CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Heart Attack Lecture Interrupted by Heart Attack

Dr. William Phillips, a cardiologist in Lewiston, Maine, gave a lecture on heart disease at a building near the Central Maine Medical Center. As he was talking about angina, a man raised his hand and said he was experiencing it! Dr. Phillips considered sending the man to the hospital next door, but the man collapsed into a full heart attack and there was no time. Phillips and three cardiac rehab nurses who were in attendance began CPR and brought in an automated external defibrillator, which restarted the man's heart. Paramedics then took him to the hospital. Dr Phillips finished his lecture, then checked on the patient, who is expected to recover.

Stolen Safe Found Protruding from Vehicle

A man in Cairns, Queensland, Australia was found guilty of breaking and entering in connection with a robbery last summer. John Davis was caught when police spotted a car with a large file cabinet and safe hanging precariously out of the back. The furniture had been taken from a community center where Davis worked. When he broke into the center to take the small safe, Davis found he could not detach it from the file cabinet -so he took the whole thing. Although Davis was careful not to leave fingerprints or DNA at the scene, he could not fit the entire haul in his car. Davis received a 12-month sentence.

Mating Turtles Disrupt Air Traffic

Runway 4 at JFK Airport in New York City was closed on Wednesday due to the diamondback terrapin mating season. More than 150 of the turtles crossed over the runway in search of nesting areas in the sand on the other side. It was not the first time that air traffic was disrupted for the turtles, but there were more than usual this year. Airport staff helped to carry the turtles across the tarmac to speed their journey. Officials were not clear as to how many flights were affected, but Runway 4 is not heavily scheduled during the summer months.

Thief Stuck in School AC Vents

Firefighters had to cut open a roof vent at Charles Hay World School in Englewood, Colorado to rescue a thief. The unnamed 28-year-old had been stuck inside for 15 hours! Police responded to a call and found the man stuck 30 feet deep in the vent. He told police that he had stolen a purse and threw it on the roof of the elementary school. When he went to retrieve it, he fell down the vent and became wedged tightly.

Shakespeare Exhumation Proposed

A team of researchers want to dig up William Shakespeare's body to find out if he partooketh marijuana. Pipes recovered during an excavation of Shakespeare's garden in 2001 showed evidence of both cannabis and cocaine. Now, South African anthropologist Francis Thackeray has formally requested permission from the Church of England for an exhumation. They do not intend to remove Shakespeare's remains from his burial site, but want to examine the body for signs of drug use after determining the identity of the remains.

Elderly Woman Fed Cannabis to Rabbits

Police in Brandenburg, Germany found a plot of marijuana plants. During their investigation, they talked to an elderly woman who said she had been feeding the weeds to her pet rabbits.

“The rabbits really like it,” the woman told officers who called on her in the village of Golzow near Belzig, according to Saturday’s Tagesspiegel.

A police officer had seen the healthy, metre-high plants from the road while on his way to work and told his colleagues, who visited the plot’s owner – the elderly woman.

She told them that she had not grown the plants herself, but that they had simply started growing there, and had proven to be excellent rabbit food. Not only did the rabbits love eating the plants, they grew back very quickly after she cut them down, she told the investigating officers.

Officers did not charge the woman, but did cut the plants down.

A Dog on the Witness Stand

An 11-year-old golden retriever named Rosie was the star of the courtroom last week when she accompanied a 15-year-old crime victim to the witness stand. Rosie is a member of Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), and was present to comfort the witness and help her keep her composure as she pointed out the man who sexually abused her for years. Although the defense attorney objected to the dog's presence, the district attorney was all for it. Rosie's appearance in court was the first time a dog has participated in a trial in New York, but the same procedure has been used in New Mexico and Florida before. Rosie behaved well during her time on the stand.

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
Supermarket Employees to Compete in National Bagging Competition
Original image
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]

Original image
Bess Lovejoy
arrow
Weird
The Legend (and Truth) of the Voodoo Priestess Who Haunts a Louisiana Swamp
Original image
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios