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|•||Chilis Narrowly Avoids Funding Anti-Vaxxers 04/08/2014|
|•||Dutch April fools jokes 04/02/2014|
|•||Japanese stem cell breakthrough exposed as a fabrication 04/02/2014|
|•||April First - April Fools Day 04/01/2014|
|•||Cloned dinosaurs? 03/31/2014|
|•||US ‘psychic’ Cynthia Miller jailed for $1.2 million fraud 03/29/2014|
|•||Test of intelligence. Person calls police to report their cannabis plant stolen 03/25/2014|
|•||Malaysia air disaster 03/22/2014|
|•||Fred Phelps is gone 03/21/2014|
|•||Iran building fake aircraft carrier 03/20/2014|
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Chris De Burgh, Miracle Healer
Pop singer Chris De Burgh supposedly cures a woman's paralyzed arm by laying on his "healing hands." I had no idea who he even was when I first saw this. But I googled him and found out he's the guy who sings "Lady In Red." There's already a Church of Tom Jones. So why not a Church of Chris De Burgh?
Doll Experience Rooms
Apparently these are the hot new thing at Korean brothels. "A 'doll experience room' is a place punters rent for some W25,000(US$1=W958) an hour, a fee that includes a bed, a computer, and an inflatable sex doll."
$60 Champagne gets relabeled and sold for $300
Hoping to address a need in the hip-hop market for "bling" champagne, Cattier puts $60 "Antique Gold" in a flashier bottle and sells it for $300 as "Armand de Brignac" with the help of rapper Jay-Z. (Thanks, Joe)
Pelican Swallows Pigeon
Not a hoax. Just odd. What happened: "the bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak. There was a bit of a struggle for about 20 minutes, with all these people watching. The pelican only opened its mouth a couple of times. Then it managed to get the pigeon to go head first down its throat. It was kicking and flapping the whole way down." This news story inspired blogger Faye Williams to create a list of the Top 10 I’ve Got Eyes Bigger Than My Belly stories.
RIP: Pink Flamingo, 1957-2006
Union Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, is scheduled to close its doors on November 1. It's apparently the only maker of pink flamingoes in America. It's being forced to close due to "increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin." Does this mean pink flamingoes will never again congregate on the front lawn of UW-Madison?
Spanish King Shoots Drunk Bear
When the Spanish King visited Russia recently he was taken on a bear hunt. But apparently "hunt organizers, keen to make the King of Spain's chances of killing a bear easier, provided a tame one drunk on vodka." Sad. But the last paragraph of the story is even more pathetic: "Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had trouble with his aim in his later years. Some of the animals he liked to stalk were either tied to trees or plied with booze." (Thanks, Big Gary)
Here's an urban legend I'd never heard before: "German immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were asked their names, and might respond 'Ich vergessen,' meaning 'I forgot,' if they couldn't understand English. The officials would then mark down that the name was 'Ferguson.'" This doesn't make any sense to me at all. The German and English words for 'name' are almost identical, so I think German immigrants in particular would be able to understand a request for their name. But even if they didn't, why would they respond 'I forget'?
Top 10 Best Ghost Photographs Ever
The Brown Lady of Raynham comes in at #10. (Thanks, Kathy)
Milk-Sipping Stone Idols
Hindus in Uttar Pradesh have been enthusiastically pouring milk on stone idols, encouraged by a rumor that the idols were "sipping" the milk. Experts have dismissed the "milk-sipping" phenomenon as a hoax: "Lucknow University Geology professor M.P. Singh said: 'It is very natural for any stone idol to absorb any liquid - and the older the stone, the more it absorbs.' V.K. Singh of King George's Medical University here termed it as 'nothing other than capillary action'."
Women Strip Naked For Rain Gods
Nepal is desperate for rain, and so Nepali women are taking drastic rain. They're stripping naked and ploughing fields. They figure this should appease the gods and bring rain. Lubbock, Texas should take note.
Need some help getting God to listen to your prayers? Try the prayer antenna, created by artist Paul Davies. Results, I assume, are not guaranteed. (via Cynical-C)
Haunting As Grounds For Divorce
Madam Tan of Singapore claims that her husband is causing evil spirits to haunt her in order to get her to divorce him. Lawyers say she may actually have a case against him: "Whether or not the flat is haunted, if Madam Tan can prove that her husband's actions relating to the occult are threatening and intended to cause her harassment, alarm or distress, she can sue him under Section 13A of the Miscellaneous Offences Act."
Status: First-person accountsReports of BEK phenomena are becoming increasingly widespread on the net.
Stories about these creepy adolescents with entirely black eyes and a threatening manner have been cropping up in first-person reports ever more frequently since 1998, when journalist Brian Bethel first wrote about his experience with BEKs.
