Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Moment We've All Been Waiting For

(Okay, maybe I'm the only one.) In 2003, a Bigfoot-like creature known as a mande burung was spotted in the jungles of rural India. Later, a local researcher named Dipu Marak visited the site and discovered a number of unusual hairs (shown below). He in turn gave the hair to reporters from the BBC, who decided to have a few tests performed.

The first set of results are in. After examining the hair under a microscope, experts say that the strands DO NOT appear to have come from any animal commonly found in that part of India. In fact, the only samples that appear to match the strands Marak collected are those of "Yeti" hair brought back from the Himalayas by Sir Edmund Hillary.

The mande burung hair is now being sent for conclusive DNA analysis. Could we soon have evidence that a previously unknown primate exists in the forests of India? Could it be the ten-foot creature with black and white fur that residents of the area have been reporting for decades? Cross your fingers. And read more here.

On a side note, if the British scientists are interested in Bigfoot-like creatures, perhaps they should check out their own backyard. The Grey Man of Ben MacDhui is an ape-man that's said to roam the second highest mountain in Scotland.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How to Freak Out the Competition

I'm not a gambling girl, but I'm tempted to place a little bet on the outcome of the women's hockey competitions at the Beijing Olympics. I'm pretty sure that the British ladies have a good chance of taking home the gold. Why? Because of the picture above.

It seems the British women's hockey team has been outfitted with special blood-red contact lenses for the games. Officially, they're meant to help players see through the haze and smog that smother Beijing. But I can't imagine anything that would freak me out more than to see a bunch of ladies with blazing red eyes and big sticks coming at me. And I'm willing to bet that the world's hockey players feel the same way.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Franz Felhaber's Millions

Not long ago, a man named Franz Felhaber showed up at the US Treasury Department with a suitcase in hand. The bag contained 5.2 million in dollar bills so badly damaged that the stacks had turned to stone. Felhaber claimed the cash had been buried in Mexico for years, and he wanted to exchange it for a check.

Exchanging damaged currency is more common than you'd think. Let's say your crazy uncle hid a fortune in the walls of his rickety old house. By the time you discover it, the money's been thoroughly nibbled by rodents. Fortunately, you aren't necessarily out of luck. The Treasury Department will probably swap the damaged money for crisp, new bills.

But this wasn't the first time Franz Felhaber had tried such a trade. Over the past few years, he and two of his relatives have attempted to exchange over 20 million dollars in petrified dollars. And each time, their story changes.

They've claimed the money was . . .

1. Found in a suitcase buried in an alfalfa field.
2. Dug up next to a tree in Chihuahua, Mexico.
3. Discovered inside a coffin at the end of a treasure map.
4. Inherited from a wealthy relative.
5. Stored in a basement for 22 years.

Sounds fishy, right? But the thing is, no one can prove that the money came from illegal sources. None of the people involved appear to be engaged in criminal activities. And finding money isn't a crime. So what do you think the government should do?

Read more here.

The Littlest Master of Disguise

There are a lot of crazy websites out there. But I gotta say, The Many Faces of Evie may be one of my all-time favorites. Every day, "Susan" takes a picture of (what I assume is) her baby Evie in a different disguise. Over the past few months, Evie's been a plumber, a DJ, Truman Capote, a hula dancer, Barack Obama, a German tourist, and Frida Kahlo.

This, in my humble opinion, is the reason to have children. My hat goes off to you Susan. I just have a few questions . . .

1. Do you work for the CIA?
2. Where do you get all the wigs?
3. How do you suppose Evie will feel about this when she gets older?
4. Will you be my best friend?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

China's Mysterious Pyramids

(Above: A Chinese pyramid as seen from space.)

In 1945, a US Air Force pilot claimed to have made a remarkable discovery while flying a mission over China--an enormous white pyramid. As he described it, "I banked to avoid a mountain and we came out over a level valley. Directly below was a gigantic white pyramid. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. It was encased in shimmering white. This could have been metal, or some sort of stone. It was pure white on all sides. The remarkable thing was the capstone, a huge piece of jewel-like material that could have been crystal."

Aside from a questionable photo that was later published in the New York Times, no evidence of the pilot's pyramid was ever discovered. (And the US Air Force didn't even exist in 1945.) But the story managed to call attention to a little known fact. To the west of the Chinese city of Xi'an lie over one hundred pyramids. Even today, little is known about them. In fact, because they were located in "forbidden zones," the Chinese government wouldn't verify their existence until 2000!

