CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Man Caught Shoplifting During Shop with a Cop

Around 50 police officers in full uniform were at a Walmart store in Waldorf, Maryland Saturday for a charity event in which they helped children select Christmas gifts. Timothy Randall Clark decided it would be a good time to pick up some video games. Store employees saw Clark cutting open video games and stuffing them into his shirt. It was easy for the store to contact police, who were right there. Clark was arrested on charges of attempting to steal 26 games, two controllers, and other game accessories that they found on him, worth a total of $635.

Dog Poop Lottery

The citizens of Taiwan will clean up the streets, given the right incentive. A recent lottery offered $2,000 in gold as the top prize. The catch? To get a ticket, you bring in a bag of dog poop collected from the street. Over 4,000 residents of New Taipei City signed up for the program, and have brought in 14,000 bags of excrement to trade for tickets since the launch of the program in August.

Mythbusters Wrecks Neighborhood

How fast can a cannonball travel? Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were tackling this question Tuesday for an episode of their TV show Mythbusters when things went completely wrong. The cannon misfired, and the cannonball went up into the air over Dublin, California.

It flew straight though the front door of a home on Cassata Place, and bounced around like a pinball, flying up to the second floor before blasting through a back bedroom wall.

The wayward cannonball then blasted across a busy road and through a second home some 50 yards away, demolishing roof tiles.

The story doesn't stop there, and neither did the cannonball. It finally came to rest inside a minivan at a third home. The driver had left the vehicle just minutes before. Incredibly, no one was injured in the incident. Hyneman and Savage visited the affected homes to apologize.

He Picked the Wrong Victim

Anthony Miranda was arrested in Chicago for an attempted mugging. The 24-year-old approached a man in a car and demanded money at gunpoint last Friday night. After some money was turned over, Miranda made the driver get out of the car. What Miranda didn't know was that his selected victim was a martial arts expert and had won an ultimate fighting championship. At some point, Miranda's attention was distracted and his unnamed victim grabbed for the gun. Two two wrestled, the gun went off, and Miranda shot himself in the ankle. The victim pinned Miranda until police arrived, at which time the perpetrator was sent to the hospital. He was treated for his ankle wound and multiple facial lacerations and two black eyes, which are apparent in his mug shot.

Stranded Man Survives on Beer

Clifton Vial of Nome, Alaska, set out in his Toyota Tacoma to see where a road went, but ended up stuck in a snowdrift on a deserted road that doubles as a snowmobile track. He was 40 miles from town, out of cell phone range, without provisions or much in the way of emergency equipment. Vial wrapped himself in a sleeping bag liner and waited, turning on the car occasionally for warmth. After three days, he was almost out of gasoline. On the second day he didn't show up for work, his boss called emergency services, and the Nome Volunteer Fire Department and state troopers began searching. Meanwhile, Viial's only provisions were a few frozen cans of Coors Light beer. He opened the cans and ate the frozen beer with a knife. When Vial was found, he had lost 16 pounds, but showed no signs of frostbite.

Squirrel Pulls Fire Alarm Prank

When someone pulled a fire alarm at Blackburn Elementary school in Ellenton, Florida, administrators thought a student must have been responsible. Security camera footage was scrutinized to find the perpetrator. The footage showed a squirrel had climbed up the wall, looked around, and pulled the alarm.

"We didn’t have to pay any fines for a false alarm once the fire department realized the little guy was the culprit," according to Todd Henson, director of maintenance and operations for Manatee County Schools.

The squirrel was eventually trapped and let go.

"It's really hard to fine a squirrel, so he got a stern lecture and was released outside," Henson joked.

The video is posted with the story.

No War Crime Charges for Gamers

The 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent was held recently in Geneva, and among the many discussion topics were the many gamers worldwide who played war games, and whether this contributed to a mindset in which war crimes could be committed. Remarks about gamers from those attending the conference led to fears among gamers that they would be tried for virtual war crimes. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland released a statement Thursday reassuring gamers that violation of international war crime laws only apply to real-life situations.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA, JPL-Caltech
arrow
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
8 Allegedly Cursed Places
iStock
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios