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Status: Weird News (True)
Big Gary forwarded me this news story about a "machete-wielding gang in angry clown make-up" who have been attacking people in Washington State. The article notes that the group call themselves "juggalos" and often shout "Woo, woo, juggalo!" to each other as they attack victims. The article concludes by noting: "Juggalos often dress in black and wear clown face paint."

Big Gary wonders: "Does Seattle really have a subculture of people who call themselves 'Juggalos,' dress in black, wear 'angry clown' face paint, and carry machetes? And if so, how do I join?"

Yes, Gary. There is such a subculture of Juggalos. But please, as a favor to me, reconsider your decision to join them. It really tears me up inside every time a Museum-of-Hoaxer succumbs to the dark side and ends up prowling the streets as an angry, machete-wielding clown. I've seen it happen far too often!

As for these Juggalos. They're fans of the musical group Insane Clown Posse. Though as the site explains, they go beyond merely being fans:
Many people often believe that Juggalos & Juggalettes are just another name for fans of Insane Clown Posse. Being a Juggalo is much more than liking the music; it is a way of life. A fan is someone who only likes the music either because it's the fad right now, or because they want to conform. Fans don't see the true message of the music, just the outer layer. Fans are quick to forget you as soon as the next big sensation comes along. They also will hound ICP for autographs and see them only as big famous stars. A Juggalo is one who lives their life by the hatchet. In other words, they believe in the true meaning behind ICP's songs try to live by J and Shaggy's preachings. Juggalos are down with the clown for life, and will never turn their back on ICP because they are said to be "uncool." ... They are dedicated to Psychopathic forever.
For what it's worth, my advice if you see a machete-wielding clown approaching you in a dark park at night: run the other way as fast as you can.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 14, 2006
Comments (31)
Status: Strange News
Nigerian travellers have been warned by their government to watch out for conmen while in Britain:
Fraudsters in Britain might pour tomato juice or other substances on your dress and then offer to help remove it, robbing you in the process, the information ministry warned in its first-ever travel advisory obtained by Reuters on Thursday. The conmen, who are mainly white, but also include east Europeans and north Africans, might also pretend to pick up an object from under a potential victim's seat to distract his attention while he robs him, it added. "Nigerian travellers are hereby warned not to carry large amount of money on their body and ensure that their air tickets, passports, expensive wrist-watches as well as trinkets are securely hidden," the advisory said.
The advisory seems sensible enough, though given Nigeria's reputation for crime it seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. The Reuters article points out that, "Nigeria itself has seen a sharp rise in violent crime since President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending 15 years of military rule. Africa's top oil producer, ranked by Berlin-based sleaze watchdog Transparency International as the world's seventh most corrupt country, is also famous for junk mail scams."

Big Gary (who forwarded me the article) wonders who are the other six most corrupt countries, if Nigeria is number seven. As best I can find out, the other six would be (starting with the most corrupt): Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, and Equatorial Guinea. This is from the 2005 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (on which Nigeria was actually ranked #6, not #7).
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 28, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Weird News
I'm not quite sure what's going on in this story, but it's not often that a wild goose chase literally happens, so I thought it was worth posting. Chris Kaye reports for KSL local news in Utah:
Officers pulled over a car fitting the description of one allegedly used to swipe a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens. Sergeant John Spencer says when he looked inside the vehicle, he found everyone inside was obeying traffic laws.
"The goose was in the front seat and was seat belted in. It had a seatbelt across it to protect the bird I guess," says Spencer. Davis County dispatchers got a good chuckle out of the call.
So did the dispatcher send Sergeant Spencer to pull over the car with the goose as a joke? Or had some people really stolen a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens? And if so, why?
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 10, 2006
Comments (3)
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: Urban Legend
The Miami Herald reports the case of a man who threatened to shoot the mother of his child with a gun silenced by a potato. He never fired the gun, but did explain to her how the potato would silence the shot, insuring that no one would hear what happened. The police had this to say about the man's knowledge of acoustics:
The vegetable, while rich in carbs, does not make an effective silencer, police say. The myth dates back to mob murders of the 1920s and has persisted through movies and word of mouth.
"It was fine in Dick Tracy, but in real life, it's not true," said Miami-Dade Sgt. Bob Hoelscher, a longtime firearms technician who is not involved in the case. The sound of a gunshot can be suppressed somewhat if the gun is low-caliber and the cartridge is weak enough, Hoelscher said. But it usually makes a mess.
Detectives seized a 9mm Ruger pistol from Thompson.
"You're going to have potato salad 360 degrees from the muzzle," Hoelscher said. Of course, people haven't stopped trying.
Another favorite, often seen in movies and on TV, is to tape an empty plastic soda bottle onto the muzzle of the gun. I don't think this works any better than the potato technique. The Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics Page points out that movies, in general, tend to grossly misrepresent the effectiveness of silencers. In real life they don't silence guns as much as they do in movies. (I should note that I've never handled a gun, so I'm relying entirely on the word of other sources here.):
Cutting sound intensity in half only reduces the relative loudness by merely 3 dB. This would be barely noticeable. A good set of ear plugs typically reduces noise by about 30 dB and so, would reduce a muzzle blast from 150 to 120 dB, still a very loud noise. We estimate that the innocuous "fut" sound made by a movie silencer is roughly 50 dB 7, a whopping noise reduction of 100 dB from the dB level of a muzzle blast! In other words, a silencer has to reduce sound intensity of a muzzle blast by a factor of 1010 to give such a low relative loudness. This can be done with a very well designed and precision made silencer using subsonic ammunition. However, even commercially available silencers are more likely to give a reduction of 30 to 40 dB similar to ear plugs, than the incredible 100 dB reduction frequently portrayed in movies, especially when used on high-powered rifles.
(via David Emery)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 05, 2006
Comments (18)
Status: Strange, but true
imageThe Press Association wire service is reporting that "Two black Labradors have become the world's first dogs to be trained to search for counterfeit DVDs." The two dogs, Lucky and Flo, were trained by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact). In their first assignment "Lucky and Flo were put to work at FedEx's UK hub at Stansted Airport in Essex where they immediately identified packages and parcels containing DVDs for destinations in the UK."

Okay, obviously these dogs can't have been trained to sniff out counterfeit DVDs specifically. Why would a counterfeit DVD smell any different than a regular DVD? But still, the idea of using dogs to sniff out DVDs at all seems absurd to me because I can think of many totally legal reasons why people would be shipping DVDs to each other.

I don't see any reason to believe this news isn't real. However, it doesn't seem to have been posted yet on Fact's website. [Update: it's now on their site.]
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon May 08, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: True
image It's not quite as miraculous as the (false) case of impregnation by bullet recorded in 1874, but it's still pretty remarkable. A bullet fired by a cop at an assailant ended up lodged in the assailant's gun. Not in the barrel of the gun, but in the cylinder. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:
The officers ordered the man to drop the gun. Instead, police said, he squared up against them. "The officers returned fire in response to that deadly threat," Kimerer said.
Both officers, armed with Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handguns, fired. One fired four shots; the second, three shots.
One of those bullets ended up in the gunman's gun -- jammed into the cylinder of his revolver. The department released photos Wednesday showing the cracked brass of a bullet shoved out of the rear of one chamber.
Fire medics arrived but were unable to revive the man.
Of course, I'm sure the miraculous quality of this is lost on the dead guy.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu May 04, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Hoax
image This is in pretty bad taste, but kind of funny nevertheless, in a twisted kind of way. A guy in Bali named Eddie Hutauruk claims to be offering guided tours that allow you to visit Schapelle Corby in her jail cell. (For those who don't recognize who Schapelle Corby is, she's the Australian woman who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for supposedly trying to import 4.1 kg of cannabis into Bali. The cannabis was found in her luggage. A lot of people think she's innocent, and that the cannabis was put in her luggage by baggage handlers at the airport who were part of a drug-smuggling ring.) The Schapelle Corby tours offer a variety of options. The photo tour gives you just enough time to pose for a photo with her, or you can opt for the more expensive All Day Tour:

This tour allows you to observe Schapelle's entire day, starting from her wake up call at 700 am. Optional extra: For just $10AUD or more you can personally ring the wake up alarm to start Schapelle's day. Observation chairs are provided, as well as food and drinks throughout the day. We respect Schapelle's privacy – so the day finishes at 6.30pm to allow Schapelle to return to her bedroom.

I'm pretty certain that the Indonesian authorities aren't going to allow a private tour company to shuttle people in and out of one of their prisons all day. Which is why I'm labelling this a hoax. Eddie's efforts to get everyone to click on his google ads also don't add to his credibility. And the pictures of people posing with Corby are obviously photoshopped. (Thanks to Emily de Saint Jores for the link.)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 17, 2006
Comments (25)
Status: Civil Disobedience Prank
image In order to demonstrate the stupidity of the 55 mph speed limit, four Atlanta students pulled a dangerous stunt: they all drove exactly 55 mph on the highway, in a line, thereby blocking the flow of traffic and creating an enormous traffic jam. Check out the video of it. I realize the students thought they were doing something clever, but as I watched the video I found myself getting more and more angry at them. It was like experiencing road rage while sitting behind a computer. I kept imagining the people in the blocked traffic who probably had to get to work, or wanted to get home, and who were instead being held up by these idiots and their road block.

Anyway, their argument — that their experiment proves the absurdity of the 55 mph law — is flawed. It didn't prove that at all. All it proved is that if you form a rolling blockade, it's going to create a traffic jam. It would have had the same effect at 65 mph. Plus, it's definitely against the law to form a blockade like they did. Only the police are allowed to do that. So they weren't actually obeying the law.

I realize that pranks are supposed to be obnoxious and annoy some people. But delaying innocent commuters, and creating a situation in which people could easily have gotten hurt as anger escalated, just doesn't seem quite right to me. Though this is probably the angry driver inside of me feeling that way. (One more thing: at the beginning of the video they misspell the word obedience.)

Update: Some quick googling, and I found the section of Georgia law (code 40-6-40, section D) that applies to what they did:

No two vehicles shall impede the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same time while in adjacent lanes, provided that this Code section shall not be construed to prevent vehicles traveling side by side in adjacent lanes because of congested traffic conditions.

So it was illegal, and they made a video of themselves doing it. Not too smart.

Update 2: David Spear, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, has been quoted as saying that what the students did was legal:

David Spear, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said if the students weren't blocking emergency vehicles and were going the speed limit, "they didn't do a thing wrong." Spear added that the speed limit was lowered to 55 because it saves lives. "In Atlanta, the actual effect of it is we expect the people going 75 to move over so the people going 95 can have the right of way," he said.

So I guess I was wrong. Though I'm still having a hard time understanding how it can be legal, when the code referenced above seems to state that it's not legal.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 01, 2006
Comments (145)
Status: urban legends
An article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer records some Philippine urban legends: the "White Lady" of Balete Drive, Robina Gokongwei's "snake twin" lurking in department store dressing rooms, the elusive "kapre" that lives in an ancient mango tree near the Emilio Aguinaldo house in Kawit town, and Andres Bonifacio's love child from a place aptly named Libog (now Santo Domingo) in Albay province. None of those mean much to me. But most of the article is devoted to discussing two other Philippine legends that are of more general interest. The first one is that Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, "was the father of Adolf Hitler, the result of an indiscretion with a prostitute in Vienna." The second one is that Jose Rizal was also Jack the Ripper:

Rizal was in London from May 1888 to January 1889, in the British Library copying "Sucesos de las islas Filipinas" by hand because there were no photocopying machines at the time. Jack the Ripper was active around this time, and since we do not know what Rizal did at night or on the days he was not
in the library, some people would like to believe Rizal is suspect. They argue that when Rizal left London, the Ripper murders stopped. They say that Jack the Ripper must have had some medical training, based on the way his victims were mutilated. Rizal, of course, was a doctor. Jack the Ripper liked women, and so did our own Rizal. And -- this is so obvious that many overlooked it -- Jose Rizal's initials match those of Jack the Ripper!

If Jack the Ripper did turn out to be Filipino, that would throw a wrench in his status as the Most Evil Brit of all time.

Related Posts:
Nov 9, 2005: Japanese Urban Legends
Oct 14, 2004: Iraqi Urban Legends
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 22, 2006
Comments (190)
Status: True
Earlier today I read (via blogdex) the tale of a woman named Judith and her camera that was lost, then found, but still (paradoxically) remains lost. I thought it was interesting, but didn't consider it might be a hoax. However, several people have emailed me about it, so I thought I'd take a closer look at it. Here's the jist of the tale.

Judith lost her camera while on vacation in Hawaii. Back home she decided to create a photo blog of her vacation using pictures found on Flickr of the places she visited. About two weeks into this blog, she posts this message, explaining that she had received a call from a Hawaiian park ranger telling her that her camera had been found by a Canadian couple. Judith called the Canadian couple, only to learn that they didn't want to return the camera because their son (who happens to have diabetes) found it and now considers it to be his lucky camera. So Judith remains camera-less. The behavior of the Canadian couple has outraged netizens.

In terms of evaluating whether any of this is true, there's not, at first glance, much to go on. We kind of have to take Judith's word that what she's saying is true. But what I found most curious was how quickly Judith's blog went from being extremely obscure, to being all over the internet. Usually if you can figure out who's spreading a story, that will shed some light on whether or not a story is true. In this case, it wasn't hard to figure out how the story spread so far, so fast.

Following a chain of links soon led back to the well-known blogger Anil Dash, who seems to have been the first to post a link to Judith's lost-camera story. Boing Boing picked it up from him, and then it was all over the internet. Knowing this made it pretty easy to figure out that the Judith in question must be Judith Zissman, San Francisco artist and creator of (Anil mentions Judith Zissman elsewhere in his blog.) Judith is an artist, so maybe the lost camera blog is all an exercise in creative writing. (Wouldn't be the first time the internet has seen that.) But I doubt it. She seems fairly credible to me... and whether you believe the story is true all boils down to whether you believe Judith is telling the truth. I don't see any reason not to believe her. So for now I'm listing this as not a hoax.

(And in a separate story, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing is now being threatened by someone claiming to be the lawyer of the Canadian couple that took the camera. But it doesn't seem to be a real lawyer... just some random crackpot trying to get attention.)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 21, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: Undetermined (though I'm assuming it's false, until proven otherwise)
Some of you may have read this claim before: "Topless saleswomen are legal in Liverpool, England, but only in tropical fish stores." I hadn't heard it before until I happened upon it on the blog of Cavan Scott who is (rightly, I think) quite skeptical of it. He's emailed the Liverpool county council to get their opinion about it, but my guess is that he probably won't get a reply. (Though I decided to send them an email too... they must be wondering why so many emails about topless fish clerks are pouring in.)

I then wasted a lot of time trying to track down the source of the claim. I quickly figured out that it's posted on (which is probably where everyone else on the internet learned about it), but they provide no references for it. So they could have just made it up. I then searched the Lexis-Nexis legal and news database for any mention of topless Liverpudlian fish saleswomen, but found nothing besides references to the dumb laws site. (No surprise there.) My wife, whose grandmother lives in Liverpool, had never heard of such a law. In other words, I can find absolutely no source, besides, to indicate that this Liverpool law is true. Which is why I'm labelling it as false, until proven otherwise. If it does happen to be true, I'd really like to know what the original reason for passing such a law was.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 02, 2006
Comments (38)
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