Sunday, December 18, 2011

10 Most Bizarre Calendars for 2012

[Update: Click here for the weirdest calendars of 2014]
[Update: Click here for the weirdest calendars of 2013]

It used to be easy to pick a calendar. Women had tea towels with a giant rooster and the current year printed on them in the kitchen. Men had pin-up girl calendars in their garage.

Today there’s a calendar for not only every sport and hobby, but every fetish and idiosyncracy as well. Publishers have nixed the simple kittens and landscapes --that is, unless the kittens are Persians wearing kilts and the landscapes are made of chocolate Legos.

And the pin-up girls? Well, to quote a song from the musical Gypsy, these days, you gotta have a gimmick.

Here are some of the weirdest, most head-scratchingest and --most of all-- oddly specific calendars on offer for 2012.

1. Zlata the Russian Contortionist 

If you're having trouble deciding between an origami calendar or a sexy model calendar, Zlata is the answer to your problems. (Ordering info, though it might be tricky if you're outside Europe.) 

2. Goats in Trees

All those plain old goats on the ground calendars should hang their heads in shame. Buy a few extra calendars for unexpected guests that are fans of tree-dwelling goats. (Amazon) 

3. Fresh Eggs

It might be hard to contain your excitement as you turn over each new month and wonder: "Will it be one egg or three? Chicken egg or ...Gasp! egg?" (Etsy

4. Naked Archaeologists

A refreshing change from the overly-posed, flatteringly-lit calendars of well-oiled firemen and pneumatic Hooters waitresses, this 2012 for-charity calendar's naked archaeologists are actually getting some work done. I wonder if the cute one is carbon dating anyone? (Ebay

5. Moog Pioneers in the Studio

If you know any music or electronics geek --or even better, an electronic music geek-- then buy them this calendar and give them plenty of alone time with it. For those who don't know, the Moog is an analog synthesizer whose devotees are almost as cultish as Mac people. (Bob Moog Foundation)

6.  High Times Ultimate Grow Calendar

Ready to take your obsession with playing Hemp Tycoon to the next level? High Times' 2012 calendar has twelve months of tips on cannabis cultivation. It's the best thing you could possibly buy your stoner nephew, besides a case of Cool Ranch Doritos.  (

7.  Hungover Owls

Man, these owls are gonna regret it in the morning. Be sure and pre-order the 2013 calendar Owls With Cirrhosis. (Amazon)

8.  Mutter Museum

If you only buy one calendar with photos of human anatomical specimens this year, this really should be the one. Founded in the 19th-century by a Philadelphia surgeon with an odd taste in collectibles, the Mutter Museum features displays that might make your flesh crawl. An apt gift for fans of American Horror Story. (Amazon)

9. Ferret Frenzy: Cirque du Ferret

Let's get this straight: this is not just a ferret calendar. No, this is a ferret frenzy. And not just any ferret frenzy, but a circus-themed ferret frenzy. Costumed ferrets juggling! A ferret ringmaster! Ferret clowns and high-wire artistes. Frenzy may be an understatement here, folks. (Amazon)

10. Total White Calendar

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to tire of hue. Expected monthly features: polar bears in a snowstorm, rice with sea salt, and Edgar Winter posing with The White Album. (

Ordered your 2012 calendar yet? What's the weirdest calendar you've ever seen? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Literary Dolls: Play House with Your Favorite Authors

There’s an obscure 1990 song I used to like that ends with this spoken line: “Wow, they have Nick Cave dolls now? I waaaant one.”

Well, there may not be a pint-sized version of musician Nick Cave yet, but you can now buy replicas of a bevy of famous authors, thanks to Debbie Ritter of Uneek Doll Designs. Now that I’ve seen her handiwork, all I can say is: “They have Joyce Carol Oates dolls now? I waaant one!”

Make your Joyce Carol Oates doll spend hours writing in longhand. (All photos via Uneek Doll Designs.)

The Joyce Carol Oates doll has sold, but Ritter has plenty of literary dolls to choose from. Considering how tiny these dolls are, the attention to details is wonderful, especially the clothing choices, from Maya Angelou’s golden earrings to Anne Sexton’s “fashionable striped pants with brown sash.”

Some of my favorite literary dolls:

A mutton-chopped Asimov doll in a cozy sweater...

I, Isaac Asimov

Maya Angelou doll with perfect silver streak and bonus fashion jewelry...

