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August 2007
Meet Angie from Chernobyl. She's the biggest cat in the world. She belongs to Dr. Maricek, who's a radiation scientist. Angie's missing a gene that controls her growth. As a result, she just keeps growing and growing (and growing!). She currently weighs about 800 lbs and eats 60 lbs of food a day. Despite her size, Angie behaves like a normal cat, though she is extremely shy with people.

Angie's very cute (and looks a bit like my cat Boo), but if she ever curled up on someone's lap, I think the result would be a very flat human.

Thanks to Sarah of messybeast.com for the link. Sarah says, "With some dodgy photo-editing. I can't work out how this hasn't yet ended up in a chain email. Eat your heart out Snowball!"

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Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (8)
Could it be? So claims this email:
The pictures below are Japanese dolls which are created by using real human corpse skin and hair! Seeing these pictures are enough to freak anybody out! I am not sure how authentic these Japanese dolls are but if you were to look closely at the pictures, you will notice some red blood lines around the nose, eyes and mouth area. This means if they really used human corpse skin, they actually sliced the face out to be put on these dolls!
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Two reasons why these dolls are obviously not made out of human skin:

a) Human skin would not be a good material to use for dolls. Like leather, it would turn brownish and grow hard. Not that I have any experience working with human skin, mind you.

b) These dolls are the creations of Japanese sculptor Yoshiko Hori. (Credit goes to Spluch for tracking this down.) And even though she calls them "dolls in the flesh," I can't find any report of her fashioning the dolls out of human tissue.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (22)
Joe Littrell forwarded an interesting story from the People's Daily Online. It reports that police in China have arrested or warned 60 people this year for spreading rumors or threats through text messages and the internet. Wow. If spreading urban legends was a crime here in America, just imagine how many people would be in jail.

Some of the messages that rumormongers circulated:
On July 11, a text message began circulating in Jiangsu, claiming victims of full-blown AIDS were spreading the disease by using toothpicks at local restaurants and returning them to the containers on tables. The message warned recipients against using toothpicks in Jiangsu. The police traced the rumor to two businessmen surnamed Du and Cao through Du''s cellphone.

an Internet user known as Laoshi Heshang (Honest Monk) on July 31 posted a story with the Taiwuliao portal, based in Taizhou, Jiangsu, about police allegedly chasing a man and his pillion passenger son on a motorbike through the streets of Jingjiang city. The man had failed to stop as required by police after he was seen not wearing a helmet. The bike crashed and the son, who had been enrolled at prestigious Qinghua University, was killed. The posting caused outrage against the police, who were obliged to contact all six Jingjiang students who had been enrolled at Qinghua University this summer to confirm the story was a hoax.
Personally, I think the real criminals are not the ones who start these rumors, but the people who feel compelled to forward along every idiotic rumor that lands in their inbox.

Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (7)
At the Edinburgh International Book Festival crime-writer Ian Rankin recently announced that he had some inside intelligence about what fellow Edinburgh resident J.K. Rowling was planning to write next. This announcement was then printed in the Sunday Times:
The Sunday Times newspaper quoted Ian Rankin, a fellow author and neighbor of Rowling's, as saying the creator of the "Harry Potter" books is turning to crime fiction.

"My wife spotted her writing her Edinburgh criminal detective novel," the newspaper, which was available late Saturday, quoted Rankin as telling a reporter at an Edinburgh literary festival.

"It is great that she has not abandoned writing or Edinburgh cafes," said Rankin, who is known for his own police novels set in the historic Scottish city.
The announcement caused a bit of a stir online. But it turns out Rankin was only joking... the joke being, of course, that HE writes Edinburgh criminal detective novels. (If you've never read a Rankin novel, you should. They're good stuff.) Rowling's literary agent commented:
JK Rowling is taking a well-earned break following the English language publication of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows and there are no firm plans as yet as to what her next book may be.
I think it would be kind of cool if she did write a crime novel next. (Thanks, Joe)

--And, incidentally, what does one call a person who lives in Edinburgh? An Edinburghian? Flora should know.

Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 21, 2007
Comments (14)
Young women in Shirley, New York held up signs along the parkway advertising a topless car wash. Eager male drivers willingly paid their $5, and drove up to get their car wash. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not quite what they expected. Hidden behind a blue tarp were shirtless male firefighters, who proceeded to wash their car. "A little bit of a bait-and-switch," Assistant Chief Donald Prince admitted. "All the guys back there are all topless." (Link: allaroundphilly.com)
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 21, 2007
Comments (8)
Brenda has been so good as to send me these pictures of a peanut she found that she believes looks like a penis. She writes:
I found this "penis" peanut in a bag of Planters peanuts shaped like a penis complete with the shaft and family jewels. A friend at work told me that there is a casino that buys odd things but I can not seem to locate them. I've also tryed to list it on EBay but can't find a catogory that it fits under. There was a peanut on EBay that looked like a duck, but there wasn't any bids on it.( It was under the everything else catogory.) Could you please give any suggestions if you have any.
I've already told her the name of the casino: goldenpalace.com. As for how to sell this thing, I'm not sure. But I know that, somewhere out there, there's got to be a home for the Penis Peanut.
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Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (10)
This paragraph supposedly written by Ronald Reagan is currently circulating widely around the internet:
Direct quote from the just published REAGAN DIARIES.

The entry is dated May 17, 1986.

'A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne're-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.'

Did Reagan really write this? Nope, he didn't. The quotation is pulled from an article titled "My Lunch with Reagan" by Michael Kinsley in the New Republic (vol. 237, issue 1, 7/2/07). And, not surprisingly, the quotation is taken out of context. In its original context it's easy to tell that it's meant as a joke:
The literary editor of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, brought the joyous news. "Guess what, Mike. You're mentioned in Reagan's diaries." The diaries were published recently by HarperCollins and were generally well-received. Edited by America's historian-on-steroids, Douglas Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries apparently reveal Reagan to be more thoughtful than he is normally given credit for. Of course, our standards in the area of presidential thoughtfulness have plummeted in recent years. Still, the fact that Reagan was writing it all down was news, and an interesting departure from presidential tradition. Traditionally, presidents use a hidden tape recorder.

But I was more interested in the me angle, frankly. And it was a puzzle. What on earth could Reagan have written? I indulged my imagination, and my ego: "January 22, 1983. Mommie [Nancy] says that Kinsley's column this week in The New Republic undermines the entire philosophical basis of my administration. O dear O dear, I had better not read it."

Or: "October 6, 1987. Why does Kinsley keep picking on me? He is the only thing standing between me and the total destruction of the welfare state. But, ha: I will destroy him--destroy him utterly-- or my name's not … not … not … . Say, they had 'State Fair' on TV last night. What a wholesome, clean-cut young man that Pat Boone is."

Or: "May 17, 1986. A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (28)
One of the topics I cover in Elephants on Acid is experiments with animals who exhibit mating behavior toward "biologically inappropriate objects." For instance, during the 1950s, Martin Schein and Edgar Hale of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a series of experiments to determine what objects would elicit a sexual response from male turkeys. They discovered that all you have to do is show a male turkey a severed turkey head on a stick, and the dim-witted birds would invariably try to mate with it. And researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center created a "hypersexual cat" who attempted to mate with "a small and rather friendly dog," an old hen, and a rhesus monkey. (I have photographic documentation of these experiments in the book.)

These following stories don't have anything to do with hoaxes, but they did remind me of the experiments in my book:

Lusty Camel Kills Woman
An Australian woman was killed by a pet camel she had received for her 60th birthday when the camel knocked her to the ground, lay on top of her, and began trying to mate with her. Earlier the same camel had almost killed the family's pet goat by trying to have sex with it. I'd say they've got a problem with that camel.

Man Arrested For Sex Acts With Traffic Signs
Proving that no matter how odd the mating behavior of animals is, the behavior of humans is always stranger, police arrested a Sioux Falls man who had amassed a large collection of videos of himself "engaged in masturbation and sex acts with traffic signs near his home."
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (6)
imageFirst there was Oscar, the death-predicting cat. Now there's Scamp, the death-predicting schnauzer. Metro.co.uk reports:
Scamp, a Schnauzer, lives at The Pines nursing home in Ohio – where his owner, a staff member, claims he has been present for the death of virtually every patient for the past three years. That's around forty deaths, twice as many as Oscar the cat's kill count of 20. Deirdre Huth, Scamps owner, says that the doomhound always turns up in the hours before one of the residents dies, waiting patiently in their room until they pass away. 'He has either barked or he'll pace around the room. The only time he barks is when he's trying to tell us something's wrong,' she said. 'It's not like he's a grim reaper,' she added, inaccurately.
It sounds like these death-predicting animals are a fairly common phenomenon, though I suspect it all must be some kind of Clever Hans Effect. Now we need some death-predicting rabbits, gerbils, and parakeets to round out the menagerie.
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (2)
Fergus Frater told everyone he had won the Euro lottery jackpot. His son was so pleased, believing that his dad would cut him in on a share of the winnings, that he quit his job. Frater's sister also looked forward to getting some of the money. But then the REAL winner of the lottery stepped forward with the winning ticket, and Fergus promptly did a runner, skipping town to avoid the wrath of his relatives.

