The Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2015
Almost every Friday, you can catch The Weird Week in Review here at mental_floss. I have to admit that not every weird news story makes it into the weekly column here, because I tend to skip those that are overly prurient or tragic, and stories that are not available in English. There are probably a few good stories that were skipped because they were covered elsewhere at mental_floss. But of the 300 or so strange news items that appeared in the Friday column, here are the 20 stories of 2015 that are worth remembering at the end of the year.
20. THE EVIDENCE WAS ON FACEBOOK
John Mogan and Ashley Duboe were arrested in September in connection with a bank robbery in Ashville, Ohio. The bank was robbed on August 24 when a man wearing a hoodie demanded cash from a teller. Just a few days later, Mogan and Duboe began posting a series of photographs on Facebook featuring Mogan posing with wads of cash.
Mogan is a convicted felon who was just released from prison after serving about five years for robbing a bank in Lancaster, a city 20 miles east of Ashville. A female accomplice was also arrested in connection with Mogan's July 2010 robbery of a Fairfield National Bank branch.
Mogan began serving a three-year parole term immediately following his July 19 release from an Ohio state lockup. The heavily tattooed Mogan has the phrases “Loyalty’s Thin” and “Betrayal’s Thick” on opposite cheeks.
Investigators allege that prior to driving Mogan to the Ashville bank, Duboe applied makeup to his face and neck to cover numerous tattoos.
Mogan and Duboe taken to the Pickaway County jail in lieu of $250,000 bond. You can see a slideshow of the incriminating images at The Smoking Gun.
19. VEHICLE FLATTENED BETWEEN TWO SEMIS
And the driver is fine. Despite his Chevy Silverado being crushed to the size of a smart car, Kaleb Whitby only received a few cuts and bruises in the January I-84 accident near Baker City, Oregon.
More than 100 people were involved in the morning pileup on Interstate 84, about 33 miles east of Baker City. At least three separate collisions involving more than 20 vehicles, most of them semi-trucks, injured a dozen people.
Black ice conditions led to the multiple accidents. In Whitby’s collision, a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the highway. Whitby slid into the truck. Another tractor-trailer saw the first truck and slid sideways into the first truck, crushing Whitby’s pickup. After ascertaining that Whitby was alive and not seriously injured, the second truck driver, Sergi Karplyuk, asked if he could take a picture. Karplyuk helped Whitby free himself of the crushed pickup within a half-hour. He and Karplyuk joined other bystanders to help injured people. Whitby was checked out at a hospital later and came home with two Band-aids on his finger. You can read the details, and see more pictures, at Oregon Live.
18. SNAKE SWALLOWS SALAD TONGS
Aaron Rouse of Adelaide, Australia was feeding his python Winston a rat held with a pair of salad tongs when the snake decided he wanted all of it—including the tongs. Rouse tried to pull the tongs out, but Winston would not let go. Before he knew it, the tongs were completely inside the snake! Rouse took Winston to the veterinary department at Adelaide University, where Dr. Oliver Funnell decided to perform surgery. He made a small incision close to the big end of the tongs and pulled them out easily.
17. TRUCK SPILL FREES A MILLION BEES
A shortage of bees makes it necessary to haul bees to agricultural areas for pollination purposes, so it had to happen sooner or later. A truck carrying bees through Coeur d'Alene, Idaho overturned on I-90 in June and spilled up to a million bees. Traffic was backed up for a couple of hours, and drivers were warned to keep their windows rolled up. To make matters worse, Coeur d'Alene was hosting an Iron Man Triathlon event at the same time. That couldn’t have been pleasant.
16. INTRUDER SPENDS FIVE HOURS CAUGHT UPSIDE-DOWN IN WINDOW
Two freshmen at Nottingham Trent University in England spied an unusual sight as they walked through the campus early one January morning. A man had tried to enter a building through a window when his legs were caught, leaving him hanging upside-down with his rear end exposed. The students talked to him while taking photographs and video, then called emergency services. Police and firefighters responded, but they also had to take selfies before rescuing the man, who said he’d been in that position for five hours. Rescue workers eventually had to break the window to free him.
15. UNLUCKY THIEF CAUGHT BECAUSE GETAWAY CAR WAS REPOSSESSED
A man in Zion, Illinois, was observed putting electronics into a shopping cart at Walmart and leaving without paying for them. When confronted by store employees, he fled without the merchandise. Police later arrested 25-year-old Che Hearn as he was walking down the road.
When asked why he was walking, he responded that his car had been repossessed while he was at the Wal-Mart, police said.
Investigators determined that the repossession company had followed Hearn to Wal-Mart, police said. The car was towed away when he entered the store, giving Hearn the only option of fleeing the scene on foot, police said.
14. HORSE STUCK IN BATHTUB
It’s not unusual for livestock owners to repurpose an old bathtub as a feeding trough. And so it was for a 30-year-old mare named Phantom in Orangeville, California. In February, Phantom was dancing in her stall when she fell and became wedged in the bathtub. She was stuck there for at least 25 minutes with her feet in the air. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District was called.
