Obscure: Episode 40: Population 1

Obscure: Episode 40: Population 1


Towns with only one resident?

Towns with only one resident?


  Imagine living in a town where YOU are the only resident. It sounds crazy, right?

 

  Today, let’s take a look at four towns with a population of “1”.


1.  Jordan River, Canada

Source


  Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a town on the beach? It sounds like a dream; waking every day to nothing but the sounds of nature and a beautiful view. Well, as great as it sounds, pollution, erosion, rising water levels, earthquakes, and even tsunamis have made places like this less than ideal to live.

1.  Jordan River, Canada

Source



  Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a town on the beach? It sounds like a dream; waking every day to nothing but the sounds of nature and a beautiful view. Well, as great as it sounds, pollution, erosion, rising water levels, earthquakes, and even tsunamis have made places like this less than ideal to live.


  Jordan River, near Vancouver, is a town that faced its demise to the forces of nature. Frequent earthquakes causing floods made all of the towns inhabitants leave their beloved homes; all but one. The only resident to remain is 72-year-old Hugh Pite, who refuses to move. Hugh wants to stay to enjoy the surfing.



  Yup, Hugh Pite is a surfer who first learned while living abroad in Australia in his early 20’s. When he returned to Vancouver Island, he came across the surfing community in Jordan River, purchasing a home there in 1987. “I’m right across the road from the water and I go out there and I go surfing,” said Pite. “If I didn’t have the place there, I’d have to drive an hour and a half each way, which is in my opinion far more dangerous than the very slight chance of an earthquake.”


2. Monowi, Nebraska, US

Source


  Elsie Eiler is now the most admired, smartest, wealthiest, best-looking, youngest, and the oldest person to reside in this little town; because she is the only one left. When you are the only resident of a community, you can give yourself any title you like. Eiler, who is 77, is the lone inhabitant of Monowi. There were two people living in the town in 2000, with the other being Eiler’s husband, Rudy. Sadly, he passed in 2004. “We probably have the record by going down in population 50 percent,” Eiler quipped. “I chose to stay here after my husband died. It’s home.”


  As the town’s only resident, she acts as Mayor. She also granted herself a liquor license, and pays taxes to herself. She is however required to produce a municipal road plan every year, in order to secure state funding for the village’s street lights; all four of them. Most of the town is empty, but it does have a 5,000-volume library named “Rudy’s Library”, founded in memory of Rudy Eiler. Oh, and of course that liquor license Elsie granted herself goes to use. She runs a tavern in Monowi, drawing regular customers from as far as 80 miles away.

2. Monowi, Nebraska, US

Source


  As the town’s only resident, she acts as Mayor. She also granted herself a liquor license, and pays taxes to herself. She is however required to produce a municipal road plan every year, in order to secure state funding for the village’s street lights; all four of them. Most of the town is empty, but it does have a 5,000-volume library named “Rudy’s Library”, founded in memory of Rudy Eiler. Oh, and of course that liquor license Elsie granted herself goes to use. She runs a tavern in Monowi, drawing regular customers from as far as 80 miles away.



  Elsie Eiler is now the most admired, smartest, wealthiest, best-looking, youngest, and the oldest person to reside in this little town; because she is the only one left. When you are the only resident of a community, you can give yourself any title you like. Eiler, who is 77, is the lone inhabitant of Monowi. There were two people living in the town in 2000, with the other being Eiler’s husband, Rudy. Sadly, he passed in 2004. “We probably have the record by going down in population 50 percent,” Eiler quipped. “I chose to stay here after my husband died. It’s home.”


3. Cass, New Zealand

Source


  “I didn’t want to come here in the beginning to be honest,” said the town’s only resident, Barrie Drummond.

   When Mr. Drummond was offered a job in Cass, he never thought he’d last more than two years in the small town, but is now the last remaining resident.


  He works for KiwiRail, and is responsible for the highest section of the track linking Christchurch to Greymouth, and said that he grew so close to the towns few residents in the past, that he decided to stay indefinitely. Eventually the town’s population decreased over the years, but Drummond stayed behind. He said that he really doesn’t mind the solidarity, even in the absence of women. He has also never been married; go figure. Twenty-five years after his initial move to Cass, and despite being the Selwyn District town’s only resident, he says he has no plans to leave anytime soon.

