Weird Universe Blog — June 18, 2021

Puppet Officer Brendan O’Smarty

1993: Under pressure from his superiors to stop carrying his ventriloquist dummy with him while on patrol, San Francisco Police Officer Bob Geary decided to take the matter to the voters. He formed the "Committee to Save Puppet Officer Brendan O'Smarty" and succeeded in putting the issue on the ballot.

The voters decided by a narrow margin of 51% to 49% to allow him to continue patrolling with Brendan O'Smarty.

This turns out not to be the first puppet officer we've posted about. Just a few months ago, Paul posted about puppet officer Jerry McSafety. I wonder how many more puppet officers there are?

More info: wikipedia, alchetron

Geary with Puppet Officer Brendan O'Smarty

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 18, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Police and Other Law Enforcement | Puppets and Automatons | 1990s

Rubber Biscuit

A classic bit of aural weirdness.

Their Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jun 18, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Jabberwocky, Scat Singing, Nonsense Verse and Glossolalia | Music | 1950s

June 17, 2021

Stamp-Licking Animals

Martin Wainwright tells the following story in The "Guardian" Book of April Fool's Day:

[The journalist James] Bone described on one occasion how a desperate contributor of 'pars', small fillers for the popular press, went to send a letter from a post office and noticed that the pet cat on the counter was sitting with its tongue out. On a whim, he gave it his stamp to lick which it did. The next day a very short story appeared under the headline: Post Office novelty — Stamp-licking cat of Charing Cross'.

Like the best April Fool's jokes, this was to girdle the Earth. Not only was the post office besieged by punters wanting to send catlick mail (until the cat was driven demented and fled after two days) but the story spread and resurfaced for years. Animal protection societies weighed in, MPs spoke and the innocuous prank took off. Bone's friend was send clippings from across the country and, as the years went by, from Australia, Shanghai and the United States.

This suggests that stamp-licking animals were a journalistic invention. However, there do seem to have been some real-life examples of the phenomenon.

Longview Daily News - Dec 13, 1974

The Bloomington Pantagraph - Mar 11, 1951

"Ashley practiced stamp-licking until he had the task down purrfectly, then offered to kick off the Organization for Responsible Care of Animals' public appeal... In return for his generosity, each donor will receive a thank-you note enclosed in an Ashley-licked envelope with stamp attached."
Lancaster Sunday News - Oct 6, 1985

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jun 17, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Cats | Dogs | Postal Services | Stamps

Atomic Survival Jacket


Posted By: Paul - Thu Jun 17, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Death | Inventions | War | Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters | 1950s

June 16, 2021

The Talking Fish Lure

Ads for the "Talking Fish Lure" began to appear in papers in 1959. They promised that, thanks to this new talking lure, fishermen would be guaranteed to catch fish:

An amazing built-in "fish-attracting" transmitter that broadcasts a steady stream of irresistible underwater messages that talk, coax and actually command a fish into snapping at your hook. Yes, actually excites and stimulates 5 different fish senses all at the same time . . . and forces each and every fish up to 2,000 feet away to come darting straight for your line.

The Vancouver Province - May 30, 1959

Eight years later, the promoter of the lure was indicted on 60 counts of mail fraud. From the New York Daily News (May 12, 1967):

A talking fish lure, designed to "force each and every hunger-crazed fish from up to 2000 feet away to come darting straight for your line," became snagged yesterday on a federal grand jury, which indicted its promoter on 60 counts of mail fraud.

Named in the indictment was Monroe Caine, 38, of 222 Daisy Farms Drive, Scarsdale, described as an advertising man and mail order promoter whose ads for a "remarkable European talking fish lure" ran July 19, 1964, in newspapers across the country.

The jurors, who were shown the ads, found the whole thing somewhat fishy, especially after being told that fishermen who sent in $1.98 or $2.49 for the lure got either a worthless gadget or nothing in return.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 16, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams | Sports | Fish | 1950s | 1960s

The First Earth Run

First Earth Run: A Catalyst for Hope from Gail Straub & David Gershon on Vimeo.

