A fond look back at a book of interesting stories that turned out to be bullshit

When I was a kid, I got my hands on a copy of C.B. Colby's book of "hair raisers and incredible happenings," called Strangely Enough. I believed every story in it about "oddities in science and nature," "buried treasure on land and sea," and "high adventures and impossible escapes."

The most memorable story was about a fellow who had spent the day exploring a cave near the beach on an island in the Caribbean while on vacation. He found a bunch of clay balls in stashed in the back of the cave. Some were pea sized, and others were the size of golf balls. He filled his pockets with the balls, and then left the cave and started walking along the beach. For fun, he tossed all the balls into the ocean. When he arrived back home in United States, he discovered that one of the clay balls was still in his pants pocket. He broke open the ball and discovered a precious jewel inside. (I haven't read the story for decades, so I probably screwed up some of the details.)

Of course, looking back, I realize that the stories are just recycled urban legends. However, Colby has a fan base of people like me who enjoyed his books when they were growing up. The website Artifacts and Talismans has an appreciation of C.B. Colby and his writing.

Paperback copies of Strangely Enough can be had for 1 cent on Amazon.


  1. JUST bought a used of copy of this book online – best (and scariest) story is The Whistle – scares me still!

      1. ok – in a nutshell – an old woman is alone in her little house, far from anyone else and she hears a really creepy whistle coming closer and closer to her cabin. She can’t pinpoint where it is coming from and has never heard anything like it before in her life. On the back porch her little terrier is whining and yapping and the closer the whistle comes the more frantic the dog gets until it is barking hysterically. As the whistle passes over the cabin  there is ferocious snarling from the dog and sounds of a terrific fight erupt on the screened-in porch. The woman has a gun but is terrified and doesn’t dare go outside to look until the sounds stop and the whistle moves on. When all is silent she goes out and  there are signs of the struggle and blood all over the porch. The dog is never found, and she never hears the whistle again, and never finds out what caused it.

        1. “The Viper is coming.”
          “The Viper is coming.”
          “The Viper is coming.”
          “The Viper is coming.”
          “The Viper is coming.”
          “Hello, I’m the vindow viper. Do you have any vindows you need viped?”

  2. The clay ball story reminded me of a dream I had about ten years ago.  I was walking alone on a California beach, right next to the San Onofre nuclear plant. Its lights were ablaze.  A few trucks were moving around, doing stuff.  It was a crystal clear, beautiful night.  The surf was low and peaceful.  And the beach was absolutely studded with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds of all colors, shapes and sizes, some as big as golf balls.  It was amazing!  I felt like I’d found Aladdin’s cave.  But then I realized I couldn’t take any because they were all toxic and radioactive.  I dropped the handful of gems I had picked up.  I felt strange all of a sudden, like I shouldn’t even be walking there, so I turned back and left quickly.  End of dream.

    1. That actually reminds me of a plot point in the late-50s post-nuclear war novel Alas, Babylon. The band of survivors meet someone who is wearing a gold ring or bracelet or something that they looted from a radioactive no-man’s-land; the gold is now radioactive itself, and there’s a band of dead skin underneath the jewelry, plus they’re going to die in the long term from the exposure. They later find a guy who has a whole little treasure chest of the stuff, and died from proximity to his horde.

      1.  Which would not work that way, because the neutron activation of metals decays very fast.  And even finding something like that would involve trekking through a wasteland and getting toasted by the whole landscape,.

  3. Reminds me of summers at my step-uncle’s place. We’d go up there for the 4th of July week and eventually everyone would be sitting on chairs on the back porch. The stars would shine brilliantly and you could hear sounds of frogs and bugs My step-dad and his four brothers would start telling WWII stories, truck driver stories, tales of UFOs, etc. It was usually one brother trying to out do another. The stories would always frighten me. It wasn’t until I was an adult and reflected back on them that I realized that they had regurgitated urban legends.

    (UFOs still freak me out because of those summers.)

  4. wow, your mention of the clay ball story brought back a rush of memory; I had forgotten that I read that over and over as a kid…..

