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Archive for August, 2014

The Weirdest Disaster in American History

On January 15th, 1919, in the north end of Boston, a 50 foot tall tank of molasses burst open and flooded the streets with the sticky sweet stuff. While it sounds like an alternate ending for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the effect of the 25 foot tall tidal wave of sweetener was anything but delicious.

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Molasses was then the standard for sweetener in the US and was used to ferment rum and even create munitions. Some authors suggest the tank was overfull due to increased alcohol production as the owners tried to outrace the upcoming prohibition laws about to take effect Regardless, as the tank began to fail, witnesses claimed to hear sounds like a machine gun firing that were the overstressed rivets exploding out of the structure. As the tank ruptured, the giant wave moved through the streets at 35 miles an hour (so much for ‘slow as molasses’) ….

From the Boston Post at the time: “Molasses, waist deep, covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage … Here and there struggled a form—whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was … Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly-paper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings—men and women—suffered likewise.” 

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The force of the wave caused people and vehicles to be hurled into the air, railway cars to topple, and ultimately killed 21 people and injured 150. Some of the corpses were so glazed in molasses they were near-unrecognizable. Eventually, clean up crews used salt water to clear the molasses away and sand to absorb it but it took weeks to clean up just the immediate area of the disaster; the outlying areas took much longer. Even the clean-up effort tracked molasses throughout the rest of the city: “Everything a Bostonian touched was sticky”.

The property where the tank once stood is now the site of a recreational complex but it has a marker to remind Bostonians of the horrible day of the killer sweets. Locals still claim that on a hot summer day, the area still smells strongly of molasses.

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Human Skull Donated to Goodwill

There are many ways to dispose of a body, but donating pieces of it to a Goodwill is probably not one of them.

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A Goodwill employee, when going through their donations box discovered the skull and alerted the police. The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the skull was indeed real and from an adult who may have died two years ago. Causes of death, sex and race are still unknown currently.

“We think it was probably something that belonged to the person who donated it, to a relative of the person who donated it and it was part of a collection or an anatomical model or something like that. It could have been something that was kept by someone who was a student of anthropology, a student of medicine, dentistry…any of those things,” said Detective Derek Israel with APD’s Homicide Unit. Which begs the question: if it’s two years old, does it seem likely that it was a ‘collection’ or part of an ‘anatomical model’? Seems kinda sketchy to me. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more on this story as we get to the real bones of it.

 


How to Make a Shrunken Head

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Have you ever had a chance to visit The Museum of the Weird? I mean, this is the website for the Austin, TX attraction so if you made it this far, maybe it’s time to plan for a trip. Amongst all our two-headed animals, mummies, haunted skeletons, and oddities of man and nature, we’ve got two genuine shrunken heads on display. And they are indeed a creepy sight to behold.

Head shrinking (not the psychology kind) has been rumored to take place in many places all over the world but so far is only confirmed with a few small tribes in Peru and Ecuador, called there tsantsa. The tribes created them to keep vengeful spirits from being born from their enemies. They also served as a pretty powerful deterrent to other outsiders wandering close to the village. Of course, when it turned out that visiting Westerners had an interest in trading for the heads, the murder rate suddenly went up rather significantly in the region. But what’s the process these grotesqueries are made by?

Check out this great post at mentalfloss.com. They get down to the specifics step-by-step, from decapitation to the stripping of the flesh, the boiling of the remains, to …okay, now even I’m getting a little nauseous. But check it out for yourself. That’s the internet for ya. We’ve even got lifehacks for shrinking human heads. What an age we live in.


Man’s Cutting-Edge Collection Nails It

I get the collector’s instinct. Oh boy, do I. My house is absolutely filled with comics, action figures, and 15 bookshelves of movies and TV shows. Yes, somehow I’m even in a successful relationship. But my lady probably wouldn’t be quite so keen if my collection was cast off-pieces of my own body.

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This is Richard Gibson, a 59 year old man who decided back in 1978 that he was going to save all his toenail clippings. Originally born of just curiosity, wondering how long it would take to fill up a small box, Richard just kept going. And going. And going. “I have no idea how many nails are in the jar,” Gibson said. “It’s well into the thousands.”

Richard wasn’t exactly proud of his hobby. He’s kept it hidden both from his ex-wife and friends for years. But now that Ripley’s Believe it or Not is interested, Richard is coming out in the open with his odd and pretty gross collection. It’s featured in Ripley’s new book “Reality Shock”. “This is the first time I’ve made it into one of the books,” he said. “It’s not like winning the Oscar, but I’m proud.” 

 


The Boy with the GIANT hands

A 8 year old boy in India named Kaleem is suffering from an extremely rare (so rare doctors aren’t really sure what it is) condition that has caused the otherwise healthy child to grow two REALLY REALLY big hands.

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Already oversized at birth, twice the size of a normal child’s, they’ve now expanded tremendously to 13 inches from the bottom of his palm to the tip of his middle finger. He can’t even feed himself because he cannot properly close them and has to have help with multiple daily tasks. Not to mention the daily razzing he takes from other children. “Even when I tried to get Kaleem into the school,” his father Shamim said, “the headmaster told me to put in writing that the school would not be responsible if the other children were afraid of his hands or bullied him or laughed at him”. Kaleem said, “I do not go to school because the teacher says other kids are scared of my hands. Many of them used to bully me for my deformity. They would say “let’s beat up the kid with the large hands”. One can only speculate how dumb some of these kids must be; even without a fist, I suspect Kaleem could muster one helluva slap.

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Kaleem’s family wants help for their child; his condition could potentially be dangerous as well. Dr Krishan Chugh, from a modern research institute near Dehli, believes increased growth could damage his cardiovascular system, which could considerably shorten his life. His parents have sought help to get their child into surgery, but their extreme poverty, they earn about 15£ a month,  has left them without options. “We have tried several places with no solutions so far,” said Shamim. “But I have a feeling there is a way to get the resources to give my son a normal life.”

I wish there was some easy solution to help Kaleem and his family but it looks like they might have a ways to go before they find the help they need. I can only hope by writing about it here someone might see it who’ll know how to lend a hand.

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Terrible puns aside, we hope Kaleem really does get the help he needs.


When Pirates of the Caribbean was FILLED with Dead Bodies

Although the rumors of Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen corpse being stored underneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland are decidedly untrue, the popular attraction since 1967 apparently held a dark secret of its own.

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Built in 1967, the iconic boat ride that spawned four movies, was the last ride overseen by Walt himself; sadly he didn’t live to see it open. It’s unclear as to whether he was involved with the ghoulish decision that was made by the Imagineers for the ride’s design, but either way, are you ready for this?

…Originally all the skeletons in the attraction were actual human bones.

Yup, sounds like a story generated by the internet, but it’s apparently true. The Imagineers were not happy at all with the fake skeletons they had made for the ride and obtained actual cadavers from the UCLA Medical School which were put in all the classic poses all OVER the ride even as you see it today.

The bones stayed in place for a good long while, although it’s not exactly clear how long that was. What we do know is the grand majority were eventually removed and replaced with more convincing fakes…but not all of them.

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Not the skeleton in the bed, but the crossbones behind him? Yup, real dead dude parts. I can only guess they left them behind as a reminder of the history of the ride as a hidden in-joke for Disney folks. Either way…still eerie.


The Secret Nazi Base in California That Still Stands

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Did you know the Nazis had a secret training base hidden out on a ranch in Rustic Canyon, Los Angeles? No kiddin’. This isn’t some alternative history fiction, although I’m sure it’s been integrated into more than a few. The Murphy Ranch was originally build by a widow before WWII as a 22 room mansion with electric generators, a 20,000 gallon diesel fuel tank and a 300,000 gallon water tank. A fire damaged much of the property and she abandoned it only for it to be bought by…NAZIS!

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Where was Indy when we needed him?

