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December 2019 Newsletter: A Decade of Weird

Dead frog bikinis! Mummified ship captains! Human skin pants! A look back at the last decade of Cult of Weird.

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re obliged to reflect everything we’ve accomplished in the last ten years. Collectively we’ve come a long way! We have survived the end of the world multiple times. Several were nothing more than humdrum fire and brimstone revelations that unsurprisingly never seem to materialize. We’ve survived a lot of those throughout human history. But in this decade we survived the BIG ONE: the end of the twelfth baktun on the Mayan calendar, which has long been said to foretell the end of the world on December 21, 2012.

But we made it. We survived! And here we are alive and well in the thirteenth baktun, having lived through the rare Galactic Alignment predicted by the Mayan’s advanced understanding of celestial mechanics, in which our sun aligned with the center of the Milky Way in it’s 26,000-year cycle.

I just finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so I’m compelled to remind you that no matter what happens, don’t panic.

Starman's view of Earth from the red Tesla Roadster launched into space by SpaceX in 2018
In this decade we sent a car careening into the cosmos

Somehow, for better or worse, we always seem come out on the other side of whatever Armageddon happens to be trending at the moment.

Everything else that happened in this decade pales in comparison to surviving the end of the world mostly intact.

The only thing that even comes close is, of course, that I launched Cult of Weird in 2010.

I started it at the beginning of the decade, and it’s still here for the end. And during that time, more than 5.5 million curious explorers have made the pilgrimage to this strange land in the backwaters of the Internet. Yeah, million. Holy shit.

Sure, you all probably ended up at my digital roadside attraction by accident while collecting roadkill from the ditches of the information superhighway to make weird art with, but I’ll take it.

Just as all rivers lead to the ocean, all toilets eventually flush to Cult of Weird.

In this decade, Cult of Weird content has been featured on Comedy Central and shared by the likes of National Geographic, Elvira, Neil Gaiman, and more. I’ve deftly avoided countless emails from television producers on multiple continents requesting my appearance as an expert on various topics for their television shows. My work on the legacy of Ed Gein is being taught to Canadian high school students.

I mean, what more could I ask for? I’ve made it. This is it, the pinnacle of my achievement. I can die happy knowing that, in some small measure, maybe I’ve left the world a stranger place.

Cult of Weird

This decade has seen some pretty unusual occurrences. Short of digging through ten years of social media posts, though, there’s no way I’m remembering enough of those strange headlines to make the top list of WTF news and science I originally intended to.

Instead, I’m going to share 10 of my favorite Cult of Weird posts from the last ten years:

Mummified Captain

Mummified captain on a ghost ship

The 2016 story of a mummified boat captain found drifting at sea has, as they say, all the feels. Or at least all the sad ones. It also bears the distinction of being the most viewed post on Cult of Weird EVER.

Inside the HMS Terror

Inside the HMS Terror shipwreck

The 2010s finally saw the discovery of the Franklin Expedition ships, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, which vanished in 1847. The tale of these two ships becoming stuck in ice while their crews went mad and turned to cannibalism for survival is both tragic and fascinating. It was exhilarating, albeit a bit eerie, to see the first video footage from inside the wreck of the Terror for the first time this year.

Feather Death Crowns

Feather death crowns

J. Nathan Couch, author of Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?, contributed a great article about a strange phenomenon from his old stomping grounds of Appalachia: The feather death crown. Known more poetically as a “hillbilly hairball,” this clump of feathers often discovered in the down pillow of a sick person is said to foretell imminent death.

Head of the Dusseldorf Vampire

Head of executed serial killer Peter Kurten on display in Wisconsin Dells

There is something particularly unnerving about the head of one of history’s most deranged men being on display in the water park capital of the world, so I had to track it down. Described as the “king of the sexual perverts,” German serial killer Peter Kurten was aroused by bludgeoning his victims and watching them bleed. He would sometimes even drink the blood from their wounds. Next time you take the fam on a vacay to Wisconsin Dells, be sure to say hi to this guy.

