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9 Wonderful Acts of Kindness

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Even when the news all seems to negative, it's nice to remind ourselves from time to time that there are plenty of people doing good in the world. For World Kindness Day, here are a few acts—some big, some small—that all make more than just the recipient feel the love.

1. THE SECURITY GUARD WHO MAKES KIDS FEEL EXTRA SPECIAL.

When he retired after 35 years in the German navy, Freddie Wieczorek started to go a bit stir crazy. He and his wife had moved to Florida, so he decided to get a part-time job at Walt Disney World as a security guard. But he went above and beyond making sure guests' days are safe and enjoyable: When he isn’t too busy, he asks costumed children for their autographs.

While it seems like such a small gesture, it makes the days of all the tiny princesses and pirates, many of whom think he has mistaken them for the "real" characters. "Every time I see a princess leaving from that signature or when I just tell them, 'You look so pretty,' I see them skipping. Then I know I just made their day," Wieczorek told Today in 2012. "And the pirates, the same thing. When they 'Awwwr,' it’s very special."

2. THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS DREAM OF WALKING TO HELP A CHILD.

Following a biking accident, Welshman Dan Black was paralyzed from the chest down at age 22. He spent four years raising £22,000 in the hopes that a future stem-cell treatment might help him walk again one day. But then his mom showed him a newspaper article on a 5-year-old boy who lived nearby with cerebral palsy whose family was trying to raise £60,000 for an operation that would let him walk unaided for the first time. Despite having what his mother called a "horrendous" quality of life, Black decided the boy, Brecon Vaughan, needed the money more than him and donated every penny. That, plus the news his generosity generated, helped them reach the goal within days. Brecon soon underwent the surgery, and within a year had ditched his walker. Within two years he was walking to school on his own and running along with his classmates.

3. THE TOWN THAT RALLIED WHEN NO ONE CAME TO A CHILD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY.

Last year, kindergartener Glenn Buratti invited all 16 of his classmates to his birthday party, and not a single one showed up. According to his mother, when Glenn realized no one was coming, he was devastated and tried to hide his tears. So like many upset moms do in that situation, Ashlee Buratti took to a community-based Facebook page. Within an hour, her son had a birthday party, all thanks to strangers.

Half a dozen families stopped by, some with presents. The sheriff’s department sent a helicopter to do a flyby. Later in the week they sent over the full arsenal: police cars, fire trucks, a SWAT van, and a canine unit. His mother said that despite having autism and some social anxiety, Glenn’s smile just kept getting bigger and bigger.

4. THE GREEK CAFE THAT HOUSES STRAY DOGS AT NIGHT.

The Hott Spott café on the island of Lesbos might be a cool hangout for humans until 3 a.m. each night, but after that it is a warm place for stray dogs to sleep. Ever since Greece was hit by their debt crisis, people have been abandoning dogs they can no longer afford. It has gotten so bad that animal charities estimated there were more than a million stray dogs in the country. Last winter, an assistant sociology professor took a photo of some dogs curled up on the café’s benches that went viral, and said that since the refugee crisis, it seemed like people had been trying to find ways to help the less fortunate, including cold puppies who might otherwise freeze on the streets.

5. THE TEENAGER WHO USED EXTREME COUPONING TO DONATE TO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

Sixteen-year-old Jordon Cox decided to try and get a huge Christmas meal for as little as possible. But not for his family: He donated it all to a homeless shelter. In the end, he managed to get £572.16 worth of food from a British supermarket … for only four pence.

Part of this was down to writing food manufacturers directly and telling them about his mission; many of them sent him vouchers. But the other part was possible thanks to his spending half an hour each day searching online and through mailers for great deals—i.e. "extreme couponing." While normally he does it to save money on his and his mom’s weekly shop, at the holidays he wanted to help those less fortunate.

6. THE STRANGERS WHO RAISED THOUSANDS FOR A MAN WHO COMMUTED 21 MILES EACH DAY—ON FOOT.

James Robertson’s Detroit neighborhood didn’t have bus services all the way to his factory job, so he found himself walking eight miles there and 13 miles home, five days a week. Some nights he would only get two hours of sleep. But when the 56-year-old's story was highlighted in the city newspaper, donations started pouring in.

Three GoFundMe campaigns raised a total of $33,000 within hours. A car dealership offered him the choice between two newer vehicles, and other people offered bikes, bus tickets, and even to drive him to work themselves. Needless to say, Robertson was completely overwhelmed by the generosity. But he still urged Detroit to consider a 24/7 bus service, because he knows he’s not the only person in that position.

7. THE WOMAN WHO TURNED HER HOME INTO A HOSPICE FOR TERMINALLY ILL CATS.

Peruvian nurse Maria Torero, not content with helping the sick at her day job, turned her eight-room home into a hospice for cats with leukemia. And not just two or three cats—for years, she has regularly had up to 175 at a time. She has stray cats tested, and will only bring home the adult ones who already have leukemia, since the disease can be spread to healthy cats. Her house is covered in food bowls and litter trays, as well as beds so they can be comfortable. Torero spends roughly $1500 a month (from donations and out of her own pocket) on food and medicine for her feline patients, and she even knits them sweaters. But she says that the best gift she can give them is love and respect during their lives.

8. THOUSANDS TURN OUT TO FULFILL CHRISTMAS WISH OF A GIRL WITH CANCER.

In 2013, 8-year-old Delaney Brown was diagnosed with leukemia in May, and by December, doctors were only giving her days to live. While she had already received donations to pay for medical expenses and a video chat with Taylor Swift, she knew what she really wanted as one last Christmas wish: to hear live carolers outside her house. So her parents posted it to social media. Instead of just a few people, an estimated 6000 to 8000 turned up, allowing Delaney to hear them sing "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" even though she was too sick to come to the window. She posted a picture on Facebook saying, "I can hear you now!!! Love you!"

Delaney died just a few days later, on Christmas morning.

9. THE UGANDAN WOMEN WHO DONATED TO KATRINA VICTIMS.

Despite only earning $1.20 a day, a group of women in Uganda got together and donated $900 to the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Because the group had selflessly donated to the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia the year before, local nurse Rose Busingye didn’t want to ask them for money again, instead just asking that they pray for those affected. But to her surprise, 200 women donated money not just from their day jobs breaking rocks into gravel, but from selling things like bananas, necklaces, and chairs. The money all went to a Catholic aid organization in the United States.

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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How to Carve a Pumpkin—And Not Injure Yourself in the Process
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Wielding a sharp knife with slippery hands around open flames and nearby children doesn't sound like the best idea—but that's exactly what millions of Halloween celebrations entail. While pumpkin carving is a fun tradition, it can also bring the risk of serious hand injuries. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), some wounds sustained from pumpkin misadventure can result in surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize trauma. Both ASSH and CTV News have compiled safety tips for pumpkin carvers intended to reduce the chances of a trip to the emergency room.

First, it's recommended that carvers tackle their design with knives made specifically for carving. Kitchen knives are sharp and provide a poor grip when trying to puncture tough pumpkin skin: Pumpkin carving knives have slip-resistant handles and aren't quite as sharp, while kitchen knives can get wedged in, requiring force to pull them out.

Carvers should also keep the pumpkin intact while carving, cleaning out the insides later. Why? Once a pumpkin has been gutted, you’re likely to stick your free hand inside to brace it, opening yourself up to an inadvertent stab from your knife hand. When you do open it up, it's better to cut from the bottom: That way, the pumpkin can be lowered over a light source rather than risk a burn dropping one in from the top.

Most importantly, parents would be wise to never let their kids assist in carving without supervision, and should always work in a brightly-lit area. Adults should handle the knife, while children can draw patterns and scoop out innards. According to Consumer Reports, kids ages 10 to 14 tend to suffer the most Halloween-related accidents, so keeping carving duties to ages 14 and above is a safe bet.

If all else fails and your carving has gone awry, have a first aid kit handy and apply pressure to any wound to staunch bleeding. With some common sense, however, it's unlikely your Halloween celebration will turn into a blood sacrifice.

[h/t CTV News]

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