Category:
Customs

Life in America:  1953









Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 24, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, 1950s, North America

Life in America:  1977





Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 14, 2013 - Comments (0)
Category: Customs, 1970s, North America

Life in America:  1933







Posted By: Paul - Thu Jun 20, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Customs, 1930s, North America

Life in America:  1961







A semi-random slice across the weirdness of history. The first of an occasional series.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jun 03, 2013 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, Food, Sports, Advertising, 1960s

Virginia O’Hanlon, Santa Claus Skeptic

Virginia O'Hanlon is famous as the young girl who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if Santa Claus was real, prompting a reply from Francis P. Church, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." But you have to feel a bit sorry for O'Hanlon, because almost every year after that, until she died in 1971, reporters sought her out to do follow-ups to find out if she still believed in Santa Claus. It must have been frustrating to be asked the same question, year after year.

O'Hanlon as a young girl

O'Hanlon was always very gracious about the repetitive questioning, (seems like she was a very nice lady), and would say that of course she believed in Santa Claus — except for 1935 when she must have been in a dark mood, because in that year she came close to saying that she no longer believed. She told a reporter:

I still keep my faith in the ultimate kindness of human nature, but how can I, or anyone, believe in the Santa I knew as a child when today there is so much misery and suffering in the world?

If Santa lives today, he lives only in the childish joy of those he has made happy. How can he live in the crying hearts of those he has forsaken? Little children, such as I was, trust in Santa Claus as a miraculous munificence through which all things are made possible. There will be a tree, there will be loved ones about, gaiety and cherished toys that have been dreamt about for months.

Those whom Santa visits think of Christmas as a beautiful, sacred occasion which it should be — but today seldom is. But for every child tucked into bed Christmas night with his new toy, there are hundreds, no thousands, who huddle in ragged bed clothing sobbing in the night at a fate at best cruel.




In subsequent years she returned to giving simpler, more upbeat answers. The clip below shows her on the Perry Como show in 1960.


And here she is in 1966, looking slightly frazzled. Perhaps the questioning was finally getting to her.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 24, 2012 - Comments (4)
Category: Customs, Holidays

What’s the origin of the Boy Scout’s left-hand handshake?

As the 1935 Boy Scout handbook says, "By agreement of the Scout Leaders throughout the world, Boy Scouts greet Brother Scouts with a warm left hand clasp." (wikipedia). But what's the origin of this form of greeting?



Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, claimed he learned the custom from a defeated African chieftain whom he attempted to greet in 1896 by holding out his right hand. The chieftain supposedly replied: "The men in my tribe greet the bravest with the left hand." There are different versions of this story, but I think all of them can safely be dismissed as bogus.

There's also a theory that the scouts shake with their left hand because it's the hand closer to the heart. I also doubt this theory.

I think the real origin traces back to Baden-Powell's passion for promoting ambidexterity — and not just the ability to use either hand with equal dexterity, but to use both hands for different tasks, simultaneously.

Baden-Powell expressed some of these views in the brief introduction he wrote to John Jackson's 1905 book Ambidexterity, or, Two-handedness and two-brainedness:

To train the human body completely and symmetrically, that is, to cultivate all its organs and members to their utmost capacity, in order that its functions may also attain their maximum development, is an obligation that cannot safely be ignored. This completeness and symmetry can only be secured by an equal attention to, and exercise of, both sides of the body--the right and the left; and this two-sided growth can alone be promoted and matured by educating our two hands equally, each in precisely the same way, and exactly to the same extent.

It is hardly possible to lay too much stress upon this bimanual training, or to attach too much important to the principke, because our hands -- and our arms, from which, for purposes both of argument and education, they cannot be separated -- not only constitute our chief medium of communication with the outer world, but they are likewise the pre-eminent agency by which we stamp our impress upon it...

The heavy pressure of my office work makes me wish that I had cultivated, in my youth, the useful art of writing on two different subjects at once. I get through a great deal extra -- it is true -- by using the right and left hand alternately, but I thoroughly appreciate how much more can be done by using them both together.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 02, 2012 - Comments (7)
Category: Customs, Rituals and Superstitions

Telling The Bees

George Morley writes in Shakespeare's Greenwood: The Customs of the Country (1900) of the curious tradition of "telling the bees":


I don't have any bees, but I guess I could try "telling the gopher" that lives in my front yard.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 27, 2012 - Comments (12)
Category: Animals, Customs, Superstition

Bone Houses

image

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A perfect weird book for Halloween, judging from the pages shown here!

Anyone in LA might be interested in this signing:

Paul Koudounaris signs and discusses his book, The Empire of Death
Thursday, October 27, 7 p.m.

The Brand Library
1601 West Mountain Street
Glendale, CA 91201-1209
(818) 548-2051




Posted By: Paul - Tue Oct 25, 2011 - Comments (2)
Category: Body, Customs, Death, Religion, Books

les fêtes étranges

Awhile back I posted a link on here to an article about strange places to visit. More recently I wrote about unusual contests. Now I can combine the two! Men's magazine askmen.com has created a list of what they think are the top ten weird festivals held around the globe each year. For example, there's the Cow Painting Festival held in Luxembourg each summer. And you probably shouldn't miss the Moose Dropping Festival in Talkeetna, Alaska in July. Plus there's the So Joo Festival in Porto, Portugal in June - bring a hammer! You can see the entire list here.

Posted By: Nethie - Sun Oct 10, 2010 - Comments (2)
Category: Animals, Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Contests, Races and Other Competitions, Customs, Fairs, Amusement Parks, and Resorts, Magazines, Parades and Festivals

The Strange World of Divorce

While it might be fairly common for couples to get a divorce in the United States these days, it's certainly not easy. There are questions of support, custody issues if there are children involved, and bitter arguments over who gets to keep what; all of which can drag a divorce into months of stress. But what is it like in other cultures and in other times? In centuries past, in China, a divorce could be granted for any number of reasons, so long as the bride's family agreed to take her back. Aborigine women in Australia can convince their husbands to grant a divorce but if that's not working, then all they need to do is elope with someone else. The ancient Athenians and modern-day Eskimos share an extremely simple divorce process - live separately as though they were never married. In the UK, a man tired of his wife could slip a halter around her neck, lead her into town to the cattle market, and sell her to the highest bidder. Japan had a much more advanced view, however. Marriage was not sacred and divorce was not immoral - it was merely a mismatch between families. Women's dowrys were returned in the hopes of encouraging re-marriage. You can read more on Purple Slinky, and on Hope's Blog, and in this review.

Posted By: Nethie - Sat Jul 31, 2010 - Comments (4)
Category: Anniversary, Centuries, Ceremonies, Weddings, Customs, Foreign Customs, Marriage

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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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.

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