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October 2006
imageTodd Haley, a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach, issued a lawsuit against McDonalds on Thursday. He alleges that his wife and au pair found a dead rat in their take-away salad this June.

The story goes that, on June 5th, Christine Haley and Kathryn Kelley ordered $14 of food, including the salad. They drove home, where they both ate some of the salad before uncovering a young, dead rat (pictured right, the rat has been digitally coloured to show up as blue).

The rat was determined to be a ‘roof rat’, a breed which live in the rafters and can pass on such diseases as bubonic plague and endemic typhus. The two women say they are haunted by this knowledge and fear they may have caught a disease. Mrs Haley was breastfeeding at the time, and switched to formula milk in case she passed illness to her child. She claims this caused her mental anguish.

Since eating salad that may have touched the rat and touching the dead rodent with their forks, the women have had difficulty keeping food down and can no longer go out to eat, the lawsuit states. They are forced to prepare their food "from scratch, allowing themselves to see each ingredient placed in the dish they are cooking," the suit states…
While neither woman has tested positive for any disease, both have been in counseling for the phobia and anticipate about a year more of therapy.

Tod Haley and the two women are suing the restaurant, the franchise owner and KLB Group for a minimum of $1.7 million in physical and mental pain and anguish.

(Thanks, Charybdis.)
Categories: Animals, Food, Gross
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 30, 2006
Comments (62)
In February 2003 12-year-old Emily Streight tossed a message in a bottle into the creek near her home in Carlton, Oregon. She gave her name, her age, her height (which she described as 6-foot-2, a slight exaggeration), listed two boys she had a crush on at school, and added, "If this is a guy who finds this, send a picture."

In October of this year she got a response from 16-year-old Keoni in Hawaii. Somehow her bottle had traveled down Panther Creek, into the North Yahmill River, then into the Yamhill River, then the Willamette River, the Columbia River, out into the Pacific Ocean, and all the way to Hawaii. A pretty incredible journey.

Of course, it never happened. This was yet another message in a bottle hoax. They seem to be popping up all over the place lately. The truth:
According to the CBS TV station in Hawaii, a man has admitted that he found the bottle several years ago, not far from where an Oregon girl launched it in Panther Creek, Oregon. According to the report, the man who only would identify himself as 'Tom' moved to Hawaii and found the bottle recently while unpacking, then sent the letter to Straight, pretending to be a 16-year-old boy.
Other message-in-a-bottle hoaxes from this year include the high-speed message in a bottle (Scotland to New Zealand in 47 days), and the angry-reply message in a bottle.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 30, 2006
Comments (7)
Only 50 miles away from where the infamous Wendy's chili finger hoax was perpetrated last year, a woman has found what appears to be a finger in her Subway sandwich.

Health inspectors did not find that any staff had lost a digit, but the half-inch piece has been sent to a lab for testing.

A spokesman for Subway has said the company won't comment until the investigation is completed. He says, however: "The Subway restaurant chain takes every customer comment seriously. We don't know what the foreign object is yet."
Categories: Food, Gross
Posted by Flora on Fri Oct 27, 2006
Comments (11)

Chris De Burgh, Miracle Healer
Pop singer Chris De Burgh supposedly cures a woman's paralyzed arm by laying on his "healing hands." I had no idea who he even was when I first saw this. But I googled him and found out he's the guy who sings "Lady In Red." There's already a Church of Tom Jones. So why not a Church of Chris De Burgh?

Doll Experience Rooms
Apparently these are the hot new thing at Korean brothels. "A 'doll experience room' is a place punters rent for some W25,000(US$1=W958) an hour, a fee that includes a bed, a computer, and an inflatable sex doll."

$60 Champagne gets relabeled and sold for $300
Hoping to address a need in the hip-hop market for "bling" champagne, Cattier puts $60 "Antique Gold" in a flashier bottle and sells it for $300 as "Armand de Brignac" with the help of rapper Jay-Z. (Thanks, Joe)

Pelican Swallows Pigeon
Not a hoax. Just odd. What happened: "the bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak. There was a bit of a struggle for about 20 minutes, with all these people watching. The pelican only opened its mouth a couple of times. Then it managed to get the pigeon to go head first down its throat. It was kicking and flapping the whole way down." This news story inspired blogger Faye Williams to create a list of the Top 10 I’ve Got Eyes Bigger Than My Belly stories.

