Lifelong Virgins

Lifelong virgins:

  • Hans Christian Andersen, author
  • J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan
  • Lewis Carroll, author and logician
  • Emily Dickinson, poet
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Søren Kierkegaard
  • Nikola Tesla, inventor
  • Ed Gein, serial killer

Mark Twain kept his virginity until age 34; Goethe until 39. Voltaire wrote, “It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.”

Seven Summits

The “Seven Summits” — the highest peak on each continent:

  1. Everest (Asia), 29,035 feet
  2. Aconcagua (South America), 22,834 feet
  3. McKinley (North America), 20,320 feet
  4. Kilimanjaro (Africa), 19,340 feet
  5. Elbrus (Europe), 18,510 feet
  6. Vinson Massif (Antarctica), 16,066 feet
  7. Kosciusko (Australia), 7,310 feet

About 80 mountaineers have climbed all seven.

The Dreadnought Hoax

That’s Virginia Woolf on the left, dressed up as an Abyssinian prince. In 1910 she participated in an elaborate practical joke to trick the Royal Navy into showing their flagship, H.M.S. Dreadnought, to a supposed delegation of Abyssinian royals.

Arriving by VIP coach, the impostors spoke in Latin, shouted “bunga bunga” at the impressive warship, asked for prayer mats and bestowed “military honors” on the officers. At one point Anthony Buxton sneezed his whiskers off, but he stuck them back on before anyone noticed. When it was over they revealed the hoax by sending a letter and a group photo to the Daily Mirror.

This was, amazingly, a typical day for Horace de Vere Cole (far right), an Edwardian dynamo of practical jokes. As an undergraduate at Cambridge University, Cole had visited his own college posing as a sultan of Zanzibar. He once impersonated prime minister Ramsay MacDonald at a Labour Party meeting, telling members to work harder for less money. And he later slipped his watch into an MP’s pocket and dared him to run to the nearest corner — then had him arrested for pickpocketing.

He could improvise, too. He once told a group of workmen to dig a hole in the middle of Piccadilly Circus; it took a week for public officials to refill it. And he once shared a taxi with a naked female mannequin; he had the cabbie stop in front of a policeman, opened the door, and banged the dummy’s head on the pavement, shouting, “Ungrateful hussy!”

It’s not recorded whether anyone ever played a joke on him. “Everything is funny,” wrote Will Rogers, “as long as it is happening to Somebody Else.”

A Note From the Neighbors

At 5:12 p.m. on November 26, 1977, an unidentified voice appeared on the transmitters of Southern Television in the United Kingdom. Identifying itself as Vrillon, representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, the voice broke in to a news broadcast to warn viewers of “the destiny of your race,” “so that you may communicate to your fellow beings the course you must take to avoid a disaster which threatens your world and the beings on other worlds around you.”

Accompanied by a deep buzzing, the voice warned against the use of nuclear weapons and stated that humanity had “but a short time to learn to live together in peace and goodwill” before it destroyed itself.

Investigators decided that pranksters were behind the broadcast, aiming a transmitter at a VHF receiver to overpower the “official” signal with a joke message.

But no one knows for sure.


Unusual phobias:

  • albuminurophobia: fear of kidney disease
  • alliumphobia: fear of garlic
  • allodoxaphobia: fear of opinions
  • ancraophobia: fear of wind
  • anuptaphobia: fear of staying single
  • arachibutyrophobia: fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
  • atomosophobia: fear of atomic explosions
  • aulophobia: fear of flutes
  • aurophobia: fear of gold
  • barophobia: fear of gravity
  • caligynephobia: fear of beautiful women
  • cherophobia: fear of gaiety
  • deipnophobia: fear of dining or dinner conversations
  • euphobia: fear of hearing good news
  • geniophobia: fear of chins
  • genuphobia: fear of knees
  • hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: fear of long words
  • linonophobia: fear of string
  • lutraphobia: fear of otters
  • mottephobia: fear of moths
  • porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple
  • pteronophobia: fear of being tickled by feathers
  • scriptophobia: fear of writing in public
  • spheksophobia: fear of wasps
  • zemmiphobia: fear of the great mole rat

Politicophobia is defined as “abnormal” dislike of politicians.

The Wage Gap

Women’s pay as a percentage of men’s:

  • 1951: 63.9%
  • 1960: 60.7%
  • 1970: 59.4%
  • 1980: 60.2%
  • 1990: 71.6%
  • 2000: 73.3%

In sales jobs, women still earn only 59.9% of men’s wages.

Jerimoth Hill

If you’re visiting Rhode Island, you might be excused for wanting to visit Jerimoth Hill: It’s the highest point in the state.

Unfortunately, you’d be taking your life in your hands. Jerimoth is private property, and it’s owned by a singularly cranky 77-year-old named Henry Richardson, who monitors the trail with motion sensors. Here’s how he’s greeted other visitors:

  • Assaulted them verbally (“Shoot all the damn highpointers!” “Get the hell off my property!”)
  • Threatened to break cameras
  • Started fistfights
  • Let the air out of their car tires
  • Shot them with rock salt
  • Chased them through three states by car

Under pressure, Richardson’s son agreed in 1998 to let hikers visit the highpoint on national holidays. Before that, the 812-foot rise “was considered less accessable than Mt. McKinley.”