Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to your weekly Wednesday ride on the Weird train. As usual, during our journey we’ll be traversing some strange, bizarre and obscure locales; taking in the sights, soaking up the ambience and revelling in the general absence of normality. So sit back, relax, and sample a beverage or two from the drinks trolley, next stop Weirdsville… Tickets Please!!!
Weird Goings on
Cat on the menu
A warning to feline fanciers, the following story may cause you to cough up a hairball or two. Francesco F., a 50 year father of two from Monza, Italy, was recently arrested for adopting and then consuming around fifteen black cats. The man, whose real name has not been revealed, is said to have written to numerous animal shelters over a two year period asking for ‘plump’, black, cats of around ‘three years in age’. Many shelters were more than happy to oblige, believing they had simply found a new, loving owner, for the abandoned moggies. However, suspicions were aroused when Francesco refused several routine visits from AIDAA, an Italian animal welfare organisation. Investigators initially suspected some form of ritualistic or satanic behaviour and decided to make an unscheduled visit to Francesco’s home. There they caught him red-handed in the act of butchering one of his kitties for the evening’s meal. It transpires that Francesco had regularly served up his erstwhile pets, not only for his own culinary pleasure, but also for friends and family. When caught, Francesco was said to have been confused, suggesting that he had no idea that killing and eating cats might be against the law; if found guilty, he faces up to a year in prison, as well as a fine of $20,487. According to their president, Lorenzo Croche, the AIDAA receive around 20-25 complaints per year of people eating cats and they estimate that Italians eat between 500-600 cats per year.
The Rolling Stones
We’re staying in Italy for our next story, Ronchi de Termeno, Northern Italy to be precise. Here, the Trebo family were fortunate not to be flattened in their sleep, when, on the 21st of January, two gigantic boulders broke free from a nearby hillside and embarked on a collision course with their home. The first careened through the building’s 300 year old barn, leaving it little more than kindling.
The second crushed a parked car and stopped merely inches from the house.
Ironically the first boulder stopped just short of another gigantic rock which narrowly missed the property decades earlier. It is estimated that 4000 cubic meters of rock were dislodged during the landslide. Herbert Trebo, the owner of the farm, said the rock-fall “sounded as if a train had thundered through the living room.”
Pigs of God
This is a story sure to make you squeal… like a pig that is. On the sixth day of the Chinese Lunar year, the Tsuhsih Temple in Shanhsia, Taiwan, holds its annual ‘Pigs of God’ festival. As part of the festivities, local farmers are encouraged to bring along super-sized swine, in a competition to see who can raise the fattest pig! It is reported that the pigs involved can weight 900KG or more. On festival day, the holy pigs are dragged into the town-square where they are weighed on a giant scale. The competitors are then ‘sacrificed’ by having their throats slit. The ‘winners’ are rewarded by having their carcasses painted and placed on giant, colourful floats, which are paraded throughout the city.
Naturally, the festival has come in for considerable criticism from animal rights groups, who argue that the force-feeding required for the pigs to reach such preposterous proportions, causes the beasts undue distress. It reportedly takes up to two years for the porkers to reach competition readiness, during which time they become so grossly overweight that they are unable to walk. It is even suggested that the pigs are force-fed sand and metal in the lead up to the festival, in a last minute effort to increase their weight.
I’ve Goat to climb that tree
Kids love climbing trees, or so it’s said, though I for one never believed it was true until I saw the picture above. No, these are not photo-shopped images; these are the amazing tree-climbing goats of Morocco.
Goats are hardy creatures, renowned for their ability to endure even in the most extreme environments, but why on earth would they wish to climb a tree? The answer my friends is greed; greed for the fruit of the Argan tree. Morocco, as everyone knows, is a dry and dusty place, where little grows. The Argan is one of the few trees which can survive such desert-like conditions. It produces a berry, rather like an olive, and goats can’t get enough of it. Indeed, they’re so keen to get their chops around Argan fruit that they’ve developed a head for heights. See the silly billys in action in the video below.
They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, not so in the Western Venezuelan state of Zulia. There, close to the mouth of the Catatumbo River, a thunder storm rages around 300 nights of the year. Averaging an unbelievable 3’600 strikes per hour, or 1.2 million strikes per annum, the local population refer to the phenomena as ‘Rib a-ha’, meaning ‘River of Fire in the Sky’. The regular, sky bound conflagration is visible for over 250 miles and for centuries has been used by sailors in the region as a natural beacon to guide them at night. The precise reasons for the near permanent storms are unclear, though it is suspected to have something to do with large, natural, methane deposits found in the area.
Weird Object of the Week
Give Us A Hand
Those of you familiar with the British Horror classic the Wicker Man may recall the scene depicted above. Edward Woodward’s Sgt Howie awakes to find a severed human hand, laid out on his bedside table, each finger lit up like a candle. I recall seeing this for the first time, in my mid-teens, and being rather puzzled as to what it represented. Only later would I discover that this was the most famous celluloid depiction of the ‘Hand of Glory’, an ancient European folk-charm, traditionally made from the hand of a hanged-man. Folk traditions give us several variations on the powers attributed to the hand of glory. Some suggest it could render all who saw it motionless, others state that the light emitted by it could be seen only by its holder, while others still argued that it could unlock any door placed in front of it. Whatever the case, the hand of glory is, I’m sure we can all agree, a fairly weird object. So you can imagine my excitement, as a connoisseur of the weird, to find that a genuine example still exists.
The above image is of a mummified, severed, human hand, currently on display in the Whitby Museum. It was discovered in the early twentieth century, hidden in a wall cavity in a cottage in the Yorkshire village of Castleton. Its discoverer, Joseph Ford, a stonemason and local historian, identified it from popular stories as a “Hand of Glory”. Whether it had the desired effect upon the house’s occupants is unknown…
So, fellow travellers our train has reached its final destination, we’ve completed our whistle-stop tour. You may alight with your luggage in tow and return to the hum-drum of the daily grind. Yet while the world remains unchanged, we can marvel a little more at the oddities that abound within it. Join me again next week for another voyage into weirder climbs.
Over and out