Phone Calls From the Dead

As opposed to phone calls from telemarketers, who are more like the living dead.

"Scientific" parapsychologists D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless have recently discovered a startling fact: that dozens of people have had telephone calls from the dead. "The weight of evidence has convinced us that there are surviving spirits making attempts to contact living people" through the telephone, Bayless told the National Enquirer. Their new book, Phone Calls from the Dead, describes fifty such cases. Unfortunately, if the person receiving the call realizes that he is speaking to a spirit from the Beyond, the call is usually over within seconds, they say. Some postmortem calls arrive, appropriately enough, over dead telephone lines. Rogo believes that these calls occur when a spirit manipulates electrical impulses in the phone to reproduce the sound of its own voice. "We've stumbled on a whole new mothod of psychic communication!" says Rogo.
The Skeptical Inquirer - Summer 1979

Posted By: Alex - Wed Dec 23, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Death, Paranormal, Books, 1970s


Jose Luis Castillejo (1930-2014) described himself as a "modern writer". In 1969 he self-published The Book of I's, which was a book that consisted entirely of the letter 'i', printed repeatedly on several hundred pages. He said that he wrote it to "end the torrent of words we call literature." It's read below by Fernando Millan. (He begins reading the book shortly after the 1-minute mark).

In 2001, Castillejo explored the letters T, L, and A, with his release of TLALAATALA. It's read again by Millan.

As you might guess, writing wasn't Castillejo's day job. He earned his living as a diplomat, serving as General Consul of Spain in Stuttgart, as well as Spanish ambassador to Nigeria and Benin.

More info about Castillejo:

Posted By: Alex - Fri Dec 11, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Literature, Books

Dog chews ‘How to train your dog’

While browsing old newspapers, I've come across multiple reports of a book titled How to Train Your Dog being returned to libraries, chewed.

These reports span thirty years, and specify different locations where this happened, but the stories are otherwise identical. So I figure that the chewed dog training book must be an urban legend of libraries.

Wausau Daily Herald - Feb 14, 1940

Indianapolis Star - May 24, 1951

Chattanooga Daily Times - Apr 25, 1955

Chambersburg Public Opinion - Mar 13, 1969

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 01, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Books, Libraries, Myths and Fairytales, Dogs

Cooking for your cat… and you

For those who want to share meals with their cat, Skyhorse Publishing has a cookbook of recipes that both humans and felines can eat.

I don't think freshly caught mouse is included, even though I'm pretty sure that's what the cat would prefer.

Amazon link

Posted By: Alex - Fri Nov 06, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Food, Books, Cats

250 Times I Saw a Play

Keith Odo Newman, whom the Guardian has described as "a homosexual Austrian psychoanalyst," authored 250 Times I Saw A Play, which was published in 1944. As the title suggests, it describes his experience of watching a play 250 times. The play was Flare Path by Terence Rattigan.

The backstory here is that Newman was Rattigan's doctor. According to

When World War II broke out, Rattigan, who was seeing a bizarrely charismatic psychiatrist named Dr. Keith Newman, decided, with the encouragement of his doctor, to enlist with the RAF. Despite the fact that he wasn’t at all mechanically inclined and was a social snob, Rattigan flourished in the egalitarian RAF, mastering the technical requirements and becoming an air gunner wireless operator (like Dusty Miller in Flare Path). It was while he was serving active duty that he wrote Flare Path and its creation seemed to dissolve the writer’s block under which Rattigan was suffering.

For some reason, Rattigan asked Newman to personally direct the performance of the lead actor in the play, Jack Watling, and Newman proceeded to become obsessed with Watling. Which is why, I assume, Newman ended up watching the play 250 times. Rattigan's biographer, Geoffrey Wansell, offers more details:

During rehearsals, which took place at the Apollo, Newman said nothing. 'He just sat there in the stalls, silent', according to Watling. 'But just before the play opened in Oxford, where I was to stay with him in his flat at Number 36 Holywell, he took me to the Lake District for three days of what he called intensive voice training.' The psychiatrist had devised a set of vocal exercises, which he insisted he practised for hours at a time. 'It was unbelievable,' Watling recalled. 'He took over my life completely.'...
At this stage Newman had not made a homosexual pass at Watling. That came later. Newman simply frightened him beyond words. 'I couldn't do anything without asking his permission. I was heterosexual then, and I am now, but Newman pretty much gave me a nervous breakdown. I couldn't cope with him.' Why Newman had this power, or why people submitted to him, Watling is just as unable to explain now as he was then.

