Agloe, the Paper Town Stronger than Fiction

Fiction becomes reality.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Especially if that truth is caused by fiction. Consider the strange case of Agloe, a place name that started appearing on maps of New York State in the 1930s.

An insignificant little fleck, Agloe was shown somewhere in the Catskills, at the junction of an unnamed country road with NY 206, just about where that state route crosses Beaver Kill. Both the stream and the route are tributaries of larger arteries: just to the south in Roscoe, they meet the Willowemoc Creek and New York State Route 17, respectively.

But Agloe was fake – a deliberate fake. The toponym was scrambled from the initials of Otto G. Lindberg, the director of the General Drafting Company, and his assistant Ernest Alpers. The mapmaking company was putting together a road map of New York State, and wanted to make sure that all its hard work wouldn’t just be copied over by its competitors.

Sex and Drugs and Border Changes

A 21st century tale.


A combination of sex and drugs (and possibly rock ‘n roll) is forcing two governments to change the border that divides them. The Presqu’ile de l’Islal, a small Belgian peninsula stranded on the Dutch bank of the river Meuse, is to change hands to eliminate a zone that is, to all practical effects, quite literally beyond the law.

Because of its political status, the uninhabited peninsula is off limits for Dutch police. And because of its geographic isolation, it is out of reach for their Belgian colleagues. These circumstances conspire to make the peninsula a sanctuary for unlicensed sunbathing, loud bacchanalia and unrestricted drug dealing. All of which might frighten the wild horses that are the only permanent residents of the wider area – officially a nature reserve, on both sides of the border.


Said Egbert Hanssen, spokesperson for the Dutch province of Limburg:

“The nature reserve on the peninsula has become a meeting area for the gay community, who use the area for nudism and occasionally exhibit inappropriate behaviour. They have parties in the area, and leave a lot of refuse in the reservation. But the Dutch police can’t do anything about this, as the area is still officially Belgian. Inversely, the Belgian police can’t really effectively control the area, as it has to make a giant detour to get there”.

Mr. Rompelberg, the local tenant farmer, has had his fence destroyed more times than he cares to count. Each complaint to the Visé police goes unheeded: the only way they could make it over in time to catch the culprits would be by river speedboat. Which they lack.


If the federal parliament in Brussels votes yes, it will violate the spirit and the letter of at least one version of the Brabançonne, the country’s national anthem:

“Never shall we cede even the smallest plot of land / If but one Belgian, be he Fleming or Walloon, remains alive.”

Except, it seems, if that plot of land is used for sex parties and drug dealing – a possibility probably overlooked by the anthem’s composers.

All this, over nudists / public-fornicators, junkies, and litterbugs.