Weird Universe Blog — September 26, 2016

Operation Sleep

In 1957, the Woodlake road camp prison in California began an experiment in convict rehabilitation. It was called "Operation Sleep." The idea was to use sleep learning to reform convicts. As the prisoners slept, they heard the soothing voice of a psychiatrist speaking the following script:

Listen, my inner self, remember and obey this creed of life: Live relaxed, completely and utterly relaxed... Love, rule my life. Love God, my family, and others... Have faith... work with others... Face life without fear, be calm, unafraid... Know myself and my faults... live without alcohol... Alcohol is a poison. I do not need alcohol. Abstain with ease. Alcohol is repulsive to me...

I am truly happy. I give my life to my family, to my friends, and to the world. I am filled with love and compassion for all, so help me God.

The script had been written by the County's Public Defender, John Locke, with help from a local Presbyterian minister, Rev. Glen Peters, and a hospital therapist, Robert C. Lally. They described Operation Sleep as "a type of brain-washing — but not the type used by the totalitarians."

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any data on whether the experiment actually had an effect of criminal behavior. The superintendent of the prison noted, "We have had excellent cooperation from the inmates. But of course, it is too early yet to tell what effect it will have. We won't know until after the men have been released and face the temptations of freedom again."

The picture at the top is from Newsweek (Dec 30, 1957), and shows one of the prisoners who participated in the experiment. The fact that he's sleeping with a dog seems a little strange. I guess the inmates got to keep pets in this prison.

Wilmington Morning News - Oct 11, 1957

Update: I found a news story from 1961 offering a 3-year update on Operation Sleep. I'm actually surprised that the prison kept the experiment going for that long. Public defender John Locke claimed that the experiment had been showing positive results, but said they needed to keep it going for another 3 years to be sure. From the Ottawa Citizen - Feb 21, 1961:

For three years now the sleep therapy program has been in operation. Locke and his associates are careful to admit that it will be at least three years more before anything conclusive can be deduced from the careful check they keep on prisoners after their release.

Almost from the beginning though, the guards at the road camps noticed that the young inmates did not cause the same amount of trouble they had created formerly and were surprised when prisoners started coming to them for counsel.

What is probably most indicative of the therapy's effect is the decrease in alcoholism revealed by surveys among ex-prisoners.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 26, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Prisons, Sleep and Dreams, 1950's

Follies of the Madmen #293


Death-dealing war instrument of mass destruction compared to treasured hymn.

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Sep 26, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Death, War, Armed Forces, Weapons, Advertising, 1970's

September 25, 2016

News of the Weird (September 25, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M494, September 25, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Police and prosecutors in Dallas, Tex., appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book-sales booths near the "grassy knoll" (site of the alleged "second shooter" of the President)--and yet he prevails in court every single time (82 straight, and counting). (Tip for visitors, from the Observer: Never publicly utter "grassy knoll" in Dallas, as it seems particularly to offend the police.) [Dallas Observer, 9-8-2016]

The Continuing Crisis

Stephen Mader, 25, native of Weirton, W.Va., and former Weirton police officer, is fighting to get his job back after being fired as not quick enough on the trigger. When Ronald Williams, Jr., in May, made a ham-handed attempt at "suicide by cop," it was Mader who, rather than shooting, tried to talk Williams down (based on his Marine Corps. and police academy training), but when Williams pointed his unloaded gun at two of Mader's colleagues, and one of them quickly shot the man to death, police officials fired Mader for having been insufficiently aggressive. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9-11-2016]

Can't Possibly Be True: Few U.S. forces in Afghanistan speak the native Pashto or Dari, and the war prospects would be dim were it not for courageous Afghan civilians who aid the U.S. as interpreters under promise of protection and future emigration to the U.S. However, the Congressional battle over immigration policy has delayed entry for about 10,000 interpreters, who (along with their families) face imminent death if they remain in Afghanistan. Some in Congress also regard Afghans as riskier immigrants (despite the interpreters' demonstrated loyalty). [New York Times, 8-18-2016]

Suspicions Confirmed

Master baker Stefan Fischer filed a lawsuit recently against Bakery of New York for wrongful firing--because he refused to use "bug-infested" flour to make batches of bread. According to Fischer, when he informed management of the bugs in the facility's 3,000-pound flour silo, he was told simply to make "multi-grain" bread, which Fischer took to mean that fewer diners would complain if they heard "crunching" while eating multi-grain. [New York Daily News, 9-15-2016]

Leading Economic Indicators

News Corporation Australia reported in September the enviable success of a 16-year-old British entrepreneur, Ms. Beau Jessup, who has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple online app to help rich Chinese parents select prosperous-sounding English names for their babies. Users choose among 12 personality traits they hope their baby to have, then receive three suggestions (including a list of famous people with those names). Jessup got the idea when living in China and noticing that some babies of the rich were given lame names, such as "Gandolf" and "Cinderella." [ (Sydney), 9-9-2016]

Chinese Management Techniques: (1) About 200 employees at a travel service in Shandong Province were fined the equivalent of $6.50 each recently for failing to comply with orders to "comment" (favorably, one supposes) on the general manager's daily posts to the Twitter-like Internet site Sina Weibo. (2) In June, a motivational trainer working with employees of the Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank reportedly told the poor-performing bank personnel (among the 200 at the session) to "prepare to be beaten." He then walked among the workers, whacking some with a stick, shaving the heads of the males, and cutting the hair of the females. [Beijing Youth Daily via China Daily, 8-19-2016] [Reuters via The Guardian (London), 6-21-2016]

Weird Science

Trees talk to each other and recognize their offspring, according to Australian ecology researcher Suzanne Simard (most recently lecturing on the influential video series TED Talks). Trees are not independent organisms but belong to arboreal "families" with characteristics identifying them to other family members. According to Dr. Simard, "mother" trees that ordinarily expand their roots wildly may hold back to give nearby "kinfolk" tree roots a chance to spread. Using "isotope tracing," she learned of trees passing healthful carbon, via fungi, to neighboring family seedlings, which she said renders the seedlings more resistant to future stress. [Treehugger, 7-29-2016] [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-11-2016]

Can't Stop Myself

(1) The lifelong pickpocket known as "Auntie Sato," 83, who has spent nearly 30 years of her life behind bars, was sentenced again (two years, six months) in August for a purse-snatching from a traveler in Tokyo's Ueno Station. "Why," asked the judge, does Auntie Sato keep at it, especially since she also owns property and has rental income. Said she, "I thought about [stopping]," but "gave up." "It's hopeless." (2) Faisal Shaikh, awaiting his theft case to be called at the Thane sessions court in Mumbai, India, in August (one of several theft charges pending), wandered up to the court stenographer's desk and swiped her cell phone. He was apprehended shortly afterward near the courthouse. [Japan Today, 8-7-2016] [Mumbai Mirror, 9-1-2016]


By August, Raymond Mazzarella was fed up with the tree in his neighbor's yard in Pittston Township, Pa., as it was continuously dripping sap onto his car--and so grabbed a chainsaw, cut through the 36-inch-wide trunk, and (he thought) fixed the problem. However, the tree fell directly onto Mazzarella's small apartment house, dispossessing five tenants and, ultimately, forcing inspectors to condemn the entire building. [WNEP-TV (Scranton), 8-22-2016]

Recurring Themes

Popular Fetishes: (1) A middle-aged man was reported in three incidents in the Aberdeen, Scotland, area in August and September to be approaching women and asking for piggyback rides. He was still at large. (2) In September, England's Derby Crown Court sentenced Sanjeev Sandhu, 29, to six months in jail because of the "extreme" pornography on his phone. One image was of children having sex, but the judge also noted images featuring humans having sex with dogs, a donkey, a bull, and in another case, a fish. [Evening Express (Aberdeen), 9-5-2016] [Derby Telegraph, 9-3-2016]

How to Tell If You're Drunk

Dave Little, 27, vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, Spain--and partying hard, apparently--was at press time still haggling with eBay, trying to get out of his "successful" auction bid (blamed on a fingering misadventure on his phone) of 28,500 British pounds (about $37,000) for a Scania Irizar Century bus. eBay, of course, warns that bids are legally binding. Little believes that his dad had earlier searched bus information on the phone and that alcohol then affected his own navigation between screens. [Metro News (London) 8-25-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) A utility line in Hood County, Tex., broke in August, five feet below ground on Andrea Adams's property, but Acton Municipal District worker Jimmie Cox, 23, came to the rescue--which involved Cox briefly submerging himself in the mud, face down to his waist, to clamp the line. He said, later, "In this line of work, [we] do it a lot." (Photo!) (2) On September 9th, a man (who said later he somehow could not stop his car) drove off of a nine-story downtown parking garage in Austin, Tex. The SUV hung upside down (caught only by the garage guide wire that wrapped around one wheel) until passers-by pulled him to safety. (Photo!) [WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), 8-25-2016] [KXAN-TV (Austin), 9-9-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (November 2012)

No Do-Overs: By 2009, James Washington believed he had gotten away with a 1995 murder, but then he had a heart attack, and on his deathbed, in a fit of remorse, told a guard in the jailhouse where he was being detained on an unrelated offense, “I have to get [this] off my conscience.” However, Washington miraculously recovered from the heart attack and tried to take back his confession, but prosecutors in Nashville, Tenn., used it to augment sparse evidence from 1995, and in October 2012 the now-healthier Washington was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 51 years in prison. [WSMV-TV (Nashville, Tenn.), 10-31-2012]

Thanks This Week to Gerald Sacks and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Sep 25, 2016 - Comments (2)

Horseback Dinner

Conspicuous Consumption - as it was done in 1903. In order to celebrate the completion of his $200,000 stable, C.K.G. Billings held a "horseback dinner" on March 28, 1903 for 33 of his pals from the Equestrian club. It took 24 workers three days to convert the second-floor banquet hall at Sherry's restaurant in New York into a faux rural barnyard and stable.

