Weird Universe Blog — May 13, 2017

The Shabby Millionaire

1989: John Barrier of Spokane, Washington went into Old National Bank to cash a $100 check. Then he asked to have his 60-cent parking ticket validated. The cashier refused, saying that merely cashing a check didn't entitle him to free parking. Barrier had a manager called, who also refused to validate the ticket. Barrier suspected that they were refusing because he was dressed in shabby clothes like he had just gotten off a construction job. So he withdrew the entire $2 million he had deposited there and took his money to another bank, Seafirst Bank of Spokane.

The tale of the shabby millionaire eventually ended up being told in Seafirst's company newsletter. From there it made its way to a local newspaper column, and then leapt to the front page of USA Today and national headlines.

Both banks confirmed the basic details of what happened, although a representative for Old National Bank later insisted that they had, eventually, validated Barrier's parking ticket.

Detroit Free Press - Feb 21, 1989

The Akron Beacon Journal - Mar 29, 1989

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 13, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Money, Pranks and Revenge, 1980s

Frontier Circus

In 1962, variations on the popular Western genre reached new and unlikely permutations.

Wikipedia entry here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat May 13, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Clowns, Fairs, Amusement Parks, and Resorts, Regionalism, Television, 1960s

May 12, 2017

His and Her Bikinis

Fashion from the 1970s. For couples that like to match.

The Oshkosh Northwestern - Jan 8, 1970

Unisex apparel goes one step further with the advent of "His and Her" two-piece bikinis, shown in New York from the design board of Rudi Gernreich, creator of the topless bathing suit. The male's top looks like an athletic shirt that ends mid-point between the shoulder and elbow, exposing the abdomen from that point to the waistline.

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 12, 2017 - Comments (8)
Category: Fashion, 1970s

The Empire of the Sahara

In June 1903 a French sugar millionaire, one Jacques Lebaudy, a dapper little man with a sharp nose and a shrill high-pitched voice who was said to have a personal fortune of some pounds 3m, recruited a dozen Breton sailors and landed them on the coast of Spanish Morocco, commanding them to go forth and establish an empire. Lebaudy then informed the French authorities that he was henceforth to be addressed as Jacques I, Najin-al-Den, Emperor of the Sahara, Commander of the Faithful, King of Tarfaia, Duke of Arleuf and Prince of Chal-Huin.

Full account here, including his inglorious death.

Wikipedia entry here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri May 12, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Bombast, Bloviation and Pretentiousness, Dictators, Tyrants and Other Harsh Rulers, Eccentrics, 1900s, Africa, Europe

May 11, 2017

Height Increaser For Short People

"The patient lifted himself by the chin which was cradled in a sling attached to ropes looped to an overhead beam."

In 1937, the American Medical Association warned the public that this device, despite being widely advertised, didn't actually work.

The Muncie Star Press - Apr 9, 1937

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 11, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Inventions, 1930s

Mystery Illustration 45

Which product is exemplified by this illustration?

The answer is here.

And after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Thu May 11, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Advertising, Surrealism, 1940s

May 10, 2017

Middle Finger Candle

You could have one of these burning in your front window to let neighbors/salesmen/people-trying-to-convert-you know how you feel about them.

Available from the Cool Material Shop.

via SylK's Playground

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 10, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Products

Mildred Our Choir Director

Posted By: Paul - Wed May 10, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Humor, Music, 1950s

May 9, 2017

The Drivometer

A device for simulating driving, and measuring the skill of drivers, which was developed at Iowa State's Driving Research Laboratory in the 1930s.

A description of what it felt like to operate the thing. It sounds like it would have made a good arcade game. From The Dalles Chronicle - Aug 21, 1936:

Dr. Alvan R. Lauer of Iowa State college sent here today a shiny red instrument of torture, designed apparently to give the ordinary, garden-variety motorist the everlasting willies. This device, which Dr. Lauer invented and christened the drivometer, insidiously reverses the usual laws of nature and turns them wrong side forward. The drivometer consists essentially of an automobile which doesn’t move, and a landscape which does, at 50 miles an hour. Imagine that, if you can! We couldn’t either, until the American Automobile association persuaded us to sit behind the wheel. The road twisted like a hula dancer – and we were supposed to steer down it, paying close attention to stop lights, warning signals, WPA men working, and hot dog stands. Never before have we had such a ride. We knocked a truck off the road. We ran down a farmer’s daughter and we wrecked his house. We whanged into a freight train, jumped across a mountain range, drove through a lake and smashed an ice cream shoppe into tutti-frutti. We tried to stop the thing, but everything we pressed made it go faster. We shifted into reverse and raced to the rear, bumping barns, beats and bicycles. Sadly shaking his head, Earl Allgaier, the AAA safety expert, turned off the current. He said we didn’t seem to be very well coordinated, somehow, but that he’d test us on his other machinery. This, together with the drivometer, will be taken on a nationwide tour beginning next week to prove to the average motorist that he’s got a lot to learn.

Update: I think the top picture shows the 2nd version of the Driveometer, developed in the 1950s. The original version, from the 1930s, is below.

Wausau Daily Herald - Oct 26, 1937

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 09, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Motor Vehicles, Cars, Science, 1930s

The Philadelphia Insectarium

World's biggest "insect zoo."

Article here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue May 09, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Insects, Museums

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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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