Norman and Winona Stephens bought the ranch, who were supporters of the Silver Legion of America, or “The Silver Shirts”, a pro-fascist organization, that were modeled after Hitler’s Brownshirts. By 1934, the group had over 15,000 members and begun reparative construction on the Murphy Ranch. The group pictured it as the fortified world headquarters of the Nazi party after the inevitable point when they took over the globe.

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But the plans all fell through. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, some of the construction workers working on the property noticed paramilitary troops being trained by a German man on the property. The powers that be came in and shut it down, after arresting its German military officer for sending secret messages to Germany. And the rest, of course, is history.

You can see still the remains of the compound. While overgrown with weeds and covered with graffiti, one still can find decaying buildings, and even secret passages still being discovered by hikers, all over the property. Check out the link from one of our favorite sites, Roadtrippers.com, for directions to the ranch and more information and pictures.

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All Doctor Who Merch at SFANTHOR 20% Off on Saturday!

The New Doctor Who begins his run this Saturday with Peter Capaldi taking over the role of the esteemed space and time traveling gentleman, and SFANTHOR (Museum of the Weird’s sister store) is EXCITED!

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The 80 minute opener, called “Deep Breath” features Capaldi and previous companion to Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, as well as appearances by Smith and the beloved alien Victorian trio of Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax. We can’t wait to see it, and in anticipation, we’re reducing all of our cool Dr Who merchandise by 20% for the day!

Come on down and check out SFANTHOR at 1101 South Congress in the big white castle. We’ve got all sorts of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror items to suit a multitude of fancies. And coming soon inside….STEVE BUSTI’S CHAMBER OF WAX!!!

 


British Designer Makes Texturally “Human” Furniture

Feeling lonely? Wish you had someone to cuddle up with? Well, a British furniture designer might have just the solution for you (that won’t involve getting an account on Match.com). Introducing from Studio 9191, “A Body of Skin” line…

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These seats aren’t made out of real human flesh, they’re just leather, but the fleshiest leather you ever sank into. Their creator, Gigi Barker, didn’t want the odd shapes of her meat seats to conjure what the experience of sitting in them would, but everything else did, “That made the viewers question how to interact with the shapes and to form their own conclusion”.

Gigi created the chairs by tracing a man’s midriff and then, “abstracted the shapes of his form so as to remove some of the immediacy of such a literal representation and allow the viewer to form their own conclusions”. She sculpted the models in clay, then created the seats themselves out of silicone because it “reacts to our bodies, matching our body temperature as well”. She implanted pheromones and aftershave in the seats and then covered them with molding leather with the suede section facing out to complete the effect.

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Your choices for purchase are a two-part seat ($2500) or a smaller seat ($750) but more are on the way. Gigi even made and wore a dress out of the material for the opening night of her show. “Work regarding the human body is very personal and we all have a very immediate reaction to it so the reactions have reflected this. I have my own personal relationship with it, which is based on my own personal history. Just as someone else will. I think this project is more about the people and the bodies rather than the skin itself,” said Gigi.

This seems like a pretty niche market for seats…until you think about Japan. Have you seen the full body pillows of the girls from anime they’ve got now…

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I’m just saying…million dollar idea. You can write me a check later, Gigi. I’ll just try not to picture anyone actually ENJOYING one. Creepy.


Russian Graveyard “Explorer” Kept Corpses as Dolls in his Home

You never know where you’re going to find the weirdos. Generally speaking, those with Ed Gein-ish tastes for digging up corpses and decorating their home with them don’t hold PHDs in Celtic Studies and are thought of as well-respected authors and academics. However, such is the case with Russia’s Anatoly Moskvin, who was discovered with the bodies and pieces of bodies from perhaps as many as 29 corpses in his house.

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Police found inside his home, among stacks of books and other brick-a-brac, a gruesome and distressingly adorable collection of graveyard remains. Anatoly had many of the all-female corpses mummified, dressed in cutesy, frilly doll dresses, and some even had implanted recording devices. “When we were transferring one of the mummies, it startled us by starting to play the song, ‘Bear enjoys his honey.’ It took us some time to figure out that the mechanism inside reacts to touching,” said one policeman. All the corpses had their faces covered or painted and one even had the head of a stuffed animal.

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In an interview with a journalist years back, Anatoly had said he became fascinated with cemeteries as a teenager. “When I was a pioneer in 1979, by pure accident, I took part in an occult ceremony that took place in a cemetery. I have been strongly drawn to these places ever since,” he said, adding that he had visited 752 cemeteries.

Thankfully, he doesn’t appear to have stole bodies from all of them, but according to police, for the past 15 years at least, he had been making late night raids to claim both the bodies, pieces of bodies, and clothing from the bodies of women aged 12 to 30. Along with the ‘dolls’ police found piles of gravestone plaques, bones, skulls and a foot dressed in a lacy stocking.

It hasn’t been made clear yet how the police identified Anatoly; one story has it that his visiting parents found him decorating a doll and turned him in, but apparently the evidence is pretty overwhelming. I mean, even if you were to go with the ‘someone broke into my apartment and put all these here’ defense, police still found his fingerprints and footprints all over the desecrated graves. Anatoly stands to serve from a fine to 3 years in prison for each of the more than a dozen charges currently leveled against him. At least we can be glad he never graduated, the way our own infamous Ed Gein did, to killing to get fresher bodies. That we know of…


The Grossest Thing Ever: The Rat King

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What’s grosser than a dead rat? How about 32 dead rats who were trapped by their own entangled tails and the dried filth they live in? I mean, yuck. This particular preserved specimen, of what are called “Rat Kings”, is on display in a museum in Alterburg Germany, and it dates back to 1828. Sadly, it’s not the only example of this now-rare find.

Once more common when the Black Rat controlled the alleys and sewers of Europe, the dominance of the Brown Rat has reduced the amount of finds. I’m not sure if it’s because of shorter tails, less filth, or smarter rats, but all three reasons make me recoil inside in a way best described as “infinite horror”.

Fiction writers have long been fascinated by these disgusting and bizarre rat combinations and have incorporated them into their works. The rat kings have popped up all over the place including being in Terry Prachett books, Alan Moore comics, the last book in The Spiderwick Chronicles, Lars Von Trier’s movie Epidemic, and even in a novelization spin-off of the popular British show “Luther”.

Unsurprisingly, finds of Rat Kings were historically viewed as a bad omen, and I’d imagine even now one would have to at the very least conclude that their bad luck involves a crucial vermin infestation. Very few have actually been found; the number is estimated at being between 35-50 total, but if you’re visiting German museums in Hamburg, Gottingen, Stuttgart or Hamelin, or if you find yourself being touristy in Tartu Estonia, you can catch a glimpse of one of these rare finds. Lucky you.

 


The Graveyard that became a Restaurant

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Cities in India can be pretty crowded places. There’s not always a lot of room to expand your business, even if it’s doing well, so sometimes you’ve just got to incorporate previously existing structures into your theme. Such was the case for Krishan Kutti Nair whose business, The New Lucky Restaurant, in Ahmedabad, India, started out as a tea stall outside of a Muslim cemetery. The business was doing so great, it started to encroach on, then circle, and eventually be part of the gravesite.

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The customers certainly don’t seem to mind, as morning through night they come in for their milk tea and buttery rolls, and neither does Kirshan, who wipes the graves down every morning and puts fresh flowers by them. ”The graveyard is good luck. Our business is better because of it”.


Exorcist Claims Demon is Texting him Hate Messages

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“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”– Winston Churchill

In that case, this priest from Poland must have really been doing good work because according to him, he’s made the mother of all enemies. Unfortunately, this antagonist has his phone number.

Father Marian Rajchel performed an exorcism in his town of Jaroslaw on a young girl, you know the way you do. Mondays…damn. But this one had some unusual repercussions according to the elderly priest. He believes his efforts must have failed because he’s started getting taunting TEXT MESSAGES (!) from the demon in question on his phone.

