Algie R. Crook (or "Alja" Crook, as his name was sometimes spelled) was a professor of mineralogy at Chicago's Northwestern University. His great claim to fame, however, had nothing to do with science. Instead, it was that in April, 1901 he allegedly told his undergraduate class that he had never kissed a woman. More specifically, he reportedly said, "I have never uttered a profane word, never have smoked or chewed tobacco, drank intoxicants, nor hugged or kissed a woman."
Given that he was thirty-seven years old at the time, this was considered a remarkable admission. So remarkable that when word of it leaked to the press it became international news.
Great Falls Tribune - May 15, 1901
The media started referring to him as "Crook, The Unkissed." Acquaintances of Crook (or people who claimed to be his acquaintances) readily confirmed the tale, attributing his lack of kisses to his embrace of "austere science." One said, "the scientific atmosphere is inimical to the love germ."
Offers of marriage flooded in, from women hoping to be the one to thaw the professor's icy reserve.
Philadelphia Times - Apr 28, 1901
The French were particularly taken with the story. As reported in the Leavenworth Times (May 8, 1901):
Leading [French] novelists and scientists have been interviewed. Some pronounce the Chicago instructor an "idiot" and a "monster," but a powerful clan uphold his theory that love for woman, even love of the ideal type, seriously impedes a man who would be great and learned.
Supposedly the news even reached as far as China where the dowager empress expressed a desire to see him.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Apr 27, 1901
Crook, for his part, was said to be "abashed and humiliated over the gossip the affair has provoked," and also furious at the "tattling undergraduates."
He issued a denial of the allegation, stating, "I have never told any one that I have refrained from hugging or kissing women, for the reason that I consider it nobody's business but my own."
He recalled having advised a student to do as he did — never to kiss, hug, swear, and so forth. And he figured that's how the story must have started. But he insisted that he hadn't said that he had never done these things at all.
However, it was too late. The story was out there and couldn't be taken back. His denial got buried in the back pages of newspapers, if it was printed at all.
In other interviews, Crook asserted that he had kissed female family members, which didn't help his case much since it implied that he had indeed never romantically kissed a woman. Also, a former student recalled that Crook had made similar claims before, noting, "He is a consistent Methodist, and his convictions sometimes cause him some trouble." So I kind of suspect that Crook really did make the no-kissing claim to his class, but denied it later out of embarrassment.
Whatever the case may have been, the tale continued to haunt him. The following year (1902) a group of students at Northwestern formed an "Anti-osculation Society," claiming that they were "following the teachings of Professor Algie R. Crook, the man who never was kissed." They elected him an honorary member.
In 1904 Crook got married, and inevitably this triggered a renewal of the no-kissing story. "Unkissed Man To Wed," reported the papers.
The Hutchinson News - Dec 28, 1904
Crook and his wife eventually had five children together. He died in 1930, at the age of sixty-six, and the kissing story resurfaced in his Chicago Tribune obituary (June 1, 1930). It was, after all, the achievement he was most famous for:
In 1901 he won fame by being credited with having declared he was never kissed. He denied he had made the assertion after it roused world wide comment.
I think you'll have to admit that any musical instrument that needs to be cranked is pretty weird. In fact, I don't know of any other than the hurdy gurdy. When you add in this vocalist, you get a pretty weird result.
In the world of weird news there are the professionals (such as Chuck) who write about weird news, and there's also a larger group of weird news collectors whose hobby is finding and saving items of oddness from the news, often sharing what they find with the professionals. Chuck, for instance, has his Board of Editorial Advisors.
The collectors tend to labor away in relative obscurity. However, a few have risen to prominence.
Then there's Frank Luckel. For decades (the 1920s to the early 1960s) Time magazine ran a weird news column under the title "Miscellany," and throughout the 30s and 40s Luckel was a steadfast contributor to this column, sending the magazine hundreds of odd news items he had found — without ever receiving any financial compensation for his effort. Eventually Time singled him out for praise as their "Champion Contributor." From Time (Mar 4, 1946):
We are also indebted to you for some of the items in MMP [Milestones, Miscellany, & People]. In that category, however, our champion contributor is Capt. Frank Luckel, U.S. Navy (ret.), who has been sending us items—many of which we have printed—consistently for the last 16 years.
Capt. Luckel has a nose for Miscellany. An inveterate collector of the odd in news items, he snips them out of the newspapers, jots them down from the radio. He sent us his first contribution in 1930 because it especially amused him. It was a little item about a Washington, D.C., woman who won a divorce from her husband because of an infidelity he allegedly committed 31 years previously.
