Be Prepared … Be Very Prepared

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BoyScoutLane.jpg

Boy Scout Lane isn’t a very dramatic name for a haunted road, but maybe that’s par for Wisconsin. The wooded, dead-end lane, in Linwood Township, was once slated to get a scout camp, but somehow a story sprang up that a troop was murdered there, and now it’s the subject of paranormal investigations. Scouts make pretty well-behaved spooks, by all accounts: Witnesses have reported ghostly buses, phantom scoutmasters and the sounds of … hiking.

Now compare that to New Jersey.

Quick Brown Fox

I sang, and thought I sang very well; but he just looked up into my face with a very quizzical expression, and said, “How long have you been singing, Mademoiselle?”

That’s from Lillie de Hagermann-Lindencrone’s 1912 book In the Courts of Memory. What’s remarkable about it? This section:

I sang, and thought I sang very well; but he just looked up into my face with a very quizzical expression, and said, “How long have you been singing, Mademoiselle?”

… contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.

At 56 letters, it’s the shortest known example of a “pangrammatic window.”

A Giant Bird Call

This is El Castillo, the 1,100-year-old Mayan pyramid on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It’s long been known that if you stand at the base of the staircase and clap your hands, the pyramid will return a “chirped echo” — a curious “chir-roop” with a characteristic lilt.

In 2002, on a hunch, acoustical engineer David Lubman compared the echo with a Cornell recording of the quetzal bird, which was revered in ancient Mesoamerica.

They matched perfectly.

Spectral Evidence

In 1897, testimony from a ghost helped to convict a murderer. Zona Heaster Shue’s death was presumed to be natural until her mother claimed that her ghost had visited her on four successive nights and described how she had been murdered by her husband, Edward. When Zona’s body was exhumed, her neck was found broken, and a jury convicted Edward of murder.

That may be the last U.S. case of “spectral evidence,” but it’s not the first. During the Salem witch trials, if a witness testified that “Goody Proctor bit, pinched, and almost choked me” in a vision or dream, this would be accepted as evidence even if Proctor was known to have been elsewhere at the time.

“Justice has nothing to do with what goes on in a courtroom,” wrote Clarence Darrow. “Justice is what comes out of a courtroom.”

Ouch

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_piece_of_sperm_whale_skin_with_Giant_Squid_sucker_scars.JPG

A piece of sperm whale skin bearing scars from a giant squid’s suckers. Once thought to be legendary, the squid normally keep to the deep sea; almost everything we know about them has been learned from specimens found in whale stomachs.

In a Word

obsolagnium
n. waning sexual desire due to age

High Aim 6

On Jan. 9, 2003, Australian officials found the Taiwanese ship High Aim 6 adrift off the West Australian coast. It had plenty of fuel, and the crew’s personal belongings were still aboard (including seven toothbrushes), but it was mysteriously empty, drawing comparisons to the Mary Celeste of 1872.

Authorities spent two days inspecting the vessel and conducted an aerial search of 7,300 square nautical miles, but they found no trace of the crew, who had last contacted the owners on Dec. 13 from the Marshall Islands, halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

That’s all. The unwanted ship was finally sunk to serve as a fish habitat, but no one knows what happened to the crew.

The Osborne Monster

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15373/15373.txt

A “sea-monster” reported by the officers and crew of H.M.S. Osborne in calm waters off northern Sicily, June 2, 1877. These sketches were produced by Lt. Haynes, a witness, for the London Graphic.

A Lt. Osborne told the New York Independent that the row of fins pictured in the first sketch was 30 to 40 feet long. The second sketch, he said, shows the creature “end on,” depicting only the head, which was “bullet-shaped and quite six feet thick,” and flippers. Osborne estimated that the animal was 15 or 20 feet wide across the back, and “from the top of the head to the part of the back where it became immersed I should consider about fifty feet, and that seemed about a third of its whole length.”

“Thus it is certainly much longer than any fish hitherto known to the zooelogists,” concludes the Independent, “and is, at least, as remarkable a creature as most of the old wonder-makers ever alleged.”

Hive Mind

A colony of harvester ants contains the same total number of neurons as a human brain.

Space Ghost

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In September 2002, astronomers noticed something odd: An object about 60 feet long was orbiting Earth. It must have arrived recently, but it didn’t resemble any recently launched spacecraft. It might have been an asteroid … but it appeared, spookily, to bear titanium dioxide paint. Was it an alien ship?

The object disappeared again in June 2003, so officially we’re still baffled. But the best guess is that it’s an old stage of Apollo 12 that somehow wandered away from Earth in 1971, circled the sun about 30 times, and came home to visit. If that’s true then it might come back again in 2032—we can visit it on our rocket scooters.