Weird Universe Archive

December 2016

December 11, 2016

News of the Weird (December 11, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M505, December 11, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

WEIRDNUZ.M505 (News of the Weird, December 11, 2016)
by Chuck Shepherd

Lead Story

American gangsters traditionally use euphemisms and nicknames ("Chin," "The Nose") to disguise criminal activities, but among details revealed at a November murder trial in Sydney, Australia, was that members of the "Brothers 4 Life" gang might have used "pig latin." In a phone-tapped conversation played in court, one of the men on trial was overheard cunningly telling a henchman that a colleague had been "caught with the un-gay in the ar-kay." A helpful witness then took the stand to explain to the jury that the defendant thus knew there was "a gun in the car." At press time, the trial was still in progress. [Australian Broadcasting Corp. News, 11-16-2016]

Recurring Themes (recent incidents that are not "firsts")

An "academic" paper composed entirely of gibberish was accepted for a lecture at the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics in Atlanta last month. Prof. Christoph Bartneck of New Zealand's University of Canterbury said he began writing by (using Apple iOS) entering "atomic" and "nuclear" into his tablet and "randomly" following whatever "autocomplete" suggestions emerged. (Sample sentence: "The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place . . .." Conclusion: "Power is not a great place for a good time.") [The Guardian (London), 10-21-2016]

Divorcing couples who cannot decide who gets to keep a treasured family home leave the decision to a judge, and in October, a court in Moscow ordered a couple to build a brick wall dividing in two their expensive house in an elite neighborhood. Apparently contractors' measurements have been taken, and the couple have assumed dominion over their respective areas, even to the extent that a wife's friend had become "trapped" on the husband's side and prevented from leaving until she called emergency services. Furthermore, the wife must have a second stairway built, as the existing one is on the husband's side. [Daily Mail (London), 10-21-2016]

The Micro-Penis Defense: Jacques Rouschop, 44, went to trial in October in Ottawa, Ontario, denying that he had raped two sex workers--which he said was physically impossible because at the time he, at 5-foot-6, weighed 400 lbs., had a 66-inch waist, and a two-inch-long penis (erect) (plus a painful hernia). He was not asked to "flash" the jury, but an examining nurse verified the details. (Despite the lack of DNA evidence, video, or a rape kit, Rouschop was convicted.) [Ottawa Citizen, 10-18-2016]

A 23-year-old man in Tampa, Fla., was hanging out with his cousin in September, and nearby were a gun and a bulletproof vest--and the result was predictable. According to police, the first man donned the vest and said he wondered whether it "still worked"; the cousin picked up the gun and said, "Let's see." The cousin, Alexandro Garibaldi, 24, was charged with manslaughter. [WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg), 9-11-2016]

Judges can issue "material witness" warrants to lock up innocent people to ensure their trial testimony, but rarely do it to actual crime victims. In December 2015, the Houston, Tex., district attorney obtained such a warrant jailing a rape victim ("Jenny") to secure her testimony against a serial rapist she could identify, because Jenny, exceptionally fragile, was hesitant. She finally took the stand, and the rapist is now serving multiple life terms, but Jenny's added trauma (especially since police mistakenly placed her into the jail's general population instead of a separate wing) provoked her to file a lawsuit against the D.A., which is still in progress. And in November, likely to Jenny's satisfaction, the D.A., Devon Anderson, failed re-election. [Wall Street Journal, 11-8-2016]

Another Animal Survives with Mouth-to-Mouth: In November, an 18-year-old man who allegedly tried to steal koi carp fish from a holding tank (pending their return to a pond at Castle Park in Colchester, England) botched the job, resulting in the deaths of most of them, including some of the oldest and most visitor-friendly of the species. Park rangers managed to rescue several, and one ranger even gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to three carp. (A biologist told BBC News that carp are noted for surviving on low oxygen and might not have needed the mouth-to-mouth.) [BBC News, 11-4-2016]

More Sperm Wars: Most couples who create embryos to freeze for the future agree that the consent of both is required for actual use. Two former couples are on opposite sides of the issue: Actor Sofia Vergara's ex-boyfriend wants their embryo brought to term (but she does not), and Missouri woman Jalesia McQueen wants two she created with then-husband Justin Gadberry brought to term (but he does not). In the latter case, an appeals court ruled for Gadberry in November (though the couple already have two children from frozen embryos). In the Vergara case, the ex-, Nick Loeb, is trying for an extraordinary court ruling based on his "inability to otherwise procreate" (since two subsequent girlfriends adamantly chose abortions). [, 11-18-2016] [Washington Post, 11-17-2016]

