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March 2008
John Ordover sent this in. He was looking at a picture of Jesus (or rather, an artist's interpretation of what Jesus might have looked like) when he realized a piece of toast had miraculously appeared on it. I think this must be a message from John's toaster! But can we be sure that actually is a piece of toast? It kinda looks like a granola bar to me.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 30, 2008
Comments (64)
57-year-old Gene Morrill was charged with soliciting 13-year-old boys over the internet. He pleaded guilty, but in his defense noted that he himself had been molested as a child -- by Bigfoot! The Free Lance-Star reports:

Morrill told an investigator preparing his pre-sentence report about being sexually assaulted by the legendary Bigfoot, a North American folklore character said to be between 7 and 10 feet tall, and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Patton [his defense attorney] said Morrill really believes the assault happened.

It was probably a strategy to get a reduced sentence due to mental incompetence, but it didn't work. He was sentenced to twenty years.

Quite a few people, men and women, have claimed over the years that they were abducted and molested by Bigfoot. The most famous was the Canadian prospector Albert Ostman, who said that Bigfoot abducted him and held him prisoner for six days for breeding purposes. Brian Helme submitted a haiku to the site a few years ago inspired by this theme:

Bigfoot, he saw me.
Grabbed me and ran far away.
I’ll be his boy toy.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 30, 2008
Comments (10)
For the past week I've been researching the history of April Fools Day in order to revise and supplement the info I already have on the site. For instance, I've significantly revised my article about the origin of April Fool's Day. I think it's now just about the most thorough examination of this question in print -- which isn't saying much because most articles about the origin of April Fool's Day simply repeat the same old legends, and leave it at that.

In the course of this research I came across a book printed in 1852 by the Sunday-School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York titled April Fool; or, The Evils of Deception. I couldn't resist buying it. The preface states:

The custom of playing tricks on the first day of April is one of very general prevalence. Many persons encourage children to practice those tricks through a mistaken idea of their innocence. The object of this little book is to exhibit some of the evils of deception, even when practiced in a form so apparently harmless and so pleasing to many. It will also indicate to parents and teachers the decided opposition with which they ought to discountenance this, together with every other evil, and 'appearance of evil.' It is from such beginnings that the young too often have their morals corrupted, and their souls destroyed.

In the book we read of evil William, who likes to play tricks on strangers in the street. He sees some girls in the street and shouts out at them, "Run, run, girls, a horse is coming!" They start running (though there's no horse), and one of the girls, holding the hand of her little sister, "was so intent upon getting her out of danger, that she did not see a lamp-post, which was in her way, and struck her head against it with so much force that the blood gushed from her nose." (Too bad they didn't have padded lampposts back then.) Evil William snickers and yells out, "April fools."

Just in case we can't quite envision the scene, an illustration is provided, which shows the girl about to collide with the lamppost. We don't get to see the later scene of gushing blood. Thankfully, William later realizes the error of his ways, with some help from his Sunday-School teacher.

We also are told that liars "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." So just think about that before planning any April Fool's Day hoaxes this year.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 30, 2008
Comments (19)
April 1st is approaching, which means that the Museum will probably experience its annual surge of traffic that results in pages loading incredibly slowly or not at all. I'm going to do whatever possible to stop the site from crashing on April 1st, though I'm not sure how much I can really do.

I've already moved most of the images to a separate server, to reduce the strain on the main server. I'm also going to temporarily eliminate avatars in the forum. I'm not deleting them. They just won't show up until I reactivate them after April 1st. Unfortunately, because of the way the forum software works, I can't move them to a different server. They're either served up by my web host, or they're not served up at all.

I'm also tweaking settings in the blog software. If it can be easily done, I might turn off commenting on April 1st. Better to have new visitors be able to see something, but not leave comments, than not see anything at all because the page won't load.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 25, 2008
Comments (10)
Nick Foister sent me a link to Fred and Sharon's Movies, which have become the latest viral video sensation. Fred and Sharon are a couple who claim to run a movie production business in Kelowna, Canada. But their movies are so bad they're actually funny. It takes talent to be that bad.

They have over 20 videos on youtube. If you haven't seen any of them, at least watch "Who Needs a Movie?" (below), in which they try to promote their movie production business.



Fred and Sharon also have a website. Their site was originally free and open, but the majority of it has recently been locked down so that you need to pay to see it. However, the fee is only $1, so I paid the buck. Turns out that all the "extra content" you get if you pay is simply more videos freely available on youtube. I would have felt cheated if I had paid more than $1, but since it was so little I didn't mind. They deserve it for producing some amusing content.

The question that many people are wondering is whether Fred and Sharon can possibly be for real. Or are they either a) the creations of an advertising agency, or b) comedians.