This large event seems to have vanished from 2021 memory--at least judging by the paucity of Google references, most of which are for the accompanying song that was created for the occasion (below). One thing we can affirm: it did not bring Peace on Earth.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jun 16, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Fads | Music | Sports | Travel | International Cooperation, Global Events and Planetary-scale Happenings | 1980s

June 15, 2021

Swindle’s Ghost

'Swindle's Ghost' is a term for an optical illusion that some psychologists have offered as a possible scientific explanation for ghost sightings. Actually, I doubt that many sightings are a result of this phenomenon, but I like the name.

Newsday Special Correspondent Paul Brock (May 15, 1967) offered this explanation:

One after-image, which psychologists believe has given rise to many reports of nocturnal apparitions, is called "Swindle's Ghost." It was first described by the American psychologist P.F. Swindle, about 45 years ago.

It can be summoned up by anybody. Using no more ectoplasm than a table lamp, friends can join you in this weird experiment, right in your own living room. Choose a dark moonless night and draw the drapes securely so that no stray light from street lamps or passing cars enters the room. Group the chairs near a table or floor lamp with one person directly alongside it to switch it on and off.

First, everyone must remain in the darkened room for at least 10 minutes before the experiment begins, so that the eyes can adjust completely to the darkness. Then, each ghosthunter must look steadily toward the lamp but not directly at it. They must keep perfectly still and keep the eyes from moving during the time the room will be illuminated and immediately afterward.

Now turn on the lamp for a full second. Turn it off. Shortly after you will see the whole scene loom up in the darkness with startling clarity, and the ghost impression will last for some time. Not only will everything appear exactly as it was when the light was on, but many precise details will be evident which could not possibly have been noted during the brief illumination...

The same optical illusion occurs when someone reports that he has seen a ghost in a graveyard at night. If a man is passing a graveyard at night and the moon breaks through the clouds just as he is opposite a white tombstone, in a few minutes he might see a vague white form loom up before him. The moon's illumination has created the 'ghost' which the man actually does see, but which is only an after-image— in the image of "Swindle's Ghost."

Some more info in the book Systems Theories and A Priori Aspects of Perception:

Swindle observed that if one experiences a very bright flash, one achieves a very powerful positive afterimage that may last over a period of hours. "Swindle's Ghost," as it is referred to occasionally, is a conscious image sustained purely by cortical activity; it is an image created by a stimulus that is not present during later observation. In spite of the absence of a distal stimulus, the image is very real. Observations by Gregory, Wallace, and Campbell (1959) and Davies (1973) attests to just how real it is; if a Swindle's Ghost image is a corridor, and one walks down it in total darkness, one seems to be walking, briefly, through his or her own afterimage.

You can find Swindle's original article here:

Swindle, P.F. (1916). Positive Afterimages of long duration. American Journal of Psychology, 27, 325-334.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jun 15, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Paranormal | Supernatural, Occult, Paranormal | Psychology | Eyes and Vision

Follies of the Madmen #509

Was this ever such a drastic problem, or one of those made-up Madison Avenue problems?

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jun 15, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Business | Advertising | Hygiene | 1930s | Teeth

June 14, 2021

Staying awake at the wheel

Over the years, inventors have dreamed up a variety of ways to keep drivers awake while driving.

In 1936, Carl Brown got a patent on a chin-operated alarm device. If a driver started to nod off, and his head fell forward, this would depress a trigger, setting off an electric bell that would wake him up. (Patent No. 2,066,092)

In 1940, Raymond Young had the idea that whenever a driver was feeling drowsy he could press a button on the steering wheel and this would squirt an aromatic spray in his face, waking him up. (Patent No. 2,199,060)

And just last month, Hyundai was granted a patent for a system that shoots ultrasonic beams at a driver's eyes when it senses he's falling asleep. (Patent No. 11007932)

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 14, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Inventions | Sleep and Dreams | Cars

The Airphibian

Flying cars just had a recent moment in THE NEW YORK TIMES. But there have been many predecessors.

We are continuing our streak from yesterday's Amphicar: bi-modal transport!

The Wikipedia page.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jun 14, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Inventions | Kludges, Hacks and Duct-tape Repairs | Air Travel and Airlines | 1940s | Cars

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