These accounts follow a regular pattern:
Seemingly, they repeatedly ask to be let in, and often mention that they must be invited. None of the reports I have found deal with what happens if someone is persuaded...
So who (or what) are they? Providing you believe the stories, current theories span everything from ghosts and vampires to aliens or pranksters.
Status: Psychic mumbo-jumboThis 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: 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.
BadPsychics.co.uk 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.)
Status: Phony GhostFor the past month villagers in West Bengal have been terrorized by a ghost that took the form of a floating skull with fiery red eyes. A number of people have suffered scratch marks when attacked by this ghost. Now police have taken a suspect into custody, "A pigeon with a miniature plastic skull dangling around its neck and with glowing red bulbs in the eye sockets." The police don't know who outfitted the pigeon in this way, but suspect that their sole motive was to create a panic. In other words, it was a random prankster. However, the cause of the scratch marks remains undetermined. Also, demonstrating how unreliable eyewitnesses can be, police noted that "people had described the ghost variously as a man and a monkey." Which recalls the Winsted Wild Man panic in Connecticut over 100 years ago, in which witnesses swore they had seen a (nonexistent) wild man sporting tusks and as large as a gorilla.
Status: ObituaryGeorge 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.)
Status: Real doorsFairy Doors are popping up around Ann Arbor, Michigan. No one knows who's building them. They just mysteriously appear. The Washington Post reports:
The entryways are Thumbelina small and are so subtle and incongruent that they're easy to overlook -- or dismiss. At first glance, you might mistake one of the eight doors for an electric socket or a mismatched brick. But look closely and you'll see evidence that, yes indeed, something very little could live in there.
One Ann Arbor resident speculates that the fairies are moving into Ann Arbor because they're being displaced from their rural homes by urban sprawl: "Searching for a new domicile, the winged ones -- who count among their relations the Tooth Fairy and Tinkerbell-- ventured into Ann Arbor... Wright surmised that, liking what they saw, they decided to uproot to specific addresses amenable to fairies." So how long before we get photographs of the Ann Arbor fairies?
Status: Paraphenalia for the superstitiousA Japanese company is selling a portable ghost detector that fits on a keychain. I can't really understand the machine-translated text, but it looks like the detector glows red in the presence of a ghost, and glows blue otherwise. It costs 2,079 Yen, which is about $18. Not too bad. Compare this to the ghost detectors sold by Abate Electronics which start at $93 (and they don't even fit on your keychain!). It goes without saying that I'm sure these things have been rigorously tested to conform to the highest scientific standards. (via OhGizmo)
Status: Publicity stunt/superstitionAn organization named witchschool.com has announced that on May 5th, 2006 an experiment in global spell casting will take place:
Hundreds of participants around the world will focus their energy to manifest love, peace, prosperity and hope for the world. With this unified act of will, they anticipate that magic energy will fill people with personal power and create events that will lead to a better world. "We need no longer wait to see if magic is real or not", according to Ed Hubbard, CEO of Witch School, "We can test it through such global experiments, but instead of looking for data, I am looking forward to hearing the experiences people will have through this day of divine manifestation. I believe it will move the way we think about the world and how it works."
I am sure that this will have about as much effect as Not One Damn Dime Day or World Jump Day.
Status: FakeI've come across two different videos on Youtube that show night scenes of roadblocks in Singapore. I don't have that much information about either video, but stylistically and thematically they're very similar (and very low quality). People are clowning around at a roadblock in the middle of the night, when suddenly (at the end of each video) they see a ghostly white figure. Screaming ensues. (Warning, in case you're watching these at work: The one on the right contains some cursing.)
The caption on the first video (on the left) identifies the ghost as the "pontianak". Wikipedia defines the pontianak as: a type of vampire in Malay folklore. The pontianak is usually a woman who died during childbirth and becomes undead, seeking revenge and terrorizing villages. She often appears as a beautiful woman, usually accompanied by the strong scent of frangipani. Men who are not wary will be killed when she morphs into a hideous vampire, she will also eat babies and harm pregnant women.
Wikipedia also links to a paper (which downloads as a word document) by Timothy White of the Dept. of Literature at the National University of Singapore that puts these kinds of movies in context. White notes that during the 1950s and 60s Singapore had a thriving film industry that churned out many horror films featuring the pontianak. However, these films "are all, by today’s standards, woefully unrealistic, especially in terms of the way they look." Evidently these short Singaporean ghost videos popping up on the internet must be inspired (even if unknowingly so) by that country's tradition of cheap horror flicks. The obvious fakeness of them is just part of the cinematic tradition.
Sep. 19, 2003: Indian Ghost Hoax
Sep. 21, 2003: Indian Ghost Hoax, Part II
Status: Almost definitely an urban legendThe 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?