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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/15/18)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It’s Saturday again, which means it is time to look back at some of the quirkier news items of the week. Morris is back with the mind-blowing events right here. If you’re all caught up on the important stuff, read on for the weird and funny.

We enter the world of crime this week. We learn about inept robbers who get foiled by a bong and a pothead who gets busted by her own toddler. We also discover that if you want to murder your husband, you probably shouldn’t write an essay on the topic and post it online beforehand. In the animal world, we learn about curious amphipods that kidnap other creatures to help them ward off their own predators.

10 Game Night At Vyborg Castle

Photo credit: Vyborg Museum

Last month, officials from the Russian castle-turned-museum Vyborg revealed that they’d found a secret chamber inside the structure originally built as an outpost for the Kingdom of Sweden over 700 years ago. Museum director Vladimir Tsoi recently announced the preliminary findings in an online post. Most intriguing was a medieval board game.

The “board” consisted of intersecting lines of squares carved into a clay brick. Tsoi identified it as a version of Nine Men’s Morris, a strategy game that has been played since Roman times, at least. The goal is to move your pieces, called “men,” into rows of three called “mills.” When a mill is achieved, the opposing player loses a game piece.[1] A modern variant called “cowboy checkers” is still played today.

Vyborg Castle has seen many restorations over the course of its seven-century existence as it changed hands between Russia, Sweden, and Finland. Archaeologists are hopeful that the chamber will turn out to be a secret passage which links the castle, which sits on an islet, to the city nearby. More historical finds are expected in the months to come.

9 Remodeling The Lizard People’s Lair

For those unaware, the Denver International Airport is a favorite target of conspiracy nuts. There are quite a few “theories” out there. Some say it was built to hide underground bunkers or a secret lair. It is under the control of the Freemasons, the Illuminati, or the lizard people, depending on who you ask.

To be fair, there are some weird things about the airport. According to its dedication stone, it was partly funded by something called the “New World Airport Commission,” an organization on which there is almost no information. It also has some creepy murals and a giant statue of a blue horse which killed its creator when a piece broke off and landed on him.

Finally, it seems that officials have decided to come clean regarding the airport’s sinister background, as recent posters placed around the terminals announce that their workers are remodeling the lizard people’s lair.[2]

In reality, this is just a cheeky nod to the airport’s bizarre reputation in order to conceal renovations. Others suggest the posters are being used for a cover-up. In 2008, Kim Day became the new chief executive for Denver International Airport and decided to embrace the conspiracies. Since then, they’ve had Illuminati art exhibits, conspiracy costume parties, and even a contest to win a tour of the mysterious underground facilities underneath the airport.

8 Hostage Situation At Sea

Photo credit: Charlotte Havermans

Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany report on the unusual behavior of certain amphipods that kidnap pteropods, also known as sea snails, in order to ward off predators.

Researchers first observed the phenomenon in the austral summer of 2016–2017 during an expedition into the Southern Ocean. The intended goal was to investigate the distribution, abundance, and ecological role of amphipods. However, biologists noticed that certain specimens were carrying something strange. Upon closer inspection, that something turned out to be pteropods. These sea snails produce chemicals which ward off predators, although they don’t seem to affect amphipods. Icefish that prey on both are deterred from attacking the crustaceans with the sea snail backpacks.

A search revealed that the phenomenon was first reported by US researchers in 1990, but only in coastal waters and never in the open ocean. This time around, biologists were interested in seeing if there is some kind of mutualistic relationship between different species—perhaps amphipods are protected from predators, and pteropods save energy by being carried around. Actually, the practice doesn’t benefit the sea snails at all. They are trapped in place by the crustaceans using two pairs of legs. They become unable to feed, and they starve.[3]

7 Busted By Her Progeny

Photo credit: New York State Police

A toddler landed her mom in trouble with the law when she took out the mother’s weed stash in front of police during a traffic stop.

State troopers pulled a car over outside Albany, New York, when they saw a young passenger who was not in a child’s car seat. They became suspicious after noticing several butt ends of marijuana cigarettes in the ashtray.

One of the troopers was questioning the mother and the man behind the wheel while the other one was supervising the toddler. The three-year-old girl decided to narc on her parent and pulled out a bag of marijuana and a smoking pipe from under the front seat.[4]

The mother and the driver were arrested and charged with child endangerment. Authorities turned the child over to other family members and notified the county child protective services of her mother’s arrest.

6 What Won’t People Do For Pizza?

Photo credit: Red Rum Tattoo

When will companies learn never to underestimate the power of free food? This time, it was a promotion by Domino’s Pizza in Russia that went off the rails when hundreds of people got tattoos in exchange for free pizza for life.

The concept behind the “Domino’s Forever” campaign was simple—get a tattoo of the company’s logo and earn a lifetime supply of pizza. Of course, it wasn’t really this straightforward. The tattoo had to be permanent and on a visible part of the body. In exchange, you would be granted 100 pizzas per year for 100 years, for a total of 10,000 pizzas. Obviously, the chances of living long enough to collect the entire prize were virtually zero, but that still meant thousands of free meals.

Even with these caveats, the campaign proved enticing. Hundreds of people started sharing their new tattoos on social media. Domino’s soon had to amend the rules, specifying that the prize was good only for the first 350 people and that the tattoos had to be at least 2 centimeters (0.8 in) in length.[5]

Unsurprisingly, the threshold was reached, and people kept getting new ink. Perhaps in an effort to avoid a PR backlash, the company has been reaching out to late entrants in private to arrange prizes for them.

