Indian Winter

Convinced that other newspapers were stealing his news items, the publisher of the Kennett Square (Pa.) Kennett News and Advertiser invented a story about two Indians named Yrotss Ihte Lotsi and Ffutsse Lpoepre Htognil Aets.

Sure enough, the West Chester Daily Local News rewrote the piece for its Jan. 27, 1940, issue. Read the names backward.

“If the Indians Hadn’t Spent the $24”

In 1626 Peter Minuit, first governor of New Netherland, purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for about $24. … Assume for simplicity a uniform rate of 7% from 1626 to the present, and suppose that the Indians had put their $24 at interest at that rate … and had added the interest to the principal yearly. What would be the amount now, after 280 years? 24 × (1.07)280 = more than 4,042,000,000. [The current value of Manhattan is] a little more than $4,898,400,000. … The Indians could have bought back most of the property now, with improvements; from which one might point the moral of saving money and putting it at interest!

— W.F. White, A Scrap-Book of Elementary Mathematics, 1908

Screen King

Humphrey Bogart was an expert chess player. Here’s a 1951 game he played with Lauren Bacall — she had black:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. c4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qd6 9. a4 Bd7 10. Ba3 Qf6 11. Qe2 Nge7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Bxc6 Bxc6 14. Nxe5 Bxg2 15. Rg1 Bh3 16. Rg3 Be6 17. d4 c6 18. d5 cxd5 19. cxd5 Bxd5 20. c4 Be6 21. Re3 f6 22. Nd3 Kf7 23. Nf4 Rae8 24. Nxe6 Qb4+ 25. Kf1 Re7 26. Re1 Rhe8

bogart chess

27. Nd8+ Kf8 28. Rxe7 Rxe7 29. Qxe7+ Qxe7 30. Rxe7 Kxe7 31. Nxb7 1-0

There’s no record of her reaction.

Hung Jury

In Don Quixote, Cervantes tells of a bridge at one end of which stand a gallows and a tribunal charged with enforcing this law:

If anyone crosses by this bridge from one side to the other he shall declare on oath where he is going to and with what object; and if he swears truly, he shall be allowed to pass, but if falsely, he shall be put to death for it by hanging on the gallows erected there, without any remission.

The tribunal allows many travelers to pass freely, as it is easy to see that their declarations are truthful. But one day a man appears who swears that he has come expressly to die upon the gallows.

“It is asked of your worship, señor governor, what are the judges to do with this man?”

How the West Was Won,_scalped_as_a_child_by_Sioux_Chief_Little_Turtle_in_1864.jpg

Some scalping victims survived. At left is Robert McGee, who was scalped as a teenager by Sioux chief Little Turtle in 1864.

Texas settler Josiah P. Wilbarger was scalped by Comanches in August 1833. He later recalled that “while no pain was perceptible, the removing of his scalp sounded like the ominous roar and peal of distant thunder,” recounts James De Shields in Border Wars of Texas.

“Rapidly Wilbarger recovered his usual health, and lived for eleven years, prospering, and accumulating a handsome estate. But his skull, bereft of the inner membrane and so long exposed to the sun, never entirely covered over, necessitating artificial covering, and eventually caused his death, hastened, as his physician, Dr. Anderson, thought, by accidentally striking his head against the upper portion of a low door frame of his gin house, causing the bone to exfoliate, exposing the brain and producing delirium.” He died in 1845.

The Crawfordsville Monster

The Indianapolis Journal of Sept. 5, 1891, reports that two icemen were hitching a wagon in Crawfordsville, Ind., at 2 a.m. on Sept. 4 when they saw in the sky “a horrible apparition approaching from the west.” A headless monster, 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, floated 300 feet overhead, apparently propelled by fins. It circled a nearby house, disappeared to the east, then returned, emitting a wheezing, moaning sound. The men fled, but the noise awakened a Methodist pastor, who saw the creature from his window.

Reportedly it returned on the following evening, when hundreds of witnesses saw a flapping “thing” that “squirmed in agony” and made a “wheezing, plaintive noise” as it hovered in the sky.

That’s all we know. The creature, if it really existed, never returned to Crawfordsville.

A Sign

In 1612, John Donne accompanied Sir Robert Drury to Paris, leaving his pregnant wife in London.

Two days after their arrival there, Mr. Donne was left alone, in that room in which Sir Robert, and he, and some other friends had dined together. To this place Sir Robert return’d within half an hour; and, as he left, so he found Mr. Donne alone; but, in such Extasie, and so alter’d as to his looks, as amaz’d Sir Robert to behold him: insomuch that he earnestly desired Mr. Donne to declare what had befaln him in the short time of his absence? to which, Mr. Donne was not able to make a present answer: but, after a long and perplext pause, did at last say, I have seen a dreadful Vision since I saw you: I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms: this, I have seen since I saw you. To which, Sir Robert reply’d; Sure Sir, you have slept since I saw you; and, this is the result of some melancholy dream, which I desire you to forget, for you are now awake. To which Mr. Donnes reply was: I cannot be surer that I now live, then that I have not slept since I saw you: and am, as sure, that at her second appearing, she stopt, and look’d me in the face, and vanisht.

Donne and Drury immediately sent a messenger to London. He returned to say that Mrs. Donne had borne a dead child at the hour her husband thought he had seen her in Paris.

(From Izaak Walton, Life of Dr John Donne, 1675)