Seeing Double

“Dear Abby” and Ann Landers were identical twins.

They even had a joint wedding ceremony in 1939.

Caveat Emptor

French forger Vrain Denis-Lucas must have had a golden touch. His customers bought “manuscripts” from all of the following authors:

  • Robert Boyle
  • Isaac Newton
  • Blaise Pascal
  • Cleopatra
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Pontius Pilate
  • Joan of Arc
  • Cicero
  • Dante Alighieri

… even though all of them were written in contemporary French. All told, Denis-Lucas sold 27,000 manuscripts before the French Academy of Science realized something was wrong. He spent two years in prison and then disappeared.

“Guillotine”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Guillotine.jpeg

Account of an execution by guillotine, recorded in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, July 7, 1827:

Arrived near the fatal machine, the unhappy man stepped out of the vehicle, knelt at the feet of his confessor, received the priestly benediction, kissed some individuals who accompanied him, and was hurried by the officers of justice up the steps of the cube-form structure of wood, painted of a blood-red, on which stood the dreadful apparatus of death.

To reach the top of the platform, to be fast bound to a board, to be placed horizontally under the axe, and deprived of life by its unerring blow, was, in the case of this miserable offender, the work literally of a moment. It was indeed an awfully sudden transit from time to eternity. He could only cry out, ‘Adieu, mes amis,’ and he was gone. The severed head, passing through a red-coloured bag fixed under, fell to the ground-the blood spouted forth from the neck like water from a fountain-the body, lifted up without delay, was flung down through a trap-door in the platform.

Never did capital punishment more quickly take effect on a human being; and whilst the executioner was coolly taking out the axe from the groove of the machine, and placing it, covered as it was with gore, in a box, the remains of the culprit, deposited in a shell, were hoisted into a wagon, and conveyed to the prison. In twenty minutes all was over, and the Grande Place nearly cleared of its thousands, on whom the dreadful scene seemed to have made, as usual, the slightest possible impression.

An International Irony

In America, when both people on a date pay for their own meals, we call it “Dutch treat.”

The Dutch have another name for it.

They call it an “American-style party.”

Oops

On March 15, 1980, the Boston Globe ran an editorial about the nation’s economic woes:

Certainly it is in the self-interest of all Americans to impose upon themselves the kind of economic self-discipline that President Carter urged repeatedly yesterday in his sober speech to the nation. As the President said, inflation, now running at record rates, is a cruel tax, one that falls most harshly upon those least able to bear the burden.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it carried the headline “Mush From the Wimp.”

In 1984 Globe editorial writer Kirk Scharfenberg admitted he’d written it. “I meant it as an in-house joke and thought it would be removed before publication,” he wrote. “It appeared in 161,000 copies of the Globe the next day.”

Walking Tall

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Humanzee2.jpg

“Man is the noblest work of God!” roared Mark Twain. “Well now, who found that out?”

Consider the case of Oliver the chimpanzee. Oliver liked to stand upright instead of knucklewalking like his peers, and his keepers noticed that his face was flatter than other chimps’, who tended to avoid him.

That’s all the impetus they needed. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s Oliver was paraded through a succession of theme parks, zoos and promotions, billed as a missing link or even a “humanzee,” or human-chimp hybrid, and confined for seven years in a cage that measured only 7 by 5 feet.

It all came to nothing. In 1996, when Oliver was old, blind, and arthritic, University of Chicago geneticist David Ledbetter checked his chromosomes and discovered he was just an ordinary ape, albeit one who preferred to walk upright.

It’s still possible that Oliver belongs to a rare subspecies of chimps who resemble humans … but after that treatment, would he take that as a compliment?

Johann Beringer

The trouble with arrogance is that you never know when to turn it off. By all accounts Johann Beringer was insufferable, so two of his colleagues on the University of Würtzburg faculty of medicine decided to teach him a lesson.

They carved lizards, frogs, and spiders from limestone, inscribed them with the Hebrew name of God, and planted them on Mount Eibelstadt, where Beringer frequently went to find fossils.

It worked — and, like Drake’s Plate of Brass, it worked a little too well. Beringer found the figures, took them seriously, and, to his colleagues’ horror, actually published a book about them. When critics pointed out visible chisel marks, he claimed they’d been left by the hand of God. When the hoaxers tried to talk him out of it, he sued them as “a pair of antagonists who tried to discredit the stones.”

When the truth came out, it ruined them all, haunting Beringer most of all. Legend tells that actually he went bankrupt trying to buy up all the books, and there was a final irony. He died in 1740 — and a second printing of his book was produced in 1767.

Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:DelarochePortrait.jpg

“From today painting is dead.” — Portraitist Paul Delaroche, on seeing an exhibition of daguerrotypes, 1839

Puzzling Brothers

Tom and Dick were born on the same day of the same year to same mother and father. They look almost exactly alike, yet they are not twins. How can this be?

Click for Answer

Say Good Night

Gracie Allen: On my way in, a man stopped me at the stage door and said, “Hiya, cutie, how about a bite tonight after the show?”

George Burns: And you said?

Gracie Allen: I said, “I’ll be busy after the show, but I’m not doing anything right now.” So I bit him.

“All I had to do was say, ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?’ and she talked for 38 years,” Burns once remembered. “And sometimes I didn’t even have to remember to say, ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?’”