10 Eerie Abandoned Animal Parks

Animal parks and zoos are supposed to be a source of happiness and entertainment. Ideally, they’re places for people to be educated and enriched, witnessing animal species they normally would not encounter. It doesn’t always work out that way, however.

Lack of funding, opposition by activists, and severity of elements are all reasons that animal parks have closed. The once-thriving locales are left empty, their structures and cages abandoned and overgrown.

10 Warner Brothers Jungle Habitat

One would think an animal park run by Warner Brothers would be an instant success, but animal attacks, escapes, and opposition from locals would eventually lead to the park being shut down within four years of it opening.

Designed in two parts, the Warner Bros. Jungle Habitat contained a zoo which families could walk through, including a petting zoo, reptile house, camel rides, and snack area, as well as a safari area they could drive through. The safari area featured free-roaming elephants, llamas, lions, and tigers, giving guests an up close and personal view of the animals as they frequently stopped next to the cars and sometimes even climbed on top of them.

Shortly after the park opened in 1972, an Isreali tourist was attacked by two lions after he stuck his hand out of the car window and taunted them while driving through the safari attraction of the park. Two wolves escaped their enclosure and wandered into the local town of West Milford, New Jersey. A local television host was scratched by a six-month-old tiger cub while filming a television special. Then, a couple of years later, a woman was bitten by a baby elephant. Finally, a rhino mounted a gray Mercedes-Benz, believing it to be a mate, causing great damage to the car’s rear end.[1]

Jungle Habitat did not have any rides, and when Warner Brothers tried to expand the park to include a wooden roller coaster, a carousel, and various other rides for adults and kids, they were met with opposition from locals, who did not care for the noise and traffic, and narrowly missed the vote for the expansion. Warner Brothers decided to shut the park down when they were denied the expansion, realizing that without a way to expand, they would not be able to build revenue.

The year after the park closed, all but 400 of the original 1,500 animals in the park had been sold. Unfortunately, nine of the animals contracted tuberculosis and had to be euthanized, leading an investigation into why 19 other dead animals on the property were not buried or disposed of.

The park grounds are now a popular place for people to hike and bike through, with many of the old cages and structures still standing.

9 Catskill Game Farm

Though it opened after World War II as a fun zoo for families to connect with wildlife by petting and feeding the animals, the Catskill Game Farm would quickly get a dark reputation.

Started in 1933 as a private animal farm and first opened to the public in 1945 in Catskill, New York, the Catskill Game Farm was the first privately owned zoo in the United States and was the biggest zoo for some time. It consisted of deer, bison, yaks, llamas, camels, zebras, and antelopes, with an area guests could walk through and hand-feed the animals.

The zoo was a great success when it opened, as the Catskill Mountains were a popular tourist destination, and the zoo’s founder, Roland Lindemann, spent much of his time expanding the zoo to include rare and endangered animals, growing its population to 600 wild animals and 200 tame animal species.

But in the early 1990s, the zoo would receive bad publicity when a news article reported that animals there were being sold to game hunters for “canned hunts,” when an animal is put into an enclosed area, giving the hunter a sure chance of killing it. Inspection records from the Texas Animal Health Commission stated that over 150 animals were shipped to Texas, and no one knows what happened to them after they entered the state. Before the park closed in 2006, protestors swarmed the gates of the zoo to try to get the owners to donate the animals to sanctuaries. When it came time to auction off the animals after the park’s closure, activists tried to buy as many animals as possible, but many still went to the highest-bidding game hunter.[2]

In 2012, the property was purchased by Ben and Cathy Ballone, with hope to restore the grounds and turn the buildings into an inn and campsite. Recently, they opened the Long Neck Inn in the renovated remains of the old giraffe enclosure, giving the abandoned park a new life and a, hopefully, brighter future.

8 Alligatorland

One would think that in the land of Disney World and Universal Studios, attraction parks in Florida would be of the highest standard, but such was not the case for the Alligatorland Safari Zoo.

Sitting just behind the Gator Motel and a 38-meter-long (126 ft) alligator statue, Alligatorland was home to over 1,600 exotic animals and birds of various species. Guests could walk through the nearly 7 acres of land and view the animals up close.

But the trouble for Alligatorland started in 1982, when Gatorland filed a suit against them for having a very similar entryway to their park. The giant alligator jaws were too similar, Gatorland claimed, to their entry, which had been erected since the 1960s. (Alligatorland opened in the 1970s.)

Then, the whole state of Florida came under scrutiny for the way animals were treated. This led to Alligatorland getting a surprise inspection, during which it was found that enclosures were not up to standards, cages had an abundance of old animal feces, and animals were not being cared for properly. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued Darren Browning, the owner of Alligatorland, a $1,500 fine, which he refused to pay and instead decided to represent himself in court.[3] During the two-day trial, he questioned the competency of the USDA inspectors and ultimately lost his case. For the next three years, he would continue to lose more court battles against the USDA, and he would eventually sell the property in 1995.

The zoo would reopen shortly afterward under the name of Jungleland Zoo, but after flooding, an escaped lioness, more failed USDA inspections, and the economic turn of the early 2000s, the zoo closed its doors in 2002.

The alligator statue in front of Alligatorland was destroyed in 2014, but the structures and walkways of the park still stand, with hopes to one day be renovated and turned back into an animal attraction.

7 Stanley Park Zoo

How the Stanley Park Zoo in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was founded is quite an interesting story: The superintendent for Stanley Park, Henry Avison, discovered an orphaned black bear cub on the grounds, so he chained the bear, like a dog, to a stump to keep him contained and safe.[4] Over the coming years, he captured more animals on the grounds that needed help and treatment. By the time the zoo officially opened in the early 1900s, there were over 50 animals, both native and exotic, that Avison had taken in or discovered abandoned, and people kept donating animals to the zoo’s collection, even after Avison’s death.

In 1956, the zoo’s aquarium opened with penguins and otters, and in 1962, polar bears were donated to the zoo and quickly became the main attraction.

In the 1990s, animal activists picketed against the zoo, stating that many of the cages were too small and that Vancouver’s weather was too harsh for many of the animals. To resolve this, the City of Vancouver decided to expand the zoo, but citizens voted against the expansion and called for the zoo to be shut down, so it did in 1996.

Most of the animals were sent to the Greater Vancouver Zoo or relocated to the Stanley Park Children’s Farmyard (which was closed in 2011), but one animal was allowed to stay in the park—Tuk, the 36-year-old polar bear whose health was too poor to be moved. He died in 1997, and the zoo was officially closed.

To this day, the polar bear pit still stands on the grounds and is currently repurposed as a salmon hatchery. Guests can still walk through the overgrown vegetation of where the zoo once was.

6 Belle Isle Zoo

Though Detroit is in the midst of a citywide rehabilitation, there are still many remnants of the years of government corruption and economic depression the city has witnessed.

One such victim to the city’s troubles was the Belle Isle Zoo, closed in 2002 by then-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who cited declining attendance and budget constraints as his reasons for closing the zoo, though locals overwhelmingly objected to the closure.

Belle Isle, located in the Detroit River between Detroit and Canada, was once a prominent attraction for locals and tourists, drawing them to the park’s beaches, nature paths, and stunning views, as well as its main attraction, the zoo.

Opened in 1895 with just a bear den and a deer pack, the zoo would grow to over 150 animals in just 15 years and would include tigers, seals, elephants, and exotic birds. When the Detroit Zoo opened, most of the animals were rehomed there, and the Belle Isle Zoo was turned into a children’s zoo before getting a full renovation in the 1980s and being renamed “Safariland.”

The renovation to the park would include the various hut-like structures, wooden paths and bridges, and metal cages that currently stand abandoned on the island, overgrown and graffitied, with fallen trees blocking the paths and vines growing around the metal. Currently, there are no plans to reopen the zoo,[5] though the state is working on restoring other areas of Belle Isle.

5 Groote Schuur Zoo

Imagine being given a couple of lions and leopards. What would you do with them? If you were Cecil John Rhodes, you would create a zoo to house them.

In 1897, Rhodes created a private menagerie in Cape Town, South Africa, for his large cats, as well as other animals he received as gifts throughout the years. After his death, the state would inherit Rhodes’s estate and his collection of animals. New enclosures were built, and the site was called the Groote Schuur Zoo. Lions, emus, mountain goats, crocodiles, and other animals were kept in enclosures, and the zoo became a popular attraction.

The lions would always be the focus of the zoo, however, having the prominent spot and best enclosure at the back of the zoo. Zookeeper George Booker would be infamous at the zoo for having a special connection with the lions, being able to go into their cages and hand-feed them and even get them to do tricks for guests.[6] Ironically, he died when he contracted tetanus after being bitten on the finger by a lion.

Sometime between 1975 and 1985, the zoo would close due to an increase in animal welfare standards and financial issues, but people can still roam the overgrown grounds, see the remnants of the concrete pools, pose with the cement lion statues, and view the infamous lion enclosure.

Interestingly, two tahrs, a breed of Himalayan mountain goat, escaped to Table Mountain and bred a large herd, and there is still a population of the goats on the mountain, though they are considered pests to the area, and measures have been taken to control the population, keeping Rhodes’s legacy alive.

4 Wildlife Wonderland

Rosie the Shark became a viral sensation when YouTuber and urban explorer Luke McPherson discovered her decaying remains in a large tank in 2018. The question many raised, however, was why was Rosie there, and who had forgotten about her?

Rosie was part of the Wildlife Wonderland in Bass, Victoria, Australia, a zoo and animal rehabilitation center for Australia’s native species, such as wombats, kangaroos, koalas, and various birds.

Unlike many of the other zoos and parks on this list, which were shut down for alleged animal cruelty, Wildlife Wonderland was shut down because they violated Wildlife Act 1975 and did not have a license to display native animals, meaning that they could not operate as a zoo, causing the owners to give away the animals and close down the park in 2012.[7]

As to how Rosie ended up in the abandoned zoo, an artist preserved her body after she was caught in a fishing net and donated her to the museum. In 2019, due to vandals causing damage to Rosie’s tank, the shark was finally moved to another establishment in Victoria called Crystal World.

3 Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island

We discussed a failed park by Warner Brothers, but one might be surprised to find Disney on this list.

Discovery Island was a wildlife and nature attraction in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, that included many native and exotic birds and vegetation, as well as a sandy beach for guests to walk on. It operated from April 1974 to April 1999.

Walt Disney scouted the island while buying the land that would become Disney World and had big plans for its 11.5 acres. First named Blackbeard’s Island, he wanted it to be a pirate-themed attraction, complete with shipwrecks, forts, and an inn, but as construction on the park began, he decided to make it more tropical, introducing exotic birds and plants to the island and renaming it Treasure Island.

As the years went on, the island became more focused on the animal wildlife. An aviary was built on the grounds that would breed exotic birds, and the island was once again renamed to Discovery Island.[8]

Controversy would hit Discovery Island in 1989, when a two-month investigation by state and federal officials led to charges being filed against Disney and five employees for firing rifles at hawks, beating vultures to death with sticks, and destroying nests and eggs. The state report indicated that many of the employees thought they were acting within Disney World’s permits and were carrying out the illegal activities under the direction of the park’s curator, Charlie Cook. Disney settled out of court.

After the bad publicity and with the opening of Animal Kingdom, Disney decided to close Discovery Island in April 1999, relocating the animals to the Animal Kingdom resort and letting the vegetation grow and take over the island.

In 2009, urban explorer Shane Perez and some friends swam, under the cover of darkness, to the island and took pictures of the abandoned buildings and overgrown greenery. They found leftover office paraphernalia and various specimens in jars. Though they did not press charges against the crew for trespassing, Disney did threaten to ban them from all of their parks.

Currently, there are no plans to rehabilitate Discovery Island, making it one of two abandoned parks at Disney World.

2 Southport Zoo

The official reason the Southport Zoo in Southport, Merseyside, England, was closed was because the city council did not allow the owners, Carol and Douglas Petrie, to renew their lease on the zoo, therefore allowing Pleasureland, a theme park attraction that abutted the zoo, to expand and create more attractions.

The more likely reason the city council didn’t renew the Petries’ lease was because they were tired of dealing with the protestors and picketers who opposed the zoo.

Though it was a smaller zoo, holding only 154 species, most of which were birds and invertebrates, the negative attention the zoo received was monumental, with it being listed as one of Britain’s worst zoos by the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS). Opposers to the zoo claimed they had recorded comments from hundreds of zoo visitors and former keepers that the animals suffered ill treatment, isolation, and understimulation.[9] The Petries denied these claims, and investigation of the zoo also found no evidence, bringing more scrutiny of how the government picks inspectors, as most of them have ties to the zoo industry.

At the forefront of the campaign against the zoo were chimpanzees Jackie and Jason, whose faces were plastered on pamphlets and posters to attract attention. It was stated that they lived in cramped, isolated cages with no interaction or enrichment. The animals were offered a home at a primate sanctuary in Dorset, but the Petries would not permit them being relocated, saying it was not in the chimps’ best interest.

The Petries would eventually lose their fight defending their zoo in 2004, and the animals would be rehomed to various zoos across England and Wales. The site was reopened in 2010 as “Battlefield Live Southport,” a venue for outdoor combat gaming using guns that fire infrared beams.

1 Nay Aug Park Zoo

The Nay Aug Park Zoo in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was once a source of pride for the community, with children raising money to purchase elephants for the zoo in 1924 and 1935, but before the century’s close, it would be a source of scrutiny and disgrace.

Though the zoo once saw up to 500 visitors in a day, bad upkeep to the animal houses would cause people to question the establishment’s operations. In 1963, the heating system for the zoo would fail, causing four monkeys to die from exposure. The same year, a faulty door in the lion cages allowed a lioness to enter the cage of two cubs, resulting in their death. Other incidents throughout the years included a monkey escaping and biting a zoo attendant, an elephant choking on a stuffed toy that had been thrown into her cage and having to have it removed, and, at different times, an alligator, a monkey, and two black bears escaping from their cages, resulting in all being shot and killed. Parade magazine would call Nay Aug Park Zoo one of the ten worst zoos in the nation.

Citing financial struggles, the zoo closed in 1988, with Toni the elephant being the last animal to be relocated.[10] In 2003, the zoo would reopen as the Genesis Wildlife Center, but public outcry over animal abuse and the lack of changes to the structures would force the zoo to close again in 2009.

Though it no longer holds exotic animals, the main building of Nay Aug Zoo has been renovated and reopened by the charity Street Cats as a low-cost spay and neuter clinic for cats and dogs, with many cats living in the building while waiting to be adopted.

Tracy lives with her dog in a tourist town where she writes and creates.


10 Uplifting Stories To Get You Through The Week (9/1/19)

If the happenings of the past week have got you down, perhaps this list can cheer you up a bit. Here, we only talk about stories that are positive, amusing, or inspirational. Meanwhile, you can also check the offbeat list for a look at some of the most bizarre news items that made the headlines.

This week is all about parties. There is an emotional reunion at a retirement party when an FBI agent meets the baby he saved decades ago. Nurses throw a surprise party and concert to cheer up one of their patients. Seniors in South Korea get down with the groove to improve their health and well-being. And let’s not forget a four-year-old who got to spend his birthday in his favorite place—Costco.

10 Retirement And Reunion

An FBI special agent got a big surprise at his retirement party when he was reunited with the baby he saved 22 years ago as a rookie.

Back in 1997, the FBI was called in after an abduction at a hospital in Tacoma, Washington. A woman successfully impersonated a nurse and kidnapped newborn Stewart Rembert.

Among the agents looking for the baby was Troy Sowers who was still wet behind the ears back then in his first year of service. However, he got a tip and managed to track down the kidnapper. Later, he persuaded her to bring him to the stolen baby. Little Stewart had been left in a box next to a restaurant dumpster, but he was in good health.

The baby was taken to the hospital. Sowers never saw Stewart again but always wondered about what happened to him. In the decades that followed, Sowers worked plenty of other cases, but now it was time to hang up his boots.

His colleagues threw him a retirement party with a special surprise: an appearance from Stewart Rembert, now a 22-year-old corporal with the Marines. The two hugged and remembered the unusual circumstances that led to their meeting all those years ago, with Stewart hearing for the first time many details surrounding his kidnapping.[1]

9 Front Lawn Festival

The front lawn of the Waters house in Weymouth, Massachusetts, has become center stage for many performers who show up to entertain a three-year-old boy who can’t leave the house.

Quinn Waters needed a stem cell transplant to fight his brain cancer. Although the procedure went well, it temporarily wiped out his natural immune system. He had to be isolated in his home and avoid contact with anyone except for his immediate family. The separation has been hard on the boy as all he can do is gaze out the window at the people who pass by the house.

However, over the last two months, more and more people have been coming over to the family’s front lawn to interact with Quinn. First, it was other family members. Then the neighbors started swinging by. Afterward, the police came.

Eventually, almost every performer in Weymouth dropped by to do their acts for Quinn. Everything from magic tricks and art projects to dog parades and Irish dancing all took place on the Waters family’s lawn.[2]

8 Feline Finds Family

Maggie Welz had lost hope that she would ever see her cat, Tiger, again. After all, it had been 11 years since he ran away from home after someone accidentally left the door open.

Months of searching for him yielded no results, and there was no chance of Tiger coming back on his own after the Welz family moved. And yet, today Maggie and Tiger are together again, thanks to another woman who tracked Maggie down through the microchip implanted in the cat.

Carol O’Connell works for the SPCA in Dutchess County, New York. For the last three years, Tiger has been hanging around her neighborhood, although it was clear that he was a stray. She tried to get close to him, but the cat was too wary to let that happen.

Recently, she noticed that the animal had lost weight and was worried that he might be sick. O’Connell tried harder to gain the cat’s trust, and eventually, he relented.

She took him in and called him “Spirit” or “Ghost” due to his tendency to appear and disappear. On a whim, O’Connell borrowed a scanner from the SPCA shelter and checked the cat. That’s how she found out that his name was Tiger and he belonged to the Welz family.[3]

Now he has been reunited with the people who thought they would never see him again. Maggie says that Tiger crawls up to her every night in bed, and she strongly encourages pet owners to chip their animals.

7 I Want It That Way

Nurses from Northside Hospital in Atlanta threw a surprise party and performance to cheer up one of their patients who missed a Backstreet Boys concert due to a leukemia diagnosis.

Amanda Coley is one of the biggest fans of the boy band. She is 36 now, but she has been listening to the Backstreet Boys since she was a teenager. Therefore, she was over the moon when she and her sister, Maggie Kingston, received concert tickets for the band’s August show as a Christmas gift from their husbands.

The concert was on August 21. Three weeks before that, Amanda found out that she had leukemia and had to start treatment for it. According to Maggie, Amanda’s first question was: “So I can’t go to the Backstreet Boys concert?” Unfortunately, she couldn’t, but her sister and a friend decided to throw her a little party in her hospital room to cheer her up a bit.

They passed out invitations to the nurses, hoping they might stop by and say “hi.” But the nurses went a little further. A bunch of them danced their way into Amanda’s room and started performing some of the band’s greatest hits as Amanda danced and sang along.[4]

Maggie described her sister as being “in heaven.” The stunt even caught the attention of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter who reached out to wish Amanda “good luck” with her treatment.

6 Costco’s Littlest Fan

Speaking of parties, one four-year-old celebrated the birthday party of his dreams at his favorite place in the world—Costco.

Young Armando Martinez is obsessed with the retailer. His parents even started an “Armando Loves Costco” Instagram account. There, they share pictures of the boy enjoying the various perks of a trip to the store such as munching on free food samples and showing off his own membership card.[5]

His passion for Costco went to a new level after the store in Norwalk, California, shut down its food court so that Armando could have his birthday party there. They had pizza, music, Costco-brand cake, and plenty of thematic games such as guessing the prices on merchandise and swinging at a pinata with the Costco logo on it.

Guests were even presented with special name tags modeled after the store’s membership cards.

5 Lilo Rescue

Photo credit: BBC

Two teen sisters from Scotland saved a man and a toddler from drowning by getting both of them onto an air bed and pushing them to the shore.

On Monday, Isla and Eilidh Noble were relaxing with a swim in the Waters of Philorth nature reserve off the coast of Aberdeenshire. They saw a man and his young son splashing around and shouting.

At first, they mistook the actions for normal frolicking in the water, but they eventually realized that the two were in trouble. The man put the boy on his shoulders and was struggling to keep both their heads above the water level.

The sisters swam out to the struggling duo with the only equipment they had handy: a one-person inflatable air bed which is called a “lilo” in the UK. The girls reached the father and son and managed to place them both on the air bed. The man was so exhausted that he passed out. Isla started pushing them toward the shore while Eilidh swam ahead to call emergency services.[6]

Fortunately, another man named Keith Gray saw the events unfold while picnicking with his family. He swam to Isla to help her push. A passing nurse assisted in placing the man into the recovery position and getting him to cough up seawater.

Emergency services arrived and airlifted the man to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. He regained consciousness before taking off and thanked his rescuers. His condition was not life-threatening. The young boy was uninjured.

4 Take Me Out To The Ball Game

A 99-year-old lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates got to attend her first baseball game ever with her entire family to celebrate her upcoming birthday.

Catherine Kyle has lived in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, her entire life. She became a Pirates fan early in her marriage as she watched the games on television with her husband, Jack. Together, they had over 30 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Jack passed away, but Catherine’s passion for the Pirates stayed strong.

Despite her devotion, she had never actually been to PNC Park where the team plays. But her family decided that it had been long enough. Catherine’s 99th birthday is coming up in September. To celebrate, they took her to the Pirates game against the Cincinnati Reds last Saturday. Sixteen of them wore matching gear and dubbed themselves “Catherine’s Crew.”

The Pirates won 14–0. Catherine described the whole experience as “really fun” and even got her wish of singing along to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the seventh inning. To top it all off, she received a baseball signed by her favorite former Pirate, Francisco Cervelli.[7]

3 Saturday Afternoon Fever

Photo credit: BBC

The local government of Seoul, South Korea, has organized a first-of-its-kind daytime disco aimed strictly at people over 65 years of age. The goal is to help tackle loneliness and poor health in a country with a large number of seniors and the fastest aging population in the world.

The concept is simple. If you are over 65, you can go there and party for a few hours. Sometimes, there are themed events such as masquerades. This is beneficial for seniors because it not only encourages physical activity but also improves their social lives. This can help combat mental afflictions such as depression or even dementia.[8]

Participants have responded positively to the disco. Some say that it acts “like medicine,” and others feel like the “pain disappears” when the music hits.

2 Paddling Against Pollution

A Spanish endurance athlete paddled across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii on a custom-made stand-up paddleboard to raise awareness of plastic pollution.

Antonio de la Rosa set off from San Francisco on June 6. He embarked on a 4,750-kilometer (2,950 mi) journey that ended last Saturday in Oahu. In 76 days, he became the first person to complete this trip on a paddleboard.

There was no engine and no support vehicle. All the supplies were aboard de la Rosa’s 7.3-meter-long (24 ft) paddleboard which weighed over 680 kilograms (1,500 lb).

His only method of propulsion was his arms and his legs. To make it a bit more difficult, he had to stand up while he paddled. The watercraft was fitted with a few solar panels, but these were only used to charge de la Rosa’s GPS and communications system.

The athlete said that he saw plastic debris float by him every day of his trip. He posted daily updates online in hopes of raising awareness of how bad the pollution problem is getting.

During his journey, he also marked his 50th birthday which he celebrated with “one small cookie.” Unsurprisingly, he had lost a lot of weight during the trip and looked forward to having a beer and a hamburger when he got to Hawaii.[9]

1 Althea Gibson Honored

The start of the US Open also brought with it some long-overdue recognition for Althea Gibson, a tennis Hall of Famer who broke down barriers for black athletes in the 1950s.

In 1956, Gibson became the first black tennis player to win a major championship when she took home the Grand Slam title at the French Open. The next year, she also won the US Nationals and Wimbledon and managed to amass 11 Grand Slam titles over her career.

Despite her success, she was never truly accepted by the tennis community. Her legacy is remembered much more fondly today. Officials and players alike sought to commemorate Gibson’s contributions to the sport by presenting a new granite statue of her placed outside the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

On hand for the unveiling was Gibson’s friend and former tennis partner, English player Angela Buxton. She knew firsthand the kinds of discrimination faced by minority players back then. Often, she had been denied club memberships and even access to training facilities because she was Jewish.

The two bonded over their shared hardships and won two doubles Grand Slams together. Memorably, one newspaper reported their landmark feat with the headline, “Minorities win.” Despite the obstacles, Buxton looked on Gibson’s career in a positive way, saying that her friend “got the last laugh” in the end.[10]


10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/31/19)

It is time, once again, to check out some of the strangest and most unusual stories to hit our headlines this week. If you missed the last offbeat list, you can catch up here.