Victims in News of the Weird stories have been hit by "flying" animals that should not be airborne--even once by a cow (falling off a cliff) and once by a horse (that fell from a trailer on a highway overpass). On November 17th, in Clarksville, Tenn., an unassuming pedestrian along Dover Road was smacked by a deer that sailed into him after it collided with a minivan. The pedestrian was taken to the hospital with broken bones. [The Leaf Chronicle (Clarksville), 11-18-2016]

The debate over whether animals have "rights" enforceable by judges took a sharp turn upward in November when a judge in Argentina ordered the reluctant Mendoza Zoo to release a chimpanzee (Cecilia) to a sanctuary in Brazil because the zoo had denied her the "right" to animal "essence"--to socialize with other chimps (since her last two playmates had died more than two years earlier). Mendoza Zoo was heavily criticized following the death last summer of Arturo, dubbed the "world's saddest polar bear" since he had suffered an even worse fate, with no playmates for 22 years. [The Independent (London), 11-7-2016]

These days, body orifices seem hardly more unusual as storage areas for contraband than one's shirt pocket, but it was news in Fort Pierce, Fla., in October when Rosalia Garcia, 28, according to police badly failed at handling glass crack pipes. Officers were called to a domestic fight in which Garcia's boyfriend accused her of slashing him with her crack pipe, and later, while being booked on the charge, she told police she had another crack pipe in her genitals. Then, in front of an officer, she accidentally cut herself on the pipe as she removed it. [ (Stuart, Fla.), 11-21-2016]

In America, tens of thousands of pedestrians are hit by cars every year, but rare is the driver who runs over himself. Periodically, News of the Weird updates readers: In October in Orlando, William Edwards, 28, leaving the Dancer's Royale strip club at 2:30 a.m., started his truck, drove, fell out, had it run over his leg, and saw the truck drift down a street and into a home, injuring the occupant. Earlier in October, a 25-year-old man in Scugog, Ontario, backing his car down his driveway with the door open, fell out, had it run over his leg, and saw it hit two mailboxes posts. (Both times, as in nearly every similar case, alcohol was involved.) [WKMG-TV (Orlando), 11-22-2016] [Orangeville Banner, 10-4-2016]


Four innocent Texas women caught up in the 1990s' "child sex abuse" panics, who served a cumulative 56 years in prison after their 1997 convictions, were completely exonerated in November by a Texas judge following one "victim"'s recanting and the retracting of the principal forensic "evidence." The four women, then in their 20s, had been accused of genitally abusing nieces, ages 7 and 9, of one of the women. In the 1990s, beginning with the San Diego-area "McMartin School" case, it became easy for prosecutors to convince ready-to-believe jurors that their little toddlers and adolescents were sexually abused in Satanic cults and by hordes of perverts, "proved" by self-assured counselors misapplying "science" and by fantastical "testimony" by children themselves, taken seriously by adults somehow unaware that children have imaginations and a need to please adults. [San Antonio Express-News, 11-23-2016]

Thanks This Week to Chuck Hamilton and Andrew Hastie, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Dec 11, 2016 - Comments (3)

Chicken Liver Vandal

1997: The crime of choice of 46-year-old Janet Manning of Brooklyn Park, Maryland was dumping raw chicken livers into mailboxes and bookdrops. Usually on a weekend so they would be discovered on a Monday.

Her motive for doing this was never very clear. After apprehending her, thanks to security-camera footage, the police captain said, "There's no clear-cut rhyme or reason for her to be doing what she was doing to these organizations." He added, "She wouldn't tell us why chicken livers."

But it was evidently some kind of act of revenge, in response to perceived offenses. Library officials recalled that she once had a minor argument with them a year before involving her request to have a printout of all the books she had returned, which the library staff told her their computers weren't set up to do. So they offered to write out the list by hand. That, apparently, was enough to trigger her.

On account of her otherwise clean criminal record, she was fined $1000 and placed on a year's probation.

The Annapolis Capital - May 27, 1998

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 11, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Crime, Destruction, 1990s

Railroad Velocipedes

I imagine you could cobble together such a rig fairly easily, if you had the right skills, and do a lot of illegal rail-riding even today.

