Page 302. " a 13th sign of the Zodiac named for it "
Public DomainOphiuchus - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There is in fact a thirteenth sign of the Zodiac. Ophiuchus has been overlooked in astrology because the constellation is behind the sun between November 29 and December 17. Mainstream astrology is based on dividing the ecliptic into 12 equal parts.

In the 1970s, there were moves to make Ophiuchus a full sign of the Zodiac, and the idea has taken off in Japanese astrology.

Page 303. " Marie-Celeste "
Mary Celeste
Public DomainMary Celeste - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship that was discovered on December 4th 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean. It was deserted.

The ship was in seaworthy condition and still under sail, headed for the Strait of Gibraltar. Six months of food and water supplies were onboard. The weather had been fine and the crew were known to be capable sailors. The cargo was almost untouched, and the passengers' belongings were still there, including many valuables. However, the crew was never seen or heard from again.

Various theories have been proposed, such as underwater earthquakes, waterspouts, aliens, sea monsters, the Bermuda Triangle or insurance fraud.

The most widely held theory points out that the ship was carrying alcohol, and nine of the 1,701 barrels were found empty. These nine barrels were made of red oak, whereas the others were made of white oak. These red oak barrels were more likely to emit a vapor, which would have built up in the hold and caused an explosion if the barrels' steel bands rubbed against each other and produced a spark. Research has shown that such an explosion would have been dramatic, but would not actually have been hot enough to leave any burn marks. The theory argues that the crew may have been panicked into abandoning ship by such an explosion, not realising that the ship was now safe.

Page 312. " white Stetson "
Slim Pickens riding the bomb in 'Dr. Strangelove'
Public DomainSlim Pickens riding the bomb in 'Dr. Strangelove' - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In his dress and mannerisms, Marvy bears a strong resemblance to Major T.J. "King" Kong, the character played by Slim Pickens in the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.

Pickens, a veteran of Westerns, was hired after Peter Sellers, who played three other roles in the film, injured himself. Pickens was not told that the film was a comedy, and was urged to play his role seriously. The character's over the top, deranged nature is basically Pickens' ordinary style.

The character is most famous for his final moment, riding the nuclear bomb whilst whooping and waving his cowboy hat.





Page 321. " Siege Perilous "

Sir Galahad taking his place at the 'Perilous Seat'
Public DomainSir Galahad taking his place at the 'Perilous Seat' - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Siege Perilous is another name for the Perilous Seat, which in Arthurian legend was a vacant seat at the Round Table. The seat was placed there by Merlin and reserved for the knight who succeeded in acquiring the Holy Grail. In different versions of the story, this knight is Perceval or Galahad. Sitting in the seat was fatal to any who were not worthy.