Original image

7 Famous People Who Became Famous Ghosts

Original image

Death doesn't spell the end of your time in the spotlight. Sometimes it's just the beginning. Take Michael Jackson, for example. His body was still warm when millions of depressed fans claimed to spot his ghost roaming the halls of Neverland Ranch during a CNN special. But Jackson is far from the first celebrity to be the subject of ghost rumors.

1. Marilyn Monroe

The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood is known for two types of sightings: big Hollywood stars and free roaming spirits. The most famous of these uninvited guests is the former blonde bombshell herself, who got her first job by posing on the pool's diving board for a suntan commercial and frequently stayed in a room of the hotel that her ghost allegedly haunts. Guests can even peer into the full-length mirror that former guests and staff members claim to have seen an image of a beautiful young blonde woman who spoke to them and then suddenly disappeared.

2. Orson Welles

The acclaimed and embattled movie director's love of food and drink were well known. During his younger days as an ambitious classic theater director, a regular meal could include as much as two steaks, two loaded baked potatoes, an entire pineapple, three servings of pistachio ice cream and an entire bottle of scotch. That hunger is so strong that not even a massive coronary could kill it. Employees of the Sweetlady Jane Bakery on Melrose Avenue have reported seeing a large man dressed in black sitting in a corner of the restaurant and smelling the sweet scents of cigar smoke and brandy. The location of the bakery was once the Ma Maison restaurant, a French style restaurant where Welles often ate before he passed away. That probably explains why they went out of business.

3. John Lennon

lennonThe ghost of this free spirit has been seen all over the world and by all sorts of people, including Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and former band mate Paul McCartney while they were recording one of Lennon's unfinished symphonies. But the ghost's most famous haunt is the building where Lennon tragically died. The Dakota building is one of New York city's most impressive apartment structures and once housed some of the world's most famous people, such as Judy Garland, Leonard Bernstein and Lauren Bacall. It is also the place where Mark David Chapman gunned down Lennon and some residents claim that Lennon has never left. Some psychics held a televised séance in 2006 at the Dakota building and other spots around the world connected to Lennon's life. They claimed Lennon's ghost made more than one appearance to them. They didn't say who opened for him, though.

4. George Reeves

The first man to give a physical presence to the legendary Superman died under very mysterious circumstances. The appearance of his ghost has only raised those suspicions. Multiple sightings have been reported from the Benedict Canyon Drive home where he died in 1959 from an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound. Visitors to the home have either reported hearing strange gunshots and screams or seeing a full apparition of Reeves in his Superman costume.

5. Lon Chaney

The original master of monsters and makeup terrorized the minds, hearts and underpants of moviegoers. You can probably imagine how horrific seeing his ghost might be. His spirit is said to haunt a soundstage on the Universal Studios Hollywood lot where workers have reported hearing footsteps and seeing a caped man running through the catwalks. The stage was used to film part of the opera scenes for Chaney's iconic Phantom of the Opera, and still stands because several mysterious accidents have prevented the studio from fully dismantling it.

6. Rudolph Valentino

One of the silver screen's first and biggest heartthrobs also met with an equally tragic ending. He died in 1926 at the age of 31 from an infection contracted during an operation. His former Hollywood home, Falcon's Lair, has been haunted ever since. Actor Harry Carey purchased the home sometime after and reported seeing a ghostly figure similar to the actor's rugged good looks. Fashion icon Millicent Rogers only saw the ghost once because she refused to ever set foot in the house again.

7. Abraham Lincoln

Several former presidents and first ladies have been allegedly seen roaming the halls of the White House in spirit form, but Lincoln definitely has the most residency points. Guests, dignitaries and even members of the White House staff have spotted him. Probably the most famous meeting involves former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill had drawn himself a hot bath, and when he emerged from the tub with nothing but a lit cigar, he spotted the former president staring at him. Churchill remarked, "Good evening Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." The ghost smiled and disappeared. From then on, Churchill refused to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, reporter, humorist and ghostbuster living in Texas. He can be found on the web at, on MySpace and on Twitter.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]