Weird Universe Archive

August 2008

August 5, 2008

Magic Cheese Chips

They admit it's "decidedly unusual," but I think it would sure beat stuffing envelopes. "Simply drop into hot grease and they're ready to eat -- big, tasty, crispy, delicious!" Question: What makes them magic?

From the July, 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix. (via J-Walk)


Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 05, 2008 - Comments (3)
Category: Business, Advertising, Food, 1930s

August 4, 2008

Home Intruder

I have no explanation for this video. But it seemed to belong on WEIRD UNIVERSE.

You have been warned.

ADDENDUM: Clear-headed and far-sighted reader Fitz identifies the URL touted onscreen here as totally NSFW. I found the video itself on YouTube.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments (8)
Category: Animals, Buildings and Other Structures, Domestic, Unsolved Mysteries

The White Castle Experiment

If you haven't yet seen Super Size Me, it's worth renting. In it, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock makes himself the subject of an experiment to find out what will happen to his body if he only eats McDonald's fast food for 30 days. Predictably, his health deteriorates, his cholesterol skyrockets, he grows lethargic, and his waistline expands dramatically.

However, the idea of conducting a fast-food diet experiment wasn't original to Spurlock. That honor goes to Jesse McClendon, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, who in 1930 fed a volunteer a diet of only White Castle hamburgers for 13 weeks. From the U of M Medical Bulletin:

McClendon knew that earlier studies had shown that adult dogs fed for a month on only lean meat appeared to fare well, and that humans on temporary all-meat diets lost calcium and phosphorus but didn't develop deficiency diseases. He planned to feed a single experimental subject only White Castle hamburgers—including the bun, onions, and pickles—and water for 13 weeks.
A willing subject presented himself: Bernard Flesche, a U of M medical student working his way through school. Flesche kept a diary during the ordeal. "He started out very enthusiastic about eating 10 burgers at a sitting," notes his daughter, Deirdre Flesche, "but a couple of weeks into it, he was losing his enthusiasm." His sister frequently tried to tempt him with fresh vegetables, but Flesche allowed nothing but White Castle Slyders™ to pass his lips.

Flesche survived his ordeal without developing any significant health problems. The owner of White Castle interpreted this to mean that a hamburger diet is healthy and heavily promoted the experiment in advertisements. Flesche, however, who had once been a hamburger lover, developed a permanent aversion to them. He never willingly ate a hamburger again.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments ()
Category: Food, Experiments, 1930s

Away from Weird Universe

I'll be away from the computer until Friday, August 8th, and thus unable to answer comments. But thanks to the magic of software, I'll still have a few new posts.

Everyone stay weird till I return!

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments ()
Category: Travel, Weird Universe, Paul

Riding the Rails

Of course we all know that the image of a hand-pumped railroad trolley is a comedy staple. But I find the notion of special little motorized vehicles adapted to ride the rails just as funny. As you might predict, there's an organization dedicated to hobbyists and collectors of these miniature rail-mounted transports, and it's to be found here.

My local newspaper has a great article about a fellow who restored the vehicle pictured to the right.

I imagine a Farelly Brothers movie in which the hero confounds the bad guys by making his unpredictable escape in such a vehicle--at a whopping 5 MPH!

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Eccentrics, Collectors, History, Inventions, Technology, Travel, Transportation, 1950s, Cars


Old self-improvement schemes never die. Recently, I spotted this antique advertisement from 1954 that alerted me to the existence of Pelmanism, the brainchild of William Joseph Ennever.

The Pelman Institutes of England and America apparently once claimed over half a million followers. But now they're long gone. Yet that has not stopped at least two folks from trying to resurrect the copyright-abandoned mind-strengthening course and claim and market it as their own. You can see their pages here and here.

Oddly enough, the last vestige of Pelmanism most people know, without realizing its true origin, is the card game we call Concentration or Memory or Pairs.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Eccentrics, Fads, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Games, History, Historical Figure, New Age, Self-help Schemes

Chuck’s Hand-Picked Overnight Weird News for Monday

The indigenous fast food on Beijing's backstreets
The gov't has sanitized the menus of approved restaurants this month (i.e., no dog), but London's Daily Mail takes us on a photo tour of street vendors' typical fare: scorpion kabob, dog livers with vegetables, goat lungs with red peppers, seahorses on skewers, iguana tails, dung beetles, silk worms on a stick, fried sparrow, turkey vulture schnitzels, and dog brain soup, not to mention whole puppy on a spit. Some of the food (seahorses, lizards) might admittedly not be all that tasty but are popular nonetheless for virility! Daily Mail
Comments 'street_vendors'

At Jerusalem's airport, life imitates Home Alone
Turns out we need not only a device to remind parents not to leave their kids in the car, but also one to remind them to make sure they've got their 4-yr-old when they board the plane. The first notion these parents had was when the pilot got a call from the gate on take-off and walked back to tell them. Agence France-Presse
Comments 'home_alone'

Feral American children in the news
Last week, the St. Petersburg Times ran an update on the condition of a girl found in 2005 in the most putrid, backward home any of the officials had ever heard about (she has genuine environment-based autism). The next day, the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle had another, but this time, 11 kids, aged 9 months to 18 yrs. No records of the family anywhere; because of their isolation, they didn't exist. [stories are Not Safe for Stomachs] St. Petersburg Times // Augusta Chronicle
Comments 'feral_children'

