“Hanged by a Ghost”

An old volume of the Quarterly Review mentions a crime discovered in a most extraordinary way in Australia in the year 1830, of which a public record is preserved, and which figures with full details in the journals of that period. The confidential steward of a wealthy settler near Sydney stated that his master had suddenly been called to England on important business, and that during his absence the whole of his immense property would be in his exclusive care. Some weeks after an acquaintance of the absentee settler riding through his grounds was astonished to perceive him sitting upon a stile. He strode forward to speak, when the figure turned from him with a look of intense sorrow and walked to the edge of a pond, where it mysteriously disappeared. On the morrow he brought a number of men to the water to drag it, and the body of the man supposed to be on his way to England was brought up. The steward was arrested, brought to trial, and, frightened at the story of his master’s ghost, confessed the crime, stating that he did the murder at the very stile on which his master’s ghost had appeared. He was duly executed.

The World of Wonders, 1883

Crocker Land

In 1906, standing on a headland in northern Canada, Robert Peary spied a landmass about 130 miles away in the Arctic Ocean, at about 83°N 100°W.

An expedition eight years later found no sign of it. Peary’s landmass was never seen again.

Waste Not, Want Not

The following resolutions were passed by the Board of Councilmen in Canton, Mississippi:–

  1. Resolved, by this Council, that we build a new Jail.
  2. Resolved, that the new Jail be built out of the materials of the old Jail.
  3. Resolved, that the old Jail be used until the new Jail is finished.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-fields of Literature, 1875

Off With Their Heads!

Show this bold Prussian that praises slaughter, slaughter brings rout. Teach this slaughter-lover his fall nears.

Grim, no? But remove the first letter of each word and the mood changes:

How his old Russian hat raises laughter — laughter rings out! Each, his laughter over, is all ears.

“Language,” wrote Flaubert, “is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.”

“The Anatomie Vivante”


There was a ‘living skeleton’ brought to England in 1825 by the name of Claude Seurat. He was born in 1798 and was in his twenty-seventh year. He usually ate in the course of a day a penny roll and drank a small quantity of wine. His skeleton was plainly visible, over which the skin was stretched tightly. The distance from the chest to the spine was less than 3 inches, and internally this distance was less. The pulsations of the heart were plainly visible. He was in good health and slept well. His voice was very weak and shrill. The circumference of this man’s biceps was only 4 inches.

— George Gould and Walter Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, 1896

A Myth Melts

On Nov. 1, 1986, Nancy C. Knight collected two identical snowflakes on a glass plate about 20,000 feet over Wausau, Wis.

“In many years of snow-crystals collection,” she wrote in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “the author has seen no other example of such crystals, nor are any given in the standard references.”