Though there are quite a few websites out there that would have you believe that the pyramids were built by aliens, the structures are actually burial tombs for ancient China's nobility. Yet very few of them have ever been excavated, and even archaeologists can only speculate about the wonders that lie inside.

One of the most magnificent belonged to the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang (builder of the first Great Wall and all-around tough guy). In 1974, we discovered what lies OUTSIDE his pyramid mausoleum when a farmer stumbled upon his secret army of Terracotta Warriors. (If you don't know about these you REALLY must check them out.) But the inside of his tomb has never been opened.

However a writer of the time claimed the pyramid contained an exact replica of the Emperor's kingdom, complete with tiny palaces, mercury rivers, and jewels to represent the heavens. If you could make it past the boobytraps (crossbows rigged to shoot intruders), it would be an amazing sight to behold!

Read more here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'd Charge AT LEAST $1

Jake Bronstein has been placing the vending machine shown above all over Manhattan. 50 cents buys you a tiny plastic capsule that contains a toy, a quarter refund (he couldn't make the machine take less than 50 cents), and an IDEA.

What kind of ideas do you suppose the machine dispenses?

Revolutionary plots?
Top secret spy techniques?
Possible ice cream flavors?

Moby Dick!

Seriously cool. His name is Migaloo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Curse of the "Crying Boy"

(Above: Who would want that creepy kid in her house anyway?)

In 1985, an English couple's house caught on fire. Everything on the ground floor was destroyed--with one strange exception. A cheap painting of a crying child had survived the flames unscathed. It was odd, yes. But then a local firefighter stepped forward, and the story became truly disturbing.

The firefighter claimed that the tacky painting was well known among his blaze-battling colleagues. It was often discovered--in perfect condition--among the burnt remains of fire-ravaged homes. The "Crying Boy" had been present at dozens of fires, investigators later determined, some dating all the way back to 1973.

One of Britain's tabloid papers immediately picked up on the story, and the "Crying Boy" became a phenomenon. Was the painting cursed? Was poor taste in home decor putting people's lives at risk? When the paper offered to destroy people's paintings for free, frightened Brits sent in so many copies that the stack eventually reached over twelve feet high.

Rather than go away, the story has grown into a full-fledged urban legend in the past twenty-three years. Some sources even claim to have tracked down the artist and identified the boy in the painting as a Spanish orphan whose parents died in a fire. (A priest reportedly told the artist that fires followed the child wherever he went.)

Of course most "rational" people have long dismissed the curse of the "Crying Boy." The source of each and every fire at which the painting was present has been identified by firefighters--electric heaters left next to beds or stoves left burning unattended.

But what no one has ever been able to adequately explain is why the painting itself is never destroyed. (Oooh. I just shivered.)

Read the full story at

(Via Boing Boing)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jellyfish Swarm New York Harbor

(Above: Jellyfish Lake. See a video here).

Participants in the annual New York City Triathlon got a rather nasty surprise this past Sunday. The swimming portion of the competition required taking a long dip in the Hudson River. (Side note: Ewwwwww.) When they plunged into the refreshing (slightly smelly) waters, the athletes were surprised to discover that they weren't alone. The river was filled with thousands upon thousands of jellyfish.

Yes. This is HIGHLY unusual. In fact, I'd never even HEARD of jellyfish in New York Harbor until a visiting friend (hi Lili) told me that she'd spotted a number of the beasts floating near the piers at South Street Seaport. Unfortunately, they all disappeared by the time I got down there to take a look.

But they were back in full force on Sunday. And no one had warned the triathletes. Dozens were stung. In an interview given to the New York Times, one participant said, "I was in the middle of a stroke, and whammo, it bit me right in the face; the pain spread across the side of my face and down my neck. Everyone was talking about the jellyfish after the race.”

Now, authorities are wondering if the jellyfish may have played a role in the tragic death of one of the triathletes--a thirty-two-year-old Argentinean man who had to be pulled from the water. Scientists say it's unlikely. The two most common kinds of jellyfish in New York waters are moon jellies and lions mane jellyfish. Both can cause a nasty sting, but neither is known to be deadly. But I have a feeling that if I were to unsuspectingly jump into a river filled with jellyfish, I might need to be rescued, too.

Couldn't someone have given them a heads up?

Read more here, here and here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Good Luck to the Austin Irregulars!

(You know who you are.) This week, you'll be learning new skills from one of the best. (You know who I'm talking about.) He's even taught Kiki a thing or two. (Though she'd never admit it.) So watch your backs, solve a few crimes, kick a few butts, and BE SURE TO WRITE IN AND TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT!!!!!!

And as always . . . STAY DANGEROUS!

(Above: Creepy art by Nari Noda.)

Missing Bloggers and Evil Babies

Yes, I went AWOL for a few days. Here are my excuses:

1. It was too hot in New York. I mean miserably, painfully hot.

2. Because it was so hot, nothing very interesting was happening. (I don't know why, but these things seem to go together. Have you noticed?)

3. I'm just about to finish a new book! It's not Kiki 3 (that's next), but it's very creepy and cool. (Don't worry, Kiki 3 is just around the corner.)

But while I was gone, I did happen to find the following pictures at

Hmm. There seems to be something strange about the Zižkov television tower in Prague. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

OMG! There are evil BABIES crawling all over the building!

And some of them have no faces! Eeeeeeeeek!

They're the work of Czech sculptor David Černý.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Most Hideous Creatures on Earth

Dark Roasted Blend's photo series of ugly bugs is nice, but be sure to check out the delightful snapshots at the Oklahoma Microscopic Society website. Any science-fiction writers out there who are looking for a little inspiration, look no further!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Balloon Graffiti

I love this city. Check it out.

Walking Fish Have Invaded America!

(Above: A contestant in another crazy Worth1000 contest.)

Believe it or not, there are fish in Florida that live inside storm drains. When it rains, they emerge to walk through the streets. Don't believe me? Click here.

(OH NO! According to the map here, they've invaded Connecticut, too! Check to see if they're coming after you next!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Vertical Metropolis

What if we lived in a world where dry land was scarce? Where would we build our homes and cities? These are the questions artist Jesse van Dijk set out to answer with his Project Indigo. He imagined a "vertical city" inside the crater of a dormant volcano. The super rich live at the top of the city where flat ground and sunlight are plentiful, while the poorest members of society live at the bottom.

Check out the rest of the city here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Secret Mail Delivery System Just BEGGING to Be Used

Over the years, I have worked in several old New York office buildings that possessed the same curious feature: On each floor, one would find a small, oddly-shaped box that read "MAIL." These weren't ordinary letter boxes, that much was certain. Each was linked to a metal or clear plastic tube that stretched from ceiling to floor. The mail was supposed to GO somewhere--but where? And how?

A little detective work led me to the answer. The boxes were the remains of a super-cool and mostly forgotten means of mail delivery: The pneumatic tube system.

Few people know that more than 27 miles of pneumatic tubes lie underneath Manhattan. The system, which is well over a hundred years old, was built at a time when New York's streets were even more filthy and congested than they are today. Aboveground mail delivery was difficult and time consuming, so the pneumatic tube system was built to deliver mail underground to post offices throughout New York City.

Shot by air pressure, cylindrical canisters filled with mail (such as the one shown above) would whiz through the tubes at up to 35 miles an hour, arriving at their destinations within minutes. At one point roughly 1/3 of all the mail sent or received in the city was sent via the underground system. In fact, it was so successful that many office buildings adopted pneumatic tubes for their own internal mail.

Okay, okay. That's all really interesting (yawn), right? But here's the thing. The system is STILL DOWN THERE. What would it take to put it back into service? And what purposes (good or evil) might it serve? It seems to me that a secret means of delivering information or objects throughout New York could come in handy. If I could only think of how . . .

Read more about pneumatic tubes in New York (and around the world) here.

PS: Happy Bastille Day!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Smoothie the Balding Squirrel

British vets are trying to determine what made this formerly cute squirrel go bald. Maybe he just wanted to be taken seriously for once.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ghost Towns of the World

I need to get a TON of work done today (and install a new refrigerator), so I'm going to be a little lazy and point you in the direction of a fabulous post on (Which is an awesome site, by the way.)

The title of the post is "20 Abandoned Cities and Towns from Around the World," which should be enough to pique your interest. It features towns overtaken by the Sahara Desert, abandoned Indian palaces . . . and Gary, Indiana.

But the most interesting, in my opinion, is a place known as Kowloon Walled City (shown below). According to Weburbanist:

"Kowloon Walled City was located just outside Hong Kong . . . A former watchpost to protect the area against pirates, it was occupied by Japan during World War II and subsequently taken over by squatters after Japan’s surrender. Neither Britain nor China wanted responsibility for it, so it became its own lawless city.

Its population flourished for decades, with residents building labyrinthine corridors above the street level, which was clogged with trash. The buildings grew so tall that sunlight couldn’t reach the bottom levels and the entire city had to be illuminated with fluorescent lights. It was a place where casinos, opium dens, food courts serving dog meat and secret factories ran unmolested by authorities. It was finally torn down in 1993 after a mutual decision was made by British and Chinese authorities, who had finally grown wary of the unsanitary, anarchic city and its out-of-control population."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Robert the Haunted Doll

In 1906, when painter Robert Eugene Otto was six years old, his family's Bahamian servant (some say slave) gave him a special present. It was a doll crafted in the boy's likeness, and she'd even given it the name Robert. Throughout Otto's childhood, he showed an unusual attachment to Robert the Doll. And whenever strange things happened around the house, Otto always claimed they were Robert's doing.

As an adult, Otto built a special room for Robert in the attic of his home, complete with scaled-down furniture and lowered ceilings. No one was allowed to visit the room. Yet according to Wikipedia, "children on their way home from school claim that they would see Robert move around in the upstairs windows even when no one was home."

But the fun didn't really begin until after Otto's death. His will required that Robert be left in peace, so when Otto's wife rented their old house, she allowed Robert to stay in the attic. Renters often claimed to hear footsteps and laughter coming from upstairs. Occasionally, they'd check on the doll, only to find that he'd changed positions.

A plumber who worked on the house's plumbing told this story:

"I was doing some work in the [attic]. . . . The doll looked pretty creepy sitting there on the little chair holding its stuffed animal, but I had work to do so I didn't think much about it at first. As my work continued I had to make a few trips to get some parts from the van. Each time I returned I could swear the doll had moved a little bit. Like I said, I had work to do so I ignored it as much as I could, but when I was just about finished with the job and started descending the stairs, I heard a little kid giggling behind me. When I turned around the doll was on the opposite side of the room. The first thing I did was look to see where the kid was, but no one was there. I wasn't really frightened, but it was weird so I just continued down stairs and left. Some of my tools are probably still up there."

Today, Robert is in the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. Museum employees claim that he's still up to his old tricks. Check out the video below and see what you think!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Things You Don't Want to Find in Your Underwear

Oh, I could come up with a whole list. But somewhere near the top would be BATS. Yup, a British teenager named Abbie Hawkins recently discovered a baby bat tucked away inside her bra. (Which she wearing at the time!) Apparently, she'd let the bra dry overnight on an outside washing line. The little creature (which was the size of Abbie's hand) simply thought it had found a safe place for a nap.

For hours, Abbie thought the strange movement she felt was her cell phone vibrating. She didn't discover the stowaway until her lunch break.

Hmmm. Don't take this the wrong way, Abbie, but if you're able to walk around all day with a bat in your bra, you might be wearing the wrong size.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Door to Hades

Somewhere outside of Darvaza, Turkmenistan (or Uzbekistan depending on the source) lies a place known to the natives as the Door to Hades. (I'm using the more polite terminology, of course.)

The story goes like this . . . One day over thirty-five years ago, geologists were drilling for gas when they hit a large underground cavern. In fact, it was so large that it swallowed the scientists' drilling equipment and camp. Worried that poisonous gases might be released from the hole, the geologists decided to ignite the gas in the cavern and let it burn off.

That was thirty-five years ago, and the cavern is still burning.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Human Mirror

From the people who brought you Frozen Grand Central.

Via Gothamist

The Grass Artists

Artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey don't work with paint, pencils, or marble. No, their medium of choice is GRASS. In recent years, they've covered the inner walls of the Dilston Grove cathedral with grass (shown above). They've turned entire mausoleums and theaters green. They've even transformed an automobile into a moving lawn.

But perhaps the artists' most impressive accomplishments are their grass "photos." You see, grass changes color depending on the amount of light it receives. The less light it gets, the more yellow it becomes. In this respect, it's much like black and white film. So as the grass "canvas" grows in a dark room, the artists project a negative image onto it. The resulting images may be in shades of green and yellow, but they are still technically photographs. And pretty cool ones, too.

See more of Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey's work here and here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Decorating with Offal

I love these gorgeous anatomy puzzles. They're perfect for any room that could use a touch of color--and they'll instantly add a few points to your IQ.

Guess what the family's getting for Christmas this year!

(Via Boing Boing)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

(Photo by Barry Yanowitz, who took the most beautiful fireworks pictures I've ever seen.)