Charles Campbell told KTLA sister station KTXL that when his wife called 911 for help, a confused dispatcher called back minutes later to clarify what had occurred.
“She called her back and she said, ‘You’re husband can’t get out of the bathtub?’ And she says, ‘No, it’s my horse,'” Campbell said.
Rescue workers and the family worked together to tip the bathtub on its side and pull Phantom out to freedom.
13. ARTIST LEFT HANGING NAKED
Norwegian artist Hilde Krohn Huse videotaped a piece of performance art that caught more than what was intended. Kruse went into the woods near Aukra in Norway and recorded herself hanging naked from a rope tied to a tree. However, at the end of the performance, she could not free herself from the rope. The video ran out, and she was still hanging, alone, calling for help. A friend finally arrived, after Kruse had been hanging for three and a half hours. The resulting video is not as Kruse had planned, but it was selected to be exhibited in the Bloomberg New Contemporary exhibition. The finished product is on Vimeo.
In the film ‘Hanging in the Woods’ the viewer can witness the breakdown between performance and reality as the indented performance goes wrong and the performer is stuck hanging from the tree without being able to free herself or any visible means of help or escape.
The video contains nudity.
12. CAT GIVES BIRTH TO KITTENS IN BIRD'S NEST
In May, Henry McGauley of County Louth, Ireland, found a stray cat in a tree. That’s not unusual, but the cat was curled up in a bird’s nest where she had birthed four kittens! The white cat is familiar to the neighborhood, and McGauley's wife Fiona had fed her before. The nest is about eight feet above the ground.
The couple think the nest may have belonged to a pair of wood pigeons who left it a few days ago and now it has furry, not feathered, squatters. Fiona said she will be moving the happy family onto terra firma as the kittens do not have the required wings to ensure a safe landing if they fall.
Henry chuckled as he said: “I always thought the cat was a bit bird-brained but I never expected her to move into a nest.”
11. CAR RECOVERED FROM TREE
— EMOpSS TRPT (South) (@SouthTRPT) May 24, 2015
A driver on the M69 in Leicester, UK lost control of her vehicle on May 17 and ended up in a tree. It is estimated that the car was going at about 100 mph. Both the driver and passenger walked away from the accident or, in this case, climbed out of the tree. The woman who was driving was cited for “driving without due care and attention.” The car was later recovered from the tree by a crane.
10. FOUR MASKED BANDITS CAUGHT IN THE ACT
There was a disturbance at an art gallery in November that led to an investigation. Four intruders were apprehended. A Facebook post by the Newport, Oregon police department takes the burglary report to the next level, by describing the perpetrators as a gang of thieves with colorful nicknames, including “Squeaky Feets.” The gallery owner, Cris Torp, said that the raccoons got in through roof vents, which has happened before. But when they recently sealed the openings around the vents, no one knew that the raccoons were trapped inside! The animals had been in the gallery for hours, but did little damage to the artwork. “Squeaky Feets” has found fame from the caper, and now has his own Facebook page.
9. MEERKAT EXPERT SENTENCED OVER ASSAULT ON MONKEY HANDLER
Working at a zoo can be as much of a soap opera as any other workplace. The first sentence from the Associated Press story spells it out:
A former meerkat expert at London Zoo has been ordered to pay compensation to a monkey handler she attacked with a wine glass in a love spat over a llama-keeper.
Caroline Westlake, who worked with meerkats, was sentenced to 12 months of community service and must pay £800 to the victim of her assault, monkey handler Kate Sanders. The assault happened at an employee Christmas party at the zoo last year, when the two women were arguing about a third zoo employee, llama keeper Adam Davies. The designation of “former meerkat expert” does not mean Westlake is no longer an expert, but that she was fired from the zoo over the incident.
8. RACCOON RIDES ALLIGATOR
Richard Jones of Palatka, Florida, captured a once-in-a-lifetime photograph in June while he was walking along the shore of the Ocklawaha River. He believes his son startled a raccoon, who fled toward the river. The raccoon jumped onto the back of an alligator and stood up long enough to have his picture taken. He immediately jumped away from the alligator as soon as the gator started moving. But the picture looks as if the raccoon planned to ride across the river on his reptilian friend. As the picture was passed around the internet, it attracted all sorts of pun headlines, such as “Florida gator starts Uber-like service.”
7. MAN STUCK IN TOILET TWEETED RAILWAY FOR HELP
@Se_Railway I'm stuck in a toilet - just pulling to elephant and castle, please help. Going to Orpington
— Steven Staples (@StaplesSteven) May 17, 2015
In May, Steven Staples of London was on a train and found himself locked in the toilet. No one could hear him, so he sent a tweet to Southeastern Railway.
