The Diving Horses of Atlantic City

Starting in 1905 and ending in 1978, Atlantic City featured diving horses. The horses were trained to dive into the water from a platform with girls on their back from 2-4 times daily.

Ones such lady, Lorena Carver, dove from a forty-foot tower into a 12 foot-deep tank for 25 years until 1930 when she "got a little heavy." Lorena averaged one broken bone per year. Lorena remarked that the job was not especially demanding. "All the girl has to do is look pretty and not fear height or water. . . . The horse knows what to do. He'll take care of you."

Lorena said her horses loved to jump, often making it difficult to get them to wait to build suspense before jumping. Much depended on the horse, with some leaping immediately off the platform while some took up to 5 minutes to look around. The horse Klatawah (Indian for "go away" or "go to h*ll"), would often paw with his hoof as many times as he felt before diving, a remnant of a pawing-his-age act he had performed. When the crowd was small, Klatawah would make a "few lazy scrapes" and dive from a "reclining" position, but he would prance and show off when the crowd was large.

Sonora Webster Carver, another girl who rode the diving horses, was blinded in 1931 when the impact of the water detached her retinas. She continued in the show for another 11 years. Her sister, Arnette French, who also dove with the horses until 1935, remembers,. "What impressed me was how Dr. Carver cared for the horses. . . we went, the S.P.C.A. was always snooping around, trying to find if we were doing anything that was cruel to animals. They never found anything because those horses lived the life of Riley. In all the years of the act, there was never a horse that was injured.''

Sornoa's worte the memoir, A Girl and Five Brave Horses which can be previewed here and is very interesting and includes pictures. She describes her first performed jump. "I felt his muscles tense as his big body sprang out and down, then had an entirely new feeling. It was a wild, almost primitive feel, that only comes with complete freedom of contact with the earth. Then I saw the water rushing up at me, and the next moment we were in the tank."

One person remembers seeing the horses:

"The High Diving Horses were always my favorite. I must have seen at least six of them over the years. They each had their own style of diving. One would wait a good five minutes before jumping - he would hold his head up and watch the seagulls fly by. Some dove with their front legs straight out, while others tucked up their legs as if they were going over a jump. One horse would twist in the air and land on his side, making it dangerous for his rider.

Another horse, I think his name was Patches, drew quite an audience. After making so many jumps he no longer waited for his rider. He would charge up the ramp to the tower and take a running jump off the diving board, leaving the rider behind. A couple of the girls tried to leap on him as he flew by, only to be left sailing through the air mount-less. One day, he got up so much speed he almost overshot the pool. Needless to say, they retired him. One year they even had a high diving mule."

When the show was closed, the last two diving horses, Gamal aged 26 and Shiloh aged 9 were bought by the Fund for Animals.

To see videos of the Atlantic Diving horses, please visit here and here.

Sources: ATLANTIC CITY features the High-Diving Horse, Mr. Peanut, Lucy the Elephant, and generations of Americans running amok under (and over) the Boardwalk, Palisades Amusement Park" A Century of Fond Memories, Dedication, New York Times, Petticoat Discipline Quarterly, Life

religious game show

Istanbul television station, Kanal T is launching Penitents Compete, a new reality show in September that focuses on religious conversion. 10 atheists, confirmed as athiests by 8 theologians, will be the contestants. A Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim inam and a Buddhist monk will try to convert the contestants.

The prize is a trip to the holy city of their new chosen religion (the Vatican and Ephesus, Jerusalem, Mecca or Tibet). Station deputy director, Ahmet Ozdemir says, "They can't see this trip as a getaway, but as a religious experience."

Advertising slogans for Penitents Compete include "We give you the biggest prize ever: we represent the belief in God" and "You will find serenity in this competition."


Charles Daubeny, "Oxford's first professor of Chemistry," once held up two bottles in front of his class, telling him that if the liquids in the two bottles mixed, the lecture hall would explode. But when he tripped and the liquids mixed to the audience's horror, nothing happened. He had a technician to thank. The technician had substituted the liquids before the lecture. Eurekas and Euphorias: The Ozford book of Scientific Antecdotes (p. 4).

leech removed from eye, cockney Bible and lost lab

In Sydney, a 66-year-old women was gardening in her backyard when she flicked dirt into her eye. "After multiple attempts at wiping the dirt away, she felt some movement in front of her eye and called for her husband's help. He saw a leech four to five millimeters long pass across her cornea and under the upper lid." Doctors were able to successfully remove the leech with a saline solution. Source

Mike Coles wrote a cockney version of the Bible endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey. Dr. Carey wrote the foreword and believes this version will bring the Bible back "into the marketplace, into the streets, where it originally took place". Here is the Lord's Prayer (as found in Luke 11:2-4) as translated in this version:

HELLO, Dad, up there in good ol' Heaven,
Your name is well great and holy, and we respect you, Guv.
We hope we can all 'ave a butcher's at Heaven and be there as soon as
possible: and we want to make you happy, Guv, and do what you want 'ere on
earth, just like what you do in Heaven.
Guv, please give us some Uncle Fred, and enough grub and stuff to keep us
going today, and we hope you'll forgive us when we cock things up, just
like we're supposed to forgive them who annoy us and do dodgy stuff to us.
There's a lot of dodgy people around, Guv; please don't let us get tempted
to do bad things. Help keep us away from all the nasty, evil stuff, and
keep that dodgy Satan away from us, 'cos you're much stronger than 'im.
Your the Boss, God, and will be for ever, innit? Cheers, Amen.

Simon, a Labrador mix went missing from his Baltesz family in Bristol. After using the conventional methods, the Baltesz family started sprinkling their diluted urine around town with trails leading back to their house. "A small army of friends and volunteers has been helping."

Mother, Louise says: ""There are people who are upset about it, but I'm too emotionally drained to think about it," she said. "I'm worried about it - I really am. . . . I do feel mad doing it, but I'm driven to desperate measures."

Simon has been lost since July 4th. Louis adds, "The house is so quiet without him. He's a bit of a special dog because he was a rescue animal and it took us ages to rehabilitate him.'He's unusual for a Labrador because most are friendly and approachable but he was so badly treated he doesn't trust anyone except us. We are really attached to him."

Source Source Source .

40 minute war and the shoe-fitting fluoroscope

The Anglo-Zanzibar War between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar (in East Africa) occurred on August 27, 1896. The war lasted aproximatley 40 minutes. While Khalid bin Bargash seized power after Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini's death, the British wanted the sultanship to go to Hamud bin Muhammed. Bargash ignored the British ultimatum that he relinquish power and barracaded himself in the palace. When the time alloted in the ultimatum expired, five British warships commenced bombing of the palace. After British victory, the British forced Khalid's supporters to pay for the cost of the shells used in the attack. The war ended Zanzibar's status as a sovereign state. Several months later,under British prompting, Hamud abolished slavery. Source
In the 1920s to 1940s, a popular device in shoes stores was the shoe-fitting fluoroscope. Stores used their machines to draw in customers with slogans such as "Shoes of Quality, X-Ray Fitted" and "Kiddies love it!" One 1940's advertisement boasted, "Whether the shoe clerk is an “old timer” with 20 or more years of fitting experience or a “Saturday extra” who has been on the job only a few weeks, ADRIAN X-Ray Machines help him give your child the most accurate fitting possible."

The machines showed the image of the foot inside the shoe when a person stood over the x-ray tube. [One source says the x-ray tube was lead-shielded while another says it was shielded with 1 mm of aluminum.-most likely varied b model and year]. "Some units allowed the operator to select one of three different intensities: the highest intensity for men, the middle one for women and the lowest for children. "

Some models had three viewing slots, where both the child, parent and clerk could view the image. "Fortunately, the X-rays did not continue directly through to the viewers' eyes, but were reflected by mirrors to the viewing ports. With repeated use of the fluoroscope with different pairs of shoes, an enterprising clerk could entice customers to find the perfect fit."

While potential dangers of radiation were known before the shoe-fitting fluoroscope was patented, 10,000 shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were being used in the 1940s. In 1951, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists formed safety standards. The standard required that customers could not use the device more than 20 times a year or 5 times a fitting, and that "customers should have shoes on BOTH feet at the time of a fluoroscopic examination." 1960, the device was banned in 34 states.

The Museum of Quackery claims their fluoroscope on display was found in Madison, West Virginia in 1981 where it was still being used.

Source Source Source Source

Random Historical Facts

In 1671, the chief butler to the prince de Conde, Francois Vatel, was charged with overseeing a feast in honor of the visiting Louis XIV. Forgoing 12 days of sleep for the feast preparation, when Vatel discovered he lacked two roasts he said, “I have lost my honor. . . This is a disgrace which is more than I can bear (105).” The lack of sleep and missing roasts proved too much for Vatel when he stabbed himself with his own sword when his fish did not come in time to prepare for the feast. On the road to the church, his corpse passed the cart delivering the fish.

In the 1600s, “[r]edheads were thought to be the product of sex during menstruation and were believed to exhibit the lack of sexual self-discipline inherent in the ill-timed copulation of their parents (109).”

The the Middle ages, after monks were forbidden to practice medicine and dentistry any more, barbers began to assume medical roles. A common practice of the time was bloodletting. Barbers advertised their bloodletting services by displaying "buckets of fresh blood in their windows. When the blood congealed, it was poured into the street, where it spoiled." (34)

Sources for first two: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman." Sources for third: "Toothworms spider juice and illustrated history of dentistry."