She knows why the housed doll sings.
 G.K. Chesterton...

I like to call him G.K. Chesterdrawers.

Lest you think that only classic literature is represented, take a gander at these ladies:

Teen icon Judy Blume...

Ready to discuss the symbolism in Superfudge.

A suitably classy Erma Bombeck...

The grass is always greener over the miniature septic tank.

Regency romance queen Barbara Cartland. The doll looks uncannily like her back-of-the-jacket photos, but with less airbrushing...

With a copy of The Rakish Rogue or The Roguish Rake or somesuch.

Not only can you buy dolls of the authors, but also their characters. Dolls from Les Miserables are ready to start a tiny revolution, or you can re-enact your favorite scenes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame with your very own Quasimodo. Particularly hard to resist is this aptly insane Mrs. Rochester.

Set it on fire, then order more!

Ritter takes custom orders, so I’m debating whether or not to commision a redo of the Joyce Carol Oates doll, or perhaps a frail Joan Didion or a dour Patricia Highsmith. Some Wodehouse characters would make me swoon, too. Maybe a newt-fancying Gussie Fink-Nottle?

See all of Uneek Doll Designs author dolls here, and characters here.

What author or character would you like to see in doll form? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nic Cage Inadvertently Teaches Biology to Serbs

Bizarre book covers are part of the book biz, as anyone who’s done time working in a used book store can tell you. That’s why I was amused, but certainly not surprised, to see this oddity that popped up on Twitter recently.

Nic Cage on the cover of a Serbian Biology textbook. To quote his character in Raising Arizona: " ain't Ozzie and Harriet." (Photo via Belgraded)

That’s no Photoshop gag --It’s the cover of a 1998 Biology textbook from Serbia, inexplicably emblazoned with Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter and their stolen baby from Raising Arizona.

How a pair of movie kidnappers ended up on the cover of a Serbian Biology book is up for debate, but Viktor Markovic from Belgraded (a website about Belgrade, Serbia and the Balkans) says the book’s designer told him it was “an honest mistake.”

This isn’t the first time Nicolas Cage has unexpectedly turned up on a book cover, though, as anyone who putters around on the Net reading both goofy celeb news and bookish things can tell you.

Cage as a military pyromaniac in 1814. (Photo via Buzzfeed.)

The actor --or his doppelganger, anyway,  also appears on the cover of this history book for young folks, The Story of the Burning of Washington.

This is one happy Redcoat. The Burning of Washington looks like a blast.

Maybe Cage can surpass Isaac Asimov, who (sort of) published in every category of the Dewey Decimal System, by being the first person to have his face emblazoned on a book for every category. He can certainly cross the 500s and the 900s off the list. 

Seen any weird book covers lately? Better yet, seen Nic Cage anywhere strange lately?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: The City, Not Long After

After a virus decimates the United States, San Francisco becomes a haven for artistic misfits.

Read enough post-apocalyptic fiction, and you’ll start to tire of the tropes. Some of them will even make your memories of plots start to blend together: the lone walkers of the highways, the department store foraging, roadside bandits, the almost-cozy beginnings of new, hopeful communities.

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy (1989, reprinted 2006) relies on a few of the expected post-apocalyptic themes, but with some notable --and refreshing-- differences.

The most compelling of those differences is the way the city itself is an art project. The ragtag folks who find themselves still breathing in San Francisco when everyone else is gone aren’t nearly as concerned with commerce or organizing a government as some neighboring cities’ survivors are.

The tattoo artists, graffiti painters, robotics designers and other artists, mechanics and general tinkerers join forces for projects like painting the Golden Gate Bridge blue. Solo projects are all over the city, too.

A glittering suncatcher made of  jewelry store diamond necklaces hangs in a window. A church is filled with plants and flowers that sprout from the baptismal font and cover the altar. Plans are made to string wires from the top of a building to the ground, so the wind can play them like an instrument.

Not all of the projects are aesthetic. Just like in the real world of art, some of them are bizarre head-scratchers: polished human skulls juxtaposed with random objects, hundreds of pairs of shoes climbing a staircase, sculptures made of doll heads or museum animal bones.

Among these altered parts of the city rabbits scamper, as do whole gangs of roving monkeys, while buffalo graze in yards and parks. Mechanical creations that seem like metal spiders clank through the streets. Others seem to fly of their own will.