Capt. Luckel is also one of our oldest and most traveled subscribers. He began reading TIME shortly after our first issue appeared in 1923. and has kept on reading it throughout his tours of duty all over the world. Now that he has retired from his World War II job as naval censorship administrator for the Northwest Sea Frontier, his contributions have increased and he has decided to run for the California State Assembly. To old-TIMER Luckel, good luck, and thanks for the Miscellany.
September 1950: The AMVETS organization announced its plan to issue plastic dog tags to all civilians in the United States, to help identify people in case of an atomic emergency. The tags would carry the wearer's name, address, and blood-type. The tags were plastic in order to "prevent radiation effects in the event of an atomic explosion."
AMVETS hoped to have the tags issued to all Americans within 18 months, but obviously that never happened.
Some searching has revealed that President Truman and actress Doris Day were presented with their own atomic dog tags, but I'm not sure that anyone else ever got one.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M506, December 18, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Radical dentistry was on display in November in London's Science Gallery, where installations offered "art-science collaborations"--including Taiwan artist Kuang-Yi Ku's "Fellatio Modification Project." Former dentist Ku, complaining that textbooks on mouths tragically underregard their value in sex, created (the ordinary way) a custom retainer for the client's mouth but then added rubber "bumps" and "cones" and "ribs" and "ripples" that might be pleasing to a partner. [New Scientist, 11-7-2016]
Evolution, according to scientists, likely explains why some "prey" develop defense mechanisms to avoid "predators," i.e., the prey who fail to develop them are unable to procreate (because they're dead), but a team of scientists from Sweden and Australia recently concluded that something similar happens in a species of fish in which males mate basically by huge-appendaged rape. Growing nine generations of the species in the lab, the researchers concluded that the females who can avoid the "rapist" evolve larger brains than those who fall victim. (Researchers, loosely speaking, thus concluded that as males grow bigger penises, females grow bigger brains to outsmart them.) [National Post (Toronto), 11-24-2016]
Recurring Theme: Whistleblower goes to jail; responsible industry executives make millions. Long-time Mississippi environmental activist Tennie White is 27 months into a 40-month sentence (for "falsifying" three $150 tests in her laboratory), but high-ranking executives at the Kerr-McGee chemical conglomerate made millions on the case White helped expose: leakage of cancer-causing creosote into communities, including White's Columbus, Miss., neighborhood. A detailed investigation by TheIntercept.com in November noted the executives' brilliant response to the 25,000 creosote lawsuits nationwide: put all the liability into one outlying company (eventually going bankrupt) but selling off, highly-profitably, the rest of the firm. [The Intercept, 11-25-2016]
Texas is among the most enthusiastic states for jailing low-income arrestees who cannot pay a money bail especially during devastating family hardships, and the four Houston, Tex., bail magistrates are particularly harsh, according to a recent report of the Texas Organizing Project. After hearing one financially overwhelmed woman beg sarcastically that $1,000 bail is "nothing" next to her other bills, unsympathetic magistrate Joe Licata shrugged, "It's nothing to me, either. It's job security." [Houston Press, 11-16-2016]
Pervert--Or Not: (1) When police in Port Orange, Fla., arrested Anthony Coiro, 76, in November, he admitted that he had a stash of "crazy" pornography, some featuring children. However, he adamantly insisted, "I'm not a pedophile. I'm just a pervert," adding, "a law-abiding pervert." He faces 52 counts. (2) In November in Osaka, Japan, an unnamed arrestee apparently had his sexual molestation charge (against a woman on a crowded train) dramatically downgraded. "Actually," the man indignantly told the judge, he is not a pervert--but just a pickpocket (a lesser crime). (The victim had testified that the man had brushed against her for "3 seconds" and not the "30" she originally told police.) [The Smoking Gun, 11-10-2016] [Rocket News via Sankei West, 11-18-2016]
Weird Quantities Recently in the News
(1) Price tag for one round of a 155mm projectile shot from the Navy's USS Zumwalt: $800,000. (2) Trees killed in California by the now-five-year-old drought: 102,000,000. (3) Recent finding of "water" farthest from the Earth's surface: 621 miles down (one-third of the way to the Earth's "core"). (4) Odds that Statistics Lecturer Nicholas Kapoor (Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn.) said he played against in buying a $15 Powerball ticket: 1 in 913,129 (but he won $100,000!). (5) Speed police calculated Hector Faire, 19, reaching in an Oklahoma police chase: 208 mph (but they got him, anyway). (6) Different languages spoken by children in Buffalo, N.Y., public classrooms: 85. [Washington Post, 11-8-2016] [Los Angeles Times, 11-18-2016] [New Scientist, 11-23-2016] [ABC News, 11-14-2016] [Fox News, 11-16-2016] [Buffalo News, 11-27-2016]
