A nice way of relaxing during the weekend is by taking a look at the stranger side of news with a few peculiar or amusing stories. If you missed last week’s list, you can check it out right here.
This week there are quite a few bizarre crime-related tales that involve a wrathful walrus, a camel with sore testicles, and 25,000 pills of ecstasy. Unfortunately, those three are not part of the same story. In other news, a French woman discovers she has a 700-year-old masterpiece in her kitchen and we look at prostitution in the notorious frontier town of Deadwood.
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An elderly woman from France discovered that the painting she had hanging over her hotplate for years was a genuine 13th century masterpiece worth millions.
Until a few months ago, the woman who is in her 90s and wished to remain anonymous lived in the French town of Compiègne. She decided to sell her house and move. Her family asked an auctioneer to come take a look at her 1960s home to see if there was anything worth selling. The expert, Philomène Wolf, told newspapers that she almost didn’t come because of her busy schedule, in which case everything would have went to the dump.
As soon as she entered the home, one small painting located between the open-space kitchen and the living room attracted the auctioneer’s attention. It was “Christ Mocked” by early Renaissance artist Cimabue. It is worth between €4m-€6m. Even more surprisingly, it was still in good condition despite sitting above the hotplate the woman used to cook her food.
As far as how exactly the elderly lady ended up owning a painting from 1280, that remains a mystery. She always thought it was an average Russian religious icon and claims to not even remember how or when she obtained it. Other art experts have confirmed the work is genuine and it will go at auction next month.
A protective walrus mother attacked and sunk a Russian boat attempting to explore the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
Scientists from the Russian Geographical Society (RGO) were onboard the Altai, a tugboat of the Russian Navy staffed by servicemen from the Northern Fleet. The researchers were recreating famed expeditions from the past and conducting biological surveys along the way. They had recovered artifacts dating all the way back to the first mapping of the archipelago during an Austro-Hungarian expedition in 1874.
The scientists had deployed a rubber landing craft to reach Cape Heller, but this didn’t sit well with a mother walrus who was protecting her calves. The large animal attacked the expedition boat, but the navy men managed to steer it towards shore before it sunk. They landed safely and neither human nor walrus were injured during the incident.
Just in time for Oktoberfest, a German court has ruled that a hangover is an illness.
The decision was passed down by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt. Despite how it may first appear, the ruling was not made to give people an excuse to have a few too many and then take a sick day off work. Instead, the court took this stance against an unnamed firm which has been accused of making illegal health claims regarding the anti-hangover products it sells.
The German court took an illness to mean “even small or temporary disruptions to the normal state or normal activity of the body”. A hangover usually comes with headaches, nausea, and tiredness and, therefore, qualifies.
More to the point, food products like the drink powders the company sold cannot say or imply that they can prevent or treat human illnesses so the firm can no longer distribute anti-hangover beverages.
The infamous city of Deadwood, South Dakota, is opening a new museum to tell the history of prostitution from its frontier days all the way to the 1980s. Due to open in 2020, the museum will, fittingly, be located inside a former brothel called the Shasta Room.
The city of Deadwood came to prominence during the Gold Rush in the late 19th century. Many legendary figures of the Old West like Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp called it home or, at least, passed through the city. “Wild Bill” Hickok was killed and buried there. In modern times, interest in Deadwood was renewed thanks to the TV show of the same name.
Prostitution was a part of Deadwood for over a hundred years: since it was founded in 1876 all the way up to 1980 with only a brief time-out during the 1950s. A non-profit called Deadwood History Inc. aims to put a spotlight on it in the new brothel museum because it had a “huge impact” instead of simply “sweeping it under the rug” due to its uncomfortable nature. The exhibits will feature historical furnishings alongside clothes, artifacts, and memorabilia to tell the story of one of the city’s most enduring and successful industries.
A camel had to be prescribed antibiotics after being bitten on the testicles by a woman who was trying to escape from underneath the animal.
The Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, has a camel named Caspar which it keeps around as a mascot/attraction. Florida couple Gloria and Edmond Lancaster were visiting the truck stop and playing with their unleashed dog. They threw some treats into Caspar’s enclosure and the dog went in after them. Gloria Lancaster then also entered the pen to retrieve her pet by crawling underneath barbed wire. Before she could get up, the 272-kilogram (600 lbs) camel sat on top of her.
Desperate times call for desperate measures so Gloria Lancaster bit Caspar’s testicles to get him to stand up. Subsequently, a veterinarian administered antibiotics to the camel to make sure he avoids infection.
