News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M496, October 9, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Large kidney stones typically mean eye-watering pain and sudden urinary blockage until the stone "passes" (often requiring expensive sound-wave treatment to break up a large stone). Michigan State University urologist David Wartinger told The Atlantic in September that he had recently happened upon a pain-free--even exciting!--way to pass stones before they become problems: the centripetal force from a roller coaster ride. In a 200-trip experiment preparing for a validating "human" trial, he successfully passed stones in his hand-held, silicone model kidney (using his own urine) about two-thirds of the time when sitting in a rear seat at Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. [The Atlantic, September 2016]
With about 30 states having adopted some form of "stand your ground" defense to assault (or murder) charges, five membership organizations, charging up to $40 a month, have signed up a half-million gun owners concerned that law enforcement treat them fairly should they someday be forced to shoot--providing instructions and a "hot line" to coach members on what to tell police, plus liability insurance and help getting a lawyer. Critics say such organizations are also useful to those who might be prone to shooting people and want advice on how best to get away with it. The U.S. Concealed Carry organization's wallet-sized card, to give to police, asks that the shooter under suspicion be given the same consideration as the officers might give to their own colleagues under suspicion. [Tampa Bay Times, 9-16-2016]
In a dozen YouTube videos recently released, Syria's Tourism Ministry praised the country's sandy, fun-filled beaches as ideal vacation spots and its many "World Heritage Sites" as renowned tourist exhibits--attempting to distract world travelers from the country's daily bloodshed (and the wartime destruction of those priceless historical sites). Before civil war broke out in 2011, Syria was a fashionable, $8 billion-a-year destination (and the now-devastated city of Aleppo known worldwide for its food). [Washington Post, 9-2-2016]
"Diego" the giant tortoise, believed to be more than 100 years old, now lives in semi-retirement on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, but from 1976-2010, Diego brought an almost-extinct species back to life by fathering about 800 babies in the captive breeding program on Espanola, another Galapagos island. Biologists did not realize Diego's prowess until 2010 when DNA tests identified him as the father of 40 percent of all tortoises on the island. Even on Santa Cruz Island, Diego keeps busy, with a "harem" of six females. (Another Galapagos tortoise species did die out in 2012 when the last male, the centenarian "Lonesome George," maintained his celibacy until death.) [Fox News, 9-15-2016]
The New York City Council, grilling police officials in September about their practice of freely seizing money from detainees under suspicion, asked for a thorough accounting of that money (suspecting that innocent victims rarely get it back unless aided by high-powered lawyers). Though (in "crime-fighting" hyperbole) NYPD routinely boasts of its half-million annual seizures, an NYPD official told the Council it would be "impossible" to account for everything--that keeping track of it all would cause its computers to crash. [Village Voice, 9-16-2016]
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is bureaucratically at the epicenter of the state's drought crisis, but in September KCBS-TV aired video of the Department actually using sprinklers to water the artificial lawn at a substation in South Los Angeles. A DWP spokesperson said such watering is routine at substations to "clean" the plastic (and wash off any dog urine, for example). [Reuters via msn.com, 9-18-2016]
Things You Thought Didn't Happen
Wanda Witter, 80, had been living on Washington, D.C., streets for 10 years but insisting to anyone who would listen that the Social Security Administration owed her sums that recently reached $100,000, and that she had documents to prove it. However, given her circumstances, all regarded her as just another luckless person confused by homeless life. In June, though, social worker Julie Turner took a closer look and found, improbably, that Witter was indeed owed $100,000 and even more improbably, that all of her paperwork was carefully organized among the unimpressive possessions she hauled around daily. SSA paid her $999 on the spot, and the remaining $99,999 arrived in August. [Washington Post, 8-23-2016]
One branch of the James Harper funeral homes, in Bromley, England, announced its latest promotion via a sign in a front window (reported by the Bromley News Shopper in September): "Wow! Free Child's Battery Powered Vehicle with Every Pre-Paid Funeral Arranged This Month." A Harper spokesperson said the purpose was to encourage residents to think ahead about funerals. [Bromley News Shopper, 9-15-2016]
"Considering Cremation?" was the headline of the August 7th advertising supplement to the Tampa Bay Times (and other Florida newspapers), appearing just below a snapshot of a mom, dad, and three youngsters, frolicking in the grass, seemingly overjoyed. Nothing about "cremation" appeared except dates and sites of free cremation seminars, sponsored by the National Cremation Society (whose website is thankfully more somber). [marketplace.tcpalm.com (Stuart, Fla.)]
