Pulp Friction

Each February, the residents of Ivrea, Italy, throw oranges at each other. On the three days preceding Shrove Tuesday, thousands of costumed “revolutionaries” battle an “aristocracy” by hurling citrus fruits. Supposedly this commemorates a droit de seigneur drama in the 12th century, but in practice it’s just a bunch of people throwing oranges.

Eight hundred miles to the west, they’re throwing tomatoes.

Help Wanted

H. Hamilton, once the proprietor of Payne’s Hill, near Cobham, Surrey, advertised for a person who was willing to become a hermit in that beautiful retreat of his. The conditions were, that he was to continue in the hermitage seven years, where he should be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his bed, a hassock for his pillow, an hour-glass for his timepiece, water for his beverage, food from the house, but never to exchange a syllable with the servant. He was to wear a camlet robe, never to cut his beard or nails, nor ever to stray beyond the limits of the grounds. If he lived there, under all these restrictions, till the end of the term, he was to receive seven hundred guineas. But on breach of any of them, or if he quitted the place any time previous to that term, the whole was to be forfeited. One person attempted it, but a three weeks’ trial cured him.

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857

Splinter Faction

Quite recently in China fifteen wooden idols were tried and condemned to decapitation for having caused the death of a man of high military rank. On complaint of the family of the deceased the viceroy residing at Fouchow ordered the culprits to be taken out of the temple and brought before the criminal court of that city, which after due process of law sentenced them to have their heads severed from their bodies and then to be thrown into a pond. The execution is reported to have taken place in the presence of a large concourse of approving spectators and ‘amid the loud execrations of the masses,’ who seem in their excitement to have ‘lost their heads’ as well as the hapless deities.

— E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906



James Barry cut an impressive figure as a British military surgeon, working tirelessly to improve conditions for wounded soldiers around the globe. He worked with Florence Nightingale, performed the first successful cesarean section in Africa, and rose to the rank of inspector general of British military hospitals.

So when he died on July 25, 1865, the attendants were surprised to find he was a woman.

No one knows who she was, where she came from, or what led her to a career in military medicine. She’s buried in London under the alias she lived by.

See also Charley Parkhurst.

Fair Enough

A man of the name of Desjardins was tried on his own confession, for having admitted that he was an accomplice of Louvel, the assassin of the Duke de Berri. The case was clearly proved. Desjardins set up, as his defence, that he was so notorious for his falsehood, that nobody could give credit to a word he said, and produced a whole host of witnesses, his friends and relatives, who all swore to the fact with such effect, that he was declared Not Guilty.

Annual Register, 1822

Fair Enough

[Felix Malleolus] relates at large the proceedings instituted against some mosquitoes in the thirteenth century in the Electorate of Mayence, when the judge before whom they were cited granted them, on account of the minuteness of their bodies and their extreme youth, a curator and counsel, who pleaded their cause and obtained for them a piece of land to which they were banished.

— Sabine Baring-Gould, Curiosities of Olden Times, 1896

“A Christmas Pie of Ye Olden Time”

James, Earl of Lonsdale, sent a Christmas pie to King George III, which contained 9 geese, 2 tame ducks, 2 turkeys, 4 fowls, 6 pigeons, 6 wild ducks, 3 teals, 2 starlings, 12 partridges, 15 woodcocks, 2 Guinea fowls, 3 snipes, 6 plovers, 3 water-hens, 1 wild goose, 1 curlew, 46 yellow-hammers, 15 sparrows, 15 chaffinches, 2 larks, 4 thrushes, 12 fieldfares, 6 blackbirds, 20 rabbits, 1 leg of veal, half a ham, 3 bushels flour, and 2 stones of butter. It weighed 22 stones, was carried to London in a two horse wagon, and if it was not as dainty as the celebrated pie containing four-and-twenty blackbirds, which, when the pie was opened, began to sing, it was, at all events, a ‘dish to set before the king.’

Bizarre Notes & Queries, January 1886