Work Smarter, Not Harder

On Dec. 10, 1968, a uniformed man pulled over a bank car in Tokyo. He explained that police had received a warning that dynamite had been planted in the vehicle, which was transporting bonuses for local Toshiba employees. The four passengers got out and watched as the officer crawled underneath.

After a moment he rolled out, shouting that the car was about to explode. When the passengers ran, he got in and drove off.

Thus one man stole 294,307,500 yen in broad daylight, working alone and without harming anyone. It remains the largest single heist in Japanese history. The thief was never caught.

“The Use of the Dictionary”

The following message was composed for Bizarre Notes and Queries, July-August 1890, to show “that it would be possible to write a technically grammatical sentence, which would be almost unintelligible.” “The words below can all be found in the dictionary, and all are grammatically used: and yet the thing is as hopelessly dark as if written in Cherokee.” It purports to be a note from an author to a critic:

Sir:– You have behaved like an impetiginous-Croyle! like those inquinate, Crass-sciolists who envious of my moral celsitude, carry their nugacity to the height of creating symposically the facund words which my polymathic genius uses with uberty to abligate the tongues of the weetless! Sir–you have crassly parodied my own pet words, as though they were tangrams. I will not coacervate reproaches–I would abduce a veil over the atramental ingratitude which has chamferred even my undicerptible heart. I am silent on the foscillation, which my coadjivancy must have given you when I offered to become your fautor and admincle. I will not speak of the lippitude, the ablepsy, you have shown in exacerbating me–one whose genius you should have approached with mental discalceation. So I tell you sir syncophically, and without supervaceneous words, nothing will render ignoscible your conduct to me. I warn you that I would vellicate your nose, if I thought that any moral diathrosis could be thereby performed–if I thought that I should not impignorate my reputation by such a digtadiation.

“For an entire solution of the above highly interesting missive, the reader is invited to amuse himself an hour or two with Walker’s or Webster’s Unabridged.”

George Psalmanazar

Anyone can lead a fascinating life if he’s willing to invent it out of whole cloth. Or at least that’s the lesson of George Psalmanazar, one of the stranger figures in European history.

Born in France in 1679, Psalmanazar traveled to Scandinavia in 1700 and perversely told everyone he was from Formosa. And he didn’t stint on details. In Formosa, he said:

  • Horses and camels were used for mass transportation.
  • Men walked naked, covering their privates with gold and silver plates.
  • The chief food was a serpent, hunted with branches.
  • A man could have many wives; if any was unfaithful he could eat her.
  • Murderers were hung upside down and shot full of arrows.
  • Formosans sacrificed 18,000 young boys to gods each year, and priests ate the bodies.

Psalmanazar eventually found he could make a career of this; he gave lectures and wrote a book that went through two English editions and was translated into French and German. To keep up “Formosan” appearances, he ate raw meat, slept upright in a chair, and claimed to worship the sun and moon. Eventually, though, he gave up the charade, confessing in 1706.

To this day, no one knows who he really was — he never gave his real name.

“A Marine Monster”,M1

Sea serpent witnessed from the S.S. City of Baltimore in the Gulf of Aden, Jan. 28, 1879. Maj. H.W.I. Senior of the Bengal Staff Corps told the Graphic of “a long black object” “darting rapidly out of the water and splashing in again with a noise distinctly audible.” The creature advanced to within 500 yards:

“The head and neck, about two feet in diameter, rose out of the water to a height of about twenty or thirty feet, and the monster opened its jaws wide as it rose, and closed them again as it lowered its head and darted forward for a dive, reappearing almost immediately some hundred yards ahead. The body was not visible at all, and must have been some depth under water. … When the monster had drawn its head sufficiently out of the water, it let itself drop, as it were, like a huge log of wood, prior to darting forward under the water.'”

Senior’s statement is countersigned by two other witnesses, including the ship’s surgeon.

“A Lucky Find”

During the month of April, 1733, Sir Simon Stuart, of Hartley, England, while looking over some old writings, found on the back of one of them a memorandum noting that 1500 broad pieces were buried in a certain spot in an adjoining field. After a little digging the treasure was found in a pot, hidden there in the time of the civil wars by his grandfather, Sir Nicholas Stuart.

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