“I Travelled Among Unknown Men”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth used to roam the hills and coast of southwest England on long night walks; eventually the local villagers began to whisper that they were spies for the French.

The government sent an agent to investigate; he reported that they were “mere poets.”

Casting a Shadow


When the Eiffel Tower was first built, it was regarded as an eyesore.

Guy de Maupassant ate regularly at a restaurant in the tower — he said it was the one place in Paris he could be sure he wouldn’t see it.


Famous people who have been hit with pies:

  • Pat Buchanan, politician and columnist (hit with a salad)
  • Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, monarch
  • Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and chairman
  • Jean-Luc Godard, filmmaker
  • Calvin Klein, clothing designer
  • Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany
  • Ralph Nader, American Green party politician
  • Oscar de la Renta, fashion designer
  • William Shatner, then-Star Trek star
  • Jeffrey Skilling, Enron CEO
  • Sylvester Stallone, action movie star
  • Andy Warhol, artist

Big Shoes

Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park, is 6 foot 10.

Starting Early


A is an Abolitionist –
A man who wants to free
The wretched slave — and give to all
An equal liberty.


B is a Brother with a skin
Of somewhat darker hue,
But in our Heavenly Father’s sight,
He is as dear as you.


C is the Cotton-field, to which
This injured brother’s driven,
When, as the white-man’s slave, he toils,
From early morn till even.

– From The Anti-Slavery Alphabet, a children’s book printed for an anti-slavery fair, 1847

Looking for the Next Best Thing

When singer Warren Zevon (“Werewolves of London”) was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, he said he just hoped to live long enough to see the next James Bond movie.

He did.

The film was called Die Another Day.


Every year since 1949, a mysterious figure has visited the grave of Edgar Allan Poe on the author’s birthday, Jan. 19.

Early in the morning, a black-clad figure with a silver-tipped cane enters the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, goes to Poe’s grave, raises a toast of cognac, and leaves behind three red roses.

He wears a black coat and hat and obscures his face, so his identity is unknown, but in 1993 he left a note saying “The torch will be passed.” In 1999, a second note said that the toaster had died … but since then a younger person has apparently taken his place.

“All that we see or seem,” Poe wrote, “is but a dream within a dream.”



In 1896, to draw tourists to Rhinelander, Wis., Eugene Simeon Shepard staged an encounter with a hodag, a legendary creature with “the head of a bull, the grinning face of a giant man, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with a spear at the end.”

According to the story, Paul Bunyan’s ox had to be burned for seven years to cleanse its soul of all the profanity that local lumberjacks had hurled at it. The hodag rose from its ashes.

There’s no telling whether anyone bought this, but the hodag is now the official mascot of Rhinelander High School.

Loveland Frog

Sightings of the “Loveland frog,” a humanoid creature with the face of a frog:

  • 1955: A businessman sees three or four frog-faced creatures, three feet tall, squatting under a bridge near Loveland, Ohio. One of them holds up a bar that sheds sparks, and they exude an odor of alfalfa and almonds.
  • 1972: Police see a 4-foot frog-faced humanoid creature near Loveland. It jumps into the Little Miami River. They spot it again two weeks later, lying in a road. A farmer reports a similar sighting.
  • 1998: The frogs, apparently on vacation now, are spotted by security personnel at a motel in the Dominican Republic. And they’re getting bigger: five feet long and three feet wide.

Interestingly, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft had described similar creatures in a story written in 1931:

I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.

Maybe he knew more than we realized.

Next Stop …

If Hélène Smith wasn’t a real psychic, she was a remarkably ambitious fake — she claimed to be able to visit Mars:

“How funny, these cars! Hardly any horses or people that are on the move. Imagine different kinds of armchairs that slide but don’t have wheels. It is the tiny wheels that produce the sparks. People sit in their armchairs. Some of them, the larger ones, hold four to five people. To the right of the armchairs a kind of handle stick is at tached, fitted with a button that one presses with the thumb to put the vehicle in motion. There are no rails. One also sees the people walking. They are built like us and hold onto each other with the little finger. The clothing is the same for both sexes: a long blouse tight around the waist, very large trousers, shoes with very thick soles, no heel and of the same colour as the rest of the outfit which is in shammy, white with black designs.”

Between 1894 and 1901 she gave 60 séances, detailing the Martian language and eventually inspiring a book, From India to the Planet Mars, by University of Geneva psychologist Theodor Flournoy.

Matisse wrote, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”