 


4. Buford, Wyoming, US

Source


  PhinDeli Town Buford is an unincorporated community in Albany County, Wyoming, located between Laramie and Cheyenne on Interstate 80. It has an elevation of 8,000 feet (2,400 m), making it the highest populated settlement along the First Transcontinental Railroad. The town was originally named Buford – in honor of Major General John Buford, a Union cavalry officer who fought during the Civil War – but in 2013, the town was purchased by a Vietnamese owner, who re-branded it as “PhinDeli Town Buford.” The postal addresses, however, still bears the town’s original name.


  In 1992, Don Sammons purchased the town, and as of 2013 the population had dwindled to only one; just him. He had moved to Buford in 1980 with his wife and son, and in 1992 became owner, but in 1995 his wife passed away. Afterwards, his son moved away in 2007, making Don Buford’s only resident.


  The local convenience store, gas station, and modular home were put up for sale when Sammons got tired of his solidarity, choosing to move closer to his son. He sold the town on April 5, 2012, for $900,000.


  At first, I thought it would be amazing to have a town all to myself, but it does sound like it would get lonesome after a while. While escaping the everyday “craziness” – and all the people involved in that “crazy” – sounds nice, it’s our interactions with others that make life enjoyable.

  But, with that being said, I still wouldn’t mind having a vacation town to go to now and again when people piss me off!


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Obscure: Episode 39: Fun with Fire

Obscure: Episode 39: Fun with Fire


DIY Fire Fun

DIY Fire Fun


  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself getting lost in YouTube videos.  I love checking out DIY videos, but, being Nothing Normal, tend to look for abnormal DIY projects. Today, I decided to get sucked into some videos dealing with fire, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found.

*Know that attempting to re-create any of the following experiments is not recommended, and performed at your own risk, or whatever.


  This first video is a set of ten tricks with fire that can easily be performed at home. None of these tricks are inherently dangerous, but remember, fire itself is dangerous, so don’t screw around.



 Video Credit: Brusspup 


  So, this is how it began, trolling through YouTube for DIY fire tricks. Pretty basic stuff, however, I soon found something a bit more intriguing.


Video Credit: Al Stahler


  If you’re anything like me, you watched that video several times thinking, “Exactly wtf did I just witness?” Well, this is Al Stahler and his creation named the Plasma Popper. Not only is this device easily build-able, but it’s amazing to watch. Al has several designs of this device, and has even set up shooting galleries for people of all ages to launch tennis balls from a modified version, which is like a potato launcher.


Video Credit: Al Stahler


Video Credit: Al Stahler


Video Credit: Al Stahler



  While this device looks like the brain child of a mad man – which it totally is – it’s actually made of some basic materials you could find at any hardware store.

  An easy tutorial of how to make one of these bad ass toys was created by another YouTuber called NightHawkInLight, who had originally found the project on Instructables.com.


Video Credit: NightHawkInLight



  As awesome as this is, I found myself needing something a bit more… spy-tech, for whatever reason, and soon came across JLaservideoThis YouTuber makes a wide variety of inventions, but the first to catch my eye was his fireball launching wrist watch. It’s a little out of my league as far as DIY, but is an awesome creation nonetheless.


This video runs a bit long, so if you just want to see this device in action, skip forward to around 6:30.

Video Credit: JLaservideo


  While this invention is awesome, I found another of his projects dangerously fun, and much easier to build.

*Again, it is not recommended that you re-create these devices, but if you do, don’t blame me if you burn your house down.


  To see this wrist flamethrower in action, skip forward to around 10:50.


Dangerously delightful.



  Say, speaking of dangerous and delightful… I just remembered a little something from a previous article I’ve written containing a little DIY firepower.


  Did you know that non-dairy powdered coffee creamer is banned in some prison commissaries? This is due to the fact that it is highly flammable in the right conditions, and has been used to create effective makeshift flamethrowers.


  This powder is non-flammable if you just pile it up and try to set it ablaze, but when mixed with air in a dust-like consistency, it is highly flammable due to its high fat content, as demonstrated below.


Video Credit: ScamSchool




  This is a neat trick, and I was amazed at how flammable this household item really was. However, I kept searching for a worthier example of how someone could weaponize something so readily available and simple, you know, out of curiosity.



  After a few hours of YouTube-ing, I found that most coffee creamer flamethrower videos have one thing in common, a fire source that was pre-existing, and a method of blowing the dust across it.


  YouTuber Nick Uhas performed some experiments using a squeezable bottle with a nozzle full of creamer, puffing it out as a dust across a flame. It yielded some interesting results, and laid some deeper information as to why and how the creamer is so flammable.


Video Credit: Nick Uhas


  Nick didn’t stop experimenting on the small scale, and soon made a powdered coffee creamer “flamethrower” using a modified Ryobi leaf blower. While it expelled the dust well over a fire, it had no ignition source of its own, making it more of a coffee creamer dust-blower.


Video Credit: Nick Uhas



  I was beginning to think that no one had gone the distance to make a fully functioning DIY flamethrower out of coffee creamer, until I found a video shared by HodgePunk. He has in fact made a working flamethrower, originally using cornstarch as the fuel. He later used non-dairy powdered coffee creamer, and found that the results were much better. Using a modified leaf blower with an attached propane torch, and a crank operated hopper to contain the “fuel” material, his flamethrower – like Wu-tang Clan – ain’t nothing to fuck with.


Video Credit: HodgePunk


  In this first video, he simply used cornstarch, which proved effective at short distances. The close ups of the device and few rough descriptions show that this device is fairly simple to construct.


  In his update video of this powder-flame-throwing-death-device, he shows how the device performs when both cornstarch is used and when non-dairy powdered coffee creamer is used.


Video Credit: HodgePunk

I’d say the coffee creamer wins, for sure.



  Most of the DIY fun with fire videos I came across were simple parlor tricks, but the folks behind the fiery tricks and inventions I’ve shared with you today surely go above and beyond to show a love of pyrotechnics. With that being said, if you plan to have some fun with fire, please do so with caution, and don’t act like a jackass. After all, this is fire we are talking about. You know what can happen when you play with fire.


 While I may lack the skill to re-create many of these incredible experiments and inventions, I do find them educational, as well as obscure. However, when it comes to playing with fire, I will always find the most joy in the simple classics.



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GIF’s via Giphy.com

 

 

 

Obscure: Episode 38: Francesco Lentini

Obscure: Episode 38: Francesco Lentini


The Man with Three legs; and Two Penises.

The Man with Three legs; and Two Penises.


  Francesco “Frank” A. Lentini was a three-legged Italian man who used his disability as a means of educating and entertaining patrons of the various sideshows he traveled in during the 1900’s.




  He was born sometime between July 1884 and May 1889 in Rosolino, Italy, and was one of 12 children. Lentini was actually a conjoined twin, however, in utero, Lentini’s body partially absorbed that of his twin. His twin was connected to Lentini at his spine, and had its own pelvis bone, male genitalia, and a fully formed leg. The extra leg protruded from Lentini’s right side, also having a foot attached to the knee. This means that the three-legged man actually had four feet. In total, he had 16 toes, and had two functioning penises.


  It’s believed that Lentini was examined at an institution for disabled children on the island of Malta. Photos from the era belonging to a Maltese Professor of Medicine show a child between the ages of 7 and 9 with Lentini’s identical condition. Because the third leg was so close to Lentini’s spine, doctors feared that if they removed it, the boy would become paralyzed.



  As a child, Lentini was embarrassed by his condition, and felt restricted by its presence. He believed he couldn’t play sports and do things that most boys his age could do, until he witnessed deaf, blind, and severely disabled children who had accepted their conditions without complaint in an institution in Italy. It was a turning point for him, and he decided he could have a fulfilling life even with a third leg. His third leg was shorter than his other two, so he wasn’t able to use it to walk, but he learned to run and jump, ride a bicycle, ride a horse, swim, ice skate, roller skate, and even drive a car.  He was able to control his extra appendage, and later wrote in a pamphlet about his life that the third leg actually helped him when he swam. “One advantage I have over the other fellow when I swim is that I use the extra limb as a rudder.”


