Weird Universe Archive

November 2015

November 6, 2015

Killed by washing machine while reading comics

A number of things puzzle me about this 1955 news story. First of all, why was the washing machine outside beneath a tree?

Second, was the kid really so lazy that he felt the need for an elaborate method of supporting his head while reading? Or was he trying to kill himself?

Finally, what kind of washing machine has a lid that rotates? I found a picture (below) of a washing machine from the late 1940s that may have a lid that could rotate, but it doesn't look like it would have been comfortable to sit on, which would support the suicide theory.

But whatever happened to John Mattson, his death clearly demonstrates the danger of reading comic books.

Gettysburg Times - July 20, 1955

Posted By: Alex - Fri Nov 06, 2015 - Comments (9)
Category: Death, 1950s

November 5, 2015

Woman tailed by suspicious truck, 1955

I can't find any more info on this story, but I'd be curious to know if the woman locked bumpers with the truck while it was empty or being driven (in the latter case, the driver would have bailed when he realized that she wasn't stopping). I'm guessing there was a truck driver originally, 'cause if the truck had been parked and empty its brakes would have probably been on, making it more difficult to pull.

Kansas City Times - Nov 17, 1955

Jonesboro, Ark., Nov. 16 — A woman drove into a service station last night and said to the attendant in a confidential whisper:
"I wish you would check that guy behind me; I think he's drunk."
Police said the "guy" behind was a driverless pickup truck, whose bumper was locked with the rear bumper of the woman's car.
She was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 05, 2015 - Comments (15)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, 1950s

November 4, 2015

Tornado-Proof House With Tail

The idea, from an 1890 patent, was to make the house aerodynamic (long and narrow) and then attach it to a turntable, so that it could turn to face the wind.

I'm sure there must be some basic flaw in the concept. I imagine the entire house being spun like a top by the wind.

Source: Popular Mechanics - Apr 1910

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 04, 2015 - Comments (19)
Category: Inventions, Patents, Nineteenth Century

The Z-Man, or Brain, Toy


What was so distinctive about this toy? Early pre-silicon programability.


Original article here.

Even more pix and info at this blog.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Nov 04, 2015 - Comments (4)
Category: Toys, AI, Robots and Other Automatons, Computers, 1950s

November 3, 2015

Anything you can do out of a suit you can now do in a suit

If I ever tried this move, I'd be stuck that way forever.

Source: New York Times Magazine - Apr 30, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Tue Nov 03, 2015 - Comments (4)
Category: Advertising, 1970s

Fanny Droop


Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Nov 03, 2015 - Comments (9)

November 2, 2015

Get rid of that man — he’s a homicidal maniac!

Sounds like Norman White had a good scheme going. I wonder how he got busted.

The Southeast Missourian - July 5, 1955

Man Gets Self Fired To Collect Week's Pay
LONDON — The voice on the phone said: "Get rid of that man White — he's a homicidal maniac." Norman White, 29, lost the job he started only an hour before.
The same thing had happened four times in three weeks. Each time Norman was fired within two hours of starting a new job, and each time he collected a week's pay.
Today he started another new job. This one — sewing mail bags — will last longer. The voice on the phone, a City Court was told Monday, was White himself posing as a police officer. The court gave him eight months in jail for obtaining money by false pretenses.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Nov 02, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Jobs and Occupations, 1950s

The Strange Change Machine

You know, why isn't "mad scientist" an encouraged career path for kids anymore, like it was in the 1960s? I think the foreclosure of this option says a lot about our joyless and grim culture.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Nov 02, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Toys, 1960s

November 1, 2015

News of the Weird (November 1, 2015)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M447, November 1, 2015
Copyright 2015 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Is It Really a “Problem” If 99% Wish They Had It? Among those struggling with psychological issues in modern America are the rich “one-percenters” (especially the mega-rich “one-percent of one-percenters”), according to counselors specializing in assuaging guilt and moderating class hatred. London’s The Guardian, writing from New York, found three such counselors, including two who barely stopped short of comparing the plight of the rich-rich with the struggles of “people of color” or out-of-closet gays. Sample worries: isolation (so few rich-rich); stress, caused by political hubbub over “inequality”; and insecurity (is my “friend” really just a friend of my money?). [The Guardian, 10-17-2015]

Can’t Possibly Be True

Stories surface regularly about a hospital patient declared dead but who then revives briefly before once again dying. However, Tammy Cleveland’s recent lawsuit against doctors and DeGraff Memorial Hospital near Buffalo, N.Y., reveals an incident more startling. She alleges that her late husband Michael displayed multiple signs of life (breathing, eyes open, legs kicking, attempted hugs, struggles against the tube in his throat), for nearly two hours, but with two doctors all the while assuring her that he was gone. (The coroner came and went twice, concluding that calling him had been premature.) The lawsuit alleges that only upon the fourth examination did the doctor exclaim, “My God, he has a pulse!” Michael Cleveland died shortly after that--of a punctured lung from CPR following his initial heart attack--an injury for which he could have been treated. [Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 10-13-2015]

The Continuing Crisis

For an October report, Vice Media located the half-dozen most-dedicated collectors of those AOL giveaway CDs from the Internet’s dial-up years (“50 Hours Free!”). Sparky Haufle wrote a definitive AOL-CD collector’s guide; Lydia Sloan Cline has 4,000 unique disks; Bustam Halim at one point had 20,000 total, before weeding to 3,000. (The AOL connoisseurs file disks by color, by the hundreds of packaging styles, by number of free hours, and especially by the co-brands--the rare pearls, like AOL’s deals with Frisbee and Spider Man. Their collections, said both Halim and Brian Larkin, are simply “beautiful.” [, 10-7-2015]