We have two space stories this week. One involves NASA investigating the first alleged crime in space, while the other looks at the possible end to the decades-old tradition of astronauts peeing on the bus wheel on the way to a launch. There is also a story that will make arachnophobes sleep with earplugs on, a remarkable discovery made in ancient puma poop, and a stunning look at a ship “lost in time” for a century and a half.

10 Naked On The Streets Of Philly

Thousands of cyclists stripped down and took to the streets of Philadelphia in the 11th annual Philly Naked Bike Ride.

The goals of the au naturel event include advocating for cyclist safety, promoting positive body image, and minimizing our dependence on fossil fuels. The riders get naked, but exactly how far they go is up to them: Some dress down to their tighty-whities, others cover up in body paint, and some go full commando. They then embark on a 16-kilometer (10 mi) course through Philadelphia which includes some of the city’s most notable landmarks, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.[1]

In previous years, the Philly Naked Bike Ride was held in September, but organizers moved it up to August for a warmer, more nude-friendly weather.

9 Crime . . . In Space

Reportedly, NASA is investigating the first allegation of a crime committed in space after astronaut Anne McClain accessed the bank account of her former spouse without permission.[2]

McClain married Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden in 2014 and divorced her four years later. During that time, the astronaut helped raise Worden’s son, Briggs. McClain admitted that she had accessed the bank account during a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) but denies any wrongdoing. She claims she only wanted to make sure that there were sufficient funds to care for her son. In turn, Worden filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that McClain committed identity theft. She also brought a complaint with NASA’s Office of Inspector General.

McClain said through her lawyer that she had merely continued existing behavior that had been approved by Worden in the past to oversee the welfare of six-year-old Briggs. On the other hand, the Air Force officer claims this is just another move in a long-standing strategy on behalf of the astronaut to gain custody of her son.

No NASA or FTC officials have made a statement on the matter yet, although they did specify that this could, potentially, be the first crime committed aboard the ISS.

8 Eight-Legged Surprise

Arachnophobes beware: If you are squeamish about spiders, you might want to skip this one.

A woman from Kansas City, Missouri, went to the doctor because she thought she had water in her left ear. Turns out it was actually a brown recluse spider that had ended up in her ear canal.

When Susie Torres woke up last Wednesday morning with sloshing and popping sounds in her ear, she didn’t think too much of it. It was probably just some water that got stuck in there. She decided to get it looked at, anyway. Torres got a sense that something was wrong when the medical assistant who was checking her ran out of the exam room and came back with six more people, including a doctor. They tried to break the news gently that she had a spider inside her head.[3]

The doctor first tried to flush the arachnid out, with no success. Eventually, he managed to pull it out in one piece. The nurses told Torres that the spider was dead, although she thinks they could have said that just to keep her calm.

Surprisingly, the spider went in and out without biting the woman once. She believes that it could have entered her ear canal while she was sleeping and swears that she will be using earplugs from now on.

7 Karma Is A You-Know-What


In a stunning case of instant karma, a man from Kennewick, Washington, had his truck stolen while he was allegedly busy robbing a store across the street.

Early Sunday morning, the Kennewick Police Department received a report from 42-year-old William Kelley that somebody had stolen his Chevrolet pickup truck. According to his statement, he had been drinking at the tavern where the vehicle was parked on Saturday night. Not wanting to drive drunk, he left the truck there and went home.

However, surveillance footage told a different story. Police say that Kelley parked his car in front of the bar at 5:30 AM and then broke into and robbed the business across the street.[4] While this was happening, another man on a bike drove past his truck and noticed the keys were left inside. He then put his bicycle in the bed of the vehicle and drove off.

Kelley already had an outstanding warrant, so he was arrested for that and charged with a new count of burglary. The other man remains unidentified.

6 Groin-Assisted Surgery

English surgeons managed to save the hand of a man who had almost chopped it off completely by sewing it to his groin for two weeks.

Forty-six-year-old carpenter Anthony Lelliott was rushed to St George’s Hospital in London with one of the most complex amputations that doctors there had ever seen. He suffered an accident with a revolving saw and nearly severed half of his palm and his first two fingers.

He went into surgery for 17 hours. Doctors first fixed his broken bones and then used nerve and vein grafts from his forearm and foot, respectively. His middle finger was beyond saving, so instead, surgeons decided to use what was left of it to help reconstruct the palm.

Despite these procedures, there was still not enough skin to fix the damage. Therefore, doctors cut a flap in Lelliott’s groin and attached his hand to it.[5] After two weeks, enough extra skin grew to finish the procedure. Since then, Lelliott has regained feeling and some movement in his hand.

5 Coin Hoard Reveals Medieval Scam

A coin hoard found back in January in England not only represents the largest-ever cache from the period immediately following the Norman conquest but also contains examples of a medieval coin scam.

The year 1066 was a pivotal moment in English history. William the Conqueror overthrew the Anglo-Saxons and became the first Norman king of the country. Fast-forward almost 1,000 years, and a couple of metal detectorists stumbled onto a giant cache of coins while teaching some friends to use metal detectors. They were in a field near Chew Valley in Somerset, and almost as soon as they got started, one of them found a single coin depicting William the Conqueror. This was an exceedingly rare find in and of itself, but the group then discovered another 2,500 coins.

Researchers could tell the coins came from the early Norman period because half of them featured William, while the other half had his Anglo-Saxon predecessor, Harold II. Closer examination identified at least three of the coins as “mules.”[6] That means that they were a combination of the two different types of coins, with style and language elements from both the Anglo-Saxon and the Norman variants. These changes were enough to fool your average illiterate Anglo-Saxon and pass the “mules” off as legal tender.

4 Puma Poop Produces Parasite Publication

According to a new study published in the journal Parasitology, a piece of prehistoric puma poop yielded the oldest parasite DNA ever recorded.

The 17,000-year-old coprolite was discovered in Argentina’s Catamarca province, in a layer of sediment within a rock shelter over 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) above sea level. Researchers were able to rehydrate and sieve the poop and, then, recover parasite eggs that still contained DNA. Analysis showed that they belonged to Toxascaris leonina, a type of roundworm that still infects animals today.

This study is notable for two reasons. For starters, it has pushed back the maximum age for recovery of DNA from a coprolite, undoubtedly helped by the ideal conditions inside the rock shelter, which included cold temperatures and a high salt concentration.[7] Furthermore, it debunks the idea that these parasites were brought to the American wild by cats and dogs domesticated by ancient humans. This latest sample predates the arrival of people in the area by 6,000 years.

3 Not Enough Jazz


An angry jazz enthusiast called the Spanish police during a festival to complain that the artist onstage was playing contemporary music instead of jazz.

American saxophonist Larry Ochs has been playing jazz for 40 years, but this latest episode might give him an identity crisis. On Monday, he was onstage with his Sax and Drumming Core group at the Siguenza Jazz Festival in Spain. Although most people probably enjoyed his performance, one attendee simply wasn’t having it. He concluded that Ochs was playing contemporary music, which had no place at a jazz festival.

The man said that his doctor called it “psychologically inadvisable” for him to listen to anything that sounds like contemporary music.[8] He wanted his money back, and when organizers refused, he called the cops. The Civil Guard arrived to investigate the case, and after listening to Ochs play, they decided that the festivalgoer had enough of a case to register his complaint and pass it on to a judge.

As for Ochs, he seemed to take the bizarre incident well, saying that at least he has a story to tell his grandchildren.

2 Astronauts Enter No-Fly Zone

A redesign of Russian space suits will prevent cosmonauts from continuing a decades-old tradition of peeing on the way to the launch for good luck.

The ritual started all the way back in 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. On route to the launchpad at Baikonur Cosmodrome, he had to relieve himself, so the bus pulled over, and Gagarin peed on the back wheel while wearing his astronaut suit. Since then, the stop has been reenacted during every trip to Baikonur, with most male cosmonauts and astronauts peeing on the same wheel for good luck. Some of their female counterparts even brought along vials of urine so that they could splash them on the wheels and continue the tradition.

The practice can no longer take place in the new Sokol-M suit, which has a diagonal zipper instead of a V-shaped opening like its predecessor.[9] According to Sergei Pozdnyakov, director of Zvezda, the company that made the suit, the design specifications never stated that the suit must allow astronauts to pee on the bus wheel.

The Sokol-M suit will be worn by everybody who travels to the ISS aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Since the new design is a prototype, it will be possible to make modifications to it, although Zvezda has made no mention of any such plans so far.

1 Aboard The HMS Terror


A new study came out on Wednesday which showed the results of the first-ever trips inside the HMS Terror after the ship was found back in 2016. One archaeologist described the sunken wreck as “seemingly forgotten by the passage of time.”[10] Researchers are hopeful that they might find intact logs, maps, and other objects despite the ship staying on the bottom of the ocean for almost 170 years.

Franklin’s lost expedition had been one of the greatest maritime mysteries for over a century and a half. Led by Captain Sir John Franklin, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus left England in 1845 to traverse the final unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. All crewmen perished on this trip, but their true fate remained unknown until 2014, when archaeologists found the Erebus thanks to Inuit oral history passed down from generation to generation. Two years later, they also discovered the site of the Terror.

This August, a joint effort by Parks Canada and Inuit researchers conducted a 3-D survey of the wreck site of the Terror but also made seven trips inside the ship with a remotely controlled submersible. They were able to explore almost 90 percent of the lower deck and discovered that the frigid waters of the Arctic did a remarkable job of preserving the interior. Moreover, many cabinets and drawers have been buried in silt, and researchers are confident that their contents will be mostly intact and even legible, thus providing an unprecedented look into the doomed Franklin expedition.


10 Things From Ethiopia That Are Rare Or Unique

Ethiopia covers most of the Horn of Africa. But that is the least of its feats. The region is rich with history and strange things. There are wolves masquerading as jackals, rainbow-colored springs, and unique magnetic miles.

Ethiopia has many of the world’s oldest wonders. But it also leads with novel projects that fight modern problems such as deforestation and Africa’s water shortage.

10 Reforestation Record

In 2016, India achieved an Earth-friendly record. The country planted 50 million trees in one day. In 2019, Ethiopia decided to break the record. They gathered lots of trees and the people to plant them. The latter included thousands of Ethiopian volunteers and staff from foreign embassies, the United Nations, and the African Union.

The planters spread themselves across 1,000 sites in Ethiopia and used special software to calculate the number of trees planted. Not only did they break India’s record but the estimated total was also a huge improvement. Although the Guinness World Records still needs to confirm the feat, around 350 million trees were planted within 12 hours.

The initiative is part of an attempt to reverse the damage that stripped Ethiopia of its greenery. At one point, less than 4 percent of the country was forested. The determination to repair that percentage has seen over 2.6 billion trees planted, and 150,000 square kilometers (58,000 mi2) have been earmarked for new forests by 2020.[1]

9 Ethiopia’s Oldest Human Tools

In 2003, archaeologists trooped to Gona in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley. What they found was remarkable—a collection of stone tools around 2.6 million years old. These were the oldest-known human tools in the world at the time.

The artifacts were crafted with the Oldowan technique, a style that subsequently became widespread throughout eastern and southern Africa before spreading to Europe. Unfortunately for Ethiopia, the Gona cache did not remain the oldest forever.

In 2015, a set of stone tools turned up in Kenya. They were 3.3 million years old, which solidly bumped Ethiopia into second place. It is worth mentioning that the Kenyan toolmakers lived long before our own genus (Homo) evolved. Scientists believe the human branch that produced the tools were either australopithecines (of Lucy fame) or Kenyanthropus.[2]

8 Unique Horses

Ethiopia’s badlands are fossil-rich. In 2013, the region produced an unknown horse. Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli lived around 4.4 million years ago, was as big as a small zebra, and ran fast.

Its foreleg bones were more sophisticated than older horse species, lending Eurygnathohippus more speed than its ancestors. This was a good thing because its environment included saber-toothed cats.[3]

The horse’s own teeth were also different than the more ancient types. Damage to the enamel suggested that Eurygnathohippus represented the point where horses began to evolve into grazing animals. Their grass-scratched teeth, the longer legs, and the fact that the badlands were grasslands during their time all pointed toward life in the savannas.

This environment allowed horses to become even bigger and stronger. Eurygnathohippus added valuable insight into when the animals made the pivotal shift that led to the horses we know today.

7 Oldest Illustrated Christian Artifact

The Garima Gospels is a sacred manuscript in Ethiopia. Some claim that its creator and namesake, a monk named Abba Garima, wrote the entire thing in a single day. This was also the day after he founded the Garima Monastery in the north of the country.

The manuscript never left the monastery, but the work was believed to be from the 11th century. This did not fit with Abba Garima’s arrival in Ethiopia around AD 494.

In 2010, carbon dating showed that the “medieval” book was older. The goatskin pages were bound between AD 330 and 640. This supported the monk’s legend and made the Gospels the earliest example of bookbinding.

Interestingly, the text was written in an early Ethiopian language named Ge’ez, but the drawings made the work exceptional. With the new dates, the Garima Gospels could also be the earliest illustrated Christian artifact.[4]

6 Water Harvested From Air

Water is not uniformly available in Ethiopia. Rural villagers must travel up to six hours to find water and spend 40 billion hours a year this way. Finding the precious fluid is just the beginning. Often, the kind they find is not safe to consume.

Philanthropists have tried to remedy the situation with high-tech projects. However, most fall into disrepair because Ethiopia’s infrastructure cannot handle the complex and expensive maintenance that is required.

In 2014, designer Arturo Vittori found the solution—Warka towers. Named after a local tree, the vase-shaped structures were 9 meters (30 ft) tall. Made from biodegradable materials, the inner mesh trapped dew and then collected the drops in a container at the bottom.

Field trials showed that the towers could pull 95 liters (25 gal) of clean water from the air on a daily basis. Best of all, they were easy to assemble and clean and villagers could quickly learn how to build and maintain them.[5]

5 Jackals That Became Wolves

In 2011, researchers went on a field expedition to study jackals in Ethiopia. The species they had in mind was the golden jackal. The ones trotting around in Ethiopia were called either “highland” or Egyptian jackals. They were considered a rare subspecies of the true golden jackal.

During observations, the team noticed that the animals were different. They were more delicate and had whiter coats. DNA samples revealed a surprising truth. These were not jackals at all. The creatures were related to the gray wolf, making them the only members of the so-called gray wolf complex in Africa.

It would appear that the ancestors of gray wolves lived in Africa around three million years ago and this was their only surviving branch. Scientists are now pushing to rename the Egyptian jackal, perhaps as the “African wolf,” in addition to figuring out its conservation status.[6]

Unfortunately, Ethiopian farmers are systematically eradicating jackals, including the newly discovered wolf.

4 Neon Yellow Hot Springs

The Dallol Volcano is 600 kilometers (370 mi) from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Like many volcanoes, it is surrounded by hot springs. Tourists flock to the site despite having to traverse dangers like acid puddles and noxious fumes. The pull people cannot resist is the strange colors of the hot springs.

Dallol, which holds the record as the world’s lowest land volcano, produces funky pool shades like neon yellow, green, and orange. Located within the volcano’s craters, the springs get their color from processes boiling deep below.[7]

First, magma heats subterranean water destined for the surface. Then, while flowing upward, the warmth of the water dissolves minerals like sulfur, salt, and potash. This brine gets dumped inside the craters. The hot climate evaporates the brine, and the resulting color depends on the mineral content of each spring.

3 The Oldest High-Altitude Settlement

Normal menus do not offer a serving of giant mole rat. But during the last ice age, these creatures helped a special community to survive. In 2019, a study described how researchers trekked up the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia. They were en route to Fincha Habera, an ancient settlement located 3,470 meters (11,380 ft) above sea level.

Traditional thinking dictated that humans settled high-altitude places last and then only for brief periods largely due to thin air and bad weather. However, when the team arrived at Fincha Habera, they discovered that people had stayed there for months at a time.

Incredibly, soil samples and artifacts dated to 47,000 years ago at the earliest. This placed the population in a very difficult time—the ice age. The Bale Mountains were draped in ice, and people usually move downward during colder seasons.

However, the settlement offered unusual perks. Unlike the lower valleys, the plateaus were ice-free. There was obsidian for toolmaking. Huge mole rats were everywhere and provided enough meat for the oldest high-altitude community ever discovered.[8]

2 Harlaa’s Forgotten City

In eastern Ethiopia, locals of Harlaa tell legends of giants that once lived there. It is easy to see why. The area holds ancient ruins made from huge stones.

In 2017, archaeologists had a closer look. As they traced structures and unearthed artifacts, it became clear that they were standing inside a city. It could not be truly called a lost city because archaeologists have known about the site for a long time. However, they mostly ignored it.

The team behind the latest study did not regret the decision to excavate. The city yielded a wealth of items originating from as far as China and India. Apparently, it was a busy hub, from the 10th century at the earliest, where different cultures mixed and traded.[9]

There were signs of people from Egypt, Yemen, Madagascar, the Maldives, Tanzania, and Somaliland. There was a strong Islamic presence, suggesting that the city served a large network of Islamic communities in Africa as well as foreigners.

1 Unique Magnetic Strips

During the 1950s, geologists found something in the ocean. Running parallel to mid-ocean ridges were magnetic stripes. They formed whenever the crust tore and filled up with rising magma, which cooled into new slabs of seafloor.

Magnetic minerals within the magma aligned themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field. This provided scientists with a view of how often the planet’s field reversed its north-to-south polarity.

A few years ago, geophysicists found the first lines on land. Invisible to the naked eye, the mammoth lines streaked across the Afar Depression in Ethiopia. The so-called Tendaho Graben magnetic stripes are special because they challenge the belief that the bands only form when the seafloor expands.[10]

The new location is a thin piece of continental crust where a new ocean will arise in a million years or two. While a sea link exists, it suggests that ocean basins form much earlier than previously believed—sometimes while they are still on land.


10 Extraordinary Cases Of Biological Mimicry

Biological mimicry is when ones species evolves to look like another. Sometimes, one organism will additionally take on the behavior and mannerisms of the other. They end up looking so similar that it is difficult to tell them apart, even though they are totally unrelated.

Animals do this for many reasons. Often, it has to do with predation. Some prey animals take on the look of some other, more dangerous animal that their own predators avoid. Conversely, a predator may mimic an animal that its prey doesn’t fear.

10 Hornets And Hornet Moths

We all know hornets can deliver quite painful stings. Several species belonging to the Sesia genus, such as Sesia apiformis, have evolved to mimic hornets in look and behavior. These copycat moths are called hornet moths, for obvious reasons.

S. apiformis has the distinctive yellow and black markings of a hornet. It is also around the same size as a regular hornet and has a similar wingspan. The moth has also learned to take off in a haphazard manner, just as a hornet would, the moment it spots a threat.

There are a few differences between the hornet and hornet moth, though. The moth is yellower than a hornet and lacks a waist, even though hornets have waists in between their thoraxes and abdomens. The wings of the moth are also transparent. This last part only becomes discernible in flight, and most people and animals do not hang out long enough to find out, anyway.[1]

9 Ladybirds And Ladybird Spiders

Spiders are so amazing they have a popular fictional superhero named after them. The ladybird (aka ladybug) is special, too. It does not have its own superhero, but it does have real spiders named after it. These spiders belong to the genus Paraplectana. They are a group of spiders that have evolved to look like like ladybirds.

The mimicry is necessary, considering that many predatory birds avoid ladybirds. This is because ladybirds contain toxic chemicals that emit a terrible odor when crushed and leave a nasty, lingering taste in the mouth of the bird. This had made many birds develop a strong distaste for the ladybird. Aside from spiders, a few other insects, like the ladybird-mimic fungus beetle, have also evolved to look like ladybirds.[2]

8 Jumping Spiders And Metalmark Moths

The metalmark moth (Brenthia coronigera) does not mimic just any random insect or spider but its predator, the jumping spider. The moths are so good at mimicry that jumping spiders mistake them for other jumping spiders. Smaller jumping spiders even flee from the moths over fears that they could be eaten.

The metalmark moth doesn’t just resemble the jumping spider in looks. It also moves in a manner resembling jumping spiders instead of just fluttering around like most moths do. Male jumping spiders get so fooled that they become attracted to the moths and display courtship behavior by raising their two front legs toward the moth.

Researchers who have studied the effectiveness of this mimicry say the moth needs to have its wings in the right position for the ruse to be effective. The black dots on its wings resemble a jumping spider’s eyes, while the rest of it mimics the spider’s body. Several experiments indicate that the spider will recognize the moth as prey if it does not display its wings or if any part of it is concealed.[3]

7 Ants And Spider Ants

Ant mimicry (also called myrmecomorphy) is found in quite a few spider species. In fact, about 300 species of spiders take on the appearance of one ant or another. The mimicry serves two purposes. One is to deceive the ants, and the other is to deceive its predators, which will usually avoid ants.

These copycat spiders have spots that resemble the compound eyes of ants. They also have reflective hairs that make their thorax and abdomens look like those of ants. Most even walk in zigzag manners as an ant would. To appear more convincing, they make periodic stops and move their two front legs close to their heads to imitate an ant’s antennae.

Spiders like the ground spider mimic ants to deceive other ants. The spider hunts and kills isolated ants before dragging the body off while pretending to be just another ant trying to help the dead ant. The crab spider does the same thing, except that it drags the ant with a web. This allows it an easy escape if its ruse is discovered.

Other spiders mimic ants to avoid getting eaten by ants, spiders, and birds that consider them prey. These spiders also behave like ants to confuse their predators. They even build their nests close to the ants they mimic. This works because ants regularly fight off larger predators despite their smaller size. These predators have learned to avoid the ants—along with spiders disguised as ants.[4]

6 Rove Beetles And Army Ants

About 12 species of parasitic rove beetles are currently looking like one species of army ant or another. Most army ant colonies have one rove beetle per 5,000 army ants. The rove beetle does this to gain access into the ant colony, where it feeds on the ants’ larvae.

Their bodies have evolved to the point where they look so much like the real thing that even humans cannot tell them apart at a glance. Army ants cannot either, even when they touch the beetles, as they often do.

To be clear, most army ants are blind and actually recognize their colony mates through chemical and tactile cues. The beetles have this covered, too. They clean other ants just to get access to the chemicals the ants use for identification. This makes the beetles undetectable, even by scent. To appear more convincing, the rove beetle participates in every activity with the ants and even follows them on raids.

Scientists say the resemblance between both creatures is fascinating, considering that their last common ancestor was 105 million years ago. That is a really long time, even for evolution. Most creatures with similar characteristics diverged much more recently. In fact, 105 million years ago is when our distant evolutionary ancestors diverged from mice.[5]

5 Blue Streak Cleaner Wrasses And False Cleanerfish

As you should have guessed from the name, cleaner fish strip other fish clean of harmful and parasitic organisms on their bodies. The relationship is considered mutually beneficial. The cleaner fish get food, while the fish that get cleaned are saved from harmful parasites.

The blue streak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus, left above) is one of the many cleaner fish around. However, the false cleanerfish (Aspidontus tractus, right above) has evolved to look like the blue streak cleaner wrasse. Both fish look and behave so similarly that they are hard to tell apart.

The false cleanerfish runs fake cleaner stations about a meter away from the blue streak cleaner wrasse’s real ones. Sometimes, it even has a couple of real cleaner wrasses around just to appear more convincing. When an unsuspecting fish comes in, the false cleanerfish pretends to be cleaning before biting off a chunk and darting away.[6]

4 Pit Vipers And Hawk Moth Caterpillars


Hemeroplanes triptolemus is a hawk moth that lives in the forests of Central America. The caterpillar of the species is capable of mimicking pit vipers to send would-be predators fleeing. When threatened, the caterpillar faces the aggressor as a true pit viper would. Then it withdraws its legs and extends the front of its body in such a way that it puffs up to resemble the head of a pit viper.

To complete the mimicry, the caterpillar mimics viper-like curves, scales, and eyes. For lifelike effects, it also throws jabs like a real viper. The appearance is so convincing that it even fools humans. Birds and other caterpillars trying to eat this caterpillar don’t hang around long enough to wonder where the rest of the “viper’s” body went.[7]

3 Common Wasps And Marmalade Hoverflies


The marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) is often confused with the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris, also called the common yellow-jacket) because of their similar body coloration. Both have black and yellow markings, which make them indistinguishable to their predators and even humans. They look so alike that quite a few people screamed and fled when marmalade hoverflies swarmed several British beaches in 2004.

The common wasp got the color first. The marmalade hoverfly is the copycat. Wasps are generally feared for their painful stings. In humans, those stings can cause anaphylactic shock, which can lead to death. The marmalade hoverfly is harmless but mimics the wasps for protection against its many predators, including birds.

There are differences between the common wasp and the marmalade hoverfly despite their extensive similarities. Wasps have four wings, while hoverflies have just two. Wasps also have waists in between their thoraxes and abdomens, while marmalade hoverflies have none. Hoverflies also tend to fly sideways, which wasps rarely do.[8]

2 Flesh Flies And Fly-Mimicking Weevils

As you should have guessed, the aptly named fly-mimicking weevil (Timorus sarcophagoides) is weevil that looks like a fly, specificity flesh flies from the Sarcophagidae family. The weevils’ body coloration and markings are similar to the flies’. They also have two large reddish dots on their thorax that look like the eyes of a fly.

The fly-mimicking weevil executes the mimicry so well that it even moves and rubs its legs together as flesh flies do. The idea is to trick potential predators into believing they are flesh flies.

You see, flesh flies are very fast, and birds generally avoid chasing after them because they are difficult to catch. The fly-mimicking weevil is much slower, so the disguise is necessary to make the birds think they are not easy prey. As a result, potential predators just move on to invest their time on other, “slower” insects.

However, the ruse does not always work on entomologists, who will often want to inspect the weevil. The weevil quickly realizes the game is up and just retracts its legs and rolls over until it falls to the ground, pretending to be dead. A very clever insect we have here.[9]

1 Nymphister Kronaueri Masquerades As Part Of An Army Ant

Some new creature always pops up whenever we think we’ve seen it all. What do we make of the so-called ant lovers (aka myrmecophiles), a group of organisms that just love to hang around ants? Scientists are not sure why they do, but they think it has a lot to do with the fact that ants are good at finding food.

Nymphister kronaueri is one of these ant lovers. The beetle attaches itself in between the thorax and abdomen of army ants without being noticed. The beetle gets a free ride, along with the free food it probably already receives from the ants. Scientists have also observed that the beetle prefers to attach itself to the bodies of medium-sized ants. They do not know why but think it has to do with N. kronaueri wanting to trick the ant into thinking it is actually a part of the ant’s abdomen.[10]


Top 10 Fascinating Ancient Finds From Mesoamerica

Different cultures once thrived in Mesoamerica, a region in southern North America. The civilizations were otherworldly enough to stay fascinating today. Recent discoveries did not disappoint.

Societies older than the Maya knew about magnetism, turkeys were gods, and nearly the whole Mesoamerica knew how to get high. The Maya also invented the papaya we eat today. Then there were the friends of the Aztecs who ate the conquistadors.

10 A New Sacred Lake

In 2018, Polish archaeologists and divers teamed up with Guatemalan scientists. Their focus was the Lake Peten Itza. At one time, it encircled a Mayan city called Nojpeten.

Undoubtedly, the location was chosen to provide the city with water, but researchers thought there might be more to the choice. The Maya treated water, especially lakes and flooded sinkholes, as doorways to the afterlife where the gods dwelled. As a result, Mayan sacrifices often occurred in water.

The lake gave plenty to prove it was once sacred. Divers returned from the depths with over 800 artifacts. Most were fragments. The intact pieces included three ceremonial bowls stacked inside each other. Tiny animal bones nestled within, but it cannot be said whether they were sacrificed or creatures that perished at the location later.

However, an obsidian blade was recovered and the type had been previously linked to sacrifices. The artifacts dated from 150 BC to AD 1697, a good indication that the lake was sacred for centuries. To gather more information, the Polish and Guatemalan teams plan to meet each year to explore the site for a month.[1]

9 The Tomb That Was A Bath

The Mayan city Nakum once stood in Guatemala. A few years ago, archaeologists at the site stumbled upon a cave-like room. As they rolled up their sleeves, the team assumed that they were clearing a tomb. It did not take long for the assumption to shatter. The room was not a tomb. Instead, it was one of the oldest steam baths from Mesoamerica.

These Mayan structures were used for spiritual and relaxation purposes, but few survived intact. The Nakum bath was exceptional in this sense. The complex was relatively undamaged. Everything was hewed from limestone, including the seats and a hearth that heated rocks to turn water into steam.

A tunnel sloped downward to guide excess water from the bath to the exit. This feature came with stairs, allowing visitors to approach the bath from two directions. After being in use for nearly 400 years, it was filled with rubble and sealed in 300 BC.[2]

8 A Rare Pyramid Burial

Around 2,700 years ago, a pyramid was built in southern Mexico. When archaeologists investigated the structure in 2010, they identified the builders as the Zoque Indians. Located at the ancient site of Chiapa de Corzo, the pyramid turned out to be a tomb. Not only was it possibly the oldest pyramid grave in Mesoamerica but it was also not a common grave.

Pre-Hispanic civilizations preferred their pyramids as religious sites and temples, not cemeteries. Inside was the body of a man. Valuable artifacts made from jade, obsidian, and pearl showed that he had enjoyed a high status in life before dying around age 50. His role remains unknown, but the grave goods suggested a leader or priest at Chiapa.

The man was not alone. An infant had been carefully arranged on top of him, and a nearby tomb held a woman his own age. The scene was not entirely peaceful. The death of the dignitary probably cost a young man his life. The remains of a 20-year-old male rested awkwardly as if he had been tossed inside as a sacrifice.[3]

7 Turkeys Were Gods

Turkey is a favorite sandwich filling. The bird’s status was starkly different from 300 BC to AD 1500 when turkey farming started in Mesoamerica. Scientists examined the bones of 55 ancient turkeys in 2018 and realized that the birds were never raised on the large scale necessary to appear on the Mayan and Aztec menus. Their remains also rarely turn up in Mesoamerican house trash.[4]

Instead, turkeys were buried in temples and accompanied the dead in their graves. Mayan iconography showed the birds as gods. It could not be clearer. These were among the first turkeys that humans domesticated, but the effort had nothing to do with a more diverse diet. The birds were worshiped. This did not mean that being a turkey in Mesoamerica was a ticket to the high life. Being sacred, they often got the chop as sacrifices.

6 Megalodon And Sipak

The gigantic teeth from the megalodon shark are impressive. These fossils date back to 23 million years ago and had an interesting impact on the Maya. A 2016 study found that the snappers could have inspired the birth of a myth.

In Mesoamerican creation stories, there is a primordial sea monster called Sipak. After a hero killed Sipak, its body became the first land. Sipak iconography accurately depicts a shark, although with only one enormous tooth. It looked a lot like a megalodon fang.

The study started with another shark species. Archaeologists found 47 teeth from a requiem shark at El Zotz, an ancient city in Guatemala. They were buried in a pyramid between AD 725 and AD 800, located far from the ocean.

While wondering how the teeth were transported from the coast to El Zotz, another thought struck the researchers. How did the Maya explain megalodon’s teeth? Several had been found at Mayan sites as offerings.

Wisely, the Maya probably knew that the teeth were ancient and physical evidence of a great shark that once lived. Their answer—Sipak—was less scientific but nevertheless something in which they believed.[5]

5 The Maya Were Not Destroyed By War

The Mayan Classic period (AD 250 to AD 900) was marked by sophistication and prosperity. However, its sudden collapse is a mystery. A plausible theory suggested that warfare exploded between the kingdoms. Indeed, entire cities and royal families were terminated after the Classic era.

Historians believed that their earlier society remained stable because war avoided infrastructure and focused on capturing warriors for ransom. However, a surprising twist proved that warfare was not a major factor in the Mayan collapse.[6]

Recently, scientists tested charcoal from Bahlam Jol, a Classic city in Guatemala. The city had suffered a huge fire from which it never recovered. A neighboring Mayan city produced records stating that war razed Bahlam Jol twice during the Classic era. The charcoal’s carbon dating test confirmed the time.

As wholesale destruction clearly happened during the culture’s stable period, it could not have contributed to its collapse. Somehow, the Maya flourished for a long time despite the brutality. Researchers will have to look elsewhere to find the trigger that killed this culture.

4 Grocery Store Papaya’s Origins

Papaya farmers have a problem. Trees are either male, female, or hermaphrodite. Commercial growers prefer the hermaphrodite trees because they give bumper crops. But nobody knows which seeds will produce what sex. For this reason, farmers are forced to plant a ton of seeds, water them all, feed them all, and then lose up to half the trees that grow into males and females.

In an effort to cut costs and find out how to grow only the desired trees, researchers looked at papaya sex chromosomes. The 2015 study found something remarkable. The hermaphrodite version was not natural. The dual-gendered papaya tree was the result of human selection that happened 4,000 years ago. This coincided with the rise of the Maya.

As they were excellent farmers and the fruit is native to the region, the Maya were probably behind the cultivation of the grocery store papaya that people buy today. Interestingly, the genetic tests showed that the ancient farmers somehow created the hermaphrodite tree from the male papaya.[7]

3 Mesoamerica Was High

Mesoamericans enjoyed magic mushrooms—about 50 species of them. A 2014 study identified this psychoactive substance and more when the authors searched for early drug habits.

Researchers believe that ancient civilizations needed to communicate with higher powers about the weather, warfare, disease, and fortune. Dialing a god required a mind-altering phone line. In all probability, the socially accepted highs were used for personal enjoyment as well.

Apart from mushrooms, the Maya drank Balche during group ceremonies. The intoxicating drink was made from the honey of bees that fed on flowers that contained ergine. This psychedelic alkaloid caused a mild high.

The Maya, Aztec, Olmec, and Zapotec shared a favorite—the peyote cactus. Laced with the alkaloid mescaline, the cactus had freaked people out with vivid hallucinations for over 5,000 years. Getting stoned from a cactus was not the weirdest option available. When not looking for psychedelic frogs, Mesoamericans also nibbled fungal stones and performed alcohol enemas.[8]

2 A Pre-Mayan Civilization Knew About Magnetism

Long before the great Mayan civilization, another flourished in Guatemala. The Monte Alto people left their footprint in the region from 500 BC to 100 BC. Like many ancient cultures, they created art.

In 2019, a study examined their carvings of large heads and potbellied figures. Remarkably, some had magnetized navels, temples, and cheeks. The specific locations suggested that the artists knew about magnetism.

Somehow, the Monte Alto could detect basalt that had been magnetized by lightning strikes. The stones were then carved to position the strongest magnetic points at places like the navel and face.[9]

In other words, the artists not only detected magnetism in rocks but could also measure its strength. They probably invented a type of compass or sponged off a culture with the technology.

One candidate is the more ancient Olmec culture. Their society’s life span overlapped with the Monte Alto people, the Olmec also carved giant heads, and at least one recovered Olmec artifact—a bar—was magnetic.

1 Acolhuas Consumed Conquistadors

When Spain colonized the Americas during the 15th and 16th centuries, their crimes against the indigenous people became famous. At least one group of conquistadors came in second against the locals.

In 1520, a convoy was captured by the Acolhuas, who were allies of the Aztec. Over the course of six months, more than 100 Spanish men, women, and children were sacrificed to various gods. Their indigenous companions also met the same grisly end.

When archaeologists recently visited the bloody town, they found cells and evidence that the captives were forced to listen to their companions being sacrificed in nearby rooms. Cut marks on the bones and their location also suggested that the bodies were eaten and then displayed around town.[10]

The settlement’s name supported the cannibal theory. First called Zultepec, it changed to Tecoaque which means “the place where they ate them.” The convoy’s abduction was recorded by Hernan Cortes, who led the Spanish invasion of Mexico that year.

His soldiers destroyed the town, but the Acolhuas knew how to survive. By the time Cortes toppled the Aztec, the Acolhuas had switched their loyalty to the conquistadors.


10 Uplifting Stories To Get You Through The Week (8/25/19)

Far too often, there is a tendency to focus on negative or violent events while positive news items take a back seat. That’s not the case here as this list covers only stories that inspire, amuse, and uplift. If weirdness is more your thing, you can also check out the offbeat list right here.

This week is largely about tales of children showing us that you can do plenty of inspiring things, even if you are young. You can raise money for worthy causes, you can organize a restoration project for a historical cemetery, and you can even find new animal species.

10 World’s Youngest Entomologist

A newly described species of treehopper has been named Hebetica sylviae in honor of its discoverer, five-year-old Sylvie Beckers.

Back in summer 2016, then-two-year-old Sylvie was spending some time with her mom, Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers, helping her plant some wildflowers in their garden in rural Kentucky. Sylvie was in charge of watering the flower bed, and as she did so, a few dead treehoppers floated to the top.[1]

Sullivan-Beckers is a biologist, and even though she specializes in spiders, she is fascinated with all creepy-crawlies. She thought that the dead insects looked a bit odd. So she took some pictures and sent them to a colleague who put her in touch with the USDA.

Three years of research later, they confirmed that the treehopper was an entirely new species. It was only fitting that they named it after its two-year-old discoverer.

9 Best Customer Service

A Comcast representative saved the life of a man suffering a stroke almost 1,300 kilometers (800 mi) away with a timely call to the proper authorities.