RIP: Pink Flamingo, 1957-2006
Union Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, is scheduled to close its doors on November 1. It's apparently the only maker of pink flamingoes in America. It's being forced to close due to "increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin." Does this mean pink flamingoes will never again congregate on the front lawn of UW-Madison?
Categories: Animals, Paranormal, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 26, 2006
Comments (10)
imageBull on Roof
Chumuckla Elementary School found a lifesize fibreglass bull on the roof on Monday. The bull belongs to a local ranch owner, and is worth more than $1000.

£1/4M Compass is £50 Fake
A compass, said to have been used by Lawrence of Arabia in his adventures and sold for £254,000 at Christie's auction house along with a watch and cigarette case, could be worth no more than £50.

Kaczynski stands in for Kaczynski
Polish President Lech Kaczynski has stepped in to replace his identical twin Jaroslaw, Poland's prime minister, at a European Union summit meeting in Finland.
Categories: History, Identity/Imposters, Miscellaneous, Politics, Pranks
Posted by Flora on Tue Oct 24, 2006
Comments (10)
imageAccording to Reuters, a mock-up plane crash erected as a Halloween display was mistaken for the real thing. Los Angeles police visited the home, but were informed by the homeowner that it was not a real accident.

The homeowner is an aircraft mechanic in training and the parts are from a real Gulfstream jet. Apparently, once people realise it's just a display, the only problem is them slowing their cars to take a good look.

(Thanks, Robert.)
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 23, 2006
Comments (13)

Spanish King Shoots Drunk Bear
When the Spanish King visited Russia recently he was taken on a bear hunt. But apparently "hunt organizers, keen to make the King of Spain's chances of killing a bear easier, provided a tame one drunk on vodka." Sad. But the last paragraph of the story is even more pathetic: "Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had trouble with his aim in his later years. Some of the animals he liked to stalk were either tied to trees or plied with booze." (Thanks, Big Gary)

Ich Vergessen
Here's an urban legend I'd never heard before: "German immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were asked their names, and might respond 'Ich vergessen,' meaning 'I forgot,' if they couldn't understand English. The officials would then mark down that the name was 'Ferguson.'" This doesn't make any sense to me at all. The German and English words for 'name' are almost identical, so I think German immigrants in particular would be able to understand a request for their name. But even if they didn't, why would they respond 'I forget'?

Top 10 Best Ghost Photographs Ever
The Brown Lady of Raynham comes in at #10. (Thanks, Kathy)
Categories: Animals, Paranormal, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 23, 2006
Comments (11)
image Disturbing news reports are leaking out of Australia. Apparently U.S. customs has banned the importation of Vegemite into the United States. What will Aussies living here do without their favorite food? The Sunday Times reports:
THE US has banned Vegemite, even to the point of searching Australians for jars of the spread when they enter the country. The bizarre crackdown was prompted because Vegemite has been deemed illegal under US food laws... Kraft spokeswoman Joanna Scott said: "The (US) Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid.'' The US was "a minor market'' for Vegemite, she said.
GeelongInfo.com also corroborates this story, reporting that one of their reporters was stopped while crossing from Canada into the US, and the border guards demanded to know if they were carrying Vegemite:
"We thought they were joking but it was real," Fogarty said. "We went down to Montana and were crossing the border, they searched everybody's car as they do and after they searched asked if we were carrying any Vegemite. We were completely shocked. Normally Sarah wouldn't travel far without Vegemite but for some reason we didn't have it." Police recognised the couple as Australians and thought they might be suspects.
But some are skeptical. Cerebral Soup reports finding no mention of such a ban on any US government site, except for a single mention of some vegemite coming from the UK being banned.

My theory is that Drop Bears are somehow responsible for the ban, since as everyone knows, one of the only defenses against a drop bear is to spread vegemite behind your ears. With no Vegemite in the US, we'll all be defenseless when they launch their attack.

UPDATE: The FDA have said that they have not banned vegemite. The refused batches from the UK were stopped for: "labeling problems (lack of ingredient list), suspected presence of a color additive not approved for use in food in the United States, and lack of registration of facilities and filing of processes for a low-acid canned food."

(Thanks, Nathan and Tom.)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 23, 2006
Comments (32)
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have announced that threats made online last week to plant 'dirty bombs' at NFL stadiums were a hoax.

The threat, dated Oct. 12, appeared on a Web site, The Friend Society, that links to various online forums and off-color cartoons. Its author, identified in the message as "javness," said trucks would deliver radiological bombs Sunday to stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland and Oakland, Calif., and that Osama bin Laden would claim responsibility.

The FBI, after tracing computers, have questioned a 20 year old Milwaukee man. Although the man has been released, he is still believed to have some involvement, and may be charged.

A statement has been made that fans: "should be reassured of their security as they continue to attend sporting events this weekend."

(Thanks, Stork and Robert.)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Sports
Posted by Flora on Fri Oct 20, 2006
Comments (12)
David Jovani Vanegas claimed to be a sophomore transfer student at Rice University. In reality he had never managed to get into Rice.

Last September, Vanegas started attending classes. He also ate in the university's cafeterias, hung out with other students, and occasionally crashed in people's dorms when he was too tired to go back to his off-campus lodgings. Vanegas appears to have been relatively friendly towards students, but didn't seem to form many lasting relationships. Hardly surprising, really.

It was Vanegas' friend Daniel Rasheed that turned him in to the police. He says he wasn't expecting such repercussions.

On September 13th 2006, Vanegas was arrested.

On the day of Vanegas's arrest, criminal trespass charges were filed against him (but later dismissed). Within the next few weeks, campus administrators alleged that Vanegas had taken close to $3,700 worth of food from Rice cafeterias. On September 28, the district attorney's office filed felony charges for aggregate theft. Bail was set at $2,000.

The reason he gave for his fake studies? He didn't get into the university, but it would have broken his mother's heart for him not to attend.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Law/Police/Crime, Miscellaneous
Posted by Flora on Tue Oct 17, 2006
Comments (34)
Posted on YouTube, a news report from Coleman, Texas, talks of a creature (described as "A mix between a hairless dog, a rat, and a kangaroo") that has been trapped by a farmer. The farmer had set the trap after some of his turkeys and chickens had been killed.
The animal has been sent to Texas Parks and Wildlife in the hope that they can discover what exactly it is.



(Thanks, Tah and Christopher.)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 16, 2006
Comments (23)
He's 137 years old today (October 16). The Washington Post reports:
On Oct. 16, 1869, workers in Cardiff, New York, dug up what they thought was a 10-foot-tall petrified man. The Cardiff Giant was big, all right -- a big hoax. A year earlier, George Hull paid $2,600 to have the giant made, then buried on a farm. Even after Hull admitted the hoax, people wanted to see it. They still do: The Cardiff Giant has been displayed in Cooperstown, New York, since 1948.
Of course, I have much more info about "Old Hoaxy" in the Gallery of Hoaxes. I still think I must be the only person who's ever gone to Cooperstown, New York just to see the Cardiff Giant, without ever bothering to set foot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Categories: History
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 16, 2006
Comments (6)
In the news over the weekend was this report of a message-in-a-bottle that traveled all the way from the north-east coast of Scotland to New Zealand... in 47 days. That means it traveled at a continuous rate of 18 miles per hour. It really didn't have any time for detours. It must have made a beeline straight to its destination.

