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Death
Status: Prank Gone Wrong
One of the rules of pranking is that you should do no harm. This means no harm to others, nor to yourself. The two Russian soldiers who thought lying down across the highway would be a funny prank, should have given more thought to this rule. As reported by MosNews.com:
Two young men, private Vladislav Lunev and first class private Nikolay Chistyakov escaped from the army troops not far from Moscow, Russia, late at night, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported Saturday. Being in a very good mood, the two decided to play a practical joke on the drivers and lay down across the highway. The soldiers lay on the ground, feet touching, blocking the road. They crossed their arms on their chests and held cigarettes. At 3.20 a.m. a truck that carried milk to Moscow ran straight over both the young men. Lunev died on the spot, and Chistyakov, whose legs were smashed, died later in hospital. The truck driver did not even stop. As he later told the police that detained him, he had no idea the two figures he ran over had been real people. He said countryside boys often threw dummies — clothes stuffed by straw — into the road to scare the drivers. On seeing two camouflaged figures, the driver calmly sped on, never realizing he killed two people.
I think these guys are good candidates for Darwin Awards.
Categories: Death, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 21, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Strange News
I note in Hippo Eats Dwarf that if you fake your death, you need to remain dead, which means staying under the radar. Ronald Wayne Blankenship hasn't followed that advice. Instead, after allegedly faking his death backin 1990, he's now decided to run for sheriff in Jefferson County... which is a good way to bring himself to the attention of the police who now want him to come in and have his fingerprints checked. Blankenship, meanwhile, is maintaining his innocence, insisting that he's not the same Blankenship who once faked his death:
Ronald Wayne Blankenship, a candidate in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Jefferson County sheriff, says it's coincidence that a man with a criminal past shares his name and birthdate. It's strange but true, he says, that both he and a man who faked his own death in 1990 are married to women named Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship...
Blankenship says he is not the man described in police reports and court documents. "Do you know how many Ronald Blankenships there are?" he asked. "That's why I started going by Ron."
Well, this guy's explanation seems totally believable. grrr But what's really strange is that he received 25.9% of the votes. (Thanks to Joe for the story)
Categories: Death, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 15, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Strange but true
Here's the scene: a high school criminology class on a field trip to the local park. Their teacher has created fake bodies for them to find. But wait a second. One of those bodies looks awfully real. The AP reports:
Truth proved to be stranger than fiction for a high school criminology class investigating a fake crime scene after students discovered a real dead body on a field trip. Teacher Sue Messenger has been planting cardboard skeletons with bullet holes, fake knives and other evidence at mock crime scenes for more than 20 years to give her students a firsthand look at what crime scene investigators do. The discovery Monday at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park by 29 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School suddenly brought the classroom to life - or death. "It was a good crash course," said Juan Cantor, a 15-year-old sophomore. "The first thing we thought was, 'That's a real good dummy she set up.'"
Reality has a strange way of doing that, intruding on our make-believe games. But I predict that it's only a matter of time before this particular event gets refictionalized as part of the storyline of a TV crime drama (probably CSI).
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 07, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Hoax
The latest false celebrity death rumor going around concerns Jaleel White (best known for playing Urkel on Family Matters). Supposedly he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This rumor is old. It was first posted on my site over half a year ago (in the comments to my post titled 'Is this Jaleel White?'). It's no truer now than it was then. I have no idea why it's begun circulating again, but here are the main highlights from the hoax AP report:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Jaleel White, who played 'nerdy' neighbor Steve Urkel on "Family Matters" found dead Monday. He was 29 years old.
White was pronounced dead on arrival after admission to an LA hospital early Monday morning. The death is being investigated as a suicide.
Born Jaleel Ahmad White, he began his career at the age of three acting in television commercials, before landing guest spots on shows such as "The Jeffersons" and "Mr. Belvedere." It was in 1989 that White landed the role that would make him famous, playing wacky neighbor 'Steve Urkel' on the ABC program "Family Matters."
Following the cancellation of "Family Matters" in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character, and grew despondent, despite further successes as star and producer of the UPN sitcom "Grownups", and as a writer for NBA.com
Neighbor and friend, Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as "a loud bang" coming from White's Los Angeles apartment.
Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply "Did I do that?", a popular catchphrase from the show.
Like I said, this was all posted on my site over half a year ago. Which means that when people did a Google search for info about Jaleel White committing suicide, my site was one of the first they found. Because of this, my page about Jaleel White started to receive huge amounts of traffic. So much traffic that it was not only slowing the entire site down, but was also slowing other sites that were located on the same server at my web host. Nevin, the technical guy at my web host, has been exchanging emails with me about it all day. What we've done to try to ease the strain on the server is to automatically route people visiting the comments for that old Jaleel White thread to my page about false celebrity death rumors (which is a static page and therefore uses less of the cpu).
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 05, 2006
Comments (237)
Status: Hoax
Early last month a number of British papers ran pieces about a Norfolk farmer selling execution equipment to dictatorships. For instance, this is from the Scotsman (May 12):
Norfolk farmer David Lucas has built a booming business selling execution equipment to such enlightened governments as those of Zimbabwe and Libya. For the paltry sum of £12,000 you can be the proud owner of a fine set of English Oak gallows to hang the dissident of your choice. Or, if you've got a few unruly citizens you need out of the way, you could go for a group-hanging with Mr Lucas's "multi-hanging execution system", a snip at a hundred grand.
Now we learn that Mr. Lucas's gallows trade is nothing more than a hoax. At least, so says his business partner. UPI reports:
David Lucas, 45, attracted reporters to his pet food shop in Mildenhall, outside of which stands a gallows Lucas built to show his support for capital punishment. He claimed he was selling them to the governments of Libya and Zimbabwe for as much as $22,000, The Times of London reported Thursday. More than 30 British newspapers, along with the BBC and Sky News covered his story, which has fizzled out since his business partner, Brian Rutterford, came forward. "It is a hoax that has got completely out of hand. I know David well, work closely with him and I know he has built one set of gallows -- the one that remains outside his shop on my land," he said. "The rest is rubbish." Rutterford said Lucas had been keeping up the rumor because he likes talking to the media about capital punishment, the report said.
I suppose this is an example of gallows humor.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 02, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Obituary
George Lutz of Amityville Horror fame has given up the ghost. He died of a heart attack in Las Vegas on May 8. George and his family lived in the house in Amityville, New York for four weeks in 1975 before supposedly being driven out of it by repeated paranormal occurrences (weird sounds and voices, green slime dripping from the ceiling, etc.) They left the house in a hurry, but weren't so scared that they weren't able to return and hold a garage sale. Personally I think the Amityville Horror story is complete baloney, but reportedly George Lutz always swore what happened was real. But then, he had so much invested in the tale (both emotionally and financially) that he would swear it was real. (Thanks to Joe for the link.)
Categories: Death, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri May 12, 2006
Comments (34)
Status: Joke ballot
Reuters reports on a case of a dead guy who was temporarily in the running for Italy's president:
With no hope of immediately electing a president, lawmakers have been throwing away votes for the past two days while party leaders negotiate a consensus candidate. A secret ballot has allowed them to get creative. For one elector, the political deadlock offered a rare chance to vote for Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic monk who had the stigmata -- bleeding wounds in the hands and feet similar to those of Christ -- and was made a saint in 2002. The speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament immediately annulled the ballot paper. Padre Pio died in 1968.
For a second I thought this was some kind of allusion to Napoleon Dynamite. But that's Vote for Pedro, not Vote for Padre Pio. The similarity is coincidental, I'm sure. (Thanks to Big Gary, who has a knack for finding these 'dead guy running for office' stories.)

Related Post:
Apr. 9, 2006: Dead man runs for New Orleans Mayor
Categories: Death, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed May 10, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Probably an urban legend mistaken as news
This could be the next big thing: Soylent Green Human-Flavored Rum. Reuters reports:
Hungarian builders who drank their way to the bottom of a huge barrel of rum while renovating a house got a nasty surprise when a pickled corpse tumbled out of the empty barrel, a police magazine website reported... the body of the man had been shipped back from Jamaica 20 years ago by his wife in the barrel of rum in order to avoid the cost and paperwork of an official return. According to the website, workers said the rum in the 300-liter barrel had a "special taste" so they even decanted a few bottles of the liquor to take home.
You could prepare a dinner starting with human-flavored tofu, seasoned with some human-hair soy sauce (and a little bit of bread made from human hair as a sidedish), and then wash it all down with this human-flavored rum. Yum! (Thanks to Big Gary for the link.)

Update: As Joe points out in the comments, this story sounds an awful lot like the tapping the admiral legend, which involves Admiral Nelson's body being preserved in a cask of rum while at sea, and the cask slowly being drained by sailors on the voyage home. World Wide Words points out that: "Jan Harald Brunvand, the American academic who has made a lifelong study of such legends, has told versions in one of his books, including a related one dating back six hundred years about some tomb robbers in Egypt. Other tales tell of containers holding similarly preserved bodies of monkeys or apes that spring a leak on their way from Africa to museums; the leaking spirits are consumed with a gusto that turns to horror when the truth of the situation emerges." So given the relatively flaky source on the Reuters story (a Hungarian website), it's probable that whoever runs the Hungarian website got taken in by an urban legend, and then Reuters in turn was taken in by it.
Categories: Death, Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu May 04, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Strange
I've heard of faking the death of people, but I've never before heard of a case of someone faking the death of an animal. Until now. The Chicago Sun Times reports on this bizarre case of a Pennsylvania couple who thought the vet had euthanized their epileptic dog, but then found out he had only pretended to do so:

A couple who thought they were watching their epileptic dog being euthanized actually witnessed a simple sedation procedure concocted so the veterinary clinic could later give the canine to another owner, they claim in a lawsuit... the lawsuit says, the dog was given a sedative to make it appear she was dead. The clinic then gave Annie to a new owner, Gene Rizzo of northeast Philadelphia, who cared for the dog until he had her euthanized Nov. 2.

