MOST UNUSUAL CANNON. The Chemical and Engineering News recently hailed the development of a cannon that can fire dead chickens at speeds up to 620 mph. The National Research Council of Canada devised this unique piece of artillery to test airplane parts likely to be struck by birds. The cannon will accommodate either the standard four-pound chicken (for testing windshields), or the rugged eight-pound bird (for testing tail assemblies). The big gun will also fire synthetic chickens.
MOST UNUSUAL CANNONBALLS. During a naval battle between Brazil and Uruguay in the middle of the 19th century, the Uruguayan vessel ran out of shot. Captain Coe, the commander of the ship, ordered the cannon loaded with Dutch cheeses. “They were too old and hard to eat anyway,” he reasoned. In a few minutes Coe’s ship opened fire again. According to William Walsh, the first two cheeses went sailing over the mark, but finally one crashed into the main mast of the Brazilian ship, shattering it into thousands of pieces. Cheese shrapnel killed two sailors standing near the Brazilian admiral. After taking four or five more cheeses through the sails, the Brazilian admiral ordered his ship to retire from the engagement.
MOST UNUSUAL CHEMICAL WARFARE. Abandoning their lands before the advancing armies of Pompey the Great, ancient Spaniards left behind great tubs of azalea honey. When the delighted troops discovered the sweet booty, they immediately took to eating great gobs of it with their fingers. Soon most of the men were deathly ill, victims of toxic impurities in the honey. The Spaniards, who had been waiting patiently in the hills, then swooped down on the disabled legions.
MOST UNUSUAL DRAFT DODGER. During the Civil War, Grover Cleveland hired a substitute to fight in his place. It was a common and perfectly legal practice, if something less than heroic. During the Presidential campaign of 1884, it appeared that the charge of draft dodging might prevent him from ever occupying the White House. Cleveland was saved when it was discovered that his opponent, James G. Blaine, had also evaded the draft by hiring a substitute.
WORST MIRACLE. In Bombay, India, in 1966, a Hindu yogi named Rao announced his intention to walk on water. Six hundred prominent members of Bombay society were invited to witness the spectacle, with tickets going for as high as $100 each. Garbed in flowing robes, the snowy bearded mystic stood majestically on the side of a five-foot deep pond, prayed silently, and then stepped boldly into the void. He sank immediately to the bottom.
WORST SHRINE. The president of Toyota Motors in Japan is planning a shrine that promises to be somewhat less than sublime. He has set aside $445,000 to construct a statue to honor the souls of all persons killed in Toyotas throughout the world.
WORST DISEASE. The Fore tribe on New Guinea is afflicted by epidemics of Kuru, a very rare disease characterized by trembling, dizziness, and a gradual decline into insanity. At one state of the disease, the victim is subject to fits of excessive laughter, and in fact, Kuru is sometimes referred to as “the laughing death.” As far as doctors have been able to find, there is only one way that the slow virus that causes Kuru can be transmitted from one person to another: by eating portions of the infected brains. The Fore are one of the few tribes in New Guinea still practicing ritual cannibalism of their own dead.
WORST SUICIDE. A 40-year-old man in Biella, Italy, set himself on fire and then, experiencing a sudden change of heart, threw himself to the ground and rolled around on the grass in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Onlookers gasped as he rolled off a cliff and fell to his death.
MOST UNUSUAL AUTOPSY. Andre Bazile, a French convict from Nates serving as a galley slave, died September 10, 1774, after complaining of severe stomach cramps. When an autopsy was performed with 50 medical students present, the coroner discovered in the stomach of the deceased a knife, pewter spoons, buttons, pieces of glass, iron, and wood. In his report, the coroner concluded about the cause of death, “It must have been something he ate.”
BEST DRINKING WATER IN THE WORLD. Residents of Bydgoszcz, Poland, turned on their water taps one day in 1973, and got beer instead of water. A damaged valve in a brewery there had diverted several thousand gallons of the foaming brew into the city’s water supply.
