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The Weird Week in Review

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Removing Spider Webs Leads to House Fire

Galen Winchell was cleaning the outside of his home in Sargent, Georgia when a fire broke out. Specifically, he was removing cobwebs with a blowtorch. The fire raced through the attic and was extinguished by the Coweta County Fire Department. The fire was limited to one end of the 1,400 square foot home, but smoke and water damaged the entire house. Coweta Fire Investigator James Gantt advised the public not to use a blowtorch to remove cobwebs.

73-year-old Scores in College Basketball

Ken Mink, a full-time student at Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee, scored two points in a game Monday night against King College. The 73-year-old sunk two free throws in Roane State's 93-42 win. It was his first college game in 52 years. Mink had played for Lees College in Jackson, Kentucky when he was young, but was kicked off the team for soaping the coach's office. He insists he didn't do it.

Priest and Nuns Attack Restaurant Owner

Passers-by in Rutino, Italy called police after observing a brawl at a restaurant. The restauranteur had responded to a report of trouble and arrived to find a priest and two nuns demanding the return of the property, which is owned by the Catholic church.

"I came down to try to calm things down but the priest hit me with a chair and I ended up on the floor. Then the two sisters started kicking me, insulting me with unrepeatable words," the unnamed owner said in a statement.

The restauranteur was taken to the hospital with injuries on his head and abdomen.

Captain Fantastic

150captainfantastic.jpg19-year-old George Garratt of Glastonbury, England legally changed his name to -get this- Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine The Hulk And The Flash Combined. The change was made via deed poll through a website. He admits he did it for a laugh.
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"My family have begun to expect these sorts of things from me, and although my friends thought it was ridiculous most people do call me Captain and it's been a great conversation starter."

Runner Covers Mile with Rabid Fox on Arm

An unidentified Chino Valley, Arizona woman was jogging on a trail near Granite Mountain Monday when a fox attacked her. The animal bit her foot, and when she tried to grab it, bit her arm and held on. She ran a mile back to her car with the fox still attached. The jogger then pried the fox's jaws open, threw it in her trunk, and drove to a hospital. The fox also bit the animal control officer who removed it from the trunk. The animal tested positive for rabies, and both the woman and the animal control officer are being treated.

Stick Inducted into Toy Hall of Fame

150stick.jpgThe National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York has selected three inductees for this year: the baby doll, the skateboard, and the stick.
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Curators at the Rochester museum say the stick is a special addition. They praised its all-purpose, all-natural, no-cost qualities and its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed by imaginations into something else.

Victim Drives Sleeping Rapist to Police

22-year-old Vipul Sharma was found guilty of rape in Wellington, New Zealand. He had met the unidentified victim in an Auckland bar and drove her to a park where he raped her. He then had her drive while he fell asleep in the passenger seat. The victim promptly drove to the nearest police station, where Sharma was arrested.

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7 Famous People Researchers Want to Exhume
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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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Lafontaine Inc.

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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