“During the recent mild weather butterflies are reported as having been seen on the wing in various parts of England; and doubtless as many of them as possible were killed. It is a common rustic superstition that to fail to kill the first butterfly one sees abroad in spring is to earn bad luck for the year; and, like most such superstitions, it is based on misunderstanding. It is reasonable to kill queen wasps in the spring, if it happens that you do not like wasps. From an economic point of view it is at least arguable whether the wasp does not do more good to the agriculturist than [...]
The Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are gathering, right now, to start the process of electing the next pope. Exciting stuff, eh? No, not really, to be honest! What will almost certainly happen is that this group of old ecclesiastics, all of whom were chosen by one of the last two popes, will be shut up in the mildly cramped but relatively posh digs of the Apostolic Palace, and will take a few days, tops, to come to a consensus on who the next pope will be. Maybe the winner will be a surprise, and maybe the conclave will end on the first vote for once, or will extend [...]
On July 2, 1776, in a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote: This second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
As it turned out, Adams was nearly right about this, [...]
In the 1950s, a DJ named Jean Shepherd hosted a late-night radio show on New York's WOR that was unlike any before or since. On these broadcasts, he delivered dense, cerebral monologues, sprinkled with pop-culture tidbits and vivid stretches of expert storytelling. "There is no question that we are a tiny, tiny, tiny embattled minority here," he assured his audience in a typical diatribe. "Hardly anyone is listening to mankind in all of its silliness, all of its idiocy, all of its trivia, all of its wonder, all of its glory, all of its poor, sad, pitching us into the dark sea of oblivion." Shepherd's approach was summed up by [...]
Delivering scares, according to Wyllis Cooper, was a matter of "raiding the larder." His radio program "Lights Out," which premiered in 1934 on NBC station WENR in Chicago, aired at midnight, specializing in tales of the horror and supernatural. Food, pots and cutlery provided sound effects for a wide range of disturbing acts from Cooper's scripts, including breaking bones (cracking spare ribs), burning flesh (frying bacon), severed appendages (chopping carrots and cabbages), being murdered (stabbing raw pork), cannibalism (eating spaghetti), and so on. Cooper, a former advertising copywriter and continuity editor for CBS and NBC, ran the show for two years, exiting for a career in Hollywood (to write such [...]