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Jane has declared that in ninety days she's going to kill herself, and she's keeping a daily blog to share her experiences during her final months. She writes:

I am going to kill myself in 90 days. What else should i say? This blog is not a cry for help or even to get attention. It's simply a public record of my last 90 days in existence. I'm not depressed and nothing extremely horrible has lead me to this decision. But, does it really have to? I mean, as an atheist I feel life has no greater purpose.

As of today, February 11, she has 84 days left.

I can't predict the future, so I can't say with certainty whether Jane will or will not kill herself at the appointed time, but my hunch is that her blog is complete b.s. There are a couple of reasons for suspecting this. First of all, this is not the first suicide blog to have appeared on the internet, and they invariably end up being fake. Remember the "Countdown to Oblivion" blog, in which Jerry Romero declared he was going to kill himself on January 13th, 2005? When the date arrived, he posted a single-word message for all his readers: PWNED.

Second, her comment that "as an atheist I feel life has no greater purpose" strikes me as phony. It sounds like what a religious person imagines that an atheist would say. Most atheists, I think, would say that they don't need a deity to have a fulfilling, meaningful existence... thank you, very much. Our relationships with other people and what we do with our life is what gives it meaning.

In fact, I suspect that religious people are far more likely to commit suicide, since they view death as not being final. They might imagine killing themselves as a way to start over, either through reincarnation or by becoming a spirit. For instance, you don't often hear of atheist suicide bombers.

In this vein, there have been recorded cases of people who have committed suicide as an experiment, in the belief that they would be able to find out what life after death was like, and find a way to communicate that knowledge back to the living. For instance, the Jan 24, 1927 issue of the Chicago Tribune records the case of W. Cassels Noe, a medical student at the University of Wisconsin, who "shot and killed himself today, leaving a note saying he wanted to learn what was beyond the grave. The note, addressed to a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother, promised him that Noe would communicate with him from the beyond as soon as possible and tell what death is and what it brings."

There's no evidence that Noe ever found a way to send his friend a message.

Update: I should revise what I said above. Having thought about it for a few minutes, I don't actually think that a person's religious beliefs (or lack of them) has any predictive value of whether that person is likely to take their own life. So I'll take back that line about religious people being more likely to commit suicide. It was a knee-jerk response to "Jane's" suggestion that she might as well commit suicide since she's an atheist. I'll simply point out that, just as there are certainly depressed people who commit suicide and declare that they don't believe in God, there are also plenty of people who kill themselves because they think they're going on to some kind of afterlife. The Heaven's Gate cult here in San Diego was one of the most famous examples of that here in America.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 11, 2008
Comments (75)
Russian election draws eccentric candidates
Four empresses are running, as well as a tsar.

Fake tickets offer strange message
Police in Boulder are warning drivers to be on the lookout for fake parking tickets that bear this cryptic message: "The foregoing is falsely alleged upon personal initiative. This ticket hereby notes discredibility. Remember: Things could be worse. Get over yourself."

I'm Not Dead Yet
Polish resident Piotr Kucy is trying to convince officials that he isn't dead, but the bureaucrats are proving hard to convince.

Con Artist Poses as Heath Ledger's Dad
Soon after Heath Ledger died, a man claiming to be his father contacted Tom Cruise and John Travolta, seeking emotional support and free plane tickets. Why he contacted Cruise and Travolta, I don't know. Was Heath Ledger a scientologist?
Categories: Death, Identity/Imposters, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 30, 2008
Comments (2)
Nuclear Reactor in Garage
A 22-year-old man was boasting on an amateur science blog that he had built a mini-nuclear reactor in his garage. His boasts earned him a visit from federal authorities who determined that he didn't actually have a nuclear reactor. But he did have some kind of strange experiment going on that, had it continued, "would have been a cleanup issue." (Thanks, Joe)

Dead Man Cashing Check Scam
"Two men were arrested on Tuesday after pushing a corpse, seated in an office chair, along the sidewalk to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man’s Social Security check." (Thanks, Gary)

Facebook President Hoax
A Facebook application allowed people to pretend to run for "Facebook Worldwide president." A Frency guy got all his friends to vote for him, and when he won told the French media that he was the new president of Facebook. Many members of the French media apparently believed him.

Romance writer accused of plagiarism
Nora Roberts is claiming that fellow romance novelist Cassie Edwards is guilty of plagiarism. It seems that Edwards was lifting passages from old reference works in order to flesh out her historical romances. This actually seems to me like a fairly minor misdemeanor compared to some of the stuff that goes on nowadays. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Death, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 15, 2008
Comments (2)
Pie in Santa's Face
"A 22-year-old University of Montana student was charged with assault Friday for shoving a pumpkin pie into Santa Claus’ face at a shopping mall while a teen sat on his lap."

Save the Park
Four students in the UK created a hoax website as a social experiment to test the influence of the media. Their website,, claimed there were plans to build a 220,000 tonne waste incineration plant in a South London park. Within a few weeks their site had received thousands of hits, and they had been contacted by a newspaper. They claim that their experiment, "showed how rumours can spread and how easy it is to get information out there that isn't true." But also that, "we are still a community and we can still stand together."

