The Middlebush Giant

Excerpt from the obituary of Arthur James Caley (1837-1889), the “Middlebush Giant”:

“The farmhouse of the dead giant was thronged with villagers long before the hour fixed for the funeral. The remains had been placed in a coffin eight feet long and three feet wide. It was covered with cloth and had been specially made for the deceased. After the funeral services were over the coffin was borne on the shoulders of eight sturdy farmers to a wagon which was standing in the road about 100 yards from the house. Undertaker Van Duyn said he could not find a hearse large enough to hold the giant’s coffin. The pallbearers had a hard struggle in carrying the remains down the incline leading from the house to the road and when they deposited the coffin in the wagon, beads of perspiration stood out on their foreheads.”

Caley measured 7 foot 2 and weighed 630 pounds. He had been a fixture in P.T. Barnum’s show, and he remained a sensation even in death: He was originally buried without a tombstone for fear his body would be dug up and put on display.

The Stilt-Walkers of Landes

In 1891, Sylvain Dornon walked from Paris to Moscow on stilts. It took him only 58 days.

Stilts were big in Gascony, whose wide plains, few roads, and broad marshes made foot travel difficult, and where shepherds needed to tend widely scattered flocks. The 5-foot stilts of Landes were called tchangues (“big legs”); with a long staff or crook, they turned a shepherd into a giant walking tripod that could cover plains, bush, pools and marshes with equal ease.

Spend enough time up there and you’d get pretty good at it. An experienced stilt-walker could stand, walk, run, hop, even pick flowers. When he wasn’t tending his flock he could knit or spin using a distaff stuck in his girdle; some tchangues even carried guns or portable stoves.

In 1808, when Josephine went to Bayonne to rejoin Napoleon I, the municipality sent an escort of stilt-walkers to meet her. It’s said that they easily kept up with the horses on the return journey, and the tchangues amused the ladies by racing, a tradition that continued through the 19th century. On the market days in Bordeaux, peasants would travel up to 20 leagues laden with bags and baskets. Beats a Segway.


Using only his bare hands and climbing shoes, Alain Robert has climbed more than 70 structures worldwide, including the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the 1,668-foot Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building.

When he reaches the top, the first thing he does is call his children.

Star Wars Hit Probability Equation

From Bespin to Yavin, the “Star Wars Hit Probability Equation” predicts the outcome of any battle:

n is the number of “bad guys,” x is the number of “good guys,” and J is the number of Jedi present (if any).

The equation reads, “The probability of a bad guy hitting his target is equal to the inverse of all bad guys present plus the cube of the number of good guys present (plus one) plus the number of Jedi present (plus one) to the 10th power.”

So the presence of a good guy reduces the bad guys’ accuracy, and having even one Jedi present is bad news for the Empire.

Famous Suicides

Famous suicides:

  • Boudicca
  • Cleopatra
  • Hannibal
  • Seneca
  • Nero
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Alan Turing
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Vincent van Gogh

Ben Franklin wrote, “Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.”

Wife Carrying Championship

This July saw the Ninth Annual Wife-Carrying World Championship in Sonkajärvi, Finland.

The event, inspired by a proud Finnish history of wife-stealing, involves flinging a woman over your back and sprinting past obstacles to a finish line 253 meters away. Rules:

  • “The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbour’s or you may have found her farther afield,” but she has to be at least 108 pounds and 17 years old.
  • If you drop your wife you’re fined 15 seconds.
  • The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier.

The world record is 55.5 seconds, and the winner (Estonia) gets his wife’s weight in beer.