“Awful Death of Mr. Munro”


Tiger attack, Saugur Island, off Calcutta, Dec. 23, 1792, recounted by a witness in The Terrific Register, 1825:

I had just laid hold of [my gun], when I heard a roar like thunder, and saw an immense royal tyger spring on the unfortunate Munro, who was sitting down; in a moment his head was in the beast’s mouth, and he rushed into the jungle with him with as much ease as I could lift a kitten, tearing him through the thickest bushes and trees — every thing yielding to his monstrous strength. The agonies of horror, regret, and I must say fear, (for there were two tygers, a male and female), rushed on me at once; the only effort I could make was to fire at him, though the poor youth was still in his mouth. I relied partly on Providence, partly on my own aim, and fired a musket. I saw the tyger stagger and agitated, and I cried out so immediately; Mr. Downey then fired two shots, and I one more. We retired from the jungle, and a few minutes after, Mr. Munro came up to us, all over blood, and fell; we took him on our backs to the boat, and got every medical assistance for him from the Valentine Indiaman, which lay at anchor near the island, but in vain. He lived twenty-four hours in the extreme of torture: his head and scull were all torn and broken to pieces, and he was wounded by the beast’s claws all over his neck and shoulders: but it was better to take him away, though irrecoverable, than leave him to be devoured limb by limb. We have just read the funeral service over his body, and committed it to the deep. He was an amiable and promising youth.

“The beast was about four feet and a half high, and nine long. His head appeared as large as an ox’s, his eyes darting fire, and his roar, when he first seized his prey, will never be out of my recollection. We had scarcely pushed our boat from that cursed shore, when the tygress made her appearance, raging mad almost, and remained on the sand as long as the distance would allow me to see her.”


An amorous wag once sought the bliss,
To steal a soft and balmy kiss,
When Sylvia stampt (and some say, swore)
That he should gain the prize no more;
He smiled, and said, if ’tis such pain,
Pray, miss, return it back again.

The Jester’s Magazine, 1767

Shadow Minister

There’s something curious about the Congolese minister of foreign trade — he doesn’t exist.

When the prime minister asked for two nominees for the post, UNACEF party leader Kisimba Ngoy nominated himself and “Kasongo Ilunga,” apparently thinking he was bound to win against a phantom.

The plan backfired when the prime minister chose Ilunga. The enigmatic 36-year-old failed to appear at the opening of the new government, and he hasn’t claimed his office. Ngoy says that the invisible bureaucrat has resigned, but the prime minister insists that he must do so in person.

That leaves Congo without a trade minister — and Kisimba helplessly offering that dubious resignation letter. “He wrote it himself,” he insists. “He signed it. Could an imaginary man do that?”

Long Knight

In Rouen, in 1509, in digging in the ditches near the Dominicans, they found a stone tomb, containing a skeleton whose skull held a bushel of corn, and whose shin bone reached up to the girdle of the tallest man there, being about four feet long; and, consequently, the body must have been seventeen or eighteen feet high. Upon the tomb was a plate of copper, whereon was engraved, ‘In this tomb lies the noble and puissant lord, the Chevalier Ricon De Vallemont, and his bones.’

— John Platts, Encyclopedia of Natural and Artificial Wonders and Curiosities, 1876

Half Right

“Numero deus impare gaudet [the god delights in odd numbers].” — Virgil

“Why is it that we entertain the belief that for every purpose odd numbers are the most effectual?” — Pliny

“This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers. … They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death.” — Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor


In the early morning hours of Dec. 3, 2003, assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan Luna drove north out of Baltimore. At about 1 a.m. he withdrew $200 from an ATM in Newark, Del., and at 3:20 a.m. he bought gas at a Pennsylvania service plaza. At 4:04 he exited the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a bloodstained toll ticket.

At 5:30 a.m. his car was discovered in a stream behind a Pennsylvania well drilling company. Luna’s body was under the engine. He had been stabbed 36 times with his own penknife and drowned.

Despite a federal reward of $100,000, no one has ever explained what happened that night.