July 24, 2016

The Yellowstone Zone of Death

Yellowstone National Park contains a 50-square mile "zone of death" where, legal scholars suggest, a person could commit murder without fear of prosecution. This zone is the part of the park that extends into Idaho.

The reason for this free-pass-for-murder lies with the Sixth Amendment which guarantees a defendant the right to a trial by a jury "of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." The zone is in the State of Idaho, but because of the unique legal status of Yellowstone, it's in the judicial District of Wyoming. Therefore, to prosecute anyone a court would need to form a jury of people who live simultaneously in the State of Idaho and the District of Wyoming, and no one fits that bill because no one lives in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. Without being able to create a jury, a trial couldn't proceed.

A similar zone exists in the part of Yellowstone that extends into Montana. However, a few people live there, so a jury could, in theory, be formed from its residents.

This legal loophole was first pointed out in 2005 by Brian Kalt, a professor at Michigan State Law School, in an article published in the Georgetown Law Journal. Kalt urged Congress to pass legislation to fix the loophole before someone tested the loophole by committing murder in the death zone. The simplest fix, he proposed, would be to change the district lines so that the part of Yellowstone in Idaho would be included in the District of Idaho.

To date, Congress has not done anything to fix the problem. Part of the reason for this is political inertia. But there's also resistance to changing the District lines because this would place part of Yellowstone under the jurisdiction of the more liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which, it's feared, environmentalists could use to their advantage. So the "zone of death" remains.

The idea of a legal "zone of death" has naturally appealed to the imaginations of artists. The zone was featured in a best-selling mystery novel, Free Fire, by CJ Box. And in 2016 it became the subject of a film, Population Zero (trailer below).

More info: npr.org, bbc news, vox.com.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jul 24, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Crime, Geography and Maps, Law,

Mystery Illustration 26


What domestic problem is this couple undergoing? Halitosis? Bad coffee? Visit by mother-in-law?

The answer is here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 24, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Domestic, Advertising, Husbands, Wives, 1940's,

July 23, 2016

Smarty Pants


"They call me smarty pants!"

Wikipedia entry.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jul 23, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Fashion, Music, 1970's,

Gobbles the Crazy Eating Goat

via Vintage Toy Archive

Kenner released Gobbles The Crazy Eating Goat toy in 1978, but they soon discontinued it. There may have been concerns that children would eat the plastic bits of fake garbage (designed for Gobbles to eat) that came with the toy. But also, the toy was branded one of the worst toys of the year by the Consumer Affairs Committee of the Americans for Democratic Action organization. They objected to the "concept of paying for garbage," and also didn't think Gobbles taught kids a good message about how to treat animals.

Washington Post — Dec 8, 1979

However, the toy made an impression on filmmaker John Waters. He shared his thoughts about it in his essay "Why I Love Christmas":

For years friends have treated me to the toy annually selected by the Consumer Affairs Committee of Americans for Democratic Action as the "worst toy" to give your child at Christmastime. "Gobbles, the Garbage-Eating Goat" started my collection.

"That crazy eating goat" reads the delightful package, and in small print, "Contains: One realistic goat with head that goes up and down. Comes complete with seven pieces of pretend garbage."

This Kenner Discovery Time toy's instructions are priceless. "Gobbles loves to eat garbage when he's hungry, and he's ALWAYS hungry. (1) Hold Gobbles mouth open by the beard. Stuff a piece of pretend garbage straight into his mouth and (2) pump the tail until the garbage disappears."

It ends with an ominous warning, "Feed Gobbles only the garbage that comes with the toy," and in even smaller print "If you need additional garbage, we will, as a service, send it to you direct. For 14 pieces of garbage send $1 (check or money order; sorry, no C.O.D.) to . . . . "

I can't tell you the hours of fun I've had with Gobbles. Sometimes when I'm very bored, Gobbles and I get naked and play-play.

via PlaidStallions.com

Here's some video of Gobbles doing his thing:

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 23, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Toys,

July 22, 2016

Priest shoots photographer out of sky

Larry Walters gained weird-news fame in 1982 when he tied 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and took an unscheduled flight over Los Angeles. However, he wasn't the first person to have this kind of aerial adventure.

On September 28, 1937, news photographer Al Mingalone was on assignment in Maine trying to get photos from a "balloonist's point of view." This involved using gas-filled weather balloons to lift him into the air. But with 27 balloons pulling him upwards, the safety line keeping him tethered to the ground snapped, sending him drifting across the countryside, towards the ocean.

