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Archive for July, 2015

Music of the trees

People talk about harmony in nature. Artist and engineer, Bartholomaus Traubeck, took this quite literally with his unusual creation that turns the rings on a tree into music.

The device looks very much like a vinyl DJ station. A slice of tree is put on a turntable and an arm with a sensor tracks the rings, converting them to piano notes. The music is unlike anything that you’ve ever heard. Here is a video of one tree’s song that he calls “Years.” It begins at the center of the tree, the youngest part, and then works its way out to the edges. It’s fascinating to hear everything become more complex as the tree ages.

The scientific study of tree rings is called Dendrochronology. There is currently no word for someone who creates music from them. Is he a composer? The music is in the trees; he is using technology to find and interpret it. Perhaps some things don’t need a classification. That’s why they’re wonderfully weird.

Traubeck provides more detail about his motivations and methods in this Huffington Post interview. You can hear more tree music and purchase albums through his web site.

Do you know of more music from nature? Tell us about it!


Artist creates bizarre crocheted skeletal remains

We have some bizarre art for sale at the Lucky Lizard. But we also have to tip our hats to people who create amazingly bizarre works. Caitlin T. McCormack is one such artist. Using string, Caitlin creates intricate animal skeletons that will cause a double-take. Here is a video with some startling examples. (Warning: the funky music might need to be turned down in your environment.)

You can see a fuller portfolio on her web site. For those who appreciate the intricate architecture of the skeleton, they are beautiful to behold. Unfortunately, as of this writing, she appears to be sold out of everything, or we might find a way to include one in the Museum.

We are in, awe, however. It is all amazingly done and we are grateful to have the chance to see them virtually.


Buried alive in Brazil

You may have seen a recent story repeated from dailybuzz.com with titles like “Woman Buried Alive, Funeral Goers Hear Screams From The Grave.” Snopes declares this story to be false, and is is honestly unlikely that with the embalming processes commonly used in the United States that someone would make to the grave alive. However, it is not unheard of, even in our modern age, for someone presumed dead to be discovered alive in the nick of time. For example, this case in Mississippi where a man was discovered to be breathing on the embalming table!

We covered a story in 2011where a South African man was nearly buried alive. In that case the man was discovered in time. Here, there is startling video from 2013 where a Brazilian man was discovered trying to crawl from his own grave!

Should you be worried about being buried alive? Probably not. In general, modern medical professionals do a pretty good job of detecting life, or lack thereof. Of course, if you want to experience the idea of being buried alive, there is a device for haunted attractions that will give you that experience. Your author has tried this out at a HauntCon convention several years ago. You lay inside a coffin and the lid is closed. You feel it picked up, carried to your grave as people outside the coffin comment. Finally, feel yourself lowered into the grave and feel dirt tossed on you as the world becomes more and more distant. It’s probably not for everyone.


Loch Ness monster hunter not giving up

After nearly a quarter of a century, Steve Feltham is still on the hunt for Nessie, the mysterious creature reported to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. A July 16 article in The Times newspaper claimed that Feltham was giving up the search because he had concluded that Nessie is a catfish. (This New York Post version of the story doesn’t require a subscription.)

Silurus glanis 02

Steve Feltham suggests that the Loch Ness Monster may be a misidentified Wels Catfish, which can grow to 13 ft.
(Photo by Dieter Florian tauchshop-florian.de [CC BY-SA 3.0])

However, the rumors of the end of his quest are exaggerated. When Fletham spoke to Reuters he said “It’s still a massive world-class mystery. It’s been a life-long passion for me and I’m dedicated to being here and being fully involved in this whole hunt. I couldn’t be more content doing anything else.”

When asked about his catfish theory Feltham replied “At the moment, a Wels catfish ticks more of the boxes than any of the other contenders for the explanation. I would like it to be something new and undiscovered rather than something a little bit mundane. People do report four- or five-feet long necks sticking up out of Loch Ness. That’s not going to be a Wels catfish.”

