Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.
Claim: A serious prospectus inviting investors to become part of a cat-and-rat farm was once circulated, the basic premise of which involved skinning cats for their fur, feeding the cat carcasses to rats, then feeding the rats to the cats being raised for their fur.
grey-bearded leg pull has been around for a whopping 125 years, since that day in 1875 when Willis B. Powell, editor of a newspaper in Lacon, Illinois, pulled the wool over the collective eyes of Associated Press by supplying that newswire with details about a supposedly real cat-and-rat ranch being advertised in that area. Despite its silliness, the story evaded scrutiny, and an obvious prank took on a life of its own in the imaginations of many. Then, as now, the Associated Press imprimatur conferred credibility.
Not until April 1940, when an article appeared in Goldfish Bowl (a publication of the National Press Club of Washington, D.C.), was the famous Lacon, Illinois, ranch for felines and rodents widely revealed as a hoax.
The spurious prospectus on which the Associated Press news
accounts were based read as follows:
Glorious Opportunity To Get Rich!!! — We are starting a cat ranch in Lacon with 100,000 cats. Each cat will average 12 kittens a year. The cat skins will sell for 30 cents each. One hundred men can skin 5,000 cats a day. We figure a daily net profit of over $10,000. Now what shall we feed the cats? We will start a rat farm next door with 1,000,000 rats. The rats breed 12 times faster than the cats. So we will have four rats to feed each day to each cat. Now what shall we feed the rats? We will feed the rats the carcasses of the cats after they have been skinned. Now Get This! We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats and get the cat skins for nothing!
Barbara "ratified" Mikkelson
Sightings: The 1934 film Maniac contains this urban legend, and various music lovers have informed me that on its 1985 album New Day Rising, Husker Du features a song called "How to Skin a Cat." The lyrics, I'm told, go something like "We'll feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats . . ." Just goes to show that you can't keep a good story down.