412 E 6TH STREET, AUSTIN, TX 78701 / (512)-476-5493 / info@museumoftheweird.com

Archive for June, 2015

Islands of furry fun…or terror!

Japan is a wonderfully weird place. Just the other day we shared how  Godzilla received Japanese citizenship. A while back we shared information about the mysterious Suicide Forest, where hundreds of individuals go to end their life.

Now we have a couple of other bizarre things to share: two islands.

The first is Aoshima (青島), which has gained the name Cat Island (キャット島 Kyattoshima). Located in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, it is a place where there are approximately 6 cats for every 1 human. (Did you know we sell the Crazy Cat Lady game at the Lucky Lizard?) Only about a mile long, cats first arrived on ship and reproduced unchecked. Even if you’re a cat person it’s a little eerie. See the video.

Meanwhile, the island of Ōkunoshima (大久野島) has gained the title Usagi Jima (うさぎ島, “Rabbit Island”) because of a large population of feral rabbits. They are not afraid of humans, as you can see in this video.

Too much of a good thing? Are there other mysteriously populated islands that we should know about? Share it with us and we may feature it (and you) on a future blog.


The Copenhagen Nose Memorial

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen features a number of Greek and Roman portrait busts and statues. These are very fragile and a number of them ended up with broken noses. In the 19th century there was a restoration trend, where museums attempted to restore classical art. New noses were fashioned out of marble or plaster and affixed to the statues to make them whole. In the 20th century, this idea was revisited and they decided that the works should be shown in their natural state, brokenness and all.

Nasothek-2

Diagram Lajard derivative work: Hic et nunc (Nasothek.JPG) [Public Domain, CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

During this “de-restoration,” a strange collection of noses and other parts was assembled. Rather than throw them away they were used to create a new piece of art called Nasothek. The purpose of the exhibit is to call to mind the sins of artistic curators of the past so that we may never be tempted to do such a thing again.

One might wish that Steven Spielberg or George Lucas had been given the opportunity to see this monument before they were tempted to revise their own art.

Steve Spielberg infamously used CGI to replace any appearance of a gun in E. T. with a walkie-talkie (Kids, that’s a device used to communicate by radio before everyone had a mobile phone). Spielberg ultimately admitted regret for this decision.

George Lucas made numerous alterations to his Star Wars films, but the most notorious was the “Han shot first” controversy. This is where the later release of Star Wars was altered to make it look as though Han Solo shot a bounty hunter in self defense rather than preemptively. Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the the films, settled the matter once and for all by posting a picture from his shooting script on Facebook. Lucas also saw the light and released the original edit in 2006.

No matter what your art, Nasothek is a reminder that art can and should stand on its own. Imperfections or politically incorrect elements cannot be washed away without wiping the original purpose of the art. We have some of the weirdest art in the land for sale at the Lucky Lizard. We wouldn’t change a bit of it.


We get a flying car?

A few days ago in my post about the guy making a warp drive in his garage I mentioned that I didn’t get my flying car. Then I find this demo video, complete with dramatic Euro music.

This isn’t exactly what some of us imagined when we thought of a flying car. Essentially this is an airplane that you can drive in traffic. I imagine it will still require a pilot’s license. It also requires a conventional runway to take off and land. However, it is a flying car. We can’t complain that they didn’t deliver.

I’m thinking more about the vertical take off and landing (VTOL) sort of design. There is something in the works but, as you can see in this video, it leaves a bit to be desired.

This model, produced by Moller International, only goes about 10 feet up in the air. Looking at it I imagine it’s something like running several lawn mowers together, so it may not be that smooth, luxurious ride you may crave.

Who knows? The automobile evolved pretty quickly from its horseless carriage origins. Maybe the flying car will do the same.


Don’t know what this says about the marriage

Forget the controversy about whether or not to wear white to a wedding. These people are deciding between quilted an extra-absorbent. It’s an contest sponsored by Charmin (as in “don’t squeeze the”) where dress designers create a wedding gown out of toilette paper. Why? Who knows? They’ve been doing it for 11 years.

A model walks the runway wearing ‘Garden Party’ a design by Carol Touchstone during the 11th annual toilet paper wedding dress contest at Kleinfled’s Bridal Boutique in New York June 17, 2015. [Reuters/Brendan McDermid]

 The winner was Donna Pope Vincler. Her gown is pictured here.

A woman wearing a white gown with a veil and tophat

The winning dress in Charmin’s 11th annual toilette paper wedding dress contest.

