Weird Universe Blog — March 1, 2024

The Kendall Paracone

In the early years of the American space program there was a lot of concern about how to get stranded astronauts safely back to Earth. One idea was the "Kendall Paracone," proposed by Robert Kendall of McDonnell Douglass.

Kendall imagined astronauts dropping from space back to earth inside of a giant, gas-inflatable shuttlecock. The shape of the shuttlecock would ensure that it always remained nose down, preventing the device from tipping over and roasting the astronaut during re-entry. It also required no parachute. It would simply plunge all the way to the ground, slowing down naturally from air resistance just as badminton shuttlecocks do. Shock absorbers in the nose would dampen the final impact.

Coos Bay World - Oct 29, 1976

"astronaut escape sequence"
"Techniques for space and hypersonic flight escape, SAE Transactions, Vol 76, Section 3

Kendall thought his paracone system could also stop helicopters from crashing:

Aeronautical Engineering - Jan 1978

Posted By: Alex - Fri Mar 01, 2024 - Comments (3)
Category: Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy

February 29, 2024

Leap Year Lawsuit

In 1997 John Melo was sentenced to "ten years to ten years and one day" for home invasion. Seven years later he filed a motion in the Massachusetts Superior Court complaining that the Department of Correction "had miscalculated the length of his sentence because it had failed to credit one day for each February 29 ('leap year' day) he had served to date."

The defendant argues that the policy and practice of the DOC not to recognize and credit the additional day in a "leap year" is incorrect. He argues that a "year," as imposed by the sentence of ten years to ten years and one day, consists of 365 days each, not the 366 days contained in a leap year.

The Superior Court ruled against him, noting he had been "sentenced to a term of years, not to a term of days." It also concluded that his lawsuit shouldn't have been allowed in the first place.


His case was a longshot, but it's true that leap years can be more beneficial to some than to others. Salaried employees essentially have to work an extra day for free, whereas hourly employees get an extra payday. And banks often don't include February 29 when they calculate the interest they owe their customers, thereby giving themselves an extra day of profit at everyone else's expense.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Feb 29, 2024 - Comments (3)
Category: Lawsuits

The Complacent Americans

One such gem is a Civil Defense "scare" album called THE COMPLACENT AMERICANS that simply must be heard to be believed. This LP - with its bright orange mushroom cloud cover and its hyperbolic advisories to sensitive listeners - could well have been produced by that genius of exploitation William Castle. But actually it was recorded under the stately auspices of the Office of Civil Defense, a sub-branch of the U.S. government (later replaced by FEMA).

Posted By: Paul - Thu Feb 29, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: PSA’s | War | Vinyl Albums and Other Media Recordings | Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters | 1960s

February 28, 2024

Forehand Guns

The choice of dog killers and stagecoach robbers.

Recreation magazine - Aug 1899

Recreation magazine - Dec 1899

Posted By: Alex - Wed Feb 28, 2024 - Comments (5)
Category: Advertising | Weapons | Nineteenth Century

February 27, 2024

Rosemary Brown’s Music

At first glance the 1970 album Rosemary Brown's Music might have seemed just like a collection of classical music. The track list included composers such as Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven, but looking closer one would see that the various tracks were merely "inspired by" these composers.

And there was the odd twist. Rosemary Brown claimed that the ghostly spirits of famous composers had dictated the songs to her. Brown insisted that she herself had almost no musical ability. She was merely the conduit through which musical ghosts were sending the living world new music.

She also claimed that Liszt would watch television with her and would occasionally appear to her while she was at the supermarket. Apparently he was very curious about the price of bananas.

More info:

Saskatchewan Leader-Post - May 28, 1970
Click to enlarge

Posted By: Alex - Tue Feb 27, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Music | Paranormal

Bad Wig Bandits

Bad hairpieces are a definite theme for bank robbers. The first such I find is from the 1950s. The latest is from 2020. When will the next Bad Wig Bandit strike?

The newspaper piece below was too long to reproduce in its entirety, but you can read about Frank Sprenz here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Feb 27, 2024 - Comments (0)
Category: Stupid Criminals | Twentieth Century | Twenty-first Century | Hair and Hairstyling

February 26, 2024

A Death Foretold

Malkeet Singh predicted that he would die on Sunday, April 8, 1984 at exactly 10am. Then he would be reincarnated as a 1400-year-old faith healer. Dozens of people turned up to witness the event, but nothing happened. So Singh told the crowd to come back after lunch. Still, nothing happened. The next day Singh returned to work at the local Ford factory.

Coventry Evening Telegraph - Apr 9, 1984

Posted By: Alex - Mon Feb 26, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Death | Predictions | 1980s

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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.

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