The mechanical creatures are the inventions, and the children, in a way, of a young man who calls himself The Machine, or T.M. for short. His backstory is one of the most touching, and could be a short story in its own right.

After his parents die of the virus, T.M., who is still a boy, doesn’t understand why he is still alive when everyone else around him has died. Considering the fact that his father was a robotics engineer, he comes to the sad and childlike conclusion that he himself must be a machine.

The wild card in the mix is Jax, who doesn’t quite fit in with the artists and inventors, or with anyone. She arrives in San Francisco to find out more about her mother, who had fled the city to raise Jax in the solitude of the country. Jax isn’t exactly an artist, but she’s a bit of a blank canvas, starting a new life that the city will quickly influence.

The bohemian life the group leads in San Francisco is endangered by a military group from Sacramento, who want to revive the United States and feel threatened by the laissez-faire attitudes and disorganization of the artists. Outsiders see them as sinners (another post-apocalyptic trope you might know well.)

It’s clear from the get-go that some sort of confrontation will happen, but it’s the way the battle is waged that is unlike any other post-apocalyptic turf war in fiction. (I won’t give away the main plot points, but balloons filled with jasmine perfume make an appearance as weaponry.)

While there are plenty of novel ideas in The City, Not Long After, the ending is not near as satisfying. In fact, the whole last quarter of the book seems rushed. A gorgeous opportunity for The Machine to realize his humanity is missed completely, and the ubiquitous post-apocalyptic battle between the good guys and the bad guys ultimately settles into cliche.

Murphy’s prose is vivid and often stunningly visual, but occasionally lapses into the florid (“At night the fog embraced the city like a lover.”) Jax’s character can be annoyingly inconsistent, browsing alone among stalls and unknown people at a busy marketplace, but cowering and afraid of strangers once she gets to the city.

For fans of post-collapse fiction, this is a nice one to shake up your reading a bit. It’s no Parable of the Sower or Mara and Dann (to cite some of the most brilliant examples), but its unique city imagery will stick with you a while. 

Do you have a favorite post-apocalyptic novel? Does it follow the conventions of the genre or break them?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Secret Lives of Fortune Cookie Writers

All about the first professional fortune cookie writer, why a lottery scam investigation led to a fortune cookie, and the banned “dreadful day” fortune.

There are varying opinions about who invented the fortune cookie as we know it, though everyone seems to agree that it happened in America. (There is a somewhat similar cookie in Japan --not China-- that is older.) My favored contender is David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in L.A., for the biased reason that Jung seems to have hired the first fortune cookie writer.

His idea for fortune cookies stemmed from his desire to give impatient guests something to do while waiting for their food, so he served them as an appetizer of sorts (which explains their lack of sweetness), with the fortunes serving as both an activity and a conversation starter.

Jung’s first fortune cookie writer was a Presbyterian minister, who wrote condensed versions of Bible verses. He was later approached by Russell Raine, who was selling printing services. Jung told him that he would agree to use his printing if he could also provide the fortunes.

Old-school fortune cookies (called "Tea cakes") from the original Hong Kong Noodle Company.

Raine agreed, remembering that his wife had done some work writing lines for greeting cards. Marie Raines then became the woman that Robert Hendrickson in The Literary Life calls “The Shakespeare of fortune cookies,” crafting thousands of lines in a career that spanned decades.

In a 1970 newspaper interview, Raines said she jotted down ideas as she thought of them, “presumably while doing housework” speculated the somewhat sexist reporter. Many of the fortunes she penned reflect a certain domesticity, though, such as “Orderliness is the quality you most need” and “Are you taking your loved ones too much for granted?”

More recently, the New York Times interviewed David Lau, veep of Wonton Foods, Inc. in New York.  Lau performs the tasks you’d normally associate with being the vice-president of a large manufacturing company, but with one unusual addition: he also writes cookie fortunes.

A lottery investigation led to one of Lau’s creations in March 2005, when 110 people came forward with the same sequence of winning numbers for a 100,000 prize. The reason turned out to be the lucky numbers on one of Wonton Foods’ fortune cookies. The sequence “22-28-32-33-39-40” was backed with Lau’s fortune: “All the preparation you’ve done will finally be paying off.”

“We’ve had winners before, but never this many,” said Lau, who admitted that it’s a computer and not himself who picks the numbers. The fortunes, though, are pure Lau. He writes 3 or 4 fortunes a day, influenced by everything from ancient Chinese wisdom (“True gold fears no fire”) to smells on the subway (“Beware of odors from unfamiliar sources.”)