Photo: unbekannt, Edena Studios/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain


  In 1890, a puppeteer named Vincenzo Magnano was touring Italy when he entered the town of Rosolini, Sicily, and encountered Francesco, who was six years old at the time. Magnano thought the boy would be an excellent addition to the Barnum and Bailey Circus, so he asked Francesco’s parents for consent to bring their son to the United States. They agreed on the condition that they could travel to the US with Frank, and after raising money for their passage, in 1892, the three Lentinis along with Magnano and his pregnant wife, made the one-month trip across the ocean to Bridgeport, Connecticut.


  Lentini and his parents moved to the United States when he was only 8 years old. While the possible profit the family could make lingered in the air, Frank’s father refused to let him go on tour until he had received a proper education. When he graduated from school, he spoke four languages, which is quite a feat in it of itself. After graduation, he was allowed to go on the road with his act, spending nearly 20 seasons performing between his time with the Ringling Brothers Circus, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and even Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, as well as his own sideshow.


  While today it is frowned upon to exploit those with odd conditions, these side shows enabled people like Lentini to earn a steady income, marry, have children, and buy homes. It’s unlikely Lentini would have been able to do any of these things if hadn’t left home for a life in show business.


Photo: YouTube


 When Lentini performed in his side show act, he would demonstrate his ability to kick a ball with his third leg, gaining him the nickname the “Three-Legged Football Player”. He would also use the extra appendage as a stool, and would allow the audience to ask personal questions, including inquiries about his extracurricular activities and sex life.


  As I mentioned before, the man had two sets of functioning genitals. It was no surprise that this became an area of interest during his act, but not in a crude manner. He capitalized on this, selling a six-page booklet for 25 cents called The Life History of Francesco A. Lentini, Three Legged Wonder. He described his condition, discussed good hygiene habits, and included information about sex and procreation. The titles of the pamphlet’s chapters were: “Obey Nature’s Laws,” “Poisons Are Not Remedies,” “The Mother During Pregnancy,” “Illicit Intercourse,” and “Physicology of Sex Life”.


  His dual set of machinery worked just fine apparently, as Lentini married a woman named Theresa Murray in Massachusetts, and had four children; Josephine, Natale, Frank, and James. I hope all those kids came from one set of junk or the other.


Photo: YouTube

  In the early 1960s, Lentini moved 10 miles south of Tampa, Florida, to Gibsonton, where many performers went when they retired from circus life. The town was dubbed “Gibtown,” and was home to a variety of side show acts, including Priscilla the Monkey Girl, the Alligator Man, the Lobster family, and Dotty the Fat Lady. These performers were often ostracized in other places, to little surprise, however, they felt at home in Gibtown, and bonded with those who shared similar experiences.

  A performer for life at heart, Lentini was performing with the Walter Wanous Side Show when he got sick. He was hospitalized in Jackson, Tennessee, and died on Sept. 22, 1966. He was an unbelievable 77 years old, and was the most advanced age anyone living with his condition is documented to have reached.

  This amazing man thrived in the face of adversity, and will be remembered through history for his bizarre condition as well as his positive attitude. And probably the multiple penises too.


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Like this article? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!


Sources:

Wethersfield Historical Society

Mission Creep

The Human Marvels

Trivia Library

 

Obscure: Episode 37: Odd Whiskey Facts

Obscure: Episode 37: Odd Whiskey Facts


Odd Facts

Odd Facts


 I love whiskey, but there’s a lot of interesting history behind it that I never knew. Today, let’s explore 10 things you never knew about whiskey.


1. Whiskey vs Whisky



  Surprisingly, both spellings are correct. Stateside, we tend to spell the word with and added ‘e’ – as in “whiskey” – while some countries in Europe refer to it as “whisky”. It is produced across the globe, but is usually made in three varieties, Scotch, Bourbon, or Rye, with each using a different set of core ingredients. The term “whisky” is usually attributed specifically to Scotch Whisky.

  No matter the spelling, it’ll get you hammered, for sure, with an average alcohol content between 40% – 68% (usually 40%, 43% or 46%).