Steve Feltham walked away from his home, his job and his girlfriend in 1991 to take up residence in a little trailer next to Loch Ness. He keeps watch with a set of powerful binoculars and sells little Nessie sculptures to tourists. What caused him to take such a huge leap in his life? This video from his Nessie Hunter web site tells the story best.

Feltham is the best kind of monster hunter. His dedication and even-headedness on this search is admirable and gives us hope that he will find the truth. Watch how he handles this news reporter.

We’ve talked about Feltham before in these articles from June and July of 2011.

Glad to have you out there, Steve Feltham. Best of luck on your quest!


Vampire flowers had willing donor

rose-224862_1280In 1963 a man named Ralph Farrar was diagnosed with a disease called Hemochromatosis. The result was that his blood had too much iron. The treatment at the time—which is still recommended today—is removal of blood from the body on a regular basis. Once a week, Farrar would go to the doctor where they would remove a pint of his blood.

Blood taken for this purpose cannot be used as part of a blood bank, so he found another use. Once a week he would pour a bottle on his roses as an iron-rich fertilizer. Ralph lived in San Antonio, Texas, but his story was picked up by the Associated Press (AP). Here is an archive of the original article as it appeared in the Tuscaloosa News on June 29, 1963.

Of course, the most famous plant that demanded blood was Audrey II, the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, which started as a 1960 Roger Corman film, then became a popular Broadway musical, finally returning to film in 1986, directed by Frank Oz.


Is this a sign?

A swarm of locusts heading from Texas to Oklahoma was so large that it was detected on Doppler RADAR.

In the Bible book of Exodus, chapter 10, Egypt is struck by a plague of locusts as Moses demands that the Pharaoh let his people go! What did Oklahoma do?

According to National Geographic, locusts, which are normally more solitary insects, will band together into a ravenous group when conditions are lush. This group will move over the land, devouring everything it can. Swarms can be up to 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometers), containing 40 to 80 million locusts in less than half a square mile (one square kilometer).

Here is video of a swarm in progress.

This is worse than the rain of spider we reported a while back! At least they weren’t destructive.

Nature is always weirder and more powerful than we imagine.

 


Ouija does it…

ouija_boards

Three talking boards await clearing by Doc Saul Ravencraft.

As I give tours to visitors at the Museum of the Weird I tell them about my role in making sure that everything our owner, Steve, brings to the Museum is safe for display to the public. We have young people and drinking people who come in and we don’t want anything that will be spiritually challenging or that might follow you home.

Recently, Steve walks in with these three talking boards that I think he bought from an estate sale. If you are alive, you know that talking boards (Ouija is treated as a trademarked brand name by Parker Brothers) have a reputation for ghostly activity and demonic possession that would make for a good horror film. Though, it usually makes for a bad horror film; the 2014 film Ouija only hit 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you are dead, you might find these corridors of communication to be pretty interesting. (I’m not sure what our readership is from beyond.)

Are talking boards dangerous? Are they invitations to dark spirits? Are they a telephone to relatives on the other side? Are they a party game that is more hoax than hex?

ouija_does_it

May 1, 1920 cover featuring Ouija board art by Norman Rockwell

Talking boards haven’t always had this terrible reputation. When they were first made commercial by William Fuld in 1890 spiritualism was in its heyday. People didn’t have an Xbox to gather around so they found other ways to entertain themselves. A séance made for a fun evening, whether you were a true believer or not. (It still does.) It was a common enough part of Americana that Norman Rockwell chose it for the May 1, 1920 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

To get a feel for all of this, I highly recommend looking through the on-line Museum of Talking Board’s gallery. There are some beautiful and quirky versions of the talking board.

The darker reputation of the Ouija board is a more recent phenomenon. It’s not hard to find terrifying tales by people whose game turned into something supernatural. Religious and skeptical groups cry out against them, though for opposite reasons. Even so, the boards remain popular, with the classic boards selling more. Beautiful, artistic versions of the board are widely produced.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a fancy board to make a connection. You can make your own talking board with a piece of paper, Scrabble® tiles or any number of methods. For homemade methods it’s common to use an overturned glass. There are also games, such as the more recent Charlie Charlie, that look to connect with nothing more than a piece of paper and a couple of pencils. (Some of the Charlie Charlie videos are pretty funny.)