Pretending to win the lottery is, of course, not a new hoax. Our own Cranky Media Guy has done it before. But what I find odd is that Fergus made his own family the primary victims of the hoax. His son said:
"I could kill him ... but he's gone to ground and I've no idea where he is. He's never done anything like this before. We just can't work out what possessed him but he was telling everybody and the whole town thought he'd won. When I find him, we'll have words but at the end of the day he's my dad."
Fergus's friends are explaining it as a "prank that went too far."
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (2)
image A Texas woman thinks a pattern in the trunk of a tree in the parking lot of her local supermarket looks like a pair of angel wings. And, for good measure, she also thinks she might see Jesus there too. The woman, Gayle Griffin, says:

"I was drawn to this tree. Something compelled me to take pictures. Something kept telling me to go back." Maybe that something was her need to buy groceries.

So this is another tree to add to my growing list of images in trees. The wing pattern is quite easy to see, but does it count if the bark has been ripped off, as looks to be the case?

Interestingly, this Jesus/Angel Wing tree is located in the same area that the famous Screen Door Jesus appeared in, back in 1969. Screen Door Jesus recently became the title of a movie (though I don't think the movie is actually about the 1969 incident). There was also a recent movie called Tortilla Heaven inspired by the case of the face of Jesus supposedly visible on a corn tortilla.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 20, 2007
Comments (16)
image Author Bill Schneider claimed on his website that his most recent (self-published) novel, Crossed Paths, had been selected for Oprah's Book Club. He also claimed that Oprah had interviewed him on her show. To prove this, he posted a full, five-page transcript of the interview.

Turns out none of this was true. A spokeswoman for Oprah Winfrey said, "He is misrepresenting himself and he has no relationship with Oprah's Book Club." Schneider, who also is director of the Office of Tourism for Provincetown, Massachusetts, now says he made "an error in judgement."

The mystery here is how he could have thought he would get away with such a stupid, obvious lie. Perhaps he figured that the publicity from having the hoax exposed would be better than no publicity at all. (If that's what he thought, he may be right.) Or perhaps he's simply delusional. The latter theory is supported by his response to the reporter from Boston's Weekly Dig who first exposed the hoax. The reporter phoned Schneider and asked him when, exactly, he appeared on Oprah: "June 18, I believe," Schneider said, "but you'll have to check with my publicist." Then he started gushing about how "your whole life changes after Oprah."

Schneider has now removed all Oprah-related claims from his website, but he's still claiming that his novel is being developed into a feature film. My guess is that he's shooting the film himself with a video camera. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 18, 2007
Comments (3)
image An email correspondent asked me if the following story could be true:
Paolina and Ake Viking were married in Sicily in the autumn of 1958, thanks to a far-traveling bottle. Two years earlier Ake, a bored young Swedish sailor on a ship far out at sea, had dropped a bottle overboard with a message asking any pretty girl who found it to write. Paolina's father, a Sicilian fisherman, picked it up and passed it to his daughter for a joke. Continuing the joke, Paolina sent off a note to the young sailor. The correspondence quickly grew warmer. Ake visited Sicily, and the marriage soon followed their first meeting.
Initially, I was skeptical, because of the large number of hoaxes involving messages-in-bottles (See here and here). But it turns out that the story of Ake and Paolina is true.

