Archive for October, 2009

Wanna Buy A FeeJee Mermaid?

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

You know what would brighten up your life? Your own PT Barnum style FeeJee Mermaid!

This lovely lass is on sale via eBay with the bidding beginning at the low price of $399.99. After all, we are into the holiday season…

Thanks to Weird Thing reader Adam for the tip.

Human Powered Hovercraft – Built by Teenagers

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

As a rule, child endangerment in the name of science is only fun when it’s the children doing the actual endangerment. In this video three high school students (Max Shepherd, Robert Draper and Brit Garner) build and test their own homemade human powered hovercraft.

If you want to build your own old-fashioned motor powered hovercraft, check this out: Instructables Hovercraft

Mechanical Elephants

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Need to get your mechanical elephant off your hands? Contact us at Weird Things.

Thanks to Make Magazine for spotting the original YouTube clip.

Archeologists Explore 5,000 Year-Old Submerged City

Friday, October 16th, 2009

50 meters off the coast of Laconia in Greece archeologists are mapping the oldest submerged city in the world.

From ScienceDaily:

Possibly one of the most important discoveries has been the identification of what could be a megaron — a large rectangular great hall — from the Early Bronze Age period. They have also found over 150 metres of new buildings including what could be the first example of a pillar crypt ever discovered on the Greek mainland. Two new stone built cist graves were also discovered alongside what appears to be a Middle Bronze Age pithos burial.

The University of Nottingham’s video on the expedition:

Pavlopetri – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
World’s Oldest Submerged Town Dates Back 5,000 Years

Weirdest Torture Device In The World LIVE CHAT

Friday, October 16th, 2009
Streaming .TV shows by Ustream

When Yeti’s were Abominable

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Over time fads and tastes change. You’d think that at least Yeti’s could remain immune to this kind of cultural pressure. Sadly no. His appearance and behavior has changed over the years.

From the December 27th, 1937 Milwaukee Journal, we have one of the earliest accounts ever of a Yeti.

When Col. Bury was a little more than 20,000 feet up on the desolate slopes of Mount Everest, helmeted against the intense cold, he suddenly stopped as though he had been struck. There before him in the glistening snow were the marks of what looked like a naked human foot.

He called the coolies. They were terrified, and exclaimed that the tracks were those of a “wild hairy man,” one of the race of “abominable snowmen.”

Black hair and a tail?

A Tibetan shepherd who claims to have shot one, vowed that he was eight feet tall, leapt 20 feet, and had a tail on which he could sit without slipping on the ice. The snowman had long black hair, and an appetite not merely for yaks, but for human beings.

Fans of lovable, white haired and perhaps only slightly grumpy Yeti’s will be disappointed to find out that back then they came across as more like cold loving cannibal naked meth heads then lonely Wampas wanting hugs from Jedis and the occasional Tauntaun jerky treat.

The Milwaukee Journal. – Google News Archive Search

Were the Wild Things Were

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The story of a faraway island still inhabited by legendary creatures has been a captivating idea since before Homer wrote down the Odyssey. Recent incarnations include the works of Jules Verne and stories like King Kong, Jurassic Park and recently Where the Wild Things Are.

When we think of fascinating creatures we tend to put them into two categories, those that came before recorded history and those that came after and are mostly still around. While we can comprehend recent extinction and acknowledge that our caveman ancestors dealt with beasts that are no longer around, we tend to think of things having been the status quo since we started writing stuff down – with the exception of a dodo bird or two.

The truth is a little bit weirder. A number of fantastical creatures continued on well into recorded history and only vanished quite recently. Oddly enough, many of these creatures survived on remote islands (this isolation might explain why they survived as long as they did).

Here’s a list of amazing beasts that survived in remote places well into historical and almost modern times. Some are sure things, others are a little far-fetched. All are just as plausible as another.

The last Wooly Mammoth died on Wrangel Island (Near Russia) probably around 1,700 BCE – close to the reign of Ramesses the Great and over 1,000 years after the Sphinx was built.

The Elephant Bird was a giant bird (a ratite to be precise) native to Madagascar that went extinct in the 1600’s. At 10 feet tall and close to 1,000 pounds in weight, this was no dainty emu. Given what we now know about dinosaurs and their relation to birds, this is one scary creature.

Megalania was a giant monitor lizard that may have survived into historic times. At 26 feet long and 4,000 lb in weight, it’d be the closest you’d come to seeing something that looked like a classical depiction of a dinosaur. Some cryptozoologists claim recent sighting as evidence that that there may be populations still alive in New Guinea and Australia.

