Weird Universe Archive

December 2013

December 31, 2013

Religious Brain

The cortexes in the brains of religious people are thicker than those in non believers. The Columbia University study claims that this effect protects against depression as well. God's will or placebo effect? I guess your answer would depend on the thickness of your cortex.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 31, 2013 - Comments (6)
Category: Brain


Here we are, once again, my friends on the threshold of a new year. Aside from generalities like world peace what resolutions, if any, are each of you making this year? Share a bit of yourselves in extended. Please make all your celebrations fun and safe tonight, see you next year!

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 31, 2013 - Comments (12)
Category: Holidays

Raincoat Respirator

Another example of an attractive woman (Gail Andrews) modeling a strange piece of equipment.

In this case, the equipment was a "raincoat respirator" invented by John Emerson of Cambridge, Mass. and displayed at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in October 1960. It was an oversive plastic bag "much like a huge raincoat" attached to a modified vacuum cleaner motor. It helped patients breathe.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 31, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Medicine, 1960s

Groucho Sells Bonds


Who would buy anything that Groucho was trying to sell? I can't imagine this campaign moved too many bonds.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Dec 31, 2013 - Comments (15)
Category: Government, Money, Advertising, 1940s

December 30, 2013


The current Times Square Ball is a geodesic sphere, a fact that seems well suited to WU. That and some other interesting New Years facts are presented here for your enjoyment. Also included is a link to the full lyrics of Auld Lang Syne which is a much longer song than expected.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 30, 2013 - Comments (2)
Category: Holidays




Some fractured or idiosyncratic English which I photographed this week in Italy.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Dec 30, 2013 - Comments (12)
Category: Signage, Europe, Mistranslations

December 29, 2013

Giant foot on wheels

Rolled through the streets of Stockholm in 1966 to advertise an art exhibit. Source: The Toledo Blade - Oct 3, 1966.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 29, 2013 - Comments (6)
Category: Art, 1960s

Reshape Your Nose


Original ad here. (Page 95)

Posted By: Paul - Sun Dec 29, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Body Modifications, 1930s

News of the Weird (December 29, 2013)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M351, December 29, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

PREVIOUSLY ON WEIRD UNIVERSE: America’s foremost advocate for frontal lobotomies as “treatment” for mental disorder, the late Dr. Walter Freeman, performed an estimated 3,500 during the 1940s and 1950s before opposition finally solidified against him, according to a December 2013 investigation by the Wall Street Journal. At the peak of his influence, he was so confident that he demonstrated the procedure to skeptics by hammering an icepick (“from his own kitchen,” the Journal reported) into both eye sockets of an electrical-shocked patient and “toggl[ing]” the picks around the brain tissue certain that he was severing “correctly.” For years, Freeman (a neurologist untrained in surgery) marshaled positive feedback from enough patients and families for the procedure to survive criticism, and he spent his final years (until his death in 1972) securing patient testimonials to “prove” the validity of lobotomies. [Wall Street Journal, 12-13-1013]

Cultural Diversity

PREVIOUSLY: Each November 1st is a day (or two) of craziness in the isolated mountain village of Todos Santos Cuchumatanes, Guatemala, where Mayan tradition commands continuous horse races through town, jockeyed by increasingly drunk riders, until only a sober-enough winner remains. Collisions occur in the “Race of the Souls,” and occasionally someone dies, but the misfortune is met with a collective shrug and regarded as a spiritual offering for fertile crops during the coming year, according to an eyewitness this year reporting for Ironically, for the rest of the year, the village is largely alcohol-free except for that on hand to sell to tourists. [, 11-5-2013]

Since the 13th century, sheepherders in Spain have had the right (still honored) to use 78,000 miles of paths in the country for seasonal flock migrations--even some streets of Madrid, including a crossing of Puerta del Sol, described as Madrid’s “Times Square.” The shepherds pay a customary, token duty, which, according to an October Associated Press dispatch, the government proudly accepts, given the prominence of Spain’s native Merino sheep breed in the world’s wool market. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 10-6-2013]

PREVIOUSLY: Postal worker Umakant Mishra, of Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh, India, was freed by a criminal court in December--29 years after he was charged when a money-order account turned up 92 cents short. Mishra was called to judicial hearings 348 times over the years, but it was not until recently that the government admitted it had no witnesses for the court to hear against him. A December BBC News dispatch reported, citing “official” figures, that more than 30 million cases are pending in Indian courts. [BBC News, 12-3-2013]

Latest Religious Messages

The evangelical educational organization Answers in Genesis, which has established a children’s library and a creationist museum, announced recently that it would enter the bond market to fund its most ambitious project--a creationist amusement park centered around a “life-size” reconstruction of Noah’s Ark, for which it estimates it will need at least $73 million from investors. Issuing bonds might be seen as desperate since AiG has raised only $13.6 million privately since proposing the Ark-park, but a Georgetown University finance professor, contacted by, suggested that the bonds’ terms place them in the high-yield “junk bond” category (perhaps better described as “faith-based,” having virtually no re-sale value and without an independent bond rating). [, 5-12-2013]

