“Curious Wager”

In August, 1823, a man undertook to carry thirteen sieve-baskets, piled one upon another on his head, from Dean-street, Westminster, to Perry’s potato-warehouse in Covent Garden. The wager was for a sovereign; and the conditions were, that he was to walk through the public streets, and to arrive at the place named with eleven on his head, without resting. He walked with great caution, sometimes in the carriage road, and sometimes on the pavement, followed by numbers of people, who, however, at once encircled and cleared the way for him. His greatest difficulty seemed to be to avoid the lamp irons when upon the pavement, as the upper sieve, which poised the whole, had a continual inclination to the right side. He succeeded in gaining the middle of Southampton-street without losing one sieve, having passed coaches and carts of all descriptions; when here, the upper sieve fell to the ground. He halted for a moment, and poised the remaining sieves, with which he proceeded full into the market, where he cast the whole down, amid the cheers of the populace. Though the weight must have been considerable, the poising the sieves was the greatest difficulty he had to encounter, as they reached the second floor windows. He won his wager; and many gentlemen, who were highly delighted with the novelty of the scene, subscribed to reward his ingenuity and perseverance.

The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824



Artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff commenced an oil portrait of Franklin Roosevelt at noon on April 12, 1945.

This is as far as she got. FDR was being served lunch when he said, “I have a terrific headache” — and collapsed of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.


“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” — Somerset Maugham

Next Stop …

The Busman’s Lord’s Prayer, allegedly recited by British bus drivers:

Our Farnham, who art in Hendon
Harrow be Thy name.
Thy Kingston come; thy Wimbledon,
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our daily Brent
And forgive us our Westminster
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
And lead us not into Thames Ditton
But deliver us from Yeovil.
For Thine is the Kingston, the Purley and the Crawley,
For Esher and Esher.
Crouch End.

But the Rent’s Great

“Corner House,” by Hungarian painter István Orosz (b. 1951).

“Illusion,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “is the first of all pleasures.”

“A Shaved Bear”

At Bristol I saw a shaved monkey shown for a fairy, and a shaved bear, in a check waistcoat and trowsers, sitting in a great chair as an Ethiopian savage. This was the most cruel fraud I ever saw. The unnatural position of the beast, and the damnable brutality of the woman-keeper who sat upon his knee, put her arm round his neck, called him husband and sweet-heart, and kissed him, made it the most disgusting spectacle I ever witnessed.

— Robert Southey, Southey’s Common-Place Book, 1851

The Marozi


In 1931, farmer Michael Trent shot two strange creatures in the Aberdare Mountains of central Kenya. They appeared to be small lions, but they bore spots.

Were they a natural hybrid of leopard and lion? A new species? A subsequent expedition found nothing, and no one’s seen one since.

Henry Darger

When he died in 1973, Chicago janitor Henry Darger left his own monument: a 10-volume novel entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.

Discovered by his landlords, the fantasy manuscript, illustrated with hundreds of drawings and watercolor paintings, totaled 15,145 single-spaced typed pages. It may be the longest novel ever written.

The Mutilated Chessboard

Take an ordinary chessboard and cut off two diagonally opposite corners. Now: Is it possible to tile the remaining 62 squares with 31 dominoes?

This calls for inspiration rather than trial and error. Most people see the solution immediately or not at all.

Click for Answer

Don’t Be Cruel


Elvis Presley had an eighth-degree black belt in karate.