“She will not come out of this hell. She’s mine. Anyone who prays for her will die.” said one. The priest, shaken but undeterred, continued to pray and even answered with a message. For all the good it did…

“Shut up, preacher. You cannot save yourself. Idiot. You pathetic old preacher,” was the response.

I’m not entirely dismissing the possibilities of ‘possession’ as it were, but let’s remember, this is a teenage girl from a small town, probably acting out. I’m thinking that her religious parents, unsure of what to do, and as many have before them, blamed the devil. I suspect the girl in question, probably rather displeased with being giving the Linda Blair treatment, is probably messing with the wizened priest with the technology that teenagers know best: their cell phones. Seems like an Occam’s Razor situation to me if there ever was one.

 

 


Hyper-Real Wax Figures by Untrained Creator

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I know we’re all waiting with baited breath to see Steve Busti’s latest maniacal creation, “The Chamber of Wax” which will be located at the (now open for retail) SFANTHOR store in the big white castle at 1101 S. Congress in Austin. Just hearing the details about the history of classic monsters that will be detailed there has got me really excited! But in the meantime, check out the fantastic pop creations of Bobby Causey.

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Bobby has had no formal training in sculpting or even read a book on the topic. “I just know what needs to be done and I do it,” said Bobby. “What I can say for sure is, I would start with NSP (Non Sulfurated Plasteline) Medium Clay, a shit-load of photo reference, and a desire to sculpt the person you are going to be sculpting.”

Although he gets offers to work on new films, it’s creating memorable pop culture figures that motivates him to work. “Basically, the only guide I have is the person, or my subject; I know what she looks like and I have to not only try to get a great likeness but also alive with feeling or thought,”. Bobby also does famous movie vehicles, like the Batmobile, with just as much impressive detail as his wax figures.

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“For instance, if I sculpted an old man with his eye closed, and made him creepy-looking and called it ‘The Mortician’, the feeling would not be near as strong as watching Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man in the movie Phantasm. The emotions were already placed by the actor and the filmmakers,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, eventually I would like to do some original art works, but for now I really enjoy the movies and the actors I sculpt.”

Works for me, Bobby. Unfortunately, there’s no gallery right now to see his works. Pretty much as soon as he finishes a piece he donates it to a charity. Talented, kind, and dare I say, pretty handsome to boot. Hey Steve Busti, can we reclassify the store as a charity? Maybe we could get Bob to donate some of these awesome pieces to us.

You can see impressive galleries of Bobby’s work here at his website.


Miley Cyrus Hires Dog Psychic To Contact Her Pet from the Beyond

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I get it; the death of a beloved pet is a terrible, terrible experience (probably more so for the pet, but you know what I mean). I’d be the last to criticize pop star Miley Cyrus for being completely down in the dumps over the very premature death of her beloved pet pal Floyd. I mean, look at that picture. SO CUTE! And, I guess, Miley’s not bad  either. I’m feeling verklempt for her just LOOKING at that adorable pup. But, there’s mourning and there’s mourning. Miley might have gone a bit too far for my tastes, or tastefulness at all.

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First, she and some of her friends that she inexplicably convinced, all got these (awful) Floyd memorial tattoos. I’ve heard that once you start getting inked, it can get addictive and you come up with all sorts of reasons to add to your body art, but this is…well, never mind my opinions. Ok, so you got it out of your system, had his memory permanently marked to your flesh, time to move on…

But no.

Miley now is regularly meeting with a pet psychic to contact Floyd from the other side. Hollywood (shocker) animal medium Melissa Bacelar says: “It was particularly hard as she wasn’t there when Floyd died, so there would have been a huge amount of guilt. I connect with the dog telepathically. Some will give me actual words but, most of the time, I will get images and feelings, which I then pass on to the owner.”

