A Postman’s Nightmare


Good luck delivering a letter in Baarle-Nassau. The Dutch municipality contains 24 Belgian exclaves — “islands” of Belgium “floating” in the Netherlands.

Worse, those islands contain islands: The 24 Belgian exclaves contain seven Dutch exclaves. Bring a map.

Obscure Holidays

Obscure holidays:

  • Pi Day (March 14, or “3/14”)
  • Pi Approximation Day (22 July, or “22/7”)
  • No Pants Day (the first Friday in May)
  • National Talk In Elevators Day (the last Friday in July)
  • National Underwear Day (August 11)
  • International Orgy Day (September 3)
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)
  • Ask a Stupid Question Day (September 28)
  • October Fool’s Day (October 1) (the Southern Hemisphere’s version of April Fool’s Day)
  • Mole Day (6:02 on 10/23) (ask a chemist)

The first Friday the 13th of the year is “Blame Someone Else Day.”

Chicken Hypnotism


One can hypnotize a chicken by holding its head against the ground and drawing a line straight outward from its beak.

“I recollect particularly a case of catalepsy produced in a cock,” writes Gaston Tissandier in Popular Scientific Recreations (1882). “We place a cock on a table of dark colour, rest its beak on the surface, where it is firmly held, and with a piece of chalk slowly draw a white line in continuation from the beak, as shown in our engraving. If the crest is thick, it is necessary to draw it back, so that the animal may follow with his eyes the tracing of the line. When the line has reached a length of about two feet the cock has become cataleptic. He is absolutely motionless, his eyes are fixed, and he will remain from thirty to sixty seconds in the same posture in which he had at first only been held by force.”

Most chickens will stand immobile and stare at the line for about 30 minutes. The record, reported by Hamilton Bertie Gibson in Hypnosis: Its Nature and Therapeutic Uses (1980), is 3 hours 47 minutes.

The Amber Room


Finders keepers.

These amber panels, backed with gold leaf and mirrors, once dressed an entire chamber in the Catherine Palace near Saint Petersburg. More than a decade in the making, they covered 55 square meters and contained more than six metric tons of amber. Some called them the eighth wonder of the world.

The Nazis took them during World War II, but after that they disappeared. Postwar rumors have put them in bunkers, in mines, in submarines, in lagoons. One stone mosaic turned up in 1997 in West Germany, and its fellows were found in Königsberg Castle, where the Nazis had secreted them. But the rest of the “Amber Room” has simply disappeared — lost in a fire, still hidden, or safe in the hands of a lucky, and quiet, treasure hunter.

A Land-Dwelling Blue Whale

In 1878, paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope discovered the partial vertebra of a new species of dinosaur near Morrison, Colo. It was in poor condition but enormous, 7.8 feet high.

If it really existed, that would make Amphicoelias fragillimus the largest dinosaur ever discovered, up to 200 feet long and weighing as much as 185 tons, the equivalent of a land-dwelling blue whale.

Cope packed up the vertebra and sent it by train to a New York museum, but apparently it crumbled into dust on the way. All that remain are Cope’s description and a line drawing. Oh well.