5 The Bong Is Mightier Than The Bear Spray

Cannabis dispensary clerk uses bong to fight off four robbers

Four men tried to rob a cannabis dispensary in Shannonville, Ontario, only to be foiled by a bong-swinging clerk.

Security footage shows three masked men entering the Recreational Cannabis Farmers Market while a fourth waited outside in a white Mazda SUV. They started showering the man and woman standing behind the counter with bear spray. Fortunately, both managed to duck in time and avoided most of the mist.

The clerk emerged from under the counter wielding a large bong and pushed the would-be thieves back.[6] One of them threw a plastic crate at the employee but whiffed, and the trio made a run for it.

For the moment, police are still investigating the case. Detective-Constable Nathan Leland says this was the second weed dispensary in Tyendinaga Township hit within the last two weeks, although he didn’t mention if the same criminals were behind both robberies.

4 Author Of ‘How To Murder Your Husband’ Charged With Murdering Her Husband

In 2011, romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy posted an essay on writing blog See Jane Publish titled “How to Murder Your Husband.” Now, Portland police have arrested and charged her with the murder of her husband, Daniel Brophy.

In her now-deleted blog post, she presented the five most common reasons for killing your spouse and discussed a variety of murder weapons. She advised against using poison because it is traceable. She also didn’t recommend using a hit man or a lover to do the dirty work because you never know when they might turn against you.[7]

Daniel Brophy was found shot to death on the morning of June 2, 2018, at the Oregon Culinary Institute, where he taught cooking classes. It wasn’t until September 5 that his wife was taken into custody and charged with his murder. So far, authorities have not commented on the evidence against Nancy Crampton Brophy or a possible motive.

3 Life Finds A Way

Fair warning—this one might not be for the squeamish. Researchers from Poland have reported the first case of bees, wasps, and a squirrel nesting inside a mummified human corpse.

The partially skeletonized body of a man was found by accident in 2016, hanging from a spruce in the forests of Lower Silesia. His death was considered suicide, and his body taken to the Forensic Medicine Department of Wroclaw Medical University. There, researchers made a few interesting discoveries. For starters, the corpse had been hanging there for 13 years. It was preserved in good condition and underwent partial mummification, primarily due to the atmospheric conditions high in the canopy and the avoidance of ground scavengers.

Upon further inspection, the insides of the body also contained honeybees, common wasps, and a squirrel.[8] Dr. Martin Kadej from the Institute of Environmental Biology described the find as unique and interesting but stressed that it didn’t contribute much to the field of forensic entomology because none of the creatures participate directly in the decomposition process. However, it did show that these animals see a human corpse as a hollow, an important natural microhabitat that hosts a wide range of different organisms.

2 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes

Photo credit: Technology News World

This Thursday, Harvard’s Sanders Theatre hosted the 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes. A spoof on the regular Nobel Prizes, the event dished out ten awards for genuine scientific research that is simply a bit on the odd side.

The Medicine Prize went to two American doctors who discovered that riding roller coasters can help with the passing of kidney stones.[9] The Medical Education Prize went to a Japanese doctor who developed a technique for self-colonoscopies. Lastly, the Reproductive Medicine Prize was awarded to an international team of researchers who used postage stamps to monitor the activity of penises during the night.

Two awards were concerned with cannibalism and voodoo dolls. A British researcher won the Nutrition Prize for calculating that the caloric intake of human meat is significantly lower than that of traditional meats. Furthermore, the Economics Prize went to a team of scientists from Canada, China, Singapore, and the US for checking to see if using voodoo dolls against bosses is effective at relieving stress and alleviating the negative feelings of bullied employees.

The Anthropology Prize went to researchers from eight different countries who collected evidence that, in zoos, chimps imitate people about as often as people imitate chimps. The Biology Prize was awarded to another international team who demonstrated that wine experts can identify the presence of a fly in a glass of wine just by smell. The Chemistry Prize went to three Portuguese scientists who measured how well human saliva works as a cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.

The Literature Prize was awarded to a team of British, Australian, and Salvadoran researchers who documented something we already knew—that most people don’t read the instruction manuals of complicated consumer products. Lastly, the Peace Prize went to seven Spanish and Colombian researchers who studied road rage. Specifically, they measured the effects, frequency, and motivation of swearing and shouting behind the wheel.

1 The Vexatious Verity Of Victorian Vibrators

One of the naughtiest bits of trivia from the Victorian era that most people know is that it gave birth to the vibrator. According to the story, doctors treated female hysteria by masturbating the patients. They then started complaining of sore wrists and tired hands, so the vibrator was created to make their jobs easier. However, a new paper by two historians from the Georgia Institute of Technology asserts this is all just a myth.

Hallie Lieberman and Eric Schatzberg contend that the story originated from a single source—a book titled The Technology of Orgasm, written by scholar Rachel Maines in 1999. They say that there is no evidence to back up the claim. The book doesn’t cite a single source which plainly describes the use of a vibrator to massage the clitoris during that era.[10] Instead, they accuse Maines of using “wink and nod” references and “tangential citations” to get her point across.

Surprisingly, Maines agrees with them. She says her claim was more of a “hypothesis” and was surprised it actually took so long before other scholars questioned her “slender” evidence. The author believes the idea lasted so long because it was a story that people liked and wanted to be true.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from September 8, 2018 and September 1, 2018.

fact checked by Jamie Frater