Alright, yes, it’s very fetching. Not many people can pull off wearing toilette paper like that. Most people just use it as an occasional shoe accessory. Of course, this is probably no weirder than the annual duct tape tuxedo contest, where students can win scholarship for showing pictures of prom wear they’ve created with duct tape. Though, if I have to pick my skill for the zombie apocalypse, I think I’d rather be a duct-tape wizard than a toilette paper princess.

Oh, well! It’s art! Have you ever made something weird like this? Tell us about it! Maybe we’ll feature your strange creation.


More Texas UFOs

The other day I talked about the strange 19th century UFO history of Aurora, Texas. Not all UFO history in Texas is ancient (in Texas years. Those Greeks and Egyptians are just showing off.). Stephenville, Texas has had some really interesting sightings, including one that received a lot of attention in 2008. The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) released a detailed report on the incident, which included their analysis of RADAR data.

More recently there was a bizarre sighting over Houston that was captured by many people, documented in this news report.

Texas has been identified as a UFO hotspot. There is also a web site dedicated to Texas UFO Sightings. If creatures from another planet do decide to make themselves known, Texas would be a good place to start. We’re friendly here, with some open spaces that would make good landing sites. It’s also important that they get a chance to appreciate proper BBQ first. 😉

Have you ever seen a UFO? Tell us about it or share in the comments!


Prehistoric Sea Monster Found Alive!

We’re a little early for Shark Week (Who knew this would become a thing?), and we’re past some of the buzz from Jurassic World, so maybe this is the perfect place to mash up the two. On land, most Jurassic creatures—the ones with massive size and sharp knife-like teeth—have become mostly fossils.

The ocean is a different case. Some creatures from the age of dinosaurs still exist down there. Prepare yourself for one of the most bizarre creatures you’ll ever see: the frilled shark.

These creatures are extremely uncommon, which is probably good, because this looks way scarier than a Great White. However, they have been recorded in a variety of locations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

world map showing blue colored areas to mark sightings

Map of Frilled Shark sightings

For something that’s rare, these are pretty widely spread.

In truth, the frilled shark is not actually a Jurassic creature, but a more modern one that has only been dated back to the early Pleistocene epoch. Its traits are very similar to its older ancestors, giving us a good taste of what it would be like to encounter such a beast.

We love monsters! You can see our life-sized King Kong at the Museum of the Weird on 6th street and visit all of our others in the Sfanthor House of Wax on South Congress. Get a combo pass and see both museums for one great price.


A tiny Texas town with a weird UFO history

You might think that UFO stories about aliens are pretty new, but there’s one in Texas that dates back to 1897. A tiny town called Aurora, just a little north of Ft. Worth (215 miles from the Museum of the Weird), has a mysterious legend about an alien encounter.

photo of an informal grave stone under a crooked tree

Grave site of alleged alien from the crash in 1897

I’m thinking field trip! It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from the Museum. We head out, pay our respects. Maybe we sneak into Ft. Worth for some food and maybe a Stockyard Ghost tour. (There doesn’t seem to be much to eat in Aurora unless you’ve got family there.) I suppose we’d need to stay overnight. It could be a real good time!

Would you go on a weird field trip with us?

There is a full-length documentary about the alien crash in Aurora.


Man Invents Warp Drive in his Garage

What would you say if I told you that there is a guy in Omaha working on building a warp drive—as in “Mr. Sulu, ahead warp factor 2” kind of warp drive? When we are dealing with science this deep we like to get an explanation from guys like Doctor Michio Kaku. Is warp speed even possible?

OK… so maybe it is. If it is, is it available to us in this lifetime. NASA has apparently been exploring this, but we are pulling for Dave Pares, a professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, has been working on the warp problem out of his garage! His Space Warp Project is a privately funded effort that may actually get this done. Here is a video where Professor Pares talks about his vision. (It’s a little more low-key that Dr. Kaku.)

So, does this mean we’ll all be travelling at warp speeds soon? We were all promised jet packs and flying cars, but we haven’t seen much from them. We’re optimistic, though. There’s nothing more inspiring than mad science in a personal lab. If we all send a little good mojo maybe we can get off this rock and start exploring the galaxy properly!

 


Dropping From The Sky In Alaska

When Charles Fort wrote his Book of the Damned, he talked about a number of strange events where things rained out of the sky. There were black rains, red rains, rains of fish, rains of frogs! Apparently that sort of thing still happens. This time it’s bizarre eel-like fish called lampreys in Alaska. (This is not like the rain of spiders that we reported recently.)

There were simple explanations in Fort’s time about all the bizarre goings on, which is what prompted him to write his book in the first place. Here, the official explanation is that seagulls are digging these up and dropping them around. Hopefully we can look forward to photos and video of these bomber birds in action. In the mean time we will also wonder if the lampreys are simply collecting in the Super-Sargasso Sea, the dimension of lost things that Fort proposed.

There must be a lot of keys there…and socks.


Godzilla receives Japanese citizenship

We love that the Japanese are weird. The give us the best game shows and the most disturbing horror. We’re not sure what to think about this one, though.

Photo of Godzilla receiving an award sash

Shizuo Kambayashi—AP
Godzilla receives a sash of “Shinjuku-ward tourism ambassador” from the Kabuki-cho Shopping Area Promotion Association Chief Director Mototsugu Katagiri of Tokyo’s Shinjuku-ward during its awards ceremony in Tokyo, April 9, 2015.

Japan has granted Godzilla full citizenship. For years, Godzilla has risen from the depths and laid Tokyo in ruins. True, he only did it on his own a few times and was often defending them from other monsters, but still, he’s done a lot of damage over the years. Perhaps granting him citizenship means he’ll be able to pay some of that back in taxes.

Of course, this brings up some important questions. What about all of the other monsters? How many monsters who have thrilled and frightened us over the years are left without any support at all? At the Museum of the Weird we have to keep King Kong hidden away upstairs! Many others are of unknown status. Will the United States finally bring reform that lets the monsters we love call this country their home? Time will tell, but we look for a time when there is equality for all monsters.

You can enjoy our collection of monsters at our sister store, Sfanthor. Get a super pass and enjoy both sites for one great price!

unversal_monsters-citizenship


Armchair spelunking

As shown in our recent post about weird inventions, technology goes in lots of different directions. In this case, technology will take you somewhere wonderful without every having to leave your chair.

Use your mouse to explore Vietnam's Son Doong cave

Use your mouse to explore Vietnam’s Son Doong cave

National Geographic has created a stunning interactive tool that will let you explore this wonder of nature, walking through each zone and looking around as though you were there. The 360° views let you look all around and up into the dizzying heights of the cave.

If you like armchair exploring, you’re not just relegated to tours. the PhET project provides simulations for physics, biology, chemistry and other sciencey-wiencey stuff.

Do you know a virtual adventure that we should know about? Share it with us!


Cloning dinosaurs

Hundreds of thousands poured into theatres this weekend to experience Jurassic World. While movie-goers are excited, not everyone is thrilled about the film. Some palaeontologists are preparing themselves for all of the stupid questions they will have to answer about dinosaur cloning. So, do we need to worry about a Jurassic Park disaster?

There you have it. Based on what we currently understand about cloning, we don’t have any way to regenerate a dinosaur. We’re just going to have to rely on time travel. Of course, there are other historic creatures that are within the reasonable DNA half-life, including Neanderthal Man. In this interview with Spiegel from several years ago, scientist, George Church, discusses the plausibility of cloning a Neanderthal Man and other topics that may shock or delight you. Church denied that he was seeking an “Adventurous Woman,”  as some reported, to be a surrogate for a baby Neanderthal. We don’t know if he didn’t get a volunteer or if there were too many. (Can you just imagine the email?)

Photo of Alvin the bearded dragon

Alvin, a bearded dragon, is our official lucky lizard, live and on display

Are these places where science dare not go? If someone discovers a way around the half-life issue or wants to explore brining back a woolly mammoth or Neanderthal should we be worried or buy tickets? As host to the one and only Iceman, we would love to have a pet dinosaur. I guess we’ll have to be content to enjoy our lucky lizard, Alvin, on display in the museum.


Falling with style

It’s a shame that some inventions never caught on. Imagine how stylish flying would have been if the Hoop-Skirt parachute idea, described in the January 1911 edition of Popular Mechanics, had caught on. It’s possible that the manly men at the time balked at the idea of being seen in something that could at any time resemble a skirt. It’s also possible that the idea didn’t really work and they would simply plummet to their death… leaving a good-looking corpse.

Fiske Reading Machine

Portable library, 1920s style

Another idea in the early 20th century was the first book killer. Long before gadgets like computer tablets, inventors already had their sights set on fixing the problem of carrying around cumbersome books. The June 1922 edition of Scientific American shows one solution. The Fiske Reading Machine printed books in tiny print and provided a modified magnifying glass that you could hold up to your eye to read. One can only imagine how this would work on a bumpy carriage ride.

It’s easy to laugh at these things now, but you never know how the next great thing will appear. It might seem like the famous Inside the Egg Egg Scrambler by Ronco. It might end up being sliced bread.

Think that egg scrambler idea is dead? You haven’t been watching Kickstarter. People will do just anything to avoid cleaning that fork and bowl!


Do you take this corpse…

By greyloch from Washington, DC, area, U.S.A. (The Corpse Bride) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Tim Burton’s film, Corpse Bride, Victor Van Dort finds himself unwittingly married to a woman who has been dead for years. Weird fantasy stuff, eh? Not necessarily. The practice of marrying the dead is quite real and more common than you might think.

Called posthumous marriage, the practice of marrying the deceased is legal in France, with similar customs in India, Sudan and China. In France, the custom dates back to World War I, where a few women were married by proxy to soldiers who had died a few weeks earlier. The living party must be able to demonstrate that there was clear intention for the couple to be married. The Guardian reports a posthumous wedding in France as late as 2009.

It’s not just women. The Daily Mail reports the wedding of Thai TV producer, Chadil Deffy, who married his girlfriend, killed in a car accident.

These stories are touching and heart-wrenching all at once. Such a ceremony could provide closure to someone who has been left behind, completing an important part of life that would otherwise have been left unfinished. Of course, it might go deeper. In my travels I had a fascinating conversation with a widow who told me she was still in regular contact with her husband’s spirit who stayed around her house and continued to participate in her life.

Posthumous marriage is not recognized in the United States, though there are cases where people have tried it anyway. Kirsten Smolensky examines Rights of the Dead in the Hofstra Law Review.

Have you been to a strange wedding? Share it with us.


You can see our museum, but then we have to kill you.

When visiting Austin, you must come by the Museum of the Weird to experience first-hand some of the strangest artifacts on earth. When we visit Washington DC, we’re going to go see the International Spy Museum.

This amazing place houses a collection of items and stories of espionage around the world and from the beginning of recorded history. See the stories of famous men and women considered above suspicion—and doubly effective as spies. A Spy’s Eye View of the Civil War is a gallery to highlight the significant role espionage played during the War Between the States. They even provide Interactive Spy Experiences, where you get to see first hand what it’s like to be a spy.

Would you be interested in interactive experiences through the Museum of the Weird? What kind?


What is that in the sky?!

Imagine driving down the road and you see this up ahead.

640px-Saucer_cloud_over_Campbell_Mesa,_AZ

By Brady Smith; Coconino National Forest [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You might feel that we were being invaded, but what you see is an unusual formation called a “lenticular cloud.” These clouds form in situations where some sort of large object (like a mountain or a building) disturbs the air flow and creates an eddie of air. When the conditions are right, clouds form in these eddies and take on a bizarre saucer shape that looks like something from the film, Independence Day.

These weird clouds may account for some UFO reports. Here are some more amazing examples.

512px-Lenticular_clouds_and_Mount_Hotaka_from_Mount_Otensho_1994-06-25

Lenticular clouds and Mount Hotaka from Mount Otensho 1994-06-25
By Alpsdake (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

New-Mexico-Lenticular

By Brandy Jenkins [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Lenticular Clouds over Cagliari

Lenticular Clouds over Cagliari
By fdecomite [CC BY 2.0]

 Of course, not all reports can be explained by clouds. Soon we’ll examine some of the more detailed reports and the organization that constantly tracks and investigates them.


AC vs DC: the Battle’s Not Over

You’ve probably heard about the epic battle between inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla about how electricity would be delivered to the masses. If not, this video will catch you up.

As the video shows, Edison’s campaign was pretty grim. He was convinced that AC power was unsafe and publicly electrocuted a number of animals, including an aging elephant, to prove it. AC had advantages for cheaply delivering power over long distances, so it ultimately won out…or did it.

In this article, Will Tesla Batteries Force Home Wiring to go Low Voltage?, innovations in battery technologies developed by Tesla Motors may force homes and appliances to rewire for DC to be more efficient. The irony of this is staggering. A company inspired by and named for Nikola Tesla may reverse a long-standing convention and get us closer to Edison’s original vision for power distribution.

It makes one wonder if their battle may continue wherever they may be, if they might look at what their creations have wrought and continue to keep score.

You might also be interested in Edison’s device for contacting the dead. We’ll be examining this in more detail soon.

