Starting Small

The first KISS concert drew an audience of three (at the Popcorn Club in Queens, January 1973).

The Bathtub Hoax

H.L. Mencken seemed to have a gift for cynicism — even the gold he touched turned to lead. In December 1917, as a joke, he composed a fictional history of the bathtub for the New York Evening Mail. The article, “A Neglected Anniversary,” was preposterous, saying that the bathtub had been introduced to England in 1828 and to the United States 14 years later, and that Millard Fillmore encouraged its acceptance by installing one in the White House in 1850.

To Mencken’s horror, the story was widely accepted as fact, and it’s still quoted today as an authoritative source. Mencken said:

“The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity. … Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.”

Music to the Eyes

Most expensive music videos, as of July 2006:

  1. Michael and Janet Jackson, “Scream,” $7 million
  2. Puff Daddy, “Victory,” $2.7 million
  3. Mariah Carey, “Heartbreaker,” $2.5 million
  4. Busta Rhymes, “What’s It Gonna Be?!” $2.4 million
  5. Backstreet Boys, “Larger Than Life,” $2.1 million
  6. Ayumi Hamasaki, “Fairyland,” $2 million
  7. Madonna, “Bedtime Story,” $2 million
  8. Madonna, “Express Yourself,” $2 million
  9. Will Smith, “Miami,” $2 million
  10. Missy Elliot, “She’s a Bitch,” $2 million

The Dunmore Pineapple

My homeowners’ association would never allow this. Pineapples were big in 18th-century Europe, a rare delicacy and a symbol of wealth, so they got sculpted into everything: gateposts, railings, weather vanes, and door lintels. This stone cupola, 14 meters high, adorns Dunmore Park in Scotland, where they actually managed to grow live pineapples with a furnace-driven heating system. No mean feat.

In a Word

n. beard-growing contest


“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” — Albert Einstein

Bunny Hop

Don’t laugh, they’re good at it. Rabbit show jumping began in Sweden in the late 1970s, and today there are more than 50 clubs throughout Scandinavia.

In case you’re wondering, the official world records are 99.5 cm (39.17 inches) for the high jump, 300 cm (118.11 inches) for the long jump.

Hoist by Their Own Petards

Inventors killed by their own inventions:

  • According to the Bible, Haman was hanged by the gallows he invented.
  • William Bullock (1813-1837) was crushed to death while trying to fix a rotary printing press he’d invented.
  • Otto Lilienthal died in 1896 after a crash in one of his hang gliders.
  • Thomas Midgley Jr. strangled in the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed he’d designed in 1944.
  • Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician, died when he accepted a “rejuvenating” transfusion of blood infected with malaria and tuberculosis.

And Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running, died of a heart attack while jogging.


Charles McKinley lacked the airfare to visit his folks in Texas, so on Sept. 5, 2003, he mailed himself from New York to Dallas.

Amazingly, authorities didn’t catch on until an air freight driver reported that he “had seen a pair of eyes looking out from inside the crate.”

Henry Box Brown did the same thing 150 years ago, but he was escaping slavery. McKinley, apparently, just wanted to save money.

Cueva de las Manos

Found in a cave in Argentina, these handprints are at least 9,500 years old.

No one knows who made them, but their size suggests a 13-year-old boy.