“It will be gone by June.” — Variety, writing off rock ‘n’ roll, 1955

Wake-Up Call

Ann Hodges was napping on her living room couch on Nov. 30, 1954, when a meteoroid crashed through the ceiling and smashed her radio. It struck her on the arm and hip, leaving her bruised but able to walk.

The meteor, it turned out, had made a fireball visible from three states as it descended on her Sylacauga, Ala., home. It’s now on display at the University of Alabama — it’s about the size of a grapefruit and weighs 12 pounds.

Concentrated Yuck

The bitterest thing in the world is denatonium, a compound discovered by Scottish researchers in 1958. Most people find its taste unbearable even in dilutions of 10 parts per million.

A New York chemist once went home with a trace of denatonium saccharide on his lip. He kissed his wife and she almost threw up.

The Missouri Bellwether

Missouri has voted for the winner in every U.S. presidential election since 1904.

The only exception is 1956, when Eisenhower lost there by 0.2 percent.

“Toad Embedded in a Block of Stone”

Lately some workmen employed in a quarry at Byker Hill, on splitting a huge block of free stone, nearly three tons weight, found a living toad in the middle of it; the cavity that contained the animal, to which there was no apparent passage from the outside, was the exact model of its figure, and was lined with a black substance suffused with moisture.

Monthly Magazine, April 1812

(See also Entombed Animals.)

The Agony of Defeat


Italian marathoner Dorando Pietri was exhausted and dehydrated as he neared the finish line in the 1908 Olympic Games, and when he entered the stadium he took a wrong turn and collapsed. The umpires helped him up, but he stumbled further and collapsed again. 75,000 agonized spectators watched him fall three more times before he found the finish line; of his total time of 2:54:46, he spent fully 10 minutes on the last 350 meters.

Unbelievably, they disqualified him. The American team complained that he’d received help from the umpires, and he was removed from the final standings. But Queen Alexandra gave him a silver cup, at the suggestion of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Irving Berlin wrote a song for him. He died in 1942 at age 56.

In a Word

n. one who hates practicing the piano

Math Notes

1 + 4 + 5 + 8 = 18
18 × 81 = 1458

1 + 7 + 2 + 9 = 19
19 × 91 = 1729

“The Waco Horror”


Between 1882 and 1930, Texans committed 492 lynchings. By most accounts, the most horrible of these was the 1916 slaying of Jesse Washington, a Waco farmhand who had confessed to the rape and murder of a white farmer’s wife.

A jury of 12 whites deliberated for four minutes before declaring Washington guilty. They called for the death penalty, but before authorities could act, he was dragged from the courtroom, doused with coal oil, and suspended alive over a bonfire. A witness wrote:

Washington was beaten with shovels and bricks … was castrated, and his ears were cut off. A tree supported the iron chain that lifted him above the fire. … Wailing, the boy attempted to climb up the skillet hot chain. For this, the men cut off his fingers.

Washington’s corpse was put in a cloth bag and dragged behind a car to Robinson, where it was hung from a pole. Northern newspapers condemned the lynching, but Texas was largely unrepentant. The image above is taken from a postcard (!); on the back someone has written, “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.”

“Manufacturing Feat”


In 1811 a gentleman made a bet of one thousand guineas that he would have a coat made in a single day, from the first process of shearing the sheep till its completion by the tailor. The wager was decided at Newbury, England, on the 25th of June in that year, by Mr. John Coxeter, of Greenham mills, near that town. At five o’clock that morning Sir John Throckmorton presented two Southdown sheep to Mr. Coxeter, and the sheep were shorn, the wool spun, the yarn spooled, warped, loomed and wove, the cloth burred, milled, rowed, dried, sheared and pressed, and put into the hands of the tailors by four o’clock that afternoon. At twenty minutes past six the coat, entirely finished, was handed by Mr. Coxeter to Sir John Throckmorton, who appeared with it before more than five thousand spectators, who rent the air with acclamations at this remarkable instance of despatch.

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