A few years after the interview with Lau, Wonton Foods’ marketing director Bernard Chow had to do a little damage control due to a negative fortune that ended up being pulled from circulation.  "Today is a disastrous day,” read the fortune. “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.”

There’s no word on whether or not Mr. Lau wrote that one in particular, but Chow said that Wonton has over 10,000 fortunes in its catalogue. After several bloggers and other customers complained --including one who received the “disastrous day” fortune cookie at her engagement party-- the “disastrous day” fortune was retired.

While the unfortunate fortune cookie was an oversight, some modern cookies contain mean fortunes on purpose. Think Geek now sells Cookie Misfortune Evil Fortune Cookies, which contain phrases such as “You will die alone and poorly dressed.” Made to resemble traditional fortune cookies, the opportunities for pranks abound.

Evil fortune from Think Geek.

With more and more Chinese restaurants popping up every year, fortune cookie writing could prove to be a profitable, yet largely untapped, freelance market. If you find Twitter too wordy, hone your aphorisms down to about ten words or less and --who knows? You could be the next Marie Raines.

Try your hand at fortune cookie writing. Leave your own clever prediction in ten words or less.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forget the Edgars: Which mystery author will win a morgue?

There’s a veritable slew of awards for crime writers of excellence, from the Edgars and the Agathas to the Neros and the Hammetts.

But the latest prize to be offered to a notable mystery writer will require a little more space than a bookshelf or trophy case will allow: It’s a new morgue. (Note: You have to imagine this in Bob Barkers’s voice, i.e. “It’s a newwwwww morgue!”)

Dundee University has come up with a revolutionary way to raise funds for the new addition to its Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification. Ten crime writers are competing in the Million for a Morgue competition for the chance to have the morgue named for them, with fans contributing a pound (or more) to vote.

The mystery mavens competing for the eponym are: Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver, Jeff Lindsay, Stuart MacBride, Peter James and Val McDermid.

Tess Gerritsen is in the lead as of this writing, so fans of Val McDermid’s likeable weirdo Tony Hill or Jeffrey Deaver’s quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme should think about coughing up some coin.

The method of fundraising isn’t the only revolutionary thing about the project. The BBC reports that the newly built morgue “will adopt a "revolutionary" way of embalming - called the Thiel method - which keeps bodies flexible for longer.”

Which mystery writer are you pulling for? Or what would you like to see named for your favorite writer? (My answers are a. McDermid, and b. Martin Amis BBQ sauce, for no reason other than a larf.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Get $500 Worth of Chronicle Books Without Spending a Dime

I’m not the hugest fan of blog giveaways. They frequently seem to require that the reader jump through several blazing hoops, register for this and that, spam their Facebook friends, and all for an advance copy of a tepid-looking paperback that will be on the 2/$1.00 table at the used book store faster than you can say “Nicholas Sparks.”

That’s why this one made me sit up and take notice.

Chronicle Books is running the 2011 Happy Haul-idays Giveaway, with one lucky blogger winning $500 worth of books from the publisher’s impressive collection. Don’t have a blog? All you have to do is comment. That’s it. The winning blog, chosen at random by Chronicle books, will get to award one commenter the same haul of books.

To top it off, the winning blog will also get to award $500 worth of books to a charity, with the charity choosing their own books from the Chronicle catalog. (I’m choosing Prospect Elementary School in Tennessee. The librarian there frequently buys books at the used bookstore where I work to supplement a library with extreme need. She says their shelves are about 90% empty.)

All I have to do is list the books I would spend $500 on, and I’m a fan of book lists. (See the sidebar to the right for some of my most popular lists.)

These are the books I would choose if I win, and I’ve chosen them as a book lover. I have access to plenty of fiction and paperbacks, so the ones I’m drawn to are flat-out lovely books that speak to my interests and would be harder to find or out of my budget.

If you like them too, leave a comment, and if I win, you have a chance to win all the books I’ve chosen.

