In 1951, Jim Gernhart, having recently retired, decided to hold a rehearsal of his own funeral. He kept rehearsing it each subsequent year for 25 years, until finally (still alive) he gave up. Because of this annual ritual he became known as Colorado's "living corpse".
He eventually died in 1980 at the age of 103.
Life - Jun 18, 1951
Tampa Tribune - Jan 24, 1980
From the 1930s to the 1950s, one of the most popular oddities to visit in Ohio was Winter Zero Swartsel's "Bottle Farm" located outside of Farmersville. (He said he got his name because he was born on a "hard, cold winter day.") Here's a description of it from the historical marker now at the site
While chiding the American people for their wastefulness and abusing their environment, his 22 acres of farmland became his artist's canvas filled with the thousands of items he collected from the “wasteful.” Winter Zellar (Zero) Swartsel's farm property became a field of glass as he adorned it with sculptures and “art” using glassware of all kinds, bells, bed frames, wood, and other discarded items. His finest works, fashioned from bottles titled “Kindly Light” and “Full Measure” created the popular Farmersville Bottle Farm. The farm also provided interesting listening experiences. In addition to the bells and twinkling glass that rang out in the wind, residents in town could count on hearing “The Old Rugged Cross” played on loud speakers on Sundays. Bells on grazing sheep added to the “noises” he described as restful. The farm attracted visitors from every state in the nation except Delaware.
Curious that there were no visitors from Delaware.
Photo by Edward Weston
Photo by Edward Weston
Here's another description of the Bottle Farm from "Joe" on Angelfire
I grew up in the 1950's in a little town called Farmersville (population about 1000) in southwestern Montgomery County, Ohio. We lived on the western edge of town and about a mile out of town on that same road there existed a most peculiar farm called The Bottle Farm. Whenever we drove by, the most striking feature of this odd farm was that the fields bristled with poles driven into the ground at rather random locations. Each vertical pole had a series of glass bottles affixed to it at an angle to the pole, rather like very productive corn stalks with glass ears of corn and no leaves. Many of the glass bottles were of colored glass and it all glittered in the sunlight.
Scattered across the fields were heavy wooden structures that supported old church bells. To each bell's clapper was loosely wired an irregularly cut piece of tin painted flat black. Each piece of tin had some Indian words or a short phrase or saying scrawled across it in white paint. Whenever the wind blew, the pieces of tin would dance in the breeze and cause the clappers to clang the bells.
Dayton Daily News - Aug 18, 1954
Pittsburgh Press - Jun 12, 1938
News reports indicate that Swartsel wasn't on the best of terms with the surrounding community. He had a habit of shooting at teenagers whom, he claimed, were trespassing on his property.
When he died in 1953 the city tried to preserve the Bottle Farm as a tourist attraction but gave up after two years and auctioned everything off. Today the historical marker is the only reminder of the Farm's existence at the location.
Algie R. Crook (or "Alja" Crook, as his name was sometimes spelled) was a professor of mineralogy at Chicago's Northwestern University. His great claim to fame, however, had nothing to do with science. Instead, it was that in April, 1901 he allegedly told his undergraduate class that he had never kissed a woman. More specifically, he reportedly said, "I have never uttered a profane word, never have smoked or chewed tobacco, drank intoxicants, nor hugged or kissed a woman."
Given that he was thirty-seven years old at the time, this was considered a remarkable admission. So remarkable that when word of it leaked to the press it became international news.
Great Falls Tribune - May 15, 1901
The media started referring to him as "Crook, The Unkissed." Acquaintances of Crook (or people who claimed to be his acquaintances) readily confirmed the tale, attributing his lack of kisses to his embrace of "austere science." One said, "the scientific atmosphere is inimical to the love germ."
Offers of marriage flooded in, from women hoping to be the one to thaw the professor's icy reserve.
Philadelphia Times - Apr 28, 1901
The French were particularly taken with the story. As reported in the Leavenworth Times
(May 8, 1901):
Leading [French] novelists and scientists have been interviewed. Some pronounce the Chicago instructor an "idiot" and a "monster," but a powerful clan uphold his theory that love for woman, even love of the ideal type, seriously impedes a man who would be great and learned.
Supposedly the news even reached as far as China where the dowager empress expressed a desire to see him.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Apr 27, 1901
Crook, for his part, was said to be "abashed and humiliated over the gossip the affair has provoked," and also furious at the "tattling undergraduates."
He issued a denial of the allegation, stating, "I have never told any one that I have refrained from hugging or kissing women, for the reason that I consider it nobody's business but my own."
He recalled having advised a student to do as he did — never to kiss, hug, swear, and so forth. And he figured that's how the story must have started. But he insisted that he hadn't said that he had never done these things at all.
However, it was too late. The story was out there and couldn't be taken back. His denial got buried in the back pages of newspapers, if it was printed at all.
In other interviews, Crook asserted that he had kissed female family members, which didn't help his case much since it implied that he had indeed never romantically kissed a woman. Also, a former student recalled that Crook had made similar claims before, noting, "He is a consistent Methodist, and his convictions sometimes cause him some trouble." So I kind of suspect that Crook really did make the no-kissing claim to his class, but denied it later out of embarrassment.
Whatever the case may have been, the tale continued to haunt him. The following year (1902) a group of students at Northwestern formed an "Anti-osculation Society," claiming that they were "following the teachings of Professor Algie R. Crook, the man who never was kissed." They elected him an honorary member.
In 1904 Crook got married, and inevitably this triggered a renewal of the no-kissing story. "Unkissed Man To Wed," reported the papers.
The Hutchinson News - Dec 28, 1904
Crook and his wife eventually had five children together. He died in 1930, at the age of sixty-six, and the kissing story resurfaced in his Chicago Tribune
obituary (June 1, 1930). It was, after all, the achievement he was most famous for:
In 1901 he won fame by being credited with having declared he was never kissed. He denied he had made the assertion after it roused world wide comment.
However, the memorial of him in the Journal of the Mineralogical Society of America
omitted the kissing story. Nor is it mentioned on the wikipedia page about him