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The Weird Week in Review

Farmer Bites Cobra

Mohammed Salmodin was working in his rice paddy in his village in Nepal when a snake bit him. He returned home to get a light so he could determine what kind of snake it was, and found a cobra in his crop. Salmodin had once heard advice from a snake charmer that you should bite a cobra to death if he bites you, so that's what he did: he bit the snake repeatedly until it was dead. Salmodin then went about his work until family members convinced him to seek medical help. He was successfully treated for snakebite at a hospital. Officials say Salmodin won't face any charges for killing the snake, because a common cobra is not an endangered species.

Why the Tortoise Wouldn't Eat

Margaret Parker of Carlisle, England, found a five-inch-long tortoise in her garden. The miniature tortoise was cute, so she brought it inside and tried to feed it. Parker's daughter brought some lettuce for it, but it still wouldn't eat. So the women called Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Centre for advice, and a volunteer was sent out. Pauline Adams picked up the tortoise and figured out the problem.

She said: “At first when I arrived I didn’t have my glasses on and I thought it was a baby tortoise. It was sitting there in the shoe box, on a bed of lettuce and tomato.

“Then I put my specs on, and thought: ‘Oops - what’s this?’

“When I picked it up I saw the CE mark and the words Made in China, and I just cracked up.

“I laughed even more when she told me her daughter had been to the Co-op to buy tomato and lettuce for it. She was very apologetic. Judging by the moss on it, it had been in the garden a long time.

Adams and Knoxwood founder George Scott both said Mrs. Parker did the right thing by calling them.

Surgeon Commandeers Child's Bike to Get to Work

Dr. Catherine Baucom was on her way to work Wednesday morning at the Elliot Mastology Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a patient was waiting for her to perform surgery. But an accident on I-10 created a huge traffic jam in which hundreds of cars were stopped. That's when Baucom took matters into her own hands, creating a scene right out of a Hollywood movie. She called a colleague who lived near where her car was trapped, and borrowed his seven-year-old daughter's pink princess bicycle. Baucom rode the bike back to the interstate and was confronted by police. After hearing her story, the cops gave Baucom an escort as she drove the little bike to the clinic. That's dedication.

Amateur Art Restoration Goes All Wrong

A fresco of Christ by artist Elias Garcia Martinez was painted over a hundred years ago in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain. A recent donation from the artist's granddaughter was intended for the painting's restoration. However, cultural officials found that an elderly parishioner had already done her own restoration! The woman, who is in her 80s, did an "alarming and unauthorized" touch-up of the original work that completely covered Martinez's painting, although she claims the priest gave his permission. The woman had eventually realized she was having trouble with the job, and contacted the cultural ministry for guidance -but it may be too late to save any of Martinez's work. If the painting cannot be recovered, a photograph of the original may be mounted over what now adorns the wall. Which you must see to believe.

Shoplifter Betrayed by Hot Peppers

Marcus Banwell learned the hard way that if you steal hot peppers, you should wait until you are away from the store before you eat them. Banwell had apparently ingested at least one Scotch Bonnet pepper from the Singh Store in Bristol, England. The store owner heard a commotion as Banwell doubled over and became sick from the fiery food.

Prosecutor May Li said when officers searched Banwell they found another four chilli peppers in his pocket, a stolen milkshake and fruit juice, and a clarinet stashed in his waistband, which was missing from a music shop.

The heat of a chilli pepper is measured using the Scoville scale.

The Scotch Bonnet, also known as Boabs Bonnet or Caribbean red pepper, is named for its resemblance to a Tam O'Shanter hat. Most Scotch Bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units. This compares to the rating of most jalapeño peppers, which is 2,500 to 8,000.

A small amount of drugs was also found. Banwell was sentenced to 14 weeks incarceration.

