8 Classic Internet Links You Should Know


Looking through my old files, I found a list called “good links” that I don’t even remember compiling. It contained many classic websites and funny stories that hold up over time. Sadly, many of the websites that contained them did not hold up over time, but the most memorable of them live on elsewhere. If you’ve not encountered these stories, posts, and websites before, you are in for a treat.

1. Jim Rockford’s Answering Machine

Alex Morando put up a fan site called The Rockford Files Homepage, about the TV show The Rockford Files, starring James Garner, which ran from 1974 to 1980. Private detective Jim Rockford had a cheap but state-of-the-art Dictaphone answering machine at his home, and each episode would begin with a message that had nothing to do with the plot, but often lent a humorous detail to Rockford’s life. The page Jim Rockford’s Answering Machine lists every message aired during the series six seasons.

Jim, It's Norma at the market. It bounced. You want us to tear it up, send it back, or put it with the others?

This is the Department Of The Army. Our records show that you are the "Rockford, James" who failed to turn in his service automatic in May 1953. Contact us at once.

Alice, Phil's Plumbing. We're still jammed up on a job, so we won't be able to make your place. Use the bathroom at the restaurant one more night.

The sound icons are no longer linked to the audio files, but you can still play the audio files from this page. Also enjoy the show intro.

2. Tugboat vs. Bridge

It’s the story of a boat being pulled completely under a bridge by floodwaters. You may have seen the pictures elsewhere, as they have been passed around for years. Captain Michael L. Smith piloted the boat that went through the bridge just ahead of the pictured Motor Vessel Cahaba—before the drawbridge failed. Smith tells the story to accompany the pictures, with details. It happened in the late ‘70s. The captain of the tugboat, Jimmie Wilkerson, has since died, and the bridge is no longer there, but thanks to an unnamed photographer and internet forums we can still marvel at the adventure.

3. The Exploding Whale

In 1970, an eight-ton whale died on the Oregon coast. The State Highway Division decided the best way to dispose of it was to dynamite it. Well, at least that would turn it into smaller pieces. They seriously misjudged the amount of dynamite needed, and the resulting explosion became legend due to the rain of rotting whale meat rained over the gathered crowds and as far as a quarter mile away. Yes, there were cameras recording the carnage.

The event has an entire website called The Exploding Whale dedicated to archiving all available information about the exploding whale of 1970. It debuted in 2005, and is still being updated with whale explosion news. It is rare that a single-subject site is faithfully updated that long, and the ten-year-old existing site is a replacement for a previous site, so it is actually older that that.   

4. Longmire Does Romance Novels

Making fun of the cheesiness of romance novels is pretty common, even among readers who enjoy them. But the first artist who went viral with the idea was Mark Longmire back in 2005. He bought up a bunch of used romance novels and wrote new titles for them based on what the cover looked like. He said the jokes pretty much wrote themselves.

5. The Backstroke of the West

When movies are translated into other languages without studio oversight, as in bootlegs, the quality can vary from pretty decent to abysmal. Jeremy Winterson got hold of a Chinese bootleg of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. It was dubbed in Chinese, so he watched it with the hilariously inaccurate (and sometimes NSFW) English subtitles. The title of the movie was translated to The Backstroke of the West. Winterson posted the funniest screenshots in a legendary post that gave birth to the Do Not Want meme. In 2009, Winterson posted an updated version with even more pictures.     

6. The Tommy Westphall Universe

Tommy Westphall was a minor character on the TV series St. Elsewhere, a medical drama that aired from 1982 to 1988. In the final episode, it is suggested that the entire series was all a figment of Tommy’s imagination, revolving around the hospital building inside his snow globe. The Tommy Westphall Universe is a TV theory that ties various TV series together according to their characters' relationships with each other and with St. Elsewhere. The graph showing those relationships is massive, and would be much bigger if there had been any updates since 2007. The theory has since been supplemented by the "Munchiverse," which connects even more series together, named after the character of Detective John Munch, played by Richard Belzer, who appeared in quite a few series.

7. The Worm Within

Chris Bishop

The Worm Within by Vincent Eaton is the story of the tapeworm he caught in Belgium and the efforts to rid himself of it. The prose is very explicit and detailed. Whether it grosses you out or not, you will empathize with his despair as if it were your own. The story also spurs readers to share the stories of their own intestinal parasites and other distresses, which can be read in 27 pages of submissions.   

8. Dogs in Elk

Anne Verchick told this story in 1999 on a Salon forum that is now defunct, but it’s so funny and such a classic that it’s been enshrined in other places. She posted that she was having some trouble with her dogs and asked for advice.

Anne V - 01:01pm Sep 9, 1999 PDT (# 1318 of 1332) Okay - I know how to take meat away from a dog. How do I take a dog away from meat? This is not, unfortunately, a joke.

AmyC - 01:02pm Sep 9, 1999 PDT (# 1319 of 1332) Um, can you give us a few more specifics here?

Anne V - 01:12pm Sep 9, 1999 PDT (# 1320 of 1332) They're inside of it. They crawled inside, and now I have a giant incredibly heavy piece of carcass in my yard, with 2 dogs inside of it, and they are NOT getting bored of it and coming out. One of them is snoring. I have company arriving in three hours, and my current plan is to 1. put up a tent over said carcass and 2. hang thousands of fly strips inside it. This has been going on since about 6:40 this morning.

The carcass belonged to an elk. The story gets better. The veterinarian stopped by, mainly to laugh at the sight, and the dogs ended up trying to bring the carcass into the house. Verchick swore that the story is 100% true and registered astonishment at how popular the thread had become. In her world, it was just another everyday adventure with her dogs. You can see the pumpkin pictures mentioned here. This is one time we are glad there are no pictures of the original event.

What classic tales and sites would you add to this list?  

8 Surprising Uses for Peeps

You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.


Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.


Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)


If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.


With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).


Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.


There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.


We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.


Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family

In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.


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