Room Service

On Dec. 9, 1873, something strange happened to Thomas B. Cumpston and his wife in Bristol’s Victoria Hotel. From the London Times of Dec. 11:

They were alarmed at about four o’clock in the morning by terrible noises which they could not explain, and which frightened them very much. The bed seemed to open, and did all sorts of strange things. The floor, too, opened, and they heard voices. They were so terrified that they opened their bed-room window and leapt out. Mrs. Cumpston, also, gave her version of the affair. She said they heard terrible noises at about four o’clock in the morning. The floor seemed to be giving way. It certainly opened, and her husband fell down some distance, and she tried to get him up. What they said was repeated every time they spoke. Being very much frightened she asked her husband to fire off his pistol, which he did, into the ceiling.

The two leapt into the yard and ran to a nearby railway station, where police charged them with disorderly conduct and letting off firearms and released them into the custody of a friend. “No explanation can be given of this strange affair, and the belief is that it was an hallucination on the part of the husband.”

Oh

Croesus asked the oracle at Delphi whether he should attack the Persians. She replied that if he went to war, he would destroy a great empire.

Croesus attacked, but the Persians beat him back, invaded his kingdom, and threw him into chains. He sent another message to the oracle: “Why did you deceive me?”

She replied that she had not deceived him — he had indeed destroyed a great empire.

Eating One’s Words

One Theodore Reinking, lamenting the diminished glory of his race, wrote a book entitled Dania ad exteros de perfidia Suecorum (1644). It was not a very excellent work, neither was its author a learned or accurate historian, but it aroused the anger of the Swedes, who cast Reinking into prison. There he remained many years, when at length he was offered his freedom on the condition that he should either lose his head or eat his book. Our author preferred the latter alternative, and with admirable cleverness devoured his book when he had converted it into a sauce. For his own sake we trust his work was not a ponderous or bulky volume.

— P.H. Ditchfield, Books Fatal to Their Authors, 1895

“Mad Jack”

http://books.google.com/books?id=Aqo0AAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&rview=1#PPA48,M1

Some of us just aren’t cut out for the gentry. Shropshire squire John Mytton hunted naked, rode a horse through the Bedford Hotel, fed his dogs on steak and champagne, overturned gigs, pelted babies with oranges, inebriated his horse, and tried to cure hiccups by setting his shirt on fire. He died in debtor’s prison in 1834.

A biographer notes drily that Mytton once rode a bear into his drawing room in full hunting costume. “The bear carried him very quietly for a time; but on being pricked by the spur he bit his rider through the calf of his leg.”

The Savage Breast

That brutal monarch, Louis XI of France, is said to have constructed, with the assistance of the Abbé de Baigne, an instrument designated a ‘pig organ,’ for the production of natural sounds. The master of the royal music, having made a very large and varied assortment of swine, embracing specimens of all breeds and ages, these were carefully voiced, and placed in order, according to their several tones and semitones, and so arranged that a key-board communicated with them, severally and individually, by means of rods ending in sharp spikes. In this way a player, by touching any note, could instantly sound a corresponding note in nature, and was enabled to produce at will either natural melody or harmony! The result is said to have been striking, but not very grateful to human ears.

— J. Crofts, “Colour-Music,” The Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1885

See also That’ll Do It and Attaboy.