The continuing campaign to make everyone perfect
Nine elementary schools in Birmingham, England, have hired a specialist to come teach "conflict-resolution" skills to kids as young as age 8. Daily Mail (London)
Comments 'conflict_resolution'

Yet another way that smart people subtly jigger the rules to make themselves richer and most other people poorer
The Wall Street Journal this morning exposes a, um, tax-avoidance strategy (which appears not to be slam-dunk-illegal, and therefore, standard operating procedure!) whereby companies sell their deferred-executive-compensation IOU's to their employee pension funds. Result: Executive fund gets cash now; employee-pension funds pay off only in the future . . if they're solvent . . if the company doesn't go bankrupt . . if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation doesn't go bankrupt . . if Congress bails out the PBGC if it does go bankrupt. Wall Street Journal
Comments 'pension_funds'

Politico-sex potboiler in Malaysia
The two leading candidates to be prime minister are both fighting scandals. Anwar Ibrahim has been accused once again of illegal anal intercourse (his career apparently survived a 1990 incident, in which prosecutors brought a bloody mattress to court), and, in the other corner, deputy prime minister Najib Razak, whose alleged Mongolian mistress has been killed, with the chief suspect being a Najib political henchman. Witnesses are appearing and disappearing right and left, but unlike previous cases of Malaysian corruption, bloggers are at work publishing leaks from officials' foot-soldiers. New York Times
Comments 'malaysia_scandal'

Internet therapy for Japan's bedroom geeks
A hikikomon is, it says here, a Japanese kid or young adult who holes up in his bedroom in his parents' house for weeks or months at a time, speaking to no one. [Ed.: News of the Weird has mentioned the phenomenon twice, but my word-search capability sucks; I can't find it easily with any combination of anything. I thus start the week disgusted with myself.] Now, there's potential relief, or at least for those boys who isolate themselves out of fear of girls: the "Just Looking" website, with photos of girls and young women simply staring into the camera. The hikikomon is supposed to stare them down and therefore desensitize himself to the idea of cowering before judgmental females. [UPDATE: Thanks to helpful e-mailers and commenters, who pointed out that I was writing "mon" instead of "mori," which I would have seen for myself better if I just looked more closely at the URL instead of the faintly printed copy I made. I had indeed reported this twice, in NOTW 672, 12-22-2000, and, in a column still retrievable from, NOTW 899, 5-1-2005. I am thus less disgusted with myself, but not much less.]
Comments 'hikikomon_therapy'

Your Daily Jury Duty
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict must be based on mugshot only]
Steven Blackwell, 40, was charged with selling cocaine (and having a machine gun with him at the time), but there's more. When a buddy went to the Blackwell manor to find some loose cash to bail out his friend, he came across "stacks of pornographic magazines, sex toys, chains, handcuffs, knives, swords, and machetes," and the skull of a man who was beaten to death in 2003 (a murder for which another man is in prison). (But Blackwell said somebody had just given him the skull.) St. Petersburg Times
Comments 'steven_blackwell'

More Things to Worry About on Monday
An F State dad allegedly gave his 15yr-old son some oxy and methadone to teach him, he said, "how to party right" (Oh, and the son OD'd, gone) . . . . . A local official in China was sent to death row for corruption, done in when his tenant reported a leak, which was the toilet in the apartment where the official was storing boxfuls of cash . . . . . Passed away: Maryland sanitation worker Mr. Ricky Dumpit . . . . . Oops, my bad: British celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson said he was thinking of a different herb in a recent magazine piece when he specifically recommended "henbane," which is highly poisonous . . . . . It's Good to Be a British Prisoner (cont'd): The Prison Service was revealed to have bought 1,721 PlayStations/Xbox/Nintendos for its inmates, costing £221k and is only now about to get around to weeding out the violent games that help the cons to hone their skills. Today's Newrangers: Barbara Ell, Harry Farkas, Scott Schrier, Bob Pert, Paul Music
Comments 'worry_080804'

Posted By: Chuck - Mon Aug 04, 2008 - Comments ()

August 3, 2008

Bad Santas

Jack-booted General Santa Claus delivers "ammunition" to the troops during WWI, courtesy of Whitman's. (Ephemera)

Come on kiddies, Santa wants you to have some ciggies! (eBay)

Santa's happy. Why? Because his tree is decorated with boxes of Chesterfield cigarettes. (Ptak Science Books)

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 03, 2008 - Comments ()
Category: Advertising

August 2, 2008

Perfectible Worlds

A new book titled Perfectible Worlds by the photographer Sage Sohier, devoted to people who amass oddball collections, seems a winning item for all readers of WEIRD UNIVERSE.

[Photo copyright by Sage Sohier.]

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 02, 2008 - Comments ()
Category: Eccentrics, Collectors, Geeks, Nerds and Pointdexters, Photography and Photographers, Books, Roleplayers and Re-enactors

World’s Oldest Joke Discovered!

Archaeologists have just discovered the world's oldest joke, as ably pointed out in today's Weird News picks by Minister Chuck.

But I can't resist adding that I hope they never dig up this one.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 02, 2008 - Comments (4)
Category: Death, History, Archaeology, Humor, Comedians, Jokes, Television

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Chuck Shepherd
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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