The guests ate while seated on their horses. The various courses were served on a table attached to the saddle. There was an individual waiter for each rider, and a groom stood at each horse's head to keep it calm and prevent a sudden start from spilling the food. More details from the NY Post-Dispatch (Mar 29, 1903) :

Each horses was equipped with a white, quilted satin saddle and bridle, martingale and shoulder-hangings in gold and white. Each guest was designated to his place by his name lettered in gold on the cantle of a saddle.

In the center of the horseshoe formed by the animals was a mound of green, surmounted by a mass of flowers. The grassy sides sloped off into a lawn, which spread to the horse's fore feet.

Beside each horse was a satin upholstered mounting box, from which the diner in the saddle was served. A board fastened athwart the pommel of the saddle served as a table, and that the steed might not curvette or prance or shy, and so spill gravy or salad, a liveried groom stood at each horse's head...

The equestrian guests entered fully into the spirit of the affair and soon the first banquet in the saddle was in full swing. And while the guests ate, so did the horses. While the courses were being served from the mounting blocks to dishes which were secured in holders on the saddle tables the horses munched oats from individual silk-covered mangers.

Twelve courses were served, then the tables were removed from the pommels and the guests lounged over their cigars in the padded saddles. Speeches followed, mostly laudatory of Mr. Billings.

It cost Billings around $1.3 million (in modern money) to host the event.

The Town Talk - Mar 27, 1903

Reference: Museum of the City of New York

Posted By: Alex - Sun Sep 25, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Dinners, Banquets, Parties, Tributes, Roasts and Other Celebrations, 1900's

The Gods Were Angry With Me

Man's carnal lusts cause Armageddon and make the gods open up the Book of Revelation.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Sep 25, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Excess, Overkill, Hyperbole and Too Much Is Not Enough, Music, Religion, 1940's, Love & Romance

September 24, 2016

Hypnotic Boob Enhancement

Michael Stivers had an interesting career. He was a professional wrestler, who used the stage name "Pretty Boy Behning." He was also a police officer for 13 years, but around 1990 he quit that profession to become a hypnotist.

At first, he ran a pretty ordinary hypotism business — using hypnotism to help people lose weight or quit smoking. But around 1991 he discovered a unique way to specialize and differentiate his practice. He became a "breast enlargement hypnotist."

His pr material explained: "The larger-breast style of self-hypnosis relaxes the subject, then allows her to will an increased blood flow into the fatty tissues of the breast, much like that during menstruation or pregnancy. Daily conditioning through self-hypnosis allows what amounts to a permanent enhancement."

But according to a 1991 AP story, some patients had mixed results:

A 58-year-old Tampa woman who wouldn't give her name said her bust measurement grew 3 inches through hypnosis in April, but then shrank 1 ½ inches.

As far as I can tell, Stivers stayed in business until at least 1995.

Arizona Republic - Feb 1, 1995

Des Moines Register - July 22, 1991

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 24, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Body Modifications, 1990's


It's harder to be more surreal than the original, but this mixed live-actor stop-motion version by Lou Bunin tries hard.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Sep 24, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Surrealism, Books, Fantasy, Stop-motion Animation, 1940's

September 23, 2016

Dessert-Smashing Artist

Artist Mar Cuervo has created an art installation in which she destroys various desserts (cookies, marshmallow peeps, chocolate rabbits, cupcakes, etc.) by smashing them with her hand. She explains:

Destroying this gentle objects is a ceremony where I funnel my inner outrage and dissatisfaction against the elements that create them in the first place.

Gallagher comes to mind as one possible source of inspiration. Perhaps also that woman who smashes her face into bread.

via konbini.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Sep 23, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Art, Food

Mystery Gadget 40


A granite sphere sitting on a base. No moving parts. Yet it performed a useful function. What?

The answer is here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Sep 23, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Statues, Monuments and Memorials, Technology, 1910's, 1940's

September 22, 2016

The Existentialist Hat

In 1948, the existentialist Parisian milliner Jean Barthet debuted the "existentialist hat" which was topped by a pair of floppy hands that were supposed to symbolize the hovering "hands of fate."

For some reason, Barthet's hat didn't capture the popular imagination as a symbol of existentialist angst in the same way as, for instance, Edvard Munch's The Scream did.

However, Barthet did go on to have an extremely successful career. Wikipedia notes that he was a favorite hatmaker of Sophia Loren and Michael Jackson.

Newsweek - June 28, 1948

Des Moines Register - June 14, 1948

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 22, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Philosophy, Headgear, 1940's

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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