Royal Mistresses part 3 of 3

If you have not read Part 1, please scroll down and read it first.

Gabrielle d'Estrées (1571-1599)

Gabrielle d'Estrées was royal mistress to Henri IV of France, a monarch often at war during the start of their relationship. Gabrielle, even when pregnant, insisted on living with him in his army camp. She washed his clothes, pounding them with rocks when the soap ran out as well as wrote official dispatches for him. At one point, Henri wrote: "Last evening I found three bullet holes burned into the fabric of my mistresses tent, and begged her to go to her house in Paris, where her life would not be endangered, but she laughed as was deaf to my pleas. . . . She replied that only in my presence is she pleased. I entertain no fears for myself, but daily tremble for her" (43)." When Austrian troops advanced within 500 paces of Gabrielle, she yelled and exhorted Henri's troops to bravery until Henri "ordered her to be slung over a horse and taken to the rear of the camp" (43).

When the news of Spain's surprise attack first broke, Gabrielle left the Paris ball she was at, and went and fetched 50,000 personal gold pieces which she gave to Henri to support his troops. From there, she personally canvased 250,000 euros in donations and pawned her best jewelry.

Off the battlefront in 1509, Gabrielle managed a household with "eighty-three ladies and gentlemen, seventeen crown officials, and more than two hundred servants" (145). She also had great political power, such as joining the council and making laws. Henri declared Gabrielle "Titulary Mistress of His Majesty, the King of France," ordering all dignitaries to visit her after visiting him, and allowing her to communicate on his behalf directly to the Pope.

Henri IV had 56 mistresses throughout his life, but was only ever faithful to Gabrielle. Henri wanted to marry her. Indeed, he pressured her husband, Nicholas d'Amerval to declare impotence as grounds for divorce. (Nicholas had fourteen children with his first wife.)

However, Gabrielle died in childbirth one day before Henri was to wed her, make her queen and make her son his heir. Henri, traveling, was unable to make it to Gabrielle in time. Servants stole rings off her body and her father carted off her royal furniture.

Gabrielle had died with a grimace on her face so that "her mouth twisted around toward the back of her head and, at her death, stuck there as if in concrete" (214). Henri placed her wax effigy in his apartments, visiting it often and having it daily dressed in a new gown.

After Gabrielle's death and his marriage to the Spanish infanta, his carriage overturned in 1606 in a river. Ignoring the Queen, Henri saved César, his son by Gabrielle, and left the Queen to be pulled by her hair to safety by a courtier. Henri raised his six legitimate and eight illegitimate children together, keeping a list in his pocket to help tell them apart.

Henriette-Catherine de Balzac d'Entragues (1579-1663)

After Garbrielle's death, Henri's next mistress, Henriette-Catherine de Balzac d'Entragues, whom he fell in love with during marriage negations with the Spanish infanta, demanded 100,000 crowns before she slept with him. Henri's minister, the duc de Sully, spread the silver equivalent on the floor of the cabinet room in protest. Henriette took the money and also asked for written proof of marriage before she slept with him.

Seven months pregnant, she threatened to stop Henri's Spanish marriage negotiations causing him to giver her titles and a castle as appeasement. When Henriette gave birth to a still-born son (a healthy son would have made her Queen), Henri and Henriette made up.

When Henri's new Queen, Marie de Medici arrived from Spain, she arrived to empty apartments as the king had made no provisions for furniture for her. When introducing Henriette to Marie, Henri said, "This is my mistress who now wishes to be your servant" (78). Marie and Henriette soon became enemies. Henriette mocked the queen while the Queen resented her. When the Queen showed Henri letters from Henriette that mocked him, Henriette convinced Henri they were forgeries designed by the queen. Henriette forgave Henri for 6,000 pounds.

Henri commented on his relationship with his wife: "I receive from my wife neither companionship nor gaiety nor consolation, she either cannot or will not show me any kindness or pleasant conversation, neither will she accommodate herself to my moods and disposition" (80).

Henriette fell out of power in 1608 for "traitorous dealing with the Spanish" (80), and in 1610, after Henri's assassination, Marie exiled Henriette from court until Henriette died unmourned.

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).

Royal Mistresses part 2 of 3

If you have not read Part 1, please scroll down and read it first.

Anges Sorel (1421-1450)

"The earliest surviving portrait of a royal mistress is of Anges, painted in 1449, a time when secular portraits were not yet common, and many of the rich and famous still bribed church artists to paint their faces on saints (2-3)." As a result, Charles VII of France had his royal mistress, Anges, painted in a two-part church panel as the virgin Mary offering a breast to the baby Jesus (seen above). Anges died in childbirth soon after the panel was completed.

Queen Maire tolerated her rival, but her son, the heir to the crown, Louis, despised Anges for causing his mother pain. "One day in 1444, Louis, running into Anges, cried, 'By our Lord's passion, this woman is the cause of all our misfortunes,' and punched her in the face (197)."

Anges used her influence with the king, with to raise him from his apathy and help him drive the English out of France. "Charles . . . made a poor king before Agnes, and returned to being a poor king after her" (2). (Charles VII was the contemporary of Joan of Arc.)

Madame de Montespan (1641-1707)

Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart (Athénaïs) was the mistress of Louis XIV of France for 13 years and provided him with 7 children in 9 years.

Athénaïs kept her radiant good looks until age 40 by a lavish regime of creams, oils and cosmetics. Because of the rich court food and the limited exercise options for ladies, Athénaïs daily rubbed herself with pomade and would disappear to a spa to starve herself.

Athénaïs was a strong spirit. Once, when Louis reproved her wearing strong perfume, Athénaïs said it was because he stank so badly. Five months pregnant, Athénaïs insisted on being with Louis as he toured his frontiers, sleeping in farmhouses and bumping in carriages. She loved playing cards. "One Christmas Day she lost the staggering sum of £230,000, kept playing, and won back £500,000 on one play involving three cards" (143). When her illegitimate 12-year old daughter was married to a 17-year-old dwarf for political reasons, Athénaïs pushed for immediate consummation despite the conditions of the marriage contract.

Athénaïs was not interested in politics, and was even unreliable in getting her friends political positions. She was disliked by the court and the public for her haughtiness and lavish spending.

Before Athénaïs married, she had attempted to become Louis' mistress. When married and a lady-in-wating to Queen Marie-Thérése, Athénaïs told the queen she would rather die than be Louis' mistress and criticized his current mistress, Louise de La Valliére, sharply. However, when Athénaïs became Louis' mistress, the queen was the last to find out. Athénaïs, now the mistress, treated the Queen rudely. Athénaïs was also rude to Louise whom she demanded to help her get ready in the morning.

For some time, Louis tried to keep up a public charade. In 1670 and 1671 Louis took his old mistress, Athénaïs and his Queen on journeys to confuse the public and avoid scandal. The crowd called them "the three Queens" (68). At one stop with only one bed, the indignant Queen was given the bed while the King, his brother and sister-in-law, his cousin, Louise and Athénaïs slept on a mattress on the floor. Despite this, the Queen was grateful that Louis treated her respectfully, returning to her bed every night and eating with her. Despite this, Athénaïs enjoyed a 20-room apartment to the Queen's 11.

Athénaïs' husband, the marquis de Montespan, enjoyed the life of a soldier. Once he disguised a girl he seduced as a member of his Calvary. While the marquis was known to storm convents for the girls inside, when he returned to court, he raged about his wife's immorality, boxing her ears and using language so strong it sent several ladies to bed with "the vapors."

After exiled from court for pretending to mourn for
Athénaïs' death, he held an elaborate funeral. "He stood by the main door with his two small children, all clad in black, somberly accepting condolences on their loss" (99). After storming another convent and injuring the girl, her mother, the father superior and several peasants, the marquis was sent to prison but escaped to Spain.

In 1667, Athénaïs visited a with for help with seducing Louis. The witch, La Voisin, provided services to wealthy patrons. When innocent Louise invited Athénaïs to dine with the king and her, Athénaïs slipped lve potions made of "dead babies blood, bones, and intestines, along with parts of toads and bats" (107) into Louis; drinks. Soon after, Athénaïs became Louis' mistress, but by the late 1670s her position was unstable, causing her to sulk, storm and scheme against her rivals. Instead of a young beauty, Athénaïs appointed the future Madame de Maintenon as the royal governess but was shocked when Louis fell for her.

In 1680,
La Voisin was burned for witchcraft after 218 people were interrogated and 36 more executed. La Voisin's daughter claimed that Athénaïs had been a patron ordering black masses which included infant-sacrifices with its blood drained into chalices. When the police excavated La Voisin's garden, they found the bodies of 2,500 infants-"aborted, stillborn, premature, and those who had been sacrificed alive. There was a small oven in the garden pavilion where La Voisin would burn an infant's body if it was too big to burn easily.

Louis finally understood why for thirteen years he had awoken with a headache every morning after having dined with
Athénaïs de Montespan the night before. He was revolted at the quantities of noxious potions he had consumed over the years" (113). Louis hushed Athénaïs' involvement, imprisoning witnesses. While Athénaïs remained at court for another ten years, Louis avoided her and returned to his Queen's bed.

