Weird Universe Blog — May 8, 2020

Tarantula security guards

In the mid-1970s, there was a fad among jewelry stores to use tarantulas as security guards. Stores claimed it helped prevent thefts, although tarantulas aren't going to do much to stop a thief, besides looking scary. Rattlesnakes, I imagine, might work better.

La Crosse Tribune - July 19, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 08, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: Crime | Insects | 1970s

Sneezing Protected

This is good to know in the pandemic era. I hope coughing is covered as well.


Posted By: Paul - Fri May 08, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Accidents | Law | 1950s | Cars

May 7, 2020

Instant Bananas

Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford offer some context in their book Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal:

[In 1964], Kellogg signed Jimmy Durante to launch Corn Flakes and Instant Bananas with an update of one of his standard songs. Seated at the piano, the old vaudevillian belted out, "Yes, we now have bananas…" Sales were brisk for a few months, then dropped like a rock, as store owners like I.J. Salkin complained that the product tasted like "cardboard discs in a box." Burnett commercial director Rudy Behlmer agreed. "Those little banana wafers looked like holy communion wafers. When you put milk on them, they started to look dark and mushy."

In 1966, Kellogg pulled the plug on Corn Flakes and Instant Bananas. "We tested the market carefully, we tried, we failed, and we're getting out of the market," Kellogg's Ken Englert told Consumer Advertising magazine. Without informing the star of their decision, Kellogg decided to move Durante over from Instant Bananas to Kellogg's main line, Corn Flakes. "Everything was kept quiet until Carl Hixon [a Burnett writer] and myself went to New York to shoot him in a couple of commercials for Kellogg's Corn Flakes," recalled commercial director Rudy Behlmer. "Suddenly he looks at the [story] boards and he says, 'Where are da bananas?' and we said, 'Well, Jimmy… this is without bananas,' and he said, 'No bananas, no Durante.'"

Wisconsin State Journal - Mar 24, 1965

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 07, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Cereal | 1960s

May 6, 2020

Marriage ruined by Rod Stewart’s soccer ball

Rod Stewart is known to be a huge soccer fan, and at his concerts he often kicks soccer balls out into the audience.

At a 1989 concert, a ball struck the hand of a woman in the audience, Patricia Boughton, who subsequently sued Stewart claiming the incident had permanently injured her middle finger.

Her husband later also filed suit, on the grounds that his wife's hand injury had led to the breakup of their marriage. He explained, "If she hit that hand on something it was all over. To get into sexual activity, it was very difficult... It was like walking around trying not to break something."

Stewart eventually settled the suit for $17,000, which was less than the Boughtons had been hoping for.

Lansing State Journal - Oct 11, 1992

However, Stewart didn't stop kicking balls at his concerts. And as reports, the injuries continued. At a 2002 concert, a man suffered a broken little finger after shielding his face from one of Stewart's balls. And another fan had his nose broken when it was hit by a soccer ball at a 2012 concert in Las Vegas.

In response to the lawsuits, Stewart has said that fans should know that his concerts are a "contact sport."

The video below shows Stewart kicking soccer balls at a concert.

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 06, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Lawsuits

One Brave Dog


Posted By: Paul - Wed May 06, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals | Parents | Dogs | Courage, Bravery, Heroism and Valor

May 5, 2020

Howard Obesity Ointment

The application is simplicity itself. You merely apply the ointment to the part you wish reduced, then literally, "wash the fat away" without injury to the most delicate skin.

I can't find any description of what was in this ointment, but it sounds like something out of a horror story.

Munsey's Magazine - vol 29, 1903

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 05, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Health | Advertising | 1900s | Dieting and Weight Loss

May 4, 2020

Staring Hitchhikers

Will hitchhikers get more rides if they stare at oncoming drivers or if they look away? A 1974 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology attempted to answer this question:

A field experiment was conducted in which a single male, a single female, or a male-female couple attempted to hitch rides at four different traffic locations, under conditions in which the hitchhikers either stared at or looked away from oncoming drivers...
In the stare conditions, E stared at the driver of the target vehicle and attempted to fixate on the driver's gaze and maintain this gaze as long as possible until the driver either stopped his vehicle or drove on. In the comparison conditions, E looked anywhere else but at the driver. Thus, on some trials E looked in the general direction of the car; on other trials E looked at his feet, the road, the sky, etc. Es were specifically instructed to neither smile nor frown, and to maintain a casual (neither rigid nor slouching) body postural orientation while soliciting rides.

The two hitchhikers were described as, "both 20 years of age and both dressed in bluejeans and dark coats. The male had short, curly blond hair, and the female, straight, shoulder length blond hair. Both could be described as neat, collegiate, attractive in physical appearance, and of an appropriate age to be hitchhiking."

A hitchhiker in Luxembourg - Aug 1977 (source:
(not one of the hitchhikers in the study)

Staring is often interpreted as a threat. So the researchers anticipated that staring at oncoming drivers might result in fewer rides. But the opposite turned out to be true. Which is a useful tip to know if you ever need to hitchhike. But what really helped get a lot of rides was being a single female. From the study:

it seems that the effect of attempted eye contact and sex of hitchhikers were such that a staring female got the most rides and a nonstaring male the least, with a staring male and a nonstaring female in between.

Contrary to popular belief and hitchhiking folklore , it was no easier for a male-female couple to hitch a ride than a single male, and a mixed sex couple was less successful at soliciting rides than a single female hitchhiker. Although the generality of this conclusion is limited by the fact that it is based upon results obtained by one male and one female E, it is probably the case that couples are less successful hitching rides because of space limitations in the cars they approach. That is, it is more likely that the driver will have room for one additional passenger than that he will have room for two or more additional passengers in his car.

Incidentally, the experimenters never actually ever got in a car with anyone: "After a motorist stopped to pick up one of the hitchhikers, he was politely thanked and given a printed description of the nature of the experiment. No driver expressed any discomfort when he learned that the hitchhiker did not actually want a ride."

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 04, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: Science | Experiments | Psychology | 1970s | Cars

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, “High Blood Pressure”

Medical intervention is definitely required for this singer and his gyno-pathic disease.

Posted By: Paul - Mon May 04, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Music | 1960s | Disease

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