Archive for October, 2009

The Houdini Seance!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Thanks to everyone who helped make this a reality including David Nott, Barry & Stuart, Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Penn Jillette, Teller and David Copperfield. Very special thanks to Brandon of the JREF for making sure this happened and, of course, to James Randi for allowing us the space and making a very special cameo at the beginning.

Weirdest Thing In The World Chat: Houdini Pregame

Friday, October 30th, 2009


We are still unsure of the exact details on where but on the Weirdest Thing in the World chat today at 5:30 p.m. we are going to announce the official final line-up of celebrity word donors for our big Halloween Houdini Seance.

Other than that we’ll go over some of our weirdest stories of the week and maybe even have a little mini-challenge to find the Weirdest Element of Houdini’s Life.

Got a suggestion or a topic you want us to touch on, email JustinRobertYoung@Gmail.

It all goest down today at 5:30 p.m. EST on the Weirdest Thing In The World live chat. Believe…

Penn & Teller, Michael Shermer, David Nott Among Those Helping Us Contact Houdini

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Before Houdini’s death, he famously gave his wife a code word. This was to prevent mediums and psychics from coming to her door, breathlessly confirming that they had spoken with Harry after his passing. With the word, she could immediately double check their work by asking if he’d passed along the secret message.

As time passed, the word (“believe”) slipped out. And we can all agree that when Criss Angel uses it as the name of his Vegas spectacular, it’s officially played out.

So for our Houdini Seance, THIS SATURDAY at 9 p.m. EST LIVE ON THE FRONT PAGE OF WEIRDTHINGS.COM, we needed new words. Thankfully, we have some friends to help us out…

Author, speaker and editor of Skeptic Magazine Michael Shermer will help us with a word.

President of the Reason foundation, David Nott has agreed to contribute.

Magicians, BS artists and soon-to-be TV detectives Penn & Teller will EACH give us a word suitable for Harry Houdini himself to divine from beyond the grave.

All of those listed above are sending their words to James Randi who will seal them in envelopes and challenge us to discover their contents with the help of Houdini’s spirit.

But that is not all, expect more announcements today and tomorrow!

Ask Weird Things!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

We’re planning our next podcast and we want you to be a part of it.

What weird thing do you want the “brain trust” to discuss? Just post it in the comments.

Do Orbs Contain Secret Images?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The problem with orbs (besides trying not to take a photo with them in a dusty home) is that once you accept the scientific explanation, they become quite boring.

Although they’re readily explained by basic physics and can be easily replicated, some people still hold the idea that orbs are evidence of the paranormal.

MsEVP’s Flickr set shows her interpretations of orbs. She enlarges them several hundreds of times and sees mysterious images inside of them. You be the judge:

Flickr link

Explore a Haunted Necropolis Right Now!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Thanks to the wonder of Microsoft’s Synth technology, we can explore haunted cities of the dead from the safety of your own home and avoid any avenging mummy unpleasantness.

Check out this Synth of the Necropolis of Saqqara, an Egyptian burial site dating back to the First Dynasty. (Microsoft Silverlight plugin required.)

link Photosynth – Necropolis of Saqqara

The Houdini Seance Live on the Internet

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

skitched-20091023-164057.jpgThis Halloween, The James Randi Educational Foundation and present a never-before-attempted experiment. In front of a live internet audience, a group of prominent skeptics and magicians will try to make contact with the spirit of Harry Houdini, the world’s most famous magician and challenger of the supernatural.

What makes this attempt unique is that it’s being conducted by skeptics and magicians in the hopes that if contact from beyond the grave is possible, Houdini would prefer to make it with skeptics and magicians like himself.

World famous magician and skeptic James Randi will oversee the seance and will help supervise the attempt to communicate.

The seance will be conducted by magician and publisher of Andrew Mayne, editor-in-chief Justin Robert Young and magician and Scam School star Brian Brushwood.

The seance will consist of several tests for attempted communication. Words and images provided by prominent magicians and skeptics and held by James Randi will be attempted to be divined through various supernatural means including Ouija boards, automatic writing and spirit photography.

Rehearsals for the event will be held on Friday October 30th at 1 PM and Saturday at 2 PM at the Isaac Asimov Memorial Library. For press access contact Justin at 954-892-5665

Contact information

Andrew Mayne:Phone: (323) 743-3466 Email:

Justin Robert Young:Phone: (954) 892-5665 Email:

James Randi and a spokesperson for the James Randi Educational Foundation are available for interview upon request.
954-467-1112 Email:

No Weirdest Thing In The World Chat Today

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

We regret to inform you that we are shelving the Weirdest Thing in the World live chat today. Justin Robert Young’s voice is currently listed as “day to day.” Next week, we will do a double special edition of the chat as the big lead in for our Houdini Seance on Halloween.

Sing it, Rueben.

