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October 2004
Here's a good link for Halloween. It's the final email correspondence of Mark Condry, as posted by his friend Eric. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to read through in its entirety, but it's a good story if you've got the time. And no, it isn't real, though it tries its best to seem real (but if you believe in the supernatural, maybe it could be real). It was written (or posted to the web, if you believe the site) by Eric Heisserer, a Hollywood screenwriter. I won't ruin the story by giving it all away. I'll just say that it describes a house that lures people to their doom by leaving them strange clues that eventually lead to the mysterious room on the second floor.
Categories: Paranormal, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Oct 31, 2004
Comments (19)
The Tacoma Washington News Tribune reports on a Vanishing Hitchhiker legend local to Mount St. Helens. (in case you're not familiar with it, the Vanishing Hitchhiker urban legend goes like this: a guy picks up a hitchhiker who then mysteriously vanishes from inside the moving car. He realizes that the hitchhiker was a ghost.) Following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, many drivers in the area swore they saw a woman dressed in white thumbing a ride by the side of the road. She would get in the car and eventually say "The volcano is going to erupt again between Oct. 12 and 14." Then she would disappear. Sure enough, lava did emerge from the volcano on Oct. 12 of this month. Spooky!
Categories: Paranormal, Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (3)
image I realize that flatulence filters are real products (though I have had a lot of people tell me they thought they were a hoax). But I suspect that the Dog Thong Flatulence Filter has to be a joke. I mean, how well could it possibly work? It just doesn't seem large enough to fully contain and filter all the gas a dog can produce. And imagine having to strap it back on Fido every time he comes in from the yard.
Categories: Animals, Gross
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (7)
I've seen many haunted things offered up for sale on eBay: haunted glass jars, haunted Coke cans, haunted toasters, haunted rubber duckys, even a haunted Gmail account (which, I'll now admit, I offered $10 for, but got outbid). So it seems inevitable that someone would finally try to auction an entire haunted house on the site. But based on what we're told in the article, the woman's evidence for supernatural possession seems a little sketchy. A few flying objects and weird noises. That's it. She's going to have to do better than that if she wants the serious haunted curiosity collectors, like Michael Jackson, to step up and start bidding.
Categories: eBay, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (3)
Thanks to Big Gary for forwarding me this next story. A conman made hundreds of dollars by convincing residents of an Ethiopian town that he could make money literally rain down upon them from the sky. At first I thought, who could be stupid enough to believe that? But then I realized it's basically no different from any of the get-rich-quick schemes popular here in America: trade your way to riches in the stock market, work at home and earn big bucks, take this seminar and learn the secrets of financial success, etc...
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (2)
If there was an award for stupid excuses, this guy would get one. William Dahlby threw a live electrical wire into his wife's bath, and when she tried to jump out, he pushed her back in. But he says that he's innocent of trying to kill her because he only did it to "save the marriage." He was hoping the near-death experience would jump-start their flagging relationship, so to speak. Apparently William didn't realize that the old saying about the quickest way to a woman's heart being with a knife is just a joke... and incidentally, I've heard that joke applied to both women and men. But really, did this guy seriously think that such a pathetic excuse would swing a jury in his favor?
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 29, 2004
Comments (6)
I've been getting a lot of emails about Allerca, the company that claims it will start selling genetically engineered hypo-allergenic cats in 2007. It may be that they never manage to do what they claim they will do. Or at least, they never manage to do it in commercially viable quantities. But I'm pretty sure they're very serious about trying to do it. But I think they should lower the price a bit. At $3500 a pop, these cats are only going to be for the very rich, considering that you can pick up a cat for free at the pound, and as they themselves admit, female cats are far less allergenic than male cats anyway.
Categories: Animals, Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 28, 2004
Comments (15)
image It's a Truth Detector, Decoder and International Timepiece in One! Just ask a person a question as they hold two fingers against the watch's bio-feedback sensors. "The more bars appear on the screen, the less likely it is they are being honest. Look for other clues, such as rapid eye movement or a flushed face to help you decide." The one customer comment at the bottom of the screen says that it's "Better than expected." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I still can't imagine that the thing would be anything but useless at actually spotting lies.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 28, 2004
Comments (5)
The picture below, which has been spreading around via email, looks like one of those things that's too fantastic to be true. But it's real. The whale is Luna, a killer whale that showed up in Nootka Sound, Canada back in 2001. Luna had lost contact with his pod and didn't seem to know what else to do besides hanging out in the sound, interacting with all the people there. This picture was taken at the docks off Gold River. Scientists want to reunite Luna with his pod, but this is being resisted by members of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations tribe who claim that Luna is the reincarnation of their late chief. image
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 28, 2004
Comments (22)
I've said before that I don't trust the Ananova news service, and now here's proof that they really do make some questionable claims. Craig Silverman, of Regret the Error, links to Ananova's corrections page where they apologize for the following strange errors, among others (though personally I think the corrections they've listed are only the tip of the iceberg):
  • Robotic relief - an apology. On September 11, we published a story suggesting that Indian scientists had invented a robot with the ability to improve couple's sex lives.
  • Bill Clinton - an apology. Bill Clinton has asked us to make clear that he won't be appearing in commercials for a Chinese men's clothing brand.
  • Rasta Pasta was never on the menu. A story published on August 31 stated a Wakefield headteacher had been criticised for introducing a dish called Rasta Pasta to school menus during a project on race.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (4)
William Butler Yeats is widely regarded as one of the greatest modern poets. He's also my favorite poet (and we happen to share a birthday!). When I spent a semester studying in Ireland fifteen years ago I made a special trip to visit his grave located just outside of Sligo. It's well worth a visit, even if you couldn't care less about Yeats, because the scenery there is stunning. But now I find out that Yeats may not occupy that grave. Instead, it may be a random Englishman named Alfred Hollis who's buried there. According to this article on Eircom.net it's very likely that a mix-up occurred when Yeats' remains were moved from France to Ireland in 1948. So now I have to make a completely different trip to France if I want to say that I've been to Yeats' grave. Though unfortunately, even if I do make it to his real grave, I'm sure that I still won't have any clue what Yeats meant by his epitaph: "Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by."
Categories: Death, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (21)
Is Walmart really soon going to be offering its own brand of cheap wine? It will if you believe this email that's been circulating around for over a year:

Some Walmart customers soon will be able to sample a new discount item: Walmart's own brand of wine. The world's largest retail chain is teaming up with E&J Gallo Winery of Modesto, California, to produce the spirits at an affordable price, in the $2-5 range. While wine connoisseurs may not be inclined to throw a bottle of Walmart brand wine into their shopping carts, there is a market for cheap wine, said Kathy Micken, professor of marketing at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. She said: "The right name is important."

So, here we go: The top 12 suggested names for Walmart Wine:

12. Chateau Traileur Parc
11. White Trashfindel
10. Big Red Gulp
9. Grape Expectations
8. Domaine Wal-Mart "Merde du Pays" [Kruse, Keith M] (Translated "Shit of the Land") 
7. NASCARbernet
6. Chef Boyardeaux
5. Peanut Noir
4. Chateau des Moines
3. I Can't Believe It's Not Vinegar!
2. World Championship Riesling

And the number 1 name for Wal-Mart Wine ..

1. Nasti Spumante

That's obviously a joke (though it is strange that Kathy Micken's name is mentioned specifically... I've emailed her to ask her if she knows anything about this). But here's another strange urban legend involving Walmart and alcohol. It's the Walmart beer and nappy legend, as told by Media Week (I don't think this one is true either):

WalMart did an analysis of customers’ buying habits and found a statistically-significant correlation between purchases of beer and purchases of nappies. It was decided that the reason for this was that fathers were stopping at Wal-Mart – on instruction from her-indoors – to buy nappies for their babies. Since they could no longer go down to the pub as often, beer was being bought as well. As a result of this finding, the supermarket chain supposedly rearranged the store to have the nappies next to the beer – resulting in increased sales of both.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (11)
image Today Apple announced the iPod photo, an iPod that will allow you to view pictures as well as play music. But they also introduced a new product that's getting less attention: the iPod sock. The socks, priced at the non-bargain price of $29, will come five to a pack, each sock in a different color. Their purpose will be to "keep your iPod warm". According to the Mac Observer, "Those in attendance offered Mr. Jobs a round of enthusiastic applause when it became clear that this was indeed a real product." I'm not so sure. An iPod sock? That's got to be a joke. First of all, it doesn't allow you access to the controls, so it's entirely useless. Second, if it's real, why is there no mention of it on Apple's site? And third, there's already a well-known (and far superior) iPod sock already on the market: Maneesh's Super Case. CNET has a picture of the iPod sock warming an iPod.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (17)
Joey the Midwife is an advertising agency. An unbelievably cheap advertising agency. How can it offer such low rates? Simple. "Here's our secret: We have developed the use of "themes" to sell products. Why reinvent the wheel with every ad campaign? We've got a collection of themes that are PROVEN winners.... themes everyone loves. We just plug your product into a theme and PRESTO BINGO, you've got a world-class ad campaign at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time." It's a very strange little site. I think it's the creation of cartoonist David Rees, author of Get Your War On, since a lot of the links lead back to his site. But I'm not sure why Rees created the site.
Categories: Advertising, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (5)
image I'm a Democrat, but I've got to hand it to the Goths for Bush. I like their reasoning: "We are forming this Goth Republican Band to help elect George Bush to continue the sadness. His actions facilitate our morbid fascination and the beauty of enduring pain. Many people lead unhappy lives and that is sad. Bush will continue the sadness. He knows that gentle people are excellent for spanking. His foreign policy is the best, he spanks the world and the unseen one knows it deserves it, so beautifully dirty, grimy and perverse." I'm assuming this is satire, but it's subtle enough that you can't really be sure.
Categories: Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 27, 2004
Comments (12)
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