The Giant Hutia was a large rodent that got as large as 440 lb – as big as an American Black Bear. Indigenous to the West Indies it may have been hunted to extinction by aboriginal humans but some may have lived into historic times. One smaller species may have survived as late as when the Spanish explored the Caribbean.

Homo floresiensis – “The Flores Man” or “Hobbit” was a possible distinct humanoid species that is believed to have died out 12,000 years ago. However local folklore about creatures called “Ebu Gogo” that match the description of these creatures suggests that they may have existed as recently as the late 19th century.

Flying Saucer Inventor Still Missing

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Have you seen Jonathan E. Caldwell? He’s still missing after 60 years. The Air Force has some questions they’d like to ask him about the flying saucers in his barn.

Was his disappearance part of a sinister conspiracy? Or a way for him to escape his angry investors after his flying machine failed to fly?

St. Petersburg Times – Google News Archive Search

Jonathan Edward Caldwell – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We’re Looking For The Weirdest Torture Device In The World

Friday, October 16th, 2009


Today’s Weird Things chat is designed to punish, persuade and persecute. Tighten the straps and ratchet it up to 11, we’re looking for the Weirdest Torture Device In The World.

Here are the ground rules:

• Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

• Stories of their use are encouraged.

Email all submissions to JustinRobertYoung@Gmail. I’ll see you kids right here at the front page at THE SPECIAL TIME OF 5 p.m. EST where we will hash out the ultimate champion.

Our baseline was found by the hardest working live chat producer in the GD business and is an old favorite, The Rack. Take it away blockquote…

The rack is commonly considered the most painful form of medieval torture. It was a wooden frame usually above ground with two ropes fixed to the bottom and another two tied to a handle in the top.

The torturer turned the handle causing the ropes to pull the victim’s arms. Eventually, the victim’s bones were dislocated with a loud crack. If the torturer kept turning the handles, some of the limbs were torn apart, usually the arms.

The truth is out there, we find it today at 5 p.m. EST.

A Very Unsatisfactory Ghost Story

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

From Psychology Today we get this less than riveting ghost story from sleep specialist Dennis Rosen, M.D. who determines that part of his patient’s sleeping disorder may be attributed to a ghost in the house. It starts off pretty good:

“Do you ever see or hear something you know isn’t there as you are falling asleep or waking up?” I asked her. “We have a ghost in our house” she answered. “His name is Simon”. I looked over to her father to see his response, and was surprised to see him nodding his head in agreement. The conversation then continued, with both the patient and her father taking part.

What happens next you ask? Not much. It’s less entertaining than a debunking…

Since then, I have met with the family a few more times. Besides helping my patient with her sleep apnea, sleep hygiene, and schedule, I have learned more about Simon (that he prefers to hang out in the basement, and that he likes to walk through people when they’re doing the laundry).

We’re not sure what to make of this. Are you saying he’s real? A figment of the families imagination that you’re patronizingly entertaining?

We understand you’re a sleep specialist, but we need more information or at least help Simon with his sleep hygiene.

link: A ghost in the house | Psychology Today

The Lost Civilization of Mirador

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

In this video, CNN investigate Mirador, the cradle of the Mayan civilization and home to the largest pyramid (by volume) in the world. Mostly covered by jungle, it’s in the middle of a threatened region rampant with grave robbers and drug traffickers. Because of it’s remote location it’s not as explored and well understood as other ancient cities.

From Wikipedia:

The civic center of the site covers some 10 square miles (26 km²) with several thousand structures, including monumental architecture from 10 to 30 meters high. There are a number of “triadic” structures (around 35 structures), consisting of large artificial platforms topped with a set of 3 summit pyramids. The most notable such structures are three huge complexes; one is nicknamed “El Tigre“, with height 55 metres (180 ft); the other is called “La Danta” (or Danta) temple. Depending on calculation techniques, the Danta temple is considered as tall as 72 meters, and considering its total volume (2,800,000 cubic meters) is one of the largest pyramids in the world1.

According to Carlos Morales-Aguilar, a Guatemalan archaeologist, the city appears to have been planned from its foundation, as extraordinary alignments have been found between the architectural groups and main temples, which were possibly related to solar. The study reflects an importance of urban planning and sacred spaces since the first settlers.

