In January 1946, the night before he was to scheduled fly to Tokyo, British air marshal Victor Goddard attended a cocktail party in Shanghai where another officer described a dream in which Goddard had been killed in a plane crash. He said the plane had been carrying three English civilian passengers, two men and a woman, and had experienced icing troubles during the flight and crashed on a shingled beach near mountains.

Goddard’s flight had had no scheduled passengers, but that night he was asked successively to take two men and a woman with him to Tokyo, all English civilians. During the flight the plane’s wings iced over and he was forced to make a crash landing on the Japanese island of Sado, on a shingled beach near mountains. Everyone survived, and they were rescued after a search.

“For my next crash I want no prior information,” Goddard wrote in the Saturday Evening Post. “Makes one too ‘nervy,’ as we say. Quite spoils the enjoyment of flying.”

An Early IMAX

In 1827, visitors to London could get a titan’s view of the city by visiting Regent’s Park. There surveyor Thomas Hornor had built a colosseum housing the largest painting in the world, a panorama seven stories tall and 130 feet in diameter. A spiral staircase rose to a large gallery from which visitors could view London as seen from the ball atop St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Estimates of the painting’s size vary from 24,000 to 44,000 square feet; flyers called it “nearly an acre of canvas.” Half a million people visited the Colosseum in 1829, but Hornor’s backer left for Paris and he was quickly broke. New owners reopened the attraction in 1845, though, and it stood as a fixture for 30 years, renowned for the clarity of its vista. “The ascent is easy, the sky is fine and bright, the atmosphere is clear,” wrote one visitor. “We can command constant sunshine.”

A Near Thing

Of the loss of the Titanic there is one perfectly attested premonition.

‘On the 23d of March the Hon. J. Cannon Middleton booked a passage on the ill-fated ship, which was announced to sail on April 10. About the end of March he dreamed that he saw her floating keel upward, her passengers and crew swimming round her. The same dream was repeated the following night. Though feeling very uneasy, he told no one and took no action. But on April 4 he received a cable suggesting, for business reasons, that he postpone his journey. He consequently canceled his ticket, and then related his dream to his wife and three friends, all of whom testify to his having done so. He also produces as evidence his canceled ticket and the cable delaying his journey.’

Here the facts seem to be beyond dispute; but it is, of course, impossible to rule out the theory of coincidence. It should be noted, however, that Mr. Middleton had crossed the Atlantic a dozen times, and had never before had any such premonition or felt any nervousness. The coincidence that, just on this occasion, he should twice have a warning dream is certainly very strange.

— William Archer, “Can We Foretell the Future?”, McClure’s Magazine, December 1915

An Odd Episode

In April 1909, Carl Jung asked Sigmund Freud his opinion on precognition and parapsychology. As Freud was dismissing them, Jung felt “a curious sensation”:

It was as if my diaphragm was made of iron and was becoming red-hot — a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over us. I said to Freud: ‘There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorisation phenomenon.’

‘Oh come,’ he exclaimed. ‘That is sheer bosh.’

‘It is not,’ I replied. ‘You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another loud report!’ Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words than the same detonation went off in the bookcase.

“To this day I do no know what gave me this certainty,” Jung said later. “But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me. I do not know what was in his mind, or what his look meant. In any case, this incident aroused his mistrust of me, and I had the feeling that I had done something against him. I never afterwards discussed the incident with him.”

Freud was not impressed. In a letter to Jung he wrote, “At first I was inclined to ascribe some meaning to it if the noise we heard so frequently when you were here were never again heard after your departure. But since then it has happened over and over again, yet never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem.”

A fuller account is here. It’s not clear that they ever discovered the source of the sound, but note that Freud’s letter was written in the same month as the experience, where Jung’s recollection was made in an interview half a century later — when (perhaps among other things) he had misremembered the location of the bookshelf.


In the 1930s Colgate University psychologist Harvey Fitz-Gerald interviewed 254 “men and women of eminence,” asking them to describe memories that had been evoked by scent. One recalled:

On the train once, in the midst of happy conditions, I suddenly felt discouraged, awkward, unhappy. As soon as I recognized the perfume used by a fellow traveler, I saw very vividly a large dancing class, a French dancing master, and felt again my girlish dismay at his attitude toward my poor attempts to learn the steps he was trying to teach me. As soon as the memory picture came I knew why I had suddenly felt unhappy, and, of course, came back to normal. This experience occurred some fifteen or twenty years after the last time I had seen the dancing master.

Another recalled a strange feeling of loneliness that had come over her while reading a book at the age of 25. She found that it had been printed in England, whence all of her childhood books had come. Laird wrote, “It will be found interesting, the next time an unexpected memory or thought ‘pops into your head,’ … to think back over the air-borne fragrances and odors which may have given these changes their start.”

(Donald A. Laird, “What Can You Do With Your Nose?”, The Scientific Monthly 41:2 [1935], 126-130.)


Irish physician Henry Marsh addressed an odd phenomenon in 1842: patients who glow in the dark. Shortly after one of his patients had died of tuberculosis, he’d received a letter from her sister:

‘About an hour and a half before my dear sister’s death, we were struck by a luminous appearance proceeding from her head in a diagonal direction. … The light was pale as the moon; but quite evident to mamma, myself, and sister, who were watching over her at the time. One of us at first thought it was lightning, till shortly after we fancied we perceived a sort of tremulous glimmer playing round the head of the bed; and then recollecting we had read something of a similar nature having been observed previous to dissolution, we had candles brought into the room, fearing our dear sister would perceive it, and that it might disturb the tranquillity of her last moments.’

A colleague, Dublin heart specialist William Stokes, described a breast cancer from which “a quantity of luminous fluid was constantly poured out”:

‘Upon being asked whether she suffered much pain, [the patient] answered, “Not now, Sir, but I cannot sleep watching this sore which is on fire every night.” I directed that she should send for me whenever she perceived the luminous appearance, and on that night I was summoned between ten and eleven o’clock. The lights in the ward having been then extinguished, she was sitting leaning forward, the left hand supporting the tumour, while with the right she every now and then lifted up the covering of the ulcer to gaze on this, to her, supernatural appearance. The whole of the base and the edges of the cavity phosphoresced in the strongest manner.’

Sir Henry speculated that the luminescence might have been caused by phosphorous, but “elemental phosophorous is far too reactive to be produced naturally by the human body,” writes Thomas Morris in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth, his 2018 exploration of medical curiosities. He speculates that luminous bacteria, while also unlikely, might offer one explanation.

(Henry Marsh, “On the Evolution of Light From the Living Human Subject,” Provincial Medical Journal and Retrospect of the Medical Sciences 4:88 [1842], 163.)

Time Traveler

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals hit his first major league home run five days before he played his first major league game.

On June 18, 2018, he hit a two-run homer that was logged as occurring on May 15. That’s because the June 18 game was a continuation of a May 15 game that had been suspended due to rain. When such a game is resumed, all the statistics are recorded with the date of the original game.

So Soto is credited with his first major league hit and his first major league home run on May 15, five days before he made his major league debut.

(Thanks, Larry.)

Nobody Home
Image: Wikimedia Commons

For centuries, the town of Plymouth was the only port of entry to the island of Montserrat, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the Lesser Antilles.

The town was evacuated in 1995 when the nearby Soufrière Hills volcano began erupting, and the burned and buried remainder was abandoned permanently in 1997.

But the town is still the de jure capital city of Montserrat … which makes Plymouth the only ghost town in the world that serves as the capital of a political territory.

Lightning Rod Fashion

In 1778, shortly after Benjamin Franklin introduced the lightning rod, Paris saw a fad for umbrellas and hats that made use of the new technology. A chain ran from the accessory down to the ground and would (in principle) carry the electricity from a lightning strike harmlessly into the ground.

I can’t find any record that such a strike ever happened. Lightning rods didn’t become popular in the United States, even to protect structures, until the 19th century.

(Thanks, Jon.)