Category:
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

The Techno-Chemical Receipt Book



This is one of those volumes you pack away for when civilization collapses, as it give the formulas for making from scratch glass, nitroglycerin, glue, and a thousand other handy things.

Read it here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Sep 13, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Science, Technology, Books, Nineteenth Century

The Right To Be Lazy

Happy Labor Day!

What better way to spend this annual celebration of work than by reading Paul Lafargue's 1883 treatise The Right To Be Lazy, in which he made a case for the virtues of idleness.



Some info about Lafargue and The Right To Be Lazy from RightNow.org:

A lifelong revolutionary, Lafargue was husband to Laura Marx (Karl’s daughter) and friend to Friedrich Engels. He founded the French Workers Party; he was the first socialist elected to a French parliament. He was, in other words, a serious figure, not some louche provocateur or drawing room contrarian, and while there’s an undeniably utopian element to his work, The Right to be Lazy is written as an immediate political intervention, not an exercise in whimsy.

Much of the book consists of a contrast between ideas about work in Lafargue’s day and the very different attitudes held in earlier societies, particularly in classical antiquity. Ancient Greek philosophers regarded work as an activity fit only for slaves. So where others hailed the arrival of modern industry as progress, Lafargue saw regression.

Longtime WU readers might remember that we've posted about Lafargue before. He made headlines back in 1911 for his unique retirement plan, which consisted of divvying up all he had for ten years of good living and then killing himself when the money ran out.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 07, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Jobs and Occupations, Utopias and Dystopias, Books, Nineteenth Century

The Big Book of Mars

Friend of WU Marc Hartzman recently came out with The Big Book of Mars (published by Quirk Books, a division of Penguin Random House), and I was lucky enough to get a copy.



For anyone who's a Mars buff, the book is a must-have. Marc has collected together a smorgasbord of Martian-related weirdness. For instance, I was wondering if he'd cover the Martian beavers that I posted about a few weeks ago. And sure enough, the beavers are in there!

I've also been intrigued by his account of weirdo scientist Francis Galton, back in 1896, studying what he believed to be flashing light signals from Mars. Galton claimed to have decoded words such as 'brackets', 'circumference', and 'Jupiter'. Scientists now believe Galton was seeing sun flashing off the Martian polar ice.

Really, anyone who's at all curious about Mars, or just likes weird history, will enjoy the book. Plus, it's the kind of book that would look great on a coffee table as almost every page contains gorgeous, full-color illustrations.

Definitely recommended!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Marc's website

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 18, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy, Books

Jokes Cracked By Lord Aberdeen

Lord Aberdeen (1847-1934) was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1886, and again from 1905 to 1915. He held the office of Governor General of Canada from 1893 to 1898. He also fancied himself something of a wit and allowed some of his jokes to be collected together in a volume titled Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen, published in 1929 by Valentine Press.

Over the years, the book became a cult classic, due to its reputation as the worst joke book ever published. On the strength of this reputation, it was republished in 2013 (available on Kindle for $1.99).

In reality, the jokes aren't all that bad. However, they are liberally sprinkled with Scottish dialect, which can make them hard to understand. Also, their subject matter is often quite dated.

But judge them for yourself. I've collected together some examples below.


A young man had occasion to move from where he had hitherto lived, to another district. He had been associated with Presbyterians in his former abode, but it occurred to the clergyman of the Episcopal Church in the neighbourhood that the young man might suitably be invited to become a member of that Church. This was accomplished; but not long afterwards it transpired that he was about to join the Roman Catholics. On hearing this a friend of the Rector, who, like himself, was a keen curler, remarked, "Man, you've souppit him through the Hoose."

You probably failed to get that joke. I certainly had no clue what the punchline meant. Here's an explanation by John Finnemore (who wrote the intro to the 2013 edition):
in curling, you want to sweep the ice enough to get your team's stone to the target, or 'House', but not so much that it overshoots. Meanwhile, the Presbyterians are an extremely low church denomination of Christianity; Catholicism is of course a very high church; the Episcopalians are somewhere between the two. By encouraging the new arrival to join his church, only to lose him to the Catholics, the Rector has metaphorically swept him through the House … or souppit him through the Hoose!


More jokes (easier to understand):

A lady remarked to a former Bishop of London on one occasion 'Oh! Bishop, I want to tell you something very remarkable. An aunt of mine had arranged to make a voyage in a certain steamer, but at the last moment she had to give up the trip; and that steamer was wrecked; wasn't it a mercy she did not go in it?'
'Well, but,' replied the bishop, 'I don't know your aunt.'


A certain Scot was not very well, and the doctor was called in. On making enquiries the doctor found that the man was mainly depending on farinaceous food, living, as his wife admitted, on "porridge and milk and whiles brose and tatties," so he said: "I think your husband should take some animal food; it will brace him up."
The wife seemed rather dubious, but replied, "Well, I suppose he micht try."
"All right" said the doctor, "I had better call again in a few days to see how he does."
And sure enough, in due course, the doctor arrived and on asking the wife how the new diet was suiting her husband, received the following reply:
"Weel, he manages middlin' well wi' the neeps; and whiles the linseed cake, but oh! doctor, he canna thole the strae!"

('he canna thole the strae' = he cannot stand the straw)

In the Scottish Presbyterian Churches there is a plan whereby a minister who, through advancing years, finds the burden of his charge too heavy, can be partly relieved by the appointment of what is known as an "assistant and successor."
In this way an element of permanence is secured for the assistant or colleague, since, humanly speaking, it is only a matter of time when he will have full charge, and the full stipend, such as it may be.
I remember that the late Dr. Marshall Lang, who was a Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and latterly Principal of the University of Aberdeen, when speaking on a subject which included the above arrangement, said that he had heard of an elderly minister who once said to his "assistant and successor:" "I suppose, my young friend, you are 'thinking long' for my dying?"
"Ah, no, sir," replied the younger man, "you must not put it so; for it is your living that I desire."


Dauvid: "I didna see ye, Sandy, at the Kirk on Sabbath."
Sandy: "I noticed that, when I was takin' up the collection."


A young man arrived unexpectedly at the house of some friends in the country. Could they put him up for the night? Well, they were about full—but, yes, there was one room still vacant, so he could use that. In due course the visitor was conducted to his room, the hostess remarking — "After we had taken the lease of this house we found that one of the rooms was supposed to be haunted; but I daresay you are not superstitious about that sort of thing." "Oh, well, no," said the visitor, "I don't trouble about such tales." When alone, he surveyed the room. It seemed to him to be rather a gaunt sort of place and somewhat chilly. He began to ruminate as to why such a rumour as he heard should have existed, and he decided that in case there should be any humbug of any sort he would place a small pistol, which he always carried in his dressing-case, by the bedside. Soon he fell asleep; but in the dim, grey light of early morning he awoke, feeling far from comfortable, and soon espied at the foot of the bed the appearance of a hand, in upright position. This seemed uncanny, and after a few moments he reached for his pistol, and then said very deliberately, "Now, I am no coward; but if that hand is not removed when I have counted three, I shall fire-One, two, three—Bang!—Oh!!" And ever since that morning one of the toes of that man's right foot has been missing.




More in extended >>

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 12, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Books, Jokes

Cooking with God

Poe's Law, loosely paraphrased, states that it can be very difficult to tell the difference between parodies of extreme beliefs and sincere expressions of those beliefs.

Confusion of this kind occurred with the 1976 cookbook Cooking With God. The authors, Lori David and Robert Robb, intended it to be, in all seriousness, a religious-themed cookbook. But due to the title, many people apparently assumed it was some kind of joke.

Recipes included Manna Honey Bread, Oasis Stuffed Eggs, Caravan Sweet Potatoes, and Eggs Bathsheba.

If you want a copy to add to your collection of weird cookbooks, you can pick one up used on Amazon for $6.95.



Fort Worth Star Telegram - Mar 16, 1977

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 05, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: Food, Religion, Books

The Working Couple’s Cookbook

The gimmick of this cookbook, published in 1971, was that it was striking a blow for Women's Lib by offering instructions for what both HIM and HER could do to prepare a meal.

From a review by James Boyett (pictured below):

The book details what the man is required to accomplish and what the better half is to do.
While most of the tasks the man is required to accomplish require only the knowledge of how to use a rolling pin or knife, I will warn you now that a couple of the recipes require the man to cook the meat — steak, pork chops.
One recipe, heaven forbid, asks the better half to only lay the table and then relax—while the man is required to open a couple of cans and then slave over a hot stove while "she" sips the fruit of the vine and relaxes.

More info: Awful Library Books





Abilene Reporter-News - Jan 23, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 16, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Food, Gender, Books, 1970s

The Quest For A Blonde Mistress

Publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius debuted his "little blue books" in 1919. These were cheaply bound, pocket-sized literary and academic works designed to make highbrow culture accessible to the masses. They sold for five cents each.

Haldeman-Julius didn't do this for charity. He wanted to sell as many titles as possible, and to achieve this he would often alter the titles to make them more appealing to consumers. Basically, he would sex up the titles.

For example, he added the subtitle "The Quest for a Blonde Mistress" to Theophier Gautier’s novel The Fleece of Gold. Sales leapt from 6000 to 50,000 copies a year. (Apparently, 'quest for a blonde mistress' is an accurate description of the book's plot.)



Other titles that benefitted from a title change:

• "The Tallow Ball" by Guy de Maupassant became "A French Prostitute's Sacrifice."
None Beneath the King by José Zorrilla became None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman.
• Victor Hugo’s The King Amuses Himself became The Lustful King Enjoys Himself.

Haldeman-Julius didn't always make the titles more risque. Sometimes he emphasized self-improvement, and that also had a positive effect on sales. For example, sales of Thomas De Quincey’s Essay on Conversation jumped when it was renamed How To Improve Your Conversation. Similarly, Arthur Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy became How to Argue Logically. And Dante and Other Waning Classics became Facts You Should Know About the Classics.

Haldeman-Julius was totally open, even boastful, about this strategy. From his book The First Hundred Million:

It is really amazing what the change of a word may do. The mere insertion of a word often works wonders with a book. Take the account of that European mystery of intrigue and political romance, which Theodore M. R. von Keler did for me under the title of The Mystery of the Iron Mask. This title was fair. It certainly tells what the book is about. But there is something aloof about it. It may, says the reader to himself, be another one of those poetic titles. It may fool me, he thinks, and so he bewares. But I changed it to The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, and now there can be no question, for the record is 30,000 against 11,000 copies per year. Two other "slight" additions come to mind. Victor Hugo's drama, The King Enjoys Himself (Rigoletto; translated by Maurice Samuel), and Zorilla's, the Spanish Shakespeare's, None Beneath the King (translated by Isaac Goldberg) were both rather sick—8,000 for the first and only 6,000 for the second. In 1927, lo and behold, the miraculous cure of title-changing brought 34,000 sales for None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman, and 38,000 for The Lustful King Enjoys Himself! Snatched from the grave! Then there was Whistler's lecture, fairly well known under the title Ten o'Clock. But readers of Little Blue Books are numbered by at least ten thousand for each title yearly. Due to the concentrated interest shown in self-education and self-improvement this helpful lecture on art should be read widely—following this reasoning, the proper explanatory title evolved into What Art Should Mean to You. Readers are more interested in finding out what art should mean to them than in discovering what secret meaning may lie behind such a phrase as "ten o'clock." In 1925 the old title sold less than 2,000; in 1927, the sales, stimulated by The Hospital's service mounted to 9,000.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 07, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Literature, Books

Reusing Old Graves

Prompted by a concern that British cemeteries were running out of space, Professor Douglas Davies was commissioned to research public attitudes about reusing graves. The result was his book Reusing Old Graves, which became the 1995 winner of the Diagram Prize for oddest title of the year.

More info from a review in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal:

The primary inquiry of the research was put in a leading way. Respondents were not asked 'Do you think graves should or should not be reused?'. Instead they were asked what period of time should elapse before a grave could be used for new burials by a different family. Despite the form of the question 35 per cent of respondents said they never should be reused. As against this 62 per cent were willing to countenance the reuse of graves after varying periods (3 per cent were undecided). The periods given ranged from one year to two hundred, the most popular being 100, 50, 20, 30, 75, 150, and 10 in that order.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 15, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: Death, Books

Perfume-O-Books

In 1960, Monarch Books announced the launch of Perfume-o-Books. These were books infused with perfume.

They had plans to use a saddle-leather scent for westerns, floral odors for flower-arrangement books, and food scents for cookbooks.

All of which seemed logical. However, they decided to launch the line with three movie tie-in titles: "The Enemy General," by Dan Pepper, "The Stranglers of Bombay," by Stuart James, and "The Brides of Dracula," by Dean Owen. These three titles were each infused with a "Chanel 5 type perfume."

They seem like very odd titles to have been perfumed. And evidently the perfume didn't appreciably help sales, because no more perfume-o-book titles were ever printed.



Richmond Times Dispatch - Apr 17, 1960

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 18, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Books, 1960s, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

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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.

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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.

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