Divine Mystery

The sermons of London theologian Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) were always received with rapt concentration. Alas, there was a reason:

  • “I suppose I must have heard him, first and last, some thirty or forty times, and never carried away one clear idea, or even the impression that he had more than the faintest conception of what he himself meant.” — Sir M.E. Grant Duff
  • “I do not remember that a word ever came from him betokening clear recognition or healthy free sympathy with anything.” — Thomas Carlyle
  • “I am never in his company without being attacked with a sort of paroxysm of mental cramp.” — Carlyle’s wife, Jane
  • “Well! All that I could make out was that today was yesterday, and this world the same as the next.” — Benjamin Jowett
  • “Frederick Maurice has philosophical powers of the highest order, but he spoils them all by torturing everything into Thirty-nine Articles.” — John Stuart Mill

“Listening to him,” wrote Aubrey de Vere, “was like eating pea soup with a fork.”

“Newsman Extraordinary”

One of the carriers of a New York paper, called the Advocate, having become indisposed, his son took his place; but not knowing the subscribers he was to supply, he took for his guide a dog which had usually attended his father. The animal trotted on ahead of the boy, and stopped at every door where the paper was in use to be left, without making a single omission or mistake.

The Scrap Book, Or, A Selection of Interesting and Authentic Anecdotes, 1825

Life Story

George Story was aptly named: He appeared as a baby in the first issue of Life magazine in 1936, and he died 63 years later — as the magazine announced it was ceasing publication.

A Question Without an Answer


In 1905, the Ingersoll company engaged Sam Loyd to invent a puzzle to promote its new dollar watch. Loyd sent the illustration above and asked:

How soon will the hour, minute and second hands again appear equal distances apart?

The company advertised the puzzle in Scribner’s in June, promising a free watch to the first 10,000 correct respondents. “The full problem is stated above,” the ad ran, “and no further information can be given in fairness to all contestants.” Further, it said, Loyd’s solution “is locked in our safe, inaccessible to any one.”

Perhaps it still is — I can’t find any record of a solution to the puzzle. I offer it here for what it’s worth.

In a Word

n. one who has left civilization and returned to the wilderness

Sarah Bishop was a young lady of considerable beauty, a competent share of mental endowments and education; she possessed a handsome fortune, but was of a tender and delicate constitution, enjoyed but a precarious state of health, and could scarcely be comfortable without constant recourse to medicine and careful attendance. She was often heard to say that she had no dread of any animal on earth but man. Disgusted with her fellow-creatures, she withdrew from all human society, and at the age of about twenty-seven, in the bloom of life, resorted to the mountains which divide Salem from North Salem: where she has spent her days to the present time, in a cave, or rather cleft of the rock, withdrawn from the society of every living being.

— G.H. Wilson, The Eccentric Mirror, 1813

A Watery Welcome


On May 13, 1872, the barque St. Olaf was sailing from Newport to Galveston when a crewman called out that “he saw something rising out of the water like a tall man”:

On a nearer approach we saw that it was an immense serpent, with its head out of the water, about 200 feet from the vessel. He lay still on the surface of the water, lifting his head up and moving the body in a serpentine manner. We could not see all of it, but what we could see from the after-part to the head was about 70 feet long, and of the same thickness all the way, excepting about the head and neck, which were smaller, and the former flat like the head of a serpent. It had four fins on its back, and the body of a yellow, greenish colour, with brown spots all over the upper part, and underneath white.

The weather was calm, the sea smooth. “The whole crew were looking at it for fully ten minutes before it moved away,” Captain A. Hassel reported later. “It was about 6 feet in diameter.”

The Wooden Horse

In 1943, authorities at a German POW camp in Poland discovered that three prisoners were missing. A considerable space separated the prisoners’ huts from the perimeter fence, so at first it wasn’t clear how they’d escaped.

But the three inmates had something in common — all three had exercised during the day on a vaulting horse in the yard. On investigating, the Germans discovered a 100-foot tunnel leading from that spot to an opening beyond the fence.

The truth became clear. Each day, the prisoners had carried the horse to the same spot with a man hidden inside. While they exercised, the hidden man had used a bowl to lengthen the tunnel, then hid again in the horse as it was carried back inside. The Germans had used siesmographs to detect tunneling, but the prisoners’ vaulting had masked the sounds of their digging.

All three escapees — Eric Williams, Michael Codner, and Oliver Philpot — reached neutral Sweden and were reunited with their families.


José Silva and João Rafael devised this chess game to demonstrate at the 1978 Portuguese Junior Championship. The game is spurious, but the moves are legal:

1. a3 h6 2. b3 g6 3. c3 f6 4. d3 e6 5. e3 d6 6. f3 c6 7. g3 b6 8. h3 a6 9. a4 b5 10. a5 b4 11. c4 d5 12. c5 d4 13. e4 f5 14. e5 f4 15. g4 h5 16. g5 h4 17. Nc3 dxc3 18. Ra3 bxa3 19. b4 Nf6 20. exf6 Rh6 21. gxh6 g5 22. b5 g4 23. b6 g3 24. d4 e5 25. Bb5 axb5 26. d5 Bg4 27. hxg4 e4 28. d6 e3 29. Qd5 cxd5 30. Ne2 d4 31. Nxd4 Be7 32. dxe7 Qxe7 33. Bb2 Qe4 34. fxe4 cxb2 35. a6 b4 36. Nc2 b3 37. Ke2 bxc2 38. Rd1 Nd7 39. g5 Rc8 40. g6 Rc7 41. bxc7 Nb6 42. cxb6 h3 43. Rd7 Kxd7 44. Kd3 Ke6 45. e5 Kf5 46. Kc4 Ke4 47. Kc5 Kd3 48. Kd6 Kd2 49. Kd7 Kd1 50. Kd8 f3 51. g7 g2 52. h7 a2 53. f7 h2 54. b7 f2 55. a7 e2 56. e6 Kd2 57. e7 Kd1

turnabout 1

Okay so far? Now 58. a8=R h1=R 59. b8=N g1=N 60. c8=B f1=B 61. e8=Q e1=Q 62. f8=B c1=B 63. g8=N b1=N 64. h8=R a1=R:

turnabout 2

The players agree to a draw.