Invisibility Ray or Magic Trick?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

According to an article from the October 1936 issue of Modern Mechanix, invisibility wasn’t just a possibility, it was a reality. The author credulously reports a description of an invisibility ray, but states emphatically that, “This is no illusion done by some magician, no trick of mirrors, it is asserted, but an actual performance of a new device which produces and projects what, for lack of a better name, may be called an ‘invisible ray.'”

Read the description of the potential applications and decide for yourself…

SUPPOSE that out onto a stage come eight chorus girls performing an intricate dance. Gradually something seems to happen, the heads, faces, and upper parts of the bodies of the girls seem to be disappearing. In fact, little by little they do become invisible to the audience until at last only eight pairs of legs are seen gracefully skipping about on the stage in perfect rhythm. You rub your eyes and begin to think you’d better see an oculist right away, but while you are worrying about it, back into your vision come the eight girls, wholly there and dancing gaily as though they had not just given you the shock of a lifetime. Or suppose again that a girl is sitting atop a piano, singing. The piano begins to fade from sight; finally the girl is left sitting in midair, nonchalantly swinging her feet and blithely singing, as though her perch was perfectly substantial.

If you did not think that you were just “seeing things,” right off you’d say, “Some invisible wires, or anyway, a cleverly arranged set of mirrors.” But you would be wrong in your guess. At least so says Mr. Adam Gosztonyi, the inventor of a machine which he claims can accomplish just such disappearing acts as have been described.

For something that’s not a magician’s trick, it’s kind of odd that all of the theoretical applications are theatrical in nature.

At that same time an illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost and the Blue Room was well known to magicians. It did *exactly* the same thing as described in the demonstration and under the same conditions. Check out a YouTube video here of a historic recreation of the effect (two facts: 1. It uses a mirror. 2. I’ve touched it).

In defense of the Modern Mechanix reporter, it’s a really awesome effect.

link: Modern Mechanix Invisibility At Last Within Grasp of Man

Is There a Lost Race of Ape-Men?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

In the Michael Crichton book Congo and movie by the same name, he describes a race of super-apes almost on par with man in intelligence. Like much of Crichton’s work, he based this on science speculation. For thousands of years there have been stories of ape-men that fell outside our conventional definitions of humans, gorillas, chimps and orangutan.

In 500 BC, Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian explorer described this encounter off the Western coast of Africa:

At the terminus of Hanno’s voyage the explorer found an island heavily populated with what were described as hirsute and savage people. Attempts to capture the males failed, but three of the females were taken. These were so vicious they were killed, and their skins preserved for transport home to Carthage.

The name the intrepreters gave for them was “gorillae”. 2,000 years later explorers would use that word to describe modern day gorillas. But were they gorillas? Hanno described finding these “savage people” in a place far from where gorillas are known to inhabit (the historical version of the story is in Greek and not Hanno’s native Punic, suggesting it’s been repeatedly rewritten). Taking it at face value, it could be that Hanno found an isolated group of gorillas that went extinct. But if it was a distinct population of gorillas on that island, it’s very likely it was a unique species of gorilla with its own behaviors and characteristics (gorillas are now divided into two distinct species with two subspecies each).

By 1847, after the gorilla had been discovered by the West, we had a clearer picture of the major ape species: Humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutan. But since then stories of other species have persisted.

The 19th Century French-American explorer Paul du Chaillu described a species of ape whose behavior doesn’t quite describe what we know about chimpanzees or gorillas.

This ape, whose singular cry distinguishes at once from all its cougeners in these wilds, is remarkable, as bearing a closer resemblance to man than any other ape yet known. It is very rare and I was able to obtain but one specimen of it. The face is bare and black. the forehead is higher than any other ape, and the cranial capacity greater by measurement. The eyes are wider apart than any other ape. The nose is flat. The cheek bones are high and prominent, and the cheek sunken and lank. The sides of the face are covered with a growth of straight hair, which meeting under the chin like the human whiskers, gives the face a remarkably human look. The arms reach below the knee. The ears are very larger, and are more nearly like the human ear than those of other apes.

Saying that it was a “gorilla” or a “chimpanzee” isn’t as helpful of a classification as we might think. Natural history museums are filled with interesting specimens that push the boundaries of gorilla and chimpanzee taxonomy, but are still within those boundaries. A skull and a DNA test can tell us something about how a creature lived, but not the whole picture. A modern day Dane and a pygmy bushmen look about as different as you could imagine, but genetically they’re the same species.

Science encounters a lost race of apes
The idea that of a living chimpanzee or gorilla species with much different physical and behavioral traits (like the gorillas in Congo) got a big boost from the scientific community when credible reports began emerging from the Congo of a large ape that displayed both chimp and gorilla like behavior.

Shelley Williams PhD, a specialist in primate behavior had this encounter with the “Bili Apes” in the Congo: From Wikipedia

“We could hear them in the trees, about 10 m away, and four suddenly came rushing through the brush towards me. If this had been a mock charge they would have been screaming to intimidate us. These guys were quiet, and they were huge. They were coming in for the kill – but as soon as they saw my face they stopped and disappeared.”