After completing his odd book, Newman sent the manuscript to George Bernard Shaw, who wrote back with a few of his thoughts about it. Shaw's comments weren't very complimentary, but Newman nevertheless included a facsimile of them at the front of the book. Shaw wrote:

I don't know what to say about this book. The experience on which it is founded is so extraordinary, that an honest record of it should be preserved. But it would have driven me mad; and I am not sure that the author came out of it without a slight derangement.

Sure enough, Newman was subsequently certified insane and died in a mental institution.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Nov 02, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Theater and Stage, Books, 1940s

Sing along with Khrushchov coloring book, an update

Eight months ago I posted about a coloring book published in 1962 titled The Sing Along with Khrushchov Coloring Book. I noted that, although I had come across references to the book in newspapers, I hadn't been able to find any images of it online. Nor were there any used copies for sale. And only two libraries in the U.S. had copies of it. It was really obscure!

But I was just contacted by Elaine Woodward who revealed that her grandfather, who was on the American Hungarian Federation in DC, had once given her a copy, which she still had. She was kind enough to scan it and send it to me. So here it is, rescued from obscurity!

I've posted two sample images below. Or click here to read the whole thing (pdf file).

Note that the book spells Khrushchev with an 'o' rather than an 'e'... so the title was misspelled in my original post.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 12, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Art, Dictators, Tyrants and Other Harsh Rulers, Politics, Books, 1960s

The jokes of Immanuel Kant

We've posted before about jokes from unlikely sources, such as the jokes of Lord Aberdeen, and the jokes of King George VI. Now, along similar lines, comes a book from Robert ClewisKant's Humorous Writings . It's a collection of 30 jokes told by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Kant and humor are, I'm guessing, two things most people wouldn't associate together. And after reading Clewis's book, their opinion on this subject may not change.

Clewis freely admits this. In his preface he notes that he was "once tempted to call the book Kant’s Humorous Writings: I Wish They Existed." He goes on to say, "Readers may find the jokes to be boring or even offensive. No promise is being made that the reader will find the jokes amusing."

But Clewis also insists that the book itself isn't a joke. Nor was his intent to lampoon Kant. As he describes it, while studying Kant he realized that the philosopher's work included occasional jokes. His curiosity aroused, he thought it would be interesting to collect these jokes together, as a way of understanding what Kant thought was amusing.

Each joke is accompanied by an illustration drawn by artist Nicholas Ilic. So it's very much a book geared for a general audience. (Admittedly, an audience who appreciates offbeat, erudite material). Personally I think it seems like a great coffee table book. But then, I'm strange that way.

I've reproduced two of Kant's jokes, as well as Clewis's explanation of them, below.

Amazon link

The Merchant's Wig
There was once a young merchant who was sailing on his ship from India to Europe. He had his entire fortune on board. Due to a terrible storm, he was forced to throw all of his merchandise overboard. He was so upset that, that very night, his wig turned gray.

This joke comes from the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), one of Kant's three Critiques. He contrasts this version with another version: the merchant's hair turns gray. But in that version, we listeners or readers become more concerned and involved. We empathize with the merchant and feel his pain more than in the first version. When it's just a wig, we are in a better position to find the story amusing. We hear the narrative as a joke rather than as descriptive speech, a real story about the world that can be either true or false.

Kant thinks that when we hear or read a joke as a joke, we need to be removed from the situation or story; we cannot have something at stake in it. He calls this disinterestedness, which turns out to be a key principle in his aesthetic theory and account of beauty. "Taste is the faculty for judging an object or a kind of representation through a satisfaction or dissatisfaction without any interest. The object of such a satisfaction is called beautiful." While the humorous is not the same as the beautiful, Kant thinks that our response to both of them requires a kind of disinterestedness. A notion of disinterestedness can be found in the writings of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper) (1651–1713) and other eighteenth-century aesthetic theorists. Today the notion of disinterestedness remains controversial. Some theorists think that the idea can be better captured by the concept of absorbed attention or focus.

