I'm sure this must have been the strangest day in Norman Carstens' career as an orthodontist:
The boy had apparently asked other dentists in the area to remove his braces before visiting Carstens' Mack Avenue office on Feb 8, "probably because he lives three or four blocks from my office," Carstens said. "He (came) in to see me and said he wanted them off. I said he wasn't finished with his treatment and I couldn't take them off without a letter from his parents and his regular orthodontist.
"I had him in the chair and he leaned over and pulled the gun out of his pocket and said, 'Would this make you change your mind?' and I said, 'Yes,'" Carstens said.
(click to enlarge) Central New Jersey Home News - Feb 16, 1985
Seeking a way to use technology to win the tunnel warfare in Vietnam, Nelson Frost of Byram, Connecticut invented the "Holie Terra." Although in the write-up for the patent he received (No. 3,395,641), he referred to it more formally as a "remotely controlled tunnel exploration and destroying means."
From his patent:
In certain types of warfare, for example, insurgency as practiced in Southeast Asia, enemy infiltrators and insurgents resort to extensive tunnel networks to hide from the established forces. The tunnel system in any one area may be elaborate and may traverse several levels and numerous branches with the arrangement being such that the insurgent forces are disposed in the system in such a position that a high explosive detonated at the tunnel entrance will have little effect on those hiding in the tunnels because of their labyrinthine construction whereby the direct force of an explosion is screened from the occupants. Because of the danger of booby traps or ambush it is not practical for attacking forces to enter the tunnels with the result that heretofore there has simply been no way to kill or dislodge insurgents hiding in the tunnels and the broad object of the present invention is to provide means for exploring tunnel networks by a self-propelled device which can be safely controlled from a remote position outside of the tunnel network.
More particularly, it is an object of the invention to provide a tunnel exploring device which may be maneuvered from a remote position deep into the tunnel network and there be detonated so that there is a much higher kill probability of the enemy forces with greater safety to the attackers than has been possible by any means employed heretofore.
In 1976, King Dixon of Miami was shot five times at close range in the head during a bar fight. Not a single bullet penetrated his skull. He was hospitalized overnight for observation, and then released the following day in satisfactory condition.
Alexandria Town Talk - May 10, 1976
Casper Star-Tribune - May 12, 1976
It seemed at the time like he must have been bulletproof, but a follow-up by Miami Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan, in her book Never Let Them See You Cry, reveals that he was affected by bullets after all:
Dixon was treated at a hospital and sent home, where I talked to him the next day. "My ears are still ringing," he said. "The gun was right at my ear. Those shots were really loud." Other than that, he felt fine. "I guess you have to ask the good Lord why I'm still alive."
But the bullets did kill him. I found King Dixon at the morgue eight years later. Since the shooting he had suffered seizures, and one of them killed him.
The medical examiner blamed the old bullet wounds and ruled the death a homicide.
King Dixon became Miami's only murder victim in 1984 killed by bullets fired in 1976.
Before the atomic bomb, other "super bombs" were dreamed up and invented. One of the more notorious was Lester Barlow's Glmite Bomb. Barlow claimed it could kill everything within a 1000-yard radius, but when the U.S. military tested it in 1940, exploding it in a field surrounded by goats, it failed to kill, or even injure, a single goat.
Glmite also has to be one of the worst names ever for an explosive. It was created by combining the words 'Glenn' and 'Dynamite'.
Mr. Lester P. Barlow, an employee of the Glenn L. Martin aircraft factory, submitted to the Senate Committee on Military Affairs a bomb filled with liquid oxygen. Called "glmite" in honor of Mr. Martin, the explosive was said to give off violent vibrations of the air waves that would kill every living thing within a radius of a thousand yards. Senator Gerald P. Nye was so impressed that he called in reporters to watch while minutes of the committee meeting were burned—"so great was the military secrecy of the subject!... an explosive so deadly it might even outlaw war!!!"
Tests of the Barlow bomb took up a good deal of the time of Ordnance planners in April and May, extending down into the most anxious weeks in May. When the newspapers announced that goats would be tethered at varying distances from the bomb to determine its lethal effects, Congress and the War Department were deluged with letters of protest from humane societies and private citizens. All the concern turned out to be wasted. At the first test, the bomb leaked and did not go off; at the second, held at Aberdeen Proving Ground in late May, the explosion occurred, but the goats, unharmed, continued to nibble the Maryland grass.
Barlow supervising the set up of the Glmite Bomb.
The Algone Upper Des Moines - June 18, 1940
Explosion of the Glmite Bomb at Aberdeen Proving Ground Note the goats in the right foreground, unharmed
Dr. Antonio Longoria claimed that he had invented a death-ray. In tests it demonstrated the ability to kill pigeons at a distance of four miles. However, he destroyed his machine and vowed never to build another, insisting that he was “interested now only in doing something to help civilization.”
During World War II, the OSS (precursor to the CIA) hatched a plan to defeat General Rommel's Afrika Korps by using synthetic goat poop. The idea was to drop huge amounts of pathogen-laced pseudo-poop over African towns. Local insects would be attracted to the stuff and would then carry the pathogens to Rommel's troops. However, before the plan could be carried out, Rommel's troops were withdrawn from the area and sent to Russia.
In February 1942, General Rommel's Afrika Korps pummeled U.S. forces in North Africa, and the Americans became worried that their defeat would encourage fascist Spain to join the Axis alliance. Moreover, the Germans were amassing troops in Morocco, in preparation for cutting off the railroad from Casablance to Algiers — the sole supply line for Allied forces. A covert operation was needed to debilitate the German troops, break the momentum of the Axis, and save the Allied lifeline... This called for flies.
The plan was to weaken the enemy forces by using flies to spread a witch's brew of pathogens. Given the agency's inability to rear an army of flies, [OSS Research Director] Lovell decided to conscript the local vectors...
Lovell was a chemist, but he'd been out of the laboratory often enough to know that flies love dung. And with a bit of research, he discovered a key demographic fact: There were more goats than people in Morocco — and goat are prolific producers of poop. Lovell now had the secret formula: microbes + feces + flies = sick Germans. Now all he needed was a few tons of goat droppings as a carrier for laboratory-cultured pathogens.
The OSS collaborated closely with the Canadian entomological warfare experts to launch one of the more preposterous innovations in the history of clandestine weaponry: synthetic goat dung. Of course flies are no fools; they won't be taken in by any old brown lump. So the OSS team added a chemical attractant. The nature of this lure is not clear, but a bit of sleuthing provides some clues.
Allied scientists might have crafted a chemical dinner bell by collecting and concentrating the stinky chemicals that we associate with human feces (indole and the appropriately named skatole). While these extracts would have worked, the more likely attractant was a blend of organic acids, some of which had been known for 150 years. Two of the smelliest of these are caproic and caprylic acids, which, by no coincidence, derive their names from caprinus, meaning "goat." Etymologically as well as entomologically astute, Lovell named the operation Project Capricious. So with a scent to entice the flies, Lovell's team then coated the rubbery pellets in bacteria to complete the lures.
All the Americans had to do was drop loads of pathogenic pseudo-poop over towns and villages where the Germans were garrisoned, and millions of local flies would be drawn to the bait, pick up a dose of microbes, and then dutifully deliver the bacteria to the enemy. Lovell worried about keeping the operation clandestine. The Moroccans had to be persuaded that finding goat droppings on their roofs the morning after Allied aircraft flew over was a sheer coincidence. Presumably a good disinformation campaign can dispel almost any suspicion, or, as Lovell intimated, if the plan succeeded there would be very few people in any condition to raise annoying questions about fecal pellets on rooftops...
In the end, however, Lovell didn't have to worry about getting caught by either friends or foes, as the secret weapon was never deployed. Just as the OSS was gearing up to launch the sneak attack, the German troops were withdrawn from Spanish Morocco. They might well have preferred to take their chances with pathogen-laden flies, given that Hitler was sending them to the bloody siege of Stalingrad.
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.