Weird Universe Archive

September 2021

September 25, 2021

Felix Barrel’s Pneumatic Guitar

I originally posted this back in Oct 2012, but I was recently contacted by Matt Nolan who informed me that the info in the post wasn't entirely accurate. 'Felix Barrel' was actually the tongue-in-cheek stage name of François Baschet, who was granted both a French and US patent for his invention. Also, he invented it in 1952, not 1955.

The picture of Baschet with his guitar can be found on the website of the Baschet Association, which explains that its invention was just the start of Baschet's long career as a creator of unusual instruments, particularly ones that involved "folding metal sheets into geometric shapes".

Thanks to Matt for the info!

Back in 1955 1952, French musician Felix Barrel invented an inflatable guitar. His idea was that it would be easier to travel with because it wouldn't take up much room when deflated. But his invention evidently didn't catch on with other musicians. Today, you can buy inflatable guitars, but they all seem to be marketed as kids' toys.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 25, 2021 - Comments (8)
Category: Music, Patents, 1950s

The Stunts of TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES Radio Show

Many folks of a certain age might recall TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES as a TV show. But it began on radio in 1940, and was known for its far-out stunts, as detailed on this page.

Excerpt below.

A 1942 contestant told Edwards that her 17 year old son was serving in the Marines - as if Edwards didn’t know this in advance when she was “randomly” selected to appear on the show. Her consequence was to count pennies - pennies mailed to her home by listeners to buy War Bonds for her son. Broadcasting magazine reported within a week that the woman received 301,464 coins, mostly pennies, totaling over $3,100. Variety reported that after ten days the amount of mail had reached 236,000 pieces and the amount was $3,560. To handle the massive amount of mail Edwards temporarily rented office space and hired 200 clerks to pick it up, open it, count the money and track the postmarks to learn where it came from, valuable research for NBC and sponsor Procter & Gamble.

Edwards sent a 1944 contestant on an involved and hilarious search for a thousand dollars that climaxed after a month with listeners mailing 18,000 old books to the man‘s home which were donated to servicemen and veterans’ hospitals - after the contestant was directed to leaf through the books to find the missing half of a thousand dollar bill sent to him by the show.

The fact that they gave out big money prizes didn't hurt their popularity either.

Source: Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) 08 Dec 1947, Mon Page 3

Posted By: Paul - Sat Sep 25, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Money, Publicity Stunts, Radio, 1940s

September 24, 2021

Robber warns of robbery

Jan 1995: Raymond Cuthbert warned an employee at Nolan's Pharmacy that he would be back in half an hour to rob the store. Sure enough, he returned a half hour later with a friend who was carrying a concealed weapon. The two were arrested by the waiting police.

The Vernon Morning Star - Jan 6, 1995

Perhaps Raymond had in mind the law proposed in Texas in 1973 that would have required criminals to give their victims advance notice before committing a crime.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Sep 24, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Stupid Criminals, 1990s

September 23, 2021

King Gustav III’s Coffee Experiment

According to what may be legend, King Gustav III of Sweden conducted that country's first clinical trial during the second half of the 18th century. He wanted to determine whether drinking coffee was bad for one's health. He firmly believed it was. The story is told on the website of Sweden's Uppsala University Library:

The king Gustav III viewed coffee consumption as a threat to the public health and was determined to prove its negative effects. It is said that he decided to carry out an experiment on two prisoners. Two twins had been tried for the crimes they had committed and condemned to death. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on the condition that one of the twins drank three pots of coffee every day while the other drank the same amount of tea, and this for the rest of their lives, in order to see if the coffee affected their life expectancy. Unfortunately the king died before the final result of his experiment: the first twin died at the age of 83 and he was the one who drank tea!

Barstow Desert Dispatch - Jan 7, 1991

Wikipedia notes that the authenticity of the coffee experiment story has been questioned. Though it doesn't say why.

As far as I can tell, the earliest English-language reference to the story appeared in a 1937 issue of The Science News-Letter. This account was then widely reprinted in newspapers (see below).

