Albert Blaustein had an impressive resume. He was a constitutional law expert who consulted on the national constitutions for over 14 countries. According to his wikipedia page, he was also editor of the 20-volume work Constitutions of the Countries of the World.
But in his personal life, he pursued a more eccentric passion. He collected hotel soap. He started collecting it in 1942, and by 1988 he had some 1400 bars of soap from different hotels. (See the article below.) By the time of his death in 1994, he had amassed around 2500 hotel soap bars. Following his death, the entire collection was (according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) bought by a Ripley's museum in Texas for around $1500.
Back in 1936, Patricia Salter had an unusual hobby for a 12-year-old girl. She collected dirt. Whenever I come across stories like this, it always makes me wonder what became of the collection. I'm guessing that at some point it must have been tossed in the trash, or dumped outside.
But it looks like there are some like-minded dirt enthusiasts in the present day, over at the Museum of Dirt.
Vincent Schaefer had a rather unusual hobby. He collected snowflakes. In order to do so, he invented (around 1941) a way of making plastic casts of snowflakes, by sitting outside on winter nights while it was snowing, and then dropping the flakes onto a thin film of formvar, which was a kind of plastic resin.
Schaefer also later invented the technique of cloud seeding. And he did all this with hardly any formal education, never having graduated from high school. Definitely an interesting character.
The Hall of Curious Rocks in Japan collects "Face Rocks," which are rocks that look like faces. They currently have over 900 of them. The bottom image shows one of the prides of their collection, the Elvis Rock. I'm sure if I looked around my backyard, I could find a few face rocks to contribute to their collection. [via kotaku]
On Feb. 15, 1890, a short article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, telling the story of a man who had an unusual deck of cards. He had found every card lying on the street. It took him twenty years to collect the entire pack. Here's the article:
AN OLD DECK OF CARDS
A Chicago Sport Has Spent Twenty Years in Picking up a Pack
Frank Damek, a member of the sporting fraternity of Chicago, has probably the queerest deck of cards in the world. He has been twenty years collecting the pack and is exceedingly proud of it. He first began by picking up playing cards in the street when he happened to run across them. In this way he got fifteen or more before he began striking duplicates. Some days he would find two or three, and then it would be months before he would see another stray pasteboard. But he persevered and always kept his eyes open to add to his strange collection.
In ten years he had all but thirteen cards necessary to complete his deck. In the next three years he considered himself lucky in finding all but four. The missing ones were the jack of clubs, the deuce of diamonds, and the trey of spades. In the course of another year he picked up the eight of diamonds and six months later was overjoyed to find what he at first thought was a full deck of cards lying on the sidewalk on Dearborn street, between Adams and Jackson streets.
He thought his long search was at an end and that he could easily complete his wonderful deck. The jack of clubs and the trey of spades were there all right, but five or six cards were missing, and among them the deuce of diamonds. It seemed as though he would never be able to secure his fifty-second card, but the other day he entered one of the suburban trains on the Northwestern, and almost the first thing he saw was the deuce of diamonds face upwards in the aisle. It was gilt-edged and glossy backed, the finest of them all. He had been searching for it for five and a half years, and breathed a sigh of relief. The pack is composed of cards of all qualities, from the cheapest to the highest prices. Some are clean and bright and others are soiled and well worn.
I'll add this to the list of weird collections. Though, honestly, I have some doubts that the story is true. It reads like the kind of thing that reporters back then routinely made up to fill column space.
Nowadays, stories about men, women and children being kept prisoner in strange circumstances--sometimes for years or decades--are so common that I'm certain Chuck will soon declare them "no longer weird."
But fifty years ago, such stories seemed more rare. One such inspired the classic novel by John Fowles, The Collector, which appeared in 1963.
The trailer of the film version can be seen above.
Fowles was inspired in part by a true story. I believe I've found that account, as seen below.
Enjoy the debut of what was to become a whole category of weird news.