A Grave Cradle

The Hereford Times of November 16, 1901, reprints the following case from Pauillac. A Madame Bobin arrived there on board the steamer ‘La Plata,’ from Senegal. She was supposed to be suffering from yellow fever, and was transferred to the Lazaret by order of the officer of health. There she became worse, and apparently died. The body became rigid, and the face ashen and corpse-like, and in that condition she was buried. The nurse, however, had noticed that the body was not cold, and that there was tremulousness of the muscles of the abdomen, and expressed the opinion that Madame Bobin was prematurely buried. On this being reported to Madame Bobin’s father, he had the body exhumed, when it was found that a child had been born in the coffin. The autopsy showed also that Madame Bobin had not contracted yellow fever, and had died from asphyxiation in the coffin. A suit was begun against the health officers and the prefect, which resulted in a verdict for £8,000 damages against them.

— William Tebb, Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented, 1905

Curiosities of Morse Code

  • SISSIES: ··· ·· ··· ··· ·· · ···
  • MOTTO: -- --- - - ---
  • ENTENTE: · -· - · -· - ·
  • TARTAR: - ·- ·-· - ·- ·-·
  • POSSESSIVENESS: ·--· --- ··· ··· · ··· ··· ·· ···- · -· · ··· ··· (18 dots in a row)
  • SERVOMOTOR: ··· · ·-· ···- --- -- --- - --- ·-· (12 dashes)

INTRANSIGENCE is a palindrome: ·· -· - ·-· ·- -· ··· ·· --· · -· -·-· ·

Coming and Going

Prospicimus modo quod durabunt faedera longo
Tempore, nec nobis pax cito diffugiet.

That means “We foresee now that the confederacy shall last a long time, and that peace will not quickly fly away from us.” But reverse it:

Diffugiet cito pax nobis, nec tempore longo
Faedera durabunt, quod modo prospicimus.

and it means “Peace will soon fly away from us, and the covenant shall not last long, which we foresee already.”

See also A Bilingual Palindrome.

Figure and Ground


Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

— Zhuangzi, Chinese text, fourth century B.C.

The Lady of the Haystack

In 1776 an unfortunate woman was found sheltering under a haystack in Bourton, near Bristol. By day she would seek charity from the local people, but at night she would always return to the haystack, saying only that “trouble and misery dwelt in houses.”

Curiously, she appeared well bred and accustomed to good society. Hannah More, who took up her cause, found her “handsome, young, interesting, enough Mistress of her reason carefully to shut up from our observation every avenue that might lead to her secret.”

More published “A Tale of Real Woe” in the St. James’s Chronicle in 1785, offering what little she had been able to learn about the woman: “that her Father was a German, her Mother an Italian; that she has one brother and one Sister; that her father had a very fine garden full of olive and orange Trees.”

Rumors abounded that “Louisa” was an illegitimate daughter of Francis I, emperor of Austria, and thus a half-sister to Marie Antoinette, but these have never been substantiated. Whoever she was, the woman spent the next 16 years in a succession of hospitals, never giving her identity, and when she died in 1801, she took her secret with her.


The Earl of Yarborough offers you a wager. He’ll shuffle an ordinary deck and deal you 13 cards. If none of your cards ranks above 9, he’ll give you a thousand pounds. Otherwise you must give him one pound.

Should you accept?

Click for Answer

The Human Paperweight


Thanks to Joseph Karwowski, you’ll never have to say goodbye to your Uncle Julius. Patented in 1903, Karwowski’s “method of preserving the dead” hermetically encases the corpse in a block of transparent glass to prevent decay and maintain a lifelike appearance.

Bonus: “In Fig. 3 I have shown the head only of the corpse as incased within the transparent block of glass, it being at once evident that the head alone may be preserved in this manner, if preferred.”