She was taken in 1947 and no one knows why

From Strange Company: “On April 9, 1947, the town of Woodward, Oklahoma was slammed by a tornado. Hutchinson Croft was a successful sheep farmer who lived with his wife Cleta and their two children, Joan and Geri. The tornado flattened their home, killing Cleta, but four-year-old Joan and eight-year-old Geri were only slightly hurt and were brought to Woodward’s hospital. Later that night, as the Croft girls lay together on a cot, two men wearing khaki Army-style clothing came into the hospital basement announcing that they had come for Joan. The men told hospital staff that they were friends of the Croft family, and were taking Joan to Oklahoma City Hospital. But she never got there.”

This World War II plan would have buried soldiers alive in a cave on Gibraltar

From Now I Know: “The British Army dug a maze of defensive tunnels inside the Rock of Gibraltar during the Second World War, and part of that maze was something called the “Stay Behind Cave,” a two-story bunker. The first floor was a room with bare rock walls and a wooden floor, and up the stairs were two more rooms — a bathroom and a radio transmitting station. The plan was for six British soldiers stationed at Gibraltar to brick themselves into the Stay Behind Cave if Germany were to take over the Rock. The Cave was outfitted with enough supplies to last a year; after that, the soldiers were expected to bury each other in the floor — unless the army could save them beforehand.”

Churchill ordered that his home must always have a marmalade cat named Jock

From Churchill.org: “On leaving their home to the National Trust in 1966, the Churchill family requested that there would always be a marmalade cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white paws, in residence at Chartwell. The National Trust has always honoured this request and has recently welcomed Jock VII, a six-month-old rescue kitten, to the property to take up this unique role. The original Jock was a birthday present to Churchill from one of his private secretaries, Sir John ‘Jock’ Colville, and was named after him. Today’s Jock VII, previously known as Sunshine, was rescued by the RSPCA before being adopted by Chartwell’s Visitor Experience Manager, Viktoria Austen. He was rescued along with thirty other cats from squalid conditions.”

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If you see someone on a TV show drinking a beer, it’s probably a Heisler

From VinePair: “If you’ve ever seen “New Girl,” you’re likely familiar with True American. The fictional drinking game — which is as patriotic as it is confusing — is a favorite among the sitcom’s characters, who play it sporadically throughout the show’s seven seasons. The aftermath usually involves horrific hangovers, divulged secrets, and dozens of empty beer cans scattered across the roommates’ loft. Those bright red cans of suds belong to a brand called Heisler Beer. And though you might be able to cobble together some of True American’s chaotic rules, you’d be hard-pressed to find any Heisler to chug while you play. The beer doesn’t actually exist, but its on-screen presence is so extensive that it’s earned the nickname “the Bud Light of Fake Beers.”

A record number of ancient treasures and antiquities were found in 2022

From the Art Newspaper: “An intricately carved ivory bead showing a lovely young woman on one side and a skull on the other was among the star objects in a record year for treasure and archaeological finds, according to the British Museum. The bead may have come from a rosary broken more than 500 years ago, and was found by Caroline Nunnery, a licensed mudlarker on the Thames, who took up the hobby while recovering from illness. Nunnery’s find joined 53,490 other objects added to the database maintained by the British Museum in 2022 under the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which has helped identify thousands of prehistoric, Roman and medieval finds.”

He talked with an astronaut on the space station from his backyard

From Kottke: “A Michigan ham radio operator used a homemade setup with a handheld antenna to talk to an astronaut orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station. The astronaut even sent him a QSL card acknowledging the conversation (included at the end of the video). The ISS even has an unofficial program that allows students to talk to astronauts on the station via ham radio. An almost-all-volunteer organization called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, now helps arrange contact between students and astronauts on the space station. Students prepare to ask questions rapid-fire, one after another, into the ham radio microphone for the brief 10-minute window before the space station flies out of range.”

Study shows that dancing is the best treatment for depression

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as “serendipty engines,” such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg’s Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis’s Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton’s The Browser, Clive Thompson’s Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy’s Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova’s The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.

Walt Disney blamed himself for his mother’s death

From Vintage News: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs marked a turning point for Walt Disney. It was his first full-length cel-animated feature film, and it was astonishingly successful. The movie took in an unheard-of $1.5 million. Flush with success, Walt and his brother Roy bought their parents a house in North Hollywood, and Elias and Flora moved from Oregon. When Flora complained about a weird smell coming out of the furnace, Walt had repairmen come by to fix it, but they were apparently unsuccessful. Their housekeeper came in the next morning and found his mother and father unconscious and pulled them out on the front lawn. His father survived but Flora did not.”

