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The Weird Week in Review

Bank Robber Shoots Himself in the Foot

Three armed men entered a bank in Parana, Brazil, and took 30,000 Brazilian reals ($16,000). Security cameras recorded three of the robbers, but police believe six were involved. The surveillance video clearly shows one of the men accidentally shooting himself in the foot. He limped away with the others, but was arrested at a hospital the next day.

Cat in Cockpit Delays Flight

Air Canada Flight 603 to Toronto was scheduled to leave Halifax International Airport on Wednesday morning, but a cockpit intruder caused a delay. A cat traveling with a passenger escaped from its cage while the plane was loading. The cat, named Ripples, hid in the cockpit and became stuck in the avionics systems. A maintenance crew was called out to disassemble part of the flight deck to extract the cat. Ripples was returned to the cage, and the flight took off four hours and twenty minutes late.

Nail Removed from Man's Head

Dante Autullo of Chicago has somewhat of a reputation for being accident-prone, but this time he hit the nail on the head. Or rather, he nailed his own head. The accident was Tuesday night, but Autullo thought he had just grazed his skull.

He popped a few Advil and kept working. Later that night, he drove a plow truck for eight hours and took his children to a play rehearsal.

Autullo woke up after a nap Wednesday feeling nauseous with a nasty headache. He went to an immediate care center and eventually to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

When he saw the bright white silhouette of the nail on his X-ray, Autullo couldn't believe it.

"I thought it was fake. I said, 'Did you get that out of the doctor joke file?'"

Autullo underwent surgery to remove the nail and a bone fragment, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Chicken Nugget Diet Not Adequate

Seventeen-year-old Stacey Irvine of Birmingham, England, was admitted to a hospital after she collapsed and had trouble breathing. It came to light that she had eaten hardly anything at all besides chicken nuggets since she was two years old. She was diagnosed with anemia and swollen veins. Irvine was treated with vitamins and supplements. Still, she says she can't resist a diet of chicken nuggets, from McDonalds or KFC, although she admits "I am starting to realise this is really bad for me." That understatement is not news to Irvine's mother, who has been warning her for years that her diet would send her to a hospital. But Irvine had eaten other things -fries, chips, and an occasional piece of toast to go with her nuggets.

Money Laundering

After the fire department came and found someone had pulled a false alarm, Louisville Metro Police responded to a call about a man acting very strange. They arrived to find Jose Veras of Radcliff, Kentucky, in an apartment building laundry room, stuffing money into a washing machine. Police found around a thousand dollars in small bills scattered around. Veras does not live at the apartment complex. Police also determined that he was the one who pulled the fire alarm. Veras was arrested for trespassing. He apparently has a mistaken notion of what money laundering really entails.

Sports Recruitment Video Too Violent, Popular

A recruitment video for Benedictine University athletics was pulled by the school after it went viral. School officials say the video wasn't approved through the proper channels. The video was posted on Deadspin and mentioned at other sites. It shows athletes launching various balls through the moon, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and even through the Earth's core. John Sink, of the company that produced the video, said it would be re-edited.

"The volleyball that went through the planet, which of course that happens all the time, it hits a pagoda," he said. "That was seen as kind of violent."

University officials understand some people "enjoyed" the video, and apologized to anyone who was offended.

Turkey Breaks Into Library

Police in Deadwood, South Dakota, investigated a break-in at the local public library. A broken window was first blamed on a possible rock thrown by a snow blower, but a look around inside revealed an intruder. A good-sized turkey had gotten into the library and was trying to find his way out. Police chased the turkey for about 20 minutes, and captured it by throwing a blanket over it. Once outside, the bird fled on foot. The perpetrator is still at large.

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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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