The Science News-Letter attributed the information to the Swedish-born botanist Bror Eric Dahlgren, who was a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago. Dahlgren did author a 1938 pamphlet about the history of coffee, which you can read online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library, but it doesn't include the story of King Gustav. I can't locate where else Dahlgren might have told the story of the coffee experiment, which makes it impossible to check his references.

The Sheboygan Press - May 28, 1938

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 23, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Experiments, Coffee and other Legal Stimulants, Eighteenth Century

Japanese Encoffiner Contest 2016

I had no more luck than Alex in searching for "Miss Metallic Casket." But I did find a Japanese competition for "encoffiners."

Posted By: Paul - Thu Sep 23, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Body, Contests, Races and Other Competitions, Conventions, Death, Asia

September 22, 2021

Yes, It’s True!

Really! It's true! It wasn't just a fantastical rumor! Metallic caskets are available again!

Springfield Daily News - Apr 14, 1946

Incidentally, I came across this ad after reading a 1948 article by columnist Doris Lockerman in which she wrote that, "It was reported, but not confirmed, that a convention of morticians once crowned a Miss Metallic Casket."

This led me to a long, and ultimately fruitless, search for any evidence of a 'Miss Metallic Casket'. The above ad was the only minor curiosity related to metallic caskets that I came across.

I'm wondering if the rumor of a 'Miss Metallic Casket' may somehow have been inspired by the pin-up girl calendar that a mortuary released in 1948, which caused a bit of a scandal.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Sep 22, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Advertising, 1940s

September 21, 2021

You’re never alone with a Strand

The 1959 "Lonely Man" TV ad for Strand cigarettes is rumored to be the greatest advertising flop in UK history. Because it seemed to say, "If you smoke our cigarettes, you may become a lonely sad sack wandering the streets at night."

Rob Gray has some analysis of the failed commercial in his book Great Brand Blunders:

In extreme cases, ill-judged advertising can kill a brand stone dead — even if the ad is well-made and memorable. Such was the fate of cigarette brand Strand back in the long-ago days when tobacco products could be advertised on UK television. In 1959 Imperial Tobacco's subsidiary W.D. & H.O. Wills, a firm able to trace its roots in the business back to a tobacconist's shop in Bristol in the 1780s, launched Strand with a high-profile TV advertising campaign supported by posters, press advertising and coupons that could be redeemed for free packs. The TV commercial, devised by copywriter John May at British agency S.H. Benson, saw actor Terence Brook smoking while roaming the rain-drenched strees of London in stylish trench coat and trilby hat...

The style of the protagonist and soundtrack to the commercial appealed to the public. Once it went on air people began getting in touch to find out if the theme tune was available to buy as a record. Sensing an opportunity, Cliff Adams and His Orchestra booked some recording studio time and laid down the track, The Lonely Man Theme, for release as a single. In 1960 The Lonely Man Theme broke into the Top 40...

Undeniably, the advertising campaign earned Strand tremendous recognition. As Winston Fletcher writes in his book Powers of Persuasion: The Inside Story of British Advertising 1951-2000, 'Public awareness of the brand and its advertising rocketed to over 90% within weeks. This was unprecedented and has rarely if ever been surpasssed.' It was a brilliant achievement, but one with a fatal flaw. Despite the high awareness levels delivered by the campaign, hardly anyone was buying the product.

The reasons why revolved around how the Lonely Man was perceived. Many viewers found the focus on loneliness uncomfortable. If the man was reliant on a packet of smokes for company, did this mean he was a bit of an oddball unable to sustain friendships? Was he an addictive personality, craving nicotine above human company? Could he be on his own because of a failed relationship or even due to bereavement? Might he be depressed?...

trying to position a new tobacco brand around loneliness — rather than something much more positive and aspirational, such as individuality — was doomed to failure. With sales failing to take off despite the high level of standout the advertising achieved, Strand was soon withdrawn from the market.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Sep 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Music, Advertising, Smoking and Tobacco, 1950s

Fanta Pomelo Ad and Sequel

Posted By: Paul - Tue Sep 21, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Aliens, Humor, Science, Advertising, Twenty-first Century

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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.

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