Category:
Eighteenth Century

The Solitude Experiment of Mr. Powyss

Circa 1793, a Mr. Powyss of Lancashire apparently decided to conduct an unusual psychological experiment by paying a man to live in his basement, in complete solitude, for seven years.

Information about this experiment is hard to find. A brief news item appeared about it in 1797:

The Annual Register... for the year 1797



A news story 30 years later reported that the subject of the experiment had emerged after seven years apparently no worse for wear. Or, at least, he had "absolutely accomplished it":

The Casket - Aug 11, 1827



Given the lack of info, I suspect that the entire story might be an urban legend — one of those fake news stories that often made their way into early magazines and newspapers. However, the story has inspired author Alix Nathan to use fiction to fill in the blanks... imagining what might have happened in her recent novel The Warlow Experiment. As reported by the Guardian:

Nathan tried to discover more about Powyss and the outcome of his experiment, but without success. Nothing of either remained. Instead she turned to fiction, writing a pair of short stories that imagined the peculiar undertaking, the first from Powyss’s point of view, “An Experiment: Above”, and then, in “An Experiment: Below”, from the solitary subterranean perspective of his confined subject... Despite this, Powyss and his story continued to nag at Nathan; she could not shake the sense that it “deserved fuller consideration”. The result is The Warlow Experiment [amazon link].


Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 19, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, Eighteenth Century

Mystery Gadget 77



Maybe an ocarina?

The answer is here.

And after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jun 17, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century

Raising a Perfect Wife From Scratch



Sabrina Sidney, was a British foundling girl taken in when she was 12 by author Thomas Day, who wanted to mould her into his perfect wife. Day had been struggling to find a wife who would share his ideology and had been rejected by several women. Inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's book Emile, or On Education, he decided to educate two girls without any frivolities, using his own concepts.

In 1769, Day and his barrister friend, John Bicknell, chose Sidney and another girl, Lucretia, from orphanages, and falsely declared they would be indentured to Day's friend Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Day took the girls to France to begin Rousseau's methods of education in isolation. After a short time, he returned to Lichfield with only Sidney, having deemed Lucretia inappropriate for his experiment. He used unusual, eccentric, and sometimes cruel, techniques to try to increase her fortitude, such as firing blanks at her skirts, dripping hot wax on her arms, and having her wade into a lake fully dressed to test her resilience to cold water.


The full story here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue May 07, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Eccentrics, Education, Husbands, Wives, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, Love & Romance

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence



An honest mistaken memory, or a deliberate hoax to cash in on the early glamour of the American Revolution? You decide!

The Wikipedia page.

History Channel account.


The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is a text published in 1819 with the claim that it was the first declaration of independence made in the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution. It was supposedly signed on May 20, 1775, in Charlotte, North Carolina, by a committee of citizens of Mecklenburg County, who declared independence from Great Britain after hearing of the battle of Lexington. If the story is true, the Mecklenburg Declaration preceded the United States Declaration of Independence by more than a year. The authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration has been disputed since it was published, forty-four years after it was reputedly written. There is no verifiable evidence to confirm the original document's existence and no reference to it has been found in extant newspapers from 1775.[citation needed]

Professional historians have maintained that the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is an inaccurate rendering of an authentic document known as the Mecklenburg Resolves. The Mecklenburg Resolves were a set of radical resolutions passed on May 31, 1775, that fell short of an actual declaration of independence. Although published in newspapers in 1775, the text of the Mecklenburg Resolves was lost after the American Revolution and not rediscovered until 1838. Historians believe that the Mecklenburg Declaration was written in 1800 in an attempt to recreate the Mecklenburg Resolves from memory. According to this theory, the author of the Mecklenburg Declaration mistakenly believed that the Resolves had been a declaration of independence, and so he recreated the Resolves with language borrowed from the United States Declaration of Independence. Defenders of the Mecklenburg Declaration have argued that both the Mecklenburg Declaration and the Mecklenburg Resolves are authentic.