Immanuel Kant

Happy Funeral Mourners
A man's rich relative dies. Suddenly he is rich. To honor his relative, the man wants to arrange a solemn funeral service. But he keeps complaining that he can't get it quite right.
"What's the problem?" someone asks.
"I hired these mourners, but the more money I give them to look grieved, the happier they look."

This is a second joke from the Critique of the Power of Judgment. Kant is using it to illustrate his incongruity theory of humor. When we learn that the mourners are happy because they are getting paid, he says, our expectation is suddenly "transformed into nothing."
The philosophical underpinning is that there are at least two levels of satisfaction at work: we feel sadness, joy, etc. (first-order satisfaction) and then can approve or disapprove of it using reason (second-order). A man can be glad that he is receiving an inheritance from a deceased relative, yet disapprove of his gladness. "The object can be pleasant, but the enjoyment of it displeasing."
The joke turns on something similar happening with the mourners. They are so happy that they are getting paid (second-order) that they are no longer able to look sad (first-order).
There is a similar anecdote in Plato's Ion, a dialogue about a professional reciter (a "rhapsode") named Ion, who aimed at moving his audience. Ion says that when he looks out at the audience and sees them weeping, he knows he will laugh because it has made him richer, and that when they laugh, he will be weeping about losing the money.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 28, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Humor, Jokes, Philosophy, Books

Ice Cream for Small Plants

Authored by Etta Howes Handy and published in 1937 by The Hotel Monthly Press.

Of course she means manufacturing plants, but I prefer to imagine people feeding ice cream to their house plants.

Amazon link

Posted By: Alex - Sun Sep 13, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Books

Page 1 of 20 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›

weird universe thumbnail
Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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.

Contact Us
Monthly Archives
January 2021

December 2020 •  November 2020 •  October 2020 •  September 2020 •  August 2020 •  July 2020 •  June 2020 •  May 2020 •  April 2020 •  March 2020 •  February 2020 •  January 2020

December 2019 •  November 2019 •  October 2019 •  September 2019 •  August 2019 •  July 2019 •  June 2019 •  May 2019 •  April 2019 •  March 2019 •  February 2019 •  January 2019

December 2018 •  November 2018 •  October 2018 •  September 2018 •  August 2018 •  July 2018 •  June 2018 •  May 2018 •  April 2018 •  March 2018 •  February 2018 •  January 2018

December 2017 •  November 2017 •  October 2017 •  September 2017 •  August 2017 •  July 2017 •  June 2017 •  May 2017 •  April 2017 •  March 2017 •  February 2017 •  January 2017

December 2016 •  November 2016 •  October 2016 •  September 2016 •  August 2016 •  July 2016 •  June 2016 •  May 2016 •  April 2016 •  March 2016 •  February 2016 •  January 2016

December 2015 •  November 2015 •  October 2015 •  September 2015 •  August 2015 •  July 2015 •  June 2015 •  May 2015 •  April 2015 •  March 2015 •  February 2015 •  January 2015

December 2014 •  November 2014 •  October 2014 •  September 2014 •  August 2014 •  July 2014 •  June 2014 •  May 2014 •  April 2014 •  March 2014 •  February 2014 •  January 2014

December 2013 •  November 2013 •  October 2013 •  September 2013 •  August 2013 •  July 2013 •  June 2013 •  May 2013 •  April 2013 •  March 2013 •  February 2013 •  January 2013

December 2012 •  November 2012 •  October 2012 •  September 2012 •  August 2012 •  July 2012 •  June 2012 •  May 2012 •  April 2012 •  March 2012 •  February 2012 •  January 2012

December 2011 •  November 2011 •  October 2011 •  September 2011 •  August 2011 •  July 2011 •  June 2011 •  May 2011 •  April 2011 •  March 2011 •  February 2011 •  January 2011

December 2010 •  November 2010 •  October 2010 •  September 2010 •  August 2010 •  July 2010 •  June 2010 •  May 2010 •  April 2010 •  March 2010 •  February 2010 •  January 2010

December 2009 •  November 2009 •  October 2009 •  September 2009 •  August 2009 •  July 2009 •  June 2009 •  May 2009 •  April 2009 •  March 2009 •  February 2009 •  January 2009

December 2008 •  November 2008 •  October 2008 •  September 2008 •  August 2008 •  July 2008 •