Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations

Invention Merit Badge

The Invention Merit Badge has the distinction of being the least-earned boy scout merit badge ever. Only 10 people ever earned it. The primary reason for this being that it required a scout to "invent and patent some useful article," which was a pretty high bar to set. After only three years the scout organization decided it was too much of a challenge and discontinued the badge. So it was only offered from 1911 to 1914. It was eventually replaced in 2010 by an Inventing badge which didn't have the patent requirement.

Enthusiasts of scout history have tried to figure out who the 10 winners of the badge were and what they invented, but so far it seems that only one of the patents has been identified. It was a "uniform coat with a removable false sleeve on which Scouts could sew merit badges and rank badges," patented by Graeme Thomas Smallwood of Washington, D.C.

More info: Scouting Magazine, "History of the Invention Merit Badge" [pdf]

Graeme Smallwood

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 05, 2018 - Comments (0)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Inventions, 1910s

Flying Funeral Directors

Founded in 1960, and apparently still going strong. Membership is limited to licensed funeral directors who are also pilots (licensed or student).

It was initially called the Flying Funeral Directors of America, but now they call it the Flying Funeral Directors Association. So they must have opened it up to international members.

Their website:

Coshocton Tribune - Oct 16, 1960

Cincinnati Enquirer - Nov 2, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 13, 2018 - Comments (1)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Death, Air Travel and Airlines

British Bunnies

Serving drinks and the bill with your back to the customer is a weird thing, even if it is for sexy reasons.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Apr 04, 2018 - Comments (5)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Sex Symbols, 1960s

Animal of the Month Club

Creative Playthings, Inc. of Princeton, New Jersey launched its "Animal of the Month Club" in 1968. For $19.95, subscribers received small animals in the mail— not actually every month as the name of the club implied, but every few months. The animals included Argentine toads, a "mystery snail," newts, musk turtles, African underwater frogs, and Siamese fish.

The club reflected Creative Playthings philosophy of "helping children to learn while they play." There was, unfortunately, one big problem with the execution of the concept. The animals kept dying in the mail. So, by 1970, the club was no more.

Tyrone Daily Herald - Apr 1, 1969

Akron Beacon Journal - Apr 20, 1969

Posted By: Alex - Tue Mar 06, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Animals, Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, 1960s, Postal Services

Extra Milers

The Extra Miler Club is a group of people whose goal is to visit every county (and equivalent jurisdiction) in every state of the United States. That's 3,143 counties. Indian reservations don't count, although some visit them anyway. Parishes do count, as do independent cities.

If you finish the goal, you're called a "county completer." Only 51 people have joined this elite group, and they're all listed here.

More info:

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jul 09, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Hobbies and DIY, Travel, Collectors

Jim Smith Society

Jim Smith of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania founded the Jim Smith Society in 1969. There's only one rule for membership. Your name has to be Jim Smith, or some close variation of it. For instance, Jamie Smith counts, which means there's a few female members.

Smith said that he started the society as a way to show pride in having the second-most common name in the United States. The first-most common name is apparently John Smith.

I don't know if the original Jim Smith is still around. He'd be around 95 years old if he is. But the society is still going strong with over 2000 members. Its Facebook page is pretty active. Though its website hasn't been updated in over a year.

I wonder how many other names have their own society? I'd definitely join an Alex Boese Society if there was one. I know there are a few other people with my name out there, such as here, here, here, and here.

More info: NY Times (July 22, 1979)

Fort Myers News-Press - Oct 5, 1980

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 23, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations

What is the New York Center For The Strange?

WUvians, perhaps you can help me solve a mystery which has been perplexing me for the past few days — what is the "New York Center For The Strange"?

Here's the info I've gathered so far:

In 1972, an organization by this name began an annual tradition of issuing predictions for the following year. It claimed to have obtained these predictions by conducting a survey of American witches.

Year after year, around Halloween, these predictions have appeared in papers. (For instance: 1977, 1979, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990.)

Sometimes the predictions sounded serious, such as when, in November 1974, the NYCFTS predicted that "Henry Kissinger will resign as secretary of state before next July" (wrong!). But more often the predictions were just bizarre and seemingly tongue-in-cheek. For instance, in 1974 the witches also predicted "a nationwide shortage of Scotch whiskey, shoe polish and lighter fluid." And in 1978 they predicted "a nationwide shortage of Beluga caviar, earmuffs, bagels and automobile dipsticks."

Throughout the 1980s and 90s the witches' predictions continued to appear in papers. In the 21st Century they become harder to find, but as recently as 2013 the NYCFTS issued predictions, though I can't find any predictions issued in 2014 or 2015.

In all this time, no one seems to have questioned what exactly is this organization. Is it real, or is it someone's long-running joke? Is there really a "Center For The Strange" with offices in New York City?

Various NYCFTS spokespeople have told reporters that the organization's mission is to help correct "the widely-held image of witches as evil, gnarled hags who fly across rooftops astride brooms." This makes it sound like it might actually be a genuine society of witches.

But on the other hand, the NYCFTS officially describes itself as "a non-profit organization involved, basically, in research." This, to me, sounds like a joke.

In 2013, someone created a website for the organization, at But they only kept it active for a year. (It's preserved in the wayback machine.)

On this website, an address was listed: 555 Fifth Avenue, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10017. Currently, this address seems to be occupied by one Himanshu Rajan Sharma, Corporate Lawyer.

I strongly suspect that the syndicated humor columnist Don Maclean was somehow involved in the NYCFTS, since in the early 1970s he wrote about it frequently (such as here and here). He even claimed to have visited its headquarters and knew its officers. Perhaps the organization was his satirical creation and he issued press releases every year on its behalf, to amuse himself.

However, Maclean died in 2005, so obviously someone else has been keeping the joke alive — if it is, in fact, a joke.

And that's all I know about the New York Center For The Strange. I'm hoping someone out there might have more info about it.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Dec 02, 2015 - Comments (8)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations

Mystery Illustration 10


This Scout is signalling for what now?

Visit link, then scroll down.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Sep 24, 2015 - Comments (10)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Signage, 1980s

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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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