Category:
Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore

The Seneca Lake Monster

One of the lesser-known giant enigmas to haunt the lakes of the Northeast USA.



Source of article below.







Posted By: Paul - Sun May 15, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Cryptozoology, Regionalism, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore, North America

Death by Drama

Paul posted last week about a real-life murder that occurred onstage during a play. This reminded me of another onstage death I once read about in Jody Enders' book Death By Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends.

The death is said to have occurred in 1549, during a performance of the play Judith and Holofernes, which tells the Biblical (or Biblical apocrypha) story of Judith who cuts off the head of an Assyrian general, Holofernes. The producers of the play supposedly decided it would add a touch of realism if the actor playing Holofernes really was decapitated.

The details from Enders' book:

According to the legend, when Philip II made his triumphal entry into Tournai in 1549, he was greeted by a painstakingly realistic performance of the drama of Judith and Holofernes. Frederic Faber relates that producers Jean de Bury and Jean de Crehan had arranged a very special entertainment for the future monarch. A convicted heretic and murderer was to assume the role of Holofernes long enough to be decapitated during the play by another convicted felon. The latter, having been pardoned, would just as briefly assume the role of Judith, his executioner:

Jean de Bury and Jean de Crehan, duly charged with decorating the streets, had imagined rendering in its purest form the biblical exploit of Judith. Consequently, for filling the role of Holofernes, a criminal had been chosen who had been condemned to have his flesh torn with red-hot pincers. This poor fellow, guilty of several murders and ensconced in heresy, had preferred decapitation to the horrible torture to which he had been condemned, hoping, perhaps, that a young girl would have neither the force nor the courage to cut off his head. But the organizers, having had the same concern, had substituted for the real Judith a young man who had been condemned to banishment and to whom a pardon was promised if he played his role well.

The story goes that the two substitutions were accepted by the two unnamed men. Being an actor / executioner was apparently preferable to being banished, and death by decapitation during drama was preferable to being skinned alive (something that the Eel of Melun might himself have understood).

"Judith" had only one condition to meet: to provide acting so good that it wasn't acting at all. . .

The fantastic narrative next shows Philip arriving just as the axe is falling. As real blood supposedly begins to flow, it prompts applause in some, indignation in others, and curiosity in the prince, who remains implacable as the body of "Holofernes" goes through its last spasms:

In fact, as Philip approached the theater where the mystery play was being represented, the so-called Judith unsheathed a well-sharpened scimitar and, seizing the hair of Holofernes, who was pretending to be asleep, dealt him a single blow with so much skill and vigor that his head was separated from his body. At the [sight of] the streams of blood that spurted out from the neck of the victim, frenetic applause and cries of indignation rose up from amid the spectators. Only the young prince remained impassive, observing the convulsions of the decapitated man with curiosity and saying to his noble entourage: "nice blow".



Enders has doubts this onstage execution ever really took place, but can't rule out the possibility altogether.

In the story's favor: Philip II really did go to Tournai in 1549; Jehan de Crehan was a real person; there really were plays performed in Philip's honor; and Tournai had a history of executing heretics, and of offering decapitation as a "kinder" alternative to more gruesome forms of execution.

The points against the story's veracity: not a single, extant contemporaneous source mentions this onstage decapitation. The first references to it only appear several hundred years later. And it stretches credulity to imagine that a condemned prisoner would obligingly play his part in the performance, even to the extent of pretending to be asleep before he was decapitated.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Mar 18, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Death, Theater and Stage, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore, Sixteenth Century

Formaldehyde Hunger

According to medical student lore, the smell of formaldehyde while dissecting bodies stimulates the appetite. This phenomenon is known as 'formaldehyde hunger'.

It was mentioned in a 2020 article by Amalia Namath in the Georgetown Medical Review, and that's the earliest reference to it I've been able to find:

A few years had passed since I had last been in the anatomy lab, but the smell immediately brought me back. With the smell came a flood of memories—meeting my 4 lab mates and bonding as we spent hours hunched over our cadaver. Often, we would share our favorite recipes as the lab would wind down, in part because of the aptly named "formaldehyde hunger" and to find common ground.

An article on mashed.com disputes the reality of the phenomenon, noting, "there is some self-reported evidence of formaldehyde actually having the opposite effect — constricting hunger, rather than inducing it."

My guess is that med students just naturally build up an appetite during the long hours they're dissecting a cadaver. After all, they're presumably not snacking while they're doing this. The formaldehyde has nothing to do with their hunger. But it makes a better story to attribute their food cravings to the formaldehyde.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 09, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Science, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore

Surprise, Surprise!

Did this really happen twice in the space of a year, in a manner that became noticeable to a newspaper? Or was it the invention of a bored and desperate reporter, then copied by another?

Source for first item: Lindsay Gazette (Lindsay, California) 31 May 1935, Fri Page 11




Source for second item: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) 29 May 1936, Fri Page 2

Posted By: Paul - Thu Dec 02, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Domestic, Travel, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore, 1930s





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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.

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.

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