The sender of the message was six-year-old Keely Reid, and it was discovered by six-year-old James Wilson. This all sounds too perfect to be believable. Even Reid's family is having a hard time swallowing it:
"I can't see how it got to New Zealand. Did somebody maybe pick it up and fly it to New Zealand? It is a bit of mystery," admitted Pearl Reid, Keely's grandmother in an interview to 'The Independent' .
Scientists also are skeptical:
Experts in ocean currents at Fisheries Research Station Laboratories in Aberdeen share her apprehension as they try to figure out how the bottle could have covered more than 32,200 kms in just 47 days- at an estimated 18 miles per hour. "As a scientist, I would usually hedge my bets and leave room for some possibility but there is absolutely no way the bottle could have made it to New Zealand on its own, it must have been picked up by somebody," Bill Turrell, a scientist at the Station was quoted in the paper.
This isn't the first suspect Message in a Bottle that we've seen here at the MoH. Back in Feb 2006 there was the message that crossed the Atlantic, only to receive an angry reply.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 16, 2006
Comments (8)
I can't remember why I searched for "Underwater Basket Weaving" on wikipedia, but when I did I was surprised to discover that it's a real craft. I had frequently heard the phrase used in college as a joke to mean an easy class, and it always made me imagine people submerged in a swimming pool trying to weave a basket. I never thought it was something real. But turns out it is real. Wikipedia defines it as:
a process of making wicker baskets which involves dipping reeds or stalks of plants into (or, as the name suggests, under) water and allowing them to soak. This process will provide a very supple and flexible reed which can then be woven into a basket given enough time. The baskets then will be allowed to dry and provide a sturdy container.
I'm assuming that Wikipedia's definition is correct. After all, it sounds reasonable. But it made me wonder how the term came to mean an easy class, and whether any colleges actually offer Underwater Basket Weaving.

The second question is the easiest to answer, since the Wikipedia article also states that: "The University of California, San Diego's recreation department first offered an underwater basket-weaving class in 1984. Saint Joseph's College in Indiana offers this class as well."

I want to verify that UCSD and St. Joseph's actually do offer such a course. But assuming they do, do any other colleges offer it? I'm not sure. All I can say is that I've never seen it listed in any college catalog. (Wikipedia links to an Underwater Basket Weaving syllabus supposedly offered by the University of Portsmouth, but the syllabus reads like a joke, so I'm guessing it is a joke.)

The earliest reference to the term that I could find, searching on Newspaper Archive, was May 9, 1960. The author of a Pasadena Independent trivia column noted that "Son Herbert reports that underwater basket weaving is all the rage among college students who want to spare the brain cells." So evidently the joke had been well established by 1960. I would guess the origin of the term dates to the late 1950s. Did the joke start after a college actually began offering this course? I don't know, but it seems possible.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 16, 2006
Comments (25)
Well, this was brought to my attention by both Outeast and Goobermaster (Thanks, guys.) and, now that I have a new computer that's able to show videos without shutting down, I can see why.

Aleksey Vayner sent his resume to an investment bank. He's going to be a class of '07 Yalie, and he's looking for a job. Fair enough. However, along with the resume and covering letter he attached a video. That would be when the fuss started. The IvyGate blog - one which covers events in the Ivy League - posted the video on YouTube. (Although they were forced to remove the video, it can still be seen as part of the October 6th blog post.)

The video in and of itself is bad enough - I cannot imagine anyone being undecided as to whether to hire him then, on the strength of it, deciding they would. The details about this man that came out afterwards are even less inviting.

Firstly, Vayner Capital Management LLC. (The site is now mysteriously unavailable.) Seems he's CEO of this company. Before the site was removed, the overwhelming similarity of some of the content to that of Denver Investment Advisors was noted. There is no proof of his company ever having existed.

Secondly, his Youth Empowerment Strategies charity. Despite there really being a Youth Empowerment Strategies charity, his is not it. Vayner's charity claims to have four stars from Charity Navigator, a guide to which charities are real, and which are not. Charity Navigator say that this is not true, and are considering legal action against him.

Thirdly, he lists on his resume a self-published book, Women's Silent Tears, about a gendered view of the holocaust. Before he removed the listing from lulu.com, it was found that the entire section on euthanasia was lifted from the online Holocaust Encyclopedia.

There are a number of comments from people who knew him on the IvyGate blog, mentioning various other stories he'd used. My favourite one has to be:
"I played for Yale tennis, and he tried to walk on the team. He got cut the second day. I had one conversation with him, and he claimed to have KILLED 24 people in the caves of Tibet."
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Flora on Thu Oct 12, 2006
Comments (20)
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