Tag Archives: usa

Witch Windows of Vermont

witch-window-vermont-2

Photo credit: Larry Lamsa/Flickr

An architectural oddity found only in the US state of Vermont is the so-called “witch window”. These are normal portrait-style windows, but angled diagonally so that its long edge is parallel to the roof slope. They are installed in the upper stories in the gable-end wall of the house, and are usually found in old farmhouses.

According to the locals the windows were installed to prevent witches from flying into the house, because apparently witches can’t fly through an angled window, which might physically be true, but one might wonder why all the windows of the house aren’t angled. Surely, a witch would need only one vertical window to enter the house, and there are plenty of vertical windows to use. There … Read the rest

The Statue of Liberty of Lake Mendota

lake-mendota-liberty-2

This is what will happen when the polar ice melts and sea level rises. Well, not really. It’s just a continuation of a prank that started forty years ago.

In 1978, a student party named Pail and Shovel swept the students election at the University of Wisconsin. During their campaign, the party made absurd promises that included installing escalators on Bascom Hill, painting the curbs fluorescent so drunk students could find their way home from the bars, flooding Camp Randall for faux naval battles and having all deans stuffed and mounted. None of these ever materialized, of course. The party itself was named after its campaign promise to “convert the UW’s budget into pennies for students to collect on Library Mall with pails and shovels.” One … Read the rest

Globsters: When Sea Monsters Wash Ashore

On November 30, 1896, two young boys, Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, were bicycling along Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the United States, when they noticed an enormous carcass half buried in the sand, apparently washed from the sea. The boys thought it was a whale, and reported their discovery to the local physician, Dr. DeWitt Webb.

Dr. Webb visited the carcass the next day, and discovered that it was not a whale. But he couldn’t say what the mass of badly decomposed flesh was. There was no defining feature, no bones, no eyes, and no appendages that he could identify. Dr. Webb noted that the carcass was very pale pink, almost white, and had a rubbery consistency. Dr. Webb, … Read the rest

James Hiram Bedford: The First Person To Be Cryogenically Preserved

frozen-brain

Will humans ever posses the technology to revive a dead person back to life? Dr. James Hiram Bedford certainly hopes so. He has been waiting for that day for the last fifty years frozen in a lab at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

James Hiram Bedford was an American psychology professor at the University of California. Prior to his death in 1967, Bedford expressed his desire to be cryogenically frozen so that his body could be repaired and his consciousness revived with more advanced technology, when they become available, sometime in the distant future. Bedford was suffering from kidney cancer that had metastasized into his lungs. Death, he knew, was imminent. He quickly willed $100,000 for the preservation of his body.

Michigan’s Massive Copper Boulders

In the early 17th century, fur traders traversing Lake Superior in North America heard tales of a fabulous boulder lying on the banks of the Ontonagon River. The boulder was said to be five tones in weight and as large as a house. And it was made of solid copper.

Stories about such a prize lying unclaimed in the wild set off many prospectors in the hunt, and it wasn’t long before the boulder was located. It really was made of solid copper. Curiously, no effort was made to relocate the treasure until nearly two centuries later. In 1766, when trader Alexander Henry laid eyes on the rock he was so excited that he grossly overestimated the weight of the boulder to be ten tons. Henry … Read the rest

How The London Bridge Was Sold to America

For centuries, children and kindergarteners have sung and danced to the tune of London Bridge is falling down, but when engineers discovered that the London Bridge was actually falling down in the early 1900s, it was no laughing matter. The stone bridge was just over a century old, and was the busiest point in London crossed by 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles every hour. Surveyors found that the bridge was slowly sinking—about one third of a centimeter every year. When measurements were taken in 1924, they found that the bridge’s east side stood some 9 cm lower than the west side. Another four decades had passed before the City Council could arrive at a decision.

Council member Ivan Luckin suggested that instead of demolishing the … Read the rest

Robert Peary’s Meteorite And Minik

Many historical figures are celebrated for achieving great things but conveniently forgotten of all the terrible things they did to other people. Christopher Columbus is one prime example. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of beloved characters with shady personalities, but one story that is not told often is that of Arctic explorer Robert. E. Peary who is widely believed to be the first person to have reached the North Pole in 1909. This story, however, begins a lot earlier.

About 10,000 years ago a large lump of extraterrestrial rock veered too close to the earth and got sucked into the planet’s gravitational field. As it slashed through the dense atmosphere, the intense heat generated weakened the structure of the iron meteorite and it exploded … Read the rest

Unalaska: The Town Full of Bald Eagles

The bald eagle may be America’s national bird, but for the small Alaskan town of Unalaska, this majestic bird is little more than a pest. They lurk above telephone poles and stop lights, watching for potential victims to sweep down upon, litter through trash, and steal grocery bags. But mostly they wait for the fishing boats to return with the day’s catch.

Located far out in the Aleutian Islands, this fishing town of 4,700 processes more fish than any other port in the country. And fish is the bald eagle’s staple food. So during the fishing season, hundreds of eagles come to scavenge and nest in the area, creating a nuisance for the local people. The eagles guard their nest fiercely and anybody appearing even remotely … Read the rest

The Eufala Oak The Owns Itself

There once stood a huge oak tree near the center of Eufala, a small city in Alabama, the United States. The 65-foot-tall tree was the city’s landmark and a favorite place for local children to play under. In 1919 a violent tornado lashed through the city, but the oak tree survived. Later, the tree also survived a fire. The locals thought it was a divine sign and petitioned the city council to deed the tree to itself.  

In 1936, a “deed of sentiment” was granted which reads in part: “I. E. H. Graves, as Mayor of the City of Eufaula, do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the ‘Post Oak Tree,” not as an individual, partnership nor corporation, but as a creation and gift of … Read the rest

Fort Blunder: The Fort That America Mistakenly Built in Canada

During the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, between Great Britain and the United States, the border between British Canada and upstate New York saw some of the fiercest fighting, much of which took place around Lake Champlain. This freshwater lake situated across the US-Canada border provided the British a direct invasion route into the heart of America. Had this important travel corridor from the mighty Saint Lawrence to the Hudson fell into the hands of British troops, the results of the American Revolutionary War could have been very different.

Anxious to prevent another invasion attempt, immediately following the War of 1812, America decided to fortify the shores of Lake Champlain. A small sandy spit called Island Point was chosen as the site for … Read the rest