Oddities and Curiosities
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Since at least 1960, both the US and Russia have been aware of a strange black object orbiting the earth. This is no hoax. NASA has photos of it on their website. The official story is that it is “space debris” but the few experts willing to comment on it admit that it is too large (estimated at 15 tons) and moving too fast to be anything we or our Soviet competitors could put into space back then. Moreover, its polar orbit was not yet achievable by us when it was first observed. Frank Judson of the Adler Planetarium, was quoted as saying “the object doesn’t even have the decency to maintain a regular schedule, like any other heavenly or man made object I’ve ever seen.” All sorts of theories have developed around the unidentified object, from making it the source of the mysterious radio transmissions received by Nikola Tesla in 1899 to blaming it for the UFO “hallucination” that astronaut Gordon Cooper experienced in 1963. All we know for certain is that it is up there, and no one can or will say precisely what it is.
At the center of one of the strangest criminal incidents in recent memory are Ursula and Sabina Eriksson, a pair of Swedish twins whose bizarre behavior was captured on CCTV and subsequently featured in a BBC documentary called Madness in the Fast Lane. After being thrown off a National Express coach (bus) to London for acting suspiciously and refusing to allow their bags to be checked, the pair were seen walking down the central reservation of the M6 motorway. What happened next has led to the formation of all sorts of wild theories about their true nature. The most common is that they are products of a modern European variant of the infamous MK-Ultra Project. Hard facts about the case are hard to come by, but at least two are not in dispute: 1) No drugs were found in their systems, 2) Neither had exhibited any symptoms of psychosis prior to this episode. The only official explanation rests on a rare psychological diagnosis called “Folie à deux” or shared psychotic disorder.
What is it about black and white photos of yesteryear’s homemade Halloween costumes that makes them so creepy? Do the rough masks edge the rim of the Uncanny Valley? Has the camera captured a little bit of that special magic of All Hallow’s Eve, when the threshold between this world and the next is just a little bit thinner? Do the images feel “off” because these people are likely all dead? Can’t say… the only thing I do know is that these photos are a thousand times more unsettling than anything that comes trick or treating these days.
The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my deare friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Btesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.
It might sound like the province of H.P. Lovecraft and his notoriously apocryphal tome, The Necronomicon, but the practice of binding books with human skin is a historical reality. Many ivy league university libraries contain at least one example, including the treatise on Spanish law (Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae) at Harvard that bears the inscription quoted above. Brown University has three, including a rare copy of De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Vesalius (which contains the lovely image copied here). Other morbid examples include court proceedings bound in the skin of the murderer convicted, and erotica bound with skin from human breasts.
Every year in mid July, many of the world’s most powerful men convene at a private, 2,700-acre campground in Northern California for two weeks of ribald revelry and pagan ritual. This is not a conspiracy theory, or the plot of a Hollywood movie. You haven’t heard about it (or if you have, you know next to nothing about it) because the degree of secrecy surrounding this annual event rivals the budget of the NSA. Known attendees include former U.S. presidents and many other heads of state and titans of the business world. Although “outside cares” are officially unwelcome, many plots have been hatched there, such as the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the invention of the atomic bomb. Although security is infamously tight, a few intrepid outsiders have managed to infiltrate the event and bring back photos, reports, and even footage of the orgiastic partying and strange rites conducted there. This extremely rare archival photo is just one example. Exactly what it depicts is anyone’s guess, but more photos can be found here.
Anneliese Michel was born in 1952 in Leiblfing, Bavaria. Diagnosed with epilepsy at 16, she thereafter slipped into a deep depression and began experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations of a decidedly religious nature which ultimately convinced her, her German Catholic family, and two local priests that she was suffering from demonic possession. Psychiatric treatment was terminated and she underwent sixty-seven exorcism sessions over a span of ten months. She eventually stopped eating and refused medical treatment. She died at the age of 23, weighing only 63 pounds. Her parents and the two priests were charged and convicted with negligent manslaughter. Whether madness or damnation, this brief excerpt from one session reveals the depths of her suffering.
Some neighborhood boogeymen are a worse than others.
Beginning in August of 2007, detached human feet began washing up on the coasts of the Salish Sea in British Columbia and Washington state. As many as fourteen have been found, and as recently as January of 2012. As of this writing, only four of the people to whom they belonged have been identified (two of the feet came from the same person). All but two of the feet have been found in boots or running shoes. Coroners, eager to dispel any rumors of a serial killer or some other nefarious cause, suggest that the buoyancy of modern shoes causes the feet of undiscovered suicide or accident victims to disarticulate and float away, but if that were true, why just recently, and why just there? Shouldn’t feet be bobbing in coastal waters all over the world?