Scottish man fined for “pretending to be ghost” in cemetery

This is offensive to real ghosts. Straight from the source:

Tim Concannon, prosecuting at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, said: “This defendant was effectively singing loudly and being disrespectful in among the graves.
 
“He was throwing himself backwards, waving his arms about and going ‘wooooooo’. I’m assuming he was pretending to be a ghost.”
 
Stallard [the defendant] had accepted at an earlier hearing that his behaviour could have been seen to cause distress to grieving relatives, and had pleaded guilty.
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If you can find it, you can swim in the secret pool in the Mojave Desert

Related to yesterday’s post is another harrowing true story about a mysterious body of water in the middle of a vast desert. Unlike that inexplicable Tunisian lake, though, the origins of this hidden swimming pool are no enigma: it is the work of an artist named Alfredo Barsuglia, who “created the minimalist sculpture to nod to other monumental works of desert-bound land art.”

hidden-mojave-desert-swimming-pool.jpg
Writes Gizmodo:
GPS coordinates can be obtained, along with the key, by visiting the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood, where the Austrian-born Barsuglia was a fellow last year. You can’t call to see if the key is there, and you can’t reserve it ahead of time. Of the destination, the artist will only say that it requires “several hours of driving from Los Angeles, plus a willingness to walk a long distance to reach the pool from the nearest road.”
What fun! Quirky, playful installations like these make the world a more interesting place. You can read more here.
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Mysterious lake appears in the middle of the desert, without explanation

We bring you the latest in our ongoing series of stories about lake-related mysteries: apparently, a large, deep lake has unexpectedly (who ever expects this sort of thing?) materialized in the middle of the Tunisian desert.

Our North African correspondents write:
The lake is just over a hectare in size and 10-18m deep. It is presumed that a small earthquake fractured a natural dam holding an artificial reservoir allowing the water to reach the surface. However, the aquifer has not been found – the theory relies more on the absence of other credible explanations than anything else.
More troubling than the lake’s unexplained formation, perhaps, is that people are flocking to swim in it — despite potentially grave dangers. The lake, it seems, may harbor potentially toxic algae — and, due to the presence of nearby phosphate mines, the waters may be radioactive.
You can see a swell photo of the lake here.
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Dick Van Dyke rescued by porpoises

This one, though, takes the cake for “strange-but-true” headlines.

On screen, Dick Van Dyke has been rescued from untimely death by
flying cars and magical nannies. Off screen, the veteran star of Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins had to rely on the help of a pod of
porpoises after apparently dozing off aboard his surfboard. “I’m not
kidding,” he said afterwards.

Van Dyke’s ordeal began during an
ill-fated trip to his local beach. “I woke up out of sight of land,” the
84-year-old actor told reporters. “I started paddling with the swells
and I started seeing fins swimming around me and I thought ‘I’m dead!'”

Van
Dyke was wrong. “They turned out to be porpoises,” he said. “And they
pushed me all the way to shore.” The porpoises were unavailable for
comment.

See the original article here.

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Snake gives virgin birth to genetically anomalous babies

The scientific community is absolutely reeling at this bizarre (perhaps… portentous?) situation:

A female boa constrictor snake has given birth to two litters of extraordinary offspring.

Evidence suggests the mother snake has had multiple virgin births, producing 22 baby snakes that have no father.

More
than that, the genetic make-up of the baby snakes is unlike any
previously recorded among vertebrates, the group which includes almost
all animals with a backbone.

Perhaps these scientists wouldn’t have been so surprised had they seen Jurassic Park – then they’d know that life will always find a way. Jokes aside, though, this is apparently quite unusual. You can find out more here.

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The greatest “order pizza to a stranger’s house” prank in history

… Occurred nearly 200 years ago, in London. From Wikipedia:

The Berners Street Hoax was perpetrated by Theodore Hook in the City of Westminster, London, in 1810.

On 27 November, at five o’clock in the morning, a sweep arrived to
sweep the chimneys of 54 Berners Street, the home of Mrs Tottenham. The
maid who answered the door informed him that no sweep had been
requested, and that his services were not required, and the disappointed
tradesman went on his way. A few moments later another sweep presented
himself at the door, then another, and another, 12 in all. After the
last of the sweeps had been sent away, a fleet of carts carrying large
deliveries of coal began to arrive, followed by a series of cakemakers
delivering large wedding cakes, then doctors, lawyers, vicars and
priests summoned to minister to someone in the house they had been told
was dying. Fishmongers, shoemakers, and over a dozen pianos were among
the next to appear, along with “six stout men bearing an organ”.
Dignitaries, including the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of the City of London
also arrived. The narrow streets soon became severely congested with
disgruntled tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits continued
until the early evening, bringing a large part of London to a
standstill.[1]

Hook had bet his friend Samuel Beazley
that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about
address in a week. To achieve his goal he had sent out 4,000 letters
purporting to be Mrs Tottenham, requesting deliveries, visitors, and
assistance. Hook had stationed himself in the house directly opposite
54 Berners Street, and he and his friend had spent an amusing day
watching the chaos unfold.[1]

You really can’t top that.

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The world’s smallest skyscraper

I’m all about the bizarre and the forgotten/off-the-beaten bath, and this lilliputian tower certainly smallestskyscraper.jpgseems to fit that description, although perhaps “1920s urban Americana” might also apply. It seems that during the Texas oil boom of the Roaring Twenties, a traveling con man fooled investors into constructing a 4-story “skyscraper”:

No one noticed that all the plans, promotional literature, etc. had
tiny decimal points in all the crucial figures. i.e. 4.0 stories was
taken as 40 stories. The project was oversubscribed by quite a bit and
the project built to completion, upon which the promoter skipped town.


The investors started trying to sue or arrest him when the swindle
became evident during construction, but were unable to since the
contract was followed to the
letter. They did recover a few dollars from the elevator company (who
refused to honor their contract after they discovered the decimal
points). Unable to get the cr
ook, the investors funded
a team which followed him around the country breaking up any deals he
tried to put together.

You can read more here.

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“Ant mills” – where lost ants go to die

This is a bizarre, perhaps slightly surreal spectacle – the ant vortex, also known as an ant mill. Apparently, according to Wikipedia,

An ant mill is a phenomenon where a group of army ants separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. The ants will eventually die of exhaustion. This has been reproduced in laboratories and the behaviour has also been produced in ant colony simulations. This phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, and this will work until something goes wrong and an ant mill forms. An ant mill was first described by William Beebe who observed a mill 1,200 feet (365 m) in circumference. It took each ant 2.5 hours to make one revolution. Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish.

Check out footage below:

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Children under four and children with autism don’t yawn contagiously

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have conducted a study which may yield new clues about that ever-mysterious phenomenon, yawning. From ScienceDaily:

If someone near you yawns, do you yawn, too? About half of adults yawn
after someone else does in a phenomenon called contagious yawning. Now a
new study has found that most children aren’t susceptible to contagious
yawning until they’re about 4 years old — and that children with
autism are less likely to yawn contagiously than others.

“Given that contagious yawning may be a sign of empathy, this study
suggests that empathy — and the mimicry that may underlie it —
develops slowly over the first few years of life, and that children with
ASD may miss subtle cues that tie them emotionally to others,”
according to the researchers. This study may provide guidance for
approaches to working with children with ASD so that they focus more on
such cues.

There seems to be something to this argument. Many animals yawn, but most don’t yawn contagiously – those that do tend to be social mammals like chimpanzees.

You can read more here.

(Did reading this make you yawn? If not, you’ll probably yawn now.)

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