Weird Universe


Death of the Human Ostrich

1906: Robert Naysmith, the "human ostrich," died from eating too many hatpins and brass nails.

Back in the day, I think there were a number of people who earned a livelihood by exhibiting themselves as human ostriches. Tough way to make a living.

(left) Topeka Daily Capital - July 17, 1906; (right) The Sketch - July 4, 1906

Saint Paul Globe - Sep 24, 1898

Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Nov 27, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Jobs and Occupations, 1900's

Dying Pigs

In the first decade of the 20th century, "dying pigs" were the must-have toy that every kid wanted. They were rubber balloons shaped like pigs. You inflated them and then, as they deflated, they made a sound like the squeal of a dying pig.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Sep 17, 1905

Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Nov 09, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Toys, 1900's

Wee tot sent to prison, 1906

Harsh justice in Switzerland.

Could this boy perhaps have been the youngest person ever convicted of a crime and sent to jail?

The Minneapolis Journal - Nov 18, 1906

Wee Tot Sent To Prison
Three-year-old Swiss is convicted as a thief.

Geneva, Nov. 17 — The Swiss public and press are aroused at the extraordinary action of a magistrate presiding at the criminal sessions at Weinfelden in the commune of Thurgoirs, who has sentenced a child barely 3 years of age to three and a half months' imprisonment for "theft."
The child, who is the son of a laborer, saw some penny toys dangling from the doorway of a shop. He seized two of them, and took them home, and an hour later was "arrested" by a tall gendarme on a charge of theft.
When the case was called at Weinfelden the child had to be carried by a gendarme, as he could not be seen over the top of the dock.
In response to the magistrate's questions the little fellow laughingly admitted that he took the toys. He could not speak plainly, and it was with difficulty that the gendarme, who acted as intermediary, was made to understand that he wanted them "as he did not have any toys like other boys."
"Three and a half months' imprisonment," said the magistrate sternly.
The boy's parents fell on their knees before the magistrate, and pleaded with him to remit the sentence on account of his tender age and his inability to distinguish between right and wrong. The magistrate declined to revise the sentence, however, and said "Remove the prisoner."
The gendarme, who was much affected, carried the child out of the dock and placed him in the arms of an astonished warder.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun Nov 08, 2015 | Comments (8)
Category: Prisons, Babies and Toddlers, 1900's

George Graham Rice

A new book about a legendary con man seems like an intriguing read for all WU-vies. Maybe one for your Xmas wish list.

You can learn quickly about this rascal at the Scripophily page where you can buy an actual stock certificate signed by the scammer, as seen below.


George Graham Rice, a famous stock promoter, capitalized the stocks of Goldfield, Greenwater and Rawhide mines, listed them on the national exchanges, and reaped the profits until convicted of mail fraud in 1911. In 1907 when investors nation-wide were delirious over the stupendous rise in the market value of securities of Goldfield mining companies, the public clamored for opportunities to buy into Nevada mining stocks. With childlike faith they invested in Death Valley's Greenwater and also the Rawhide district, where several companies capitalized stocks, listed them on the national exchanges and had them underwritten by prominent brokerage houses. In Rice's own words: "I make a conservative statement when I say that the American public sank $30 million in Greenwater in less than four months . . . yet the suckers, . . were crying for more."

You can read his original 1913 memoir here.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Oct 15, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Crime, Frauds, Cons and Scams, 1900's, 1910's

Insect Aircraft


This 1906 article is the lone reference I can find on the internet to this craft, and I suspect it never existed except on paper.

Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Oct 08, 2015 | Comments (17)
Category: Insects, Inventions, Air Travel and Airlines, 1900's, Europe

Put husband under bed, 1907

This sounds like it was straight-up spousal abuse, and the wife got away with it.

The Washington Post - May 24, 1907

More >>
Posted By: Alex | Date: Sat Aug 22, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Husbands, Wives, Marriage, 1900's

The Woman with the Serpent’s Tongue


[Click to enlarge]

Original article here.

Once upon a time, poetry still mattered, and could cause great controversies. No social media for such battles, after all. This poem seems to have cost William Watson the post of UK Poet Laureate.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Aug 13, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Poetry, 1900's, Women, Europe, Curses, Slurs, Insults, Vituperation, Libel and Slander

Blowing Up Unlocked Safe


Original article here.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Fri Aug 07, 2015 | Comments (5)
Category: Stupid Criminals, 1900's

Litigation Through Poetry:  Or, Texas Is Hell


Posted By: Paul | Date: Wed Jul 22, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Law, Nature, Regionalism, Religion, Poetry, 1900's
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, 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.