How South America got conned into a concert tour by the fake Beatles

From the BBC: “Early in 1964, as Beatlemania swept the world, newspaper headlines announced that The Beatles would be travelling to South America later that year. Millions awaited their arrival with bated breath – and in July, when four young moptops descended into Buenos Aires Airport, it seemed that teenage dreams were about to come true. The Beatles were actually nowhere near Argentina at the time. The British group were back home in London, on a rare rest stop between concerts and recording. But without their knowledge, four young guys from Florida named Tom, Vic, Bill and Dave had taken their place. Previously a bar band called The Ardells, the quartet were now ‘The American Beetles’, or sometimes just ‘The Beetles’ for short.”

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Was he wrongfully convicted for killing his daughter?

From Esquire: “At around 7:00 a.m. on June 16, 1998, Barton McNeil, a thirty-nine-year-old divorced father, woke up on the couch after a muggy, stormy night. It was the beginning of one of those long summers in Bloomington, Illinois, the air so heavy you could chew it. McNeil traipsed to the bathroom and called out to wake Christina in the bedroom next door. It was time to get up and get dressed. She didn’t stir. So he took a shower, then checked his email again, and finally crept into the bedroom. There she lay, wrapped in the swirl of her flower-patterned sheets, a copy of Go, Dog. Go! beside her. Her eyes were open, her skin clammy and the color of slate.McNeil froze. His stomach churned. Panic took the wind out of his lungs.He scrambled for the phone and dialed 911.”

The Vatican classified the capybara as a fish so believers could eat it during Lent

A majestic capybara, posing on the grass in a very un-fishlike manner.

From IFLScience: “During the middle ages, eating the meat of certain animals was not allowed during Lent, the period commemorating when Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, according to the Bible. After the colonization of the Americas by European settlers, clergymen in Venezuela wrote to the Vatican to ask if this new creature – which spends a lot of time in the water, has webbed feet and reportedly has a fishy taste – could be classified as a fish, so that they could continue to eat it during the period of Lent. Those are 40 days of eating adorable rodents that you just can’t get back. The Vatican granted their request in 1784, and the rodent was given the status of fish. “

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Where the names of colours came from

Some of these are quite amazing, and in some cases a little bizarre:

— Azure is a misspelling of the Latin word “lazur” which comes from the stone “lapis lazuli”

— Orchid is Greek for “testicle”

— Turquoise means “Turkish” in Old French because that’s where the mineral came from

— Magenta is named for a battle during the Second Italian War of Independence

— Porcelain comes from the Latin term for “young pig,” because the colour was supposedly similar to the colour of a young pig’s genitalia

— Vermillion comes from the Latin for “small worm” because that’s where the dye of that colour originally came from (similar for Crimson)

— Persimmon comes from a Powhatan word that means “he dries berries”

— Sepia comes from the Latin word for “cuttlefish” because the color originally came from cuttlefish secretions

She put $50,000 in a shoe box and gave it to a stranger

From The Cut: “On a Tuesday evening this past October, I put $50,000 in cash in a shoe box, taped it shut as instructed, and carried it to the sidewalk in front of my apartment, my phone clasped to my ear. “Don’t let anyone hurt me,” I told the man on the line, feeling pathetic.“You won’t be hurt,” he answered. “Just keep doing exactly as I say.” Three minutes later, a white Mercedes SUV pulled up to the curb. “The back window will open,” said the man on the phone. “Do not look at the driver or talk to him. Put the box through the window, say ‘thank you,’ and go back inside.” When I’ve told people this story, most of them say the same thing: You don’t seem like the type of person this would happen to. What they mean is that I’m not senile, or hysterical, or a rube.”

