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Futility Closet

Jan 11, 2021

In 1977, West German tourist Erwin Kreuz spent three days enjoying the sights, sounds, and hospitality of Bangor, Maine. Unfortunately, he thought he was in San Francisco, on the other side of the continent. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Kreuz's unlikely adventure, which made him a local hero in his adopted city.

We'll also consider an invisible killer and puzzle over a momentous measurement.


In 1712, Sweden observed a February 30.

In 1898, J.W. Dunne dreamed correctly that his watch had stopped.

Sources for our feature on Erwin Kreuz:

Geoffrey Wolff, The Edge of Maine, 2011.

William Langewiesche, "Reporting Points," Flying Magazine 102:1 (January 1978), 29-32.

Joseph Owen, "On This Date in Maine History: Oct. 20," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Oct. 20, 2020.

Emily Burnham, "The Story of How a German Tourist Ended Up Mistaking Bangor for San Francisco," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 17, 2020.

Kent Ward, "A Feel-Good Story From the Archives," Bangor Daily News, Dec. 4, 2009.

Sara Kehaulani Goo, "Bangor Is Used to Surprise Landings," Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2004.

Joshua Weinstein, "Bangor International Familiar With Hosting Unexpected Guests," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Sept. 23, 2004.

Tom Weber, "Mall Man," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 18, 1997.

John S. Day, "City of Bangor Urged to Hold Fire on I-Man," Bangor Daily News, July 26, 1997.

Kim Strosnider, "An Accidental Tourist Put Bangor on Map," Portland [Me.] Press Herald, July 7, 1996.

Richard Haitch, "Follow-Up on the News: California in Maine," New York Times, July 15, 1984.

Ed Lion, "A Look Back at the Saga of Erwin Kreuz," United Press International, July 8, 1984.

"New England News Briefs; Payments Never Late From W. Germany," Boston Globe, July 4, 1984.

"Wrong-Way German Tourist Still Paying Maine Taxes," United Press International, July 3, 1984.

Maureen Williams, "Future in Bangor Pales, Erwin Kreuz Returns to Germany," Bangor Daily News, March 16, 1979.

"Superstar Attractions to Highlight Bangor Mall's Supergrand Opening," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 4, 1978.

"Instant Celebrity to Revisit Bangor," Associated Press, Sept. 18, 1978.

"German Tourist Misses Maine," United Press International, Sept. 15, 1978.

"Bangor, Me., Family in Temporary Limelight," New York Times, Feb. 18, 1978.

Jeanne Bolstridge, "Not Political," Bangor Daily News, Nov. 15, 1977.

"So riesig," Der Spiegel, Nov. 7, 1977.

"Lives It Up Wild West Frisco Style," The [Fairfield County, Conn.] Hour, Nov. 1, 1977.

"It's Wong for Kreuz in Frisco," Miami Herald, Nov. 1, 1977.

"Ja, Erwin Kreuz ist ein 'Bangor,'" Minneapolis Star, Nov. 1, 1977.

"People," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 1, 1977.

"Wrong-Way Tourist's Weekend Fit for King," United Press International, Oct. 31, 1977.

"In San Francisco: Lost German Partial to Maine," Quad-City [Iowa] Times, Oct. 30, 1977.

Ted Sylvester, "Andre Tries to Kiss Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Famed Figures," [Pittsfield, Mass.] Berkshire Eagle, Oct. 28, 1977.

"San Francisco Paper Lays Red Carpet for Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Erwin Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

David Platt, "Column One," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

"Land for Erwin Kreuz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 27, 1977.

"That'd Be a Long Taxi Ride," Kingsport [Tenn.] Daily News, Oct. 26, 1977.

"German Tourist Ready to Stay in Maine," Associated Press, Oct. 26, 1977.

"3,000-Mile Error Ends With a Pleasant Visit," United Press International, Oct. 25, 1977.

"Airline Puts Out Call for Errant Passenger," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

"A Big Mac Blitz," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

Nancy Remsen, "Golden Gate-Bound German Visits Bangor by Mistake," Bangor Daily News, Oct. 20, 1977.

(Five unheadlined Associated Press wire reports, dated Oct. 29, 1977; Oct. 31, 1977; Sept. 25, 1978; Oct. 4, 1978; and March 19, 1979.)

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, "Lake Nyos Disaster" (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Wikipedia, "Limnic Eruption" (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Kevin Krajick, "Defusing Africa's Killer Lakes,", September 2003.

"Falklands Cleared of Landmines Following 1982 Conflict,", Nov. 10, 2020.

Matthew Teller, "The Falklands Penguins That Would Not Explode," BBC News, May 6, 2017.

"Japanese Town Deploys Monster Wolf Robots to Deter Bears," Reuters, Nov. 11, 2020.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Nick Claus. Here are three corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle).

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!