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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (8/24/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Another week has passed, which means that it is time, once again, to look at some of the bizarre stories that made the headlines recently. If you want to read up on the last offbeat list, click here.

This week, we have a tale from Japan and a tail from Japan. There is a grand cheese heist in Canada, a creepy statue in New Zealand, and a nasty crocodile in a Swedish aquarium. A German town challenges us to prove it doesn’t exist, and a scorned English husband takes revenge with a giant heap of manure.

10 A Smear Campaign

In an apparent act of revenge, an unidentified person dumped a giant pile of manure outside a country inn in Hampshire, England, alongside a sign accusing the pub landlord of sleeping with his spouse.

One morning, Simon Emberley, the landlord and chef at the Hawkley Inn, came into work to find a foul-smelling pile of horse dung blocking the entrance to his establishment. The mound was so big that it blocked up traffic in the village, as drivers had to go around it.

Stuck on top of the heap was a sign which said “The landlord is f—ing my wife.”[1] Unsurprisingly, Emberley called the allegations “unfounded and untrue” and claimed that they were a part of a smear campaign against him.

Both he and his wife insist that they have no idea who is behind it, although police are conducting their investigation to find out. Village rumors attribute the deed to a local farmer. Meanwhile, the Emberleys tried to make light of the situation by posting a sign offering the horse manure for free, courtesy of a “generous supplier.” No one took them on their offer, though, and workmen came in and cleaned the heap.

9 Village Of The Apes

Photo credit: Yasushi Sato

Farmers from the Japanese village of Kiso in Nagano Prefecture have formed a “monkey militia” to deal with the primate pests that keep raiding their crops.

Located in the Kaida Highlands at the foot of Mount Ontake, Kiso has an ideal climate for farming. Crops thrive, especially sweet corn, but this also makes them a particularly attractive target for monkeys.

In the past, people have tried scaring off the monkeys with shouts and bottle rockets, but these proved ineffective. Now, a group of roughly 30 farmers and other workers have formed the “monkey chaser” squad and will be more proactive in fighting off the simian invasion.

The town spent 850,000 yen ($80,000) on 30 air guns and a supply of pellets.[2] Earlier this month, the “monkey fighters” underwent training in order to learn how to use their new weapons. From now on, they will patrol their crops regularly. Should they spot monkeys munching on their corn, they will alert the rest via group-messaging app. The entire squad will gather and fire warning shots to scare off the animals.

The mayor of Kiso gave the men matching hats and certificates that attest that they are allowed only to fire into the air, not directly at the monkeys.

8 The Hand Of The Artist

Photo credit: Dezeen

The people of Wellington have a new nightmarish sight to enjoy for the next few years: A giant sculpture called Quasi was mounted via helicopter on top of the Wellington City Gallery.

The 5-meter (16 ft) statue depicts a large, anthropomorphic hand which bears the face of its creator, Melbourne-based artist Ronnie van Hout. According to the gallery’s description, Quasi is “as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own.”[3]

Van Hout made the sculpture in 2011 for his hometown of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake. Now, it has been placed in the Civic Square in the New Zealand capital in an attempt to liven up another area damaged by an earthquake back in 2016.

Residents are divided over the sculpture, to say the least, with most finding it very disturbing. Quasi enjoyed a similar reception back in Christchurch, but the people of Wellington better get used to it. The statue is scheduled to stay there for the next three years.

7 The Mystery Of Skeleton Lake

Photo credit: Schwiki

A new study published in Nature Communications deepens the mystery of Skeleton Lake in India by dismissing most of the hypotheses proposed for its existence.

Nestled up in the Himalayas, kilometers above sea level, is a usually frozen glacial lake called Roopkund. It is more commonly known as Skeleton Lake because bones from numerous persons have been recovered from the site, with researchers speculating that as many as 500 people could be buried there.

Remains were first found during World War II, and since then, scientists have offered numerous ideas regarding the origins of the bones. Most of them assumed that they were all an unfortunate group of people who died at once. Some said they were invading Japanese soldiers, a returning Indian army unit, or even a king and his revelers who were passing through.

The good thing about Roopkund is that the cold weather preserved DNA within the bones. This new study presents the analysis of the remains of 37 individuals recovered at the site. But they are of different ages and different ancestries, immediately discounting the possibility that all of the people died in a single event.

About a third of the deceased were of Mediterranean heritage. Moreover, while it’s true that the majority of the remains are 1,000 years old, some are as recent as the early 1800s.[4]

Researchers are still divided over the fundamental question: How did all these bodies end up in Roopkund? Some argue that it was a planned effort and that the lake functioned as a graveyard for the locals, while others opine that it was landslides, not humans, that brought the skeletons to a single place.

6 Tails For The Elderly

Japanese researchers build robotic tail

Old people should have tails. At least, that is according to researchers at Tokyo’s Keio University. They have been working on a robotic tail which mimics the movements of real ones and can help elders maintain their balance.

