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In Search of

The Real Mad Hatter

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Placed: 1-3-05
Placed By: WWW (Formerly known as Chuck and Molly)
Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, Tolland County

Clues Revised 5-17-05

Round trip walk is under .75 of a mile

The directions to this letterbox were written to encourage the use of a compass. Trail names, right or left, and landmarks are intentionally not listed in the clues. Use a compass.

From the intersection of Rt. 195 and Rt. 89 in Mansfield Center, proceed North towards UConn. Take the second road that runs west. This road actually runs NW. There is parking on the northern side of this road right at the corner, park here. Walk towards the stop sign. Fifteen feet before the stop sign is the trail you take. Walk this trail until it comes to a T. At the T follow the trail at 160 degrees. You will come to a T again. Follow the trail at 240 degrees. When you come to an intersection with another trail, stop and follow the trail that goes off at 170 degrees. Walk until you come to another intersection. Take the trail that goes off at 290 degrees. When this trail is about to cross a stone wall, stop. Follow the stone wall off trail at 10 degrees. You will come to a stone wall that joins the one you are following, forming a T. From this intersection, take a reading of 200 degrees and walk in that direction 16 feet. Look on the East side of the stone wall and find a black rubber flap. Lift the flap to reveal a cavern. Inside the miniature cave is what you sought. After stamping in, go back the way you came.

In Search of the Real Mad Hatter

Most people think of the Mad Hatter as one of the crazy characters in the famous children’s book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865 by Lewis Carroll. Actually the character of the Mad Hatter was based on the term "mad as a hatter". This term seems to have been in use at least since the mid 1830s.

In the phrase, the word mad has been known to have been used two different ways. In some cases mad was used as anger or extremely annoyed. In other cases such as the mad hatter of Alice in Wonderland fame, mad was to mean crazy or eccentric.

Why were hat makers, known as hatters, described as mad? Animal fur was used by the hatters to make the hats of their day. Top hats were particularly popular. Beaver fur was the best and easiest fur to work with but it was becoming scarce and costly. Other furs such as rabbit had to be used to supply the demand for affordable hats. To turn the cheaper furs into useable material, an early step was to have the furs brushed with a solution of a mercury compound. The mercury brushed fur then had to be handled and worked with much more before it became a finished hat. Working in the poorly ventilated workshops, the hatters would breath in the mercury compounds.

Unknown at that time, mercury is a poison that will accumulate in the body. The effects of mercury on the body include kidney and brain damage. The symptoms include trembling, slurred and confused speech, irritability, memory loss, distorted vision, anxiety, and depression. Advanced cases would have hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. The trembling was known at the time as the hatters shakes and the symptoms of mercury poisoning is sometimes known even today as mad hatters syndrome. The prolonged use of mercury nitrate had made the hatters mad. The original mad hatter was actually a victim of an early occupational disease. Find out more about the term Mad as a Hatter at the following websites.

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