Taxidermy Frog Bikini

Taxidermy frog bikini

You guys send me a lot of strange things in my email, but this was one of those submissions that demanded to be shared immediately: A swamp girl who fashioned her bikini from of dead frogs.

Necropants

Necropants

More fun fashion! Between my post here on Cult of Weird and a similar article posted later that year by the folks at Atlas Obscura, there was a brief but glorious moment around Christmas of 2013 when necropants was trending on Twitter. You’re welcome, world.

Ed Gein’s Cauldron

Ed Gein's cauldron

I was contacted in 2015 by a Wisconsin man trying to drum up some publicity for an item he would be selling in a few days at a local auction. The item, he claimed, was a haunted cauldron used by Ed Gein to hold the entrails of his victims. However skeptical I was, I’ve been researching and writing about Gein’s legacy a long time, and the opportunity to write about a previously unknown facet of the story was exciting.

My original post about the cauldron was shared, reprinted, and sourced in headlines around the world. It caught the attention of Ghost Adventures star Zak Bagans who was buying up haunted and cursed items for, at the time, an unknown reason. He phoned in the winning bid on the Gein cauldron, which you can now see on display at his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. It’s even made a few television appearances in which, naturally, it emanates evil energy and whatnot.

Coffin Found Beneath Home

Coffin found beneath San Francisco home

In 2016, renovations at a San Francisco home uncovered a 19th-century coffin containing the remarkably well-preserved remains of a three-year-old girl. The house was built on land once occupied by 30,000 inhabitants of the Odd Fellows cemetery. When those burials, along with many others around the city, were dug up and moved to Colma in the early 1900s, this one was left behind.

The unknown girl, nicknamed Miranda Eve by researchers, was taken to Colma and buried once again among the Odd Fellows. Her identity was discovered in 2017.

Mummified Monk in the Statue

Mummified monk found inside a Buddha statue

In 2015 a CT scan yielded a bizarre: the 1,000-year-old mummified remains of a monk inside a Buddha statue. Stranger yet, it may have been a case of self-mummification.

The Witherell House

Abandoned house in Fond du Lac

One fateful October night in 1999, a friend shared with me the story of an abandoned house near his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin where, according to local legend, a young girl murdered her parents. I was 18, we were bored, and I couldn’t resist a good legend.

The next day we learned the house wasn’t exactly “abandoned.”

While the legend may have no basis in fact, the house still bears a sinister reputation. Now, 20 years later, I’ve started to piece together the long history of the house “cursed by death”, with its unlikely connections to Jeffrey Dahmer, Wisconsin’s early statehood, and a disturbing practice of divine healing dating back to the Middle Ages.

I framed a photo of the Witherell House and showed it, along with two other “cursed” locations with strange pasts, for a dark art exhibit in Manitowoc.

What were some of the strangest headlines and happenings in the last decade? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Year in Weird 2014

naia-ancient-skeleton

2014 was a great year for weird. It was filled with blinking mummies, lab-grown vaginas, archeological oddities, bizarre cases of seemingly casual cannibalism and other general madness running rampant in the news.

Here is a roundup of the most visited Cult of Weird posts of the year:

Mysteries Solved

This year saw the discovery of new evidence to answer questions about some of history’s most compelling mysteries.

Freak Show

The premier of the newest season of American Horror Story, centered around a 1950s circus sideshow, sparked a renewed interest in the real-life freaks woven fictitiously into the show’s storyline. Here are some of the most famous circus sideshow performers.

Giant Skeletons in America

The History Channel launched a new series called Search for the Lost Giants. It follows brothers Jim and Bill Vieira on a journey across the US to examine sites of supposed giant human skeleton discoveries. Jim received much ridicule for his presentation on the subject for TEDx in 2012. In the six episodes of the first season, there were some interesting leads, but ultimately nothing substantial. I’m hoping to see it return for a second season.

Slender Man Stabbing

In May of 2014, two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls lured their friend into the woods, where they stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead to earn favor with a fictional character named Slender Man. Both girls, who have been residing in the juvenile facility right here in my hometown of West Bend, WI, were deemed competent to stand trial in December. I wrote about this in my personal blog here: Slender Man Strikes in Wisconsin

Carl Akeley

We celebrated the 150th birthday of legendary taxidermist Carl Akeley, the man who pioneered the habitat diorama in Milwaukee and went on to create the Hall of African Mammals at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Under the Knife

Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris of The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice launched her new web series Under the Knife, a darkly humorous approach to the horrors of pre-anesthetic surgery.

