Sunday, March 29, 2009

Allen Hynek's Watch

Chris A. Rutkowski, "Tests of Psychic Abilities." In John Robert Colombo, ed., Mysterious Encounters (Willowdale, Ontario: Hounslow Press, 1990, pp. 216-7.

There was at one time a Canadian television show called Beyond Reason, for which a panel of psychic "experts" (including an astrologer, clairvoyant, and two other "sensitives") would try to determine the identity of a hidden "mystery guest." On some episodes, some of the panel members would definitely appear to be able to divine the names of the guests; on other occasions, they were less than adept. [...]

The natural question arose as to how "secret" the mystery guests really were. After all, a bit of backstage bribery could enable a panel member to have inside information. The strictness of the security was noted when my friend Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the renowned astronomer and UFO investigator, was selected as a guest. Though he normally spoke with me when he visited Winnipeg, I only learned of his visit after the program had been taped. He told me to watch the show, as it was "very revealing." He also explained that the producers of the show had taken great pains to ensure no one knew he was in Winnipeg, and even gave instructions to the hotel operators not to reveal his presence to anyone who might have been inquiring.

The show was broadcast a few months later. On it, the panel members struggled with the mystery guest's identity, until it came to the turn of the clairvoyant. She held the guest's watch in her hand, and after only a few seconds said she felt "vibes" that the guest could only be Dr. J. Allen Hynek! It seemed truly amazing. But the next time Dr. Hynek was in Winnipeg, I asked him about the show. He explained how he had been approached by the producer just minutes before going on the air, and had been asked to give an item of jewelry or clothing for the clairvoyant to hold. Without thinking, he took off his watch, then proceeded to the booth where he was to be secreted. He realized he had made a mistake. He showed me the watch that he had given for use by the clairvoyant. It had been given to him as a gift, and was clearly inscribed: Allen Hynek.
Chris A. Rutkowski, A World of UFOs (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2008), p. 194.

One of Hynek's most bizarre TV appearances was on a Canadian show about psychic phenomena. It was kind of a quiz show where clairvoyants, astrologers, palmists, and other seers were challenged to identify a mystery guest hidden from view, asking questions based on the impressions they received about him or her. Hynek had been flown into the city secretly for the show, so I was surprised to hear he was in town when I was called after the show to drive him back from the television station. He explained that security had been tight to ensure no collusion was possible so that the psychics had no way of knowing the identity of the mystery guest in advance.

I was startled to learn that a clairvoyant had guessed that Hynek was the mystery guest. I was impressed by the show when it aired. Somehow, by simply holding Hynek's watch, she began intoning, "I'm sensing something about space...about stars...about communicating with other beings...this must belong to a famous UFO must be Allen Hynek!"

When we next met, I asked him about the incident. He laughed and rolled up his sleeve, then took off his watch. He handed it to me. Etched into the back of the watch was an inscription from his wife: "To Allen Hynek, with love from Mimi."
[The canny "psychic" who identified Hynek was Irene Hughes, who appeared not to handle his watch during the show, contrary to Rutkowski's memory. That she took pains to declare that she had examined only his (presumably empty) wallet and not his watch leads one to conclude that she was aware of the inscription (which Rutkowski inconsistently described). Below is my rough transcription of an excerpt from the episode in question. -- bc]

CBC Digital Archives

CBC game show with a paranormal twist

Beyond Reason
Broadcast Date: Feb. 21, 1977


Bill Guest: Irene, what do you pick up from our hidden visitor's personal objects?

Irene Hughes [holding a wallet and a piece of paper]: Well, first of all when I opened the box I have to tell you in this way. There were two objects in it so I took out the wallet because I had a terrible frightening feeling when I looked at his watch, so I didn't even take it out of the box. I've had that experience once before in my life. I feel that this man must have something to do with very unusual space, out of space things, in my mind, so I said Allan Hynek of UFOs! That's all I could think about, because... [Audience applause]... My heart is beating so fast right now I need a doctor, I think, really, because it was very frightening.

Allen Spraggett: I try not to wax too enthusiastic but that is a tour de force. That is really remarkable.


Bill Guest: Irene mentioned, Allen, that she did not want to open the box. I did not understand that too clearly. Can you explain that?

Allen Spraggett: Irene, did you mean that you had an uncanny feeling?

Irene Hughes: No, I opened, I opened the box, uh, there were two items, this [wallet] and a watch, and so I had a terrible feeling, I really did, and it was a feeling that I got when I was on a haunted house tour and we sort of encountered something of this nature in Iowa with, um, Brad Steiger. It was exactly the same feeling and so because of that I would not take the watch out, so I lay down on the cot with this [the wallet] holding it like this right here [against her chest] and I got all of these impressions and immediately wrote them down and I just said that he was a scientist of the highest degree, a math genius, lots to do with telescopes and documents, a consultant to Encounter of the Third Kind...[audience applause]... loves mystery....

Allen Hynek: I don't understand how you got all that.

Irene Hughes: It came right through this [wallet] very very clearly. It just really did as I held it on my solar plexus....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Killer SMS Rumors, Egypt

Agence France-Presse
25 March 2009

Egypt tries to hang up on killer SMS rumours

CAIRO (AFP) — The Egyptian government has sought to dispel rumours that a mobile phone text message "from unknown foreign quarters" is spreading around the country and killing those who receive it.

The extraordinary move by Egypt's health and interior ministries follows press reports that an SMS containing a special combination of numbers killed a man in the town of Mallawi south of Cairo.

"He died vomiting blood, followed by stroke, shortly after he received a message from an unknown phone number," the Egyptian Gazette reported on Wednesday. [...]

[For earlier reports, see this blog's "Deadly Phone Virus."]

Vampire Rumors at Boston School

The Boston Globe
26 March 2009

Boston Latin officials seek to quash 'vampire' rumors

By Martin Finucane and Maria Cramer, Globe Staff

A school administrator wants to set the record straight: There are no vampires at Boston Latin.

The headmaster of the prestigious exam school took the unusual step today of sending a notice to faculty, students, and parents saying that "rumors involving 'vampires'" had begun spreading through the building Wednesday, causing disruption and anxiety for a number of students. [...]

Merkins on Broadway

New York Post
25 March 2009

Page Six [gossip column]

Paula Froelich


IT'S the real thing when it comes to the full-frontal nudity in the revival of "Hair." A rumor floating around Broadway was that the actresses playing the unshaven '60s hippies in the rock musical were being fitted with pubic hairpieces so they wouldn't have to give up their Brazilian waxes. But a rep for the show, which opens Tuesday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, says all hair will be strictly home grown. "It's all natural. There are no merkins in the show at all," he laughed. [...]

[This is one of those things that could be either a genuine rumor or a publicist's fiction.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Security Scanners & Exploding Fish

Herald Times [Bloomington, IN]
25 March 2009

Hotline: Exploding fish at Wal-Mart?

by Rebecca Robbins

Lift up your fish through ye mighty gates

QUESTION: Standing in the check out lane at Wal-Mart, I overheard a conversation between a cashier and a woman buying aquarium fish. The cashier told the woman not to take the fish through the scanner that deactivates the anti-theft devices, because it will cause the fish to explode and die. Apparently when leaving the store you should raise the fish over your head while walking through the scanners. Is there any truth to this? [...]

S.H., Bloomington

[Wal-Mart and the scanner manufacturer deny it.]

Did Andre the Giant Try Out for the Redskins?

Washington Post
24 March 2009

D.C. Sports Bog [Blog]

By Dan Steinberg

Andre the Giant Never Tried Out for the Redskins

"After wrestling in Japan and Canada for a few years, the 27-year-old [Andre the Giant] came under the wing of Vincent K. McMahon and the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1973," Andre's official WWE Hall of Fame bio reads. "Though the company would change dramatically, Andre would remain with the McMahon family for the next 20 years; he was even offered a contract by the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1974, but turned it down to stay in the ring." [...]

U-Boat in Solway Firth

News & Star [UK]
25 March 2009


U-Boat mystery folklore

I have been reading about the German U-Boat which came up the Solway Firth during the First World War. I heard about it many years ago when I was very young.

My mother was then just 13-years-old at the time that she saw the German U-Boat come on the beach at Parton.

She told me that a German officer came on the shore and told the crowd that they were not going to harm them.

The big guns were firing shells at Haig Pit.

He told them that some German soldiers were working down the pit and that they had come to get them. They must have been prisoners of war.

I am 84 years old and I can still remember that far back.

Coronation Drive

Monday, March 23, 2009

Teens Taking Cow Drugs for Abortions

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [WI]
20 March 2009

Reports surface that teens are taking cow drugs for abortions

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel
Veterinary and medical professionals in Wisconsin said Friday that they have been warned about a potentially alarming practice among the state's rural youth: teenage girls ingesting livestock drugs to cheaply and discreetly end their unwanted pregnancies. [...]

Text Messages: Student Will Be Shot (Delaware)

Sussex Countian [Georgetown, DE]
20 March 2009

Seaford, Woodbridge students receive death-threat texts

By Patrick Varine
Delaware State Police

WESTERN SUSSEX - Seaford-area schools are currently on Level 1 lockdown, according to the Delaware State Police, after a Seaford student received a text message threatening that they would be shot between 8 a.m. and noon. Police also said a Woodbrige High student received a similar message. [...]

Sussex Countian [Georgetown, DE]
21 March 2009

DSP: Seaford woman, 19, started text-threat chain

By Submission
Delaware State Police

SUSSEX COUNTY - State police have arrested a total of four persons in relation to the threatening text messages that generated significant police presence in local schools in the Seaford and Woodbridge School Districts on Friday.

Moreover, DSP learned the incident was conspired amongst three persons after they learned of the Wal-Mart urban myth that circulated the area on Wednesday afternoon. The text messages threatening of a shooting first at Seaford, then Woodbridge, was done with an attempt to create a similar reaction within the community - with the ultimate goal to alarm people a shooting was going to occur in the schools. [...]
25 March 2009

Shooting, bomb threats hit schools
Four people charged in incident that resulted in lockdowns, dismissals, closures

By Terri Sanginiti
The News Journal

SEAFORD -- Schools throughout Sussex were put on lockdown following shooting threats in the western portion of the county and bomb threats in the east.

In Seaford, an adult and two juveniles were arrested Friday in connection with threatening text messages about a shooting at Seaford and Woodbridge high schools. The juveniles were students at Seaford High School, said state police Spokesman Sgt. Joshua Bushweller. [...]

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Light's Fort Tunnel, Lebanon, Pa.

Lebanon Daily News [PA]
21 March 2009

Light’s at the end of the Tunnel
Believers, detractors still vying over legend

Staff Writer

[It is rumored that a tunnel exists under downtown Lebanon, Pa., connecting to Light's Fort, and which was used by residents to escape Indian attacks in the 18th and 19th centuries.]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Smoking Smarties Could Lead to Nose Maggots

[The WSJ reports on a children's fad in which the powder of crushed candies is blown from the mouth or nose, thus mimicking the exhalation of cigarette smoke. Oren Friedman, a nose specialist at the Mayo Clinic, cautions that a habit of "smoking Smarties" could result in "infections or even worse, albeit rare, conditions, such as maggots that feed on sugary dust wedged inside the nose."]

