“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” — Thomas Edison

“Her Character: Or What She Is”


“A Bawd is the Refuse of an Old Whore, who having been burnt herself, does like Charcoal help to set greener Wood on Fire; She is one of Natures Errata’s, and a true Daughter of Eve, who having first undone herself, tempts others to the same Destruction. She has formerly been one of Sampson’s Foxes, and has carried so much fire in her Tail, as has burnt all those that have had to do with her: But the mark being out of her Mouth, and she grown past her own Labour, yet being a well-wisher to the Mathematicks, she sets up for a Procurer of fresh Goods for her old Customers. And so careful she is to help Men to good Ware, that she seldom puts a Comodity into their hands, but what has been try’d before; and having always prov’d well, thinks she can Warrant ‘em the better. She’s a great Preserver of Maiden-heads; for tho’ she Exposes ‘em to every new Comer, she takes care that they shall never be lost: And tho’ never so many get it, yet none carries it away, but she still has it ready for the next Customers.”

The London-Bawd: With Her Character and Life: Discovering the Various and Subtle Intrigues of Lewd Women, 1705

The Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek

The Fugate family of rural Kentucky has an odd trait — since the early 1800s, some members of the family have been blue.

Not depressed — literally blue. The family share a genetic blood disorder that has left generations of Fugates with blue-hued skin.

The family’s inbreeding has diminished with time, and today’s members are mostly pink, but a blue Fugate was reported as recently as 1975. Somebody should write a song.

Small World

Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds in 1938 famously terrified millions, who thought they were hearing news coverage of an actual alien invasion.

Amazingly, the same thing happened again — twice. When the play was broadcast in Chile in 1944, it caused a panic in which the governor mobilized troops. In Ecuador, a 1949 performance panicked tens of thousands and led angry listeners to set fire to the radio station.

In the United States, Welles was not punished for his broadcast — but CBS had to promise never again to use news “interruptions” for dramatic purposes.

Ferdinand Cheval

French postman Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) tripped on a stone in April 1879 and was never the same again. Claiming he’d been inspired, he began collecting stones during his daily rounds, carrying them home in huge quantities and assembling them at night by the light of an oil lamp.

After 20 years he’d completed the outer walls of his palais idéal (“ideal castle”), combining styles suggested by the Bible and Hindu mythology. But when Cheval finished the project after 33 years of work, authorities refused to let him be buried in it. So he built his own mausoleum.

His dedication was rewarded — he was interred there the following year.


In the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia you’ll find a biography of Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942-1973), an American fountain designer and photographer best known for Flags Up!, a collection of photos of rural mailboxes.

Mountweazel never existed. She’s an example of a nihilartikel, a deliberately fake entry in a reference work. They’re used to catch copyright infringers. For the same reason, telephone directories include fake entries, and maps sometimes include nonexistent features.

It must be fun writing these. According to the New Columbia article, Lillian Mountweazel died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.

300 Meters of Iron


“The Eiffel Tower as a Colossal Lightning Conductor,” photograph taken June 3, 1902, by M.G. Loppé. Published in the Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, May 1905.

We’ve Seen This

There are two similar chapters in the King James Bible.

They are 2 Kings chapter 19 and Isaiah chapter 37.

The first 14 verses of each chapter are identical, word for word.

Prince Randian


Like Carl Herman Unthan, Prince Randian (1871-1934) achieved more without limbs than most of us do with them.

Born in British Guyana, Randian was discovered by P.T. Barnum in 1889, and he toured American sideshows in the 1930s as the Living Torso, “the human caterpillar who crawls on his belly like a reptile.”

In reality Randian could shave, write, paint, and roll cigarettes unaided. He spoke English, German, French, and Hindi and was reportedly a skilled carpenter, joking that he would someday build his own house.

He married and fathered four children and ultimately lived to age 63, touring American carnivals and museums for 45 years.

Good Company

Oprah Winfrey is the world’s only black billionaire.