Saturday, June 9, 2012

Believe It or Not! for adults

I knew that elephants are afraid of bees, but I didn’t know that cars are 11lbs (5kg) heavier after finishing the 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, due to dirt and splattered insects. I had read and written about the widower who kept his preserved wife (Hannah Beswick) above ground, the train robber (Elmer McCurdy) whose mummy was unknowingly displayed for years in a funhouse, and the construction worker who had survived having his head pierced by a metal stake (PhineasGage). But I did not know that modern bodysnatcher Michael Mastromarino had sold the bones of British-American broadcaster Alistair Cook (1908-2004) for $11,000. I had watched the memorable film and seen the charming Oscars appearance of French wire-walker Philippe Petit. But I was not acquainted with the fact that the papers of French chemist Marie Curie are carefully archived at France’s Biblioteque National because they are radioactive. In the end it was half and half, roughly equivalent between trivia with which I was unfamiliar and obscure information I knew (and often blogged about). That makes this book of odd facts worth buying, especially since it has a reasonable price (order info here) and the imprimatur of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (BION). It also has a smaller, chunkier, less obtrusive size and none of the splashy color that draws the eyes of kids to the BION annuals.

Although some stories (like that of Charles Tripp and Eli Bowen, depicted above)  may benefit from the photographs that have taken the place of namesake Robert Ripley’s quaint cartoons, readers could do worse than being encouraged to confirm on  their own that bears really do plug their anuses
before hibernating (although passively, not actively). This new tome doesn’t have the index that each of the big BION books has, though it does have up-to-date weird news, such as the 1st 3G phone call from the summit of Mt. Everest (May 6, 2011). But what’s a bit more puzzling than that omission is the excluision of women – at least in the  subtitle, Unbelievable Stories for Guys. The book may be racy (with items including weird mating rituals, extreme body modifications, and Napoleon’s penis), but it’s by no means x-rated. It is somewhat more morbid than the BION annuals (with lists throughout that are not about the biggest and the longest, but instead about self-experimenting scientists, strange causes of death, people who died laughing, and the frightening origins of fairy tales and rhymes), but that may appeal to men and women. Let’s chalk it up to its release just before Father’s Day and move on.

For each item I’ve already posted about (how to make a shrunken head, the Congolese soccer team killed by lightning, the surgeon who removed his own appendix, and the recent discovery of Galileo’s finger), there is an “equal and opposite” item that was new and astounding: execution by scaphism, a dog-powered vehicle, Schmidt’s sting pain index, and the 1848 ice dam that caused Niagara Falls to stop flowing. For each morbid tidbit I knew of (the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm, Japan’s suicide forest, the shoes made from the hide of “Big Nose” George Parrott), there was something I wish I learned about sooner, since it is so blogworthy (the 1960s-era sport of octopus wrestling, the ancient Egyptian pregnancy test, and the fact that Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA is being mapped). I do quibble with their claim of why rearranged letters in words can still read (see my post), but the book is hereby added to the Cabinet...or maybe I'll send it to my Dad.
Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.