Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The underwater wax museum

Sunny slopes, shady stories

Below this place they call Heavenly, hell awaits those who double-cross the Mob.

Around here, urban legend has lake fishermen reeling in human ears and human hands. They say that far below all that fluffy powder snow and those perfectly spaced pine trees and all that sunshine; and way down below the surface of the huge alpine lake the Indians call Lake of the Sky, lies an underwater wax museum of perfectly preserved Mafia gangsters with bullet holes in the middle of their foreheads.

Locals say it's just part of the charm of South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly Ski Resort. […]

There are apres-ski huts perfect for catching the sunshine and the red and white fir trees give this place its reputation as having the best tree runs in North America. The runs are long and challenging, the snow is deep and dry and the mountain huts are solid log timber.

Then the sun sets and the night turns Heavenly into another kind of place altogether.

There's a gruesome side to Heavenly; it's as I walk by Lake Tahoe in the growing dark that I think of those bodies.

Steve, a ski instructor at Heavenly who shares some local legends with me over a beer, tells me famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau once tried to bring a submarine into Lake Tahoe but local casino bosses of the day refused to allow it. Then there's the story Cousteau did go down with a film crew but Mob bosses confiscated his footage; and then there's the story that Cousteau decided himself that the world wasn't ready to see what lay beneath the waters of Lake Tahoe.

Geological surveys have so far failed to find any bodies, neither have modern fishermen with advanced fish-finding technology, but still the locals hold on to their legends. "They don't find bodies around here," Steve tells me. "They sink to the bottom; you go in there, you don't come out."

It's the near-freezing water, many say, that prevents the creation of gases that would otherwise bloat and float a corpse to the surface. Locals maintain there are hundreds of bodies down there, perfectly preserved. Fishermen even call an area of it The Grave. That's where, the story goes, a fisherman jagged something huge just offshore but whatever it was broke free. When he reeled in the line, a human ear was still on the hook. Then there's the story of renowned gangster Three-Fingered Tony who met an untimely demise nearby, his hand reeled in later by another unlucky fishermen.

Craig Tansley, Sydney Morning Herald travel section, 21 November 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Gown Man

As recalled by Cyril Neville (of the Neville Brothers):

"If our mother wanted to keep us home, she'd tell us about the Gown Man. He was this big white guy in a hospital gown, and he'd snatch you off the street, put you under his arm, and take you over to the dissection room at Tulane University medical school. They'd pull off your skin and you'd get chopped up by medical students, practicing their autopsies."

And as recalled by his brother Aaron Neville:

"They had the Needle Man, too. Supposed to shove a six-inch needle in your eye, suck your brain out right from the socket."

Mark Jacobson, The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), p. 209

Monday, 18 October 2010

Snake babies in the Solomon Islands

Snake Baby Rumours Not True

The National Referral Hospital has denied any knowledge of any baby born at the hospital with parts of it resembling a snake.

Rumours circulating around Honiara in the past week and days were of a local mother who gave birth to a baby with strange features at the National Referral Hospital.

But the Medical Superintendent of the National Referral Hospital Doctor Douglas Pickacha told SIBC this afternoon that he is not aware of any baby being born at the hospital with such features.

He says he has not received any reports of that nature from the Labour ward.

Meanwhile, checks by SIBC News on You-tube revealed that the video-clips and pictures circulated in town were in fact uploaded to the web by someone from Jordan.

The snake baby was said to resemble the picture above,
circulated widely on the web.

Another search on the web has also found that a snake-like baby, similar to the one being circulated in Honiara was born on September 28th, 2010 in Nepal.

Reports say the so-called 'Snake Baby' was born after 14 months in the mother's womb.

It says the mother died when she saw her baby, adding that even a Doctor was unconscious for half an hour.

It says the snake child drank 10 litres of milk as soon as he was fed.

The reports say the baby's body looks like a snake and face of a human, with long hair.

Source: Solomon Times Online, 12th October 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Dream porridge from Dalsland (western Sweden)

If you wanted to know who you were going to marry, you could prepare and eat some dream porridge. The porridge had to be prepared by three girls. It was important that the greatest silence be observed throughout the procedure. When the water began to boil, each girl would throw in a handful of salt and a handful of flour. When the porridge was ready it would be divided into three equal portions, and each girl would eat one portion, without adding any milk. Then they would go to bed, still in total silence, without having anything to drink. The dream porridge would be prepared and eaten three nights in a row, and on the third night the girls would see their future husbands in their dreams. He would be bringing water to quench their thirst.

From the Norwegian foodways website Tradisjoner
Thanks to Emma Lundenmark for drawing it to our attention.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sex latent in commodities

The Huli strongly believe that public spaces should not be defiled by polluting substances and words, and pasinja meri [lit. 'passenger woman', a peripatetic woman who engages in multiple-partner, sometimes-paid, sex] often defy this norm. They have their own pseudocode in which the names of desirable consumable commodities are acronyms that stand for something salacious. Fanta, the soft drink, for example, stands for 'Fuck And Never Think Again'; Pepsi, for 'Plis Em Pen, Sutim Isi' (which is Tok Pisin for 'Please that hurts; thrust more gently'); Cambridge, a brand of cigarette, stands for 'Come Along My Boy; Remember, I Don't Get Enough'. Sometimes pasinja meri will simply shout out the names of these items while sitting at market with other people and then burst into laughter, glancing around to see who 'gets it' or not.
- quoted from Holly Wardlow, 'Headless Ghosts and Roving Women: Specters of Modernity in Papua New Guinea', American Ethnologist, 29.1 (2002), 22

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Human beings turned into goats (or possibly vice versa) in Nigeria

Yesterday morning, rumours spread like bush fire in the harmattan in Ojo, and other neighbouring towns in Lagos and Ogun States that seven human beings were turned to goats through esoteric means . The rumour also had it that the goats were detained in Ojo Police station. A motley crowd besieged the police station to witness the bizarre development. Everybody struggled to catch a glimpse of the human beings –turned goats. The police found it difficult to control the crowd.

This led to traffic gridlock on the Ojo Road, leading to the Alaba International Market. The Divisional Police Officer, Isaac Ogbogbo, a Chief Superintendent of Police, brought his experience to bear in controlling the crowd that was desperate to see the goats. After satisfying their curiosity, they dispersed one after the other.

From one source to another, the story kept magnifying. It first started with a human being turning to a goat until it became seven goats turning to seven human beings. It was the subject of discussion at bus stops, inside commercial vehicles and markets with each source presenting different versions of the story. […]

From the Daily Sun, Nigeria, 7 July 2010

Monday, 21 June 2010

The promised future

WC2, 31st May 2008

Monday, 17 May 2010

Bosom (or bowel) serpents

Snake in a Woman's Stomach
New York Times, July 10th 1864

The Lock-port Journal tells the following horrible story: A woman living in Mercer, C.W., the wife of Mr. WM. EVERS, has for four years past been afflicted with a singular difficulty in her stomach. Her complaint has until within a short time past, baffled the skill of physicians. The complaint commenced about four years since, with a tickling and uneasy sensation about the pit of the stomach. The same sensation has continued to increase in severity from that time. A few months since it became the incontrovertible opinion of the most skillful physicians, that the increasing difficulty has been the growth of a snake in the stomach. It has grown so large now that it distends the stomach so as to produce a bunch upon the outside as large as a quart bowl. Upon pressing this bunch with the hand, the reptile recoils and produces great distress in the stomach. When fish or meat is being cooked in the room, if the snake is not satisfied with food, it rises up in the throat producing strangulation. When desiring food it manifests it by rising up in the throat. Physicians can see no way in which the snake can be removed without certain death to the woman. Mrs. EVERS is about 35 years of age. She is, of course, feeble in health now, but is around the house.

From the New York Times online archive

Chef dies after feeling eel
The Sun, 30th April 2010

A CHEF has died after an EEL was put up his bum.

Shocked doctors in Sichuan, China, found the sea creature in the 59-year-old man's rectum after his death, it has been reported.

The 50cm long Asian swamp eel was allegedly inserted into the unnamed man's bottom, after he passed out drunk, by pals playing a prank on him.

Medics said the eel had devoured his bowels.

From the Sun website, 30th April 2010.
There is also a report on the case in Chinese from the China News Agency, 28th April 2010.

Several commentators on the Chinese case have also referred to the short report on "Traumatic rectal perforation by an eel" by Siu Fai Lo et al. of the Department of Surgery at Kwong Wah Hospital (Kowloon, Hong Kong), which appeared in the scholarly journal Surgery in 2004 (135:1, 110-111):


A 50-year-old man was seen at the Accident and Emergency Department because of abdominal pain. Physical examination revealed peritonitis. A shadow of an eel was noticed on the abdominal radiograph (Fig 1). On further questioning, the patient admitted an eel was inserted into the rectum in an attempt to relieve constipation. Emergency laparotomy found a 50 cm-long eel biting the splenic flexure of the colon (Fig 2), and a 3-cm perforation was found over the anterior wall of the rectum (Figs 3 and 4). The rectum was divided at the site of perforation, and the proximal end was brought out as colostomy. The postoperative course was uneventful. The patient was discharged home on day 7. [...]

Further evidence that the poetic motif of the internal serpent remains a potent one in popular culture:

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Beggars condemn woman-cat rumours

RUMOURS circulating in Dar es Salaam about a woman said to have disappeared mysteriously after giving alms to a beggar at Salender Bridge in the city has brought mayhem to some beggars and the disabled, saying it has robbed them of their daily bread.

The beggars condemned the rumours claiming that they are malicious and intended to starve them. Speaking on behalf of her colleagues who had gathered outside the department of information (MAELEZO) today, Neema Robert claimed that the wicked reports spreading in the city like wildfire were designed to chase them from city streets.

“People in Dar es Salaam now look at us as evil people who are not supposed to live among other human beings. They have made life difficult for us because we are being abandoned,” she complained.

“Since the incident occurred, we have been facing so many difficulties, apart from being abandoned, we are not given any support by the society and some of us have been thrown out of the houses we had rented”, lamented Ms Neema Robert.

She further said that they believe that the rumours were purposely set off because there was no evidence which could prove that the incident really happened.

One week ago it was reported that a beggar at Salender Bridge asked for money from a woman who was in a car and after she gave him money her hands grew hairs like a cat and could not drive her car.

It was further alleged that the beggar asked the woman to step out of his car and kiss him so that her hand could return to normal but immediately after the woman fulfilled what she was asked to do, she and the beggar disappeared into thin air.

Ms Neema Robert urged the people not to believe the story and instead they should accept beggars and people with disabilities who ask for alms and treat them just like human beings.

“We are human beings just like anyone else. I believe if such a thing happened to well-to do person, it could not affect them the way it has affected us,” she said.

From the Daily News, Tanzania, 23rd February 2010
See also the comment piece on this news story in The East African, 1st March 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Whittlesea Straw Bear

Straw Bear Festival, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.
The festival is held every January.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A glimpse of your own corpse

Carry a candle into every corner of the house, then look into the mirror in the candlelight. You will see what you will look like when you are dead.

Collected from a young Spanish man, recollected from his childhood in Barcelona (2.2.10)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Maenads come to school

"Seeing your item regarding warning notices for ceiling fans reminded me of a time some years ago when my children came home from high school saying a teacher had been decapitated by a ceiling fan. As I knew the teacher in question I thought I'd better call and see if his head was still attached. He was still alive, but he'd had to go to hospital for stitches - obviously he didn't read those directions as he stood on a chair to open a window, not noticing the fan. His blood was sprayed and he received a nasty cut, but the way rumours work it became a decapitation. By the next day the story ran that he was still speaking as his head rolled across the classroom floor."

Full story at Column 8, 25th January 2010.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Dogon funeral dance