On the way to one of his many duels, Georges Clemenceau requested a one-way railway ticket.

“Isn’t that a little pessimistic?” asked his second.

“Not at all,” Clemenceau said. “I always use my opponent’s return ticket for the trip back.”

“Crows Lost in a Fog”

“The Hartford Times tells a curious story of a flock of crows in that vicinity who recently lost their way in a fog. They lost their bearings at a point directly above the South Green, in Hartford. For a good while they hovered there, coming low down, circling and diving aimlessly about, like a blindfolded person in ‘blind man’s buff,’ and keeping up a hoarse cawing and general racket beyond description. It was plain enough that of the entire company each individual crow was not only puzzled and bothered, but highly indignant, and inclined to utter ‘cuss words’ in his frantic attempts to be heard above the general din, and tell the others which way to go. Once or twice the whole flock swept down to a distance of not more than one hundred feet above the street. Finally, after going around for many times, they saied away in a southerly direction, evidently having got some clue to the way out of the fog, or desperately resolved to go somewhere till they could see daylight.”

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

A Confederacy of Squares

When asked his age, mathematician Augustus De Morgan used to offer a clue: “I was x years of age in the year x2.” (He was 43 in 1849.)

That quirk puts De Morgan in a pretty exclusive club. Other members include Charles Atlas (who was 44 in 1936) and Jake Gyllenhaal (who will be 45 in 2025). Next up: Babies born in 2070 will be 46 in 2116.

Strange Crossing

On Oct. 17, 1917, the sailing schooner Zabrina was found hard aground on the Cherbourg Peninsula in northwestern France. She had sailed from the English port of Falmouth two days earlier and should have made fast passage across the English Channel. No trace of her four-man crew was ever found.


In the Philosophical Transactions for 1712, W. Cheselden, a celebrated anatomist, describes the dimensions of some human bones of an extraordinary size, which were dug up near St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire. The circumference of the skull lengthwise was twenty-six inches, and its breadth twenty-three inches. The greatest diameter of each os innominatum was twelve inches. The left os femoris was twenty-four inches long, and the right one was twenty-three inches in length. Each tibia was twenty-four inches long. If all the parts bore a due proportion, this man must have been eight feet high. The bones were found near an urn, inscribed ‘Marcus Antoninus,’ on the site of a Roman camp.

— Edward J. Wood, Giants and Dwarfs, 1868


Two business partners asked their lawyer to hold $20,000, making him promise to get both of their signatures before disbursing any of it.

As soon as one partner left town, the other pressed the lawyer for $15,000, citing an emergency. The lawyer reluctantly gave it to him, and he disappeared.

On his return, the other partner was irate, so the lawyer explained that he had donated the $15,000 out of his own pocket.

“Then give me the $20,000 you’re holding,” said the partner.

“All right,” said the lawyer. “Give me the two signatures.”

“Lizard in an Egg”

“In July 1822, the wife of the man who superintends the decoy ponds in the parish of Great Oakley, near Harwich, took an egg from a hen’s nest, in which was a remarkable discolouration. She kept it about a week, and, upon breaking it, observed something within alive, which so alarmed her, that she let it fall, and ran for her husband who was close by, and immediately came, and found lying on the ground, surrounded with the contents of the egg, an animal of the lizard species alive, but incapable, from weakness, of getting away. The contents of the egg were fœtid, contained a very small portion of yolk, and with the albumen, not more than sufficient to half fill the shell. The animal proved to be a land swift, speckled belly, about four inches in length, nothing remarkable in its form, except its hind legs being longer than usual. It died shortly after being out of the egg. The man has it dried for the inspection of the curious.”

Colchester Gazette, cited in The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824