 

 


Bizarre medicine

patient_in_a_cage

Punishment? No! Cure! This cage was a 1909 treatment for Arteriosclerosis. Click the picture for the article in a 1909 science magazine.

There may be a reason why what doctors do is called “practice.” While medicine has become a more rigorous science over time, the history of medicine is filled with things that would have you swear that people were just making things up.

The picture shows a man in a cage. It’s not some sort of medieval torture, it’s a device that was designed to treat Arteriosclerosis. The cage is attached to some electrical equipment that would make Victor Von Frankenstein proud.

Of course, while we laugh at some of these crazy medical practices of the past, we may not be much better today. In the far future will people look with horror on how we used radiation and chemicals to battle disease? Will what we see as the most sophisticated and compassionate medical techniques look like poking holes in people’s skulls with a rock to let out the bad spirits?

Here’s a video featuring 10 of the most bizarre medical practices in history.


Loyalty cards for drug dealers

Split photo showing drugs being exchanged and close-ups of French loyalty cards

Example of a French loyalty card for drugs

So, you go into your favorite sandwich shop and they punch your card with each purchase as you work your way toward a free sandwich. You go to your grocery store, and you use a card for members-only discounts. Why can’t a marijuana dealer be like that? Well, in Marsaille, France, it seems that they are.

This article in La Provence (French. English translation by Google) describes how drug dealers in Marseille are trying to give their customers a break and reward them with special discounts for regular customers. Just like your sandwich card they give you a stamp for each purchase. Fill the card up and you qualify for special discounts.

Dealing drugs is illegal in Marsaille, as it is in many places. Yet it seems to be lucrative enough that people not only continue to deal, but engage in marketing programs as well. How weird is that?


Are you experienced?

Are you a fan of paranormal reality shows? If you are, it may feel like the world is filled with psychics who are flooded with feelings and visions surrounded by observers who would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. I know that some people watching these programs become very frustrated with their own explorations. Real paranormal experiences don’t usually happen like they look on TV. They can be more subtle, and certainly a lot less frequent than you would think.

You might take comfort in this blog entry by Kelly Roncace, Paranormal Corner: Intimate experience at Eastern State Penitentiary. She admits that, while an active investigator, she has rarely “felt” any kind of a connection on an investigation. It has happened, but it’s been obscure.

This is very honest and, I think, very important for everyone interested in paranormal investigation to hear. There are spectacular psychic experiences, but there are also many other kinds of subtle feelings and connections that are discarded because they’re not what’s expected and many are trained to ignore such things because they’re not “real.” Just because you’re not flooded with visions and voices doesn’t mean that you’re not connecting with anything. Not everyone experiences the same things in the same ways. Not everyone has the same intensity. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it will always be a whisper.

My own experience, and that of every psychic and medium I’ve interviewed, suggest that the important thing is to keep trying to be open. Record your successes, even when they feel tiny. Share with others who may be able to help you make sense of what’s happening. Experiment with different techniques. Be patient and persistent.

If something does happen for you, share it with us.

Here’s a snippet of video from Kelly’s investigation. You can see more footage from other investigators on YouTube.

 


Most interesting ways to die

Every state in the U.S. has it’s own claim to fame. Iowa has the lowest divorce rate and Maine has the least violent crime. Idaho is a cheap place to buy groceries. Arizona prides itself on being the sunniest state.  Rhode Island had the lowest energy consumption per capita while Texas has the most wind energy.

Of course, none of them talk about what’s really important. What are their most distinctive ways to die? The biggest killers in the United States are still heart disease and cancer. But it seems that some more unusual causes of death are actually much more typical in certain states compared with the nation as a whole. Tuberculosis in Texas? Plane and boat accidents are problems in Alaska and Idaho! Legal intervention, deaths caused by law enforcement officers, excluding legal executions, seem to be the most distinctive cause of death in New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon.

Remember, these are just statistical anomalies. It doesn’t mean that people are falling over from the flu in Wyoming. But, if you’re looking for just the right way to steer people away from an ugly political discussion, these facts may be the perfect icebreaker. You’ll thank me later.


Gator:1, Pickup: 0

A man is driving his truck through some high grass and comes across an alligator. Of course, you’re going to take out your phone and film this. Then you might play a little chicken with the gator, trying to get him to move along. Then…

 

Wow! I guess they don’t make them like they used to! The steel bumper on my Grandaddy’s old Chevy pickup would have been more of a match for this thing. I wonder if having video of you taunting an alligator into going Godzilla on you affects the insurance claim.

If you have video of a strange animal encounter, send it to us!