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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (6/8/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The weekend is upon us, which makes this a good opportunity to review the peculiar stories that have made headlines over the last several days. Click here to catch up on last week’s list.

We have stories from both sides of the law. On one side, we have a decades-old FBI investigation into Bigfoot and a scantily clad Aussie who fought crime wielding a didgeridoo. On the other, there is a group of Russian bridge thieves and the thrilling return of Florida Man.

10 The Return Of The Chessman

Photo credit: Sotheby’s

A family from Edinburgh discovered that they had one of the lost pieces of the Lewis Chessmen sitting in a drawer for decades. The artifact, which the family bought for a paltry £5, is now expected to fetch around £1 million at auction.

The Lewis Chessmen are a group of almost 100 game pieces, mostly chess, carved out of walrus ivory and dated to the 12th century. They were recovered in the early 19th century on the Scottish Isle of Lewis. After their discovery, the pieces were split up; some were exhibited, and some were sold off. Nowadays, the British Museum owns the large majority of the chessmen, but the whereabouts of five pieces became lost to history.

As it turns out, one of the Lewis Chessmen had been with the same family for 55 years. The grandfather bought it in 1964 from an antiques dealer who clearly had no idea what he possessed because he sold it for a fiver.[1] The family looked after it for decades before finally deciding to have it appraised at Sotheby’s.

The newly discovered piece is a warrior with a helmet, a shield, and a sword called a warder. His modern equivalent would be the rook. It will go on display in Edinburgh and London before being sold at auction on July 2.

9 Captain Underpants Goes Down Under

Photo credit:

An Australian man chased away a home invader wearing only his underpants and armed with a didgeridoo.

Early Monday morning, Kym Abrook woke up to strange noises in his home in Adelaide’s Fulham Gardens. He interrupted a thief, who ran out the door when he saw Abrook. The homeowner picked up the closest weapon he could find, which was, in his case, a didgeridoo, and gave chase. He was undeterred by the fact that he was only wearing a pair of underwear. In fact, Abrook said it helped him run faster.[2]

The thief might have been able to outrun the didgeridoo-wielding, nearly naked sprinter, but Abrook managed to call the police mid-chase. Authorities arrived, cordoned off the area, and found the 32-year-old perpetrator nearby with the help of a police dog. He had Abrook’s wallet and cash on him when he was arrested.

The Adelaide man was kind enough to reenact his chase for local news stations. While he was still carrying the didgeridoo, this time he ran down the street wearing shorts. He has already parlayed his newfound fame into a fruit shop commercial.

8 The Treasures Of Vermilion

Photo credit: Chris Stead

A museum visitor opened a safe that had been locked for over 40 years.

In May, a machinist named Stephen Mills from Fort McMurray went on vacation with his family to Vermilion, Alberta, Canada. While there, they paid a visit to the town’s heritage museum.

During the tour, Mills saw an old safe that had been sitting in the basement for decades. It came from the old Brunswick Hotel, which closed in the 1970s. It was donated to the museum in the 1990s, but by then, nobody remembered the combination or even what was locked inside it. At one point, staff even enlisted the help of a professional locksmith, who told them that the gears were probably too old to fall into place properly and that the safe would never be opened again.

Like many visitors before him, Mills thought he would give it a shot “for a laugh.” He put his ear to the door to listen for the clicks and dialed 20-40-60.[3] The safe slowly creaked open.

The contents weren’t exactly lost treasure but rather old documents from the hotel, including a pay slip and a pad full of restaurant orders.

7 How To Save Schrodinger’s Cat

According to a new study published in Nature, physicists have developed an experiment that shows that quantum transitions are not instantaneous and unpredictable as previously thought and illustrated by Erwin Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment.

Schrodinger’s cat is an idea meant to demonstrate quantum superposition or, in other words, that a particle can exist in multiple states at the same time until it is observed. To illustrate his point, the Austrian scientist proposed an experiment where a cat was sealed inside a closed box alongside a radioactive source, a Geiger counter, and a flask of poison. If an atom decays, it sets off the Geiger counter, which smashes the flask of poison and kills the cat. You can only determine the fate of the feline by looking inside the box and, until then, it is both alive and dead at the same time.

Not necessarily, according to Dr. Zlatko Minev from Yale University. His team believes that the quantum jumps are not instantaneous, just really, really fast. In their experiment, they used artificial atoms called qubits which were cooled to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero and indirectly observed using three microwave generators in a sealed 3-D enclosure. The transitions were akin to a slide more than a quantum jump and could even be reversed with a perfectly timed pulse of radiation, thus saving the hypothetical cat from certain doom.[4] Minev believes this research could be valuable in the future for quantum computing.

6 Florida Man Rides Again

It is time, once more, to check out the thrilling adventures of Florida Man. This time, he found himself a partner and tried to gain access to an ATM. However, instead of cutting through, the dynamic duo accidentally welded the hinges shut.