Posted By: Paul - Sat Jan 12, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Antiques, Anachronisms and Throwbacks, Confusion, Misunderstanding, and Incomprehension, Government, Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators, Politics, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century

Why a Monkey on the Leinster Coat of Arms?



"The coat of arms of the Dukes of Leinster derives from the legend that John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare, as a baby in Woodstock Castle, was trapped in a fire when a pet monkey rescued him. The FitzGeralds then adopted a monkey as their crest (and later supporters) and occasionally use the additional motto Non immemor beneficii (Not forgetful of a helping hand)."

The Wikipedia page.



Article source.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jul 19, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Royalty, Eighteenth Century

Who Was That Masked Lady Composer?



Mlle Duval was an 18th-century female composer whose birth and death dates are unknown, whose first name and backstory are unknown, and yet who had a fairly prominent public career. This is one of those historical incidents that I fancifully attribute to some time traveler having fun.

Her Wikipedia page.

Entry in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers.

I can't find any recordings for her online, but she appears on the CD at the link.



Posted By: Paul - Thu Oct 05, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Music, Unexplained Historical Enigmas, Women, Eighteenth Century

Blackguardiana

You can surely amuse yourself for hours reading this 1793 guide to rogues. And I think we should resurrect these old terms for modern times. For instance, if a woman is inconveniently pregnant, let us say she has "sprained her ankle."



Posted By: Paul - Sat Feb 18, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Eighteenth Century, Slang

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 



Get WU Posts by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner




weird universe thumbnail
Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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.

Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.

Contact Us
Monthly Archives
August 2019 •  July 2019 •  June 2019 •  May 2019 •  April 2019 •  March 2019 •  February 2019 •  January 2019

December 2018 •  November 2018 •  October 2018 •  September 2018 •  August 2018 •  July 2018 •  June 2018 •  May 2018 •  April 2018 •  March 2018 •  February 2018 •  January 2018

December 2017 •  November 2017 •  October 2017 •  September 2017 •  August 2017 •  July 2017 •  June 2017 •  May 2017 •  April 2017 •  March 2017 •  February 2017 •  January 2017

December 2016 •  November 2016 •  October 2016 •  September 2016 •  August 2016 •  July 2016 •  June 2016 •  May 2016 •  April 2016 •  March 2016 •  February 2016 •  January 2016

December 2015 •  November 2015 •  October 2015 •  September 2015 •  August 2015 •  July 2015 •  June 2015 •  May 2015 •  April 2015 •  March 2015 •  February 2015 •  January 2015

December 2014 •  November 2014 •  October 2014 •  September 2014 •  August 2014 •  July 2014 •  June 2014 •  May 2014 •  April 2014 •  March 2014 •  February 2014 •  January 2014

December 2013 •  November 2013 •  October 2013 •  September 2013 •  August 2013 •  July 2013 •  June 2013 •  May 2013 •  April 2013 •  March 2013 •  February 2013 •  January 2013

December 2012 •  November 2012 •  October 2012 •  September 2012 •  August 2012 •  July 2012 •  June 2012 •  May 2012 •  April 2012 •  March 2012 •  February 2012 •  January 2012

December 2011 •  November 2011 •  October 2011 •  September 2011 •  August 2011 •  July 2011 •  June 2011 •  May 2011 •  April 2011 •  March 2011 •  February 2011 •  January 2011

December 2010 •  November 2010 •  October 2010 •  September 2010 •  August 2010 •  July 2010 •  June 2010 •  May 2010 •  April 2010 •  March 2010 •  February 2010 •  January 2010

December 2009 •  November 2009 •  October 2009 •  September 2009 •  August 2009 •  July 2009 •  June 2009 •  May 2009 •  April 2009 •  March 2009 •  February 2009 •  January 2009

December 2008 •  November 2008 •  October 2008 •  September 2008 •  August 2008 •  July 2008 •