Researcher Junichi Nabeshima says that the gray, 1-meter (3.3 ft) appendage is attached to the waist with a harness and acts like a pendulum. Therefore, when the human body tilts in one direction, the tail moves in the opposite one. It does this with the help of four artificial muscles and a supply of compressed air which allow it to move in eight directions.[5]

Scientists believe their robotic tail can be really useful for elderly people but are also looking into other people who could use a bit more balance, such as warehouse workers who carry heavy loads.

5 Flight Of The Mattresses

The Great Mattress Migration of 2019

A very bizarre scene took place in Denver, Colorado, last weekend. Described as the “great mattress migration of 2019,” a viral video showed dozens of air mattresses making a run for it through the park, courtesy of a very powerful wind.

The mattresses had been set up earlier that day for an open-air film screening event called Bed Cinema.[6] Unfortunately, the organizers did not plan on a strong gale arriving and blowing away their seating arrangements.

Fortunately for us, though, a man named Robb Manes was at the right place and the right time and filmed the bizarre event and shared it online. It shows a truly peculiar episode as somewhere between 50 and 100 air mattresses are tumbling through the park with a few people trying, in vain, to stop them. Reportedly, the pallets drifted away for upwards of 30 minutes before the wind finally died down.

4 The City That Wasn’t There

The German city of Bielefeld is offering a prize of €1 million ($1.1 million) to anyone in Germany who can conclusively prove that the city does not actually exist.

This idea that Bielefeld is not real first appeared on Internet forums in the early 1990s. It was originally intended to make fun of conspiracy theories, but it has proven popular enough that it has taken on a life of its own. The long-running joke is frequently used by the city’s tourism board and was even referenced by Chancellor Angela Merkel after attending an event in Bielefeld in 2012.

Now, it looks like city officials want to settle the matter once and for all, and they are willing to pay top dollar to do it. They have started a contest which allows people to submit their evidence which supports the conspiracy theory that Bielefeld does not exist. It is open until September 5.[7]

According to the organizers, they are 99.99 percent sure that they can refute all proof presented to them. However, if someone happens to come in with that other 0.01 percent, they might walk away with €1 million, and presumably, the 340,000 residents of Bielefeld would vanish into thin air.

3 The Cheese Heist Of The Century

Earlier this month, an unidentified man stole almost $190,000 worth of cheese from a dairy plant in Tavistock, Oxford County, Ontario.

According to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), on the morning of August 9, the thief entered the office of Saputo Dairy Products and produced paperwork for a large shipment to be delivered to New Brunswick. The workers then proceeded to help the criminal load his blue transport truck with cheese worth $187,000.[8]

Everything seemed in order. The company did not even realize it had been robbed until the next week, when it found out that the shipment never arrived at its intended location.

The OPP warned local businesses that someone might try to sell them large quantities of cheese in the near future and that they should contact the authorities if this happens.

2 Cuban Croc Attack In Sweden

A man had to be sent to the hospital after being attacked by the crocodile of Fidel Castro while attending a crayfish party in Sweden.

That sentence might sound like the result of a game of Mad Libs, but it actually happened on Tuesday. The man in his seventies was at a crayfish party, a common celebration in the Nordic countries, organized at the Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm. He was giving a speech next to the enclosure of two Cuban crocodiles and waved his arm over the wrong side of the partition.[9] One of the reptiles took advantage of the opportunity, lunged at the man, and bit his hand. Other attendees used napkins and bandages to stop the bleeding until an ambulance arrived.

The crocodiles have been with the aquarium for almost four decades, and this was the first time that something like this happened. They were once owned by Fidel Castro, who gifted them to Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov in 1978. In turn, he donated them to the Moscow Zoo when the reptiles became too large to keep around the house. Finally, the zoo relocated them to the Swedish aquarium because they had better facilities to care for them. In 2015, ten of their offspring were sent back to Cuba to help bolster their numbers.

1 World’s Slowest Police Chase

Bizarre police pursuit of a man riding a mobility scooter |

On Wednesday, the small town of Timaru on New Zealand’s South Island was the site of a thrilling police car chase just like you see in the movies. There was one minor difference, though: The cops were chasing an old man on a mobility scooter.

Charlie Durham is a 60-year-old double amputee who was spotted by the fuzz driving his vehicle on the footpath of a suburban area at high speed. They told him to slow down, but he ignored them. Eventually, the police decided to put an end to his racing career by cutting across traffic and pulling their car in front of him.

This hardly slowed Durham down. Instead, he also cut across traffic in the opposite direction, ending up on the footpath on the other side of the street. The police vehicle tried multiple times to pull up in front of the old man to get him to stop, but every time, he just deftly maneuvered his mobility scooter around it and kept on going. A motorist behind them filmed the world’s slowest car chase but didn’t catch the finale when police finally got the speedy senior to stop.

Durham was fined NZ$250 for failing to stop for an officer and operating a mobility scooter “inconsiderately.”[10] As an excuse, the old man claimed that he thought the police car was an ice cream vehicle being really aggressive about selling him ice cream. He said he also needed to get home fast to put the tea on; otherwise, his entire evening would have been “stuffed up.”


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from August 10, 2019, and August 3, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater