangered if not lost; and that if he lived, the same danger would exist when he attained his twenty-third birthday, and again on his thirty-third or fourth. On the boy’s eighth birthday, despite every precaution to keep the boy from every possible danger, he was nearly killed by the fall of a wall. On his twenty-third birthday he was seized with giddiness and fell from an old tower belonging to the Vatican at Rome; and he was drowned at Windsor while swimming across the Thames in his thirty-third year.

The World of Wonders, 1883

A Pangrammatic Highway

Image: Wikipedia

A 0.8-mile stretch of northbound Interstate 287 in New Jersey contains these signs:


To date this is the shortest reported stretch of U.S. highway whose permanent, official signs contain all 26 letters of the alphabet. Do you know a shorter one?

“The Farmer’s Life”

The farmer leads no E Z life;
The C D sows will rot;
And when at E V rests from strife
His bones all A K lot.

In D D has to struggle hard
To E K living out:
If I C frosts do not retard
His crops there’ll B A drought.

The hired L P has to pay
Are awful A Z, too;
They C K rest when he’s away,
Nor N E work will do.

Both N Z can not make to meet,
And then for A D takes
Some boarders who so R T eat
& E no money makes.

Of little U C finds this life;
Sick in old A G lies.
The debts he O Z leaves his wife.
And then in P C dies.

— Anonymous, The Indiana School Journal, August 1886

Color Commentary

British radio listeners received some unlooked-for entertainment in 1937 when they tuned in to hear Lieutenant Commander Tommy Woodroofe give a radio commentary on the illumination of the fleet at Spithead. It appears Woodroofe had fortified himself a bit before the broadcast:

At the present moment … the whole fleet is lit up. When I say ‘lit up’ I mean lit up by fairy lamps. It’s fantastic. It isn’t a fleet at all. It’s just … it’s fairyland. The whole fleet is in fairyland. Now if you’ll follow me through … if you don’t mind … the next few moments you’ll find the fleet doing odd things.

There followed a pause of 11 seconds, after which Woodroofe said, “I’m sorry, I was telling people to shut up talking.”