  5. Your “BS” designation just kind of smacked my inner 7 year old one upside the head. Those stories were real back then…. OK – except for the one where the guy jumped off the lighthouse and was never seen again – that one was BS.

  6. I remember that clay ball story. The only reason that he didn’t throw away the last ball was because it was so tiny that it was tucked all the way into the corner of his pocket, and it contained a flawless blue-white diamond. 

  7. I don’t think I read Strangely Enough, but there were a whole raft of “unexplained mysteries” type books aimed at kids that I gobbled up in elementary school.  Stuff about devil hoofprints, a flooded treasure vault on island off of Canada, Bigfoot, stuff like that.

  8. I had the edition with this “lightbulb” cover, but all I can remember is that clay ball story.
    Like you, I was pretty indiscriminate in believing the veracity of anything I read in a “non-fiction” book, and gave equal credence to dinosaurs, UFOs and Bible stories.  Of course, now I know that none of those were real!

  9. I had that book with the photo of an eye on the cover and it was scarey in a dumb way.  Didn’t it have the story of the Jersey Devil?

    We had some colonial era clay balls in a tin band-aid box, but it never occurred to us to smash them with a hammer, because marbles of various materials were a universal toy of pre-X-box civilizations.

  10. I remember The Whistle. The stories were a lot like the Fortean site’s “It Happened To Me” (IHTM) section.

  11. What always bugged me was my copy (Actually my older brother’s copy), the one with the cover with the eye in the rock on the alien planet or whatever,  was the Abridged Scholastic Books version.      So somewhere, in shadowy legend,  like S. Morgenstern’s original PRINCESS BRIDE, was an UNABRIDGED VERSION!  

    A few years ago, I hunted down an old unabridged copy at my library.   
    Result (Also includes various covers of the book):

    I note that the book really hit a chord with a lot of people when they were about age 10 or so.     In Michael Chabon’s book MAPS & LEGENDS (2008), he tells this elaborate and entirely apocryphal shaggy dog story about the author, C.B. Colby.

    1. I was going to make a witty and humorous comment drawing parallels between people having fond memories of folk-tales and religious affinity – but it’s just too easy.

  12. When I was in middle school I checked a book out of the library called “Monsters You Never Heard Of” by Raymond Van Over (I finally acquired a used copy a few years ago). Not quite the same as these could-be-true stories, but pretty great. In particular, there is a story called “The Burr Woman” that still remains one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read.

  13. Books like these both fascinated and irritated me as a kid. On the one hand the stories fascinated me. Well, except for the story of the woman who fell asleep while sunbathing and ended up with a bunch of ants’ eggs in her cheek. That just scared the hell out of me and made me not want to go outside, which was problematic since I heard it at camp.

    But they irritated me because I knew that even though they claimed to be true some of the stories simply weren’t. I learned early on not to believe everything I read, but at the same time if I couldn’t believe something that its author said was true what could I believe?

  14. Interesting. I remember a lot of other CB Colby books, mostly about science and engineering topics like airplanes and nuclear power. This seems more like something from Ripley’s believe it or not.

  15. This is great.  Reminds so much me of a similar book I had in the ’70’s, full of of great urban legendry, strange events and what-all.  The book was something like “Strange World” or “Stranger than Fiction”, or some such, by a Frank (pretty sure) Miller (I think?)

    I’ve been trying to re-unite with this book for nostalgia reasons, and to surprise a little brother.  We used to spend hours poring over the stories within.

    If anyone else has intersected with this book, I’d love to hear about it.

  16. Ohh, I love these!  I have the hardbound orange book on my bookshelf behind me as we speak!  These made a huge impact (dent?) on me as a kid.  bullshit or not they’re scary stories.  I bought mine at a tag sale a a little kid and the shit made me sleep with the lights on for decades.

  17. oh wow. that struck a nerve. I have c.b. colby’s “wierdest people in the world”  and I loved it. ghost tales and scary stories. my 9 year is now in love with it. 

Comments are closed.