Bird's Eye Views by John W. Reps and Atlas of Rare City Maps by Melville C. Branch
What is it about old maps? It may be that book collectors are just drawn to anything beautiful on old paper. Or maybe, for me, it's tied in with my love for this Etsy craftsman, who does gorgeously irreverent things with vintage maps. Almost 200 maps total with these two volumes. ($70 each)

Once Upon a Time by Amy Weinstein

Old nursery rhymes and fairy tales represent some of the most compelling forms of nostalgia in existence. (And some of the most gruesome. See some of the most disturbing here.) This big, fat book is full of them, plus 325 Victorian illustrations --some with moving parts. ($65)

Ghostly Ruins by Harry Skrdla

Ruined buildings have an innate beauty as well as a sadness. Some of the most compelling examples are gathered here in 250 photographs, juxtaposing amusement parks, homes and more in their heyday with photos of them in decay. ($30)

Art Deco Bookbindings  by Yves Peyre and H. George Fletcher

What's almost as good as owning lots of beautiful books? Pictures of beautiful books. This book features the work of The Work of Pierre Legrain and Rose Adler, whose Art Deco bindings in exotic materials bound custom editions of works by Colette, Paul Verlaine, Andre Gide and others. ($35)

The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium by Bernd Brunner

The Victorians, with their mania for collecting natural history, popularized the aquarium, and this hardcover book documents the obsession --from ornate versions for the home to the first public aquaria. ($25)

Bunker Archaeology by Paul Virilio and Extreme Architecture by Ruth Slavid

Both of these architecture books tie in to my interest in things post-apocalyptic. The first, a collection of photos of abandoned German bunkers in France, takes a look at war and destruction. The second is more hopeful, showing how humans can survive well in the most challenging landscapes (deserts, underwater, outer space). ($40 each)

Fifty Nests and the Birds That Built Them by Sharon Beals

This title makes me squeal with delight. I love the randomness combined with design that comes together in the making of a nest. How great is it that the artists (the birds) are featured along with their own works? ($30)

The Book As Art: Artists' Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts by Krystyna Wasserman with essays by Johanna Drucker and Audrey Niffenegger

Collected from more than 800 books in the museum's collection, this heavily-illustrated book focuses on 100 of the most unique handmade book specimens, many of them multi-media, by an array of visual artists. ($35)

Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities by John M. Carrera

Culled from old dictionaries, more than 1,500 Victorian engravings are contained in this book's pages. That's the equivalent of a whole pile of Dover clip art books. "From Acorns to Zebras, Bell Jars to Velocipedes" says Chronicle. ($35)

Cartes Postales

I don't think it's cheating to include a book that's essentially blank, especially when it's this pretty, and it gives you a place to stash your post cards, therein creating an heirloom unique to you. ($19)

Chronicle Books Tote Bag designed by Julia Rothman

Because we have $3 left to spend, and you have to carry your books in something.

Like these books? Any in particular? Each commenter is eligible to win them too, if Chronicle Books picks me.  Every book!  Quite a haul.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 15 Most Disturbing Nursery Rhymes You've Never Heard

Nursery rhymes aren’t all pudding and pie. Look closely and you’ll start to notice the starving dogs, nose-severing blackbirds, women held captive in pumpkin shells, and tails lopped off with carving knives. Those horrific images are just the remnants, though. 

Mother Goose rhymes have been fairly sanitized over the years, and earlier versions were chock-full of atrocities. The farther back one looks, the more gruesome the rhymes become. Some even believe that the seemingly harmless “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo” counting rhymes derive from ancient methods of choosing human sacrifices (though the source material is sketchy.)

Domestic violence is one of the more common themes in old nursery rhymes, with wives and daughters bearing the brunt of the abuse, ranging from beating with a stick to flat-out murder. The early Victorians no doubt thought these rhymes were instructive to their daughters, who would learn to be obedient, dutiful wives.

Women weren’t the only ones to suffer in verse. Plenty of men are burnt, hacked or otherwise disposed of, as are children of any gender and a bevy of pets and wildlife.

Nursery rhyme reform was the rallying cause of a few upstanding gentlemen of the 1950s, including Geoffrey Handley-Taylor, who surveyed 200 popular rhymes and listed in detail what sorts of unsavoriness they contained (much as parents groups today decry animated films or video game content).

Handley-Taylor’s list of unsavory elements in the rhymes he read is a whole page long, and includes these bothersome incidents:

  • 8 allusions to murder (unclassified)
  • 2 cases of choking to death
  • 1 case of cutting a person in half
  • 1 case of death by devouring
  • 15 allusions to maimed human beings or animals
  • 23 cases of physical violence (unclassified)
Full list here

Here are 15 examples of nursery rhymes that don’t make the cut in childrens books today. Keep them handy if you have any children you need to keep awake.

