CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Purple Snow in Russia

On Tuesday, residents of the Stavropol Region in Southern Russia found their landscape covered with purple-tinged snow! Samples of the snow were taken that ranged from purple to dark brown. After analysis, experts concluded that the purple tinge was due to particles in the atmosphere that drifted up from Africa in a dust cyclone. This is not the first time the country has seen such an oddly-colored snow.

Black-market Enhancements Hospitalize Six Women

Six women in New Jersey were hospitalized for injuries they received during black market plastic surgery procedures to enhance their buttocks. The women wanted silicone injections, but the unlicensed practitioner did not use medical grade silicone. Instead, the women were injected with "a diluted version of nonmedical-grade silicone."

"The same stuff you use to put caulk around the bathtub," said Steven M. Marcus, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, who learned about the bizarre procedures through a committee he sits on that monitors outbreaks in the metropolitan area.

The six victims underwent surgery and treatment with antibiotics, and are recovering. It is not yet known whether all six cases are related.

Cement Mixer Buries Cars

A cement truck parked near a construction site in Warsaw, Poland unexpectedly exploded, which sent cement flying through the neighborhood. One woman was seriously injured by the explosion. Dozens of cars were covered in cement so badly they are considered a total loss. To add insult to injury, neither the builder's insurance nor the auto owners' insurance want to cover such an unusual accident. No word yet on what caused the cement mixer to explode.

Nun Inherits Brothel

A woman identified only as Linda K died in Austria with an estate, but only one heir -a child she relinquished for adoption in Scotland 55 years ago. The daughter was traced to a convent near Glasgow, Scotland where she is now a nun. The unnamed nun was informed of her inheritance, which included a large sum of money and a working brothel! The surprised sister sold the business and donated the money, as well as her cash inheritance, to a charity in India.

Toilet Art Exhibit to Become Real Toilet

British artist Robert Olley painted Westoe Netty, a picture of six men and a boy at a row of urinals. The iconic painting became famous in the 1970s. The original toilet built in 1890 and depicted in the painting was salvaged by Olley's friends in 1996 to avoid demolition. It was recently set up at Beamish museum in County Durham, England as an exhibit. However, museum patrons took the fixture for more than an exhibit, and used it accordingly. The exhibit was taken down -temporarily. It will be re-installed at the museum in an area that can be plumbed, so it will be both a cultural exhibit and a working urinal.

A Taste of Their Own Medicine

A van belonging to LBS Enforcement, a private company that enforces parking regulations, was out and about ready to put a wheel clamp on cars in violation in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. However, the Southend Council found that the vehicle's owners had not shown proof of taxes paid, so government officials clamped and towed the van! An anonymous resident took pictures of the incident.

"I don't think they were amused as one of them stuck a finger up.

"I took the pictures because it was so hilarious and I think a lot of people will be very pleased to see them get clamped for a change."

An employee of LBS Enforcement blamed the matter on a clerical mixup. I'm sure they've heard that story before themselves.

German Police Summoned Over Forgotten Vibrator

Police in Bochum, Germany responded to a call from a woman who was concerned over suspicious noises in her apartment. They found the strange sound to be coming from a dresser drawer. With the resident's permission, an officer opened the drawer, lifted the clothing inside, and found a "very personal, battery-operated object" that had somehow turned on. The woman's face turned a different color and the police left shortly. No doubt they were in a hurry to go outside and laugh.

Original image
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
Weird
7 Famous People Researchers Want to Exhume
Original image
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.

Original image
Lafontaine Inc.
arrow
This Just In
Workers in Quebec City Discover Potentially Live Cannonball Dating Back to the French and Indian War
Original image
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]

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios