January 1985: The women of the Thurlow family proved they were serious fans of the TV show St. Elsewhere. Even as their house burned down around them, they remained parked in front of the TV set, watching the latest episode through the haze of the smoke, unwilling to miss a single moment. The firefighters had to drag them away. But as soon as the fire was extinguished, the women rushed back into the house and were able to catch the final 10 minutes.
1985: Six young Christians, carrying only "a Swiss army knife, adhesive bandages, cigarette lighters and three Bibles," set out to walk over one thousand miles across Australia's Nullarbor desert in order to "prove God exists." They were later joined by a 41-year-old man.
They did so "in defiance of police warnings that the walk was dangerous, and complaints of blasphemy from religious leaders."
They made it. So they avoided winning a Darwin Award, though going on a hike in a desert without water would definitely put anyone in the running for one.
Port Huron Times Herald - May 18, 1985
"On the last leg of their trek: Rachel Sukumaran (12), Christine McKay (15), Dane Frick (42), Robin Dunn (19), Roland Gianstefani (22), Gary McKay (16) and Malcolm Wrest (22)." Sydney Morning Herald - June 30, 1985
But according to news reports from the time, his death is somewhat more mysterious than that because it's not entirely clear how he managed to fall into the cole-slaw machine. From the Baltimore Sun (Oct 17, 1982):
A co-worker, Lorraine Davenport, told police she was handing bags of salad ingredients to Mr. Ramsey and had turned her back to him to pick up another bag. She said that when she turned around he was gone but one of his boots—a black, waterproof, oversized boot similar to those worn by other employees—was on the ground.
When she climbed up the metal ladder, she said, she saw him inside the blending machine and began to scream. . .
Still, the question remained: How did he come to fall in?
Mr. Ramsey was about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 145 pounds, according to the police report. When he stood on the top step of the metal ladder, the top edge of the blender, which is 6 feet off the floor, came up to his chest.
Mr. Wachs [president of the company] said he believes Mr. Ramsey might have dropped the bag of carrots into the metal bin, reached in to retrieve it, and was pulled into the machine.
He said employees know that an entire batch of salad may have to be discarded if a plastic bag falls into the blender. "But we always tell them if it falls, let it go. . . You are not going to be fired for it. But maybe he reached for it by impulse."
Dec 20, 1980: On a cold winter's evening, 19-year-old Jean Hilliard's car got stuck in a ditch, so she decided to walk for help. She was found the next morning, two miles away, frozen solid.
Later, people told her she'd made it to her friend's yard, tripped, and crawled on her hands and knees to his doorstep. They said she lay there for six straight hours, with her eyes frozen wide open. Hilliard doesn't remember any of that.
Remarkably, doctors were able to thaw her out even though she was so rock hard that needles broke on her skin. She suffered no serious injuries — just some blistered toes.
During a Dublin production of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, sometime in early 1986 (or maybe late 1985?), the actor Alan Devlin, who was playing Sir Joseph Porter, abruptly stopped in the middle of his performance, proclaimed, "F... this for a game of soldiers," left the theater, and headed to the pub next door to have a drink, with his microphone still on.
Surprisingly, he wasn't fired and was even re-hired for the London production a few months later.
Alan Devlin (right) during the London production of H.M.S. Pinafore
Noel Person, who was the theatrical producer of the play, later described the incident to an Australian journalist (The Melbourne Age - Aug 22, 1986):
"We had this actor named Alan Devlin who was very fond of his drink. During the show one night, he arrived absolutely bombed out of his mind. We used to fly him in from the top of the proscenium. When he came down he tried to start, "I am the mon... monar... mumph" and he couldn't. So he started again, then again, and finally said "Oh, --- it! I can't do it". And he walked out. Through the orchestra pit, in his uniform, through the audience, out the theatre and around to the pub and ordered a pint. Some of the audience thought this is taking Gilbert and Sullivan to the limit.
"The guy that was playing Dick Deadeye and the girl who was playing Buttercup, well, they freaked. But they were very experienced actors. So they cut to the end of the first half. The understudy was already in the show so they began the second half with him."
Happily, Noel Pearson hired back Mr. Devlin for the show's London season. "I got him to sign a contract in blood: he had to be in the theatre an hour before or he got paid only half his salary until the end of the run; we gave him a minder... When we opened at the Old Vic we had publicity like you never saw. On the opening night, when he appeared on stage, he practically got a standing ovation."
The first verse went perfectly well. It was when Devlin came to the second verse, and discovered that he couldn't remember it, that the visible trouble began. He improvised by simply repeating the first verse. And again, for a third time. People started to wonder.
Then he tried to leave the coracle. Surmounting he brim of it - about two feet high if my imperfect memory serves - gave him great difficulty. But after a couple of attempts he managed it, and stood center stage, swaying slightly as though in a moderate breeze.
After briefly considering his options, he then announced "ah f*** this for a game of soldiers," hopped down into the orchestra pit (with more adroitness than you'd have expected from his swaying), strode along the central aisle through the audience, and left by the main exit.
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.