Original foto here.

Essay from which above foto drawn is here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Dec 11, 2016 - Comments (12)
Category: Motor Vehicles, Technology, Trains and Other Vehicles on Rails, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

December 10, 2016

Blew Nose, Eye Fell Out

In September 1942, a young miner, Ronald Cutler, had finished his shift, so he blew his nose to get the coal dust out. His eye fell out onto his cheek. A superintendent was able to pop it back in, and Cutler appeared "little the worse for the occurrence."

News of the World - Sep 20, 1942

Kingston Daily Freeman - Oct 29, 1942

In April 1899, a similar case was reported in the Southern California Practitioner (which in turn got the story from a German-language paper, the Illinois Staatz Zitung). A glass blower blew his nose violently, and his right eyeball came out of its socket. A colleague was able to put it back in, but on the way to the doctor's office the same thing happened again... and then a third time at the doctor's office.

There's an old legend that if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyeballs will come out. Mythbusters says that's not true, noting, "although a sneeze can erupt from your nose at an explosive 200 miles per hour, it can't transfer this pressure into your eye sockets to dethrone your eyeballs. Plus, there's no muscle directly behind the eye to violently contract and push the orbs outward."

How then do we explain these odd cases of eyeballs coming out when people blow their nose?

Update: I just found a third case of eyeball dislocation following nose blowing, reported by Dr. John Tyler of Kansas City in 1888. His patient, upon waking in the morning, "felt the need of a good, hard blow, and said he really was making an extra effort, when to his horror and amazement he felt his left eye pop right out between the lids, and stick!" His wife popped the eye back in, and the man suffered no apparent damage from the incident.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Dec 10, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Body, Eyes and Vision, Health

Just Imagine

The uproarious laughter by the human executive at the antics of Tommy Telephone, a plainly impossible vision, proclaims that the fellow is gratefully descending into the dark swamp of insanity due to the high stresses of his job.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Dec 10, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Business, Advertising, Corporate Mascots, Icons and Spokesbeings, Products, Communications, Delusions, Fantasies and Other Tricks of the Imagination, Technology, Telephones, Cartoons, Stop-motion Animation, 1940s, Brain Damage

December 9, 2016

Vile and Filthy Morse Code

January 1945: Residents of Halifax complained to the police that people were driving around at night and using their horns to signal "vile and filthy language" in morse code.

So it wasn't the honking, per se, that bothered the residents, but what the honks meant. Guess it was a different time, when a significant number of people actually understood morse.

Ottawa Journal - Jan 18, 1945

Posted By: Alex - Fri Dec 09, 2016 - Comments (6)
Category: Languages, 1940s

Arthur and Bertha Ferris

Original pic here.

Two more pics of Ferris here.

The visionary musical instruments of Arthur Kirk Ferris (b. 1871, Madison, Wisc., d. after 1943, New Jersey) represent one of the most extraordinary chapters of creative instrument building in America. In creative partnership with his wife of over four decades, Bertha Bell Hallock (b. 1870, d. after 1943), the Ferrises together devoted their lives to Christian ideals (of the Seventh Day Adventist variety) and to using music to spread the Word. The couple had no children, arguably a natural consequence of Arthur’s advocacy for immaculate conception.

Bertha was not a composer; she was the chief performer in his ensembles and provided her original contribution during ensemble improvisations. While hymns such as “Rock of Ages” and “Abide with Me” were played by members of the Ferris Celestial Orchestra, they also played “tunes of heavenly inspiration;” a practice followed in this recording. Ferris’s music was played on a New York radio station, featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not show, and written up in Popular Science in 1938. This is the first time they have been played in over 60 years.

Although none of his written compositions survives, the Ferris spirit is amply contained in the twenty or more string instruments made in the 1920s and ‘30s, a dozen of which are found in the Schubert Club Kugler Collection in Minnesota. Awakening the instruments’ dormant daimons took some clambering around the storage warehouse, dusting, tensioning strings, perpetual retuning, and spiritual preparation (to compensate for our lack of true “Biblical character” so important to Arthur). Yet the other-worldly sonorities and exquisite craftsmanship inspired a sense of awe and devotion, whether or not we succeeded in projecting the particular homilies inscribed inside the soundboards.