The company responded immediately, asking for details so they could determine which train he was on. Within about 15 minutes, the engineer arrived just after a young girl managed to open the door. Staples was glad to be free, and tweeted his relief to the railroad company.
6. MAN COMES TO REALIZE HIS PUPPIES AREN'T PUPPIES AFTER ALL
A banana farmer in China bought a couple of “good looking pups” from a Vietnamese man. He played with them, petted them, and groomed them every day. The puppies grew fast and they grew big, and they had voracious appetites, leading them to chase and eat his chickens. Two years later, the farmer had the opportunity to visit a wildlife protection exhibition, and when he saw the bear exhibit, he realized what kind of animals his “dogs” really were. He reported the bears to wildlife authorities, who identified his pets as Asian black bears, a protected species. The bears were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Yunnan.
5. MAN SHOOTS ARMADILLO, HITS MOTHER-IN-LAW NEXT DOOR
A bizarre shooting incident in April in Lee County, Georgia, was determined to be an accident. Larry McElroy fired a 9mm pistol at an armadillo in his yard. He could not foresee what happened next.
The bullet killed the animal, but also ricocheted off of it, hit a fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law's mobile home, through a recliner she was sitting in, and into her back.
According to a report, McElroy was about 100 yards away from the home at the time.
The mother-in-law, 74-year-old Carol Johnson, was taken to a hospital, but her injuries were minor. Authorities in Lee County suggest that a shotgun be used instead of a pistol to “shoot at varmints and whatnot.” Tip: “whatnot” does not include your mother-in-law.
4. MEN PEE ON BEEHIVE, BEES REACT ACCORDINGLY
In March, a bus in Vietnam's Quảng Ngãi province pulled over on the side of the road to allow the men to relieve themselves. There was a beehive nearby, and one man thought it would be funny to urinate on the beehive. He convinced several other men to do the same, all at the same time. The bees were not happy about it, and swarmed out of the hive to attack the first body parts they came to. They also swarmed onto the bus and attacked other riders. Medics attended to 22 people who had been stung on their faces, hands, and penises. One person was taken to a hospital with swelling and a high fever.
3. BABY BORN WITH INTACT AMNIOTIC SAC
Little Silas Johnson was delivered by Cesarean section three months early at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, still shrouded in the sac of amniotic fluid. Neonatologist William Binder snapped a picture of the unusual sight with his cellphone, then opened the sac so the baby could begin breathing.
The photograph shows the baby just seconds old. Until the bag was broken, the baby was still getting oxygen through the placenta.
“It felt like slow-motion but really realistically probably about 10 seconds that we had to sort of quickly pause and be able to do this, because at the same time, we want to get the baby out of that sac, start helping the baby to begin breathing,” the doctor said.
The photo is a rare opportunity to see what a six-month pregnancy really looks like. And from the baby’s point of view, the trauma of birth didn’t happen until he was outside his mother. Despite his prematurity, Silas went home from the hospital—healthy—10 weeks after his birth.
2. FAN USES WIKIPEDIA FOR BACKSTAGE ACCESS
som1 edited our wiki 2 say he was our family. showed security, got in2 the green room and had a beer with the boys.. pic.twitter.com/DUZfki9hFS
— peking duk (@pekingduk) December 3, 2015
David Spargo is a fan of the Australian band Peking Duk. On December 2 in Melbourne, he went to the backstage area of a concert, where he was stopped by a security guard. Spargo told him he was band member Reuben Styles’ stepbrother. The guard demanded proof, so Spargo pulled up Peking Duk’s Wikipedia page on his phone and pointed out his name—the name he added only a few minutes before. The security guard let him in.
“It was probably the most genius, mastermind move that I’ve ever witnessed,” said Adam Hyde, Styles’ bandmate. “It’s crazy. He just did it on the spot, in a second on his phone.
“He told the security guard he was our stepbrother or something, and showed them the Wikipedia page and his ID.”
It goes to show, said Hyde, “never trust Wikipedia”.
Spargo introduced himself to the band, who were more impressed by his ingenuity than concerned by the security breach.
The band shared a few beers with Spargo and later told the story on Twitter, using the Anchorman catchphrase “I’m not even mad.”
1. WINNER OF FRENCH SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP DOES NOT SPEAK FRENCH
Nigel Richards of New Zealand entered the French-language Scrabble tournament in Louvain, Belgium, in July, and took first place. But he doesn’t speak a word of French.
"He won't know what [the words] mean, wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn't think," Liz Fagerlund, former president of the New Zealand Scrabble Association and a friend of Richards, told the New Zealand Herald. He just memorized a French dictionary.
The dictionary Richards memorized includes all French words made up of two to 10 letters.
"To him words are just combinations of letters," Yves Brenez, the competition's organizer, told FranceTV. "I’m perhaps exaggerating a bit, but he comes up with scrabbled (words of seven or more letters) that others take 10 years to know.”
Richards knows his Scrabble, though, and how to win. He’s held several English-language U.S. and world championships.