The most recent immigrant family living high on the hog in the United Kingdom is Arnold Mballe Sube and his wife Jeanne, both 33, who drew the equivalent of about $130,000 in government benefits last year but are still feuding with the Luton Borough Council near London over its inability to find (free) housing adequate for them and their eight children. They turned down four-and five-bedroom homes, were housed temporarily in a Hilton hotel, and said they would be satisfied only with a six-bedroom residence. Mr. Sube, from Cameroon, emigrated to France at age 18, then came to England in 2012 to study nursing at the University of Bedfordshire. [The Sun via Daily Mail, 9-8-2016]
Iowa City Jamboree: (1) Thomas Morgan, 42, was charged in a May 7th incident at the University of Iowa's Main Library when, using a men's room urinal, he turned to reveal to a fellow user that he was "measuring" his penis with a hand-lettered cardboard "ruler." (2) Thomas Warren, 49, was arrested in September near the Iowa City home that he, naked, had allegedly trespassed into minutes before. He was discovered passed out in the grass, though his clothes, car keys, and driver's license had been left on the doorstep (along with telltale evidence that he had used the doorstep as a toilet). Alcohol and a controlled substance were involved, said police. [The Smoking Gun, 9-21-2016] [Iowa City Press-Citizen, 9-28-2016]
The Passing Parade
(1) A woman was arrested on September 7th at the Italian Pizza Kitchen restaurant in Washington, D.C. She was chatting up a police officer she did not know, then playfully took a french fry from his plate. He asked her to stop, but she took another, and when the exasperated officer issued an ultimatum, she took yet another. The arrest report for second-degree theft, cited by WUSA-TV, included "property stolen" as "three" "French fried potato[es]." (2) At the seven-mile mark of the Allentown, Pa., marathon on September 11th, more than 100 runners were blocked off by an unanticipated, slow-moving train--causing the athletes one of their best chances to qualify for the gold-standard Boston Marathon (by posting fast times at Allentown). The train lingered for 10 minutes, though some runners climbed over couplings and continued on. [WUSA-TV, 9-9-2016] [Lehigh Valley Live, 9-13-2016]
A News of the Weird Classic (December 2012)
Orly Taitz, an Orange County, Calif., dentist and lawyer, is America’s most prominent “birther” [as of 2012, anyway!], having filed dozens of lawsuits, appeals, and other legal petitions expressing her certainty that President Obama was not born in America. In her latest legal foray, a California judge tossed her lawsuit against Occidental College (to force release of Obama’s college transcripts and other papers). The loss brings birthers’ legal record (Taitz’s plus a few comrades’) to 0-for-258, according to the websites WhatsYourEvidence.com and LoweringTheBar.net. Taitz was described by one critic as “almost charmingly insane.” [Huffington Post, 12-3-2012; Lowering the Bar, 10-26-2012]
Thanks This Week to Neb Rodgers and Teri Darcy and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Posted By: Chuck - Sun Oct 09, 2016 -
Bettie Phillips' fifteen minutes of fame involved her decision to put earrings on a baby deer. It happened back in 1997 when she found a two-month-old deer stranded by the side of a road and "thought it would be pretty" if it had earrings. So she pierced its ears by hand, pushing the posts of two earrings through its ears.
Police later found the deer in her truck and charged her with animal cruelty.
The charge was eventually suspended, but she had to pay the $250 veterinary bill for treating its infected ears.
In October 1916, police arrested Mrs. Nellie Hantz and charged her with committing over 100 burglaries in the Chicago area. Her MO was unusual. When her husband, Carl, left in the morning to attend classes at a school of chemistry, and her 14-year-old daughter was at school, Nellie would sneak out and burglarize homes. She made sure to be home before her husband returned. The press named her the "wife thief" as well as the "matinee thief."
She kept her loot and burglary tools hidden beneath the bedroom mattress, and her husband, upon her arrest, insisted he had no knowledge of her daytime activities. Nellie seconded this: "I've been prowling for eighteen months. I know you've been after me, but it took a long time to catch me, didn't it? I guess I was just born to be a crook. You'll have to lock me up. But it's too bad about Carl. He never suspected."
The burglary equipment police found beneath the mattress included "a revolver, a razor, a jimmy, an electric flash lamp, several files, and an ingenious set of keys, skeleton and otherwise, of her own manufacture."
Despite being caught, Nellie was unrepentant. She declared, "I love to rob places. I'd keep on being a burglar if I had a million, but I am afraid of the dark and I did all my robbing by daylight."
Researchers in New York watched lots of YouTube videos of yawning animals, and timed the length of their yawns. Based on this they were able to rank species by yawn length. Humans came in first, followed by camels, and then dogs. Mice were at the bottom of the list.
Why do some species yawn longer than others? The researchers theorize that yawn duration correlates to brain size. The bigger the brain, the longer the yawn — which would support the theory that the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain.
However, the researchers caution that their findings are only provisional, because apparently they couldn't find enough yawning animal videos on YouTube to conduct a full study.
Raymond Tac begins attempt to set world record for fasting
February 1931: Fifty days into a fasting contest, Alf Wilson, of England, had to withdraw from the contest on the advice of his doctor. This left Raymond Tac, of New Zealand, the winner.
However, Tac was eager to keep fasting. So soon after he launched into an attempt to break his personal record of going ninety days and four hours without food — which apparently, at the time, was also a world record.
Tac sealed himself behind a glass wall, through which spectators could view him, having announced that he would live for over three months with mineral water and cigarettes as his only nourishment.
Unfortunately I don't know if Tac succeeded in his attempt to break his record. I haven't been able to find any reports about it. In fact, it's difficult to know what the world record for fasting is since Guinness doesn't maintain an official record for that activity, and there's a number of different claims to the title.
In 1959, the Ohio State Highway Patrol produced a 27-minute film showing graphic scenes of fatal traffic accidents. The footage was accompanied by a soundtrack of the cries and moans of the victims. They called the film "Signal 30" — referring to the patrol's radio code for fatal accidents.
The film was shown at many high schools, in an attempt to scare kids into being good drivers. Some judges also made people with traffic violations watch it "to atone for their violations." It got some dramatic reactions from viewers. For instance:
One woman rushed from the room, nauseated. Firemen gave her a whiff of ammonia to prevent fainting and she said: "I don't think I'll ever drive again."
Another woman had to be carried from the courtroom and given oxygen after she watched a truck driver burning to death in the color-and-sound film.
The film is now on YouTube, so you can find out how you would react to it. (I actually haven't had the courage to watch it yet.)
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 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.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.