Weird News of the 1930s
July 1930: Thousands of American boys were gripped by a fad for sitting in trees, competing for bragging rights to see who could remain on a branch the longest. Tree-sitting endurance records quickly grew to hundreds of hours as tree-sitters were assisted by ground crews who brought them food and supplies. The fad lasted several months, until boys began falling out of trees and one broke his neck.
January 1931: Annoyed by his cow's habit of swishing her tail back and forth as he tried to milk her, high school student Jack Horsfall decided to put a stop to it by tying a brick to her tail. The cow managed to swish her tail anyway, landing a blow with the brick directly behind Horsfall's ear, knocking him unconscious. When he woke, he untied the brick.
October 1932: A Seattle woman complained to the phone company that her phone never rang, but added that she knew whenever someone was trying to call her because her dog would howl in the yard. The repairman investigated and soon located the problem. There was a short in the line, and the dog was chained to the ground wire.
March 1934: When 40-year-old Mabel Wolf of Brooklyn showed up at a hospital complaining of acute cramps, 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, weighing one pound, three ounces. Remarkably, the items hadn't done her any serious harm. Miss Wolf said that she had eaten all the objects five years earlier, while working at a Manhattan hardware store. When pressed further, she explained, "I really don't know what started me on my diet. I guess I was just trying to be funny."
November 1934: Mrs. Lloyd B. Copley, a telegraph operator, testified in a superior court divorce case that "when I was sleeping my husband thought I was snoring in Morse code to signal someone outside." Driven to a jealous rage by this belief, the husband pounced on his wife with all fours, blackening her eyes and beating her. The judge took the case under advisement.
September 1935: Innkeeper Arthur Gehrke, of Watertown, Wisconsin, informed the press that once again he was preparing to go to bed and would remain there throughout winter until spring. He said, "I hibernate and don't get into trouble; while I may miss some fun, I also miss a lot of disagreeable things." Gehrke had been practicing winter hibernation for 25 years and continued the seasonal slumber until his death in 1942. He hired a temporary bartender while away, and the publicity surrounding his habit actually increased his business.
July 1936: Private citizen Roscoe E. Dickson offered a suggestion to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce concerning how to boost civic pride. He proposed that every day, at an unannounced time, all fire sirens in the city should start blaring. Everyone within hearing distance would then be required to stop whatever they were doing, turn to the nearest person, vigorously shake their hand, and say enthusiastically, "We're living in the finest city in the United States." The chamber took his suggestion under advisement.
1937: Arthur Dean Lindsay filed deeds of claim at the Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla, Georgia claiming ownership of the sun, the moon, the stars, and all planets except the earth. He declared that all his extraterrestrial property should henceforth be referred to as "A.D. Lindsay's Archapellago" and boasted that he was the "richest man in the universe." However, that same year he also reported that he was bankrupt.
January 1937: A passenger train from McCook, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado got in four hours late due to frequent, unexplained stops on the line. The engineer thought it was the conductor stopping the train, and the conductor, vice versa, thought it was the engineer. Investigation upon arrival revealed the culprit was an elephant in the baggage car who was repeatedly pulling the airbrake rope with his trunk.
September 1937: Policeman Theodore Lambert testified in a Chicago court that he felt sure Larry Radkewicz had been driving while intoxicated, but he was unable to smell the man's breath to confirm his suspicion. "Why not?" asked the judge. "Because he had a goat in the back of the car, and I couldn't smell anything but the goat," explained Lambert. Radkewicz was placed on probation.
September 28, 1937: News photographer Al Mingalone was on assignment in Maine trying to get photos from a "balloonist's point of view." This involved using gas-filled weather balloons to lift him into the air. But with 27 balloons pulling him upwards, the safety line keeping him tethered to the ground snapped, sending him drifting across the countryside, towards the ocean. He floated 13 miles before a local Catholic priest, Rev. James J. Mullen, who happened to be a crack rifle shot, managed to shoot enough of the balloons to bring Mingalone back to the ground.
December 1938: When the San Francisco Mint opened in 1937, it was advertised as being invasion-proof, bombproof, earthquake-proof, fireproof, and outfitted with the latest high-tech anti-robbery gadgets. However, a year later two 15-year-old boys managed to break into it by climbing up a drainpipe and entering through a second-story window, which had been left open for ventilation. They were discovered in the penny-minting room by a guard. The boys said it had been "simple" to get in, and that they had done it just "to see if we could."
January 1939: Kentucky farmer Albert Clark reported that one of his hens had laid an egg shaped like a light bulb after days of "continuous staring" at the light bulb he had recently hung in the hen house. He suggested that the misshapen egg was an unforeseen result of rural electrification, and sent the egg to the Rural Electrification Administration in D.C. as proof of the effect of light bulb "fixation."
March 1939: For the first time ever, a bird was transported 20 miles via bird. A small canary was placed inside an aluminum tube and then strapped to the back of a carrier pigeon which flew from Elizabeth, New Jersey to New York City with its cargo. The canary and tube together only weighed as much as a 3-cent letter.

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.