“How the Deal Boatmen Used to Smuggle Tea Ashore”


“The accompanying picture is no imaginary instance, but is actually taken from an official document. The figure is supposed to represent one of these Deal boatmen, and the numerals will explain the methods of secreting the tea. (1) Indicates a cotton bag which was made to fit the crown of his hat, and herein could be carried 2 lbs. of tea. He would, of course, have his hat on as he came ashore, and probably it would be a sou’wester, so there would be nothing suspicious in that. (2) Cotton stays or a waistcoat tied round the body. This waistcoat was fitted with plenty of pockets to hold as much as possible. (3) This was a bustle for the lower part of the body and tied on with strings. (4) These were thigh-pieces also tied round and worn underneath the trousers. When all these concealments were filled the man had on his person as much as 30 lbs. of tea, so that he came ashore and smuggled with impunity. And if you multiply these 30 lbs. by several crews of these Deal boats you can guess how much loss to the Revenue the arrival of an East Indiamen in the Downs meant to the Revenue.”

— East Indian smugglers’ scheme to evade English customs officers, circa 1810. From E. Keble Chatterton, King’s Cutters and Smugglers, 1700-1855, 1912

Seeing Double

In January 2005, Canadian police officer Chris Legere pulled over an 18-year-old woman for driving 96 mph.

That afternoon he pulled over the same car doing 92 mph in the opposite direction. At first he thought it was driven by the same driver, but he was mistaken.

It was her identical twin sister.

Prohibition and the Family


A letter to the Seattle Bureau of Prohibition, Sept. 12, 1931:

Dear Sir:

My husband is in the habit of buying a quart of wiskey every other day from a Chinese bootlegger named Chin Waugh living at 317-16th near Alder street.

We need this money for household expenses. Will you please have his place raided? He keeps a supply planted in the garden and a smaller quantity under the back steps for quick delivery. If you make the raid at 9:30 any morning you will be sure to get the goods and Chin also as he leaves the house at 10 o’clock and may clean up before he goes.

Thanking you in advance, I remain yours truly,

Mrs. Hillyer

Source Forge


One of these Vermeers is a forgery. Which is it?

Click for Answer

Nice Try

From Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle, 1896:

A convict at Brest put up his rectum a box of tools. Symptoms of vomiting, meteorism, etc., began, and became more violent until the seventh day, when he died.

After death, there was found in the transverse colon, a cylindric or conic box, made of sheet iron, covered with skin to protect the rectum and, doubtless, to aid expulsion. It was six inches long and five inches broad and weighed 22 ounces.

It contained a piece of gunbarrel four inches long, a mother-screw steel, a screw-driver, a saw of steel for cutting wood four inches long, another saw for cutting metal, a boring syringe, a prismatic file, a half-franc piece and four one-franc pieces tied together with thread, a piece of thread, and a piece of tallow, the latter presumably for greasing the instruments.

“On investigation it was found that these conic cases were of common use, and were always thrust up the rectum base first,” the authors explain. “In excitement this prisoner had pushed the conic end up first, thus rendering expulsion almost impossible.”

Electric Chair

In 1898, Columbus prison inmate Charles Justice helped build and install Ohio’s only electric chair.

Justice finished his sentence and returned to society, but irony caught up with him. Thirteen years later he was back in prison, and on Nov. 9, 1911, he was executed in the same electric chair he had helped to build.

An Unlikely Spy


Looks pretty innocuous, right? This is part of a letter composed by New York doll shop owner Velvalee Dickinson in May 1942. The FBI decoded it as follows:

I just secured information on an aircraft carrier warship. It had been damaged, that is, torpedoed in the middle. But it is now repaired. … They could not get a mate for this, so a plain ordinary warship is being converted into a second aircraft carrier. …

Probably she was referring to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. Apparently Dickinson had been operating as a Japanese spy throughout the war — her letters to Buenos Aires, ostensibly about doll collecting, had actually contained detailed information about U.S. warships, coastal defenses, and repair operations.

She protested her innocence but got the maximum sentence, 10 years and a $10,000 fine. She died in 1980.