That's Not How a Breathalyzer is Done

Ryan Scott Thompson of Christchurch was arrested in Woodend, New Zealand after he crashed his car into an elderly woman's home. It was determined by a breath-alcohol test that the 26-year-old was intoxicated at three times the legal limit for driving. When he was taken to the police station and told to wait while the paperwork on his case was completed, Thompson heard the sound of running water, and immediately had to urinate. He peed onto a supply of breath screening tubes, and continued when ordered to stop. The 301 contaminated tests were discarded. He eventually pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $1500 reparation to the homeowner and $109 for the damaged tests, in addition to a court fine.

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Weird
7 Famous People Researchers Want to Exhume
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This week, the surrealist painter Salvador Dali is being exhumed from his grave in Figueres, northeastern Spain, where he has lain beneath the stage of a museum since his death in 1989. Researchers hope to collect DNA from his skeleton in order to settle a paternity suit brought by a tarot card reader named Pilar Abel, who claims that her mother had an affair with the artist while working as a maid in the seaside town where the Dalis vacationed. If the claim is substantiated, Abel may inherit a portion of the $325 million estate that Dali, who was thought to be childless, bequeathed to the Spanish state upon his death.

The grave opening may seem like a fittingly surreal turn of events, but advances in DNA research and other scientific techniques have recently led to a rise in exhumations. In the past few years (not to mention months), serial killer H. H. Holmes, poet Pablo Neruda, astronomer Tycho Brahe, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, among many others, have all been dug up either to prove that the right man went to his grave—or to verify how he got there. Still, there are a number of other bodies that scientists, historians, and other types of researchers want to exhume to answer questions about their lives and deaths. Read on for a sampling of such cases.

1. LEONARDO DA VINCI

An international team of art historians and scientists is interested in exhuming Leonardo da Vinci's body to perform a facial reconstruction on his skull, learn about his diet, and search for clues to his cause of death, which has never been conclusively established. They face several obstacles, however—not the least of which is that da Vinci's grave in France's Loire Valley is only his presumed resting place. The real deal was destroyed during the French Revolution, although a team of 19th century amateur archaeologists claimed to have recovered the famed polymath's remains and reinterred them in a nearby chapel. For now, experts at the J. Craig Venter Institute in California are working on a technique to extract DNA from some of da Vinci's paintings (he was known to smear pigment with his fingers as well as brushes), which they hope to compare with living relatives and the remains in the supposed grave.

2. MERIWETHER LEWIS

A portrait of Meriwether Lewis
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As one half of Lewis and Clark, Meriwether Lewis is one of America's most famous explorers, but his death belongs to a darker category—famous historical mysteries. Researchers aren't sure exactly what happened on the night of October 10, 1809, when Lewis stopped at a log cabin in Tennessee on his way to Washington, D.C. to settle some financial issues. By the next morning, Lewis was dead, a victim either of suicide (he was known to be suffering from depression, alcoholism, and possibly syphilis) or murder (the cabin was in an area rife with bandits; a corrupt army general may have been after his life). Beginning in the 1990s, descendants and scholars applied to the Department of the Interior for permission to exhume Lewis—his grave is located on National Park Service Land—but were eventually denied. Whatever secrets Lewis kept, he took them to his grave.

3. SHAKESPEARE

A black and white portrait of Shakespeare
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Shakespeare made his thoughts on exhumation very clear—he placed a curse on his tombstone that reads: "Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare/ To digg the dust encloased heare/ Bleste be the man that spares thes stones/ And curst be he that moves my bones." Of course, that hasn't stopped researchers wanting to try. After Richard III's exhumation, one South African academic called for a similar analysis on the Bard's bones, with hopes of finding new information on his diet, lifestyle, and alleged predilection for pot. And there may be another reason to open the grave: A 2016 study using ground-penetrating radar found that the skeleton inside appeared to be missing a skull.

4. JOHN WILKES BOOTH

A black and white photograph of John Wilkes Booth
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The events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865 are some of the best-known in U.S. history, but the circumstances of his assassin's death are a little more murky. Though most historical accounts say that John Wilkes Booth was cornered and shot in a burning Virginia barn 12 days after Lincoln's murder, several researchers and some members of his family believe Booth lived out the rest of his life under an assumed name before dying in Oklahoma in 1903. (The corpse of the man who died in 1903—thought by most people to be a generally unremarkable drifter named David E. George—was then embalmed and displayed at fairgrounds.) Booth's corpse has already been exhumed from its grave at Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery and verified twice, but some would like another try. In 1994, two researchers and 22 members of Booth's family filed a petition to exhume the body once again, but a judge denied the request, finding little compelling evidence for the David E. George theory. Another plan, to compare DNA from Edwin Booth to samples of John Wilkes Booth's vertebrae held at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, has also come to naught.

5. NAPOLEON

A portrait of Napoleon
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Napoleon has already been exhumed once: in 1840, when his body was moved from his burial-in-exile on St. Helena to his resting place in Paris's Les Invalides. But some researchers allege that that tomb in Paris is a sham—it's not home to the former emperor, but to his butler. The thinking goes that the British hid the real Napoleon's body in Westminster Abbey to cover up neglect or poisoning, offering a servant's corpse for internment at Les Invalides. France's Ministry of Defense was not amused by the theory, however, and rejected a 2002 application to exhume the body for testing.

6. HENRY VIII

A portrait of Henry VIII
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In his younger years, the Tudor monarch Henry VIII was known to be an attractive, accomplished king, but around age 40 he began to spiral into a midlife decline. Research by an American bioarchaeologist and anthropologist pair in 2010 suggested that the king's difficulties—including his wives' many miscarriages—may have been caused by an antigen in his blood as well as a related genetic disorder called McLeod syndrome, which is known to rear its head around age 40. Reports in the British press claimed the researchers wanted to exhume the king's remains for testing, although his burial at George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle means they will need to get the Queen’s permission for any excavation. For now, it's just a theory.

7. GALILEO

A portrait of Galileo
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The famed astronomer has had an uneasy afterlife. Although supporters hoped to give him an elaborate burial at the Basilica of Santa Croce, he spent about 100 years in a closet-sized room there beneath the bell tower. (He was moved to a more elaborate tomb in the basilica once the memory of his heresy conviction had faded.) More recently, British and Italian scientists have said they want to exhume his body for DNA tests that could contribute to an understanding of the problems he suffered with his eyesight—problems that may have led him to make some famous errors, like saying Saturn wasn't round. The Vatican will have to sign off on any exhumation, however, so it may be a while.

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This Just In
Workers in Quebec City Discover Potentially Live Cannonball Dating Back to the French and Indian War
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Quebec City is famous today for its old-world European charm, but a construction crew recently discovered a living relic of the city’s military past: a potentially explosive cannonball, dating all the way back to the French and Indian War.

As Smithsonian reports, workers conducting a building excavation in Old Quebec—the city’s historic center—last week unearthed the 200-pound metal ball at the corner of Hamel and Couillard streets. They posed for pictures before contacting municipal authorities, and archaeologist Serge Rouleau was sent in to collect the goods.

Initially, nobody—including Rouleau—knew that the rusty military artifact still posed a threat to city residents. But after the archaeologist toted the cannonball home in a trailer, he noticed a rusty hole through the center of the shell. This made him fear that the projectile was still loaded with gunpowder.

Rouleau contacted the Canadian military, which deployed bomb disposal specialists to collect the cannonball. They moved it to a secure location, where it will reportedly be either neutralized or destroyed. If the cannonball itself can be saved as a historic relic, it might be displayed in a museum.

“With time, humidity got into its interior and reduced its potential for exploding, but there’s still a danger,” munitions technician Sylvain Trudel told the CBC. “Old munitions like this are hard to predict … You never know to what point the chemicals inside have degraded.”

Experts believe that the cannonball was fired at Quebec City from Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River, during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. This battle occurred on September 13, 1759, during the French and Indian War, when invading British troops defeated French forces in a key battle just outside Quebec City. Ultimately, the clash helped lead to Quebec’s surrender.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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