In 20th-century Chicago, according to legend, one did not have to be among the living to vote on election day, and a 2013 policy of the city’s community colleges has seemingly extended rights of the dead--to receive unearned degrees. City Colleges of Chicago, aiming to increase graduation numbers, has awarded a slew of posthumous degrees to former students who died with at least three-fourths of the necessary credits to graduate. (The policy also now automatically awards degrees by “reverse transfer” of credits to students who went on to four-year colleges, where they added enough credits, hypothetically, to meet City Colleges’ standards.) [Crain’s Chicago Business, 10-17-2015]

People Different From Us

It would be exhaustive to chronicle the many ways that the woman born Carolyn Clay, 82, of Chattooga County, Ga., is different from us. For starters, she was once arrested for stripping nude to protest a quixotic issue before the city council in Rome, Ga.; for another, her driver’s license identifies her as Ms. Serpentfoot Serpentfoot. In October, she filed to change that name--to one with 69 words, 68 hyphens, an ellipsis, and the infinity sign. One judge has already turned her down on the ground that she cannot recite the name (though she promised to shorten it on legal papers to “Nofoot Allfoot Serpentfoot”). [Times Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.), 10-12-2015]

Justice Served

Hinton Sheryn, 68, on trial at England’s Plymouth Crown Court in September, denied he was the “indecent exposer” charged with 18 incidents against children dating back to 1973--that he would never do such a thing because he would not want anyone to see his unusually small penis. In response, the prosecutor brought in a prostitute known to have serviced Sheryn, to testify that his penis is of normal size. Sheryn was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. [Daily Telegraph (London), 9-17-2015] [Plymouth Herald, 10-5-2015]

Police Report

A Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded a mobile home on October 14th to arrest Ryan Bautista, 34, and Leanne Hunn, 30, on armed burglary and other charges, but since two other women were being held inside, officers remained in a stand-off. Hunn subsequently announced by phone that the couple would surrender--after having sex one final time. Deputies entered the home around 4 a.m. on the 15th and made the post-coital arrest without incident. [Florida Times-Union, 10-15-2015]

A 27-year-old owner of the Hookah House in Akron, Ohio, was fatally shot by an Akron narcotics officer during an October raid for suspected drugs. The man had his arms raised, according to the police report, but dropped one hand behind him, provoking an officer to shoot. Only afterward did they learn that the man was unarmed; they concluded that he was reaching only to secure or to push back the packet of heroin he felt was oozing out of its hiding place in his buttocks. [Akron Beacon Journal, 9-22-2015]

Bright Ideas

In September, village officials in Uzbekistan’s Shahartepeppa, alarmed that Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev would be driving through and notice barren fields (since the cotton crop had already been harvested), ordered about 500 people into the fields to attach cotton capsules onto front-row stalks to impress Mirziyaev of the village’s prosperity. [RFE/RL via The Guardian (London), 11-16-2015]

Undignified Deaths

(1) The naked bodies of a man and a woman, both aged 30, were found in August 40 feet beneath a balcony--in the moat surrounding the Vauban Fort castle on an island in the English Channel. Police speculated that the couple had fallen during exciting sex “gone wrong.” (2) A woman was killed in an accidental head-on collision in Houston on June 18th as she was racing after another car. She was angrily chasing her estranged husband, who was with another woman, but neither of those two was hurt. (The driver of the crashed-into SUV was severely injured.) [The Independent (London), 8-22-2015] [KHOU-TV, 6-18-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Jorge Vasconcelos, 25, was traffic-stopped in El Reno, Okla., in October because he was reportedly weaving on the road, but deputies detected no impairment except possibly for a lack of sleep. Then, “out of nowhere,” according to a KFOR-TV report, Vasconcelos, instead of quietly driving off, insisted that he was doing nothing wrong and that deputies could check his truck if they thought otherwise. They did--and found an elaborately rigged metal box in the engine, containing 17 pounds of heroin, worth over $3 million. He was charged with Aggravated Trafficking. [KFOR-TV (Oklahoma City), 10-16-2015]

Weird Norway

(1) Norway’s notorious 77-murder terrorist Anders Breivik (serving only 21 years because that is Norway’s maximum sentence) complained in September that he was feeling so oppressed behind bars that if conditions didn’t improve, he would go on a hunger strike and starve himself. (2) In July artist Hilde Krohn Huse, alone shooting a video in a forest near Aukra, accidentally got hung upside down naked in a tree for nearly four hours. (3) In October, hunters who had shot two elk near Narvik were informed that they had inadvertently wandered into an area of the Polar Park zoo (and that, thanks to them, the zoo’s elk population was now down to three). [The Local (Oslo), 9-29-2015] [The Local (Oslo), 7-15-2015] [The Local (Oslo), 10-15-2015]

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2010)

In the midst of [2010] World Cup fever, readers might have missed Germany's win over host Barbados in June for the Woz Challenge Cup, following an eight-team polo tournament with players not on horses but Segways. The sport is said to have been created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, whose nerd-populated Silicon Valley Aftershocks competed again [in 2010] in Barbados (but last won the Cup in 2007). Wozniak lamented that his own polo skills are fading, but the San Jose Mercury News reported that Woz's fearlessness on the Segway seems hardly diminished. [San Jose Mercury News, 5-18-2010;, 6-18-2010]

Thanks This Week to Elaine Weiss, Gerald Sacks, Ivan Katz, Chuck Hamilton, Ruth Sewell, and Kathryn Wood, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Nov 01, 2015 - Comments (2)

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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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