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The Weird Week in Review

Chuck Norris May Connect Austria and Slovakia

It looks like people wanting to pass between Slovakia and Austria in the future may have to cross Chuck Norris to do it. A new bike and pedestrian bridge spanning the Morava river international border will be named by an internet poll, and so far, American TV and movie star Chuck Norris has 74% of the vote. Trailing far behind are Maria Theresa Bridge (after a former empress) and Devinska cycling bridge (after a nearby town). The regional governing assembly said they will abide by the results of the poll, which is open until April.

Have You Ever Seen a Purple Cow?

A cow in a small village in Serbia has given birth to a purple calf. The calf is actually lavender-gray and white, and is said to resemble the purple cow used in advertisements for Milka brand chocolate. Veterinarians say the calf is healthy and shows no other unusual features. Local children have been swarming the farm to see the purple calf. Video of the calf can be seen with the news story.

Police Look Up Woman's License 425 Times

Anne Marie Rasmusson is preparing to file a federal lawsuit against Minnesota police officers who harassed her. An audit found that they were looking her up in the law enforcement driver's license database -a lot.

The numbers were astounding: One hundred and four officers in 18 different agencies from around the state had accessed her driver's license record 425 times in what could be one of the largest private data breaches by law enforcement in history.

The Department of Public Safety sent letters to all 18 agencies demanding an Internal Affairs investigation of the 104 officers. If the cops are found to be in violation of federal privacy law, they could be fired.

The case raises questions about police powers and privacy issues. Evidence suggests that officers have used the license database for years "like a Facebook for cops."

"Voice of God" Roof Alarms

The Church of England has seen a dramatic increase in thefts as scrap metal prices have risen. Churches at high risk will be fitted with alarms paid for with a donation from an insurance company, and other churches are urged to raise funds for their own alarms. The alarms are to be installed on church roofs and spires. They are outfitted with motion detectors that trigger a booming voice warning trespassers that they have been detected, and that security guards are coming. Mounted atop a church, that may be a warning a thief would heed.

Hope's Midnight Shopping Trip

Three-year-old Hope Trott of Baileyville, Maine woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday morning thinking her mother had gone to the store. The toddler put on shoes and a jacket and walked out the front door and down the street in the snow, to the store about a mile away. The grocer arrived about 4 AM and was surprised to find the little girl crying because she couldn't find her mother. He summoned police, who traced Hope's footprints in the snow back to her home. Her parents and siblings were still asleep. Hope was checked out at the hospital, but was found to be fine despite the 29-degree temperature that night.

The Getaway Vehicle Got Stuck

John Christopher Champion pulled out a pocket knife and threatened a clerk at a convenience store in Chiefland, Florida. The clerk fought back, and in the struggle stabbed Champion in the leg three times with his own knife. Champion overpowered the clerk and fled with some beer and a roll of electrical tape. He might have gotten away, if his motorized wheelchair hadn't mired up in the sand outside the store. Champion was drinking beer when the police found him. He was under the impression that they would not arrest a handicapped person. That notion was wrong, as he was taken to jail after his stab wounds were treated.

Swedish Man Stranded in Snowbound Car for Two Months

Sometime before Christmas, 44-year-old Peter Skyllberg's car became stuck in deep snow near Umea, Sweden, just south of the Arctic Circle. A passer-by found him last Friday -meaning he spent about two months in his car! While temperatures plunged to as low as -22F (-30C) outside, Skyllberg stayed in the car, where he had a sleeping bag and the protection of both the car and a layer of snow over it. The man was taken to Norrland's University Hospital to recover. Dr. Ulf Segerberg spoke about Skyllberg's survival.

"Starvation for one month, anyone can tolerate that if they have water to drink," said Dr Segerberg. "If you have body fat, you will survive even longer, although you end up looking like someone coming from a concentration camp."

He estimated that Mr Skyllberg could have lost more than three stone of his body weight over the period. Earlier police reports suggested Mr Skyllberg was in "really bad shape" when he was found.

He conceded that it was incredibly rare for someone to survive for so long outside in the cold Swedish winter.

Skyllberg is expected to recover, and may be released in a few days.

Man Arrested For Making Own Cheeseburger At Denny's

James Summers of Madison, Wisconsin was arrested at a Denny's after he led the restaurant staff to believe he was a corporate bigwig sent to check on them. He was wearing a coat and tie and carrying a briefcase. While the restaurant manager was on the phone trying to check the situation with her superiors, Summers made himself a hamburger and fries in the restaurant's kitchen. Someone called police, who arrived and found an unregistered stun gun and some crack pipes in Summers' possession. He was arrested for a weapons charge, fraud, and possession of drug paraphernalia. His motive for the escapade was apparently to get the free food.

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NASA, JPL-Caltech
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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.

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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.

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