Last Tuesday, Kimberly Williams was at her job in Jackson, Mississippi, working in customer service for the telecommunications giant. She was on the line with 65-year-old Dan Magennis from Walker, Michigan, who had some questions about his cable.

He put the phone on speaker while waiting for the call to go through. But when Williams answered, he couldn’t say anything. His right leg wouldn’t move, and all he could muster were a few “ums” and labored breathing.

The representative asked Magennis if he was all right, but there was no reply. Williams believed that the person at the other end of the line was having a stroke, and she trusted her instincts.

She searched for police departments in his area and was put in touch with the Walker Fire Department. She alerted them about the situation and stayed on the line with Magennis while authorities were on the way.

Magennis was rushed to the Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital where he went into surgery to remove a blood clot. He suffered minimal effects from the stroke and was able to leave the hospital two days later. Neurosurgeon Dr. Justin Singer attributed his survival and speedy recovery to the quick-thinking actions of Kimberly Williams.[2]

8 Cruise Rescue In The Caribbean

Speaking of people who went above and beyond at their workplace to save someone’s life, here we have a stilt dancer and a DJ who jumped in the Caribbean Sea to rescue a woman in a wheelchair who had fallen from the dock.

A cruise ship was boarding in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. One of the passengers was a woman in a wheelchair who was being escorted by a family member when she accidentally rolled off the dock and plunged into the water below.

Two men, Kashief Hamilton and Randolph Donovan, jumped in after her. Both are employed by the Department of Tourism, working as a DJ and stilt walker, respectively, to entertain visiting tourists.

Donovan reached the woman first and unstrapped her from the wheelchair, which sank to the bottom. As Donovan was getting tired, Hamilton jumped in the water and helped Donovan keep the woman afloat as people on the dock dropped a life preserver and a rope so that she could be pulled up.[3]

All three made it out safely, and the cruise line commended the men on their “heroic efforts” to help their guest.

7 One Boy’s Generosity

A 12-year-old boy from Huron County, Ohio, made $15,000 from auctioning off his prized pig at the county fair and donated all the money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Most kids can only dream of making money like Diesel Pippert when they are in the seventh grade. However, even at his young age, Diesel has learned the value of helping others and decided to give his profits to charity instead of spending them.

Last Saturday’s Huron County Fair had a large animal auction which saw Diesel’s hog go on sale. The bidding started at $500 but ended at a staggering $15,000 for just one premium porker. Diesel did announce his plans to donate the money before the start of the auction, possibly prompting bidders to dig a little deeper in their wallets.

His charitable act was spurred on by a little friendly competition. Diesel got the idea after hearing about another teenager who did the same thing in nearby Medina County. The seventh grader was hoping to best the other kid’s donation of $11,000.

Diesel’s generosity did not come as a surprise to those who know him. His school’s superintendent called him an “upstanding young man,” while his mother is hoping that Diesel will turn this into a yearly tradition. Moreover, his kindness has inspired others to start a fundraiser for the hospital in his name and keep the money coming.[4]

6 From Wags To Riches

A shelter dog that was once in danger of being euthanized is now starring as the Tramp in Disney’s live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp.

Monte is a two-year-old terrier mix that was initially adopted by HALO Animal Rescue from a shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico. HALO is an organization that takes in animals that may otherwise be euthanized and then tries to find them forever homes. Monte was part of a group of 50 dogs that had been relocated to Phoenix. There, animal trainers visited the HALO shelter, looking for pooches with star quality.[5]

Monte immediately caught their eye, and he was quickly adopted by one of the trainers. He now lives in California where he is said to be a “very good boy” who is loving life.

Moreover, he is soon to become a star on the silver screen. The movie project turned out to be a remake of the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp. Monte will be voiced by actor Justin Theroux and will play one of the leading roles.

5 To The End Of The World

A one-legged man from Venezuela completed a walk from the top to the bottom tip of South America in an effort to inspire other people to follow their dreams through adversity.

Back in 2013, bus driver Yeslie Aranda was involved in a car crash. A truck coming from the opposite direction lost control and smashed into his vehicle. Yeslie was in a coma for 15 days and lost a leg. His daughter, Paola, was also in the car and lost a leg as well.[6]

After recuperating, the two began visiting shrines throughout the country. There, they saw other people being uplifted by their determination to make such journeys. This inspired Yeslie to go bigger. He wanted to show people, particularly his daughter, that hardships should not prevent us from chasing our dreams.

Last year, with nothing but a backpack, an aluminum prosthesis, a new pair of shoes, and $30 in cash, Yeslie set off on a 14,500-kilometer (9,000 mi) journey from his Venezuelan hometown of San Cristobal to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

Last Saturday, the 57-year-old smiled as he looked upon the entrance sign to Ushuaia, welcoming him “to the end of the world.” Yeslie completed his trek with the help of kind farmers, monks, and truckers who aided him along the way.

In Patagonia, he even slept in a lavish mansion courtesy of a businessman who heard about his trip and wanted to help. Occasionally, Yeslie would travel by car to get through the more treacherous parts of his journey, such as the mountain passes in the Andes. Now starts the trip back home which Yeslie plans to make the same way.

4 Lemon Aid

Ava Lewis from Durham, North Carolina, might only be three years old, but she is already hard at work selling lemonade to help her local community.

Little Ava has set up shop in front of her mom’s hair salon called “The Lather Lounge.” Her lemonade stand has proven to be wildly popular and has sold gallons of the refreshing drink. Now her mom, Maggie, says that people are starting to recognize Ava around town, and some are showing up at the hair salon just to have a drink.

All the work is for a good cause. Ava and her mom decided to use the money to buy supplies, such as diapers and baby wipes, for mothers in need. They made a delivery on Monday to the Good Samaritan Inn, a homeless shelter for women operated by the Durham Rescue Mission.[7]

3 Surprise For Bennie

A Stop & Shop in Edison, New Jersey, organized a surprise birthday party for its favorite “bag boy”: 98-year-old World War II veteran Bennie Ficeto.

Bennie has always been a hard worker. He enlisted in the Air Force when he was 19 years old and flew a B-25 Mitchell bomber during the war. Afterward, he held down numerous jobs and retired in his eighties. That didn’t last long, though, as Ficeto soon got bored and wanted to work again. Since then, he has been a part-time employee with the Stop & Shop, working two shifts a week.

Normally, Bennie never takes a break while on the job, but on Tuesday, his manager told him to make an exception. They went to the other end of the store where all the employees were waiting to shout “Surprise!” and sing “Happy Birthday.” There was cake, balloons, and even three ladies from a USO Show Troupe dressed in red, white, and blue. They were there to sing some of Bennie’s favorite songs from his time in the military.[8]

Bennie was touched by the gesture and enjoyed his party, but he made sure not to stand around too long. He was on a break after all.

2 Scout-Powered Renovation

Last week, the Douglass Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia, was home to the inauguration of a new historical marker. It also symbolized the end of a months-long effort to restore the cemetery that had fallen into disrepair after decades of neglect. The entire project was spearheaded by one Boy Scout who enlisted the help of his scout troop to rehabilitate the historic black cemetery.

Three years ago, Griffin Burchard and Boy Scout Troop 4077 visited the Alexandria National Cemetery to do some light cleanup work. While there, Griffin spotted a nearby plot which was completely dilapidated: Tree limbs were hanging low to the ground, leaves were everywhere, and there were signs of flooding.

A bit of research led Burchard to discover that the run-down plot was the Douglass Memorial Cemetery, converted from a park in 1895 and named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Griffin and the rest of the scouts cleared the leaves, removed the debris, and cut the low-hanging branches. He even raised $200 through recycling to pay for the new sign which includes a quote by Douglass: “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”[9]

Spurred on by Burchard’s efforts, city officials obtained a $10,000 grant from the state to survey the plot and install a new drainage system.

1 Momma Bear Comes Home

This week, seven-year-old Duncan MacMaster received great news when he heard that his beloved teddy bear, thought lost forever, was found and will be returned to him. But this is no ordinary stuffed toy: It contains a recorded voice message from his birth mother who passed away years ago.

The MacMasters took a family vacation to Airdrie in Alberta, Canada. When they returned home to Nova Scotia, they realized that Duncan was missing his precious teddy. His stepmom, Ranelle, took to social media to ask Airdrie residents to keep a lookout for the toy.

That message reached Heidi Erickson. On Monday night, she dropped off her son and his friend at a park in Airdrie and saw a backpack by the entrance. She looked inside and saw the teddy bear. She thought it was familiar but couldn’t place it at first. It wasn’t one of her son’s toys, but she had definitely seen it someplace else before.

A light bulb moment happened, and Heidi remembered the post she had seen online. She reached out and confirmed that the toy was Duncan’s beloved Momma Bear. It is now on an express ride home to Nova Scotia.[10]


10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/24/19)

Another week has passed, which means that it is time, once again, to look at some of the bizarre stories that made the headlines recently. If you want to read up on the last offbeat list, click here.

This week, we have a tale from Japan and a tail from Japan. There is a grand cheese heist in Canada, a creepy statue in New Zealand, and a nasty crocodile in a Swedish aquarium. A German town challenges us to prove it doesn’t exist, and a scorned English husband takes revenge with a giant heap of manure.

10 A Smear Campaign

In an apparent act of revenge, an unidentified person dumped a giant pile of manure outside a country inn in Hampshire, England, alongside a sign accusing the pub landlord of sleeping with his spouse.

One morning, Simon Emberley, the landlord and chef at the Hawkley Inn, came into work to find a foul-smelling pile of horse dung blocking the entrance to his establishment. The mound was so big that it blocked up traffic in the village, as drivers had to go around it.

Stuck on top of the heap was a sign which said “The landlord is f—ing my wife.”[1] Unsurprisingly, Emberley called the allegations “unfounded and untrue” and claimed that they were a part of a smear campaign against him.

Both he and his wife insist that they have no idea who is behind it, although police are conducting their investigation to find out. Village rumors attribute the deed to a local farmer. Meanwhile, the Emberleys tried to make light of the situation by posting a sign offering the horse manure for free, courtesy of a “generous supplier.” No one took them on their offer, though, and workmen came in and cleaned the heap.

9 Village Of The Apes

Farmers from the Japanese village of Kiso in Nagano Prefecture have formed a “monkey militia” to deal with the primate pests that keep raiding their crops.

Located in the Kaida Highlands at the foot of Mount Ontake, Kiso has an ideal climate for farming. Crops thrive, especially sweet corn, but this also makes them a particularly attractive target for monkeys.

In the past, people have tried scaring off the monkeys with shouts and bottle rockets, but these proved ineffective. Now, a group of roughly 30 farmers and other workers have formed the “monkey chaser” squad and will be more proactive in fighting off the simian invasion.

The town spent 850,000 yen ($80,000) on 30 air guns and a supply of pellets.[2] Earlier this month, the “monkey fighters” underwent training in order to learn how to use their new weapons. From now on, they will patrol their crops regularly. Should they spot monkeys munching on their corn, they will alert the rest via group-messaging app. The entire squad will gather and fire warning shots to scare off the animals.

The mayor of Kiso gave the men matching hats and certificates that attest that they are allowed only to fire into the air, not directly at the monkeys.

8 The Hand Of The Artist

The people of Wellington have a new nightmarish sight to enjoy for the next few years: A giant sculpture called Quasi was mounted via helicopter on top of the Wellington City Gallery.

The 5-meter (16 ft) statue depicts a large, anthropomorphic hand which bears the face of its creator, Melbourne-based artist Ronnie van Hout. According to the gallery’s description, Quasi is “as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own.”[3]

Van Hout made the sculpture in 2011 for his hometown of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake. Now, it has been placed in the Civic Square in the New Zealand capital in an attempt to liven up another area damaged by an earthquake back in 2016.

Residents are divided over the sculpture, to say the least, with most finding it very disturbing. Quasi enjoyed a similar reception back in Christchurch, but the people of Wellington better get used to it. The statue is scheduled to stay there for the next three years.

7 The Mystery Of Skeleton Lake

A new study published in Nature Communications deepens the mystery of Skeleton Lake in India by dismissing most of the hypotheses proposed for its existence.

Nestled up in the Himalayas, kilometers above sea level, is a usually frozen glacial lake called Roopkund. It is more commonly known as Skeleton Lake because bones from numerous persons have been recovered from the site, with researchers speculating that as many as 500 people could be buried there.

Remains were first found during World War II, and since then, scientists have offered numerous ideas regarding the origins of the bones. Most of them assumed that they were all an unfortunate group of people who died at once. Some said they were invading Japanese soldiers, a returning Indian army unit, or even a king and his revelers who were passing through.