Athénaïs was exiled from court at age 51, she left protesting and storming. Athénaïs' husband was later pardoned and returned to court, becoming a favorite of the king after Athénaïs' exile. Athénaïs' son with Louis , the duc de Maine, who blamed his mother for his limp, insisted on personally telling his mother of her exile, threw her furniture out the window and took over her apartments for himself. After Athénaïs' exile, forced to follow the lead of Madame de Maintenon, public favor swung back towards Athénaïs. With rosaries and Bibles fashionable, courtiers yearned for the days of Athénaïs.

Louis never visited
Athénaïs, despite her fashioning special rooms for his visit and hanging her bedchamber with his portraits. While she remained proud, forcing her visitors to stand when receiving them, Athénaïs founded a hospital, personally sewed clothes for the poor and took to wearing bands of iron-spikes for penance.

When she died,
Athénaïs' body received a botched autopsy, was dumped on her doorstep and received a small funeral. According to custom, her entrails were placed in a separate urn, but they disgusted the porter so much that he threw them on the ground where they were eaten by pigs.

At her death, two of her sons openly rejoiced at Athénaïs' death while Louis remained cold. Only Madame de Maintenon (whom Louis had secretly married) mourned.

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).

Royal Mistresses part 1 of 3


"In the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the position of royal mistress was almost as official as that of prime minister (5)." The position of royal mistress was so accepted, that even Frederick III appointed an official royal mistress-whom he never touched. Spain, however, did things differently at the time. Spain's royal mistress had no official position. Plus, with the king being "one step away from God," women were sent to a convent after sleeping with the Spanish king.

"It was reported that Philip IV of Spain (1605-165) chased
a young woman through his palace and hurled himself at the door
she had bared against him, commanding her to let him in. The
sobbing girl cried, "No, no Sire! I don't want to be a nun." (8)

Common non-bedroom duties of the royal mistresses included patronizing the arts and entertaining the king. Even some mistresses whose physical relationship with the king had ended kept their position due to their various skills such as diplomacy, entertainment or companionship.

A royal mistress was most often a well-born and titled lady at court, and most often married. Indeed, it was considered scandalous for an unmarried woman to have a child. If the king was interested in an unmarried woman, he would often marry her to a husband who would look the other way.

The royal mistress was expected to keep up appearances, wearing gowns that outshone even the queen's. Many royal mistresses were left in debt by the end of the month as a result of the gowns, servants, carriages, etc, they were expected to have.

Titles were often given to royal mistresses, but some kings waited until after their mistress was dead to grant titles (so they could have a splendid funeral). The royal mistress was often rewarded with titles, property and jewelry, but she could be removed from her position and have her property and jewels taken at the king's whim. There could only be one official royal mistress at a time and the king's fancies changed.

While the royal mistress was frequently treated better than the Queen, her position was far less stable. For many kings, the queen's treatment of his royal mistress determined his treatment of the queen. The king chose the queen's living quarters, her ladies in waiting, her activities and her allowance. The court, after all, took its cue from the king- if the king snubbed his queen for the royal mistress, so would the court. If the king insulted his queen, so would the court. It was wise to at least tolerate the royal mistress. Some queens even made allies of the royal mistress causing the mistress to ask the king to treat his wife better.

But just as the king's treatment of his queen varied, the king's treatment of his royal mistress varied. Some mistresses were allowed to receive foreign dignitaries, while other were forbidden to dabble in politics-even forbidden from granting titles to their family (a common practice of the time). The king could marry off his illegitimate children by his mistress to profitable marriages, or he could refuse to give them titles at all. The position of the royal mistress was as varied as it was interesting.

Lola Montez (1786-1868)

After the French Revolution, while royal mistresses still existed, their positions were not nearly as powerful as their predecessors, and the public was not as tolerant of excesses.

Lola was very fiery-carrying knives and pistols and threatening to hurt herself if she didn't get her way. She horsewhipped gentleman who she felt insulted by, as well as slapped and hit shop owners and passers-by for the same reason.

Lola was a dancer born in Ireland, raised in India, married and divorced in England who claimed to be French. When Ludwig convinced Lola to stay in Bulgaria, the public grew nervous that their king would be influenced politically by her. Ludwig showered Lola with jewels. While Ludwig made his Queen wear old dresses, Lola would show up to the opera in a 13,000 florin dress and diamond tiara.

Ludwig forced Lola's Bulgarian citizenship through. In 1847 he forced Parliament to make Lola, a countess,but his entire cabinet resigned and Queen Therese shunned those who "received" Lola. Yet, Lola's new title allowed her to drive a carriage with a nine-pointed crown on it.

The public avoided Lola, suspicious of her influence and shocked by her behavior. In the street, boys threw manure at her and people yelled insults. This behavior inspired a volunteer group of student bodyguards called the Alemannia, distinguishable by their red caps. Lola threw wild parties for her Alemannia, but the other students disliked the Alemannia-leaving lectures en mass when they arrived.