MOST UNUSUAL MILLIONAIRE. At the time of her death, Betty Green (1834-1916), Known as the “Witch of Wall Street,” was the richest woman in the world with a fortune totaling nearly $100 million. Although vastly wealthy, she was mad. For years she wore the same dress which was originally black but turned green and then brown with age. For undergarments, she used old newspapers collected from trash baskets in Central Park. Her home was an unheated tenement in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and her diet consisted almost entirely of onions, eggs, and dry oatmeal (preparing hot food would have added precious pennies to her fuel bill). Perhaps the saddest instant of Betty Green’s stinginess involved her son, Edward, who at the age of 9 was run over by a wagon. Although his leg was seriously injured, his mother refused to call a doctor, taking him instead to a number of free clinics. Eventually, Edward’s leg had to be amputated, an operation that might not have been necessary if he had received the medical attention that his mother could have afforded.
MOST UNUSUAL LOCK. At the French Crystal Palace in the 18th century, a combination lock was exhibited which required 674,385 turns of the dial to open and close it. It reportedly took one man 120 nights to lock it and another man 120 nights to unlock it.
WORST MEAL. In 1971 Hans and Erna W., a Swiss couple vacationing in Hong Kong, stopped to eat at a Chinese restaurant there and asked the headwaiter to take their pet poodle, Rosa, into the kitchen and find it something to eat. The waiter misunderstood their request. The couple was aghast when Rosa was brought to their table done to a turn in a round-bottomed frying pan, marinated in sweet-and-sour sauce, and garnished with Chinese vegetables. The meal was left uneaten and the couple were treated for shock.
WORST LUCK. Caesar Peltram of Lyons, France, was struck by lightning five times. He died of pneumonia.
WORST TV QUIZ SHOW. Maud Walker, a 54-year-old Australian housewife, was a big winner on the daytime television game show, “Temptation.” The excitement was too much for her, and she suffered a fatal heart attack on camera. As a sort of consolation prize, a station executive offered a videotape recording of the show to the Walker family. “I’m sure they would like to see how happy she was,” he explained.
BEST PROOF THAT WINNING IS NOT EVERYTHING, IT’S THE ONLY THING. The Incas of ancient Peru played a primitive form of basketball, the object of which was to shoot a rubber ball through a stone ring placed high on a wall. The winner was traditionally awarded the clothes of the spectators present. The loser was put to death.
WORST POSTAGE STAMPS. Adolf Hitler was far from a wealthy man when he came to power in Germany in 1933. A plan by Martin Bormann soon disposed of Hitler’s financial worries. Bormann decided that Hitler had rights to the reproduction of his picture on postage stamps and was therefore entitled to payments. Since Hitler’s head appeared on all German postage stamps issued between 1933-1945, millions of dollars flowed into his own pockets.
WORST COMBAT RATIONS. During the war in Vietnam, a government paymaster made the mistake of dropping in empty-handed on a unit of battle-weary Cambodian army regulars who had gone unpaid for four months. When the soldiers demanded their pay and none was forthcoming, they shot the paymaster and then ate him.
MOST UNUSUAL CAUSE OF WORLD WAR II. The Second World War may have been caused by Adolph Hitler’s bas breath. On September 1, 1939, Swedish industrialist Birger Dahlerus met with Hitler in a last minute attempt to dissuade him from invading Poland. Hitler was enraged and ranted hysterically. Said Dahlerus later, “His breath was so foul that it was all I could do not to step back.”
MOST UNUSUAL GAS MASK FILTERS. Kleenex tissues were originally manufactured for use as gas mask filters during World War I.
BEST PRESENT-DAY I.Q. A figure of 150 is considered to be “genius.” Testers have only been able to estimate the IQ of Kim Ung-Yong, who was born in Seoul, Korea, on March 7, 1963. His IQ has been placed at exceeding 200. He was fluent in Japanese, Korean, German, and English by his fourth birthday. At four years, eight months he solved complicated calculus problems on Japanese TV. He is considered to be the most brilliant person alive. One factor may be that his parents, both university professors, were born at precisely the same moment: 11:00 a.m., May 23, 1934.
BEST PROOF OF LIFE AFTER DEATH. By placing the beds of dying patients on scales and noting their weights immediately before and after death, Swedish physician Nils-Olof Jacobson concluded that the human soul weighs 21 grams.
WORST CROSSWORD PUZZLE. Stumped by an especially tough puzzle,
a crossword addict in West Germany stuck with it through the night, repeatedly
waking her husband for assistance. The fourth time she woke him,
he became violently enraged and strangled her. He was acquitted on
grounds of temporary insanity.