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Skimming the Gutenberg Project for the
strange and unusual.

On the anniversary of the Russian child's
wonderful and providential deliverance from
a frightful death, it was customary each
year to have a grand feast at the Castle,
when the gentle and beloved Catharine Somoff
would relate anew her thrilling history, and
review the kindness shown her by her generous
protectors…

— M. E. Bewsher, Catherine's Peril. Or, the
Little Russian Girl Lost in a Forest.
(1881)

[Oh not THAT old story again… Pass the
canapes, would you?]

To the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts: We, the song birds of Massachusetts
and their playfellows, make this our humble petition.
We know more about you than you think we do. We know
how good you are. We have hopped about the roofs and
looked in at your windows of the houses you have built
for poor and sick and hungry people, and little lame
and deaf and blind children. We have built our nests
in the trees and sung many a song as we flew about
the gardens and parks you have made so beautiful for
your children, especially your poor children to play
in. Every year we fly a great way over the country,
keeping all the time where the sun is bright and warm.
And we know that whenever you do anything the other
people all over this great land between the seas and
the Great Lakes find it out, and pretty soon will try
to do the same. We know. We know.

— Charles Babcock, Bird Day and How to Prepare
for It.
(1901)

[Oh my god, they know! I always knew it, but nobody
would believe me! THEY KNOW!]

So early as the year 1374, assemblages of men and
women were seen at Aix-la-Chapelle, who had come out
of Germany, and who, united by one common delusion,
exhibited to the public both in the streets and in
the churches the following strange spectacle. They
formed circles hand in hand, and appearing to have
lost all control over their senses, continued dancing,
regardless of the bystanders, for hours together, in
wild delirium, until at length they fell to the ground
in a state of exhaustion. They then complained of
extreme oppression, and groaned as if in the agonies
of death, until they were swathed in cloths bound
tightly round their waists, upon which they again
recovered, and remained free from complaint until
the next attack. This practice of swathing was
resorted to on account of the tympany which followed
these spasmodic ravings, but the bystanders frequently
relieved patients in a less artificial manner, by
thumping and trampling upon the parts affected. While
dancing they neither saw nor heard, being insensible
to external impressions through the senses, but were
haunted by visions, their fancies conjuring up spirits
whose names they shrieked out; and some of them
afterwards asserted that they felt as if they had
been immersed in a stream of blood, which obliged
them to leap so high. Others, during the paroxysm,
saw the heavens open and the Saviour enthroned with
the Virgin Mary, according as the religious notions
of the age were strangely and variously reflected
in their imaginations.

— J.F.C Hecker, tr. B. G. Babington, The Black Death
and the Dancing Mania.
(1888)

[Which reminds me — the next election is coming up.]

The general problem of the rural school is the
same as that of any other type of school — to
render to the community the largest possible
returns upon its investment in education with
the least possible waste. Schools are great
education factories set up at public expense.
The raw material consists of the children of
succeeding generations, helpless and inefficient
because of ignorance and immaturity. The school
is to turn out as its product men and women ready
and able to take up their part in the great world
of activities going on about them. It is in this
way, in efficient education, that society gets
its return for its investment in the schools.

— George Herbert Betts, New Ideas in Rural Schools.
(1913)

[And to think that was written 36 years before
Orwell's 1984.]

When a few players are curling for practice, or
recreation, some of the above laws may not be
rigidly enforced; but any relaxation should always
be noticed, so that there may be no difficulty
in strictly adhering to them when playing a
Bonspiel, or set game.

— James Bicket, The Canadian Curler's Manual; Or, an
Account of Curling.
(1840)

[We're doing this wrong, yeah? We should
remember that, we're doing it wrong.]

So deep was the longing of poor Biddy's heart,
She felt that with life she was ready to part;
But glancing about in her trouble and pain
She saw that her mistress was coming again;

— Isabel Byrum, The Troubles of Biddy. (1917)

[The Troubles of Biddy; Or, Tale of a Suicidal Chicken.]

The lights that wink across the sodden moor
Like phosphorescent eyes that beckon men
To risk fell footsteps in the treacherous fen,
And sink in loathsome muck, without a spoor —
What ghosts of former days, what dread allure,
Abides within this subterranean den?
Or, reaching out, snares victims to its ken,
With wraith-like fingers, to a peril sure?

'Tis told that evil things lurk out of sight
With human bones that fester in the ooze;
Belike 'tis true, these bones that once were clothed
In fleshly form now harbor deadly spite
Against the living, and this swamp still brews
Within its bubbling depths the curse men loathed
Before they turned to leprous Things of Night!

— Carl A. Butz, Swamp Demons. (1936)

[You know, we really need to do something about
draining that damn swamp.]

“Ah!” said I, “they are scud, forming over the
central and northern portions of Connecticut,
induced and attracted by the influence of a storm
which is passing from the westward to the eastward,
over the northern parts of New England, and are
traveling toward it in a southerly surface wind,
which we have run into. They seem to go south,
because we are running north faster than they.
You see them at the eastward because they are
forming successively as the storm and its
influence passes in that direction, and are
most readily seen in the range of the moon;
but when we reach Hartford you will see them
in every direction, more numerous and dense,
running north to underlie that storm.”

T. B. Butler, The Philosophy of the Weather
and a Guide to Its Changes.
(1856)

[Think it'll rain, Tom? Wait, don't answer that.]

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