Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Here's a number of tidbits from Karl Shaw's The Mammoth Book of Oddballs and Eccentrics.

In 1991, the Orthodox rabbis of B'nei B'rak, Israel, banned the sale of hot pizza in fear that while waiting for it to cook, boys and girls "might look at each other, which is an offense against modesty, or, God forbid, even touch each other." Cold pizza remained permissible.

The Cathar heretics of the 11th century whipped themselves with steel-tipped whips and allowed sodomy because it did not result in procreation (they forbid regular sex). They did not eat meat because meat was the result of animals having sex but allowed fish because they believed fish were born without sex. (I've read many positive portrayals of the Cathars but this is the first I've heard of this.) This was radically different than the motives for the proper Church from banning meat on Fridays--even most Vatican sources admit that the practice was influenced by the fishing industry.

"Driving alternatingly at high and low rates of speed; stopping at every filling station on the highway, walking around the car, always looking, then going on; entering a dark street in a residential area at night, making a sharp U-turn, pulling into a side alley and extinguishing the car's lights; entering a heavily travelled intersection on a yellow light, hoping to lose any followers or cause an accident." J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), explaining how to recognize a Communist.

The Waltham Black Act gave England the most capital crimes of any nation of the 19th century--in 1803, a 13-year old boy was hung for stealing a spoon. Capital offenses included "associating with gypsies," "appearing on a highway with a sooty face," "cutting down a tree," "damaging a fish-pond," and "writing on Westminster bridge."

Edward Bodkin, a 56-year old resident of Huntington, Indiana, was arrested for castrating men in 1999, saving the testes in pickle jars. When asked to speculate on a motive, state prosecutor John Branham said, "I can't sit here as a reasonable human being and give you an intelligent answer to that."

Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660) developed a universal language while imprisoned in the Tower of London. Verbs had four voices, seven moods, and eleven tenses; nouns and pronouns had eleven cases, four numbers, and eleven genders.

Francine Wickerman spent 30 years in a bomb shelter in North Dakota after her husband convinced her that WWIII destroyed the world.

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