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7 Strange Things That Have Been Left On the Moon

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by James Hunt

It has been over 40 years since mankind last set foot on the surface of the Moon, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a popular destination for aspiring space travelers. Should the opportunity to visit ever arise, you probably think you know what to expect: dust, craters, and a bunch of abandoned spacecraft. But there might be a few surprises in store. Here are just a few of the weirdest things you might find on the surface of the Moon.

1. TWO GOLF BALLS

Alan Shepard holds the distinction of being the fifth and oldest person to walk on the Moon, but he's also the first person to play a round of golf. Using a Wilson-branded six-iron club head attached to a lunar sample scoop handle, Shepard made two drives: the first swing was “more dirt than ball,” but the second ball went—as he described it—"miles and miles and miles." Shepard brought the club back to Earth (it's in the United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey), but didn't have enough time to retrieve the balls.

2. THE FALLEN ASTRONAUT


NASA - Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

There isn't a huge amount of art on the moon, but there's probably more than you expect. One famous example is Fallen Astronaut, a 3.3-inch aluminum model placed on the surface by the crew of the Apollo 15. Intended—according to the accompanying plaque—to commemorate those who have died while pursuing space exploration, the sculpture was created by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, but despite the accolade of having the first sculpture on the moon, Van Hoeydonck disputes its use, stating that he intended it to be placed upright and that it represented all humanity. Unfortunately, it's unlikely he'll get a chance to correct the orientation personally.

3. A PIECE OF LAVA FROM DEVIL'S LAKE IN OREGON

In a move that could seriously confuse lunar geologists of the distant future, Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin left a small piece of solidified lava on the moon. The chunk of rock was taken from Devil's Lake near Bend, Oregon, where NASA sent its astronauts to practice taking rock samples. Each astronaut was hosted by locals, and Irwin was paired with building inspector Floyd Watson. Five years later, upon learning that Irwin was going to the moon, Watson asked Irwin if he'd take the rock up there with him. Watson did—and, as proof, he sent Irwin a photograph of the shard with a handwritten note stating "Oregon Lava on the Moon!"

4. A CHAPTER OF THE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

By this point, it might seem like Apollo 15 did nothing but muck around when they went to the moon, but in addition to leaving behind tiny sculptures and rocks, the three astronauts (David Scott, James Irwin, and Alfred Worden in the Command Module) founded the first space-based chapter of their university's alumni association.

All three had attended the University of Michigan, so they left behind a small plaque containing the words, “This is to certify that The University of Michigan Club of The Moon is a duly constituted unit of the Alumni Association and entitled to all the rights and privileges under the Association’s Constitution.”

5. A BLANK PHOTOGRAPH

Lots of astronauts took photos on the Moon, but Charles Duke took a photo to the Moon. While on the Apollo 16 mission, he used the opportunity to place a photograph of his family up there. It shows him, his wife Dorothy, and their sons Charles and Thomas all sitting on a bench. The back reads "This is the family of Astronaut Duke from Planet Earth. Landed on the Moon, April 1972."

Unfortunately, the sunlight is harsh on the Moon, temperatures are extreme, and the solar radiation is untempered by any significant magnetosphere for most of its orbit. Photographic prints fade pretty quickly, even under relatively controlled conditions, so—plastic bag or not—after 44 years, there's very little chance you'll still be able to make out the picture itself.

6. AN X-RATED ANDY WARHOL DRAWING

As if to prove that anything could happen in the 1960s, when Apollo 12 went to the Moon in late 1969 it took with it a tiny ceramic wafer which contained artwork by six prominent artists. Titled Moon Museum, it contains material from Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers, and Andy Warhol, and was unofficially attached to the leg of the Intrepid landing module by an aircraft engineer. The module was left behind when the astronauts returned to the orbiting capsule, so it should still be up there. Warhol's drawing in the top left corner was (allegedly) a stylized version of his initials—but was labeled as phallic by many who saw it.

7. A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN

Don't get confused, Her Majesty hasn't been into space (yet), but Apollo 11 did carry a little part of the British monarchy up there with it. When they went to the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were asked to leave behind a silicon disk just 1.5 inches across. It contains, in microscopic writing, goodwill messages from prominent figures and leaders of nearly 75 countries, including Pope Paul VI, Indira Gandhi, and Queen Elizabeth II as well as statements from Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. It was designed to remain intact for thousands of years and serves as a reminder that despite the international turmoil of the 20th century, leaders across the globe were united in their optimism about space travel.
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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
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Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
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In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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