I just don't understand the motivation of the vet here. Was he trying to make a buck by selling someone a sick dog? Or did he not think the dog was sick enough to be euthanized, but didn't want to tell that to the couple?
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon May 01, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Joke campaign
Twenty-five people are campaigning to be mayor of New Orleans. One of them is legendary rhythm-and-blues musician Ernie K-Doe. His wife insists that he deserves to be mayor because "He gets the job done. The guy has soul." He also happens to be dead, which, I suppose, makes him perfect for the job (resistant to corruption-- especially if he was embalmed). Unfortunately he's not actually on the ballot, so his supporters will have to stage a write-in campaign. Though he could be a beneficiary of ghost voting, a practice not unknown down there in Louisiana. (Thanks, Big Gary)
Categories: Death, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 09, 2006
Comments (0)
Status: Hoax
An announcement of actor Will Ferrell's death in a paragliding accident was briefly posted on the wire service iNewswire today, before the service caught wind of it, realized Will Ferrell wasn't dead, and yanked it. The release read, in part:

Los Angeles -- Actor Will Ferrell accidentally died in a freak para-gliding accident yesterday in Torey Pines, Southern California. The accident apparently happened somewhere near the famed paragliding site after a freak wind gush basically blew Ferrell and his companion towards a wooded area where they lost control before crashing into dense foilage. (Click here to see the whole obituary.)

My wife works very close to Torrey Pines, so I'm sure I would have heard from her if something like this had happened. E-online has some more details about the hoax, including that Ferrell's publicist confirmed the actor was still alive and filming a movie in Montreal, and that Ferrell has actually never paraglided anywhere, at any time in his life.

As for who is responsible for the hoax: "iNewswire tried, but failed to find the source of the bogus Ferrell story. The trickster, a non-paying customer, used a proxy server--the ISP address can't be traced, Borgos explained. All that's known about the anonymous user is that he or she tried, but failed to post about 10-15 other press releases on the site Tuesday, he said, including one that clarified that 'Will Ferrell is not really dead.'"

I've already added this hoax to my growing list of fake celebrity obituaries. (Thanks to Brad Wulff for forwarding me the email.)
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 15, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Almost definitely an urban legend
The Leicester Mercury has printed a spooky story that sounds very much like an urban legend. (Though I know some people say that true urban legends don't involve the supernatural, so I guess it would be a ghost legend.) Since I don't believe in ghosts, I'm assuming that the story is mostly b.s. But I'm curious if any parts of it are true.

The story goes like this: In 1950 Dr Guiseppi Stoppolino of Camerino University was testing an Italian clairvoyant named Mario Bocca to see if his powers were real. During the test Bocca picked up a message from a dead woman calling herself Rosa Spadoni, who claimed that she had been buried alive back in 1939. Stoppolino and Bocca searched for the grave of Rosa Spadoni, but couldn't find it until they realized that her tombstone bore her married name, Menichelli. They convinced a court to exhume Rosa Menichelli's coffin, and, sure enough, discovered evidence that she had been buried alive. As the Leicester Mercury tells it, "There was little more than a skeleton left in the coffin, but the spine was arched in an attempt to lift the lid, and the fingers still clawed at the woodwork."

A version of the story can also be found on the World of the Strange website, where they add this ending:

"The outraged public reaction that followed rocked Italy and even threatened to bring down the government. Within months, Dr. Stoppolini succeeded in his crusade for mandatory embalming of the dead. As the story spread to other European countries, burial practices were also hastily changed."

You would think that an event like this that supposedly changed burial practices in Europe would be easy to confirm, but a google search brings up almost nothing. Just about the only part of the story I can confirm is that there really is a Camerino University in Italy. I can't confirm the existence of Dr. Guiseppi Stoppolino, Mario Bocca, or Rosa Spadoni. However, a post (in Italian) on Google Groups revealed that the Spadoni story was told in The World's Greatest Ghosts, which came out in 1984, written by Nigel Blundell and Roger Boar. I'm wondering if Blundell and Boar's account is the first published account of the story. And, if so, did they simply make it up?
Categories: Death, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 14, 2006
Comments (31)
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