Category:
Law

Juror Goes Insane

I would totally cite this precedent when trying to get out of jury duty.



Source: The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) 26 Jan 1909, Tue Page 9

Posted By: Paul - Sun Mar 21, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Law, 1900s, Mental Health and Insanity

Henry Budd, the Anti-Mustache Millionaire

English eccentric Henry Budd stipulated in his will that his sons would forfeit their inheritance if they ever grew a mustache. Details from twickenhampark.co.uk:

Henry lived until 1862 when he died in London. In his Will his estate was valued £200,000 which would be tens of millions today. The Will divided his estates between his only surviving children, namely his sons William and Edward. Henry added a final stipulation that should either of his sons grow a moustache they would forfeit their share which would revert to the other brother.

The newspapers reported this in some detail at the time, and it was still worthy of news 20 years later in 1882.

Detail from Budd's will in which he forbids his sons from ever growing mustaches

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 09, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Law, Nineteenth Century, Hair and Hairstyling

Clothes for Snowmen

Various sources report that when Madame de la Bresse died in 1876, she instructed in her will that all her money be used for buying clothes for snowmen. For instance, Bill Bryson shares this anecdote in his 1990 book The Mother Tongue: English & How it got that Way:
[The nineteenth century] was an age when sensibilities grew so delicate that one lady was reported to have dressed her goldfish in miniature suits for the sake of propriety and a certain Madame de la Bresse left her fortune to provide clothing for the snowmen of Paris.

Here's a 1955 cartoon about Madame de la Bresse and the snowmen:

The Montana Standard - May 6, 1955



But the earliest source for the story I've been able to find is a 1934 edition of Ripley's Believe it Or Not!. Which makes me wonder if the story is true, because I'm convinced Ripley invented many of his "strange facts". I can't find any French references to Madame de la Bresse.

However, it's possible Madame de la Bresse and her odd bequest were real, and the best argument for this I've been able to find is made by Bob Eckstein in his The History of the Snowman. He doesn't provide any sources to verify the existence of Madame de la Bresse, but he does give some historical context that could explain what might have inspired her to want to clothe snowmen:
When noted prude Madame de la Bresse passed away in 1876, she instructed in her will that all 125,000 francs (about $22,500 today) of her fortune were to only be spent putting clothes on the vulgar and offensive naked snowmen in the streets. This bizarre bequest may have had something to do with a certain celebrated snow statue made during the later part of her life in 1870...

The date was December 8, 1870. Snow began to cover Paris. Bored officers threw snowballs, and some of the soldier-artists began to make snow sculptures. Before long, the snowballs became monumental snow statues. One soldier, Alexandre Falguière, channeled his angst of his home city being attacked by creating La Résistance, a colossal snow woman, which was constructed in a mere two to three hours with the help of others.

Although the artist Moulin built a huge snow-bust nearby, it was twenty-nine-year-old Falguière's snow woman that attracted the press to visit the site...

The snow woman was light in the bosom yet clearly blessed with a female face. She had broad shoulders with folded muscular arms and possessed an able-bodied, World Wrestling Federation savoir faire, which suggests Falguière compared the Prussian siege of Paris with the sexual aggression of a relentless female refusing to succumb (La Résistance).

La Résistance by Falguière. Source: wikipedia



So maybe Madame de la Bresse was invented by Ripley. Or maybe she was real and decided to clothe snowmen because she was offended by Falguière's nude snow statue. I'm not sure. Hopefully someone else may be able to shed some light on this mystery!

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 13, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Art, Statues and Monuments, Death, Law

The invisible will of Beth Baer

On August 30, 1951, Beth A. Baer sat down to write out a will. She died about two months later. But when her relatives found her will, it turned out to be mostly a blank sheet of paper. Her pen had run out of ink soon after she started writing it, and because she was almost completely blind, she hadn't noticed.

However, lawyers Charles Gerard and Clark Sellers were able to figure out what she had written by lighting the paper at an angle and photographing the indentations from the dry pen. Based on this, the court accepted the will as a valid document.

This was bad news for her husband, whom she had decided to leave only $1.

Los Angeles Times - May 13, 1953

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 06, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Death, Law, 1950s

M. X. Mockus, Blasphemer





Read all about it here.

Photo source.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Nov 11, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Law, Religion, 1910s

What rights do goldfish have?

1978: The final act of a British play titled The Last Temptation involved a goldfish bowl, with a live goldfish inside, being thrown across the stage, causing the fish to tumble onto the ground, where it died. Outraged animal lovers sued, prompting a two-year legal battle in which the courts deliberated on whether it was possible to be cruel to goldfish. Or rather, should goldfish enjoy the protections given to other animals such as cats and dogs?

The first court ruled that goldfish enjoyed no such protections, but in 1980 the High Court overturned this decision, ruling that it is, indeed, possible to be cruel to goldfish, and that the law should not allow such behavior.

I'm not sure if there's any equivalent American law pertaining to goldfish. But I imagine that if there was then surely boiling lobsters alive would also be illegal.

The Guardian - Nov 3, 1978



Victoria Times Colonist - July 30, 1980

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 20, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Law, Fish, 1970s

Constitution of Alabama

Clocking in at 310,296 words, the constitution of Alabama is the longest constitution in the world. By comparison, the U.S. constitution is only 4,543 words (including the signatures).

The bloat of the document is a result of the state government deciding that it needed to micromanage the individual counties. So all kinds of local regulations have been included in the constitution. Wikipedia explains:

About 90 percent of the document's length, as of 2018, is made up of its 946 amendments ... About 75 percent of the amendments cover individual counties or cities, and some are so detailed as to deal with salaries of specific officials (e.g. Amendment 480 and the Greene County probate judge). As a result, Alabama has a very high number of constitutional officers and the constitution makes it very difficult for residents of most counties to solve their own problems.

The Constitutional Convention was called with the intention by Democrats of the state "to establish white supremacy in this State," "within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution." Its provisions essentially disenfranchised most African Americans and thousands of poor whites, who were excluded for decades.


You can read the full document here.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 17, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Government, Regulations, Law

Will to be read in 2163

Adolph Metzer loved cats and dogs. So, in his will, he gave $1000 to the city of Evanston, as well as to ten states, with the stipulation that the money be put in a bank account and not touched until 2163. By that time, he figured, his money would have grown to $201,559,641.30. All of which could be spent to help homeless cats and dogs.

I haven't been able to find out what happened to his money. My guess is that it's long gone.

Washington Post - Mar 13, 1913

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 14, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Death, Law, 1910s

Drunk Driving Defense

Back in 1971, Melvin Baker offered a novel defense for why he shouldn't have been charged with drunk driving. He was, he said, too drunk to have made an intelligent decision about whether to submit to the breathalyzer test — the results of which led to him being charged. He apparently argued this case all the way up to the New York Supreme Court.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat - July 7, 1971



Details about this case are hard to come by, but this other brief article offers an explanation for why Baker persisted with his seemingly hopeless argument. Because if he had refused to take the test, he would only have had his license suspended. But having taken the test, and failed it, he also faced criminal prosecution. So it was all an elaborate, legalistic ploy to get the lighter penalty.

Long Beach Independent - Sep 7, 1971

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 14, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Law, 1970s, Cars

Sneezing Protected

This is good to know in the pandemic era. I hope coughing is covered as well.



Source.

Posted By: Paul - Fri May 08, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Accidents, Law, 1950s, Cars

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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, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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