When police arrived, the couple argued that they reacted because the camel attacked their dog. However, deputies concluded that the two provoked the animal by swatting at it and shoving it before it sat on Mrs. Lancaster. They were cited for a leash law violation.
A middle-aged couple from Linz, Austria, ordered some dresses online. They were accidentally sent 25,000 ecstasy tablets worth over half a million dollars.
The unnamed 58-year-old woman received two packages which were supposed to contain dresses she bought online from a retailer in the Netherlands. While one of the parcels did, indeed, contain two garments, the other one had 24,800 pink tablets. At first, she thought they were decorative stones, but her husband realized that they were pills.
The couple returned the package to the post office in Linz where employees were equally surprised and called the Austrian police. An investigation revealed that the drugs were supposed to be shipped to Scotland and the matter has been turned over to the UK’s National Crime Agency and Police Scotland who are conducting a joint investigation.
Nick Griffiths from Bolton, England, traveled all the way to Dawson City in Yukon, Canada, to drink a cocktail with his own amputated toe in it.
We have mentioned this bizarre tradition before. At the Downtown Hotel, you can order the bar’s infamous “sourtoe cocktail” which consists of the drink of your choice, usually whiskey, with a human toe floating in it. House rules say that “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe”.
This custom dates back almost half a century and over 100,000 people have joined the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” since then. The original toe is long-gone and the bar relies on donations for new ones. Nick Griffiths is an endurance athlete who, at the start of the year, lost three toes to frostbite in the Yukon Arctic Race. He kept one as a memento, but donated the other two to the Downtown Hotel.
This happened around June, but, due to his convalescence, Griffiths never actually got to accompany his digits to Dawson City until this week. On Monday night, the bar held a special ceremony where Nick finally joined the club by taking a shot which contained his big toe.
A referee was shot in the head with a cannon blast during a football game at Maine Maritime Academy.
Right off the bat, let’s just say that the official will be alright since the artillery was, obviously, not loaded with an actual cannonball. He was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
During the maritime school’s homecoming football game last Saturday, an alumnus brought his cannon along to fire it. The academy already had its own cannon which it traditionally fired whenever its team scored but, on this occasion, it made an exception since most fans rarely provide their own artillery. Normally, school officials load their shot with a blank shotgun shell. This time, though, the cannon was loaded improperly with a shot that contained black gunpowder and a “wad”.
As soon as the blast shot out, the referee caught in its line of fire immediately fell to the ground grabbing his head. The sheriff’s department is investigating the matter and may file criminal charges with the district attorney.
A celebrated French chef is taking the Michelin Guide to court after his restaurant lost a Michelin star over allegations of using cheddar in his cheese soufflé.
Marc Veyrat runs “La Maison des Bois” restaurant in Haute-Savoie in the French Alps. The eatery earned its third Michelin star, the highest grade possible, last year. However, when the latest edition of the Michelin Guide was published at the beginning of this year, Veyrat was dismayed to discover that his restaurant was back at two stars.
The chef says that the downgrade came without warning or explanation. When he inquired with Michelin officials, he was only given vague responses which included an accusation that he had served cheddar.
Veyrat claims to have been “dishonored” by the actions of the Michelin Guide, especially since they were not warranted. The chef has built a reputation for using products from the Savoyard region of France. According to him, he definitely used Reblochon or Beaufort or another French cheese variety in his soufflé. He added saffron, though, which turned it yellow and caused the Michelin inspector to think it was made with cheddar.
The chef has asked for Michelin’s bills and notes to prove that the inspector truly ate at his restaurant. Unsurprisingly, his request was denied. The case will go to court in November.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was only launched a year-and-a-half ago, but already it observed one of the rarest sights in the Universe: a supermassive black hole shredding a star apart.
Officially, this phenomenon is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). When a star gets too close to a black hole, it cannot escape its powerful gravity. Instead, it gets pulled apart and, while some material gets ejected into space, the rest is “devoured” by the black hole and added to its accretion disk. In this case, the event which is known as ASASSN-19bt occurred in a galaxy 375 million light-years away from us in the constellation Volans. The black hole in question was about the size of six million solar masses while its “snack” was roughly the same as our Sun.
Scientists first managed to confirm the observation of a TDE last year based on an event witnessed a decade-and-a-half ago. However, we caught that episode near the tail end when the black hole was “burping” out the extra material it didn’t consume. This new TDE, however, was discovered just a few days after it started to brighten and was located directly in TESS’s “continuous viewing zone”. Consequently, scientists received observations of the event every 30 minutes for almost 80 days, capturing all the essential stages.