The photo below shows a pyramid covered in vegetation.

link: El Mirador – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
link: Video – Breaking News Videos from

The Terrible Adventure of an Aeronaut

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Does this sound kind of familiar? From the Detroit Tribune in 1858:

We have learned the full particulars of the balloon ascension…on Thursday, its subsequent descent, and its second ascension and runaway with the aeronaut while beyond his control…

While internally at Weird Things we were calling the balloon boy story a likely hoax given our own personal experiences in building such crafts (and the credulous nature of the father), it should serve as a cautionary tale.

The long history of being an aeronaut (what they used to call people who flew before airplanes) is a dangerous one. In the Google news archives you can find stories of missing and killed in action aeronauts going back almost 200 years. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:

Journals: Fate Of The First Aeronaut

Terrible Adventure of an Aeronaut

BALLOONIST FALLS TO DEATH.; Aeronaut Drops 700 Feet


Here’s one of the earliest aeronaut adventures we could find: From a London Paper

Total Recall A Fact! (For Flies)

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Listen up Philip K. Dick fans, Total Recall (We Can Remember it For You Wholesale) is now a reality – at least for flies. According to ScienceDaily:

By directly manipulating the activity of individual neurons, scientists have given flies memories of a bad experience they never really had, according to a report in the October 16th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication.

One wonders if the bad experience starts with some grad student plugging wires into your brain…

So far this has only been tested on flies. There’s no word yet when we can implant memories of our trip to Mars or learn Kung-Fu in seconds, but we’re sure it’s a top priority for these researchers. At least it should be.

link: Scientists Give Flies False Memories

Advancements in Suspended Animation

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

A staple of science fiction is the suspended animation chamber. It’s how we send astronauts to faraway places, punish criminals (we’re not quite clear on how sending bad guys into the future where they can expect longer, healthier lives and really cool technology is punishment) and sending our heroes forward in time.

The development of this technology has taken researchers down different paths from just plain freezing people to drug cocktails.

One of the more promising innovations in the search for suspended animation is the discovery that certain poisonous gases at low levels can actually slow down the metabolism without killing the organism. has an interesting report from the lab of biologist Mark Roth at the Fred Hutchinson Research Center:

She turns a dial, and the sealed enclosure starts to fill with poison gas — hydrogen sulfide. An ounce could kill dozens of people.

The rat sniffs the air a few times, and within a minute, his naturally twitchy movements are almost still. On a monitor that shows his rate of breathing, the lines look like a steep mountain slope, going down.

At first glance, that looks bad. We need oxygen to live. If you don’t get it for several minutes — for example, if you suffer cardiac arrest or a bad gunshot wound — you die. But something else is going on inside this rat. He isn’t dead, isn’t dying. The reason why, some people think, is the future of emergency medicine.

We won’t ruin it for you, but the rat turns out okay.

His pioneering research got him a MacArthur prize which then lead to 600 million in venture capital funding. The military is looking into his technology as a way to save lives on the battlefield.

Right now the biggest hurdle is dealing with larger mammals. The process works on rats allowing them to slow their respiration to 10% of normal with no apparent cell damage. Scaling up to humans is a challenge.

This is fascinating research but the article fails to give due credit to the pioneer of this kind of suspended animation, Buck Rogers. It was while exploring an abandoned mine that he came in contact with a poisonous gas that put him in suspended animation for 500 years.

link: Scientists hope work with poison gas can be a lifesaver –

link: Metabolic Flexibility and Suspended Animation

link: Suspended animation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles Babbage Confronts the Devil, Becomes a Ghost Hunter

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

We know Charles Babbage as the inventor of the Difference Engine, the pre-cursor to the modern computer, but what about Charles Babbage, investigator for the occult and supernatural? As a young man he decided to find out if Satan was real – by trying to invoke him in a demonic ritual.

In his biography he recounts his attempt at summoning the dark lord…

I carefully collected from the traditions of different boys the visible forms in which the Prince of Darkness had been recorded to have appeared. Amongst them were — A rabbit, An owl, A black cat, very frequently, A raven, A man with a cloven foot, also frequent.

After long thinking over the subject, although checked by a belief that the inquiry was wicked, my curiosity at length over-balanced my fears, and I resolved to attempt to raise the devil. Naughty people, I was told, had made written compacts with the devil, and had signed them with their names written in their own blood. These had become very rich and great men during their life, a fact which might be well known. But, after death, they were described as having suffered and continuing to suffer physical torments throughout eternity, another fact which, to my uninstructed mind, it seemed difficult to prove.

