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Charles Howard (Hermit of Okefenokee Swamp)

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Charles Howard, the Hermit of Okefenokee Swamp, was the subject of a short obituary that was circulated in various newspapers across the United States, focusing on claims that Howard had "toiled on the problem of perpetual motion," building a machine that used living rats to power a spinning wheel.

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Press Coverage

For eighty-two years Charles Howard was the mystery of Okefenokee swamp, and his death a few days ago recalled to mind some stories of his life. The old man was a hermit, living all alone in a small and dilapidated log hut in the swamp. His eccentricities were many, though he did not annoy people. The old man was a pauper, dependent on the county for support during the past thirty years. In his secluded life he toiled on with the problem of perpetual motion, employing an old spinning wheel as a machine, with two large rats as power. The rats were so fastened on the rim of the wheel that they could not get away, and kept the wheel revolving rapidly night and day. Once the wheel got in motion, the rats kept running on the rim till they expired from sheer exhaustion. So intent was the old hermit on solving the problem that he hardly ever took his eyes off the wheel, excepting, of course, in his slumber. The life of the rats did not exceed a week after he put them to work on the wheel. When one team of rats expired, another team was put in harness. The old man would hunt rats in such ruins as he found in the vicinity of the swamp, and it is estimated that his perpetual motion wheel consumed over a hundred rats per year. When asked why he attempted perpetual motion the old hermit replied: “I hain’t a losin’ er gainin’ up nuthin’ by passin’ off the time wi’ my wheel an’ rats, an’ if I hit on perpetyul motion yit hit hain’t ner wuss’n a lot er yer edicated folks is done in ther way an’ failed. Hit’s mighty purty a seein’ uf my rats er chasin’ one anuther on my spinnin’ wheel, an’ I thinks as how I’ll git away to feed ’em atter awhile so as ter keep ’em a runnin’ durin’ the’r nacherl lives. Then I’d be nearer perpetyul motion than some people whut knows mo’n I do is. An’ hit hain’t cost enything yit sperimentin” as the rats can’t eat an’ run at the same time. I thinks I’ll git things a workin’ fer perpetyul motion atter I gits away to feed the rats while they is a runnin’. An’ if I do, I’ll jus’ rake in a million dollars as easy as failin’ off a log.”