Questionable Judgments

Took It Too Far: Coughlan Elementary School in Langley, British Columbia, announced to parents in November that henceforth it would not just prohibit abusive or unwanted physical contact among its kindergarteners, but all contact. Officials said they were responding to “some” parents who objected to “rough play,” but, said another parent, incredulous, “No tag, no hugging, no touching at all.” “I am not going to tell my daughter she can’t touch her friends at school. I am going to teach her boundaries.” [The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 11-5-2013]

PREVIOUSLY: Tone Deaf: In South Africa, with one of the highest incidences of rape in the world, one question on its recent nationwide high school standardized drama test asked students to direct (as if staging a play) the rape of a baby, given only certain props. South Africa’s Education Department defended the question as assessing pupils’ concept of “using metaphor” as a theatrical technique. The question was based on an award-winning play by an anti-rape activist Lara Foot Newton (who of course wrote primarily for adults). [BBC News, 11-27-2013]

Cliches Come to Life

PREVIOUSLY: In criminal cases, DNA is usually a smoking gun for the prosecution--except, of course, if there is an “evil twin.” In November a judge in Colorado Springs ruled that a suspect, Army Lt. Aaron Lucas, should have the opportunity to blame his brother Brian for a string of sexual assaults because the DNA might be Brian’s. Brian has not been charged and denies any involvement, but Aaron said Brian was in two crime-scene states that Aaron was never in. Said a Denver defense lawyer, “The only time I have [ever] seen [the evil-twin defense] was on ‘Law and Order: SVU.’” [Associated Press via USA Today, 11-16-2013]

Of course: Four villagers in northeast Kenya, angry that cheetahs were killing their goats, lay in wait one night in November and then chased down and captured the cheetahs. Cheetahs are regarded as the fastest mammals on Earth, but they lack endurance; Kenyans are marathon prodigies. Indeed, the cheetahs were captured only when they ran out of gas after about four miles of pursuit by the Kenyans, and were handed over alive, and exhausted, to the Kenyan Wildlife Service. [BBC News, 11-15-2013]


PREVIOUSLY: Many were shocked to learn in November that some accused “satanic cult” child molesters were still in prison--even though proven by time, journalism, and medical knowledge to have been innocent victims of widespread 1980s’ and 1990s’ hysteria. Arrangements have finally been made to release Austin, Tex., day-care operators Fran and Dan Keller (after 21 years) and four San Antonio, Tex., women (imprisoned for 14 years for “assaulting” two adolescent girls). In both cases, juries and judges had been persuaded by testimony about scarring on girls’ hymens, and, frightened by the era’s high-profile “McMartin School” and other cases, issued long prison terms. (The Austin case’s doctor later admitted he had misdiagnosed the scarring, and the San Antonio doctor’s conclusions were vanquished by the Texas Innocence Project and a relentless Canadian researcher.) All six said they intended to pursue full legal exoneration. [Austin American-Statesman, 11-26-2013; Associated Press via Yahoo News, 11-19-2013]

Least Competent Criminals

PREVIOUSLY: Not Ready for Prime Time: Johnny Deleon, 20, was arrested in Houston, Tex., in October, caught in the act of removing wheel caps from a Cadillac Escalade in a deli’s parking lot. Even in the daylight, Deleon apparently failed to notice the many police cars in the lot (as a ceremonial planning meeting was underway in the deli). Officers, from among 30 inside, dashed out and arrested Deleon. [KPRC-TV (Houston), 10-29-2013]

Recurring Themes

(1) Once again a fortuitous, unrelated medical exam was credited with possibly saving a life. Los Angeles television personality Julie Chang suffered a concussion in a surfing accident recently, but the routine X-ray also showed a previously-unrevealed brain tumor. She was immediately scheduled for surgery and reported to colleagues that she “will be OK.” (2) PREVIOUSLY: New York animal rights activist Steven Wise pushed the envelope in December by filing a writ of habeas corpus (requiring jailers to prove any legal basis for an individual’s detention) for a chimpanzee living at a Gloversville, N.Y., farm (although, in fairness, “Tommy” is being held by an animal “rescuer” who said he is seeking a proper home). (U.S. habeas corpus law has heretofore applied only to humans.) [Fox News, 11-19-2013] [New York Times, 12-3-2013]

People With Issues

(1) Shannon Johanson of Northampton, England, is awaiting sentencing after a conviction for possessing animal pornography, which is one of the categories of “extreme” porn criminalized by a 2008 UK statute. The photo is of a woman “performing a sex act” with a dead fish (and, under the statute, whether “dead or alive” is irrelevant). (2) Former 30-year-veteran schoolteacher Mark Bendt, 61, pleaded guilty in November to charges involving at least 20 elementary-school-age children that he had assigned to play the “tasting game” in 2011, in which blindfolded children were fed cookies topped with semen. Berndt has not yet explained how he could possibly have conceived such a game. [, 12-5-2013] [Los Angeles Times, 11-14-2013]

Thanks This Week to David Bacque and Gary DaSilva, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Dec 29, 2013 - Comments (5)

December 28, 2013

Strongest Hair Ever

Posted By: Paul - Sat Dec 28, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Human Marvels, Air Travel and Airlines, 1930s, Hair and Hairstyling

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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 books such as Elephants on Acid.

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.

Chuck Shepherd
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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