CLOSE

The Weird Week in Review

Pepsi's Scary Defense

Ronald Ball of Illinois filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo in 2009, claiming he found a mouse in a can of Mountain Dew after taking a drink. Ball claims that he sent the mouse to the soft drink company and that they destroyed it. In their defense, Pepsi says that a mouse carcass would not exist in that form after being sealed in a can of Mountain Dew. An expert claims that the acid in the drink would cause a mouse to transform into a 'jelly-like' substance. One has to wonder if a defense against the lawsuit is worth planting that picture in customers' minds.

...But the Cat Came Back

Plucky Andrea the stray cat used up a couple of her nine lives, but would not succumb to the animal shelter's two attempts to euthanize her. The cat was picked up and taken to West Valley City's animal shelter in Utah. When she was not adopted within a month, the shelter sent her to a gas chamber, but she survived. A second gassing left her appearing to be dead, so the staff put her body in a plastic bag in a cooler. Later, she was discovered to have vomited and was checked for signs of life. When Andrea woke up, they decided not to try again. The cat was transferred to the Community Animal Welfare Society. Andrea has since been adopted, and is settling well into her new home.

Car Lands on Roof

In a scene you would expect from an action movie (or a comedy), a stolen car landed on the roof of a house in Fresno, California. Police say the car was going too fast and hit a rock and a tree stump, which launched it into the air and onto the roof. The driver of the car fled the scene and was arrested soon after at his girlfriend's home. There were people in the house when the car landed on it, but no one was seriously injured. A towing company had to use a crane to remove the vehicle.

Rare Coin Collection Stolen for Change

Police in Multnomah County, Oregon, are looking for Dan Johnson, Jr. in connection with a burglary at his father's home. The burglar took silver, jewelry, and a valuable rare coin collection from a safe. The rare coins were recovered from a change machine, where the perpetrators had dumped them to get about $450.

"The obvious answer that the crooks were idiots, just simply an idiot," said Dan Johnson, Sr. "To not know the value of what they had taken, just to get pocket change for it. Just really a stupid person. Makes me feel good he was a stupid person and didn't realize what he had."

The coin machine rejected the 500 silver quarters, which were redeemed at a bank. The bank is returning the coins to the elder Johnson. Two other suspects have already been arrested in the case.

iPad Accepted in Lieu of Passport

Martin Reisch was able to enter the U.S. from Canada without his passport by presenting a scanned image of it on his iPad. And no one even bothered to yell "Photoshop!" Reisch reached the border crossing before realizing he forgot his passport, but he had scanned it into his computer. Instead of making the two-hour trip back home, Reisch showed the scan to the border officer along with his driver's license. The "mildly annoyed" border guard took the iPad into the border hut for about five minutes, then handed it back to Reisch and wished him a Merry Christmas. Reisch traveled to the U.S. to deliver some Christmas gifts, and was able to cross back into Canada using the same scan of his passport.

15-pound Babies Not That Rare in Minnesota

Michael Robert Calistro-Gomulak was born on September 28th in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. He weighed 15 pounds, 7 ounces, when he was delivered by caesarian section one week early. But the large boy did not break a state record: at least three babies born in the state during the 1990s weighed more. The largest was 16 pounds, 7 ounces! Little Michael has another legacy, though -he was named after his grandfather, who saved his wife's life while mortally injured after their car was hit by a drunk driver.

Flying Shark Startles Pilot

An airline pilot preparing to descend to Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand reported a sighting of a shark at several thousand feet! The fish was later identified as an Air Swimmer, an inflatable remote-control shark that is designed to be used indoors only.

A spokeswoman for air traffic control company Airways, Monica Davis, said a pilot had reported the shark and its location about nine kilometres from the airport at 2pm on December 26.

"We advised subsequent traffic of its location, but no-one else reported seeing it."

It was not yet known whether the sighting would be formally logged as an air-safety incident, she said.

The shark's altitude and how close it came to the plane were unclear, Davis said.

Robber Hands Gun to Cashier by Mistake

A man tried to rob the Halifax bank in London, England, but was undone by his own confusion. He entered the bank and demanded £700,000 from a teller. He then apparently intended to hand over a bag to put the money in, but instead handed the cashier his gun. Suddenly realizing what he had done, the robber panicked, grabbed his gun back, and fled the scene on a bank employee's bicycle. CCTV cameras recorded the escape. Police have released pictures and are asking the public to help identify the perpetrator.

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