Wish you were here!

The story below is from 1939. Would the students have been dealt with as harshly today? My guess, based on all the stories of overreacting school officials that Chuck reports, probably yes.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 15, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: School, 1930s

The College of Swedish Massage

Original ad. (Scroll down.)

I wonder how one went about setting up as a freelance massage therapist in 1949. Did the College of Swedish Massage mail order course culminate with a nice diploma you could display, something along the lines of a "Bra Inspector #23" badge? And exactly how, as a student, did you practice your techniques at home, and on whom?

As the quote below tells us, the College of Swedish Massage eventually was superseded by the more proper Swedish Institute, still teaching massage therapy today. I wonder if you can take their courses online?


Posted By: Paul - Tue Mar 12, 2013 - Comments (10)
Category: Body, School, 1940s

The Philadelphia Phonograph School of Languages for Parrots

It came into existence circa 1903. Details from The Strand Magazine:

Philadelphia can boast of a phonograph school for parrots. It is said to be the only institution of its kind in the world. Here parrots are taught to speak by means of the phonograph, and during the brief time that the school has been in existence over one hundred birds have been taught to pronounce all kinds of sentences and phrases for the edification of themselves and the amusement of their owners.

This is the twentieth-century method of teaching a parrot. Hitherto he has been taught by tutors, generally women, and, if the truth must be told, he has not been altogether a satisfactory or exemplary pupil. First of all his teacher has to repeat the phrase or sentence over and over again, hundreds and thousands of times, before "Pretty Polly" is able to pronounce it. This in itself is a tiresome procedure, but it is rendered more fatiguing on account of the fact that the speaker must be hidden from the parrot. She has, therefore, to crouch behind a screen or to cover the cage of the bird with a large hood. The former is regarded as the best method, as no self-respecting parrot likes to be left alone in the dark, but to hide oneself secretly behind a screen and then repeat the words, "Pretty Polly," "Pretty Polly," a thousand times is surely not an enviable task.

By the new mode of teaching, however, no personal inconvenience of this nature is felt, for all the tutor has to do is to obtain a phonograph, secure a few records suitable for birds, and set the phonograph going in the parrot's ear. The bird, too, learns more quickly by this method than in the old way...

The fee for a full term of six months is eight pounds. Parrots are often sent, however, for a briefer period, when the rate charge is ten shillings per week, including, of course, board and lodging. Sometimes, when a pupil has to be taught unusual phrases—French or German sentences, for instance—the tuition rate is a little higher.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Feb 22, 2013 - Comments (5)
Category: Animals, School, 1900s

Rat-Killing Lessons, 1907

Back in the day, students were taught the important subjects at school, such as how to kill rats. Here's a description of rat-killing lessons at the Farm and Trade School on Thompson's Island, circa 1907. From Rats and Rat Riddance (1914), by Edward Howe Forbrush:

At the Farm and Trade School on Thompson's Island, where the boy pupils are taught to kill rats, as all boys should be, there is a henhouse built with a cement foundation, but it has an earth floor and no foundation wall on the south side; therefore it is not rat-proof. The wooden floor of the main house is raised about three feet above the earth, leaving a space below it for a shelter for geese. Here the rats have burrowed in the earth, and as it was considered unsafe to use carbon bisulphide there on account of the fire danger, water was suggested. Two lines of common garden hose were attached to a near-by hydrant, the ends inserted into rat holes and the water turned on. All rat holes leading from the henpens to the outer world were closed with earth, and several boys were provided with sticks, to the end of each of which a piece of hose two feet long had been attached. A fox terrier was introduced into the henpens, and in about half an hour the rat war began. As the half-drowned rats came out of their holes somewhat dazed they were struck by side swings of the hose sticks, which knocked them off their feet, to be killed by other blows. If one escaped into the henpens, boy or dog killed it. This operation was repeated later from time to time. Four successive battles several weeks apart yielded 152 rats from under and about this henhouse, and no doubt many young rats were drowned in their nests. Where no high-pressure water main is available burrows on the banks of pond, river or ocean might be cleared in this way by means of a powerful sewer pump and hose.

