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A new book by Ed Sherman examines the question of whether Babe Ruth actually called a shot in the 1932 World Series. It's one of the greatest legends in baseball. But is it actually true? From the book:

These are the facts. On Oct. 1, 1932, the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs played Game Three of the World Series at Wrigley Field. In the fifth inning, Ruth at the plate faced the Cubs' Charlie Root, two strikes on him. Ruth, jawing with the Cubs dugout, held out two fingers. Ruth sent the next pitch soaring toward Lake Michigan. The ball whizzed just to the right of what now would be the iconic scoreboard in center field. The "Ruthian" blow, if ever there was one, traveled nearly 500 feet.

No one disputes that he hit one of the most majestic homers in World Series history. But the question is this: Did he call the shot, or was he merely gesturing in response to the Cubs' bench jockeys? It remains one of the greatest debates in sports history, holding us captive as only Ruth can. Sports historians continue to look for clues that might reveal a true answer. From the moment it happened, opinions polarized.

Based on the reviews, it sounds like Sherman never definitively answers the question. But then, for many historical questions, there are no definitive answers.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 18, 2014
Comments (0)
In 1954, Syed Hassan Osman Mustapha was a young man from Pakistan studying in London. One day he was invited to attend a "knighthood" ceremony at a Rover Scout Group meeting, and while he was there he mentioned that he happened to be part of the royal family of Afghanistan. In fact, he was a prince.

He later said that he had intended the remark as a joke, but everyone took him at his word, and he enjoyed the attention so much that he decided to continue the ruse.

Soon word of his princely status had spread around the affluent London district of Osterley where he was living, and he found himself being feted as visiting royalty.


"Prince" Syed Hassan of Afghanistan

The Rotary Club made him guest of honor at a luncheon. Sir Rob Lockhart, former British military attache to the Kingdom of Afghanistan, called upon him to pay his respects. And finally the mayor received him with an elaborate ceremony at the town hall.

But after he had been living eight months as a prince, the Afghan embassy got word of him and sent an inquiry to find out exactly who he was, and which branch of the former royal family he came from, since they had never heard of him. At which point, Syed Hassan confessed that he was no prince.

Scotland Yard briefly looked into the matter, but decided to let him off with a fine of 25 pounds.

References
  • "Pakistan student poses as prince," (May 29, 1955). Pacific Stars & Stripes.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 17, 2014
Comments (0)

There's some controversy over the Daily Mirror's recent cover showing a crying child. The context implies it's a British child crying because of a lack of food, but (as blogger Dan Barker uncovered) it's actually an American child who was crying because she lost an earthworm.

Turns out it was a stock photo that the Daily Mirror acquired from Getty Images. But the Daily Mirror is defending itself. Its editor Lloyd Embley writes, "Imagine the stink if we'd used a pic of an actual child who had received food parcels."
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 16, 2014
Comments (1)

A statue of the Virgin Mary outside a church in Griffith, Indiana has recently attracted attention because a stain on the statue's face looks like a tear. A water mark from rain would be the obvious explanation, but a young girl interviewed for the news broadcast says it's "A sign from God and shows us that Jesus actually did sacrifice his life for us."
Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 16, 2014
Comments (0)

If this was just a random unsourced picture on the Internet I would probably suspect that it had been manipulated to create the dragon effect. However, it comes from a professional photographer, Noel Celis of AFP Photo, and is hosted on Getty Images. And these sources provide no indication that the photo was manipulated in any way. So I have to conclude that it's real. In other words, that it's a case of pareidolia, rather than photo fakery.

Getty Images offers this caption:
"A fire breather performs in Chinatown in Manila a day before the Chinese New Year on January 22, 2012. The Lunar New Year falls on January 23 and is the begining of the Spring Festival holiday."
Categories: Pareidolia, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 16, 2014
Comments (1)

This sign appeared on a road in the town of Cambridge, UK on April 1st. There was some speculation that it might have been a joke, but the Cambridge News confirms that it actually was a genuine sign for a temporary road closure. Just a case of strange British road names. And pure coincidence that the sign went up on April 1.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 15, 2014
Comments (0)

The rock-rolling whitefish is a little-known species of fish, whose existence has only ever been reported (as far as I know) in the June 1932 issue of Montana Wild Life magazine. Discovery of this creature was credited to Jack Boehme, a manufacturer of fish tackle.

Here's the information that Montana Wild Life offered about this unusual creature:
It seems that this rock-rolling Montana whitefish extolled by Jack Boehme, and organized by a taxidermist of no mean versatility, is endowed with horns. Boehme declares, to all visiting dudes, that the specimen on display was caught in Boulder creek. Of course Montana has some dozen of these Boulder creeks, hence the exact location of the catch is still a mystery. He further explains that the specimen, pictured in this edition of MONTANA WILD LIFE, obtains its food by rolling over stones by using the horns that grow from the stomach. He enlightens the seeker for knowledge with these remarks:

"At night this strange Montana fish manages to sleep by driving its horns into a log in the stream and remains there until the first ray of sunlight strikes it in the morning. The horns are caused to relax by the sunlight and thus it is freed from the log. It is one of the most difficult of Montana fish to land because of the horns. When hooked, it usually dives into a log jam and it is almost impossible to extricate it. The horns on its back and belly are firmly affixed to logs when it is hooked and the leader is usually broken. This fish was landed by removing the log to which the fish had fastened itself."

That's Jack Boehme's story and he's sticking to it just like the rock-rolling whitefish sticks to the log. Believe it or not.
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 15, 2014
Comments (0)
Steve Feltham has spent 23 years looking for Nessie. In all that time, he's only seen her once, 21 years ago. He says, "I was sitting on the shore near the Fort Augustus end of the Loch when something went past the bay, through the water. It was like a torpedo shot and it had some weight behind it, hitting through the waves. Nothing in Loch Ness could create a disturbance like that – apart from Nessie. I just sat there in amazement."

Unfortunately, that was also the day he forgot to bring his camera. So, he's got no pictures of Nessie to show for his long search.
Categories: Nessie
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 15, 2014
Comments (0)
The video of this April Fool's Day prank, played by students at Aquinas College on their Macroeconomics professor, now has over 25 millions views on YouTube, which has to make it one of the most popular April Fool pranks this year (if not the most popular). It's nice to see that a low-budget prank by amateurs still can overshadow all the April Fool marketing efforts of the advertising professionals.

The premise of the prank is that a female student receives a call on her cell phone during class. The professor has a rule that if a student has failed to turn their phone off, and it rings during class, they have to answer it in front of everyone. So the student proceeds to take the call, only to learn that it's from the "pregnancy resource center" informing her that she's pregnant. The look of horror on the professor's face as he hears this, and begins to imagine the repercussions of having forced the student to share this news with the class, is classic.


Fake pregnancy announcements are actually a fairly common prank on April Fool's Day. The typical set-up is that female employees will tell their boss on April 1 that they're pregnant and have to take time off. The prank works best if multiple female employees make the same announcement, leaving the boss to imagine the prospect of losing half his staff. I've recorded an example of this from 1963 in the April Fool Archive:

Categories: April Fools Day, Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 14, 2014
Comments (1)
The Travel Channel show "Mysteries at the Museum" recently filmed an episode at the Salida Museum in Colorado, where they dug into the history of the fur-bearing trout.

Back in the late 1930s, a Salida resident, Wilbur Foshay (who was a bit of a con artist, as well as being a member of the Salida Chamber of Commerce), brought a lot of media attention to the town by claiming that fur-bearing trout could be found in the nearby Arkansas River. But he complained that the fur-bearing trout could never be caught because fishing wasn't allowed in Colorado rivers during January, when the fish was most active. So he was urging the Colorado Game and Fish Association to allow a special exception to allow fur-bearing trout fishing in January.


Los Angeles Times - Jan 10, 1939

The Pueblo Chieftain has some more details:

Foshay's story came complete with lots of details like the best bait to catch the fur-bearing trout was the "snow worm." He said those who tried to catch the fish had to have a special winter license specifically for fur-bearing trout.

The craze didn't stop with Foshay. One local musician, Ray Rainey, wrote a song about "Patricia" the fur-bearing trout.

Foshay had a taxidermist create two fur-bearing trout. One of them remains on display at the Salida Museum. The other is owned by the Mount Shavano Fish Hatchery.

The Pueblo Chieftain article includes a nice picture of Bob Campbell of the Salida Museum posing with their fur-bearing trout. And there's another picture of Campbell (with trout) posted at The Mountain Mail website.


But I should correct one detail in the Pueblo Chieftain article. It states that the fur-bearing trout was "a promotional story created by Wilbur Foshay." But Foshay didn't create the story. Tales of fur-bearing trout were circulating long before the 1930s. Foshay simply took advantage of the legend of the fish to help promote Salida.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 14, 2014
Comments (0)
Simon Worrall, author of "The Poet and the Murderer" (about the Mark Hoffman forgeries) recently wrote an article for BBC News Magazine about the Voynich manuscript. Worrall notes that new theories about the manuscript "breed like mayflies." However, he confesses to believing that it's a modern forgery created by its discoverer, Wilfrid Voynich.

He writes: "One of the most common tropes in the history of forgery is that of a rare book dealer 'discovering' previously unknown manuscripts."

But even if you don't accept his theory, the article is worth a look because it has some nice photos of the manuscript itself.
Categories: History
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 10, 2014
Comments (2)
HerCampus, a news site for women in college, recently posted that Beyoncé was looking for interns to help organize the "official Beyoncé archive." She wasn't offering any financial compensation, but she did promise "the opportunity to take three selfies with Beyoncé over the course of the internship."

Quite a few media outlets picked up on the story and reported it as news. It's also circulated widely on social media. But prospective applicants should note that HerCampus posted the announcement on April Fool's Day. In other words, it was a hoax.

It's definitely one of the more successful April Fool pranks this year, because it's completely believable not only that Beyoncé would make such an offer, but that a lot of people would take her up on it.

HerCampus seems to have taken down the announcement. But here's a screenshot of it:

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 10, 2014
Comments (0)
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