Wall Street Journal
20 March 2009

Just Say Smarties? Faux Smoking Has Parents Fuming

Crush Candy, Suck In Dust, Blow Out Puffs; Schools Fear It'll Make Cigarettes Cool


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wal-Mart Gang Initiation

[A Wal-Mart gang initiation rumor has spread across the U.S. in the past couple of days. Check out Google News for scores of reports from Florida to Hawaii. The following article describes how the rumor got Alfred Saurage arrested when the guns right advocate refused to remove his .45 after entering a Ruston, La., Wal-Mart, scaring the bejesus out of store workers and shoppers. -- bc]

The Ruston Daily Leader [LA]

19 March 2009

Tech student arrested at Wal-Mart
Text message about gang violence stokes concerns over student's gun

Nick Todaro, Reporter

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pension Claim for Corpse in Wheelchair

The Independent Online [South Africa]
8 March 2009

'Dead man' claim pension money

Johannesburg - Three women allegedly strapped a dead man to a wheelchair to claim his pension money from the Post Office, Beeld newspaper reported on Wednesday. [...]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Curse of Colonel Sanders

Mainichi Daily News [Japan]
11 March 2009

Tigers fans hope discovery of long-lost fast-food icon will lift 'Curse of Colonel Sanders'

A statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders tossed into Osaka's Dotonbori River some 24 years ago by rowdy Hanshin Tigers fans has been discovered. […]

The Hanshin Tigers have not won the Japan Series since 1985, a fact attributed by some to the "Curse of Colonel Sanders." […]

Starbucks Logo = Queen Esther

The Middle East Media Research Institute
10 March 2009
Special Dispatch - No. 2276

Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi Calls to Shut Down Starbucks in the Arab and Islamic World, Saying: Their Logo is the Jewish Queen Esther

The Jerusalem Post
11 March 2009

Egyptian cleric blasts Starbucks for 'Queen Esther' logo


As Jews around the world are celebrating Purim, one Egyptian cleric has used the holiday to launch an attack against Starbucks, claiming that the woman in the logo of the international chain is Queen Esther, and her presence warrants a boycott of the company throughout the Arab world. […]

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Children Found in Cargo Container (Trinidad & Tobago)

The Guardian [Trinidad and Tobago]
3 March 2009

Children in container hoax shuts down port

There was a complete shutdown of the Port-of-Spain Port yesterday as rumours spread throughout the country that a container with missing children had been discovered. The airwaves of radio and television stations, along with newspaper newsrooms, were buzzing with activity, as concerned people called about the rumours. […]

The Guardian [Trinidad and Tobago]
6 March 2009

Telecom body launches probe into children in container hoax,96278.html

Newsday [Trinidad and Tobago]
7 March 2009

Police: Ignore children in container email


Police have again dismissed persistent rumours of children being found in a container as untrue and said an email being circulated that the report was not a hoax was a mischievous plot. […]

Trinidad and Tobago Express
7 March 2009

PM slams media on 'container hoax'

Juhel Browne

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lord Mandelson: Custard or Guacamole?

The Times [London]
6 March 2009

Protester throws green custard in the face of Lord Mandelson and walks away

Nico Hines

A female protester hurled green custard into the face of Lord Mandelson today before calmly walking away and evading arrest in an embarrassing security breach. […]

Lord Mandelson later treated the attack with a light touch. “Custard, was it? Not guacamole or mushy peas?” he asked, alluding to the apocryphal Westminster tale in which he once walked into a fish-and-chip shop in northern England and mistook the traditional processed pea dish for a more continental avocado dip. […]

BBC News
6 March 2009

Mandelson: 'Guacamole or mushy peas?'

The Business Secretary Lord had green custard thrown in his face by a protester as he arrived at a summit on creating a low-carbon economy in London.

After cleaning up, he gave his reaction to the incident.

[Video clip]

[On the legend that Mandelson once mistook mushy peas for guacamole, see Paul Screeton, Mars Bar & Mushy Peas (Heart of Albion Press, 2008), pp. 38-48.]

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

15-Minute Rule

Central Florida Future [University of Central Florida]
4 March 2009

Busted: 15-min. rule a myth

William Buchanan

The clock is ticking.

Waiting for a professor to show up can be a long 15 minutes.

But wait, are students allowed to leave class after 15 minutes if the professor is tardy? [...]

Doughnuts Like Fanny's

["No Swearing Allowed," host's monologue on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, CBS, 3 March 2009, episode 834. My transcription of excerpt (7:30-7:56 of video clip). "Fanny" is British slang for the vagina. -- bc]

"Do you know there used to be a TV chef in Britain called Fanny Cradock, and once -- I know! -- and, and once she was doing a segment on how to cook doughnuts on the news -- 'cause that's news in Britain, apparently -- This is true, I saw it! -- and when she was finished at the end of the show the anchorman said, 'Well, goodnight, and I hope your doughnuts turn out like Fanny's.'"

Monday, March 2, 2009

Poisoned Business Cards (Halifax, NS)

CBC News [Canada]
2 March 2009

Halifax police embarrassed by email hoax

Halifax Regional Police are clearing the air after one of their officers fell for an email hoax.

The email hoax claimed business cards soaked in poison were being passed around, and that a woman had been drugged after accepting one of the tainted cards. [...]

The email made the rounds at Halifax Regional Police and before long, the names of several officers were attached to it, giving a perception of credibility to the hoax. [...]

Halifax Regional Police [NS]
20 February 2009

Press Releases

Hoax E-mail

There is an e-mail presently circulating in our area warning the public to beware of individuals handing out business cards which are laced with an overpowering drug temporarily incapacitating anyone handling it.

This e-mail is a hoax, as are most like it. [...]

Store Owner Refuses to Post Flier Honoring Dead Soldier

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal [NY]
1 March 2009

MARREN: The truth behind the ‘e-mail’

By Tim Marren
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

[An e-mail rumor falsely claims that Rumit Patel, owner of a Dunkin' Donuts store in Lockport, not only refused to post a flier in his store honoring a local soldier killed in Iraq, but put the flier on a dumpster "where the rest of our soldiers belong."]

The Buffalo News [NY]
4 March 2009

Lockport Dunkin' Donut owner dispels Internet rumor regarding Iraq War soldier

By Thomas J. Prohaska
News Niagara Bureau

LOCKPORT - You may have seen a full-page ad in today's Buffalo News from Dunkin' Donuts, saluting Spec. Albert R. Jex, the Lockport native who was killed in Iraq Feb. 9. [...]

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Buried Alive, Revived by Grave Robber

The Daily Times [Salisbury, MD]
28 February 2009

A history full of holes
Unconfirmed rumors swirl around iconic Trappe church

By Brice Stump
Staff Writer

[...] More than a century ago, a tale widely circulated about the Shore of grave robbers digging up the body of Hannah Maynadier, wife of the rector (said to have been "a good liver but a horrid preacher"), who requested she be buried with a costly heirloom ring. Within hours of her burial in the early 1700s, two men dug into the grave, opened the wooden coffin and, with a knife, severed her finger to free the ring. To their horror, the amputation revived the woman who was not dead.

According to legend, she walked back to her home and husband and lived a number of years longer. Now they both are buried in the White Marsh Church graveyard. Believable or not, there were Maynadier descendants in the 1960s who claimed the story was based on fact. [...]

Tunnel Connects Fort Totten to Fort Schuyler, NY

New York Daily News
28 February 2009

Historians hunt for Civil War-era passage that could have run from Fort Totten to Bronx

BY Clare Trapasso

The visitors have heard the urban legend about an escape passage built between Fort Totten in Queens, to Fort Schuyler in the Bronx, where the Long Island Sound and the East River meet. [...]

Original Spanish Kitchen,0,7788279.story

Los Angeles Times
1 March 2009

Tall tales concocted from the Original Spanish Kitchen

Steve Harvey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Closing up one night in 1961, workers at the Original Spanish Kitchen on Beverly Boulevard set out silverware, saltshakers and napkins at each table and neatly stacked the chairs.

And there the settings and chairs remained, unmoved for more than a quarter of a century. [...]

[It was rumored that the owner's wife, whose husband had supposedly been shot to death in the restaurant, left it undisturbed until his killer was found. It was also said that "the owner was a bullfighter and his wife was a flamenco dancer and he killed her because he didn't like her dancing."]