The pictures show the schoolboys showing off their kill, as well as the rats strung up.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 31, 2012 - Comments (6)
Category: Animals, School, 1900s

Lifted by the Ears

A photo of a kindergarten teacher in China lifting one of her students by her ears has recently been doing the rounds online. The teacher, reportedly, has explained her actions by saying she and the student "were just having fun." Well, the smile on the teacher's face indicates she's having fun. I'm not so sure about the kid. [huffpost]

The photo immediately made me think of those photos of Lyndon Johnson lifting his two beagle pups by their ears, which caused an uproar back in 1964. LBJ also claimed the ear lifting was all fun and games. Just another reminder of how often weird news repeats itself.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 26, 2012 - Comments (9)
Category: School, Children

Classes in Store Windows

With school budgets constantly declining, maybe this is a money-saving solution that should be reconsidered. Stop building new schools and conduct classes in store windows instead.

[From Newsweek, April 6, 1953]

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 10, 2012 - Comments (5)
Category: School, 1950s

The Kenmore High Cheerleading Chant

Here's the latest image gone viral. I spotted it on, but you can also find it on any number of blogs or facebook posts. My first thought -- I'm pretty sure this is Chuck's work! So posting it here to give some credit where credit is due.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Mar 11, 2012 - Comments (4)
Category: Racism, School, Sports, Can’t Possibly Be True

The School of Weird Facts

Back in 1989, Coppin State College in Baltimore started a program designed to teach kids critical thinking skills -- how to "formulate meaningful questions, identify pertinent data and determine fallacies and biases." It did this by having the kids examine and discuss "weird facts" and weird news stories. Perhaps Chuck's work was on the curriculum. (link: Google News)

The picture shows teacher Tom Payne teaching the kids some weird facts. I don't know what happened to the program. It doesn't seem to exist anymore. In its place, we should try to make Weird Universe mandatory reading in all high schools.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Feb 27, 2012 - Comments (3)
Category: School

Training for Failure

I wonder what would have happened had Dr. Sherman's plan been put into action? It would certainly relieve stress -- and provide a much more realistic view of the world -- if we were all taught from day one to accept our mediocrity. Reported in the Newark Advocate, Dec. 1, 1936:

Training for Failure
It seems that parents are wrong in counseling their youngsters to study hard and aim for the presidency.
Anyway, Dr. Mandel Sherman, mental hygiene specialist at the University of Chicago, advises that young people be trained to become failures, in the ordinary sense of the word.
"Our educational system is suffering from an overdose of success stories," he contends. "One person in 10 is neurotic, one in 22 insane today because we train only for success. And only a few can be successful from a material standpoint."
Youth perhaps should be taught that a successful life need not include fame and riches. But history, studded with instances of handicapped youngsters who fought their way to success, indicates that it would be difficult to get the younger generation to bow its head to the inevitability of failure.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Apr 16, 2009 - Comments (19)
Category: School, Self-help Schemes, Psychology

The School For Vampyres

Apparently Vampyres have to go to school, just like everybody else. (I don't know if Vampyres are different than Vampires, or if it's just a more pretentious spelling of the same.) I think a degree from this school would be a great addition to my resume:

It is our desire that our School for Vampyres address the Vampyre at all levels, and that our teachings have a practical application in the world. Hence, all of these are steps towards the formation of a more compleat Setian, a more compleat Vampyre...
There will be those who first learn more about the Arkte Element here, who then Become Warriors. There will be others who first learn of the MetaMind Element here, and who will then specialize in it...
Applicants will be considered for admission to the Order by an existing Master of the Order (preferably), or by a III ° + member of the Order at large, or by one of the Grand Masters themselves. In most cases, if a Master of the Order deems a Setian is appropriate for the Order, that Setian's membership will almost always be guaranteed. In all cases, however, the decision to admit a Setian will be at the sole discretion of one or both Co-Grand Masters.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 28, 2009 - Comments (18)
Category: Paranormal, School

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Who We Are
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.

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.

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