On my end, I used my own methods to clear these talking boards of any previous spiritual presence they might contain. The Ouija Queen board went to another collector and the other two came into my own. Will they be tools for amusement or will they open gateways into terror? Time will tell. Until then, I leave you with this brief TV ad by Parker Brothers.

 


The real Annabelle

The Real Annabelle

Ed Warren poses with Annabelle, the haunted doll

Yesterday we told you about Joliet the haunted doll. She is not the most terrifying story we found. In fact, there are many, many reports of haunted dolls. Because of the film depictions, the most famous is probably Annabelle. Demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, were the investigators who encountered this haunted doll.

As you can see, the real doll looks a lot different than what is depicted in the film. It’s an adorable, harmless-looking rag doll. Perhaps that obvious innocence is  what makes the story so much more terrifying. We can understand a creepy doll being possessed. It makes much less sense for something like this.

This video tells you the story of Annabelle, without a lot of extra scares thrown in. Honestly, we think the real story is creepier. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 29% for the film a lot of people seem to agree.

 

We’ll share more stories about haunted dolls and other artifacts in the future. There is a reason we are so careful with the items that come into the Museum. Share your own haunted artifact story.


Joliet the haunted doll

People who have never had a paranormal experience cannot imagine it. Employees who were not in the Museum of the Weird when we experienced most of our own activity don’t fully understand the confusion, the anxiety, and the fear that was caused by seemingly innocuous events. In a story there are all kinds of possibilities, even probabilities. When it actually happens to you it’s a singularity.

Among the objects that are reported as haunted, dolls come up again and again. If you’ve ever been in the house of an avid doll collector you can probably understand why. There is something unsettling about being surrounded by a multitude of unblinking faces. But some reports go far beyond just being unnerved. This video tells the story of Joliet, a doll whose haunting is mired in pain and grief.

Have you every had an experience with a haunted object? Tell us about it.


Nosferatu director’s head stolen!

Truth is often stranger than fiction. A July 14th article of German news site Spiegel:Online, (original German or Google translation) reports that the skull of director, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931), has apparently been stolen from the family mausoleum. Murnau introduced vampires to film with his classic 1922 silent film, “Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror.” It appears that the thieves targeted Fredrich’s coffin in particular. The two coffins of his brothers remained undisturbed.

Investigators also found wax residue around the coffins that could have come from candles. Were these used simply for light or was some dark ritual performed in the grave during the theft?

As you can see in this trailer, Nosferatu gave us some iconic ideas about horror that are still echoed in today’s films.

If you haven’t seen this classic, it’s worth viewing. A restored version is on YouTube.

Why was the head stolen? Was it just a bold souvenir seeker? Is this going to sit in someone’s private collection? Or is this more sinister? Has this been taken for some sort of occult purpose? If so, what?

So far there are no leads that have been made public.

 


Robber disgraces rodents everywhere

Yesterday, we talked about the heroic bomb-sniffing rats of Cambodia and how rats are being used as other kinds of service animals. We also talked about how some of these unconventional service animals are struggling with acceptance because some people find them to be alarming.

Today we feature a human criminal who is adding to that fear by robbing a store dressed as a mouse.

Canadian police released this video of a man robbing a shop dressed as a giant mouse. You can see details in this Sky News article. Not only is this man doing harm to society, he is harming the image of innocent animals and continuing to drive the wedge deeper between people and rodents of all kind.

If you must disguise yourself for a robbery, wear the mask of a politician. At least there the mistrust will do us good.


Unusual safety animals in Cambodia

We’ve all seen stories of animals that have been trained to help humans. We’ve heard of carrier pigeons, rescue dogs, and medical service animals. Now, meet the bomb-sniffing rat.

Pouch rats in Cambodia are replacing dogs used to sniff out explosives.

Their small size and agility, combined with their extraordinary sense of smell, makes these pouch rats an ideal, if unexpected, service animal. Of course, these aren’t the only service rats. As seen in this article, rats are being used in ways that were normally reserved for more conventional pets.

Not everyone is OK with some of these unconventional service animals. Daniel Green has a seizure-sensing red-tailed boa constrictor named Redrock and is dealing with legal challenges because it is not considered an approved service animal.

We hope that Cambodia’s heroic rats will help people to appreciate that any creature can connect with humans, even if it seems a little weird.


Flame on—spontaneous human combustion

A recent rash of news articles has focused on the strange case of the nine-day-old child of Karna Perumal, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Rajeswari from T. Parangini in Villuppuram district of Tamil Nadu. According to some, this baby was a victim of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC), a condition where a person bursts into flames, apparently without any external cause. This incident is, understandably, controversial, so I’m not going to focus on it today, but it’s not the only case of SHC to get attention. Here is video of a case involving a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran who survived an incident when his feet burst into flames.

The idea of SHC began appearing in fiction as early as 1834. Charles Dickens even used the concept in his story Bleak House.

Does this really happen? We’re honestly not sure. It’s just another weird mystery in our wonderfully weird world!


What happened over Rendelsham Forest?

In a recent article we referenced statements by former Canadian Defense Minister, Paul Hellyer, about his belief that we were being visited by beings from other planets and that the US government was covering it up. Now we find footage featuring another witness that we would expect to be credible describing a detailed UFO experience with a similar claim.

US Army deputy commander Colonel Charles Halt recounts his experience, December 1980, when he witnessed UFO activity over Rendelsham Forest in Suffolk, England.

Often, a criticism of such accounts is that The witnessed are untrained observers or not credible. In both of these cases we have people who should have good authority on these matters. Surely their experiences should create curiosity. Stories like these remain on the fringe, however. Fortunately, we at the Museum of the Weird continue to look in the shadowy areas of the news and bring this to you.

Do you think Earth is visited by creatures from other worlds? Do you think they are here to help us or harm us? We’ll continue to share the best evidence we can find.


Death by selfie

Recently, Russia released a pamphlet advising people about the deadly consequences of taking selfies. Apparently, the carelessness of people trying to capture themselves for social-media posterity has become so dangerous that people need to be warned. Warned about what? Take a look at these icons from the pamphlet. Are any of these you?

RussianSelfies

Icons from Russian Selfie pamphlet highlight some important “dont’s”

Is this seriously a problem? Are people actually selfying themselves to death? Scoff if you will, but watch this video of several deadly selfie incidents from around the world first.

If we were going to bet on a way for the human race to end itself we would have gone for nuclear war or something like that. We never even had a bet on Selfie Apocalypse. So, if you need to take pictures of yourself, please be careful. Even better, come and do it in the safety of our Museum with our life-sized King Kong!

Of course, we should also remind you that you should not send selfies to loved ones after you die, either. (See our earlier article about a selfie from Hell, literally.)


Print me a part

In an article the other day we talked about a tragic story where parts of remains were confiscated by the state. While that battle is being waged we discover an area where technology is creating body parts using 3D printing technology.

Here is video showing a heart valve replacement.

According to this article by Forbes Magazine, there are several areas where 3D printing may revolutionize medicine by fashioning replacements rather than requiring donors.

Besides heart valves here are other parts that may get the 3D treatment:

  • Blood vessels—artificial blood vessels have been produced which might be used in transplants
  • Skin—The body’s largest organ is hard to do without. There are emergency medical applications and cosmetic ones.
  • Liver cells—While not intended for “internal use,” these artificial liver cells can be used in lab experiments to mimic liver behavior to aid in research and medicine testing.
  • Ears—Apparently ear structure lends itself rather well to 3D printing, and a number of people are receiving bionic ears

Of course, that’s just the beginning. There is work being done to replace bones and other tissues. Some people complain that working with a doctor is a lot like going to a body shop. This may become even more true as parts become more available.