2. Mountain Dew Was Originally Meant to Be a Whiskey Chaser



  As amazing as that sounds, it’s totally true. Two brothers, Barney and Ally Hartman, were trying to find the perfect chase for their whiskey. After trying just about everything, they decided to create their own drink, as nothing gave the perfect combination in their opinion. Thus, Mountain Dew was born, and hit the market in 1940. The original slogan definitely sounds like the brain-child of two whiskey chasing brothers: “Yahoo Mountain Dew, It’ll tickle your innards.” Seriously, that was their slogan.


3.  George Washington was the largest American whiskey producer in the 18th century.



    There’s been numerous myths over the years pertaining to good old George, but this one is completely true. That’s right. America’s first president – who also grew hemp and showed a great interest in cannabis – was also a big-time whiskey man. He opened a whiskey distillery three miles from his Virginia estate, which in 1799 produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey, making him the largest producer of the 18th century. ‘Merica.


4.   The Death of Jack Daniels



  While his actual birth date is unknown, his death date is recorded as October 10, 1911. Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was pronounced dead due to blood poisoning; however, he did not drink himself to death. The founder of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery actually died from an infection in his big toe that poisoned his blood. The story goes that he had kicked his safe one day after struggling to remember his combination, injuring his toe, which inevitably lead to his death.

  While there’s no hard-evidence to prove this story, I can totally picture it. After a few shots of Jack, I forget a few things too. Like, how to walk, for example.


5.  Diabetics’ urine can be converted into whiskey.



  As absolutely fucking disgusting as this sounds, it’s true.

 James Gilpin is a designer and researcher who also has type 1 diabetes, which means his body doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. In his research, he discovered that a diabetics urine is so sugar-rich it can be turned into whiskey. He now collects the urine of elderly diabetics and turns it into a high-end single malt whisky. As if that weren’t disturbing enough, when the spirit is bottled it is labeled with the name and age of the contributor.

 

SOURCE



6.  During the Prohibition Era, you could get medicinal whiskey.



  The Prohibition era in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933, and made all alcohol sales illegal across the country. Luckily, the federal government made an exemption for whiskey prescribed by a doctor and sold through licensed pharmacies. Whiskey was used to treat a variety of ailments, and during this time, the Walgreens pharmacy chain grew from 20 retail stores to almost 400. Imagine that.


7.  Speaking of Medicinal Whiskey…



  When former U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was a young child, doctors prescribed him whiskey and cigars to relieve his severe asthma.

  I could use a prescription like that myself too, doc.


8.  Nikola Tesla drank whiskey almost every day.



  If you are unfamiliar with Nikola Tesla, please do some research. This man was way ahead of his time, and was one of the greatest minds of modern history. As such, he declared that he did not use stimulants such as coffee or tea, but saw whiskey as not a stimulant, but “a veritable elixir of life.” He also claimed that “Alcohol is not a poison, nor is it a drug…in small quantities, it cleans and sterilizes the alimentary channels; thereby preventing infections, and proves a beneficial stimulant to thought, speech and physical exertion.” He drank whiskey every day, until the era of prohibition, and said that abstaining from alcohol only a few days made him a sick man. Upon dying at 86 years old, he stated that “Had I not given up [daily] whiskey during [Prohibition], I would surely live to 150 years of age.”


9.  Johnny Depp has a funeral plan involving whiskey



  It’s no surprise that a character like Johnny Depp would have some odd funeral plans for his inevitable death. Depp once paid for the arrangements of his close friend Hunter S. Thompson – author of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, ‘The Rum Diaries’, etc. – who had some strange funeral arrangements, which involved Thompson’s ashes being fired from a cannon shaped like a “Gonzo fist”. Like Thompson, Depp to wishes for his ashes to be used in his final send-off, but not through a massive cannon. Instead, he wants his ashes dumped into a barrel of whiskey, from which his family and friends can drink.

  Line ’em up, throw ’em back. I’d drink a few of those shots, just saying.


10.  The founder of “Alcoholics Anonymous” requested whiskey on his death bed.



  In the biography ‘My Name Is Bill‘, Susan Cheever reveals how the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Bil Wilson asked for alcohol shortly before his death. He was suffering from chronic emphysema and only had a few short days to live. It’s stated that he asked for whiskey on four separate occasions, yet he never received his drink. The nurses’ noted this in their records. It seems that those around him felt that protecting his image meant more than the last wish of a dying man.