When Ludwig heard of the disturbances, he closed the university for a semester, prompting riots which Lola participated in until she was recognized and pelted with manure. When she took refuge in a church, she was thrown out, but escaped to the palace. The next day, the hundreds-strong mob had stormed and trashed police headquarters prompting the city commandant to promise that Lola would be out of the city in one hour.

When Lola, from her balcony, dared the gathered crowd to kill her, her coachman and a lieutenant forced her into her carriage and fled. Ironically, Lola was in a plain dress, without jewels or cloak.

Lola started more riots when she snuck back to see Ludwig disguised as a man. Ludwig abdicated his throne during the riots, but stayed in Bulgaria because his son plead with him not to flee. If Ludwig would have fled, it might have cost his son's claim to the throne.

Ludwig tried for two years to be reunited with Lola, but was prevented. Lola went to America where she made both a dancing, acting and lecturing career as a former royal mistress. She married twice and settled in California. "She raised a bear in her backyard, invested in a mine, and was known to tour the mine shafts chomping on a cigar. . . Lola was known for her charitable works and, surprisingly, Bible study (229)." She donated $300 to a charity for reformed prostitutes upon her death and lived a quiet life at the end.

An older and much more life-battered Ludwig wrote a poem about Lola:

Through you I lost the crown
But I do not rage against you for that
For you were born to be my misfortune
You were such a blinding, scorching light!

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).


In May, ambitious employees at a downtown At&T building in San Jose attempted to clean out an unplugged office refrigerator, removing the food and using chemicals to clean the inside. The building was eventually evacuated and a haz mat team responded. Twenty-eight people needed "treatment for vomiting and nausea" while seven were hospitalized. Immune from the mix of moldy food and chemical smells was the employee who cleaned the fridge. Her allergies blocked the smell. Source

Little Tikes' Cozy Coupe is being inducted into Clevland auto museaum. Selling 457,000 units in 2008, the Cozy Coupe outsold every other car in America. "In the '90s, it outsold both the Accord and Ford Taurus." Little Tike currently produces a Cozy Coupe every minute. Director of marketing for LIttle TIkes, Rosanne Kubisty comments, "It's definitely a recession-proof vehicle." Source Source

When a week-old cocker spaniel puppy came in muddy from the garden, its 4-year-old master tried to bathe him in the toliet. When he pulled the chain, however, the puppy was flushed down the toliet. The boy's mother could hear the puppy crying from her garden drain cover and called Dyno-Rod, a UK drainage firm. Using "specialty camera equipment," the puppy was located and nudged to a manhole cover where it was rescued by a fireman. Video of the resue can be seen here. The puppy is currenlty fine and has been named Dyno.

In June 2009, 2,510 people in Swansea, Wales now hold the world record for most people dressed as smurfs. To verify the record, every person was checked to make sure no natural skin was exposed. At that point, five attempts to break the smurf record had occured over the last 18 months. Source


According to the concussion theory, aerial explosions disturb atmospheric equilibrium and cause rain. This idea began with Plutarch, a Greek moralist, in 1AD. Plutarch developed this theory after he observed rain after battles.Napoleon, himself, shot cannons into the sky in an attempt to muddy the ground to delay his opponents. Soldiers in the Civil War who fought in water-logged conditions also believed this theory.

In the early 1900s, the theory was popular.In 1910, C.W. Post ordered his cowboys to make 150 kites to carry dynamite into the sky. In the process of launching the kites, however, it began to pour rain and the experiment was scrapped.

During the dust bowl, rain-makers were in especially high demand. Congress appropriated money to test the concussion theory in Texas. Source Dyrenforth ran the tests without results and earned the name “Dry Henceforth.”

Dalhart, Texas paid Thornton three hundred dollars to make rain. Thornton set up four miles out of town and bombed with dynamite for four days, causing neighboring towns to complain. After four days, 1/10th of an inch of snow fell, and it snowed the following day.

But rain-making was not always a safe profession. Wallace E. Howell, using silver iodine crystals, was taken to court and threatened to be shot on sight by Catskill residents who believed he caused rain to destroy their crops.

Self-proclaimed “moisture accelerator” Charles M. Hatfield was hired by San Diego to produce rain. The contract stated he would produce 40 inches of rain for free, but for every inch between 40 and 50 inches, he would be paid $1,000. When San Diego flooded severely in 1916, some believed Hatfield was responsible and Hatfield has to leave town when a lynch mob was threatened. Despite several press councils, Hatfield was never paid. Oddly enough, the flood was caused by only 28.01 inches of rain, yet Hatfield was hired to produce 50 inches.