He floated 13 miles before a local Catholic priest, Rev. James J. Mullen, who happened to be a crack rifle shot, managed to shoot enough of the balloons to bring Mingalone back to the ground.

Read a longer account of Mingalone's flight here.

The Kane Republican - Oct 2, 1937

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 22, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: 1930's,

Flying Wings

In some alternate timeline, the skies are full of flying wing-type airplanes.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jul 22, 2016 - Comments (6)
Category: Inventions, Air Travel and Airlines, 1940's, Armed Forces,

July 21, 2016

18 years beneath a dung heap

A Ukrainian man, Grigori Sikalenko, spent 18 years hiding under a dung heap in order to avoid serving in the Red Army. He went into hiding in June 1941, at the urging of his mother, who secreted him away "under the manure pile at the back of the family goat shed."

He spent 18 years in hiding, until finally, in 1959, at the age of 37, he could stand it no longer and ran into town screaming, "I want to live!"

No charges were brought against him since the authorities decided he had already punished himself "most severely."

Note: The claim that he was hiding under a manure pile comes from Time magazine. But another source (the N.Y. Herald Tribune news service) offered a slightly less sensational description of his hideout, saying that he was simply "in the shed with the family's pigs and goats." Also, news sources give his first name as either Grigori or Grisha.

The Ukrainians seem to have a talent for extreme hiding. From that region also came the case of Olga Frankevich, who reportedly spent 45 years hiding beneath a bed in her sister's house in the village of Vishneve. She went into hiding in 1947, following her father's execution in a Stalinist purge, fearing she was about to suffer the same fate. She emerged in 1992.

Southern Illinoisan - Jan 12, 1960

18 Years in a Dung Heap
Like a dead soul out of Gogol, a human figure rose out of a dung heap recently in the Ukrainian village of Tsirkuny, and rushed forth shrieking: "I want to live! I want to work!" Astounded neighbors, reported the Soviet newspaper Izvestia last week, found that the stinking, blinking, sunken-jawed wretch was Grisha Sikalenko, 37, a fellow they all thought had died a hero's death fighting Germans in World War II. In truth, quavered Grisha, he had deserted the very night he marched away to war, sneaked home to the hiding place his parents made for him under the manure pile at the back of the family goat shed.

"Don't mind the goats and the dung," his mother told him. "At least you'll survive." Survive he did—for 18 years in his living grave. Twice a day his mother slipped him food, scarcely paused for a word. In winters he nearly froze, and when the summer heat beat down on his reeking pit, he almost suffocated. Yet only on darkest nights would he surface for air. One night, crawling out for fresh air, he saw crosses on the rooftops and fled back in panic, mistaking the new TV aerials for signs of doom. At last, when his younger brother married and the whole village reveled round him, Grisha under his dunghill cursed the day when cowardice induced him to be buried alive. He spent a few more months screwing up his courage, then surfaced.

Once out, he found that his fears of being punished for desertion were groundless: the statute of limitations for wartime desertion had long since made him immune from prosecution, and besides, added Izvestia charitably, 18 years in a manure pile was punishment enough.

--Time - Jan 18, 1960

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 21, 2016 - Comments (4)
Category: 1960's,

Swinging Little Government

Now, THIS is a great campaign song AND party platform. "Our secret weapon will be the Rolling Stones!"

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jul 21, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Government, Music, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1960's,

July 20, 2016

Trashcan art thrown out by janitors

Recently another case made the news of a valuable piece of art thrown out by overzealous janitors at an art fair who didn't realize that the art in question was, in fact, art. (I'm pretty sure that Chuck has reported on a number of similar cases.)

In this case, the work was a sculpture by Will Kurtz titled Keep America Great Again. — valued at $8000. The janitors got confused because the sculpture featured "a raccoon next to a trash can brimming with brightly colored rubbish."

The janitors didn't throw away the raccoon — only the trash in the can.

Actress Brooke Shields, who was curating the show, realized what had happened and was able to find the missing "art" — because apparently this kind of thing had happened at the show before, and so the janitors had been trained to temporarily store all trash in clear plastic bags before disposing of it permanently.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 20, 2016 - Comments (11)
Category: Art,

The Black Godfather

FINALLY, a figure who can soothe these divisive times!

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 20, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Movies, Racism, Stereotypes and Cliches, 1970's,

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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