The Amber Room was coveted by the Tsars and the Nazis and then it disappeared

From Atlas Obscura: “The Nazis have reached Russia. They’ve taken the Catherine Palace and are waiting for orders from Berlin. Soldiers pull at the wall coverings. And suddenly, in the dimness, there is a glimmer, not gold, but deeper, richer: carved garlands of acanthus leaves, rosettes, mirrors, mosaics made of agate, onyx, and lapis, and panel upon panel of lustrous brown gems. Contemporaries named it the eighth wonder of the world. But today the Amber Room is lost in layers of time, obscured by the flames and political paperwork of a great war. It had a long, eventful existence, traveled further than most rooms do, and was last seen in Königsberg, now Kaliningrad, Russia, in 1944, just before the city was carpet-bombed into oblivion. Then it vanished.”

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A nuclear weapons lab cracked a serial killer case

From Undark: “Nuclear weapons laboratories don’t often help solve serial-killer cases. But in the investigation of Efren Saldivar, data from such a lab provided the clinching evidence that led to his conviction on six counts of murder. As a respiratory therapist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center in California, Saldivar helped care for terminally ill patients. The hospital got a tip that someone had “helped a patient die fast,” and Saldivar was questioned. He confessed to dozens of murders, stating that he poisoned patients with overdoses of the paralyzing chemicals pancuronium bromide, also known as Pavulon, and succinylcholine chloride. He was arrested immediately. But there was little physical evidence to back up his self-incriminating claims.”

The difficulty markings for ski hill runs were designed by Walt Disney

From Inside The Magic: “If you have ever visited a ski resort in the United States or Canada, a significant part of your experience is thanks to work done by Walt Disney and his team. And you probably had no idea. All ski resorts in North America grade their slopes and trails with either a green circle (easy), a blue square (intermediate), a black diamond (advanced), or a double black diamond (experts only). It was Walt Disney’s team that came up with that grading system. Before he passed away in 1966, Disney set out to build or buy his own ski resort. One of the proposed locations was in California’s Sequoia National Park, but environmentalists reportedly blocked it. But before the plan was shut down, Disney already established its proposed trail signage.”

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Chernobyl wolves appear to be immune to radiation

From Sky News: “Dr Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist and ecotoxicologist at Princeton University, has been studying how the Chernobyl wolves survive despite generations of exposure to radioactive particles. Dr Love and a team of researchers visited the CEZ in 2014 and put radio collars on the wolves so that their movements could be monitored. They also took blood samples to understand how the wolves’ bodies respond to cancer-causing radiation. The researchers discovered that Chernobyl wolves are exposed to upwards of 11.28 millirem of radiation every day for their entire lives – which is more than six times the legal safety limit for a human.”

A Liverpool man who inherited $125,000 let 12 strangers decide what to do with it

From The Guardian: “A man who has been sitting on a £100,000 inheritance from his mother for more than 10 years has given the large sum to four charities in Liverpool, and that decision was down to 12 strangers. David Clarke, 34, said he wanted to tackle inequality as he felt he had enough money to live on. He wanted to give power to his neighbours and residents to decide what to do with his lump sum of money. So he sent letters randomly to 600 addresses in the L8 postcode, and then picked 12 to take part in the project. “During the first session, everyone thought it was a scam,” Clarke said, “but when the facilitator and I explained the cause and backstory, it was fine.” The only condition he gave to the group was not to spend the money on themselves.”

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She was the greatest female explorer of all time

From Atlas Obscura: “She’s been called the greatest female explorer of all time, and the best-traveled woman of the Middle Ages. Just after the year 1000 AD, she gave birth to the first European baby in North America. And she concluded her global odyssey with a pilgrimage on foot to Rome. Yet few today can name this extraordinary Viking lady, even if they have heard of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson, her father- and brother-in-law. Her full name, in modern Icelandic, is Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir—Gudrid the Far-Traveled, daughter of Thorbjorn. She was born around 985 AD on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland and died around 1050 AD at Glaumbær in northern Iceland.”

This unassuming suburban couple had a $160 million painting in their bedroom

Police sketches of the man and woman who stole Willem de Kooning's Woman-Ochre from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in November 1985

From the Smithsonian: “She was a retired speech pathologist, and he was a retired music teacher. For all intents and purposes, Rita and Jerry Alter were a totally normal couple living in the New Mexico suburbs—except for one thing. They had a stolen Willem de Kooning painting worth $160 million hanging behind their bedroom door. The couple has never been officially linked to the artwork’s theft from the University of Arizona. According to the university, a man and a woman entered the museum around 9 a.m. on November 29, 1985. While the woman spoke with a security guard, the man went up to the second floor, where he cut the painting from its frame, rolled it up and hid it under a garment.”

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