Last Friday night, a pair of criminals tried to rob the ATM on the boardwalk of Okaloosa Island. One of them wielded a crowbar and served as the lookout, while the other used a blowtorch to gain entry into the cash machine. However, deputies from Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office say the two “bungled the job” by welding the hinges shut, ensuring that the door will stay closed for the foreseeable future. In the end, the pair left with nothing.[5]

At the moment, the criminals are still at large. While they were kind enough to commit their crimes in front of a surveillance camera, and their skills with a blowtorch leave something to be desired, they did think to hide their identities with a mask and a scarf.

5 Gangsta Frog And Toad

A mother got a little more than she bargained for when the T-shirt she purchased for her three-year-old daughter from Chinese online retailer AliExpress prominently featured a vulgar phrase made famous by gangsta rap group N.W.A.

Posts that show off funny or bizarre Chinese knockoffs are quite popular online. They typically display products which are clear rip-offs of other, more famous brands or items with text written in broken English.

In the case of Kelsey Williamson from Benton, Illinois, she thought she was buying a perfectly innocuous T-shirt for her daughter. It was white, and the front displayed Frog and Toad, the beloved characters from Arnold Lobel’s eponymous series of children’s books, enjoying a tandem bike ride. The item she received in the mail was similar, except that beneath the bike-riding duo were the words “F—k the police.”[6]

The mistake was probably due to a meme that uses that exact image. The makers of the T-shirt probably found it online and didn’t know or care enough to remove the obscene text. Williamson said that she will be keeping the T-shirt but will not let her daughter wear it in public.

4 Sit But Don’t Touch

Photo credit: NBC

Ann Marie Vancil set a new record on Wednesday despite being only 20 minutes old. She became the youngest person to be placed in the Stanley Cup.

Her parents, Elizabeth and Cyrus Vancil, are superfans of the St. Louis Blues. Therefore, they simply couldn’t miss their team taking on the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the finals. Even though Elizabeth went into labor, the couple still hosted a watch party in their room at Mercy St. Louis Hospital.[7]

Already overjoyed that their team won the game, the Vancils started hearing rumors that the NHL might be bringing the Stanley Cup to the hospital in order to break the record for youngest baby to sit in it. The previous record was somewhere around 90 minutes, so the newborn who went in the trophy would have to be younger than that.

It was all down to perfect timing. Elizabeth gave birth to Ann Marie, and shortly after, a nurse walked into the room and asked if the parents wanted her to be the new Stanley Cup baby. Minutes later, the new record was set.

As it turns out, die-hard hockey fans are superstitious. There is a notion that nobody should touch the trophy other than the official “Keeper of the Cup”; otherwise, they will curse their team. Both the Vancils and hospital staff stressed that Ann Marie was carefully wrapped in towels and that she never touched the Stanley Cup.

3 When The Feds Investigated Bigfoot

The FBI recently revealed details involving a Bigfoot investigation it conducted over 40 years ago.

According to the disclosed documents, in 1976, the Bureau received a request to test some hair and tissue samples from Peter Byrne, a cryptozoologist who ran the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in Oregon. Although the FBI typically worked on criminal investigations, an agent told Byrne that they also run tests on a case-by-case basis in the interest of “research and scientific inquiry.” They agreed to test the samples.

Using transmitted and incident light microscopy, examiners looked at the structure of the hairs and compared them to samples of known origin. They concluded that they were of deer family origin.[8] On Wednesday, the 93-year-old Peter Byrne confirmed that the investigation took place and, even decades later, has not lost hope of proving that Bigfoot is real.

2 Ice Cream Crackdown

New York City authorities have launched an offensive called “Operation Meltdown” against some of the city’s shrewdest, most defiant lawbreakers: ice cream vendors. Officials seized 46 ice cream trucks whose operators had accumulated and then circumvented thousands of fines over the last decade.

According to authorities, the vendors targeted in the operation accumulated 22,000 summonses between 2009 and 2017. They also racked up almost $4.5 million in fines. To avoid paying, operators eliminated any trace of their trucks by registering dozens of shell corporations and regularly switching their vehicle registrations between them.[9]

The most common violations committed by ice cream trucks included running red lights, blocking crosswalks, and parking near fire hydrants. Following a successful sting operation, the city has started to crack down on the worst offenders and filed lawsuits against all operators who owe more than $10,000.

1 Bridge Of Thieves

Photo credit: Life Novosti

A group of thieves stole a railway bridge from a remote part of the Russian Arctic.

The structure was located in Murmansk in the far north of the country, near the abandoned settlement of Oktyabrskaya. It was once used to transport rare Earth minerals from a nearby plant but fell into disrepair after the business went bankrupt. Due to the remoteness of the region, authorities are not even sure when exactly the bridge disappeared. Residents first noticed the theft in May.

The bridge was 23 meters (75 ft) long and weighed 56 metric tons. Given the scale of the heist, it is presumed that multiple people were involved, who likely stole the structure to sell as scrap metal. They took the middle part and left the supports plus two sections at the ends.

The theft only caused damage worth around 600,000 rubles ($9,000) to the company that owned the bridge.[10] Locals are more concerned with the fact that the end sections will stick around for years to come and become eyesores.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from June 1, 2019, and May 25, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater