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Status: Undetermined (I refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt)Ken Lay was reported dead on Wednesday. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be severe coronary disease. But almost as soon as word of his death hit the internet, the conspiracy theories started. Scott Adams summed up what many were thinking in his Dilbert Blog: Reality Rule 16.1 from Hippo Eats Dwarf seems appropriate here: For some, death is merely a career move.
The timing of Lay's death is what makes it so suspicious. It's not just that he died before serving any time. He died before the appeals process was completed and before being sentenced. Therefore, his convictions could be erased, severely complicating efforts to seize his assets. As the New York Times reports: In other words, Lay picked the perfect time to die. Of course, this doesn't mean he faked his death. It just makes his death seem awfully convenient for him (if he's still alive) and his family. (There's also a theory that he was murdered... or perhaps he could have committed suicide by using drugs to induce heart failure. I believe there are drugs capable of doing this.)
Lay isn't the first multi-millionaire to be suspected of faking his death. In 1932 billionaire Swedish businessman (and mega-swindler) Ivar Kreuger apparently committed suicide by shooting himself. But a rumor soon spread that he had actually faked his death and fled to Indonesia. Supposedly Kreuger's tobacconist later received from Sumatra a large order for custom-made Havana cigars. The tobacconist said that Kreuger was the only person who would have known how to place that order.
There's also the case of Michael de Guzman, geologist for Bre-X, and perpetrator of one of the greatest mining frauds in history. In March 1997 de Guzman supposedly committed suicide by jumping from a helicopter into the Indonesian jungle. But his corpse could never be positively identified, and last year one of his widows claimed that he had recently sent her money. So he might very well still be alive. Perhaps he's hiding out somewhere in an Indonesian resort with Ken Lay.
Oh, and this photo of Ken Lay's tombstone that's doing the rounds is obviously fake (1964-2006??? That would have made him 42). Last year the same picture was used to represent Johnnie Cochran's tombstone.
Status: Weird, but realChristophe Thill sent me a link to Huggable Urns (they're teddy bears that hold cremains) along with the message: "This has to be a hoax? Right? Right?" Sorry, Christophe. I don't think so. The Huggable Urns look real enough, and if you click on the 'Buy Now' button on the products page, it takes you to a PayPal payment page, which is usually a good sign that a product is real.
Actually, although the huggable urns seem a bit ghoulish and tacky, they're not that bad an idea. They're better than many alternatives. For instance, my mother-in-law's ashes have been sitting in a plastic urn above the washing machine in our garage for the past two years. We just can't figure out what to do with her. So there she sits. And the award for the worst thing to do with someone's ashes has to go to Sandi Canesco of Australia. I write about her in Hippo Eats Dwarf. She had her husband's ashes injected into her breast implants. She said that "that way I'd never really have to part with him at all." I guess you could say that Sandi has her own unique version of Huggable Urns.
Status: Urban LegendA recent ad for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes shows a blond-haired kid dancing around singing "They're going to taste great!" I think this is a British ad. At least, I've never seen it here in America. And all the references to it I've found occur in the British press. For instance, David Whitehouse writes in the Guardian: Evidently this is the kind of ad that people love to hate. And this dislike has inspired a rumor that the kid in the ad is dead. (Google 'Frosties Kid' and you pull up page after page of rumors of his death.) There are two versions of the rumor:
1) That the kid committed suicide on account of the bullying he received since the ad aired.
2) That the kid was a cancer patient whose dying wish was to star in a Frosties ad.
I don't know who the Frosties Kid is in real life. So I can't prove that he's alive. But there's absolutely no evidence to support the claim that he's dead. Plus, the 'Frosties Kid Is Dead' rumor seems to be a new variation of the 'Death of Little Mikey' rumor (which alleged that Mikey, of the Life Cereal commercials, died after eating Pop Rocks). So I think it's safe to assume that the Frosties Kid is still alive. (Thanks to Dave Tolomy for telling me about the rumor.)
Update: As Dead-Eric noted in the comments, Scott Mills of BBC Radio 1 recently discussed the 'Frosties Kid Is Dead' rumor on his show. Mills received the following official statement from Kelloggs about the rumor: You can listen to an mp3 clip of this portion of the Scott Mills show here.
Status: RealHere's another site to add to my ongoing list of unfortunate URLs OMFG.com. The site explains that OMFG stands for 'Official Meeting Facilities Guide.' They claim to be "the industry’s leading meeting planning print directory for the most active meeting professionals." They seem to have no clue that OMFG is more commonly used as an acronym for a different phrase ('Oh My F***ing God'). But having this URL probably generates a fair amount of traffic for them, so maybe it was an intentional choice. Plus, it's an easy URL to remember. (Thanks to Kathy for the link.)
Status: RealSupposedly this is a picture of a Russian nuclear sub cruising by a beach somewhere in Russia. I've noticed this picture posted on a number of blogs, but the info about it comes from strategypage.com. However, no source for the photo is indicated. Is it real? I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be. Here in San Diego it's quite common to see nuclear subs cruising past, especially if you're at Cabrillo Point or Coronado. I imagine the same must be true in Russia.
Update: For comparison, here's a photo I took about two weeks ago of an American submarine cruising off Cabrillo Point, San Diego. In my picture you can see sailors standing on top of the sub as it comes into harbor. Interesting that there are no sailors standing on the Russian sub, especially since it seems like a nice day when the photo was taken.
Update: Stone (in the comments) found a Russian site with more pictures of this sub at the beach, which leads me to conclude that the picture is real because it's unlikely that someone faked an entire series of pictures. According to the machine translation of the Russian site, the pictures were taken at Severodvinsk on the White Sea.
Status: PrankRecently Big Ben's chimes have been silenced as repairs are made to it. Apparently this has inspired policemen at Westminster to revive the BBC's 1980 April Fool's Day joke. The BBC Reports: (Thanks to Andrew Nixon for the link)
Status: HoaxYahoo News! reports on a hoax website, http://www.instoresnow.nl, created by a Dutch design student, Raoul Balai. It pretends to be an ad agency that offers advertising space on the bodies of prostitutes. It also offers to place ads on zoo animals. Big Gary points out that this is basically a variation on the old 'advertise on my forehead... or other body part' stunt. (Imagine brothel patrons or zoo goers having to wear body-ad blockers.) Yahoo News! reports: I've been trying to check out Balai's site, but it won't load. The increased traffic from being mentioned on Yahoo News! must be the reason.
Status: Beauty Product ScamChinese women are reportedly flocking to buy Bolibao ('Stay Fit' in English), a pill that, according to its manufacturer, can transfer body fat from a woman's hips to her breasts. Therefore it supposedly slims your hips and boosts your bra size at the same time. It's being heavily marketed on Chinese TV despite the fact that a) it doesn't work, and b) it causes a variety of negative side effects. The brazenness of the scam is pretty remarkable. The Shanghai Daily reports: The organization Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia further reports that: You can see an ad (in Chinese) for this stuff here.
Status: PrankI probably shouldn't be amused by this. After all, it could cause someone to really damage their toes:
Status: UndeterminedThe Alvin Sun-Advertiser reports on a rare hybrid found by a local gardener a tomato-cucumber. They're calling it a 'Cumato': Unfortunately the photo of Rodriguez holding the cumato is pretty bad. You can't see any details of the rare vegetable. I also want to know if he's cut it open. What's inside of it? Is it simply a tomato, or is it a combination of both? For now I'm skeptical of this. (Thanks to 't' for the link)
Status: RealWhen I posted last week about the surgical procedure of hymen repair (and how it's used to fake the appearance of virginity) some people commented that the practice was so widely known that it scarcely warranted inclusion on the site. These same people will doubtless also be familiar with the Cameroon practice of 'breast ironing', but it's new to me, so I'm guessing it'll be new to some other people as well.
According to the BBC, breast ironing: It sounds extremely unpleasant, but the BBC notes that there hasn't been any medical research into the medical effects of it (though doctors warn that it could cause serious damage), so I wonder if it actually prevents tissue growth. And if so, is it only a temporary effect or permanent? I suppose that if you damage the tissue enough it will stunt growth, but I would think that heavy exercise would have a greater effect and be a lot healthier (thin, athletic girls such as ballet dancers and competitive swimmers are known to start puberty later).
Status: RealThe bicycle-eating tree is probably familiar to most residents of Washington, since it's located on Vashon Island, Washington (and won a 1994 contest to select the most unusual places or events in the Washington-Oregon area), but it's new to me. Apparently someone, decades ago, left their bicycle leaning against the tree, and as the tree kept growing it enveloped the bike and now lifts it seven feet off the ground. I think it's amazing that a) the tree actually grew around the bike instead of pushing it over, and that b) in all that time no one ever moved the bike. The bicycle-eating tree has been featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and also inspired a children's book by Berkeley Breathed, Red Ranger Came Calling. Breathed used to live on Vashon Island. (via CaliforniaTeacherGuy)
Status: RealMuseum of Hoaxers helped make last week's Real-or-Not Challenge at Divester.com it's most popular yet. So we're now getting a special heads-up (pun intended) each time they post a new Real-or-Not challenge. Their latest photo shows a shark in all its "bug-eyed, needle-tooth glory." I would vote real, but that's just my personal, non-expert opinion. Maybe it's a trick. I'll post the answer here (not in a new post) when it's revealed.
Update: It's real. This is a photo of a crocodile shark. It's a small shark with large eyes for hunting in deep waters.
Related Post: Shark Photos