A Change of Heart


A soldier of the 93d regiment, quartered in the barracks, was looked upon to be dead, and after having been laid out in the usual way during two days, was conveyed to the place of interment (St. Nicholas’s churchyard) on yesterday evening, when, on lowering the body into the grave, the soldiers assisting heard the noise of struggling in the coffin, and on examination found the man whom they were in the act of burying, endeavouring with his hands and knees to force up the lid. To their great surprise they found their comrade still alive, and conveyed him home in the open coffin. This should prove an additional warning against premature interment.

Courier, June 13, 1815



On June 18, 1178, five monks at Canterbury reported witnessing a catastrophe in the sky:

There was a bright new moon, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then after these transformations the moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.

Stony Brook earth scientist Jack Hartung speculates that this may have been an impact event that created the 20-kilometer crater Giordano Bruno.

“Bella in the Wych-Elm”


Image: Wikipedia

In April 1943, four young boys were exploring the woods near England’s Wychbury Hill when one climbed a large wych hazel in search of birds’ nests.

To his horror, inside the hollow trunk he found a human skull, hair and teeth. Investigation showed that the tree contained a nearly complete human skeleton, a shoe and some fragments of clothing. A human hand was found buried nearby.

The war effort prevented the English authorities from making a full investigation, but a pathologist estimated that the woman had been asphyxiated 18 months earlier and that her body was still warm when it was entombed in the tree.

But that’s as far as they got. The woman’s identity — and that of her killer — remain unknown.

“An Old Pike.”

In the year 1497 a giant ‘Jack-killer’ was captured in the vicinity of Mannheim, with the following announcement in Greek appended to his muzzle: — ‘I am the first fish that was put into this pond by the hands of the Emperor Frederic the Second, on this 3rd day of October, 1262.’ The age of the informant, therefore, if his lips spoke truth (and the unprecedented dimensions of the body left little doubt on that point), was more than two hundred and thirty-five years. Already he had been the survivor of many important changes in the political and social world around, and would have swam out of perhaps as many more had the captors been as solicitous to preserve his life as they were to take his portrait. This, on the demise of the original, was hung up in the castle of Lautern, and the enormous carcase (which, when entire, weighed three hundred and fifty pounds, and measured nineteen feet) was sent to the museum at Mannheim, where, deprived of its flesh, and caparisoned de novo, it hung, and haply yet hangs, a light desiccated skeleton, which a child might move.

— Edmund Fillingham King, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, 1860



“Oh no! Not another fucking elf!” — Oxford English professor Hugo Dyson, interrupting J.R.R. Tolkien during an early reading from The Lord of the Rings


The Hoover Dam spans two time zones.


Around 6 p.m on Jan. 14, 1950, a second-year cadet at West Point named Richard Calvin Cox received a visit from a mysterious friend named George who had a German accent.

Shortly afterward, Cox left his dormitory and vanished. His disappearance is still unexplained; he’s the only cadet ever to go missing from West Point. After a fruitless investigation, he was declared legally dead in 1957.

“Horse-Shoe Embedded in a Tree”

As some workmen were cutting down an elm-tree belonging to Mr. Jopson, of Conisbrough, they discovered in the heart of the tree a horse-shoe with a nail in it, in excellent preservation; it is supposed, it must have been lying there for fifty years and upwards: the tree measures five feet in circumference. Mr. Green, of Sheffield, has the shoe now in his possession, where it may be seen by the curious.

La Belle Assemblée, January 1810

“Self-Locating” Strings

In the decimal expansion for pi, the digits 16470 appear in position 16,470.

And the digits 44899 appear in position 44,899.


Play your cards right in Nebraska and you could be named an admiral. The landlocked state proudly created its own navy in 1931, and it’s named about 100,000 honorary admirals since then:

And I [the Governor of Nebraska] do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen, tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral—and you are to observe and follow, from time to time, such directions you shall receive, according to the rules and discipline of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.

There’s no pay, but you’d be in rare company: Bill Murray, Douglas MacArthur, Jack Nicklaus, and Elizabeth II have all been inducted.