Source The Worst Hard Time (p. 191, 231) Source

Weird Patents

"The common house spider is often trapped within a bath or basin. This is mainly due to a spiders inability to negotiate or scale the smooth inner countours of a conventional bath or basin." The solution? A spider ladder as patented in 1994. The ladder is made of metal or plastic to prevent spiders from hiding under the ladder. It is attached with a suction cup. Source

Here is an electric tablecloth designed in 1992 to keep insects from crawling onto food. "The current passing through the insect's body is sufficient to produce a sensation which will discourage further travel across the edge of the cloth. A consumer who may come into contact with the strips will usually not feel the current and, even if the consumer is wet, the current will produce only a slight tingling sensation." Source

From what I understand this 2006 device uses water as a conductor and uses electricity on the phrenic and vagus nerves to cure hiccups. The patent details a history of hiccups. "Hiccups lasting up to 48 hours are classified as 'bouts.' Hiccups lasting longer than 48 hours are called 'persistent.' Those lasting longer than a month are called 'intractable.'" One reason drinking water is a traditional cure for hiccups is that it stimulates the vagus nerve on the drinker's mouth. Source

Have you ever wondered how to swing on a swing? Well this patent will explain how to swing from side to side and in an oval shape. "Another improvement on the swinging method described above is the induction into the side-to-side swinging movement of a component of forward-and-back motion. That is, by skillful manipulation of the body, the present inventor has found it possible to add a relatively minor component of forward-and-back motion to the side-to-side swinging motion, resulting in a swinging path that is generally shaped like an oval."

Electric lice

  • Six years before Benjamin Franklin's experience with kites and lightning, court electrician Abbé Nollet demonstrated electricity to Louis XV. Nollet lined up Carthusian monks to form a 900 foot line connected with iron wire. When the electrical current was passed through the wire, the monks jumped simultaneously. Nollet wrote: “The exclamations of surprise were simultaneous even though they came from two hundred mouths.” Before Nollet, Stephen Gray in 1720 used Charterhouse charity boys for electrical experiments. He would hang a boy with insulating cords, use rubber glass to electrify him and “draw sparks from his nose.” Swedish biologist Albercht von Haller had his electrified boys stand on pitch to insulate them. When a person approached, electricity would pass between the boy and the person. Both would experience a sharp pain. Source (p.63)

  • Lumberjacks in the 19th century had it hard. Here is an excerpt from Lumberjack Walker D. Wyman's diary from 1885: "One of the best ways to fool the lice was to turn your [long] underwear when you went to bed at night. The lice spent most of the night finding their way from the outside to the inside and didn't have much time left to do any biting." Source(p.70)

locked up

    Until 1772, British law required those accused of a felony to either enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. However, if a defendant refused to enter a plea, their estate passed to their family instead of to the crown as would happen if they were convicted. The law of Peine Forte et Dure was designed to try to force a plea out of the defendant. By 1406, if a defendant refused to enter a plea, they would be pressed until they died or entered a plea. A board would be placed across their chest and stomach and iron weights would be placed on top of the board, gradually increasing every day. In Nottingham, a mute man was pressed to death because he was unable to enter a plea. Source Source Source

    Prison reformer Jon Howard believed that silence would allow prisoners more time to consider their crimes and offer a greater chance of repentance. Coldbath Fields House of Correction in London attempted a silence-prison reform in 1834. At this time, the prison housed men, woman and children. Silence was strictly enforced and prisoners were not allowed to talk or congregate. In attempt to keep prisoners from recognizing each other, they wore masks or veils with numbered tags. In response to the harsh punishments (flogging, bread and water diet, confined to the "dark cells"), prisoners invented hand signals and tapped secret codes on the water pipes. Source Source Source

    In Tokyo, the restaurant Alcatraz ER provides a medical prison-themed dining experience. Upon arrival, you are handcuffed, mock injected, and locked in a cell. The food is served in metal surgical pans and cocktails are served in test tubes or plasma bags, sometimes with false teeth. If your cell door is “accidentally” left open, “your mission to go screaming around the restaurant in a wheelchair evading the outstretched hands of other prisoners.” A similar restaurant is The Lockup, with varying locations in Toyko. At one location, diners are placed in a dark room and left to find the hidden door into the restaurant. Source Source Source

no connection

When computer programmer Jerry Jalava had a finger amputated after a motorcycle accident, he acquired a prosthetic finger with a USB attached. When Jerry uses the USB, he removes the prosthetic finger. He currently has Billix, CouchDBX and Ajatus installed on the drive, but he hopes for his next prosthetic to have a removable fingertip and an RFID tag (tracking device that uses radio waves). His blog Pictures Source

Alan Titchmarsh, BBC TV gardener, has a waxwork at Madame Tussauds that is “one of the most fondled.” His waxwork is kissed so frequently that lipstick is washed off its face twice a week. Source Source

For the 1939 World's Fair, Joe Sprinz, a catcher for the San Francisco Seals, tried to catch a baseball dropped 1,000-1,200 feet by a blimp. While part of his mitt touched the ball, the ball hit him in the face. He spent three months in the hospital due to 5 knocked-out teeth and a jaw fractured in 12 places. Source Source


In No Man's Land (the western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle), the dust storms of the Great Depression “killed or forced out nearly one family in three.” This, however, was not as bad as the conditions in the Texas panhandle.

