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9 Things That Might Kill You (If They Actually Exist)

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No doubt you've heard of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, but you may not have known that they belong to a class of creatures called cryptids. The technical definition is a creature that can't be proved to exist, even though sightings of this "thing" may have occurred. The definition also includes sightings of creatures thought to be extinct.

Yeah, so that's the "technical" definition. One that makes more sense to me is, "Creatures you might see featured in the Weekly World News." Which is not to say that these creatures aren't really lurking somewhere "“ in fact, some cryptids have been proven to exist. For example, the Kraken, a mythical sea monster, is now widely accepted as an early description of the giant squid, which does, in fact, inhabit the seas (although it's hard to catch alive).

So, on the chance that some of these cryptids aren't just local legend or mythological beings, here are nine to watch out for.

1. The Mongolian Death Worm

mongolian.jpgEven the name is terrifying. This two-to-four foot-long worm supposedly makes its home in the Gobi Desert. Locals refer to it as "allghoi", which means "blood filled intestine worm". Yummy. The allghoi's might be able to kill you by secreting a yellow poison that kills on contact, but it probably doesn't need to. It's rumored that it can also kill from a distance by some sort of electrocution. Adventurers should definitely avoid the Gobi Desert in June and July, because that's when the allghoi is the most active. Also, you're going to want to avoid wearing your "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade" shirt, because the Death Worm is attracted by the color yellow. Don't say I didn't warn you. Note: Kinda reminds me of the sandworms from Beetlejuice.

2. The Beast of Bray Road

If you're near Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and see something resembling Bigfoot or perhaps a large wolf walking on its hind legs, don't stop to see if it's friendly. The Beast of Bray Road might not actually kill you "“ so far the only suspicious activity chalked up to this maybe-werewolf is the slaughter of small game and deer. One Web site says it behaves aggressively, though, so I probably wouldn't try its patience.

3. Beast of Gévaudan

While we're talking about Beasts, we should discuss the Beast of Gévaudan. It's a French cryptid that killed an estimated 60-100 people between 1764 and 1767. It must have been quite a peculiar-looking thing, because eyewitnesses describe it as being about the size of a cow with a long, lion-like tail, red fur and a head with small pointed ears and sharp fangs. King Louis XV sent acclaimed hunters after the beast, who successfully killed an abnormally large wolf in September of 1765. When more attacks occurred in December of the same year, it was concluded that the wolf that was killed was not the Beast in question. Another large creature was killed in June of 1767 "“ when they gutted it, the remains of a little girl were found inside. The deaths ended after that, so presumably the right thing was killed... the question remains, though, what was that thing?

4. The Brosno Dragon

If Nessie has a cousin, the Brosno Dragon could be it. He's been lurking in Lake Brosno in the Russian city of Novgorod since the 13th century, according to one report. That's when he ate some of Batu Kahn's (grandson of Genghis Khan) soldiers and horses when they tried to let their horses drink from the lake. Supposedly Batu Khan and his soldiers were so scared that they turned tail and ran, leaving Novgorod in peace. Today, most people are understandably skeptic about the existence of the dragon and some seem to think it could be a mutant beaver"¦ which really seems just as strange in my book, but whatever. One scientific approach suggests that gas bubbles up from the bottom of the lake and makes it look like something large is moving under the water.

5. The Jersey Devil

puddy.jpgThe Jersey Devil, AKA the Leeds Devil, supposedly came about in the 18th century when a woman had her 13th child. She was so sick of having children with her husband (whom she did not love) that she would rather have the Devil's child than have one more child by her husband. Her wish was granted and the baby was born with claws, a tail and hooves. Ouch. It flew out the chimney and began to terrorize New Jersey, including some notable people like Napoleon Bonaparte's brother and Commodore Stephen Decatur. There was a week in January of 1909 that the Devil seemed particularly bent on wreaking havoc "“ it was sighted every single day, attacking dogs and people. By Friday of that week, people were so scared that businesses and schools were actually shutting for the day out of fear.

6. Dobharchu

A traditional Irish ballad tells the tale of Grainne Ni Conalai on September 24, 1722. She went to Glenade Lake in County Leitrim to bathe and never came back. When her husband went to look for her, he found her mangled near the water with a huge beast, a cross between an otter and a dog, lying asleep on her. Her husband returned home and got his brother; together the two of them went back to the lake and used their horses as bait. When the dobharchu lunged at the horse, the brothers stabbed it in the heart. Some stories say they sliced its head off.

Before it died, though, let out a whistle to call its relatives to seek vengeance. It doesn't look like there have been any sightings since, but just the same, I can't imagine they get many skinny-dippers in Glenade Lake these days.

7. The Pope Lick Monster

popelickcreek.jpgWith a name like that, you would expect the Pope Lick Monster to have a very odd story of origin. You might be disappointed to learn that it's really just named for the creek/railroad trestle it was sighted at "“ Pope Lick Creek and trestle near Louisville, Kentucky. The half human, half goat kills people in one of two ways: he's either so horrifying that when people encounter it near the trestle, they would rather jump off the bridge to their deaths than be near it, or he hypnotizes whoever he finds and tosses them off.

No matter what you believe, the fact remains that there is a relatively large number of accidental deaths at that very location.

8. Kikiyaon

The Kikiyaon gives a whole new meaning to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. It lives in West Africa and looks kind of like an owl"¦ an owl with razor-sharp talons and a deadly beak. You know it's coming after you when you hear the strangled cry it makes, which turns into a scream that lingers in the air. One account says it's similar someone being strangled very slowly. If you see it and escape, don't start thanking your lucky stars just yet "“ you'll probably die soon afterward anyway. It flies faster than a man can run, so most likely you're doomed anyway"¦ if it exists.

9. The Mothman

mothman.jpgOur list concludes with a cryptid you might have heard of, especially if you saw the Richard Gere-Debra Messing movie The Mothman Prophecies. The Mothman is, as you would expect, a creature that looks like a human with giant wings on his back. Most descriptions say he has bug-like red eyes. He was first sighted in West Virginia by two couples who were out on a late night drive. For the next year he was sighted by numerous people, some claiming to be chased at more than 100 miles per hour. A little more than a year after the first sighting, the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. The Mothman wasn't seen as much after that. So was the Mothman trying to warn locals about the impending doom? Or did he cause it? Either way, Point Pleasant, W.V. has become well-known as being the home of this cryptid and even embraces the fact: the town erected a 12-foot statue of the Mothman and just celebrated their sixth annual Mothman Festival in September.

Do you have any cryptids in your area, or know of some I didn't cover here? Do tell. I love this stuff.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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