  Personally, I find this revolting. I hope that when you are faced with your own mortality, no one has the balls to deny you your last wishes, even if that last wish is a drink.


  Anyone who has ever drank whiskey irresponsibly has learned to respect this humble spirit. In its long existence, it has surely affected many lives, for better or for worse. No matter what, its history proves an intriguing tale, from past to present, and surely into our future.

With that being said, BOTTOMS UP! Maybe we’ll all live to 150!


N.

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GIF’s via Giphy

Obscure: Episode 36: Prison Weapons

Obscure: Episode 36: Prison Weapons

Photo: Flickr

Weapons from Everyday Objects

Weapons from Everyday Objects


  It’s incredible how many MacGyvers there are in lock-down. If you had to watch your back constantly, and had a whole lot of time, you’d be amazed at what you could come up with too, I suppose. Today, let’s take a look at 7 brutal makeshift weapons confiscated from inmates.


1.  A simple eye-gouger.


Photo: Imgur




  Starting off slow, this incredibly simple weapon is actually noted in an exhibit at the Sing Sing Prison museum in Ossining, New York. The prison’s museum is devoted to the history of the nearly 200-year-old correction facility, and displays numerous makeshift weapons, but this weapon in particular stands out, and was made of two plastic forks fastened together with the middle tines taken out. No one knows for sure if it was ever used to gouge any eyeballs, but still, it’s a scary thought.


2. Nun-chucks No-fucks


Photo: Imgur





  Lorenzo Pollard, a man who gave zero-fucks, fought off a dozen armed guards and facilitated his escape using nun-chucks in the St. Louis Workhouse. He fashioned said nun-chucks out of two chair legs and a bed sheet. After his quarrel, he broke through a window, squeezed through a homemade escape hatch, and scaled two razor-wire walls.

  Even so, he was recaptured.


3.  Bedpost Shotgun


Photo: Pinterest



  This devastating device is one of many homemade weapons discovered in German prisons. This shotgun was created from iron bedposts, used gunpowder made of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, and was fired by AA batteries and a broken light bulb. On May 21, 1984, two inmates took a guard hostage, shot through bullet-proof glass, escaped, and stole a car.

  MacGyver be damned. These guys weren’t messing around.


4.  Toothbrush Crossbow


Photo: Pinterest




  A Canadian prisoner in solitary used his “alone-time” to make one of the most creative an insanely ingenious makeshift weapons I’ve ever seen. It was a full-fledged crossbow, crafted using “10 toothbrushes, a cigarette lighter, a section of ballpoint pen casing, a piece of wire coat hanger, a section of a pair of aluminum cafeteria tongs, assorted electrical components, pieces of yellow rubber gloves, some Kleenex, a piece of string, and a few screws.” The bolts themselves were made of tightly packed toilet paper and aluminum foil. The bolts could be fired as far as 40 feet, but luckily it was confiscated before it was ever used.

  The weapon was put on display afterwards, because, let’s face it, it’s pretty awesome.


5.  Razor Blade Comb


Photo: Imgur







  This weapon was seized from a New Jersey prison. It’s simplistic in design, but is a very deadly device. It was made from a comb, some razor blades, and some copper wire. The inmate simply cut a slit down the middle of the comb’s tines, inserted a few razor blades, and wrapped the tines in wire.

  Simple, but effective.


6.  Crafty Crucifix Shiv


Photo: Imgur




  For a time, inmates were allowed to make large wooden crucifixes in prison wood-shops. I suppose that an inmate crafting a religious item was viewed as looking to change. Or, perhaps that inmate was just very crafty

  This unbelievable homemade shiv was discovered in a German prison in 1994, and soon after, inmates were no longer allowed to craft large crucifixes. Food for thought: maybe not allowing inmates to have any large wooden club-like items in general is also a good idea.


7.  Coffee Creamer Flamethrower


As insane as it sounds, this is actually a thing. I saved the best for last.


Photo: Imgur



  Apparently, the animal fat in common powdered coffee creamer can be lit on fire and funneled through a tube to create a crude – but very effective – flamethrower. This is about as crafty as it gets, not to mention deadly. Prison commissaries stopped carrying powdered coffee creamer because so many inmates were devising weapons and torching their enemies.

  Guess you’re drinking that coffee black from now on, fellas.


  While these 7 makeshift weapons are incredible to say the least, I know there are many more where they came from. This list is just a few of my personal favorites, and if you know any tales of inmate ingenuity, feel free to drop a line in the comment section below!


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Obscure: Episode 35: Diogo Alves Head

Obscure: Episode 35: Diogo Alves Head

Title Image Source: Imgur

Heads Up

Heads Up


  Imagine, if you will, that the first thing you see when entering a building is a severed head, pickled in a jar. This is exactly what you would find, next to a diaphonized hand, when entering the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.



  Just a head, staring blankly, as physicians and staff pass by with indifference. What a sight!



  Who does the head belong to? Well, its owner was Diogo Alves, whose claims to fame include being both the first serial killer and the last man hanged in Portugal.


Diogo Alves - extraído de uma gravura da época (1840)


   Diogo Alves was born in Galicia in 1810. He traveled to Lisbon early in his life, to serve in the houses of the Portuguese capital. This migration of Galicians southward looking for work was very common, but Alves soon realized that it still wasn’t enough work. So, he turned to a life of crime, finding it much more profitable. Some tales of his life blame an opportunistic barmaid for this shift in morality – because what’s a good story without a temptress? – but with no hard evidence, being poor seems like a good enough reason to me.


  In 1836, he transferred his workplace to the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of the Free Waters), which was a nearly one kilometer (0.62 miles) long, spanning the Alcântara valley, which allowed both water and suburban farmers to make their way into the city, 213 feet above the rural landscape.


L. de Koningh Aqueduto das Águas Livres
The Aqueduto das Águas Livres, Lisbon, where Alves committed his crimes. PUBLIC DOMAIN

This aqueduct became Alves’ first killing ground.




  Many of the commuters to travel this crossing were humble farmers, traveling to the city to sell their produce. Alves would wait for them to return by nightfall, and rob them by whatever means possible, and unceremoniously push them to their deaths from the massive structure. He repeated this scenario 70 times in the three years he was active in the Aqueduto, and it’s unclear why he ever stopped. The police were unlikely to investigate the disappearances, as the deaths were dismissed as a wave of suicides, and it’s unlikely that anyone in power would have feared a murderer who targeted only the poor.



  Alves soon set his sights on larger heists, forming a gang, and began to target private residences. After breaking into a physician’s house and murdering the people inside, he was finally caught by authorities and sentenced to hang in February 1841.


This is where the facts of the tale – and Alves’ claims to fame – are often misrepresented.


  Remember how I mentioned that Alves was Portugal’s last man to be hanged? Well, he actually was not, despite the claims. At least six more criminals followed him to the gallows between 1842 and 1845, and Portugal did not rule out capital punishment until 1867.


  Also, Alves was a serial killer, yes, but not the first in Portugal. This title falls to Luísa de Jesus, a Coimbra resident who confessed to the murder of 28 newborns taken from the local foundling wheel. She was hung in 1772, and was the last woman to be executed in the country.


  So, if neither of Alves claims to fame are actually his to claim, why is it that his severed head was kept for all these years? Why would anyone keep such an odd memento from this serial killer?




  Timing. Yup, just timing. Alves was executed in 1841, which is right about the time phrenology was beginning to become practice in Portugal. Phrenology, developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in the 1700’s, is now recognized as a pseudoscience, or as medical quackery, but in Alves time it was a new, revolutionary discovery. While there is no evidence that Alves’ head was studied in this manner, the skull of Francisco Mattos Lobo – a contemporary of Alves who butchered a family of four – was examined by phrenologists in April 1842, and rests just two doors down the hall at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.



  While neither of Alves’ claims to fame may truly be his to claim, his head, and life story, have inspired a comic book, a fictionalized biography and novel, and the 1911 silent film Os Crimes de Diogo Alves (“The Crimes of Diogo Alves”), which is one of Portugal’s first fictional films.



Though neither of this oddity’s claims to fame may be authentic, I still find the eerie, staring head of Diogo Alves to be quite the interesting find. How about you?


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