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The Weird Week in Review

£20,000 Dog Wedding

Around 80 guests attended a lavish wedding in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, England. Louise Harris hired a wedding planner who oversaw the flowers, decorations, food, and security for the £20,000 ($32,000US) affair. The wedding was for Louise's six-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Lola. Lola wore a £1000 specially-designed wedding dress, decorated with Swarovski crystals. Harris has thrown lavish birthday parties for her dogs, but this bash outdid them all. The groom was Mugly, who once held the title of Britain's Ugliest Dog. After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a sumptuous buffet and a six-foot tall chocolate fountain. The dog guests had their own specially-made treats. The bride and groom will not live together, but will visit once a month.

Actor 'Dies' Five Times in 24 Hours

Hong Kong actor Law Lok-lam works for broadcasting company TVB, so he is assured to find other roles after five of his characters were killed off -all in one 24 hour period!

His character met a bloody end during a fight in the martial arts drama Grace Under Fire, and he vomited blood before expiring in Fate to Fate, the Sunday Morning Post reported.

In Relic of an Emissary, Law played the Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, who died after an illness.

In two other shows, Police Station No. 7 and comedy Virtues of Harmony, the actor did not die on screen but his death was discussed, the paper said.

A company spokesman said the timing of the deaths were a coincidence. Law said he doesn't mind, but it bothered his daughter.

World's Smallest Engraving

Graham Short managed to engrave three words, "nothing is impossible" on the edge of a razor blade. You can only see it at 400x magnification. The 64-year-old Short, who admits he is obsessed with miniature engraving, made about 150 attempts before he got the engraving right. He worked on the project every night (after midnight to avoid vibrations from traffic) for seven months. Short even trained himself to slow his heart rate so he could work between heartbeats. Now the finished blade is for sale, for £47,500.

General Electric Not Returning Tax Refund After All

The General Electric company made over 14 billion dollars in profits in 2010, yet paid no income tax. After the news was made public, an Associated Press story said that GE planned to voluntarily donate their $3.2 billion tax refund to the U.S. Treasury. The problem was, the company said no such thing. The AP story was based on a fake press release planted by the activist group The Yes Men. When the hoax was revealed, the AP immediately pulled its story. Reuters also pulled the story they published based on the phony press release.

Woman Stopped for McDonald's Instead of Police

Police in Coral Springs, Florida, tried to pull over 64-year-old Roberta Spen as she pulled into a McDonald's outlet when they noticed her brake lights weren't working. Spen ignored the flashing lights and siren and pulled into the drive-through and made a purchase. Officers flagged her down, but she told them she wasn't speeding and then drove off. After a chase involving several police cars, officers boxed her in twice, as she escaped in reverse once, and finally stopped the car. Spen still refused to roll down her window, so police smashed the car window and arrested her for resisting arrest, fleeing, and eluding, in addition to driving with defective equipment.

Last Two Speakers of Ancient Language Not Talking to Each Other

An ancient language of Mexico is dying out. The last two people who are fluent in Ayapaneco are not speaking to each other. Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquezto both live in the village of Ayapa in southern Mexico, but don't get along well.

Daniel Suslak, an Indiana University linguistic anthropologist, is compiling a dictionary to record the existence of the language.

He said he has discovered that the two men 'don't have much in common' and while Mr Segovia, 75, is 'a little prickly', Mr Velaquez, 69, doesn't like to leave his home and is 'more stoic'.

Segovia speaks to his wife and son in Ayapaneco, and they understand him, but neither can speak the language fluently. Velazquez is not known to speak Ayapaneco at all anymore.

The Fake Army

It was a profitable but outrageous scheme, set forth in a trial going on now. Prosecutors are charging that David Deng recruited Chinese immigrants to join the "U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve" to help their chances of obtaining U.S. citizenship, and that he charged hundred of dollars from his "soldiers." The U.S. military has no such unit. The group is well known in Asian-American neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where community leaders had no idea they weren't government issue. An investigation began when soldiers used fake military IDs to avoid traffic tickets. If convicted of all charges, Daniel Deng could face 11 years in prison.

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Supermarket Employees to Compete in National Bagging Competition
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iStock

In today’s busy world, efficiency is king—especially at grocery stores, where long checkout lines can turn even the most patient shopper into a petulant purchaser. It only makes sense, then, that a nationwide competition exists among supermarket employees to determine the country’s best bagger.

As the Associated Press reports, Alysha Orrok, a teacher from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, recently won her state’s Best Bagger competition. She’s now headed to the U.S. finals, which will take place in Las Vegas in February 2018 and is sponsored by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

In Las Vegas, finalists from more than a dozen states—ranging from Washington to Florida—will duke it out onstage to see who’s truly king or queen of the checkout line. Competitors will be judged on weight distribution, appearance, speed, and technique (no smushed bread or bruised fruits allowed).

Orrok, who works evenings and weekends at a local grocery store, says she was initially clumsy on the job. “My first day as a bagger I dropped a soda and it exploded everywhere,” she told NBC Boston.

Over time, though, Orrok got so good at her side gig that she decided to compete in the New Hampshire state bagging competition earlier this month. At the tournament, "I was like 10 seconds faster than the next person," Orrok said. "I feel like I get in the zone and I just fly."