I haven't had much luck shedding light on this mystery. Though my gut feeling is that they're genuine. It's their effort to make people pay for their site that most makes me think they're genuine. An ad agency would never try to restrict access to content. But a couple like Fred and Sharon who suddenly start receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors to their site, and are faced with a huge bandwidth charge, probably would decide they need to make some money to cover the costs.

Fred and Sharon's site is registered to someone called Rob Korbynn. The only info I can find out about him is that he also seems to be the webmaster of The Ram's Horn, an Ontario-based journal about "food systems analysis." I'm guessing he's must be a guy who provides web services such as site design to clients in the Ontario area.

Even though I do think Fred and Sharon and for real, I also think they're now purposefully hamming it up for the camera. After all, they must realize they've suddenly got a huge audience.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 25, 2008
Comments (27)
Two examples of religious pareidolia have made headlines recently. The first is "Cheesus" -- a Jesus-shaped Cheeto found by Steve Cragg, a youth director at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston. He actually found it a couple of years ago, but decided to unveil it recently in honor of Easter.


The second is the Virgin Mary on an Easter egg. KGBT reports: "Veronica Cervera said she was making "cascarones" by dyeing hollow eggshells on Good Friday when an image suddenly appeared. Cervera is convinced it's the Virgin Mary." I can't see the image at all. It looks like a white smudge to me.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 25, 2008
Comments (9)
The German website pundo3000.com has assembled a collection of 100 food products and compared what each one looks like, as shown on the packaging, to the actual product. In the majority of cases the difference is quite dramatic. But a few of the food products hold up pretty well in real life. For instance, the Milka chocolate bar looks almost exactly the same as it does on the packaging. But the roll (shown below) looks pretty unappetizing.

Funtasticus.com has collected all the images together into an easier-to-view format.

Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 25, 2008
Comments (12)
From the March 19th edition of the Mahoning Valley Tribune Chronicle:

It was incorrectly reported in Tuesday’s Tribune Chronicle that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton answered questions from voters in a local congressman’s office.
Reporter John Goodall, who was assigned to the story, spoke by telephone with Hillary Wicai Viers, who is a communications director in U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson’s staff. According to the reporter, when Viers answered the phone with ‘‘This is Hillary,’’ he believed he was speaking with the Democratic presidential candidate, who had made several previous visits to the Mahoning Valley. The quotes from Viers were incorrectly attributed to Clinton.

You have to wonder how a reporter could be that clueless. Did he seriously imagine that Hillary Clinton would be there answering the phones? Or maybe he knew it wasn't Clinton, but thought it would make the story sound better if he attributed the quotes to her, and that no one would ever know the difference.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Journalism, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 23, 2008
Comments (8)
The BBC reports that police in Italy are searching for a thief who hypnotizes checkout staff and orders them to hand over money.

In every case, the last thing staff reportedly remember is the thief leaning over and saying: "Look into my eyes", before finding the till empty... A female bank clerk reportedly handed over nearly 800 euros (£630)...
Italian police believe the suspect could be of Indian or North African extraction.

The BBC has a video of the thief in action. It's interesting, because he pulls off his heist in full view of other customers, who are apparently oblivious about what's going on.

This is not a new method of robbery. Back in Oct. 2007 I posted about a thief in New Hampshire who was said to be using hypnosis to rob convenience stores. In that case, the thief was also Indian, which is significant because the art of hypno-robbery seems to have originated in India.

It sounds like a method of robbery that's too good to be true, but I think it is real (i.e. the store clerks aren't secretly in collusion with the criminal. They really do unwittingly hand money over to him). But I don't think the criminal is actually hypnotizing the clerks. They don't go into a trance. Instead, the method takes advantage of a psychological trick -- that if you catch people off guard, they'll often do whatever you tell them to. The British magician Derren Brown demonstrates the principle in a number of his videos. I think you need a combination of a very self-assured thief who projects an air of authority and a highly suggestible victim to get this to work.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 23, 2008
Comments (9)
Since April 1st is fast approaching, I've been doing a lot of research into the origins of April Fools Day in order to supplement the info I already have on the site. In the course of this research, I came across references to an old English holiday called Shig-Shag Day, celebrated on May 29, that has some similarities to April Fools Day. Shig-Shag Day is also called Shick-Shack Day or (more boringly) Oak Apple Day.

Celebrants would place sprigs of apple oak in their hats or lapels to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy. The oak was said to symbolize the oak tree that Charles II hid in to escape his enemies. But cultural anthropoligists suggest that the custom may have been a relic of ancient pagan tree-worship festivals. And for most people, the day was simply an excuse to get drunk. An 1855 issue of the journal Notes and Queries (Aug. 11, 1855, pg.100) offers this description of Shig-Shag Day celebrations:

After breakfast these men [celebrating Shig-Shag Day] go round to such houses for beer, &c. Should they not receive anything, the following verses should be said:
Shig-shag, penny a rag,
Bang his head in Cromwell's bag,
All up in a bundle --

but fear often prevents them. However, the lads have no fear, and use it freely to any one without an oak-apple or oak-leaf on some part of his person, and visible, -- ill-treating him for his want of loyalty. After noon the loyalty ceases; and then, if any one be charged with having shig-shag, the following verses are said:
Shig-shag's gone past,
You're the biggest fool at last;
When shig-shag comes again,
You'll be the biggest fool then.

