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Beijing Fake Smile Campaign
Beijing residents are being urged to practice their best fake smiles, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics: "We hope Beijing residents will join in the smile campaign to turn the city into a city of smile," Liu Jian, one of the committee members, was quoted as saying on Monday. What happens to those who refuse to smile?

Clown Crushed To Death, Audience Applauds
No reason to doubt this story isn't true, but it does seem like a real-life version of the Hippo Eats Dwarf tale (minus the dwarf and hippo), particularly the way the audience thinks the accident is all part of the act: A hot-air balloon caught fire during a circus stunt, killing a clown acrobat as dozens of children watched, police said Tuesday... Witnesses said the man, dressed in a clown outfit, was hanging from a cage suspended by ropes and a hot-air balloon inside the canvas tent. When the balloon exploded in flames, the cage fell on top of the man... many people in the audience initially thought the falling cage was part of the act.

'The Hoax' Trailer
The movie version of Clifford Irving's Autobiography of Howard Hughes hoax will be in theaters in November, and a trailer is online now. Looks like it may be pretty good. Richard Gere actually looks kind of like Clifford Irving. I think I've said before that stories about hoaxes often make very good movies.

A Pregnant Man
image 36-year-old Sanju Bhagat of India certainly looked pregnant, but while he did have a fetus growing inside him, he wasn't pregnant in the conventional sense: Bhagat, they discovered, had one of the world's most bizarre medical conditions — fetus in fetu. It is an extremely rare abnormality that occurs when a fetus gets trapped inside its twin. The trapped fetus can survive as a parasite even past birth by forming an umbilical cordlike structure that leaches its twin's blood supply until it grows so large that it starts to harm the host, at which point doctors usually intervene. So the world still waits for a true male pregnancy. (Thanks, Kathy)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Death, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 30, 2006
Comments (17)
imageInfants-Blood is a website that claims: "Our uncompromising approach to quality means we offer simply the best infant's blood on the market today. Independent lab analysis proves it. And your taste buds will know the difference! "

They offer products in a number of categories - Bath & Beauty, Health & Nutrition, Premium Blood and Virgin's Blood.

It's pretty obviously a joke website. There are some wonderful quotes on it, including:
If Virgin's Blood provides us such wonderful benefits, what can we salvage from a failed virgin? Infant's blood! It seems so simple, so obvious, so right to us now – but in the 16th century this idea was nothing short of revolutionary! For all virgins are not infants, but all infants are virgins; and while it is true infants provide us much less blood than a fully-grown virgin, how much more potent and delicious that blood is! And thus began production of what today is's most popular product line! Truly, as Professor Basarab notes, "It is no exaggeration to say that Elizabeth Bathory is the Newton of the blood sciences!"

The 'Did You Know?' section is pretty funny, too.

For anyone who is still concerned, it's worth noting that if you attempt to log in or 'view cart', you (unsurprisingly) get a page that says: Due to overwhelming customer response, we are currently experiencing extremely high traffic. Online ordering is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience.
To place an order, please contact one of our Customer Care Specialists at
We appreciate your business and thank you for letting us serve all your baby-blood-related needs. Please accept our apologies and a complimentary pint of fresh Virgin's Blood.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Food, Gross
Posted by Flora on Wed Aug 30, 2006
Comments (10)
imageFollowing hot on the heels of the chocolate Virgin Mary (which, as many people pointed out, looked more like the Maltese Falcon) comes: Jesus as seen on an ultrasound picture.

Seven months through her pregnancy, Laura Turner went for a routine ultrasound. She already knew that her son had a cleft lip, and she and her partner had been told there was a possibility of the child having Down's Syndrome. She says that she didn't notice anything particularly odd about the scan until a friend pointed it out once they got home.

'The pregnancy has been fairly difficult so to see a likeness of Jesus in the picture gives me a lot of comfort.

'It's as if someone is watching over Joshua. It's helped make us feel more at ease and although I'm not very religious, seeing the picture does reassure me that things are going to turn out okay and that Joshua will be our little miracle.'

I suppose that, what with the difficult pregnancy, it's a very heartening sign for her.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Health/Medicine, Pareidolia, Photos/Videos, Psychology, Religion
Posted by Flora on Thu Aug 24, 2006
Comments (12)
image reports on a "giant baby" born in China's Hubei Province a few days ago. The baby looks pretty big in the photos, but the photo captions state that the baby "weighs 5.5 kilograms and is 57 centimeters tall." That would be about 12 lbs and a little under 2' tall. I think the height is more unusual than the weight. From what I understand, babies weighing 12 lbs aren't that unusual, especially if the mother is diabetic. notes that:
For most women with gestational diabetes, the main worry is that too much glucose will end up in the baby's blood. When that happens, your baby's pancreas needs to produce more insulin to process the extra glucose. All this excess blood sugar and insulin can cause your baby to make more fat and put on extra weight, particularly in the upper body. This can lead to what's called macrosomia. A macrosomic baby may be too large to enter the birth canal.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 14, 2006
Comments (7)

image Penguins Perish in Freak Texas Truck Accident
A truck carrying zoo animals to a new home overturned on a Texas highway. Four penguins died as well as some exotic fish. The octopus got away unharmed. The person who emailed me this (they didn't give a name) writes : "The story itself isn't all that interesting, but the headline is a classic. Possible sequel to Hippo Eats Dwarf?"

Beware of Eyeball-Sucking Red Lamprey
A prankster in northern Wisconsin has been placing hoax signs around lakes. The signs are decorated with the logo of the Department of Natural Resources and claim that a) a bounty is being paid for crayfish if you deliver them to a DNR office; and b) There's an invasion of red lamprey who like to attach themselves to the optic nerve of swimmers. I assume that red lamprey do not attach themselves to eyeballs. But do they attach themselves to any part of the body? Big Gary's knowledge is needed here.

image Chinese Create Robot Secretary
Chinese researchers have created an attractive robot secretary. She can greet visitors, act as a tour guide, and is equipped with advanced voice and movement control. Her name is Rong Cheng. This reminds me of that John Hughes movie Weird Science. (Thanks, Kathy)

image Zaky Infant Pillow
Now you can fool your baby into thinking that you're there holding it as it falls asleep, while you're really out in a bar getting drunk. "The Zaky is an ergonomic infant pillow designed by a mom to mimic the size, weight, touch, and feel of her hand and forearm to help her baby with comfort, support, protection, and development." Kids raised on this thing will be natural customers, later in life, for the Boyfriend Arm Pillow. (via Must Have Gizmos)
Categories: Animals, Birth/Babies, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 10, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Hoax
image I missed this story last month, but better late than never. Early in June a lot of newspapers ran this photo of Qiao Yubo, a Chinese woman supposedly pregnant with five babies. Apparently it was one of the most viewed photos on Yahoo! News. The caption accompanying the photo stated that she was 1.67m tall, five months pregnant, had a waist measuring 1.75m, and was eating seven meals a day.

Honestly, I have a hard time understanding how anyone thought this was real. Her stomach looks obviously fake. And sure enough, a few days later it was revealed that what was really beneath her dress were "three bed quilts, a dozen sweaters, shirt, cushions, hats and so on." Other news sources state that she had as many as 20 bed quilts beneath her dress. This was only discovered after a clinic offered her a free medical check-up, prompting her to come clean. This is the story of why she did it according to the South China Morning Post:
Six months ago, she became pregnant again with triplets or quadruplets, doctors said. But she miscarried again three months ago at the same time that her husband, Liu Defu , was injured in a traffic accident. Concerned because he was the only son in his family, Ms Qiao decided to tell a white lie so as to reduce the stress he was under. Two weeks ago, she found out she had become pregnant for the third time. She said she planned to "grow" her stomach first, and when it was bigger take the stuffing out. However, Ms Qiao found it impossible to hide the truth as more doctors wanted to examine her, and more journalists wanted to interview her. The woman's husband, family and neighbours were all deceived. Mr Liu told the New Culture Post that he had not dared touch his wife recently, and had kept a distance between them in bed since she claimed to be carrying quintuplets.
Readers of Hippo Eats Dwarf (particularly Reality Rule 1.1: Just because a woman looks pregnant, it doesn't mean she is) would not have fallen for this hoax. (Thanks to Robert Brewington for the link)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 14, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Psychic mumbo-jumbo
This week Channel Five in the UK will begin airing a documentary about Derek Ogilvie, a guy who claims to be a "Baby Mind Reader." That's right, he can read the minds of infants and tell desperate parents why their little darlings won't sleep, or why they're fussy about eating, or why they cry all the time, etc., etc. The Scotsman has a pretty sympathetic article about him, describing him as a "respected Scottish medium." The Sunday Times, however, rakes him over the coals much more, pointing out that:
He used to drive a Rolls Royce and own three of Glasgow’s most fashionable bars until a nightclub venture failed six years ago and he was declared bankrupt. Now he has reinvented himself as a psychic who claims to be able to communicate telepathically with babies.
Ogilvie says that he understands people are skeptical of his claims, but that he's willing to submit himself to rigorous scientific scrutiny to prove his abilities. Yeah, I've heard that before. Psychics and other charlatans say this all the time, but if they ever actually submit themselves to any tests and then fail them (as they inevitably do) they're full of all kinds of excuses: "The negative energy of the researcher blocked my powers," etc. has examined some tapes of Ogilvie in action and concludes that he's simply cold reading (i.e. throwing out random guesses in the hope that some of them will strike gold). They write that: "It is bad enough to take advantage of grieving people for your own gain, but to take advantage of children and a Mothers love for her children, both dead and alive, is a whole new level of evil." (Thanks to Kathy for the heads up about Ogilvie.)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 20, 2006
Comments (20)
Status: Probably Real
An anonymous contributor sent me a link to this image depicting an ancient Huichol Indian labor pain relief technique. The text reads:
Huichol Indians are descendants of the Aztecs, and live in the mountains of North Central Mexico. During traditional childbirth, the father sits above his labouring wife on the roof of their hut. Ropes are tied around his testicles and his wife holds onto the other ends. Each time she feels a painful contraction, she tugs on the ropes so that her husband will share some of the pain of their child's entrance into the world.

Do the Huichol Indians really have such a custom? I assumed it was a joke, but after googling for a bit I came across a scholarly article that mentions this practice and also provides a source to back up the claim. The birthing tradition is mentioned at the very end of the article (I don't know who the author is):
I would like to leave the audience with one parting thought/image, from a yarn painting pictured in Art of the Huichol Indians (Kathleen Berrin, ed., 1978), which was created by Guadalupe, who was married to Ramón Medina Silva (a mara’akáme). The two of them participated in the filming of a peyote hunt (pilgrimage) in 1968, which became a documentary, To Find our Life (Furst 1969), and were the subjects of several ethnographic works on the Huichol... Here is the title of the painting and description (from the book):

How The Husband Assists in the Birth of a Child:
According to the Huichol tradition, when a woman had her first child the husband squatted in the rafters of the house, or in the branches of a tree, directly above her, with ropes attached to his scrotum. As she went into labor pain, the wife pulled vigorously on the ropes, so that her husband shared in the painful, but ultimately joyous, experience of childbirth. (Berrin 1978: 162)
So, given that the scrotum-tied-husband custom is apparently mentioned in Kathleen Berrin's Art of the Huichol Indians, I'm inclined to believe that the custom is real. Though, of course, the Huichol woman who created the yarn painting may have intended it as a joke. I'll need to do more research to get to the bottom of this.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: Hoax
image A Missouri couple, Sarah and Kris Everson, have been charged with staging an elaborate hoax to fool people into believing they had sextuplets. Supposedly Sarah gave birth to the six babies on March 8. Stories about the multiple birth ran in local papers, and people who heard about the family's tight financial situation began to organize donations for them. Sarah also supplied the Associated Press with a photograph of herself looking very pregnant, as well as sonograms of the kids. The babies themselves were supposedly still in intensive care. But the authorities became suspicious when all the hospitals in the area stated that they had no clue who these people, or their babies, were. Turns out there were no babies. Just a bizarre scheme to con people into giving them money.

I write about birth hoaxes in Hippo Eats Dwarf, where I note that they're more common than you would think (Reality Rule 1.1: Just because a woman looks pregnant, it doesn't mean she is). Nowadays the most common birth scam is for a woman to pretend to be pregnant and then con a couple who want to adopt her child into supporting her until the baby is delivered. She lives in high style for a few months and then skips town. Multiple-birth hoaxes, such as the Missouri case, are quite rare, though as I note in the Gallery of Birth Hoaxes, there were a number of them from the 1930s to the 1950s, following the 1934 birth of the Dionne Quintuplets. But multiple-birth hoaxes began to go out of style once fertility drugs made multiple births more common. The phenomenon lost its novelty.

What surprises me about the Missouri case is that the couple must have known they couldn't keep the hoax going without, at some point, producing six babies. So what exactly was their plan? Obviously these weren't the most brilliant criminals in the world.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 12, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: Undetermined
image Before I saw this picture it would never have occurred to me that Katie Holmes was faking her pregnancy. But now, I don't know what to think. I mean, that has to be a soccer ball beneath her shirt. Right?

This picture, taken on April 4, has been doing the blog circuit. The Blog You Love To Hate has some more photos from the same series in which her belly looks less fake. So maybe it was just the camera angle, or something like that. But still, it's kind of freaky. Even if she were having twins, I don't think her belly would stick out that far.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 10, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Probably real
image (a Nepalese website) has reported the birth of a severely deformed child to a woman in Dolakha. (Warning: the newspaper article contains a possibly disturbing image.) The poor child looks a bit like a mutant muppet doll and created quite a stir in Nepal:

The news about such a baby being brought to the hospital spread like wildfire and there were hundreds gathered at the hospital to have a look. The police had to be deployed to control the crowd.

Someone left a note on the Wikipedia page for April 1, 2006 speculating that the child had anencephaly (a neural tube defect which results in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp). This strikes me as plausible... more plausible than the idea that the baby shown in the picture is an elaborately crafted hoax. (Thanks to Sara for the link... She notes that it looks like a character from The Oblongs TV show.)
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (36)
Status: True
image Thanks to Big Gary for directing my attention to Janise Wulf, the 62-year-old great-grandmother who just gave birth to her 12th child. Gary wasn't totally sure that the story was real, but I'm pretty sure it is. After all, on my page about birth hoaxes I note a true story of a 63-year-old woman who gave birth back in 1997. And the Guardian reports that the oldest woman ever to give birth was Adriana Iliescu, who did so at the age of 66 last year. I know a lot of kids are raised by their grandparents, but it would still be weird to be a teenager and have an 80-year-old mom.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 24, 2006
Comments (18)
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