The tale was widely reported in the news back in the late 1950s. A 1959 article in The American Weekly titled "Love in a Bottle" told the story in more detail and actually included a few pictures of the happy couple, in one of which (shown above) they were posing at the spot where she found the bottle. Here's the text of the American Weekly article:
Ake, a Swedish sailor, relieved his tedium at sea one day in 1955 by writing a letter. "To Someone'Beautiful and Far Away," he poetically inscribed it. After giving his home address and a brief description of himself, he added, "Write to me, whoever you are," and signed his name. With that, he tucked the paper into an empty bottle of aqua vitae, replaced its cork and tossed it overboard. Two years went by. Then, on his return from another voyage, he found a letter, postmarked Syracuse, Sicily. The message was in Italian, which one of his shipmates obligingly translated. It was from a 17-year-old girl, who wrote: "Last Tuesday, I found a bottle on the shore. Inside was a piece of paper, bearing writing in a strange language. I took it to our priest, who is a great scholar. He said the language was Swedish and, with the help of a dictionary, he read me your charming letter. I am not beautiful, but it seems so miraculous that this little bottle should have traveled so far and long to reach me that I must send you an answer ..." Other letters, consigned to ordinary post, followed the first two. Photographs were exchanged and, finally, vows. Ake set sail for Syracuse and now, together, he and his pretty, if not beautiful, correspondent, who has just turned 18, are embarked on the sea of matrimony.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 18, 2007
Comments (10)
Well, after my holiday, my laptop went down, and it's only this week that I'm back online. I do extend my apologies for the lack of 'Best of the Forum' posts for the last few weeks.

Receive the Holy Oil! (Transfrmr)
Forum member Transfrmr found a rather... interesting advertisement in a local free newspaper.
The advertisement (see above link) shows the text:
"I heard voices calling my name but saw nobody. Sometimes the voices told me to throw
myself under a car. To top it off I also suffered with terrible nightmares...I had no peace
at all!
I did a chain of Prayer, used the Holy Oil and fight for changes in my life. Gradually,
the grudges and pain were replaced with peace, forgiveness and joy."

The holy oil comes absolutely free, apparently. If I lived nearby, I'd have been tempted to go along and pick some up.

Man says hold the cheese, claims McDonalds didn't, sues for $10 million (AussieBruce)
Jeromy Jackson, who is allergic to cheese, claims that a local McDonalds made a mistake in his order, causing him to have to be rushed to hospital. He's now suing the chain.
A friend says that Jackson at least five times checked they had his order correct, but when he ate the burger, the reaction was instantaneous. He allegedly ate the burger in a darkened room, causing him to not notice the cheese.
As many people in the forum have noted, surely someone with such severe food allergies would make sure to check his food for himself before consuming it. Whilst this story may be what it seems, it does tingle my spidey-sense somewhat.

CIA behind Wikipedia entries (Smerk)
A new identification program on the popular site Wikipedia has shown that, amongst others, frequent users include CIA, the British Labour Party, and the Vatican, all of whom edit and update not only their own entries, but others besides.

We Have Broken Speed of Light (Tah)
Two German physicists have broken the speed of light, they've told New Scientist magazine.
Doctors Nimtz and Stahlhofen claim to have completed an experiment wherein microwave photons have travelled up to three feet instantaneously.
Categories: Advertising, Business/Finance, Food, Health/Medicine, Law/Police/Crime, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Aug 17, 2007
Comments (10)
The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society has posted an interesting geographical puzzle. An article, "The Story of Ink," in the 1930 issue of the American Journal of Pharmacy included the following statement:
Iron tannin inks are sometimes formed naturally; such a phenomenon has been observed in Algeria, a country in northern Africa, where there exists a "river of ink." Chemical examinations of the waters of the streams combining to form this river revealed that one of the streams is impregnated with iron from the soil through which it flows while the other stream carries tannin from a peat swamp. When the two streams joined, the chemical action between the tannic acid, the iron and the oxygen of the water caused the information of the black ferric tannate, making a natural river of ink.
Does this river of ink actually exist? And if so, where is it on a map?

The earliest reference to this mysterious river I could find occurred in The Athens Messenger on May 25, 1876. The short blurb read:
"A river of ink has been discovered in Algeria. Let them find a mountain of paper, and then send for William Allen."
For the next seven decades, similar passages -- almost verbatim to what ran in the Am. Jour. of Pharmacy -- appeared regularly in newspapers. They were typically thrown in as an odd bit of trivia to fill up column space. However, the name and location of the river itself (except for the fact that it was in Algeria) was never identified.

More recently, Bruce Felton and Mark Fowler included a passage about this river in their 1994 book The Best, Worst, & Most Unusual: Noteworthy Achievements, Events, Feats & Blunders of Every Conceivable Kind:
Most Unusual River: The comingling of two tributary streams in Algeria forms a river of ink: One brook contains iron; the other, which drains from a peat swamp, contains gallic acid. Swirled together, the chemicals unite to form a true black ink. (Black Brook in upstate New York is formed by a similar chemical blend.)
Though the chemical composition of this "river of ink" sounds plausible, the other details about it are so vague that it sounds a bit like a geographical urban legend.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 17, 2007
Comments (9)
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