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The Weird Week in Review

Car Driven Into Wrong Apartment

An unnamed 25-year-old woman in Nelson, New Zealand, was angry after reading intimate text messages to her husband from another woman. With her husband in the passenger seat, she drove to the mistress' apartment complex. She drove through the gate and smashed into someone else's garage. The driver pleaded guilty to causing around $43,000 in property damage. There is no word on the state of the marriage.

Fisherman Lands 200-pound Catch

John Goldfinch was fishing with his friends on the beach at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England when he felt the tug of something really big. Hoping for the catch of his life, Goldfinch struggled to land the massive fish. But he could not keep his trophy, as his hook had snagged the crotch of a scuba diver!

Mr Goldfinch, of Exmouth, said: "My mates were falling about laughing. I said 'sorry mate, I didn't see you there' and he just said it was very murky down there.

"The funniest thing was that his girlfriend then surfaced, helped him remove my tackle from his tackle and nonchalantly handed the hook back to me and apologised.

Giant Lobster Becomes Coney Island Freak

While a typical lobster meal involves a crustacean of one to two pounds, an 18 pound lobster was caught off the coast of Canada and sent with a shipment to a seafood company in San Francisco. The company's bookkeeper recognized the rarity of a lobster of such size and posted an ad online to find it a home. The lobster was named Big Red and is estimated to be about 75 years old. The New York Aquarium in Coney Island responded and had Big Red shipped to the east coast. Now he is on display at the aquarium, which is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Big Red has proved to be a very popular exhibit.

Dump Truck Dangles from Third Floor

A New York City salt truck smashed through the wall of a three-story parking garage in Queens Tuesday. The truck stopped, leaving the cab hanging out of the building with the driver, 56-year-old Robert Legall, inside. Over 100 firefighters responded to the scene, and rescued the driver using a tower ladder truck within a half hour. The driver was hospitalized with neck and back injuries. If the photos are any evidence, it was a very frightening half hour for Legall. Bricks fell to the ground, but no one else was injured when the accident occurred.

Bullock Rescued from Ladder

A young bull was spotted in South Ayrshire, Scotland in a delicate situation. His head was wedged into a ladder. Passers-by called the SPCA to report the problem. The farmer who owns the animal was contacted and said he had no idea how that happened. It wasn't even his ladder! The SPCA inspector thought someone was pulling his leg until he saw the animal. After the herd was rounded up and secured, the inspector and the farmer managed to wrestle the ladder from the bullock's head.

Police Chase Forklift

Police in Forth Worth, Texas, chased a shirtless man driving a stolen forklift through city streets. The forklift had been taken from a construction site.

A witness videotaped the chase and then posted it to YouTube. He and his roommate had stopped for gas on University Drive when they saw the forklift go by.

Nathan Lowery said he was stunned as he watched the shirtless suspect raise and lower the forks. It looked like the man was trying to antagonize police, he said.

“When we passed him, the guy was standing up chugging a beer and threw it at the cop car behind him,” Lowery said.

Timothy Raines was eventually arrested on the interstate highway.

Kitten Dropped into Landfill by Hawk

A tiny black and white kitten was found at a dump in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and taken to the local SPCA shelter. He had been dropped there by a red-tailed hawk! Staff at the shelter noted talon punctures in his side, as well as an injured foot that had begun healing. Shelter staff named the kitten Hawk, and he will be adopted out when fully recovered. The red-tailed hawks are employed by the dump to keep pigeons away.

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Bess Lovejoy
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Weird
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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YouTube
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Animals
Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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YouTube

At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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