Of course, this also makes one wonder about what will happen with body augmentation for style and function. As we get better at creating parts will people begin to enhance themselves? You know they will! The future is going to look pretty weird. Maybe that’s not so bad.

 


Scary wasp

Pepsis formosa02

By Davehood at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

If you don’t like bugs, this one may not be for you. Have you ever been stung by a wasp? Painful? It’s not nearly the pain you’d experience if you’d been stung by the Tarantula Hawk. This ginormous wasp has the most painful sting on the planet, according to the Schmidt pain index.

What in the world requires this insect to be so bad-assed? It hunts tarantulas! This wasp attacks tarantulas and lays eggs inside, which grow in the host, eventually emerging and devouring it. Ain’t nature beautiful? Here is video of a battle between a Tarantula Hawk and its prey. These are tough little things!

 

 


Some parts may not be included

If it’s never happened to you, it’s difficult to understand the tragedy of losing a loved one, especially in a death that requires an autopsy. The tension is terrible as you wait for the body to be returned from the authorities so that you can begin the process of burial or cremation. What if you discovered that parts of your loved one were missing? confiscated by the authorities?

This actually happened to the family of Brian Shipley of Staten Island who died in a 2005 car crash. Years after he was buried, a highschool classmate was doing a tour of the medical examiner’s office and found his friend’s brain preserved and proudly displayed in a jar. The family had no idea about this.

The Shipleys sued, as their beliefs require that the body be buried as a whole. The case has finally made it through the court. According to an article in the New York Daily News, the court decided it is legal for a medical examiner to keep body parts from an autopsy for their own use and that they don’t even have to tell the family.

Is it reasonable for a medical examiner to be able to keep a few souvenirs of their work? What do we say to people whose beliefs require a full accounting of the remains? Should people be compensated in some way when the state keeps a piece or two?

Personally, your author finds this pretty outrageous.


Which aliens are you rooting for?

You’re stopped on a deserted road, responsibly pulled over as you text your friends. Suddenly, the phone goes dead. The car goes dead. You are stranded in the dark in the middle of nowhere. A light, as bright as the sun, erupts in the darkness and you are chilled to the bone as you realize you are about to have a close encounter with alien life. But which ones will it be?

According to the article,  The 6 Alien Species Currently Fighting for Control Over Earth, not all aliens are alike. Does this seem fantastic to you? Then maybe you missed this interview by former Canadian Defense Minister, Paul Hellyer, as he went on international television to discuss his personal knowledge of 4 major species. Here is an excerpt from this interview.

The full, half-hour interview is available on YouTube. We talked about Mr. Hellyer’s startling perspective in a previous article from 2011. He has not strayed from his story and continues to promote his belief that we are being watched and warned to get our act together.

Does that sound familiar? It’s the plot of a 1951 movie called The Day the Earth Stood Still. We found a radio adaption of this classic story broadcast by the Lux Radio Theater on January 4, 1954. You can listen here or download the mp3 for some drive-time entertainment. Is Hellyer recalling a famous science fiction plot, or is this story a reflection of real events?

Are we being visited by creatures from another world? Are they genuinely interested in our well-being, or are we just curiosities to them, to be studied and experimented on as we would with rats and insects? Have you had an alien encounter? Tell us about it!


If you give a mouse a Mountain Dew

We’ve all heard some of the food horror stories: animal and human body parts found mixed amongst the fries; things found packaged in the factory. Often these are just tales. But there’s an interesting twist to this one.

Around 2009, a man named Ronald Ball claimed he bought a can of Mountain Dew from a vending machine which contained the remains of a mouse. That is disturbing! Perhaps more disturbing was the response that PepsiCo filed with the court an 8 April 2010. An affidavit from Lawrence McGill, a licensed veterinarian with a speciality in veterinary pathology stated that after a mouse submerged in Mountain Dew for 30 days would “have been transformed into a ‘jelly-like’ substance.” I’ll give you a moment to ponder that while I take a sip of my beverage.

