An account of the life and death of John Cummings, a man who strove to earn a Darwin Award long before the concept of Darwin Awards existed. Reported in the Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1880:
In the narrative of memorable cases connected with Guy's Hospital there is a curious story of a sailor named John Cummings, who, in a spirit of vulgar brag, and mostly when half intoxicated, swallowed clasp-knives. In 1799 he had seen a French juggler perform the trick of assumedly swallowing knives of that kind at a public entertainment. The feat was so cleverly performed that the spectators -- or at least some of them -- were under the belief that the knives vanished down the throat of the juggler, instead of being put by sleight-of-hand in some part of his dress. The sailor, in his simplicity, was one of the credulous sort, and to astonish his messmates he began to swallow clasp-knives. He at first only swallowed four, which, fortunately for him were expelled, and no inconvenience ensued. He thought no more of knife-swallowing for six years. In March, 1805, when at Boston, he was one day tempted, while drinking with a party of sailors, to boast of his former exploits, and was ready to repeat his performance. A small knife was produced, which he instantly swallowed. In the course of that evening he swallowed five more. The next morning crowds of visitors came to see him, and in the course of the day he was induced to swallow eight knives more, making in all fourteen.
He paid dearly for his frolic; for he was seized with constant vomiting, and pain in the stomach. Taken to a hospital, he was by efficacious medical treatment relieved, as he imagined, of all the knives he had swallowed. But in this he would appear to have been mistaken. Portions of knives undissolved remained in his stomach. The amount of relief, whatever it was, did not cure the poor wretch of his folly. When at Spithead in December, 1805, and somewhat tipsy, he resumed his boastfulness of being able to swallow knives, and to amuse the ship's company swallowed nine clasp-knives, some of them of a large size. Again he became ill, and was in the hands of the ship's surgeon for several months, during which portions of knives were discharged. At length he was admitted as a patient at Guy's Hospital in 1807, and again he came to the hospital in 1808. There he remained, sinking under his sufferings, until March, 1809, when he died in a state of extreme emaciation.
That Quebec 12-yr-old, who successfully sued her dad last year for grounding her (in a decision widely expected to be overturned) actually won the damn appeal, i.e., grounding her was too severe. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News
A widower was charged with casting his wife's absentee ballot last November, but he defended himself by pointing out that (a) she had almost made it to election day before dying, and (b) she was a huge Obama supporter. Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee)
13 yrs after discovering a sewage-contaminated creek in Washington state, the gov't has finally traced the source: a sewer line from a building in Vancouver, Wash., that houses two state environmental agencies. The Daily News (Longview)
The Brighton and Hove City Council in Britain has reprimanded a guy for stapling "lost item" posters to trees, thus, according to an official, "wounding" a "living thing." Daily Mail
[Jury Duty] Christy McGaw and Tammy Sharp, alleged absent-minded shoplifters (Bonus: Web editor doesn't know how to spell "weird") TCPalm.com
Today's Newsrangers: Bruce Alter, Gary Benoit, Paul Mulherin
A 55-yr-old woman did a successful suicidal cannonball over a railing at a New York City shopping mall, landing on a guy "relaxing" on a coin-operated vibrating chair. New York Daily News
Once again, a loving mother protectively sends her child to heaven in order to pre-empt Satan, who was surely about to take him the other way. Orlando Sentinel
Sweden's National Library archives copies of everything published in the country, including from the years 1971-1980, when child pornography was legal, and ya can check it out over the counter, apparently. The Local (Stockholm)
Last week, it was a funeral home mistakenly cremating a female when the order was for a male; and now another home incinerates a black man when the order was for a white woman. Houston Chronicle
Suddenly, sperm-harvesting is a hot topic again: A Texas mother yearns to be a grandmother even though her son had just been killed (and so she obtained an emergency body-preservation order to keep the sperm viable). And a divorced Michigan couple who earlier divided up their six pedigreed bullmastiffs are back in court fighting over bullmastiff jizm. Austin American-Statesman///Detroit News
Small-town politics (Duncanville, Tex.) at its best, with the mayor ordering the arrest of a mouthy city councilman, who promptly falls to the floor in pain. (Bonus: It's on video!) Dallas Morning News
People who should've left well-enough alone: (1) A registered sex offender is charged only with failure to submit a change-of-address, but he's got his laptop with him at the station and offers to show the guys an "amazing" flight simulator game he's been playing, and they said, cool, but up should pop what on the screen? (Of course.). (2) This guy was let off with a warning to stop harassing diners at a restaurant and to get home in a taxi because he was drunk, and he did that, but then started stewing about being accused of intoxication, and so drove down to the station and offered to take a breathalyzer to prove he was sober. (You know it.) Anchorage Daily News///Akron Beacon-Journal
[Jury Duty] Tammy Webb, 43, Milford Center, Ohio, got three DUIs in a six-day period . . disoriented, yes, but with nary a drop of alcohol in her system. WCMH-TV (Columbus)
Today's Newsrangers: Rob Snyder, Gil Nelson, Shannon Thompson, Joe Weckbacher, Harry Farkas, Ken Vermette, Sandy Pearlman, Stephen Taylor
I came across a description of this experiment in an old newspaper (Reno Evening Gazette, Sep 8, 1941) and have never found any other references to it. The experiment was conducted by British psychologists who wanted to find out if "civilian populations can be made immune, through familiarity, to fear caused by air raid noises." The methodological problems with the design of the experiment are obvious, but it's interesting that it was conducted nevertheless. The details follow:
The London experiment consisted of herding workers, children and bomb-shocked neurotics into underground vaults and there subjecting them to an 'artificial blitz bombing.'
Sound effects used in the test were recordings made during one of London's worst air raids last year, amplified to simulate the real thing. An Associated Press writer who witnessed the experiment reported:
"The sounds swelled in the dark vault. The guns kept banging. Then big bombs burst. The guns kept up. More bombs. Then the crackle of flames. Next clanging fire engines added their noise, the other sounds continuing."
According to the reporter, the subjects stood the test very well: 'No one was crying out. A flashlight swung around the room, revealing drawn faces and frightened eyes. But no one was swooning. The experimenters stepped up the amplification.'
The British psychologists responsible for the experiment were reported delighted with the results. They said it proved their theory that whole populations could be exposed to 'artificial blitzkriegs' and thus rendered immune to fear during air raids.
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 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.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.