John Godwin's Collection of Fun and Bizarre Trivia Part 1

A collection of random facts and fun trivia from oddity hunter John Godwin including the lost science of nauscopie and the Austrailian bone of death.


John Godwin's 7 Best Oddities

John Godwin's latest collection of true-life mysteries is Unsolved--The World of the Unknown, published by Doubleday in 1976.

1. The Lost Science. For nearly 20 years the naval garrison of the Ile de France (today's Mauritius) watched the colony's beacon keeper demonstrate an art he called nauscopie. M. Bottineau would scan the horizon with his naked eye--he never used a telescope--and then announce: "Three vessels approaching--two from the south, one from southwest!" No one present could see anything but sky and water. Yet within two to seven days, the exact number of ships predicted would appear from the directions indicated. Bottineau was never wrong. Some-how he "sighted" ships which turned out to have been several hundred miles distant. In 1784 the beacon keeper sailed to France to sell the secret to the government. He arrived at a time when the monarchy was almost bankrupt. The Ministry of Marine wouldn't even make him an offer. The French Revolution came five years later and swept Bottineau and nauscopie into oblivion. He died in total obscurity, leaving no written records. If the French navy had paid Bottineau's price and adopted his technique, France would have won the Battle of Trafalgar and Napoleon would have conquered England, because Nelson could never have surprised a French battle fleet.

2. The Bone of Death. Australian aboriginal witch doctors specialize in a form of murder neither medicine nor criminology can explain. They kill victims by pointing a human bone in their direction from a distance of 10-15 ft. The pointing--accompanied by a weird, malevolent chant--is invariably fatal. I watched a young Mailli tribesman from Arnhem Land die in the Darwin Hospital, despite the best medical care white doctors could give him. There was nothing physically wrong with him. He had not been poisoned or otherwise harmed. Yet from the moment he was "pointed," nothing could save him. He died before our eyes, in dreadful agony, apparently from the mere knowledge that he must die. The kundela--death bone--is used only on aborigines. We have no way of knowing whether it would work on a white victim.

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