The good thing about Roopkund is that the cold weather preserved DNA within the bones. This new study presents the analysis of the remains of 37 individuals recovered at the site. But they are of different ages and different ancestries, immediately discounting the possibility that all of the people died in a single event.

About a third of the deceased were of Mediterranean heritage. Moreover, while it’s true that the majority of the remains are 1,000 years old, some are as recent as the early 1800s.[4]

Researchers are still divided over the fundamental question: How did all these bodies end up in Roopkund? Some argue that it was a planned effort and that the lake functioned as a graveyard for the locals, while others opine that it was landslides, not humans, that brought the skeletons to a single place.

6 Tails For The Elderly


Old people should have tails. At least, that is according to researchers at Tokyo’s Keio University. They have been working on a robotic tail which mimics the movements of real ones and can help elders maintain their balance.

Researcher Junichi Nabeshima says that the gray, 1-meter (3.3 ft) appendage is attached to the waist with a harness and acts like a pendulum. Therefore, when the human body tilts in one direction, the tail moves in the opposite one. It does this with the help of four artificial muscles and a supply of compressed air which allow it to move in eight directions.[5]

Scientists believe their robotic tail can be really useful for elderly people but are also looking into other people who could use a bit more balance, such as warehouse workers who carry heavy loads.

5 Flight Of The Mattresses


A very bizarre scene took place in Denver, Colorado, last weekend. Described as the “great mattress migration of 2019,” a viral video showed dozens of air mattresses making a run for it through the park, courtesy of a very powerful wind.

The mattresses had been set up earlier that day for an open-air film screening event called Bed Cinema.[6] Unfortunately, the organizers did not plan on a strong gale arriving and blowing away their seating arrangements.

Fortunately for us, though, a man named Robb Manes was at the right place and the right time and filmed the bizarre event and shared it online. It shows a truly peculiar episode as somewhere between 50 and 100 air mattresses are tumbling through the park with a few people trying, in vain, to stop them. Reportedly, the pallets drifted away for upwards of 30 minutes before the wind finally died down.

4 The City That Wasn’t There


The German city of Bielefeld is offering a prize of €1 million ($1.1 million) to anyone in Germany who can conclusively prove that the city does not actually exist.

This idea that Bielefeld is not real first appeared on Internet forums in the early 1990s. It was originally intended to make fun of conspiracy theories, but it has proven popular enough that it has taken on a life of its own. The long-running joke is frequently used by the city’s tourism board and was even referenced by Chancellor Angela Merkel after attending an event in Bielefeld in 2012.

Now, it looks like city officials want to settle the matter once and for all, and they are willing to pay top dollar to do it. They have started a contest which allows people to submit their evidence which supports the conspiracy theory that Bielefeld does not exist. It is open until September 5.[7]

According to the organizers, they are 99.99 percent sure that they can refute all proof presented to them. However, if someone happens to come in with that other 0.01 percent, they might walk away with €1 million, and presumably, the 340,000 residents of Bielefeld would vanish into thin air.

3 The Cheese Heist Of The Century


Earlier this month, an unidentified man stole almost $190,000 worth of cheese from a dairy plant in Tavistock, Oxford County, Ontario.

According to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), on the morning of August 9, the thief entered the office of Saputo Dairy Products and produced paperwork for a large shipment to be delivered to New Brunswick. The workers then proceeded to help the criminal load his blue transport truck with cheese worth $187,000.[8]

Everything seemed in order. The company did not even realize it had been robbed until the next week, when it found out that the shipment never arrived at its intended location.

The OPP warned local businesses that someone might try to sell them large quantities of cheese in the near future and that they should contact the authorities if this happens.

2 Cuban Croc Attack In Sweden


A man had to be sent to the hospital after being attacked by the crocodile of Fidel Castro while attending a crayfish party in Sweden.

That sentence might sound like the result of a game of Mad Libs, but it actually happened on Tuesday. The man in his seventies was at a crayfish party, a common celebration in the Nordic countries, organized at the Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm. He was giving a speech next to the enclosure of two Cuban crocodiles and waved his arm over the wrong side of the partition.[9] One of the reptiles took advantage of the opportunity, lunged at the man, and bit his hand. Other attendees used napkins and bandages to stop the bleeding until an ambulance arrived.

The crocodiles have been with the aquarium for almost four decades, and this was the first time that something like this happened. They were once owned by Fidel Castro, who gifted them to Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov in 1978. In turn, he donated them to the Moscow Zoo when the reptiles became too large to keep around the house. Finally, the zoo relocated them to the Swedish aquarium because they had better facilities to care for them. In 2015, ten of their offspring were sent back to Cuba to help bolster their numbers.

1 World’s Slowest Police Chase


On Wednesday, the small town of Timaru on New Zealand’s South Island was the site of a thrilling police car chase just like you see in the movies. There was one minor difference, though: The cops were chasing an old man on a mobility scooter.

Charlie Durham is a 60-year-old double amputee who was spotted by the fuzz driving his vehicle on the footpath of a suburban area at high speed. They told him to slow down, but he ignored them. Eventually, the police decided to put an end to his racing career by cutting across traffic and pulling their car in front of him.

This hardly slowed Durham down. Instead, he also cut across traffic in the opposite direction, ending up on the footpath on the other side of the street. The police vehicle tried multiple times to pull up in front of the old man to get him to stop, but every time, he just deftly maneuvered his mobility scooter around it and kept on going. A motorist behind them filmed the world’s slowest car chase but didn’t catch the finale when police finally got the speedy senior to stop.

Durham was fined NZ$250 for failing to stop for an officer and operating a mobility scooter “inconsiderately.”[10] As an excuse, the old man claimed that he thought the police car was an ice cream vehicle being really aggressive about selling him ice cream. He said he also needed to get home fast to put the tea on; otherwise, his entire evening would have been “stuffed up.”


10 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World

Sometimes, genius arrives simply by chance, not by choice. That explains why some of the greatest inventions happened by accident. In some cases, the inventor was searching for one thing but found something very different.

However, in one case, it was a casual walk through the woods that led to the discovery. Find out how chance played a role in some of the world’s greatest inventions.

10 Velcro

Velcro fasteners are on several products from backpacks to blood pressure gauges, but can you imagine a world where this technology doesn’t exist? Eighty years ago, people lived in a Velcro-less world with no plans or intentions of inventing the item.

In 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral took a leisurely stroll through the woods with his dog. When they returned from their walk, he noticed they were covered with small burrs. He studied the burrs in hopes of determining how they stuck to clothing and hair so easily, and he found that the small hooks on the burr allowed it to cling to tiny loops of fabric.

De Mestral came up with the bright idea of creating a two-sided fastener with stiff hooks and loops. He named his invention “Velcro,” which is actually the name of the company and not the general term for hook-and-loop fasteners.

His product was patented in 1955 and then manufactured and distributed across the world. Velcro fasteners have been used on several items, but they gained popularity after being used in outer space. The fasteners helped keep equipment from floating away in zero gravity. During de Mestral’s lifetime, his company sold an average of 55 million meters (60 million yd) of Velcro per year.[1]

9 Play-Doh

Kids love Play-Doh because it comes in many colors and can be sculpted into anything imaginable. This popular children’s product was invented by accident by Noah McVicker.

He worked for a soap company and originally invented the putty substance to be used as a wallpaper cleaner. The cleaner worked great because it contained no chemicals, could be reused, and didn’t stain the wallpaper.

Noah’s nephew, Joseph McVicker, worked for the same company and discovered that teachers were using the putty in their classrooms for arts and crafts. Joseph is responsible for changing the name to Play-Doh and marketing the putty for children.[2]

The McVickers established the Rainbow Crafts Company to manufacture and sell the putty, which at first was only available in an off-white color. More than 315 million kilograms (700 million lb) of Play-Doh have been sold since it was introduced. If you put all that putty through the Play-Doh Fun Factory playset, it would create a snake that could wrap around the world more than 300 times.

8 Post-it Notes

Sticky notes are just small pieces of paper used to help remind you that your doctor’s appointment is coming up or that your homework is late after tomorrow. We’re all guilty of using them, but it’s due to an accident that we are lucky enough to have them.

In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a chemist at 3M, was attempting to create a superstrong adhesive. Instead, he accidentally created a very weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive. He promoted his “solution without a problem” within the company for five years, but nobody could come up with a use for it.[3]

In 1974, Art Fry, a colleague of Silver’s, found a way to use the adhesive for his personal purposes. Fry was a member of his church’s choir, and he was frustrated that bookmarks placed in his hymnal were always popping out. He used the adhesive on his bookmarks to hold them in place. Fry later had the idea of using Silver’s adhesive on small notes.

3M released the notes under the name Press ‘n Peel in 1977, but there was no immediate success. The company started testing the product in certain areas and released Post-it Notes in 1980.

The small sticky notes finally started to gain traction, and the rest is history. The notes are now sold worldwide and come in various shapes and colors.

7 Saccharin

Outside of toxic lead(II) acetate, the first artificial sweetener was saccharin. The product offered a cheap alternative to cane sugar, and it was discovered entirely by accident.

The sweetener was discovered in a small lab at Johns Hopkins University that belonged to researcher Ira Remsen. He loaned the use of his lab to Russian chemist Constantin Fahlberg.

One night after working in the lab, Fahlberg went home to eat dinner with his wife. He noticed that the homemade bread he was eating was much sweeter, but his wife confirmed that she had not changed the recipe. Fahlberg realized that he must have transferred a chemical from his lab to the bread (and apparently, he hadn’t washed his hands).

He went back to his lab and tasted every chemical on his desk. Eventually, he traced the taste to a beaker filled with sulfobenzoic acid, phosphorus chloride, and ammonia (a compound known as benzoic sulfinide). This accidental discovery led to those little colorful packets that you see on every restaurant table.[4]

6 Vulcanized Rubber

Charles Goodyear was obsessed with rubber—so much so that he put his family in debt to finance experiments to make rubber more suitable for industrial use. In his early years, he was unsuccessful in the rubber business, but he never let that slow him down.

In 1839, Goodyear accidentally dropped rubber on a hot stove with sulfur on it, and surprisingly, the rubber didn’t melt. In fact, it actually hardened.

In 1844, Goodyear patented the vulcanized rubber, and his company became a leading manufacturer of rubber at the time. His success was short-lived as was his fortune. He lost most of his money on legal battles fighting patent infringements, and he died in 1860. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was founded in 1898 and named in his honor.[5]

5 Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the most delicious treats, the chocolate chip cookie, was surprisingly invented by accident. It happened in 1930 at the Toll House Inn, which was run by Kenneth and Ruth Graves Wakefield. Mrs. Wakefield prepared all the desserts at the inn, and she had earned a reputation for her tasty treats.

One night, Mrs. Wakefield starting making some Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies, which was a popular colonial recipe. But she realized that she was out of baker’s chocolate. So she started chopping up a block of Nestle semisweet chocolate to use in the recipe.

She thought the chocolate would melt and disperse across the cookie, but it actually retained its original form and softened. The cookie was a hit, and she dubbed it the “Chocolate Crunch Cookie.” The rest is sweet, delicious history. The original recipe is still printed on bags of Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Morsels.[6]

4 Friction Matches

Matches have a long history, but the first friction match was accidentally invented by John Walker while conducting an experiment in his lab. First, he stirred a mixture of sulfur and other materials with a wooden stick. Later, he scraped the stick’s end with the dried material on the stone floor by accident.

The end of the wood burst into flames. He knew he had created something of amusement, so he made several more of the sticks to demonstrate for friends.[7]

Samuel Jones had seen one of Walker’s demonstrations and was encouraged to set up a match business in London. Jones’s product was named “Lucifers,” and its success caused smoking to gain popularity in the London area. This eventually led to the invention of the safety match, which can be found in most homes today.

3 Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek always wanted to be a doctor. Instead, she became the accidental inventor of Kevlar, which is a lightweight fabric five times stronger than steel. While analyzing molecule chains at low temperatures, she found a chain that was exceptionally strong and stiff. She knew that fibers created from this solution were the strongest anyone had ever seen, and her discovery led to the invention of Kevlar.[8]

There are now more than 200 applications for the fabric. It has been used to create body armor for police forces and military troops, and it can also be found in planes, shoes, boats, car brakes, and many other items. Kevlar vests have saved many lives from bullets, knives, and other weapons, and many more in the future will be spared thanks to its discovery.