Venezuelan Toilet Paper Shortage
"Venezuelans have been buying large amounts of toilet paper on rumours it could be the next hard-to-find thing amid shortages of products like milk and meat."

Death by Cell Phone Report Disputed
It turns out that the death of a South Korean man was not due to an exploding cell phone, as many media outlets recently reported. Instead, police are attributing the death to a co-worker who backed into him with a drilling vehicle, and then tried to frame the cell phone. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Death, Pranks, Technology, Urban Legends, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 03, 2007
Comments (4)
I'm on the road up to Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving, but here's a few quick links I've been meaning to post.

Online hoax leads to girl's suicide
The case of Megan Meier is attracting lots of attention, both online and offline. Megan believed that a young guy on MySpace was interested in her, but when Josh started to send her nasty messages, she committed suicide. Later it was discovered that "Josh" was a fake alias created by adults in Megan's neighborhood. A bizarre case, and one that underlines how important it is for kids to learn to be skeptical about information (and people) they find online.

Man Accused of Posing as a Lawyer
Cranky Media Guy writes, "I love the lawyer's "explanations" of his client's behavior."

Belly Dancer Indicted Over Fake Degree
"A high-profile belly dancer has been indicted for allegedly fabricating her university diploma, a prosecution official said Tuesday in the latest fake-degree scandal to hit education-obsessed South Korea." Since when has it become important for belly dancers to have advanced degrees?

Let's Marry Before Hanging Up
The latest prank from Pakistan: "The latest spin for the emergency helpline (Rescue 15) operators is prank calls from girls, who first report a ‘crime’ and then ask operators to marry them over the telephone." What are kids going to dream up next?
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 21, 2007
Comments (25)
The students of Ohio State are in mourning after a hawk killed Whitey, an albino squirrel that was widely known around the campus. A facebook page has been created to honor Whitey's memory. It currently has over 2100 members. The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper, reports:
Whitey's life was cut short at around 2 p.m. Friday when a hawk spotted his white fur coat from above and flew in for the kill. Several students walking through the South Oval witnessed the aftermath of the attack, the proud hawk looming over its prey...
After about five minutes, the hawk flew away with its talons fastened to the squirrel's lifeless body. The hawk made it as far as the other side of the South Oval when Whitey's weight forced the predator to land. In some nearby shrubbery the hawk sampled his prey before flying away.

This reminded me of the Killer Hawk of Chicago, which got Chicagoans upset back in 1927 because it was killing pigeons outside the Art Institute. A lot of people had doubts about whether the Killer Hawk of Chicago was actually real, or whether it was the invention of a paper trying to drum up sales. But it sounds like Ohio State's Whitey-killing Hawk is real.
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 19, 2007
Comments (7)
Here's an unusual theory. David Alice, webmaster of, argues that the singer Morrissey (formerly of The Smiths) predicted the death of Princess Diana. I would dismiss it all as an elaborate joke, except that the guy seems really serious about it.

The crux of his argument (at least in the video posted below) is that one of the songs on The Smiths' album The Queen is Dead, speaks about two people getting killed together in a car crash. And this song was released as an exclusive single in France. He comes up with a variety of other clues and weird coincidences, all equally farfetched.

The guy's theory is like a strange inversion of the Paul is Dead rumor, in that the Paul is Dead rumor involved people combing through the Beatles's music to find clues referring to a car crash that had supposedly happened in the past, whereas this guy is desperately searching through Morrissey's music to find evidence that the singer was providing clues about a car crash that would happen in the future.

Categories: Death, Future/Time, Music
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 11, 2007
Comments (13)
Here's a story about a detective who had to go deep undercover, posing as a corpse in order to catch a man who was vandalizing hearses belonging to a funeral home:
The funeral directors contacted the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership which hired a team of private detectives. They spent five days posing as members of the public and using cameras to stake out the firm. But cars continued to be damaged under their noses so security firm Storewatch decided one of their team had to hide inside a body bag. There the detective could watch a computer displaying live images from cameras inside and outside the vehicle. Mark Ferns, Storewatch director said: "Our guy would do three or four hours in the bag and then would have to take what the Americans call a comfort break.

I don't really understand why they couldn't have achieved the same thing with remote control cameras.
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (2)
The temperature reached 110 degrees on my patio today. I sat inside the whole day with a fan blowing on me, wishing I had air conditioning, and wondering how anyone could think global warming is a hoax.

I also put together a list of tombstone humor, which I posted in the hoaxipedia.

My favorite humorous epitaph that I came across, which supposedly can be found on a tombstone in a Maine cemetery (though I have my doubts) is this one:

“Tears cannot restore her. Therefore do I weep.”

It took me a few seconds to get it.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 03, 2007
Comments (18)
imageFirst there was Oscar, the death-predicting cat. Now there's Scamp, the death-predicting schnauzer. 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)
image RainOubliette has beaten me to the punch and already posted about this in the forum, but I've been getting so many emails about it that it obviously belongs here on the front page as well.

