How Jayne Mansfield Changed the Design of Tractor-Trailers

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Unlike Hedy Lamarr, who actually patented a “secret communication system” during WWII (though the idea wasn't ultimately tweaked and used until the 1960s), Jayne Mansfield didn’t design the tractor-trailer—but her death forced safety experts to rethink the potential road hazards these massive vehicles could cause.

Mansfield was one of the most visible starlets of the 1950s and ‘60s and was constantly compared to Marilyn Monroe for both her platinum blonde hair and her famous physical assets.

On June 29, 1967, Mansfield, her lawyer, her driver, and three of her five children were driving from an appearance in Biloxi, Mississippi, to New Orleans for a TV interview early in the morning. It was just before 2:30 a.m. when her car came up on a tractor-trailer too fast, not seeing it because of anti-mosquito fog clouding the highway. The small car didn’t just rear-end the tractor-trailer—it went completely underneath it, shearing the top of the car off, and killing the vehicle's three adult passengers almost instantly.

Amazingly, the three children in the backseat survived with minor injuries. One of them went on to follow in her mother’s footsteps—you might know her as Law & Order: SVU’s Detective Olivia Benson, a.k.a. Mariska Hargitay (who still has a scar from the crash, which happened when she was just three years old).

Shortly thereafter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made it mandatory for all semi truck trailers to be fitted with under-ride bars, also called DOT bars or "Mansfield bars." The steel bar hangs from back of the cargo area and is designed to stop a car before it rolls underneath the trailer.

This story originally ran in 2011.

Virginia’s University of Lynchburg is Adding a Harry Potter Class to Its Fall Curriculum

Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.
Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.

While it’s not exactly an invitation to Hogwarts, students at Virginia’s University of Lynchburg are getting just about the next best thing. This fall, the campus is adding a Harry Potter-themed class to its curriculum as a general education course.

The university is in the process of changing some of its course offerings and streamlining classes in recognition of its modern students. According to WSET ABC 13, Dr. Sharon Foreman, director of general education, said of the new curriculum: "It is very targeted towards 21st century students who are going out into a global society and so we want faculty, staff, and administrators to know what that means, what it looks like, and [to] experience it first hand.”

Faculty have decided providing an education for a global society includes offering courses like the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Good Life," which will ask students to read J.K. Rowling’s books alongside the works of philosophers to create connections between the past and present.

University of Lynchburg coordinator of integrated seminars Amy Merrill Willis told WSLS 10 News that the course's instructor, Devin Brickhouse Bryson, is "going to be introducing philosophical concepts from [Plato], Socrates, and Aristotle, and asking students to think about the Harry Potter series in depth.”

Although there may not be a sorting hat or Butterbeer involved, the class sounds like a creative way to engage students in philosophy and critical issues, all while focused on the beloved Harry Potter series.

[h/t WSET ABC 13]

Pennsylvania Has Become a Hotbed of Bigfoot Sightings

iStock, THEPALMER
iStock, THEPALMER

If catching a glimpse of a real, live Bigfoot has been on your bucket list, you might want to plan a trip to Pennsylvania.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania now ranks as the third best place to catch a glimpse of a Sasquatch. These findings came to light thanks to the Travel Channel’s new show In Search of Monsters, which analyzed the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) collection of sightings data.

According to the BFRO, which dubs itself “the only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery," of the 23,000 Bigfoot sighting reports they have on file, 1340 of them came from The Keystone State (although the site notes that there may be significant under-representation in some areas that lack sufficient internet access or computers).

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on the growing popularity of Bigfoot hunting in Pennsylvania, with some cryptid searchers even viewing it as a fun weekend pastime.

Though Bigfoot's popularity may be on the rise in Pennsylvania, both California and Washington have PA beat when it comes to the sheer numbers. California was deemed the second best place to look for Sasquatch with over 1697 sightings reported, while Washington leads the country with 2032 sightings in all.

If you do happen to run into a Sasquatch, keep in mind that your reactions may have certain legal repercussions (for example, it's illegal to shoot Bigfoot in some states; you'll want to check with your state's wildlife department for your area's exact rules). And if you want to register that sighting, the BFRO makes it easy with an online form that allows you to recount all the key details—and speak with a BFRO investigator.

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