Thursday, 30 April 2009

Hooden Horse

St Nicholas at Wade Hooden Horse, photographed out of season, 29/3/08, Frittenden

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

How to catch a murderer

An English photographer lately took a photograph of the eye of an ox a few hours after death; and on examining the impression through the microscope distinctly perceived depicted on the retina the exact delineation of the stones with which the slaughter-house was paved, being the last object which affected the vision of the animal on bending down its head to receive the fatal blow. The consequence deduced from this somewhat apocryphal story is, that if the eyes of a murdered man be photographed a few hours after death the likeness of the murderer will be found on his retina, that being the last object he can have seen during the death struggle.

West Australian Times, 12th November 1863

How domestic workers can improve their working conditions

A domestic helper has appeared in court accused of trying to injure her employer by mixing her menstrual blood in a pot of vegetables she was cooking.

Kwun Tong Magistrates' Court heard that Indra Ningsih, 26, admitted to police she had done so in the belief that it would improve her relationship with her employer. She entered no plea yesterday and was remanded in custody until the next hearing on May 13.

Prosecutor Vincent Lee gave a statement to the court in which the Indonesian maid admitted under caution to mixing the blood with the vegetables in the belief that it would make her employer, surnamed Mok, "more amicable and less picky." [...]

Last year, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced two Asian domestic helpers to four months in prison and 250 lashes each for contaminating the tea of their employer with urine and menstrual blood.

One of them was from Indonesia and the other from the Philippines.

In December 2007, another Indonesian domestic helper in Hong Kong added urine to the drinking water of her employer and his family.

She believed it would make the family treat her better. It was discovered after the family noticed a difference in the taste of the water. The maid was jailed for three months on a charge of "administering poison or other destructive or noxious things with intent to injure."

In some Southeast Asian cultures menstrual blood is thought to have special magical powers.

Red mercury

JEDDAH: The feverish search for Singer sewing machines driven by a superstitious notion that they possessed mysterious powers to fulfill every human wish has lost its tempo as the common man is slowly realizing that it is another ploy to dupe the naive public, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Nobody has yet been arrested on the charge of launching the hoax claiming that red mercury inside the machines can capture a wish-granting genii and convert its owner to an Aladdin with the Magic Lamp, a fantasy almost every child in the Middle East knows.

However, it is yet a mystery how the sewing machine has been elevated to the status of the magic lamp.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Al-Turki described the rumors “as false and deceptive” in a recent statement.

Following the rumor, the price of a Singer machine reportedly catapulted last week.

“There is no such thing as red mercury except in the world of superstition and magic,” said Khaled Kamakhi, former rector of the Institute of Research and Consultancy at Taiba University in Madinah.

According to rumors going around on the Internet, a sewing machine can be proved to contain red mercury if a phone signal cuts off when held close by. Buyers from street stalls were using their mobile phones to test the machines, Al-Watan newspaper reported yesterday.

Commenting on the rumor Kamakhi said, a strong static electricity field could be the cause of disruption in the mobile line.

According to conspiracy theorists, red mercury was developed by Soviet scientists in the 1980s, but its existence has since been covered up by US military because of its potential use as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ahmad Bushaala, a teacher of inorganic chemistry at Taiba University, said the rumors about red mercury were circulated by Russian scientists in the early 1980s after developing a smart nuclear bomb that could kill people without harming the buildings and streets.

According to an article in the Russian newspaper Pravda in 1993, red mercury was a superconductive material used for producing high-precision conventional and nuclear explosives.

It was also reported that Russian businessmen offered red mercury for sale throughout Europe and the Middle East and found many buyers who would pay almost anything for the substance even though they had no idea what it was all about.

The tendency of easily being carried away by rumors has been lampooned by messages appearing on mobile phones and websites, such as “I adore you more than red mercury” or “I love you more than an old Singer machine.” Another message suggested the name Singer for a new baby.

"Source of Singer hoax remains a mystery", Arab News 17th April 2009

Other reports in the press this week:

Sewing machine frenzy in red mercury hoax

Saudi Arabia gripped by "red mercury" hoax

Man cuts losses in Singer scam

Paying the price for red mercury mania

"Red mercury" rumors gain ground

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The breeding-ground

A young girl ate frog-spawn while on a visit to the sea-side, and an octopus has grown inside her. Its 'fangs' (tentacles) have spread into every part of her body, and one is wrapped round her heart: if it gives a pull 'her heart will come away' ... They have taken the girl to Kingston Infirmary, but they can't do anything for her; and now they're just waiting for the King's consent to smother her.
Folklore, April 1926