Curiosity killed the cat, they say, but it has never, ever stopped a journalist.
Oct. 9 is national Curious Events Day, or so say the folks who keep track of these things.
How does one celebrate such an unusual “holiday”? According to the so-called experts, we should spend the day doing this: “Read or watch documentaries about some of the more famous curious incidents and events that have happened in the history of humankind — disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, sightings of the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster, crop circles, UFO sightings in Roswell.”
Atlas Obscura lists all sorts of unusual and quirky sites across the world, including plenty in Massachusetts
But we have our own “curious” things right here on the SouthCoast. You may recognize them all, but do you know the stories behind them? Take some time today to ponder our very own “curious” sites.
The 40-ton sandstone boulder with a weird and mystifying history was unearthed almost 60 years ago by a crew of workers digging near the Taunton River, in Berkley. The rock bears ancient markings and back then was hoisted by crane in a sling and laid gently atop a 10-foot heap of crushed stone mixed with cement that would is now a permanent base for the rock.
Learn more:The weird history of Dighton Rock
Although it’s named Dighton Rock, it resides in Berkley at the Dighton Rock Museum. When it was discovered in the 1700s, Dighton and Berkley were one town, Dighton, hence the name.
Some believe the markings are related to Portuguese 16th century explorer Miguel Corte Real, who never returned from his exploration of the New World. Other scholars have credited the markings to the Phoenicians, Native Americans, and even the Vikings.
In 2002, a Chinese scholar claimed they were made by the Chinese, according to a post on the New England Historical Society web site.
Because the rock was covered up by the tide for about 20 hours a day, scholars had very little time to look at the surface before it was moved to dry land as they tried to decipher the markings.
The rock was once owned by the Royal Society of Copenhagen. On a visit to the area in the mid 19th century, Olen Borneham Bull, a concert artist, according to the 1963 article in The Herald News, bought the rock in honor of the Vikings, who he considered to have discovered America in 1003.
It was later turned over to the Old Colony Historical Society of Taunton, which passed it along to the state.
Skeleton in Armor
In 1831, Fall River housewife Hannah Cook was digging sand near where Fifth and Hartwell streets are now, and found the skeleton of a man in a sitting position. The skeleton had a quiver of arrows, a belt of brass tubes around his waist and was wearing a 13-inch-long, 6-inch-wide breastplate made of brass.
The site was excavated. Diggers found the intact skeleton of a man, wrapped in bark and bark cloth. The man wore a brass breastplate and a belt of brass tube, and was carrying arrows tipped with brass arrowheads.
The skeleton and armor were moved to the Fall River Athenaeum and then lost in the fire of 1843 that took much of downtown.
John Stark, a lawyer and an historian, inspected the skeleton in 1837. In an article for “The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge,” he speculated the skeleton and armor were the remains of a Phoenician, an Egyptian or Carthaginian.
By 1840, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem imagining the skeleton in armor to be a Viking, cooking up with a story of failed love that made the Viking take his own life.
Some said the bones were those of Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte-Real.
Others stuck with the Viking theory, while some said the corpse was that of a Native American who had gotten his armor from Europeans.
A plaque now marks the spot where he was discovered, on the Liberty Utilities building.
Whale skeleton that drips oil
The Whaling Museum in New Bedford is home to a rare blue whale skeleton that still leaks oil — fitting for a city’ with a rich history, as “the city that lit the world,” thanks to the whale oil bounty from the hundreds of whaling ships that called this port home.
The museum funnels the whale oil into a small beaker, as it could continue to leak for another 30 to 40 years. The 66-foot-long, one-and-a-half ton skeleton is named KOBO, and has been hanging in the museum since 2000, and the oil dripping even caught the attention of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
The ghost stories, personal accounts and folklore that make up the legend of the Bridgewater Triangle are too vast to ever fit in a single book, though many devoted investigators of the triangle have tried meticulously to record them.
They encompass what can only be described as a smorgasbord of the paranormal, cryptozoological and just plain weird. In fact one of the most baffling parts of the Triangle legends has to be the range of strange sightings said to be a part of this enigmatic approximately 200 square mile area of the Bay State.
“Anything that you want to be in the Triangle is in the Triangle. It’s a Pandora’s Box,” said folklorist and author of several books on the Bridgewater Triangle Chris Balzano. “So you’re into zombies? There’s stories about zombies. If you’re into Bigfoot, he’s there. If you’re into pukwudgies, that’s kind of pukwudgie central. If you’re into ghosts, you’ve got it. UFOs, black helicopter — it’s there.”
The modern cultural origin of the Bridgewater Triangle legend is widely thought to lie within cryptozoologist Loren Coleman’s 1983 book “Mysterious America.” In it, he coined the term “Bridgewater Triangle,” inspired of course by the Bermuda Triangle, established its rough boundaries and identified some of the Triangle’s most notable places and legends, calling it a “window area of unexplained occurrences.”
Salty the Seahorse in Mattapoisett
Visitors to Mattapoisett will notice a 38-foot-tall seahorse sculpture in town. Salty the Seahorse was once part of the Dunseith Sea Horse Gift shop. Henry Dunseith, the gift shop owner and model railway aficionado, built the seahorse in the mid-1950s as advertising for his home-based gift emporium. Now, he stands tall in little park maintained by the Mattapoisett Land Trust, at the corner of North Street and Route 6.
Westport’s fork in the road
There’s a larger-than-life carving of an actual fork placed at the River and Old Harbor roads split. Tom Schmitt, who lives nearby, constructed the fork back in 2010 after the idea came to him when he was at a local sawmill to get wood for a different project.
“They had some good-looking pine timbers,” Schmitt said. And when he found out the price for them, he nodded and said, “Put it in the truck.”
The project kept him busy as he pieced the fork together using a real fork for scale.
“It kept me off the streets,” he said, and laughed that his neighbors would tell him he must have too much time on his hands.
The fork gets dressed up for the holidays. It dons a heart for Valentine’s Day, a Santa had on Christmas and a hot dog on the Fourth of July.
The fork has held up well over the years and Schmitt said the community seems to have adopted it. People stop to have their picture taken with it. Brides hang their wedding veil on it and pose for pictures. He has a collection of photos and articles written about the fork he keeps in a file labeled “Forklore.”
Giant milk bottle in Raynham
It feels a bit surreal walking into a giant replica of an old-fashioned glass bottle of milk on Route 138 in Raynham.
The 56-foot-tall building, constructed in 1925, has a fading exterior, the paint discolored and chipped. But inside, this breakfast and lunch diner is nicely renovated, with a real country kitchen atmosphere, replete with plaid curtains and rusticated knick-knacks on the white and beige wood board walls.
The Milk Bottle in Raynham was originally known as the Frates Dairy Milk Bottle, and was one of three made by the Frates Dairy Co. Another one of them still exists in New Bedford.
In Taunton, the Hood company had its own 40-foot milk bottle building, which was used as an ice cream stand until the late ’60s, when it was moved to Boston by the Children’s Museum.
Spite tower in Adamsville
Spite Tower, a tall tower located between houses in Adamsville, R.I., and across the street from a park, was supposedly built simply to irritate a neighbor by blocking his line of sight, hence the name. There are also convoluted stories of unrequited love floating around.
Boringly enough, though, the actual answer is probably the simplest and most realistic one.
The building was constructed over a deep well, and in order to get the water out, the tower needed to be tall. To this end, it’s three stories high, with the well house on the bottom, a water tank at the top, and living quarters for a chauffeur on the second floor. Whether they still keep a chauffeur up there is really up to the current owner.
Adamsville is a historic village within the town of Little Compton that was first settled in 1675.