Category: Trivia

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The Cast of Cannibal Holocaust

Still one of the most controversial films ever made, the 1980 Italian exploitation-fest cannibal Holocaust depicted such realistic and horrifying violence that Italian authorities believed it was an actual snuff film.  Ten days after its release, authorities confiscated prints of Holocaust and arrested its director on suspicion of murder.  Not helping matters much was the fact that the film’s cast had signed agreements saying they would lay low for a full year after the film’s release, fueling rumors that they were, in fact, slaughtered for the camera.  Finally facing life in prison, the director voided his actors "no-media" contracts so they could come forward to clear his name.

Unflattering Obituary Kills Marcus Garvey

A stroke incapacitated black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey in 1940.  Rumors began to circulate that he had died, and before Garvey could quell them, the Chicago Defender ran an obituary that described him as a man who died "broke, alone and unpopular."  When Garvey read the unflattering passage he let out a loud moan and collapsed to the floor, where he suffered a second stoke.  By the following morning, he was dead at 53.

Things To Do in Texas When You’re Dead

In his 16-year career, major league relief pitcher, Bill Henry, played for the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, rang up 46 wins, and even pitched in the 1961 World Series.  In August 2007 the Lakeland, Florida Ledger reported that Henry had passed away at the ripe old age of 83, and the Associated Press picked up the story for national distribution.

Bill Henry didn’t live in Lakeland where he had supposedly died, though.  He lived (and still lives) in Deer park, Texas.  Once the Ledger got wind of the truth, a very strange story came to light:  Another man named Bill Henry, a salesman from Florida, had stolen the player’s identity and spent 20 years passing himself off as the retired major league pitcher.  The fake Henry, who was 83 when he died, had fooled everybody – including his wife – who later said, "I was married to somebody that maybe I didn’t know."

How did the imposter explain the incorrect birthday listed on his baseball card?  "A printing error."  The "fake" Bill Henry even gave lectures twice a year at a Florida college entitled "Baseball, Humor and Society."  After the matter was cleared up, however, the real Bill Henry harbored no ill feelings.  "I just hoped maybe it helped him in his [sales] career," he said.

The Not-Quite-Canonized Thomas a Kempis

Well-known medieval author-monk Thomas a Kempis, it is said, was accidentally buried alive in 1471.  A most decidedly low-temperature dude in life – he spent most of his time engaged with quiet devotional exercises and copying the Bible by hand – he was apparently not so cool under pressure when it came to death.  When authorities exhumed his body some time later, they found scratch marks on the underside of the coffin and splinters of wood under his fingernails.  As if it wasn’t bad enough to be buried alive, when the Church discovered the tragedy, they promptly shut down efforts to canonize Kempis as a saint.  Their reasoning?  "Surely no aspiring saint, finding himself so close to meeting his maker, would fight death in this way!"  Talk about adding insult to being buried alive . . .

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In 1816, the writer heard his name mentioned in a hotel by a man reading a coroner’s report in the newspaper, who remarked that "it was very extraordinary that Coleridge the poet should have hanged himself just after the success of his play, but he was always a strange mad fellow."  Coleridge replied:  "Indeed, sir, it is a most extraordinary thing that he should have hanged himself, be the subject of an inquest, and yet that  he should at this moment be speaking to you."  (Now that’s what I call a killer comeback!)  Turns out a man had been found hanging from a tree in Hyde Park – an apparent suicide – and the only identification he was the name "S.T. Coleridge" written on the inside of the collar of his shirt.  Coleridge thought the shirt had probably been stolen from him.

Hiroo Onoda, the Soldier Who Wouldn’t Die

A Japanese soldier stationed in the Philippines during World War II, Hiroo Onoda was presumed dead after the allies recaptured the country in 1945.  But he and a few comrades had fled into the jungle to hide,and for 29 years, that’s where he stayed.  Unwilling to believe that the war had ended, he and his scrappy fellows continued to launch mini-attacks against Filipino citizens that killed dozens over the years.  In 1959, he was declared legally dead in japan,and in 1972, when the last of his co-patriots were killed in gunfights with local forces, Onoda was finally alone.

Onoda stayed for two more years, until the Japanese government found his old commanding officer from the war – he had become a bookseller many years before – who was flown to the jungle, where he informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms.  Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer’s order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his Arisaka type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition, and several hand grenades.  Onoda later wrote a book about his experiences and started a nature camp for kids designed to teach them survival skills.



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According to B.A. Thorp, vice president of process technology at James River Corporation, the smell comes from starch or other sizing materials:

“This product is less expensive than popular spray starches and can have an unpleasant odor and can cause some skin discomfort. . . . “

So why add the starch? Starch keeps the sheets wrinkle-free for display purposes. Although the sizing is used in the finishing of linens, and helps provide a more pleasant feel and sheen, if it weren’t for the need to seduce shoppers in the store, the sheets could be washed by the processor.

At least all these finishing materials are water soluble. Connie Parker, of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management, reports that one trip to the washing machine will dissolve and eliminate all the offending constituents. And in the process, of course, rendering them sweet-smelling.


(Submitted by Troy Schwartz, Troy, NY)  [Published in What Are Hyena’s Laughing At Anyway?, David Feldman, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 200 Madison Ave, New York, NY  10016, 1995; pp. 57-58]


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The orientation could be standardized. Actually, it is standardized. Allen Tyson, of Diebold Inc., explains: “The individual lock manufacturers through the years have made locks to their own design and there was never an organization or documentation to restrict how the keys fit into locks. Every manufacturer has its own way of engineering locks. Some locks are pin locks and some are wafer. Some locks are double cut, some have slotted keyways, and some are flat.”

James Watt, the Northwest vice president of Associated Locksmiths of America, told us that in the United States, most pin tumbler lock designs require the lock cylinder to be oriented so that the teeth (or “biting’s,” as locksmiths call them) and key blade enter the pin tumbler cylinder facing up. However, most European lock cases incorporated a different design, so the biting’s usually enter face down. Master locksmith Jerome Andres commented wryly that even the Big Three carmakers can’t get their acts straight: GM makes you insert the keys with biting’s down; Chrysler has you put them in face up; and Ford (and many foreign makes) provides double-sided keys for those of us confused by the other two.

Some argue that the “biting’s up” position is inherently superior, both because it tends to put less wear and tear on the tumbler, and because it leaves less dirt in the lock. Yet others point out, that locks are “handed,” and are sometimes turned “upside down” (with the biting’s down) so that they can be installed in doors where the hinges are on the “wrong” side. As long as the key blade and biting’s are oriented in the correct position for the pin tumbler cylinder, an “upside-down” lock will work properly.

We cannot help but believe that Watt’s conclusion makes the most sense: “The main reason that not all pin tumbler lock cylinders in the US are mounted with . . . the biting’s in the up position is due to improper mounting in noncompliance with directed manufacturers’ recommendations. Most locks in this country are installed, not by qualified professional locksmiths, but by contractors, handymen, supers, or do-it-yourselfers. Little time is given to the instructions, and therefore installations are not always correct.”

Indeed, we couldn’t help but be charmed by the admission of Richard Hudnut, product standards coordinator for the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, who evidently follows manufacturer specs the way we follow VCR setup manuals: “Most of us are not good at reading instructions and usually throw them away before the installation starts.”


(Submitted by Daniel Springer, Allentown, PA)  [Published in What Are Hyenas Laughing at Anyway, David Feldman, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 200 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, 1995; pp. 59-60]


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