Competitors heading to 2018’s Best Bagger competition will face off to see who can achieve the best customer service in the shortest time span. The grand prize is $10,000, which will be awarded to a deserving grocery store employee “with infectious company pride and an enthusiastic commitment to customer service,” according to the NGA.

[h/t NBC Boston]

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Bess Lovejoy
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The Legend (and Truth) of the Voodoo Priestess Who Haunts a Louisiana Swamp
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Bess Lovejoy

The Manchac wetlands, about a half hour northwest of New Orleans, are thick with swamp ooze. In the summer the water is pea-green, covered in tiny leaves and crawling with insects that hide in the shadows of the ancient, ghost-gray cypress trees. The boaters who enter the swamps face two main threats, aside from sunstroke and dehydration: the alligators, who mostly lurk just out of view, and the broken logs that float through the muck, remnants of the days when the swamp was home to the now-abandoned logging town of Ruddock.

But some say that anyone entering the swamp should beware a more supernatural threat—the curse of local voodoo queen Julia Brown. Brown, sometimes also called Julie White or Julia Black, is described in local legend as a voodoo priestess who lived at the edge of the swamp and worked with residents of the town of Frenier. She was known for her charms and her curses, as well as for singing eerie songs with her guitar on her porch. One of the most memorable (and disturbing) went: "One day I’m going to die and take the whole town with me."

Back when Brown was alive at the turn of the 20th century, the towns of Ruddock, Frenier, and Napton were prosperous settlements clustered on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained by logging the centuries-old cypress trees and farming cabbages in the thick black soil. The railroad was the towns' lifeline, bringing groceries from New Orleans and hauling away the logs and cabbages as far as Chicago. They had no roads, no doctors, and no electricity, but had managed to carve out cohesive and self-reliant communities.

That all changed on September 29, 1915, when a massive hurricane swept in from the Caribbean. In Frenier, where Julia lived, the storm surge rose 13 feet, and the winds howled at 125 miles an hour. Many of the townsfolk sought refuge in the railroad depot, which collapsed and killed 25 people. Altogether, close to 300 people in Louisiana died, with almost 60 in Frenier and Ruddock alone. When the storm cleared on October 1, Frenier, Ruddock, and Napton had been entirely destroyed—homes flattened, buildings demolished, and miles of railway tracks washed away. One of the few survivors later described how he’d clung to an upturned cypress tree and shut his ears against the screams of those drowning in the swamp.

The hurricane seemed to come out of nowhere. But if you listen to the guides who take tourists into the Manchac swamp, the storm was the result of the wrath of Julia Brown. Brown, they say, laid a curse on the town because she felt taken for granted—a curse that came true when the storm swept through on the day of her funeral and killed everyone around. On certain tours, the guides take people past a run-down swamp graveyard marked "1915"—it’s a prop, but a good place to tell people that Brown’s ghost still haunts the swamp, as do the souls of those who perished in the hurricane. The legend of Julia Brown has become the area's most popular ghost story, spreading to paranormal shows and even Reddit, where some claim to have seen Brown cackling at the edge of the water.

After I visited the swamp earlier this year and heard Julia Brown's story, I got curious about separating fact from fiction. It turns out Julia Brown was a real person: Census records suggest she was born Julia Bernard in Louisiana around 1845, then married a laborer named Celestin Brown in 1880. About 20 years later, the federal government gave her husband a 40-acre homestead plot to farm, property that likely passed on to Julia after her husband’s death around 1914.

Official census and property records don’t make any mention of Brown’s voodoo work, but that's not especially surprising. A modern New Orleans voodoo priestess, Bloody Mary, told Mental Floss she has found references to a voodoo priestess or queen by the name of Brown who worked in New Orleans around the 1860s before moving out to Frenier. Mary notes that because the towns had no doctors, Brown likely served as the local healer (or traiteur, a folk healer in Louisiana tradition) and midwife, using whatever knowledge and materials she could find to care for local residents.

Brown’s song is documented, too. An oral history account from long-time area resident Helen Schlosser Burg records that "Aunt Julia Brown … always sat on her front porch and played her guitar and sang songs that she would make up. The words to one of the songs she sang said that one day, she would die and everything would die with her."

There’s even one newspaper account from 1915 that describes Brown's funeral on the day of the storm. In the words of the New Orleans Times-Picayune from October 2, 1915 (warning: offensive language ahead):

Many pranks were played by wind and tide. Negroes had gathered for miles around to attend the funeral of ‘Aunt’ Julia Brown, an old negress who was well known in that section, and was a big property owner. The funeral was scheduled … and ‘Aunt’ Julia had been placed in her casket and the casket in turn had been placed in the customary wooden box and sealed. At 4 o’clock, however, the storm had become so violent that the negroes left the house in a stampede, abandoning the corpse. The corpse was found Thursday and so was the wooden box, but the casket never has been found.

Bloody Mary, however, doesn’t think Brown laid any kind of curse on the town. "Voodoo isn’t as much about curses as it is about healing," she says. The locals she has spoken to remember Julia as a beloved local healer, not a revengeful type. In fact, Mary suggests that Julia’s song may have been more warning to the townsfolk than a curse against them. Perhaps Brown even tried to perform an anti-storm ritual and was unable to stop the hurricane before it was too late. Whatever she did, Mary says, it wasn’t out of malevolence. And if she’s still in the swamp, you have less to fear from her than from the alligators.

This story originally ran in 2016.

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