Watch: Under the Knife: History of the Plague Doctor

Mummies

There was some interesting mummy news this year, including the virtual autopsy of Tutankhamen that revealed deformities and ailments in the boy king caused by inbreeding. Here are some other mummies that were popular this year:

Ouija

Ouija Board sales skyrocketed this year with the release of the Ouija movie. I didn’t waste money to see it in the theater, but it is surely more lame PG-13 horror drivel from Hollywood. But it was still a great time to talk about the mysterious history of the Ouija board.

Aliens

To the relief of heathen aliens across the galaxy, Pope Francis announced this year that, in the event we make contact with an alien race, he would happily baptize them. And there was much rejoicing.

Weird Books

Some great books were released this year, including Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Taxidermy Art by Robert Marbury and the Cult contributor J. Nathan Couch’s Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?

The Coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald

Apparently the coffin which once held the remains of John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald has taken on a weird life of it’s own. Oswald’s brother, who purchased the coffin for his funeral in 1963, wants to block the 2010 sale of the decrepit pine box he thought had been destroyed after a 1981 exhumation to prove the identity of the remains buried in his brother’s grave.

Read more: Court Battle Over the Coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald

Other Popular Posts and Weird News

Also, Cult of Weird being featured on an episode of Chris Hardwick’s @Midnight on Comedy Central was pretty damn cool: Nightmare at the Museum

What was your favorite weird news story of 2014?
Share it in the comments below.

July Weird News Roundup

Last July there were so many weird things to share that I threw together a roundup of the weirdest to gather it all in one place. Either I am more motivated in July, or this month just happens to be the weirdest of the year.

In any case, here is a roundup of the weirdest news, media and other madness from July, 2014:

Australia’s Underground Mining Town

Opal miners in Australia live in an underground town to avoid the extreme heat
Australia’s underground opal-mining town Coober Pedy. 1,500 homes connected by a network of tunnels exist beneath the desert to avoid temperatures up to 125 °F / 51 °C above ground.

Article: The Town that Went Underground

Embalmed Corpse Models Wedding Dresses in Mexico

embalmed-corpse-wedding-dress
An preserved corpse models wedding dresses in the window of a bridal shop in Chihuahua, Mexico. Nothing weird about that. In 1930 the unusual mannequin, known as La Pascualita, appeared in the window of the La Popular shop. Legend says the daughter of the shops proprietor had died tragically on the day of her wedding from a black widow spider bite. Locals began to notice similarities between the dead daughter and the new model, suspecting she had been embalmed and placed in the window.

While it has been denied, only two employees are allowed to dress La Pascualita, and it is done in secrecy. Whether it is a corpse or an intricately detailed mannequin, she is now revered as a saint. People leave candles in front of the window, offer prayers, and seek love advice.

Article: Visit the Bridal Shop Where an Embalmed Corpse Models the Dresses

Visiting the Door to Hell

The Darvaza Crater, a fiery pit in Turkmenistan known as the Door to Hell
In Turkmenistan there is a massive, gas-filled hole in the ground called the Darvaza Crater. A drilling mishap created it more than 4 decades ago, and it has been burning ever since. No wonder it earned the Door to Hell. But what’s even crazier is recently a man by the name of George Kourounis and his team descended into fiery pit and lived to do a National Geographic Q&A about it.

Article: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”

Searching for the Franklin Expedition

The preserved body of John Hartnell, a crew member on the doomed Franklin expedition
In 1845, two ships on an expedition to explore the Arctic mysteriously vanished. Over the last 160 years, clues gathered from Inuit stories, autopsies of bodies found preserved in the permafrost, and examination of the items they were buried with have helped piece together the mystery of the doomed Franklin Expedition. The evidence seemingly points to what may have been a desperate, violent end for the 129 crew members, driven by lead poisoning-fueled madness and cannibalism.

Now, the biggest search party yet is being deployed in hopes of finally finding the Royal Navy ships HMS Erebus and Terror.

Article: Biggest Search Party Yet for Franklin’s Lost Ships

Al Capone’s Cell in the Eastern State Penitentiary

Al Capone's luxurious jail cell in Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary
Al Capone’s finely furnished cell in Philadelphia’s historic Eastern State Penitentiary. During his 8-month stay in 1929 for possession of illegal weapons, Capone believed he was being tormented by the ghost of James Clark, a victim of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago.

Article: Philadelphia, Birthplace of the American Weird

Topless PETA Protest at Cannibal’s Trial

Model Anita de Bauch protests topless for PETA at cannibalism trial
This month model Anita De Bauch protested topless for PETA in front of the Canterbury crown court where attempted cannibal Dale Bolinger was being tried. Bolinger was standing trial on charges of plotting to meet, behead and then eat a 14 year-old girl. PETA says “flesh is flesh” and that “all body parts look the same when wrapped in supermarket cellophane.”

That may be true, but I’ve never seen a cheeseburger with parts like this….

Article: Flesh is Flesh: All Animals Have the Same Parts

Indiana’s Grave in the Road

The grave of Nancy Kerlin Barnett rests in the middle of a road in rural Indiana
Considered one of the most haunted places in Indiana, County Road 400 was built around the last remaining grave of a 200-year-old cemetery. According to her wishes, Nancy Kerlin Barnett was buried in her favorite spot in 1831. The cemetery soon grew around her grave, where it remained until developers began relocating the dead decades later to build a road. Nancy’s grandson, Daniel G. Doty, kept the construction crew at bay with his gun until the county relented. Rather than disturb the grave, they split the rural two-lane road around it.

Article: See the Grave that Scared Workers so Much, They Paved Around It

Wife-Carrying World Championship

Wife-Carrying World Championship
The 19th annual world championship wife-carrying even was held over 4th of July weekend. Contestants from around the world gathered in Finland to carry their wives through the 278-yard obstacle course, competing to win cash prizes and their wife’s weight in beer.

Keep up on the latest with daily weird news at facebook.com/cultofweird

Send weird news, photos and videos in to: info@cultofweird.com

Also, listen to The Strange Side with Mike and Nate every Tuesday on ztalkradio.com from 7-9pm for all things bizarre and unexplained, including a roundup of weird news from Cult of Weird!

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below.

Boy Finds Mummified Corpse Hanging in Abandoned House

Boy finds mummified corpse hanging in abandoned house in Dayton, Ohio

News is sweeping the internet about a twelve-year-old boy who discovered a mummified corpse hanging in the closet while he was exploring an abandoned house in Dayton, Ohio. Authorities say the corpse belonged to a suicide victim who went unnoticed for five years. The closet kept the body sheltered from sunlight, humidity and insects, allowing it to mummify naturally so an unsuspecting child would one day stumble upon it.

The boy’s mother told reporters she believes he may be scarred for life. However, for many of us cursed with a morbid sense of curiosity, this sounds like the best day ever.

Sharing the daily weird news with the Cult is my favorite part of every day, as the comments section tends to provide an endless source of entertainment. Some are sympathetic, some are completely appalled, some just think any unusual sounds like a great time. This comment, in response to some of the more negative posts, makes me proud:

Facebook comments on the mummified body found in abandoned Dayton home

Yes, we sure do like mummified corpses around here, don’t we? Thank you, Bob!

See the rest of the great comments right here.

Weirdest Facebook Posts for July

The Cult of Weird community is growing at dizzying rates across our various social media profiles, including Twitter (@CultofWeird), Tumblr and Google+. However, by far the largest, fastest-growing and most entertaining is the Cult of Weird Facebook page.

The daily weird news and other media spawns endless entertainment through comments, sharing of relevant information and similar articles, photos, etc.

Here are the top 20 weird posts of July, based on comments, shares and other interactions:

20. Sleep in coffins

Sleep in a coffin hotel bed
Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin, Germany offers the opportunity to spend the night in a coffin.
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