Is this possible? Would leaving a mouse in a can of Mountain Dew actually cause it to dissolve? Let’s try science!

Explorer Multimedia helps find the truth with an experiment where they soak a rodent in Mountain Dew for 30 days. You might not want to view this over lunch.

There you have it! Clearly Ronald Ball was having us on. Shame on you, Ronald! And, may I add? EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!


Happy 4th of July, 2015

BigfootWithFlagToday is a day to reflect on independence, not just in the United States of America, but in the Northern Mariana Islands, Rwanda and the Philippines. Of course, the freedom we enjoy the most at the Museum of the Weird is the freedom of expression. It is wonderful to be able to explore the weird and wonderful mysteries and to ponder them, even when our views might not be in the majority opinion.

If you celebrate today, we hope that it is a grand holiday. If not, we hope that you find an opportunity to express your own weirdness.


Monuments of bone

Humans have a fascination with the remains of our ancestors. There are many examples in the Museum of ways that artifacts have been preserved for religious, magical, and historical purposes. Some of our items have come with a little extra, such us Emily, the skeleton which arrived with a ghost who haunts the Museum.

Of course, by some standards our collection is ridiculously tame. Here is a fascinating panoramic view of a bizarre chapel in Czermna, Poland, constructed with human skulls and bones. Move your mouse around in the picture to look all around.

You can read more about this fascinating monument in this article from the Smithsonian Institute.

There is also the Seldec Ossuary, also known as “the Kutna Hora bone church.” This video tour shows how human bones have been used to create chandeliers and other things in the monastery.

Are these the vestiges of superstition, throwbacks to a time when we looked for souls in a sneeze? Are they respect for the vast number of lives who have come before us? Are they just weird art?

Come to the Museum of the Weird and experience our mummies, skeletal items, and other bizarre examples of how people have kept the dead near by. See some other examples of bone monuments in this article by Mental Floss.


Does anyone still think animals are dumb?

Photo of Alvin the bearded dragon

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

torgo

The late, great Torgo titled “Random lizard at Museum of the Weird” by Mike M (Oct 2012)

At the Museum of the Weird we have Alvin, our official lucky lizard. He’s been with us for about seven years or so. We’ve had a number of other live animals around, including our beloved Torgo, a Nile Monitor who was with us for many years before finally succumbing to old age. Anyone who has spent time with animals knows that they are capable of connection. I know someone who is very fond of birds and experiences affection from them. We certainly feel it with our lizards.

Of course, there are still those who don’t get that. Perhaps some of the continued explorations of science will cause people to rethink their ideas about lesser animals.

In these fascinating videos from the University of Lincoln we see examples of animals that you would not normally think of as smart demonstrating their ability to learn some extraordinary things. This first video shows a bearded dragon, like Alvin, who has learned by watching how to open the door to his cage. Previously, this sort of imitation was thought to only occur in higher level creatures.

Next we see a tortoise who has learned how to use a touch screen.

Surely anyone who spends enough time around animals discovers that they have their own kinds of complex interactions with the world. As we connect with them, rather than simply trying to control them or observe them, we find that there is surprising overlap. Is that honestly so weird?


Are mutant mosquitoes a good idea?

According to an article from Collective Evolution millions of genetically modified mosquitoes are set to be released. Here’s a news report from a channel in Fort Meyers, Florida.

I don’t pretend to be a scientific expert in this area and I do believe in progress through science, but a few questions come to mind:

  • The report says that the mosquitoes will be manually sexed so that no females are released. (Apparently this is done by looking at the antennae.) How would you like to have that job?
  • If any of the females are missed and someone is bitten could that have any unforeseen affects? I’m guessing that part of the testing was for Oxitec to be bitten by a few of them.

If this happens it will be a grand experiment. Either it will all work exactly as predicted and these mutants will create a lot of benefit for the population by reducing pests and the disease that they carry. If not—well, there are plenty of comic books that suggest the possibilities. In either case we will know.