As I only desired an interview with the gentleman in black simply to convince my senses of his existence, I declined adopting the legal forms of a bond, and preferred one more resembling that of leaving a visiting card, when, if not at home, I might expect the satisfaction of a return of the visit by the devil in person.

I then placed myself in the centre of the circle, and either said or read the Lord’s Prayer backwards. This I accomplished at first with some trepidation and in great fear towards the close of the scene. I then stood still in the centre of that magic and superstitious circle, looking with intense anxiety in all directions, especially at the window and at the chimney. Fortunately for myself, and for the reader also, if he is interested in this narrative, no owl or black cat or unlucky raven came into the room.

The reported failure of the devil to appear increased his skepticism of religion. he decided to seek out other evidence of the paranormal so Babbage and friends started a Ghost Club to investigate apparitions and other unusual phenomena:

If they heard of a phantom, these spiritual detectives speedily put themselves in pursuit ; and a haunted house was doubtless as welcome a phenomenon to them as an extraordinary dwarf, a calf without joints, or a kitten with six legs, was to the first Fellows of the Royal Society. Letters many were written on these topics, and some of the correspondence, we are told, was both ‘ interesting and instructive.’ It was certainly a very business-like mode of dealing with spectres, and indicates the true method of establishing these beings in their rights, or of expelling them, as creatures of fancy, from human philosophy.

Charles Babbage and his friends in the Ghost Club would go on to form another group calling themselves “The Extractors”. To get into that club you had to produce six certificates, three saying that you were sane and three that you were mad.

Babbage’s biography is a fascinating read. He had an extremely curious mind. It’s no surprise why he was so ahead of his time. If one were prone to believe in demons and the occult, it should make you wonder if the man who created the most advanced machines to ever exist really was unsuccessful at raising the devil…

Below are some links to his works on Google Books. Well worth checking out.

link: The Living age … – Google Books
link: Journals: Living Age (1844 – 1900)

Five Best Songs About Zombies, Ever

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Someday, all the deceased extras that played ooky revenants in “Night of the Living Dead” will ungrave for real and you’ll be subjected to blog post after blog post comparing pictures of the actors’ actual shambling undead remains to screenshots of them in zombie make-up. Until then, here’s something to fill the space. (Your hellish zombie apocalypse will be Weird Things’ tacky media renaissance.)

Be Your Own Pet“Zombie Graveyard Party!”

Known for referencing elementary school apocrypha like Creepy Crawlers and Super Soakers, defunct indie punk outfit Be Your Own Pet could always be counted on for catchy, energetic pop songs that successfully walked the line between twee irony and hyperactive sass. This song from 2008’s “Get Awkward” bemoans the lameness of love while endorsing two kid-tested, Fulci-approved alternatives – brain eating and graveyard partying.

Harry Belafonte“Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back)”

Written by the otherwise-unknown Conrad Eugene Mauge Jr., this modern calypso standard is the rum-drenched, Caribbean foil to “Zombie Graveyard Party!”’s undead suburban kegger. This version is notable for being the only recording of the song approved by the AMA for testing cadaver booty response.

Jonathan Coulton“Re: Your Brains”

With songs featured everywhere from Popular Science to John Hodgman audiobooks, Coulton is an unstoppable force of sheer melodic nerdiness. Presented as a memo and steeped in the buzz word-laden idiom of corporate bureaucracy, his tribute to the undead equates a mindless legion of walking corpses to impotent capitalist drones and their empty, abbreviated business vernacular. But, like, in a funny way.

Sufjan Stevens“They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!”

The music on Stevens’ undeniably wonderful, but relentlessly hyped, album “Illinois” ranges from cartoonish to macabre. This spookier, word-count-devastating track is less concerned with actual zombies than with the stumbling, ghoulish remains of a once-vital American landscape and its assimilation into modern homogeneity. It’s also still fairly concerned with actual zombies.

Fela Kuti & Africa ‘70“Zombie”

Political activist and pioneer of the afrobeat movement, Fela Kuti often used the latter descriptor to fill the responsibilities of the former. His two-song album “Zombie” employed the image of easily manipulated voodoo zombies to deliver a scathing, uncompromisingly funky critique of the Nigerian army. Interestingly, the album’s unofficial sequel, “Mothman,” offered a rump-jiggling screed against voodoo.