The brief, controversial product life of the Chilly Bang! Bang! juice-filled squirt gun. Kids put the gun barrel in their mouth and squeezed the trigger to enjoy a refreshing squirt of juice.
First sales were halted because the plastic tab at the end of the barrel was deemed a choking hazard. Then in 1991 it was banned outright. New York Senator Nicholas Spano noted, "The last thing we should teach our children is to put gun barrels in their mouths."
In 1992 California began requiring that motorcycle riders wear a helmet. Despondent, Gerald Marotta, 48, put on his helmet and shot himself. He left behind a note, "Now I can't ever ride again."
Attorney Wendy Lascher, who had challenged the law, said, "from what I heard about his note, I think the law did have something to do with his death, in that [riding without a helmet] apparently was his only outlet."
In 1994, Jennifer Bornstein appeared on a local LA cable access program that featured ordinary people and their collections. Bornstein showed off her collection of zip-lock bags, coffee bar merchandise, fast-food containers, potato chips, and breath mints. She had carefully framed and archived all of it.
It would have been funnier if it was a genuine collection, but I think it was actually intended as an artistic statement on how "any worthless mass-market products can be turned into coveted objects via absurd relations and vice versa" (according to Kadist.org). So she was essentially pranking the show.
Although she looks quite young in the pictures, Bornstein was at the time a 24-year-old grad student at UCLA. And she's still an LA-based artist.
Marlin Hawkins served as an elected official in Conway County, Arkansas for 38 years — for most of that time as sheriff. He built up a legendary political machine, being able not only to win reelection for himself (19 times) but also to deliver votes for other candidates. He often boasted that he could accurately predict the outcome of every election in the county.
It was long suspected that he was rigging the elections, especially since absentee voters would always vote for him by a wide margin, but no one could ever prove anything.
After he retired in 1978, Hawkins eventually wrote his autobiography, which he brazenly titled How I Stole Elections (available on Amazon). He joked that he "stole" them by "treating my neighbors right."
But no, he stole them by ballot fraud.
His book came out in 1991. The year after, some people who were remodeling their house discovered a whole stash of marked ballots from a 1968 election hidden in their attic. The house had previously been owned by one of Hawkins' deputies.
Hawkins got away with it because the statute of limitations had expired in 1974. He died in 1995.
July 1991: While preparing to play a game of Monopoly, Marc Cienkowski and Michael Klucznik got into a fight over who would use the car playing piece. Cienkowski insisted that since they were at his house, he got to be the car -- and not the hat or thimble. But Klucznik insisted that he was going to be the car, and continued to insist this even after Cienkowski hit him in the face. So Cienkowski fetched his bow and arrow and shot Klucznik through the heart. Cienkowski later pleaded guilty to criminal homicide.
Philadelphia Daily News - Feb 7, 1992 Click to enlarge
November 1999: After filing for divorce, Frances and Harold Mountain proved unable to agree on how to split up their Beanie Baby collection. So Family Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle instructed them to bring the entire collection into the courtroom, spread them out on the floor, and pick one each until they were gone.
The judge remarked, "This isn't about toys. It's about control. Because you folks can't solve it, it takes the services of a District Court judge, a bailiff and a court reporter."
Frances Mountain said, "I don't agree with the judge's decision to do this. It's ridiculous and embarrassing." Nevertheless, she got down on her hands and knees and started picking out Beanie Babies.
1997: The crime of choice of 46-year-old Janet Manning of Brooklyn Park, Maryland was dumping raw chicken livers into mailboxes and bookdrops. Usually on a weekend so they would be discovered on a Monday.
Her motive for doing this was never very clear. After apprehending her, thanks to security-camera footage, the police captain said, "There's no clear-cut rhyme or reason for her to be doing what she was doing to these organizations." He added, "She wouldn't tell us why chicken livers."
But it was evidently some kind of act of revenge, in response to perceived offenses. Library officials recalled that she once had a minor argument with them a year before involving her request to have a printout of all the books she had returned, which the library staff told her their computers weren't set up to do. So they offered to write out the list by hand. That, apparently, was enough to trigger her.
On account of her otherwise clean criminal record, she was fined $1000 and placed on a year's probation.
Nov 1994: During a staff meeting, Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner offered a creative solution to the problem of homeowners bothered by airport noise. They should just sell their houses to deaf people. A few days later he offered a tearful apology, insisting that he had simply said it was "an interesting idea."
The reality, of course, is that they sell to people willing to live with noise in exchange for getting a cheap house. I know that 'cause it's the trade-off I accepted when I bought my house (road noise, not airport noise).
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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.
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