Hardly Need a Breathalyzer
(1) Michelle Keys, 35, among those joyously caught up in Iowa's upset win over highly-ranked Michigan in football in November and celebrating that night in Iowa City, was slurring and incoherent and told police she was certain she was standing in Ames, Iowa (120 miles away), and had just watched the "Iowa State"-"Arizona" game (a matchup not played since 1968). (She registered .225) (2) A 38-year-old woman was arrested in Springwood, Australia, in November when police stopped her car at 3 a.m. at an intersection--with a children's swing set wedged onto the roof of her SUV. (She had shortly before mistakenly driven through someone's back yard and through the swing set.) (.188.) [Deadspin, 11-13-2016] [Queensland police website, 11-22-2016]
"Sexually-based offenses," a TV show intones, are "particularly heinous," but to the small Delaware liberal arts Wesley College (according to the U.S. Department of Education) even an accusation of sexual misconduct is so heinous that there was no need even to interview the alleged wrongdoer before expelling him. (An informal meeting did occur, but only after the investigation was completed.) The expulsion occurred even though the victim herself had not originally accused that particular student. The expelled student's offense was to have helped set up video for a consensual sex encounter that was (without consent) live-streamed. (The Department of Education accepted a settlement in which Wesley agreed to revamp its code of student rights.) [Washington Post, 10-13-2016]
Recent Alarming Headlines
"Man Mixing LSD and Cough Syrup Saves Dog From Imaginary Fire" (WNYT-TV, Albany, N.Y.), 10-15-2016). (Panicked, he had first sought help from neighbors--who were unpersuaded by the sight of a fireless fire.) "Santa Claus Speaks Out Against North Pole Ban of Marijuana Sales" (KTUU-TV, Anchorage) (Cannabis is legal in Alaska unless towns ban it, and the legally-named Mr. Claus needs it for cancer pain.) "Dog On Loose Causes Sheep To Have Sex With Their Sisters in Walton On The Hill" (The wild dog has wrecked a planned mating program, leaving female sheep to canoodle with each other) (Surrey Mirror, Redhill, England, 9-22-2016).
Least Competent Artists
Apparently the plan by a 33-year-old unlicensed, un-car-registered driver in Perth, Australia, in November to keep from being stopped by police was to print "POLICE" in large, "official"-looking letters on the sides of her white Hyundai, using a blue dry-erase board marker. (She was, of course, quickly stopped by police.) [Yahoo News (Australia), 11-21-2016]
A woman in a quiet north Minneapolis neighborhood told reporters she became fearful after seeing a large swastika spray-painted on a garage door down a nearby alley (just after election day!). (Problem: The base "X" of the correct design has "hooks" that should always extend to the right, clockwise; three of the Minneapolis "artist"'s awkwardly hook left.) [City Pages (Minneapolis), 11-29-2016]
The Passing Parade
(1) In November, a court in Christchurch, New Zealand, ordered the local police to "un-do" the 493 bottles' worth of liquor they had recently poured down the city's drain after raiding an unlicensed bar. The court said the police must pay a pumping company to recall the hooch because of environmental regulations. (2) In November, the Littleton, Colo., city government, faced with the need to "blot" sticky tar on 120 streets whose potholes it was filling, bypassed expensive "detackifiers" in favor of stuffing toilet paper over the tar, causing the streets to have a post-trick-or-treat look. [The Press (Christchurch), 11-4-2016] [Denver Post, 11-3-2016]
A News of the Weird Classic (February 2013)
An estimated 3.2 million kids aged 5-12 take mixed-martial arts classes, training to administer beatdowns modeled after the adults’ Ultimate Fighting Championships, according to a January  report in ESPN Magazine, which profiled the swaggering, mohawked Derek “Crazy” Rayfield, 11, and the meek, doll-clutching fighting machine, Regina “The Black Widow” Awana, 7. Kids under age 12 fight each other without regard to gender, and blows above the collarbone, and on the groin, kidneys, and back are prohibited. "Crazy" delivered merciless forearm chest smashes before the referee intervened, and the Black Widow won her match in less than a minute via arm-bar submission. Parental involvement is said to be either "fear" of their child’s getting hurt or "encouragement" to be meaner. [ESPN The Magazine, 1-7-2013]
Thanks This Week to Seth Franklin and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Posted By: Chuck - Sun Dec 18, 2016 -
What makes Mary Krupa and her squirrels slightly different is that during her time as a student at Penn State she's managed to make the wild squirrels on the campus act like tame squirrels — wearing hats, holding props, posing for photos, etc. This has earned her the title of "Squirrel Whisperer" as well as "Squirrel Girl."
I'm quite impressed by what she's been able to achieve since I can't even get my cat to wear a collar, let alone a hat.
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.