Williams continues:

“The unique characteristics they exhibit just don’t fit into the other groups of apes,” says Williams. The apes, she argues, could be a new species unknown to science, a new subspecies of chimpanzee, or a hybrid of the gorilla and the chimp. “At the very least, we have a unique, isolated chimp culture that’s unlike any that’s been studied,”.

Genetically, evidence indicates the Bili Apes are identical with known chimpanzees. But there’s more to physiology and behavior than what’s encoded in the genes. While there are conflicting reports about the physical traits of the Bili Apes, the consensus is that they are larger than common chimps and much bolder.

Presently they are threatened by bush meat hunters and gold miners who are encroaching into their habitat.

With the verification that there is indeed a Bili Ape that has its own distinct behavior and appearance, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that there have been other species and sub-species of chimpanzee and gorilla in historic times with their own particular behavior and physiology that have since gone extinct.

That some of these were smart or closer to humans in behavior is not an unreasonable speculation. Given the friction that exists today between humans in the region and other humans as well as primates, it’s not hard to imagine their extinction being at least human influenced.

So if there was a race of super-apes, chances are we killed them. It’s the Planet of the Apes in reverse…

Bili Ape – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From myth to reality – meet the chimps who eat lions

Weird Things podcast: Selling Our Souls

Monday, October 19th, 2009

weird things podcast SMWelcome to the Weird Things podcast featuring Andrew Mayne, Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young.

In this episode we discuss giant snakes, selling your soul to the devil, uploading your memory, a vampire named James Brown and Justin and Brian’s willingness to fly in Andrew’s potentially murderous flying machine.

Story link: Python eats alligator (fail)

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Join Us For The Quest for Houdini!

Monday, October 19th, 2009

This Halloween Weird Things and the James Randi Educational Foundation will try to make contact with the ghost of Houdini! Details to follow… Magic News, Magic Videos and Podcasts » Blog Archive » This Halloween: Mayne, Brushwood, Randi & Young Will Attempt To Find Houdini… Will You?

Skeleton Lake

Monday, October 19th, 2009 has this fun tourist destination known as Rookund in the Himalayas. It’s a lake filled with skeletons:

Roopkund is better off known as “The skeleton lake” due to the presence of an enormous grave that holds about 300 to 600 skeletons. This discovery has revolutionized the world of ancient history ever since 1942, when a park ranger came across this mass deposition of bones. It probably is an in-accessible frozen lake that requires about four day travel to reach from the nearest locality. Recently, it has become an important spot for the visitors as they learn and conjecture this advent of science.

link: Roopkund – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
link: Roopkund The Mysterious Skeleton Lake | Travelet

Weird Things Podcast: The Kraken Awakes!

Monday, October 19th, 2009

weird things podcast SMWelcome to the first official episode of the Weird Things podcast featuring Andrew Mayne, Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young.

In this episode we discuss krakens, killer sharks, Brian’s policy on eugenics and Justin’s homicidal sleepwalking defense.

Story link: Marlin vs. shark video

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America’s First Vampire: The Real Deadliest Catch

Monday, October 19th, 2009

So how does the story of the first vampire to set foot on American shores begin – like the most frightening episode of Deadliest Catch ever. An excerpt from a New York Time archive article circa 1892:

Twenty-five years ago he was charged with being a vampire and living on human blood. He was a Portuguese sailor, and shipped on a fishing-smack from Boston up the coast in 1867. During this trip two of the crew were missing, and an investigation made. Brown was found one day, in the hold of the ship, sucking the blood from the body of one of the sailors. The other body was found at the same place, and had been served in a similar manner.

It’s a hard life at sea. Even harder with a vampire on your boat.

It continues to get weirder. Brown, the vampire sailor was convicted of murder and sentenced to hanging. President Johnson (perhaps trying to secure the vampire vote) commuted the sentence to life in prison. Although his days at sea were finished, the murdering was far from over. The grateful Brown went on to murder two more people in prison. Eventually authorities decided this guy was even more nuts then your average murderer (the vampire cannibal thing didn’t tip them off) and he was confined to an asylum.
And what was the vampire Mr. Brown’s first name? James. As in James Brown, America’s first vampire.

A PRISONER WITH A HISTORY – View Article – The New York Times

Ancient Monument and Golf Course

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Newsweek has an interesting article about an ancient monument located in the middle of a golf course in Southern Ohio. Before you get upset about this suburbification of a historic site, it’s important to remember that if they hadn’t put a golf course there, there would be a subdivision there and nothing to see. Newsweek

In fact, the Earthworks have become something of a dwarf star within the golf course’s universe. Carts zip over sacred embankments. A cherished mound doubles as the ninth tee. The Earthworks are a National Historic Landmark, and they are under consideration for the UNESCO World Heritage list of cultural and natural wonders.

Here’s a view from Google Maps:

Getting a little weirder, in 1860 explorers claimed to have found an artifact there with the following Hebrew inscription:

Remarkable Archaeological Discovery in Ohio. – Article Preview – The New York Times