On the Go


Say goodbye to tedious, time-consuming showers with this “simple, economical and portable sanitary bathing apparatus,” patented in 1913.

Just fill the bag with soapy water, jump in, and pull the drawstring. Now you can hop a bus, eat succotash, even conduct eulogies while attending to your personal hygiene.

Bonus: “By alternate crouching and rising in the bag or by rolling with the same upon a bed or floor on the part of the bather … the liquid in said bag … may be made to surge in simulation of sea waves and thus afford gratification to said bather.”

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In February 1959, a search was organized when nine Russian ski hikers failed to return from a trek in the northern Ural Mountains. After six days, their abandoned camp was found in a mountain pass.

All the hikers were dead. Two were found on the opposite side of the pass, near the remains of a fire; three others had died closer to camp, apparently trying to return; and the remaining four were found only three months later, under 4 meters of snow in a nearby stream valley.

Apparently the victims had fled the tent suddenly on the night of Feb. 2, tearing their way out from the inside and running down the mountain. Though the temperature had been around -25° C, all were inadequately dressed, some wearing only underwear. Though the bodies had no external wounds, one showed severe skull damage and two had major chest fractures. One woman’s tongue was missing.

In the end, Soviet investigators could conclude only that a “compelling unknown force” had caused the hikers’ deaths. That’s all that’s known.

Discount Travel


When 5-year-old May Pierstorff asked to visit her grandmother, her parents had no money to buy a rail ticket.

So they mailed her.

On Feb. 19, 1914, May’s parents presented her at the post office in Grangeville, Idaho, and proposed mailing her parcel post to Lewiston, some 75 miles away. The postmaster found that the “package” was just under the 50-pound weight limit, so he winked at their plan, classed May as a baby chick, and attached 53 cents in stamps to her coat. May passed the entire trip in the train’s mail compartment–and was duly delivered to her grandparents in Lewiston by mail clerk Leonard Mochel.

“The Candle-Fish of British Columbia”

There is found, in some of the rivers of British North America, a species of smelt so rich in oil that it may when dried be used as a candle or torch. … At certain seasons the fish swarms up the rivers from the sea, and is then caught by the natives in wickerwork traps. … When a candle is required a dried fish is stuck, tail upwards, in a lump of clay or in a cleft stick; a light is applied to the tail, which instantly flames up, and the fish burns steadily downward, giving a light superior to that of the best quality of ‘dips.’

The World of Wonders, 1883

Fool Me Twice

Wyoming may be the Cowboy State, but it has an Eastern pedigree: It was named by an Ohio congressman after a valley in Pennsylvania.

Rep. J.M. Ashley named the territory after the Wyoming Valley, whose name means “at the big river flat.”

Still, that’s more authentic than Idaho.

In a Word


n. the full moon

In a 1961 letter to his aunt, J.R.R. Tolkien declared that this word is beautiful even before it is understood, and wished he could have the pleasure of meeting it again for the first time. “And surely the first meeting should be in a living context, and not in a dictionary, like dried flowers in a hortus siccus!”

“Sparkling Rain”

Rain which on touching the ground crackles and emits electric sparks is a very uncommon but not unknown phenomenon. An instance of the kind was recently reported from Cordova, in Spain, by an electrical engineer who witnessed the occurrence. The weather had been warm and undisturbed by wind, and soon after dark the sky became overcast by clouds. At about 8 o’clock there came a flash of lightning, followed by great drops of electrical rain, each one of which, on touching the ground, walls, or trees, gave a faint crack, and emitted a spark of light. The phenomenon continued for several seconds, and apparently ceased as soon as the atmosphere was saturated with moisture.

Western Daily Mercury, Nov. 1, 1892, quoted in Symons’s Monthly Meteorological Magazine, December 1892

A Delicate Matter

In 1926 an English probate court accepted a will written on an empty eggshell.

A Manchester widow had found the shell on her husband’s wardrobe. On it was written, “17-1925. Mag. Everything i possess. — J. B.”

The dead man had been dieting and used to bring eggs with him to work. His initials had been J.B., the message was in his handwriting, and he had always called his wife “Mag.” The court accepted the shell as a valid will (Hodson v. Barnes, 1926).

See also Let’s Get This Over With.