Bizarre Coincidence: Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Parker and Cannibalism

Title page of "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon
Pym of Nantucket" by Edgar Allen Poe

In 1838, Edgar Allen Poe published his first and only novel titled, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket." In it, Pym, a stowaway aboard a whaler, sees all manner of events, including one horrific one connected to a bizarre coincidence. It is a somewhat gruesome tale that features the killing and eating of the cabin boy by the rest of the crew aboard the "Grampus." The cabin boy's name was Richard Parker, a name that would become as involved with cannibalism in reality as it is in fiction.

Roughly six years after "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" was published, a yacht called "Mignonette" sank roughly 1,600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. The four-man crew abandoned ship and took off in the lifeboat with no fresh water and only a few cans of turnips to sustain them. The 17-year-old cabin boy Richard Parker appears to have gone into a coma from drinking seawater, according to the testimony of his shipmates. They killed him by stabbing him the neck while he slept so they could eat him and drink his blood. They spotted rescue roughly four days later.

Bizarre Disappearances: The Peking Man Fossils

Casts of the Peking Man Skulls
Photo: Public Domain
During the 1920s, a group of famous fossils was found near Beijing. These fossils were mainly of the skulls, jawbones and teeth of a step in the human evolutionary chain dubbed Homo erectus pekinensis. They were one of the biggest scientific finds of the early 20th century. A man named Davidson Black is known as being the man who researched these fossils the most and it is a good thing too. He, and others, left copious notes regarding the fossils, which date back to roughly 750,000 to 780,000 years ago. These notes and some casts of the fossils are all that is left. The fossils themselves disappeared in 1941.

The Peking Man fossils were in a safe at the Peking Union Medical College when the decision was made to move them to the United States. The Japanese were advancing on the area and World War II was reaching its height. They were to be sent to the United States only for safekeeping until the end of the war, but they never made it there. As far as anyone knows, they never left China.

The fossils were meant to leave China via the U.S.S. President Harrison, but it was sunk by the Japanese before it reached the pick-up point. The fossils presumably left the college, but there is no record of them past there. They may have reached the Marines that were meant to escort them, but there is no record of that. There are rumors that they sank aboard a Japanese ship, were destroyed by the Japanese during a train raid or actually were secreted away to the United States. No one knows, but they would certainly be the find of yet another century if someone found out.