March 1934: Forty-year-old Mabel Wolf of Brooklyn showed up at Kings County Hospital complaining of acute stomach pain and a loss of appetite. An x-ray revealed the presence of a large clump of metallic objects in her stomach. In a subsequent hour-long operation, surgeons removed 1,203 pieces of hardware from her stomach. The objects weighed a total of one pound, three ounces. Amazingly, they hadn't done her any serious harm.
Lebanon Evening Report - Mar 21, 1934
The inventory of items removed included:
584 fine upholstery tacks
144 carpet tacks
2 chair tacks
1 roundheaded thumbtack
3 thumbtacks (ordinary)
46 small screws
6 medium screws
80 large screws
1 hook-shaped screw (coat hanger)
30 small bolts
47 larger bolts
3 picture hooks
2 large bent safety pins
1 small safety pin
2 stray pins without heads
1 matted mass of hair containing screws and pins
59 assorted beads
4 pieces of wire
89 pieces of glass (all sizes)
1 piece of teacup handle
Miss Wolf claimed that she had eaten all the objects five years earlier, in a single week, while she had been working at a Manhattan hardware store. (You have to wonder if the store had noticed the loss of inventory.)
When pressed further, Miss Wolf said, "I really don't know what started me on my diet. I guess I was just trying to be funny. Don't ask me any more about it. I only want to get well and go home."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Mar 20, 1934
Miss wolf had suffered minor stomach pains for five years as a result of the objects, but she had been able to self-treat the discomfort with patent medicine. She finally went to a doctor when the pain became too intense.
One mystery that the doctors weren't fully able to explain was why the metal objects all clumped together in her stomach. Dr. Edwin H. Fiske speculated that "metallic objects in the stomach take on a kind of magnetism, which attracs the individual objects to one another, so that they cling together in one large ball, as if welded together. Thus the danger of the cuts from pointed nails and pins is lessened."
Evidently Miss Wolf suffered from the eating disorder known as pica, which is a compulsion to eat non-nutritive items such as paper, metal, chalk, mud, etc. I suspect that her strange diet hadn't been confined to a single week. She'd probably been doing it for quite a while.
If you're interested in the subject of pica and people swallowing weird things, you can find a whole bunch of cases discussed (including Mabel Wolf) in Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them by Mary Cappello.
Once upon a time, a company with the somewhat off-putting name of Hurff was big enough to advertise in a top-of-the-line national magazine like LIFE.
Here's the backstory, so far as I can find out.
I have found ads from them as late as 1948. Does that mean that store was selling three-year-old cans of food, given the plant-closing date of 1945? Or maybe the plant did not close, but Hurff himself was forced out? We will probably never know...
Hurff is a fine forgotten piece of what cartoonist Robert Crumb calls "weird old America."
Over at twincities.com, Dave Orrick extols the virtues of squirrel burgers, which he says are one of his "favorite ways to introduce people to squirrel meat."
Just get yourself some squirrels (you may have some scampering around in your back yard), skin 'em, run the meat through a grinder, and cook it up. Dave says that squirrel has "a distinct, nutty flavor." But if you find the flavor too strong, you can always dilute it with a bit of turkey meat.
I know there have been occasional efforts to encourage people to eat squirrel meat (see below), but these efforts always seem to fizzle. Kinda like the similar efforts to get people to eat insects.
Sydney Morning Herald - May 14, 1971
Posted By: Alex - Sat Nov 05, 2016 -
After World War II, Dr. Hugh Cott of Cambridge University conducted a series of egg-tasting experiments in order to determine the palatability of eggs from various species of birds. I think part of the idea was to determine which eggs might possibly be used as a food source by Englanders, in case of another war. But part of the idea was also just scientific curiosity.
He assembled a panel of three egg tasters, who were served the eggs scrambled. They then rated them on a 10-point scale. Over a six-year period (1946-1951) they tasted eggs from 212 bird species.
Some of their results: The domestic hen was rated tastiest (8.8 out of 10). The coot, moorhen, and lesser black-backed gull came in second place (8.3 out of 10).
Penguin eggs were "particularly fine and delicate in flavor." Domestic duck eggs were of only "intermediate palatability."
Coming in at the bottom were the eggs of the great tit ("salty, fishy, and bitter"), wren ("sour, oily"), and the oyster-catcher ("strong onion-like flavor"). The eggs of the bar-headed goose made the tasters gag. However, "The freshness of the material available may have been in question."
Cott concluded that brightly colored eggs were, overall, less palatable than camouflaged eggs, but this result has subsequently been challenged. Zoologist Tim Birkhead has also suggested that Cott's experiment would have been more scientifically valuable if the tasters had eaten the eggs raw, because "What predators ever experienced cooked eggs?"
From the 1940s to the 1970s, the makers of "Skinless" wieners tried hard, through relentless advertising, to establish "Weeny Witch" parties as a Halloween tradition. Basically, these were parties that completely centered around hot dogs. A "Weeny Witch" (a hot dog dressed up as a witch) would serve as a table centerpiece.
To make the Weeny Witch party more festive the company distributed a pamphlet with party suggestions, which included "Bobbing for Franks" as well as "Feeding the Weeny Witch." The latter involved creating a cardboard cutout of a witch's head. Blindfolded kids would then try to stick their weeny in the witch's mouth.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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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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