For decades a mysterious figure has visited the grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Westminster Churchyard, Baltimore on the anniversary of Poe's birthday and placed three roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer's grave. The figure has become known as the "Poe Toaster."

Now a man, Sam Porpora, has stepped forward who claims to have been the original Poe Toaster, and to have started the tradition as a kind of promotional hoax. USA Today reports:
Porpora's story begins in the late 1960s. He'd just been made historian of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, built in 1852. There were fewer than 60 congregants and Porpora, in his 60s, was one of the youngest. The overgrown cemetery was a favorite of drunken derelicts. The site needed money and publicity, Porpora recalled. That, he said, is when the idea of the Poe toaster came to him. The story, as Porpora told it to a local reporter then, was that the tribute had been laid at the grave on Poe's Jan. 19 birthday every year since 1949. Three roses — one for Poe, one for his wife, and one for his mother-in-law — and a bottle of cognac, because Poe loved the stuff even though he couldn't afford to drink it unless someone else was buying. The romantic image of the mysterious man in black caught the fancy of Poe fans and a tradition grew. In about 1977, Jerome began inviting a handful of people each year to a vigil for the mysterious stranger. The media began chronicling the arrivals and departures of a "Poe-like figure." In 1990, Life magazine published a picture of the shrouded individual. In 1993, he left a note saying "the torch would be passed." Another note in 1998 announced that the originator of the tradition had died. Later vigil-keepers reported that at least two toasters appeared to have taken up the torch in different years.
Porpora is definitely a credible candidate for having been the originator of the tradition. However, there's some debate about whether the legend actually predates him. If it does, Porpora obviously couldn't have invented the tradition. I did a search through, looking for any mention of the legend before the 1970s, but couldn't find anything, even though there were many stories about Poe's grave in 1949 on the 100th anniversary of his death.

Honestly, when I first saw this story it didn't seem like a hoax to me. After all, even if Porpora was the Poe Toaster, his appreciation for the writer was obviously genuine, and so the gesture was an honest one. The only hoaxy element was to add a flair of drama by hiding the identity of the Poe Toaster, and to (perhaps) fudge about how long the tradition had been going on for.

Ironically, there are doubts that Poe's body is even in the grave. In 1875 Poe's body was disinterred and moved, except that no one was quite sure which grave belonged to Poe since his gravestone had been removed. There's also a strong possibility his body had long ago been stolen by medical students for use in anatomy classes, since Westminster cemetery was a common source for cadavers.

Whether or not it's a hoax, the Poe Toaster legend recalls the "Lady in Black" legend, in which a lady dressed in black would visit the grave of Rudolph Valentino and lay a red rose on it. This tradition was said to have been started either by a Hollywood press agent or by the florist across the street from Valentino's grave.

Update: I received the following email from Jeffrey Savoye of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore:
Okay, this silly story is really getting out of hand. Sam Porpora has a long history of making things up for the sake of publicity, which in this case is rather ironic as it is itself a publicity stunt about claiming to have started something else as a publicity stunt. As noted in the AP article, there is a clipping from the Baltimore Sun from 1950 which mentions what is essentially the modus operandi of the Poe Toaster. I was only an English major, but this is clearly long before Sam is claiming to have "started" the tradition.

in the 1970s, Sam Porpora claimed that there was a mass burial grave of Revolutionary War soldiers in the catacombs of Westminster Church, where Poe is buried. It turned out that the pile of bones were from pigs, not humans and of apparently fairly recent vintage. (Hmmmmm, I wonder how those got there? In any case, I suspect that there were very few porcine participants in any of the major battles.) He also invented stories of the catacombs being used in the Underground Railroad, with a crypt on the outside being used to get into another crypt on the inside of the basement area. (Unfortunately, the basement was essentially open to the outside until the 1930s, when it was finally closed up to keep out vagrants -- thus no need for a secret tunnel in the 1850s.) The fact is that Sam makes up stories, and this is apparently just another one of them -- not the event itself but his claim that he originated it. At best, he might have termed the phrase "Poe Toaster," for which, I suppose, some credit is due. The rest of his claims should not be accepted without verifiable evidence, which he does not have.
Categories: Death, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 16, 2007
Comments (6)
image The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 357, Number 4) contains a short article about Oscar, a cat that seems to possess the ability to predict when people are about to die. Oscar's home is the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, so he has many chances to be around dying people. When patients are about to die, he curls up next to them and happily sleeps there, until they're dead. Then he quietly exits the room. Most of the time the dying patients are so sick they don't even know he's there. The article in the NEJM states:
Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves.
Oscar is a cute cat, but my first thought was whether Oscar could somehow be causing or hastening the deaths of the patients, though I can't imagine how this could be. An Associated Press article raises some other possibilities:
No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.
Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.
If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.
Normally I'm happy if a cat curls up with me, but in Oscar's case, I would be a little concerned. (Thanks, Big Gary)
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (81)
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