There was a Man so Wise,
He jumpt into
A Bramble Bush,
And scratcht out both his Eyes.
And when he saw
His Eyes were out,
And reason to Complain,
He jumpt into a Quickset Hedge,
And scratcht them in again.

Originally from Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, 1744

Old father Long-Legs
Can’t say his prayers:
Take him by the left leg,
And throw him down the stairs.
And when he’s at the bottom,
Before he long has lain,
Take him by the right leg,
And throw him up again.

Originally from Nancy Cock’s Pretty Song Book for all little Misses and Masters, 1780

There was an old woman,
Her name it was Peg;
Her head was of wood and
She wore a cork leg.
The neighbours all pitch’d
Her into the water,
Her leg was drowned first,
And her head followed after.

From James Halliwell Phillips Nursery Rhymes, 1842 

THERE was a lady all skin and bone;
Sure such a lady was never known :
It happen'd upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.

When she came to the church stile,
There she did rest a little while ;
When she came to the churchyard,
There the bells so loud she heard. 

When she came to the church door,
She stopt to rest a little more ;
When she came the church within,

The parson pray'd 'gainst pride and sin.

On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground ;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawl'd out, the worms crawl'd in.

Then she unto the parson said,
Shall I be so when I am dead :
O yes ! O yes, the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.

Here the lady screams.*

*The person reciting the rhyme is meant to scream bloody murder at the end of the verse.

Originally from Gammer Gurton’s Garland, 1784 (Full text online)


There was a man, he went mad,
He jumped into a paper bag;

The paper bag was too narrow,
He jumped into a wheelbarrow;

The wheelbarrow took on fire,
He jumped into a cow byre;

The cow byre was too nasty;
He jumped into an apple pasty;

The apple pasty was too sweet,
He jumped into Chester-le-Street;

Chester-le-Street was full of stones,
He fell down and broke his bones.

From an early Mother Goose


I charge my daughters every one
To keep good house while I am gone,
You and you and especially you,
Or else I'll beat you black and blue.

From an early Mother Goose


Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

From an early Mother Goose

Die, pussy, die,
Shut your little eye:
When you wake,
Find a cake,
Die, pussy, die.

From an early Mother Goose (Actually less threatening than it sounds, this is a rhyme to be recited while stopping a swing.)


Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say.
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.

Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on't,
Every day on naughty people.

Baby, baby, if he hears you
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.

And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he'll beat you into pap,
And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Every morsel snap, snap, snap.

From an early Mother Goose lullaby


Here come I,
  Little David Doubt;
If you don't give me money,
 I'll sweep you all out.

Money I want,
  And money I crave;
If you don't give me money,
  I'll sweep you all to the grave!

From an early Mother Goose’s Almanack


John Ball shot them all;
John Scott made the shot,
But John Ball shot them all.

From James Halliwell Phillips Nursery Rhymes, 1842 (Full text of the poem, which continues on in "The House That Jack Built" style)


Little General Monk
Sat upon a trunk
Eating a crust of bread;
There fell a hot coal
And burnt into his clothes a hole,
Now little General Monk is dead.
Keep always from the fire,
If it catch your attire
You too, like General Monk, will be dead.

From Rhymes for the Nursery, 1824


I married a wife on Sunday,
She began to scold on Monday,
Bad was she on Tuesday,
Middling was she on Wednesday,
Worse she was on Thursday,
Dead was she on Friday,
Glad was I on Saturday night,
To bury my wife on Sunday.

From Tom Tit’s Song Book, 1790


 A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds

And when the weeds begin to grow
It's like a garden full of snow

And when the snow begins to fall
It's like a bird upon the wall

And when the bird away does fly
It's like an eagle in the sky

And when the sky begins to roar
It's like a lion at the door

And when the door begins to crack
It's like a stick across your back

And when your back begins to smart
It's like a penknife in your heart

And when your heart begins to bleed
You're dead, and dead, and dead indeed.

Originally from Gammer Gurton’s Garland, 1784


A  long tail’d pig, or a short tail’d  pig,
Or a pig without any tail,
A sow-pig, or a boar-pig,
Or a pig with a curling  tail.

Take hold of his tail,
And eat off his head,
And then you will be sure
The pig-hog is dead.

Originally the street cry of the pig-pie man, reproduced in several early nursery rhyme books.


What's the grimmest nursery rhyme or story you recall? Give me your creepiest verse in the comments section.