Well Rounded

There’s something odd about Illinois’ Bull Valley Police Department — it has no square corners.

The house was built by George Stickney, a spiritualist who believed spirits could be caught in 90-degree angles. Stickney used to hold seances on the second floor; he had lost nine of his 12 children and possibly was trying to reach them.

Whatever the truth, the house seems a poor place for a police department. There are numerous rumors of paranormal activity, and so far two officers have quit.


Last week, while the sexton of Tynemouth Church was digging a grave in North Shields Church Yard, he imagined he heard a feeble voice under his feet, pronounce the word ‘murder!’ but looking down, and perceiving nothing, he plucked up his spirits and resumed his work. No sooner, however, did he begin to make use of his spade, than the same awful sound vibrated three times in his ears: the courage of the astonished Moses forsook him — the spade dropped from his grasp, and, with the agility of an harlequin, he skipped out of the grave, and fled from the church yard, to the no small amusement of those who were in the secret. A soldier practising ventriloquism, who was placed at a convenient distance, conveyed the sound.

Times, Oct. 29, 1808



“Ours has been the first [expedition], and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.” — Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon, 1861

In a Word

n. one hiding from the police


In 1976, off Bombay, the oil tanker Cretan Star sent out a distress call:


It was never seen again.

“Port Coon Cave”

Port Coon Cave

The above is a sketch of a cave which well deserves a place among our collection of Wonders. It is called Port Coon Cave, and is in the line of rocks near the Giants’ Causeway. It may be visited either by sea or by land. Boats may row into it to the distance of a hundred yards or more, but the swell is sometimes dangerous; and although the land entrance to the cave is slippery, and a fair proportion of climbing is necessary to achieve the object, still the magnificence of the excavation, its length, and the formation of the interior, would repay greater exertion; the stones of which the roof and sides are composed, and which are of a rounded form, and embedded, as it were, in a basaltic paste, are formed of concentric spheres resembling the coats of an onion; the innermost recess has been compared to the side aisle of a Gothic cathedral; the walls are most painfully slimy to the touch; the discharge of a loaded gun reverberates amid the rolling of the billows, so as to thunder a most awful effect; and the notes of a bugle, we are told, produced delicious echoes.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860

Skunk Ape

The skunk ape is Florida’s answer to Bigfoot, a large primate that reportedly lives east of Interstate 75, near Myakka River State Park.

In December 2000, an anonymous writer mailed two photographs and a letter to the Sarasota sheriff’s department. “Is someone missing an orangutan?” she asked, identifying herself as a grandmother who had taken the photos when she found the beast stealing apples from her backyard. “It is hard to judge from the photos how big this orangutan really is. … I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall in a kneeling position. … It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep ‘woomp’ noises.”

That’s a bit hard to swallow. If the skunk ape is 7 feet tall kneeling then it must be nearly 10 feet tall standing. The largest male orangutans are 4 feet 5 inches. The letter writer says she was standing within 10 feet of the monster when it stood up (“an animal this big could hurt someone seriously”), but she stood there anyway and took a second picture. And why send an anonymous typewritten letter?

There have been other “sightings” since this one, but of course no evidence. Nice photos, though.

“Curious Turkish Contrivance”

curious turkish contrivance

Passing some cemeteries and public fountains, we came to the outskirts of the city, which consist chiefly of gardens producing olives, oranges, raisins and figs, irrigated by creaking water-wheels worked by donkeys. To one of these the droll contrivances which attracted our notice was affixed. The donkey who went round and round was blinded, and in front of him was a pole, one end of which was fixed to the axle and the other slightly drawn towards his head-gear and there tied; so that, from the spring he always thought somebody was pulling him on. The guide told us that idle fellows would contrive some rude mechanism so that a stick should fall upon the animal’s hind quarters at every round, and so keep him at work whilst they went to sleep under the trees.

— Albert Smith, A Month at Constantinople, 1850

“Old Parr”

In Westminster Abbey there’s a gravestone that reads as follows:


That’s right, Thomas Parr supposedly lived to be 152 years old. Said to have been born in 1483, he was discovered still alive in 1635 by the Earl of Arundel, and London went nuts. Parr met Charles I; Rubens and Van Dyke painted him; poets lionized him; and the fuss finally killed him.

Most likely his records had been confused with his grandfather’s, but he was certainly very old. He attributed his longevity to vegetarianism and clean living, though he said he’d had a kid out of wedlock at around age 100. Youthful indiscretion.

Wave Goodbye

200 million years ago, a creature called Cheirotherium stepped in some German mud.

That’s all we know about it — no remains have ever been found.