All Aboard

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William Howard Taft once found himself stranded at a country railroad station and was told that the express train would not stop for a lone passenger.

He wired the conductor: STOP AT HICKSVILLE. LARGE PARTY WAITING TO CATCH TRAIN.

When the train stopped, Taft got aboard and told the conductor, “You can go ahead. I am the large party.”

Paradoxical Undressing

Hypothermia victims are often found with clothing removed, as if they’ve been assaulted. It’s not clear why a freezing person would undress; possibly their judgment is impaired, and possibly exhaustion brings a sensation of warmth to the skin.

“A Rare Circle of Friends”

Sir Henry Blackman, of Lewes, on being knighted in 1782, gave a dinner to sixteen friends, with an invitation to them to dine with him annually for forty years; four of them died during the first four years, but twenty-eight years rolled round before another seat became vacant at the festive board. In 1814 two died, aged between eighty and ninety; so that ten remained of the original number at the thirty-third anniversary, held in July, 1815!

Curiosities for the Ingenious, 1825

Subtraction Pangram

Each term in this equation contains each of the nine digits once:

subtraction pangram

Careful!

Before conductors used batons, they kept time by banging a long staff against the floor. In January 1687, Jean-Baptiste Lully was conducting a Te Deum in this way when he struck his toe. The wound turned gangrenous, the gangrene spread — and he died.

Letter Shift

letter shift yes-oui

Mind Your Money

A cold coin placed on the forehead feels heavier than a warm one.

An Alarming Paradox

In 1735, an anonymous “lover of mathematicks” offered the following conundrum:

“‘Tis certainly Matter of Fact, that three certain Travellers went on a Journey, in which, tho’ their Heads travelled full twelve Yards more than their Feet, yet they all return’d alive, with their Heads on.”

How is this possible?

Click for Answer

“A Singular Coincidence”

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On the 13th of February 1746, as the records of the French criminal jurisprudence inform us, one Jean Marie Dunarry was brought to the scaffold for murdering his father; and, strangely enough, on the 13th of February, 1846, precisely one hundred years later, another Jean Marie Dunbarry, a great-grandson of the first-mentioned criminal, paid the same penalty for the same crime.

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882

In a Word

potvaliant
adj. inclined to fight when drunk