Ferris’s Big Fiddle (1924) is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest viol in the world, coming in at over 14 feet tall by 6 feet wide. The lowest tones are inaudible to the human ear (at two octaves lower than the lowest piano tones, the vibrations could only be felt when played inside a barn which acted as a giant resonator). But then humans were not the only audience for his work:

It began at 3 o’clock of an afternoon in 1924. Arthur sat by the window of the farm in Ironia (NJ). There was a mist in the field outside, but as Arthur gazed, it lifted and instead of the usual rocks and grass hummocks his eyes fell upon the strangest sight he had ever seen. Hundreds of harps and fiddles of all sizes lay on the green grass.

“Then,” Arthur’s wife recounts, “a voice spoke to him. ‘I’m Gabriel,’ it said, ‘you write this vision and make it plain that people may run and read it. You make these instruments and show these people that the word of God is true.’”

The “voice” told Arthur how to make the instruments… Arthur’s wife says he is “careful about doing what he is told by the unseen.” [The Sunday Call, Newark, NJ, July 7, 1940]

He spent the next 16 months in the Hudson River State Hospital for the mentally ill (apparently committed there after a spat with a fellow Seventh Day Adventist), and from that time on wrote down his dream visions, often between midnight and 7 am. Some were varnish formulas, some were about the future destruction of New York, a greenhouse design, or a beehive-handling machine, or the necessity of Seventh Day Adventists to dress plainly. Yet others concerned instrument design.

The angels communicated plans for 126 string instruments, many of them hybrids between the violin and the harp families, presumably common in the orchestras of heaven. Being a landscape gardener and holder of a varnish patent (was it the sniffing of varnish that led to his visions?), Ferris was familiar with the characteristics of many local trees and the qualities of their wood. Each instrument uses a combination of woods, chosen as much for the Biblical virtues they represent as for their resonating, visual and structural potential. Each instrument of his Celestial Orchestra was also intended for a particular purpose; they were to play only sacred music (although one was permitted to be played for filthy lucre): one was given to a woman who lived a 100% Christian life for one year before and after marriage, and all had their insides densely inscribed with texts (concerning the visions, the materials used, and the truths that would be manifested by playing the instrument well). Names of the instruments included: Horn of Plenty Harp, Thribble Bass, Liberty Harp, David Loot Harp, Giant Loot Harp, Obedience Harp, Prophetic Loot Harp, Baretone, and Suitcase Viol.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Dec 09, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Eccentrics, Music, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

December 8, 2016

Owen Smells and Mary Knows

In its July 5, 1943 issue, Time magazine noted the marriage in Pryor, Montana of Owen Smells and Mary Knows.

The marriage only lasted three years, but in that time they had a daughter, Theresa, who eventually married Joseph Rock Above and became Theresa Smells Rock Above. lists a grave for Owen Smells which may or may not be the same Owen that married Mary. I'm not sure. But the dates seem about right.

Helena Independent Record - Oct 1, 1946

Posted By: Alex - Thu Dec 08, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Odd Names, Marriage, 1940s

The Playground Jungle

You could easily spend hours at The Playground Jungle, investigating all the childhood lore you half-recall, whether silly or naughty.

Here's a seasonal ditty I had never heard of:

We three kings of Leicester Square
selling ladies underwear
how fantastic, no elastic
not very safe to wear
O, star of wonder, star of light
the royal knickers caught alight
how fantastic, no elastic
guide me to the traffic lights

Or you could also buy their book.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Dec 08, 2016 - Comments (4)
Category: Antiques, Anachronisms and Throwbacks, Culture and Civilization, Customs, Children

December 7, 2016

Remember Pearl Harbor

December 1941: Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Chicago printer Louis Fortman claimed exclusive right in Illinois to the use of the slogans "Remember Pearl Harbor" and "Avenge Pearl Harbor," insisting that he had originated and printed the slogans on December 8 and had registered them under the state's patent and trademark laws. Anyone wishing to use the slogans would need his permission — and would need to pay him. However, Fortman said he was willing to let them be used, at no charge, for "patriotic purposes and to aid defense activities."

In response to public outrage, Illinois Secretary of State Edward J. Hughes canceled Fortman's registration of the slogans.

Chicago Daily Tribune - Feb 4, 1942

Chicago Daily Tribune - Mar 28, 1942

Posted By: Alex - Wed Dec 07, 2016 - Comments (6)
Category: Patriotism, 1940s

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