You too can get a pet reading from Melissa for $200 an hour to find out how your departed doggie is doin’ on the other side of the veil. Melissa got her start as an entertainer who regularly appeared in men’s magazines and small films, but when a radio host messed up and thought she was a pet psychic, she decided, “maybe I AM a pet psychic”…and lo…

I feel bad for Miley but she’s REALLY got to get some perspective here or she’s gonna be another one of those child celebrities who burn out young and cry over ridiculous invoices years later when they’re trying to figure out how they’re gonna make rent.


Real-life Cullen Brothers Suffer From Vampiric Syndrome

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Ladies, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: the real life Cullens. Ok, so, not very much like Edward Cullen, played famously by the sparkly Robert Pattinson from the “Twilight” films. These unfortunate brothers, Simon and George Cullen from Suffolk suffer from the rare condition known as Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia (HED). Like the fictional (?) vampires, they cannot be exposed to much light, as they have the inability to sweat and can overheat easily. More startlingly, they can never grow a full set of teeth and only have sharp fangs.

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The poor kids have had a tough life, as you might expect, with pretty much no going outside during the day, the attention from mean-spirited kids, and not as many shrieking fangirls clamoring for their attention as they may have been led to believe from popular culture. “Kids make fun of the way we look. But our mates think its cool. My friends keep trying to get me to change my name to Edward like the character in the Twilight film.”

The brothers make the best of it: hey, they get to stay in and play video games all day with no complaints. But the eldest, Simon, has had trouble eating with his teeth structure. “We’re hoping he’ll be suitable for a bone graft,” said Mandy. “Part of his jaw will be replaced with bone from his leg, which will have artificial teeth drilled into it. It will be painful, but it will give him a smile and we’re looking forward to it.”

…I think I’d stick with my fangs and soup rather than go through that.


The TV on Typhoid Island

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North Brother Island is 2o acres of overgrown woods floating in New York’s East River, between The Bronx and Riker’s Island. Completely uninhabited and designated as a bird sanctuary, the island nonetheless attracts plenty of curious folks because of its lurid history. Not only home to a juvenile detention facility in the 50’s, and the site of a steamship which sank in 1904 killing 1,000 people, but famously the site of Riverside Hospital. which housed victims of extremely contagious diseases, notably Typhoid Mary herself. The creepy mouldering buildings still stand, begging daring visitors to peek inside.

But this isn’t why I’ve called your attention to the site.

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A kayaker steered his boat close to shore for some pictures, and he came across this: a flickering TV.

“As I paddled around the southern edge something caught my eye… maybe nothing special but to me it stood out as a unique art installation at the edge of the water. It is simply an old television and a chair set up. Were these objects found on the island? Who will get to see this in such a remote location? Who is the artist and what is their message?”

Apparently a grand piano washed ashore recently as well and is now resting under the Brooklyn Bridge and the ever-guerrila-art-concious New Yorkers are wondering if both oddities are the work of a anonymous artist. Or is it the old dude from Poltergeist setting up shop?

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For God’s sake, keep Carol Anne away from the island!


A Record-Breaking 232 Teeth Extracted from Teen’s Mouth

Ever go into the dentist with mouth pain? I did and ended up with a hour long under-the-gums cleaning that still is down in my books as one of the least pleasant experiences of my life. But now I feel like a real wimp.

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Meet Ashik Gavai, a 17 year old teen from India who went to see his local physician complaining of pain and swelling in his right jaw. Stunned doctors discovered that his gums were just forming extra teeth like crazy. This “very rare” condition was described by doctors as “a complex composite odontoma where a single gum forms lots of teeth. It’s a sort of benign tumour.” 

Thank god it’s extremely rare. And that’s not even the most painful part of the story…

 “At first, we couldn’t cut it out so we had to use the basic chisel and hammer to take it out. (editor: !!) Once we opened it, little pearl-like teeth started coming out, one-by-one. Initially, we were collecting them, they were really like small white pearls. But then we started to get tired. We counted 232 teeth.”

Seven hours of surgery…and the result:

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Ouchie.