Happy birthday, USA. It's raining in New York, which may put a damper on all of the fun. But if it ever stops, I'm going to walk over to the East River and check out the waterfalls that were recently constructed by artist Olafur Eliasson. Then I might eat a hot dog and launch my own homemade fireworks show from the roof of my building while belting out The Star Spangled Banner. Kidding. I don't even know all the words to The Star Spangled Banner.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Book of Accidents

In 1831, author S. Babcock published a helpful guide to the "accidents to which children, from their inexperience or carelessness, are liable." He gave his work what may be the best title in the history of publishing: The Book of Accidents.

The book warned children not to cross streets, climb trees, or tease dogs. There were even handy pictures, in case anyone didn't quite grasp the dangers of playing with fire or throwing stones.

A sample passage: "Never climb trees for any purpose whatsoever. The boughs often break, or boys miss their hold, when down they come and often break their bones or necks." (So I guess it's okay for girls to climb trees.)

The entire book can be found here. Read it immediately--before it's too late!

Via Room26 Cabinet of Curiosities.

The Best Show Around

Sooo much better than the monster rat show last night.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I Might Have to Forget My Barbie Boycott

"The Birds" Barbie. Alfred Hitchcock would be pleased.

Let's Have a Moment of Silence

On this day in 1937, one of the coolest people to ever walk the face of the planet disappeared somewhere near Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Amelia Earhart had been the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and in 1937, she was attempting to circle the globe. As we all know, she didn't make it.

When looking back on Amelia Earhart's achievements, it's important to realize what a pioneer she was. Although there were other female pilots in the early 20th century, most women worked in the home--and not necessarily out of choice. As you may recall, women in the US weren't even allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. (When Earhart was 23 years old.) So Amelia's solo flights--which were extremely dangerous--sent a powerful message to the entire world.

These days, though, people are often far more fascinated by Amelia's disappearance than they are by her achievements. Despite a massive search, neither the pilot nor her plane were ever discovered. (My grandfather was part of the search effort!) Some believe the plane crashed and sank. Others say Amelia made it to nearby Gardner Island--where she perished. Discoveries on the island (improvised tools, an old fashioned shoe heel, and even the skeleton of a tall European female) seem to support this theory. The skeleton, of course, would have offered definitive proof, but the bones were misplaced long before modern forensics could confirm their owner's identity.

And, as you might expect, there were also those who claimed that the disappearance was merely a ruse. They said Amelia faked her own death, moved to New Jersey, and assumed the name of Irene Craigmile Bolam. (Interesting theory, but perhaps someone should have asked Irene before they started making a fuss about her.)

Check out Amelia Earhart's Wikipedia entry.
Read about the most recent developments in her disappearance here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Special Rat-Related Announcement

Tonight on Monster Quest:

"Attention, New Yorkers. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that rats once grew to even more massive sizes than the ones down in the Dumpster down the block. And now it seems our own streetwise friends are mutating to become even larger-and more dangerous. This episode journeys into sewers with rodent experts and talks with those who have had first-hand experience with cat-size rats with an appetite for human flesh."

History Channel. 9PM. We will discuss in the morning.

It's scheduled for WEDNESDAY night, not Tuesday night. Sorry!

Twenty Plants That Are Out to Get You

(Above: One of my all-time favorite villains, Poison Ivy.)

Over the past two years, this blog has repeatedly called attention to dangerous and deadly members of the animal kingdom. But I am shocked, chagrined, and ashamed to admit that we've yet to discuss this planet's silent killers: PLANTS.

Just because plants won't give chase doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you. No, they choose to lure you to them with their juicy berries, chewy seeds and pretty blossoms. But the moment you pop a little leaf in your mouth you can find yourself rolling on the floor and begging for mercy.

That's why it's a good thing that has made a list of the twenty deadliest plants on earth. You'll be surprised by how many you can find on your grandmother's sun porch (hmmmm) or growing wild in your back yard.

The common houseplant known as Dumbcane will make you lose control of your tongue. Jimson Weed will give you hallucinations before you finally slip into a coma. The berries of the bizarre-looking Doll's Eyes plant (shown below) will put your heart to sleep. And the bulbs of pretty hyacinths will leave you sick to your stomach and gasping for air. (If you survive, that is.)

So know your enemies! Check out the list here.

Also, for those of you who often find yourselves lost in the woods, here's a handy guide that tells you How to Test if a Plant is Edible. Keep in mind--this is for emergencies only!