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The Weird Week in Review

The Town that Loves Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin has a fan club in Adipur, Gujarat, India called the Charlie Circle. A couple hundred local people are members, and have a celebration every year on April 16th, Chaplin's birthday. For this year's party, more than 100 people attended dressed as Chaplin's character the Little Tramp. The man behind the town's fascination with the actor is film buff Ashok Aswani, who became a Chaplin fan in 1966 when he watch The Gold Rush four times in one day. He started the Charlie Circle in 1973. The annual celebration includes a street party and procession and the showing of a Chaplin film.

Bear's Head Stuck in Can

It was a scene reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh and the honey pot. A young bear was spotted in Reading, Vermont wandering about, bumping into things, with his head stuck in an old-fashioned milk can. State biologist Forrest Hammond freed the bear with help from police and firefighters.

Hammond had to tranquilize the bear and first tried to soap up his head and pull the milk jug off, but that didn't work and he eventually had to use metal shears to get it loose. "He just did an excellent job of getting out there," Hall said. "It's important, too, that nobody got hurt," he said, adding that the bear was released into the wild.

Officials think the can had been used as a bird feeder because there was birdseed in the bottom, which may have attracted the young bear.

Fugitive Hides in Manure Pool

The Noble County Special Operations Group, the local SWAT team in Noble County, Indiana came to the farm where 52-year old Thomas Hovis Jr. was living to serve warrants from Steuben County. Hovis fled to the barn, where he pulled up the grate covering a manure pit and jumped in. Officers did not find him for about an hour, when they saw his head sticking out of the frigid feces. Deputies from the two counties immediately began discussing who would have the dubious honor of transporting Hovis in their vehicle. As Hovis showed signs of hypothermia, he was instead taken to a local hospital by ambulance.

Shark Bits Surfboard; Surfer Rides Shark

Jim Rawlinson was riding the waves at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii on Monday when a tiger shark attacked his surfboard. The 68-year-old surfer slid backwards and found himself riding on the back of the shark! He estimates that he was on the shark for ten to 15 seconds, then took the surf leash off his leg and slid off the rear of the fish. From the bite marks left on the surfboard, Rawlinson and marine biologist Terry Lilley, who was shooting video underwater nearby, estimate the shark was around 14 feet long.

Burglars Break Into Prison

A minimum security prison in Hoorn, the Netherlands was the site of a break-in, not once but twice in the last six weeks. The facility is for inmates about to finish their sentences, and many have weekend passes. While the inmates were gone, thieves came in and stole their TV sets. Authorities have not yet determined how the thieves got inside the prison, and there have been no arrests.

New Mexico Cat Gets Ride Home from Chicago

Robin Alex, of Albuquerque, New Mexico went to New Orleans to built a Habitat for Humanity house. When she returned, her cat Charles was gone. That was eight months ago.

Then earlier this week, Alex received a call telling her Chicago Animal Care and Control had picked up her wandering cat as a stray. Staffers reached out to Alex after finding that Charles had a tracking microchip embedded between his shoulder blades, said the agency's executive director, Cherie Travis.

But Alex said she could not afford the round-trip ticket to Chicago to bring Charles home, so she was afraid he might be euthanized.

Enter fellow Albuquerque resident Lucien Sims. Sims said he has a tabby cat who strongly resembles Charles, and was moved when his mother sent him an online story about Alex and her pet.

Sims volunteered to pick Charles up and bring him back to New Mexico, as he was traveling to a wedding in Chicago. American Airlines did not charge a travel fee for the cat, and another company donated a pet carrier. Alex is happy to have her cat back. Still, no one knows how Charles came to be 1300 miles away in Chicago.

Stranded Couple Take Vows Via Skype

Sean Murtagh of London, England was scheduled to marry Natalie Mead of Brisbane, Australia surrounded by family and friends in England. They had a civil ceremony in Australia already, and were on the way to the big British ceremony when they were stranded at an airport in Dubai due to the volcanic ash cloud that canceled many European flights. Instead of canceling the wedding, they were married via Skype! Assembled wedding attendees in Ealing, west London, watched the couple take their vows aided by a laptop and a webcam at the airport. The airport donated flowers and a wedding cake for the celebration.

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NASA, JPL-Caltech
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Space
It's Official: Uranus Smells Like Farts
NASA, JPL-Caltech
NASA, JPL-Caltech

Poor Uranus: After years of being the butt of many schoolyard jokes, the planet's odor lives up to the unfortunate name. According to a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford and other institutions, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the upper layer of Uranus's atmosphere consists largely of hydrogen sulfide—the same compound that gives farts their putrid stench.

Scientists have long suspected that the clouds floating over Uranus contained hydrogen sulfide, but the compound's presence wasn't confirmed until recently. Certain gases absorb infrared light from the Sun. By analyzing the infrared light patterns in the images they captured using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, astronomers were able to get a clearer picture of Uranus's atmospheric composition.

On top of making farts smelly, hydrogen sulfide is also responsible for giving sewers and rotten eggs their signature stink. But the gas's presence on Uranus has value beyond making scientists giggle: It could unlock secrets about the formation of the solar system. Unlike Uranus (and most likely its fellow ice giant Neptune), the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter show no evidence of hydrogen sulfide in their upper atmospheres. Instead they contain ammonia, the same toxic compound used in some heavy-duty cleaners.

"During our solar system's formation, the balance between nitrogen and sulfur (and hence ammonia and Uranus’s newly detected hydrogen sulfide) was determined by the temperature and location of planet’s formation," research team member Leigh Fletcher, of the University of Leicester, said in a press statement. In other words, the gases in Uranus's atmosphere may be able to tell us where in the solar system the planet formed before it migrated to its current spot.

From far away, Uranus's hydrogen sulfide content marks an exciting discovery, but up close it's a silent but deadly killer. In large enough concentrations, the compound is lethal to humans. But if someone were to walk on Uranus without a spacesuit, that would be the least of their problems: The -300°F temperatures and hydrogen, helium, and methane gases at ground level would be instantly fatal.

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8 Allegedly Cursed Places
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iStock

Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.

1. A WALL FROM MARGAM ABBEY // WALES

An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.

2. ALLOA TOWER // SCOTLAND

Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.

3. A WORKERS' CEMETERY // EGYPT

In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.

4. RUINS OF THE CHATEAU DE ROCCA SPARVIERA // FRANCE

A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.

5. THE PEBBLES OF KOH HINGHAM // THAILAND

Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

A post shared by Adil - 爱迪尔 - عادل (@theglaswegistani) on

The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.

6. INITIALS OUTSIDE THE CHAPEL AT ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY // SCOTLAND

The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.

7. CHARLES ISLAND // CONNECTICUT

Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.

8. THE GHOST TOWN OF BODIE // CALIFORNIA

A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

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