2 Glasses That Treat Color Blindness

In 2005, Don McPherson was out playing ultimate Frisbee when one of his friends asked to borrow his sunglasses. His friend was stunned when he put them on because they actually allowed him to see the color orange for the first time.

McPherson had just learned that his friend was color-blind. Created by McPherson, these glasses were originally made as eyewear for doctors during laser surgery. The surgeons loved the glasses so much that the specs began disappearing from operating rooms. McPherson also began to wear them casually, which is why he had them on that day.

McPherson and two colleagues later founded EnChroma Labs, a company that is dedicated to developing sunglasses for people with color vision deficiency. The company is continuing to study color blindness and how they can deliver glasses to consumers with different color deficiencies.

They are currently working on indoor glasses, a pediatric model, and an online test that can help people understand their color blindness. You can take the test here.[9]

1 Pacemaker

Dr. Wilson Greatbatch made an error that led to one of the greatest lifesaving inventions that would forever change health care. He attempted to create a heart rhythm recorder in 1956, but an incorrect electronic component caused him to fail.

Instead of recording the sound of a heartbeat, the device produced electronic pulses. That’s when Greatbatch realized that his mistake could help an unhealthy heart stay in rhythm by delivering shocks to help pump and contract blood.

After his accidental discovery, Greatbatch worked hard to produce the first implantable cardiac pacemaker. It took him two years to refine his device and receive a patent.[10]

His first pacemaker was implanted in a patient who lived 18 months with the device. His invention has ultimately saved millions of lives worldwide, and he proved that failure is the greatest learning experience.

I’m just another bearded guy trying to write my way through life. Visit me at www.MDavidScott.com.


10 Funeral Ceremonies For Something Other Than Humans

Funerals are a way for us to find closure for ourselves and to show our love for the departed one last time. All cultures have funeral rites of some kind, because we all feel the sting of death. These ceremonies help to cope with that pain and give respect for our departed loved ones.

Sometimes, though, those loved ones aren’t necessarily other people. We aren’t the only things that need to be mourned when we die. The following are ten funerals held for the passing of something that was not human.

10 Funeral For Departed Gaming Machines


Pachinko is a popular kind of arcade machine in Japan that is like a combination between a slot machine and a pinball machine. The player launches small metallic balls into the machine, and on rare occasions, the ball will find its way into a special spot that initiates a slot-machine style randomizer that can reward countless more metallic balls, which double as a currency that can traded for prizes. If you’re trying to get around local gambling laws, you can even exchange those prizes for money at a nearby counter.

These machines are so popular that one manufacturer had to retire and replace roughly 500,000 machines every year that broke from wear and tear. In 2001, the manufacturer, Heiwa, arranged for a fitting farewell—a funeral for all of those thousands of machines was held at a popular Buddhist temple. This funeral included incense, mourners in black suits, and chanting monks with flowers. Above the temple’s altar, where a photo of the deceased is usually displayed, was a golden Pachinko machine that represented all of its deceased brethren.

“As a manufacturer of pachinko machines, we want to offer our thanks to machines that have completed their work,” said a company representative at the event, Takayuki Uchiyama. He also added that the rites were not just for the machines themselves but for all those who used, worked on, or made them. “It’s a way of praying for all the people who are dead who were involved in pachinko.”[1]

9 Decommissioned Navy Vessels

Since 1775, more than 15,000 US Navy ships have outlived their usefulness and have been decommissioned from active use. But decommissioning a ship isn’t like tossing out a used toothpaste tube or placing a piece of furniture on the corner to be taken to the dump. These retired vessels were friends forged in battle, homes, and the setting for their sailors’ most rousing adventures and terrifying tribulations. The ships are inanimate objects, but they’re so much more than that. When a ship is decommissioned, it has a ceremony, not unlike a funeral. One such decommissioning ceremony took place in 2015 for the USS Rodney M. Davis, named after a sergeant who sacrificed his life for his fellows while in battle in Vietnam.

The ceremony was attended by the ship’s last serving crew, as well as past crew members, the family of Sergeant Davis, and Marines he served with, including some he personally saved. The last serving crew departed the ship in dress uniforms, Sergeant Davis’s daughters helped the crew bring down the colors, which included the American flag and a long commissioning pendant, and finally, the family of Rodney M. Davis was given a tour of the ship.

The final commanding officer of the ship, Commander Todd Whalen, wrote of the occasion, “By valor and arms, USS Rodney M. Davis and her crew have answered the call for 28 years. We honored Sgt. Davis by working together to boldly execute the mission, and we’ll carry his Bold Runner spirit with us for the rest of our lives.”[2]

8 Crows Hold ‘Funerals’ For Their Dead Brethren


When a crow dies, its body becomes the center of a gathering of its fellows. They surround the corpse, call out to each other, and give the body extra kinds of attention. This behavior is seen in crows, jays, magpies, and ravens. However, these rituals serve a more practical purpose than mourning the dead.

Crows are very intelligent birds and have been shown to remember threats and actively avoid anything associated with that threat. For example, during an experiment conducted by Kaeli Swift of the University of Washington, a number of feeding locations were set up that attracted crows. Then those same crows were exposed to a masked human holding a dead crow in their hands. These humans were “scolded” by the crows (an alert noise that warned other living crows of a dangerous threat). Later, the masked individuals would return without a dead crow, but the behavior stayed the same. The crows scolded the person and avoided the spot. This suggests that the crows identified the mask with the death of one of their own and that any location the masked person visited could also be dangerous to them.

When a murder of crows holds a “funeral,” then, it seems likely that they are sending out warning cries to their still-living fellows and searching the area for threats. Still, when Swift repeated her experiment with dead pigeons, the crows didn’t seem particularly bothered. They cared only about the death of one of their own.[3]

7 A Farewell For The Departing Souls Of Dolls


Japanese Shinto and Buddhist religions frequently share the common belief that all things have souls, and so when an item is to be destroyed, that soul is honored. Such was the case in 2017, when 20 individuals and a Buddhist monk performed a funeral ceremony for departing souls of dolls and stuffed animals, including Hello Kitty and Disney icons. These dolls were bound for the dumpster. The ceremony included a chant from the former owners alongside Buddhist monk Shingyo Goto, which included heavy incense.

“We believe a soul lives inside dolls, so I perform a service to take the spirits out of them and express the feeling of gratitude to them,” Shingyo Goto said. “All things have a soul in it regardless of what it is, from a needle, a pair of scissors to an egg, and we give thanks to those things. We have to have the feeling of appreciation for all things.”[4]

6 A Fittingly Green Ceremony For A Tree


On April 1, 2019, a tree’s life was tragically cut short in New York. This may not have seemed like a noteworthy event, as 15 billion trees are cut down in the prime of their life every year, but this tree was a symbol for all of its fallen brothers and sisters and had a name—Will O. Baum. Not only was an obituary written and published in his honor, but a funeral was held. The obituary included these notes on the deceased:

Mr. Baum was born on Arbor Day on April 25th, 1919 in Inwood, NY by Jan and Isaac Prescott. He grew with the Prescott Family and son Marvin. Will-O, as his friends called him, was a pillar of his community . . . literally. In his spare time, he liked to feed the birds, photosynthesize and sunbathe with his best friend Marvin. “Will-O loved helping kids reach new heights and see new perspectives. He also pined for the changing of the seasons . . . except for winter. Christmas always freaked him out.” According to friends, Mr. Baum tirelessly spent his entire life fighting against deforestation and was saddened by the state of the environment.[5]

A funeral was conducted at Judson Memorial Church in New York City for Will O. Baum and included a 25-part choir, poetry readings, and a New Orleans brass band. It was an event for bringing awareness to the plight of trees everywhere and the environmental crisis worldwide. The invitation included the advice:

Light fare and beverages provided. Please bring your own drinking bottle or cup; this is a zero-waste event. No single use plastic or paper products will be used.

WEAR GREEN IF YOU WANT TO BE FESTIVE.

5 Hari Kuyo, The Needle Memorial Ceremony

This ceremony, started in the Heian period at the imperial household in Japan, is a yearly event celebrated in honor of the service of needles used (and broken) throughout the year. It is largely attended by seamstresses and housewives at Shinto and Buddhist temples. It is the perfect example of the concept of properly and honorably disposing of items, not merely throwing them away. This is a concept seen repeatedly in Japanese culture. At one of many temples conducting the ceremony, four women dressed in traditional Nara period clothes dance in honor of Orihime, the heavenly weaver, and lucky paper amulets are distributed to attendees.

Those visiting the temple on this occasion are encouraged to take one of the needles laid out in front of the temple altar and place it upright into a block of konyaku jelly while offering up a prayer.[6] This practice is centuries old and brings together professionals, hobbyists, weavers, and tailors in order to symbolically offer thanks to the tools that empower them to work their trade.

4 Goodbyes To Man’s Best Friend

Pets hold a cherished place in the hearts of many people, so it is no small wonder that the pet funeral industry makes an estimated $100 million a year and is growing all the time, with an estimated 700 or more pet cemeteries in the United States alone.

“Sometimes I hear from people who say, ‘I lost both parents and I lost my pet. This is worse.’ ” said Ed Martin III, vice president of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory, one of the most famous of those 700. “ ‘I feel guilty about that. Am I normal?’ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that comment.”[7]

One such pet funeral was for K9 unit Kye, a three-year-old police dog who died in the line of duty in 2014. She was stabbed to death by a burglary suspect during an altercation, and her funeral (pictured above) was attended by more than 1,000 people and dozens of other service dogs.

3 A Goodbye To Man’s Robotic Best Friend


In 1999, Sony released a futuristic new product called an AIBO (Artificial Intelligence Robot), which was a robotic dog that would wag its tail, dance, and even speak in later models. It was an expensive product, costing roughly $3,000 by today’s standards, but the first run of 3,000 units was sold out within 20 minutes.

In 2006, Sony announced that they would cease production of AIBO, which never attracted enough attention to be anything more than a niche item. Still, some 150,000 units were sold over those seven years. In 2014, Sony made a sobering announcement for all remaining AIBO owners: It would no longer support the product. No more repairs, no more spare parts. For AIBO owners who had grown attached their their robotic dogs, this meant one frightening thing—their dogs would eventually die.

However, great lengths were gone through to keep these robotic pets running, and a small but thriving business was started to repair failing units, but it was only possible by cannibalizing parts from other AIBOs. To honor these “organ donors,” Nobuyuki Norimatsu, the founder of an AIBO repair company named A-Fun, arranged for a funeral for the departed.

This funeral was held at a Buddhist temple for 17 sacrificed AIBO units, but as his business grew, so, too, did the number of AIBOs needed for parts. These robot funerals became a regular occurrence, and in 2018, one was held for 800 AIBOs. The head priest of the temple, Bungen Oi, said that the funerals were in line with Buddhist philosophy, “Even though AIBO is a machine and doesn’t have feelings, it acts as a mirror for human emotions.”[8]

2 A Funeral For A Fictional Character

Photo credit: GQ

Walter White is not a real person. He was a fictional character played by actor Bryan Cranston in a television series titled Breaking Bad. In the series, White is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable cancer who is motivated to make and sell methamphetamine so that his family will have money after he inevitably passes away.

Eventually, White died (or so it is generally assumed) in the series finale. Unlike most television deaths, this particular death resulted in a real-world landmark when fans of the show raised funds for and bought a grave site, an (empty) coffin, and gravestone for the character in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Breaking Bad is set. In addition to raising money for the funeral, these fans raised an additional $17,000, which they donated to the health care of Albuquerque’s homeless. However, there were some in the city who were unhappy with the increased foot traffic the grave has brought to the graveyard that is the final resting place for their real-life loved ones.[9]

1 A Memorial For A Glacier

A glacier is a mass of snow and ice formed after years of excess snow accumulates. Basically, it’s a large snowdrift that never disappears because more snow is added to it faster than the snow can melt. After the snow and ice build up to a height of about 30 meters (100 ft), the huge accumulation typically begins to flow under its own weight. At this point, it qualifies as a glacier.

Iceland is a country of glaciers, with 269 named ones. In fact, around 11 percent of Iceland’s total surface area is comprised of these giant, flowing masses of ice. However, that is changing. As the world warms, glaciers are beginning to die off because more snow is melting from them than is added, causing them to shrink. In 2014, for the first time ever, a glacier was officially declared dead in Iceland—the iconic Okjokull, also referred to as “Ok.”[10]

To commemorate the life of this once-proud Icelandic natural feature, dozens of people from all over the country, including the prime minister, hiked to its former location on August 18, 2019, to leave a memorial for the dead glacier as well as a message for future generations. A copper plaque was installed at the location. It reads in both Icelandic and English:

Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.