And the one who charges the other with the oak-leaf receives the ill-treatment.

There's some controversy about the origin of the term "Shig-Shag." Some people say oak apples were known as "shig shags" or "shick shacks" in some parts of England. But the more interesting theory is that shig-shag was a euphemism for "shit sack," which was a popular term for non-conformists and enemies of the monarchy back in the 17th century.

I don't think anyone celebrates Shig-Shag Day anymore, but I like the idea of a holiday dedicated to getting drunk and worshiping trees.
Categories: History
Posted by Alex on Sat Mar 22, 2008
Comments (6)
And now for your daily pareidolia. (Well, weekly pareidolia, at least.)

Manny Duenas of Sacramento was cutting down some old palm leaves in his yard -- on Palm Sunday, no less -- when he happened to look at one of the leaves in his hand and saw an image of the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus in her arms.

Duenas says: "God is out there and maybe these are one of the messages that they send."


Actually, I don't so much see the Virgin Mary figure, but I definitely see an outline of the state of Illinois. Maybe it's some kind of message being sent to us by the Illinois Cornflake.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 20, 2008
Comments (7)
Tom Spring, writing for Computer World, describes many of the jokes and tricks hidden in Google's various websites and programs. One that I wasn't aware of is that Nessie regularly surfaces on iGoogle:

set your alarm to 3:14 a.m. and your browser to the beach-themed iGoogle page. At precisely that time each day, Nessie surfaces for 60 seconds, then takes a deep breath and dives back under the dark loch's surface. Why that time of the morning? Well, according to programmers' lore, Google developers did it to pay homage to the mathematical quantity Pi.

I don't think I'll ever get to see this, since 3:14 am is way past my bedtime. (I now have great trouble staying up past midnight, unlike in grad school when I would regularly still be awake at sunrise.)

Another hidden Google joke is "Google Gothic". Type this phrase into the Google search engine, and then hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button. You'll be taken to Googoth, a search engine catering to "dark, gothic, industrial, and alternative topics."
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 20, 2008
Comments (13)
Excuse of the Year
"A German lorry driver escaped a rap for driving while using a mobile phone - after claiming he was using it as an ear warmer."

Woman foretells future with asparagus
"Jemima Packington throws asparagus on the floor and makes her predictions based on the pattern. She said that some years ago she made a prediction that came true based on an asparagus pattern and realized she was on to something." Seems to me like it's as good a method as anything else.

Nostradamus delusion ends in murder
Matthew James Woodroffe-Hill believed he was Nostradamus' "son of the west". After suffering from increasingly paranoid delusions involving "spies, terrorists and mythical creatures" he stabbed a friend with a bayonet and then decapitated him.
Categories: Future/Time, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 19, 2008
Comments (1)
This video of a burqa-wearing woman very awkwardly trying to eat spaghetti is doing the rounds. It's titled "Why Italian Restaurants Failed in Dubai."

All you have to do to find out it's fake is read the comments on youtube, where quite a few people have pointed out that the footage comes from a British comedy show, "3 non-blondes." It's a candid-camera style show, in which the performers pull various bizarre stunts in public to see how the people around them will react. Wikipedia reports: "Ninia Benjamin, Tameka Empson and Jocelyn Jee Esien play a range of comical characters to the unsuspecting public. Varying from a fictional celebrity named Marcia Brown, to a charity worker who only wants a kiss or a hug instead of a cash donation."

I've never seen a woman eat while wearing a burqa, but I assume she would lift the fabric covering her mouth up. She wouldn't try to shove food down from the top.

Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 19, 2008
Comments (6)
Ten years ago Wendy Divock felt a touch on her cheek. She thought it was her husband touching her, but when she turned around, he wasn't there. What she saw instead was an image of a face in her closet door.

Initially Wendy and her husband called the image the "guy in the door," but after doing some research on the internet they decided that it was Jesus. The pastor across the street assures them that the image is "very significant and that it's authentic."

The Dovicks have created a site, jesusinthedoor.com, to publicize their door. They're selling 8x10 glossy photos of it for $13.50. Whenever you click any link on their site, a pop-up screen alerts you of this. They've also got a creepy animated figure that introduces people to the site.

They don't say if Jesus-in-the-door still "touches" Wendy when her back is turned. (Thanks, Bob)
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 18, 2008
Comments (23)
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