Caroline Henderson lived in No Man's Land and wrote letters that were published in the Atlantic Monthly. Here is an excerpt form her June 1935 letter: "Wearing our shade hats, with handkerchiefs tied over our faces and Vaseline in our nostrils, we have been trying to rescue our home from the accumulations of wind-blown dust which penetrates wherever air can go. It is almost hopeless, for there is rarely a day when at some time the dust does not roll over. 'Visibility' approaches zero and everything is covered again with a silt-like deposit which may vary in depth from a film to actual ripples on the kitchen floor.” By the summer of 1936, only 8 of the 136 homesteads in her township still had tenets.

The dust from different states were different colors. Kansas dust was black, eastern Oklahoma dust was red, Texas dust was yellow. When these mixed in dust storms, it sometimes tinted the sun light green.

Many normal activities were made dangerous. Trains had to stop to prevent their passengers from choking and to allow them to scoop dust out of the cars. One Kansas train ran into a few-hours-old dust drift and was stuck. School was frequently canceled as well. In April 1932, a dust storm shattered all the windows in a schoolhouse and covered the school and children with dust. Even hospitals had to pause due to their inability to keep the surgical wards dust-free. Another side effect was that “[m]en avoided shaking hands with each other because the static electricity was so great it could knock a person down” Cars drug grounding-chains behind them as well.

The dust and drought brought in many animals in huge numbers, including tarantulas, centipedes, spiders, black widows and grasshoppers. Towards the start of the depression, rabbit drives were started to combat the booming rabbit population. Using clubs, people trapped rabbits in fences and clubbed them to death. In some places, rabbit drives were weekly events and up to 6,000 rabbits could be killed per afternoon per square mile. Towards the start of the depression, attempts were made to send the rabbits to be canned for the city folks, but the bodies ended up being left or buried. By 1935, the rabbits were canned and eaten. The people were already forced to pickle tumbleweed, so the rabbits would not go to waste.

Dust pneumonia affected those who breathed in the dust, as well as sinusitis, laryngitis and bronchitis. Dust pneumonia caused coughing, body aches, shortness of breath and nausea. “By the mid 1930s . . . [dust pneumonia] was one of the biggest killers.” The Red Cross distributed masks designed to filter out the dust, but the masks often turned black in under an hour. The dust, only 63 microns small (a period at the end of a sentence is 300 microns), got everywhere. One man cut open the stomach of a dead cow only to find its stomach so packed with dust that it blocked the passage of food.

In May 1934, the east coast got a taste of the dust bowl when a large dust storm blew across. The Statute of Liberty could hardly be seen, and it dusted the White House and covered ships out more than 200 miles from shore. “People in the cities wondered why the plains folks could not do something to hold their soil down. One man suggested laying asphalt over the prairie. Another idea was to ship junked cars to the southern plains where they would be used as weights to hold the ground in place.”

The pictures are of the Black Sunday dust storm of April 14th, 1935. The dust storm produced enough electricity to power New York. The Black Sunday dust storm destroyed “one-half the wheat crop in Kansas, one-quarter of it in Oklahoma, and all of it in Nebraska—5 million acres blown out.” Twice as much dirt as removed for the Panama canal was carried in the dust storm.

Source: The Worst Hard Time (information and quotes from p.304, 257, 234, 221, 175, 173, 153, 116). Source Source


This 1963 patent gives detailed plans on "facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force."

Because "civilized women" are less active during their pregnancy than "primitive women," they often have more trouble with childbirth. In attempt to create "less stress to the mother," the mother is strapped into the device (above) and spun around to create centrifugal force to propel the baby out. The "infant reception net" is padded with cotton and the baby's weight may be designed to to "activate an electric bell, announcing the event." Source

Three forms of an anti-eating mask was patented in the 1980s. One patent suggests the use of the mask by housewives to prevent them from nibbling while cooking meals. Another patent laces elastic lines through two plastic strips adhered on the user's mouth. "In essence, my invention stimulates the idea of sewing the user's lips together, but it does so in a manner that permits speech plus limited food and liquid intake." The device, however, is claimed to be more of an emotional reminder than a physical deterrent. Source Source Source

This 1989 patent details the specifics of a smoker's hat. The hat covers the smoker's head and returns purified air to environment. Uses suggested for this hat include use on airplanes, transit systems, and for smokers whose job requires them to interact with the public. "Because of the evolving social changes in our society, there is a need for a device to put the smoker and the non-smoker on equal footing. The present invention fills that need." Source