This 1908 news story may have inspired Roald Dahl's short story "The Ratcatcher" (first published in 1953 in Someone Like You). Even if Dahl hadn't seen this exact news piece, he must have heard stories (urban legends) about rat catchers doing this.
A man named Malone, who was fined at Northampton, for breaking hotel windows, was said to earn his living by going from place to place exhibiting freshly-caught rats. These he tethered to a table with string, giving them a certain latitude, and then, with his hands tied tightly behind him, he fought and killed a rat with his teeth. Nine times out of ten he was said to succeed, but frequently the rat bit him severely.
March 24, 1967: Herman the Hippo disappeared from his pen at an animal show in Huntington Beach, California. For three days, no one could find him, despite a massive manhunt, and despite the fact that one would think it would be easy to spot a 1500-pound hippopotamus wandering around Orange County.
Three days later he was found, 15 miles away, relaxing in a swimming pool at a horse ranch near Laguna Beach. The most likely explanation was that he had swum the 15 miles in the ocean.
Herman was lured out of the pool by bringing down his best friend, Lisa the elephant, whom he followed into their transport van.
The old "would you mind watching my raccoon for a minute" prank.
Reno Gazette-Journal - Sep 23, 1947
Does Favor For Stranger And, As Usual, Gets Stuck
ROSLYN, N.Y., Sept. 23 (AP)—A stranger in a bar handed Otto Steih, jr. the end of a leash and said, "Hold this a minute pal. I'll be right back."
But the stranger didn't return and that's why the Steih family was wondering what to do today with a raccoon.
Most cats, if allowed out, will bring home birds, rodents, and other critters that they've caught. But Brigit, a 6-year-old tonkinese who lives in Hamilton, New Zealand, has been bringing home underwear and socks. Lots of them. Says her owner, "It's all men's. It's really, really weird. She's got really specific taste."
Brigit's owner has distributed flyers on the street in an attempt to reunite the underwear with the person it belongs to. But so far no one has claimed it.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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