Noli Me Tangere

There is no record that Jesus ever laughed.

U.S.S. Saratoga

In March 1781, the Continental Navy sloop Saratoga was escorting a convoy of merchant ships off Haiti when it spotted two British sails to the west. It overtook and captured the first ship, put an American crew aboard, and set out after the second.

Midshipman Penfield, commander of that crew, was watching the chase when a strong wind arose, requiring his attention. When he raised his eyes again, the Saratoga had vanished. No trace of her was ever found.

Tommy Jones

On the evening of Aug. 4, 1900, 5-year-old Tommy Jones went missing near his grandfather’s farm in Brecon, South Wales. A 29-day search of the surrounding country found no trace of him.

His body was finally discovered on Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales, at an altitude of 1,300 feet. He had died of exhaustion and exposure. No one knows what led him there.

Strangely, almost the same thing had happened 10 years earlier in Virginia.

Recent History

The oldest U.S. Civil War widow is still alive. Maudie Hopkins was 19 when she married 86-year-old veteran William Cantrell in 1934. She’s 92 today.

“Alliterative Love Letter”

Adored and angelic Amelia, accept an ardent and artless amourist’s affection, alleviate an anguished admirer’s alarms, and answer an amorous applicant’s ardour. Ah, Amelia! all appears an awful aspect. Ambition, avarice, and arrogance, alas! are attractive allurements, and abuse an ardent attachment. Appease an aching and affectionate adorer’s alarms, and anon acknowledge affianced Albert’s alliance as acceptable and agreeable. Anxiously awaiting an affectionate and affirmative answer, accept an admirer’s aching adieu. Always angelic and adorable Amelia’s affectionate amourist, Albert.

— William T. Dobson, Literary Frivolities, Fancies, Follies and Frolics, 1880

The Snail Telegraph

In the early 19th century, French occultist Jacques Toussaint Benoit became convinced that when two snails touch they form a “sympathetic bond” so that, ever afterward, when one is touched the other will respond.

He got financing to build a “snail telegraph,” a dish in which 24 lettered snails were glued in place. Messages could be sent by touching snails in sequence; their partners, glued to an identical dish elsewhere, would then wriggle, conveying the message.

After a demonstration in October 1851, La Presse hailed the invention as a revolution. Benoit’s backers, however, demanded a stricter test — and found that the inventor had disappeared.

In a Word

n. one who entices away another’s servants

Math Notes

135 = 1 + 32 + 53
175 = 1 + 72 + 53
518 = 5 + 12 + 83
598 = 5 + 92 + 83

“Value of a Long Psalm”

In old times a culprit, when at the gallows, was allowed to select a Psalm, which was then sung, thereby lengthening the chances of the arrival of a reprieve. It is reported of one of the chaplains to the famous Montrose, that being condemned in Scotland to die for attending his master in some of his exploits, he selected the 119th Psalm. It was well for him that he did so, for they had sung it half through before the reprieve came. A shorter Psalm, and he would have been hung.

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

One Mean Plane

In 1943, after a mission in Italy, the American bomber Lady Be Good failed to return to its Libyan base. Apparently lost, the crew had called in for a bearing, but they never arrived. Eventually they were presumed to have crashed in the Mediterranean.

Almost 16 years later, in 1958, a team of British geologists found the plane’s wreckage hundreds of miles away in the Sahara, broken in two but mysteriously well preserved. That created a second mystery: Where were the crew?

Seven bodies were eventually found, far to the north. Low on fuel and thinking themselves over the sea, they had bailed out, landed in the desert, and watched as the unmanned bomber flew out of sight carrying supplies, water, and a working radio. Amazingly, they had stayed alive for eight days in the desert; one walked 109 miles before succumbing.

The plane’s mischief continued even after its destruction. When salvaged parts from the Lady Be Good were installed in other aircraft, they seemed to convey an odd curse. Some transmitters went into a C-54; it encountered propeller trouble and the crew saved themselves only by throwing cargo overboard. A radio receiver went into a C-47; it ditched in the Mediterranean. And an armrest went into a U.S. Army “Otter” airplane; it crashed into the Gulf of Sidra. The crew were never found, but the armrest washed quietly ashore.