Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 20

Monday morning according to Gustave Doré.

First of all some quick updates on my upcoming activities.

  • On November 1st, together with my friend Luca Cableri, I will be a guest of the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival. We will talk about wunderkammer and space, in a conference entitled The Space Cabinet of Curiosities. — November 1st, 10 am, Teatro Miela in piazza L. Amedeo Duca degli Abruzzi 3, Trieste.
  • On November 3rd I will speak at Sadistique, the BDSM party organized every first Sunday of the month by Ayzad. The title of my speech: “Pains are my delight”: Erotics of martyrdom. Obviously, given the private context, access is forbidden to the curious and to those who have no intention of participating in the party. Consult prices, rules of conduct and dress code on the event’s official page. — November 3rd, 3-8 pm, Nautilus Club, via Mondovì 7, Milano.
    [BTW, Ayzad recently launched his own podcast Exploring Unusual Sex, you can listen to it on Spreaker and Spotify]
  • I remind you that on November 14 we will inaugurate the collective art exhib REQVIEM at Mirabilia Gallery in Rome. The exhibition, organized by l’Arca degli Esposti and curated by Eliana Urbano Raimondi and myself, will feature works by 10 international artists within the context of the only Roman wunderkammer. — November 14th, 7 pm, Galleria Mirabilia, via di San Teodoro 15, Roma.

Without further ado let’s start with our selection of links & weirdness!

  • In his encyclopedia of natural history L’univers. Les infiniment grands et les infiniments petits (1865) Felix A. Pouchet recounts this case which allegedly happened in 1838 in the French Alps: “A little girl, five years old, called Marie Delex, was playing with one of her companions on a mossy slope of the mountain, when all at once an eagle swooped down upon her and carried her away in spite of the cries and presence of her young friends. Some peasants, hearing her screams, hastened to the spot but sought in vain for the child, for they found nothing but one of her shoes on the edge of a precipice. The child was not carried to the eagle’s nest, where only the two eagles were seen surrounded by heaps of goat and sheep bones. It was not until two months later that a shepherd discovered the corpse of Marie Delec, frightfully mutilared, and lying upon a rock half a league from where she had been borne off.
  • The Halloween special which caused the death of a young boy, pushing the BBC to pretend it never even aired: a nice video tells its story. (Thanks Johnny!)
  • Fungi that turn insects into zombies: I’ve already written about them a few years ago in my little ebook (remember it?). But this video about the cute Entomophthora muscae has some truly spectacular images.

  • Italian creativity really tops itself when it’s time to put up a scam. A small business car ran over a wild boar in the Gallura countryside, forest rangers were alerted so that the accident damage could be reimbursed by the municipality. It turned out the boar had been just taken out of a freezer. (Article in Italian, via Batisfera)
  • In 1929, the Australian writer Arthur Upfield was planning a detective story and while chatting with a friend he came up with a method for the perfect murder. So perfect in fact, that his novel couldn’t even work, because the detective in the the story would never have solved the case. He needed to find a flaw, one small detail that could expose the culprit. To get out of the impasse the frustrated writer began to discuss the plot with various people. Little did he know that one of these listeners would soon decide to test the method himself, by killing three men.
  • I sometimes think back to a little book I had as a kid, Idées Noires by Franquin. Here is an example of the Belgian cartoonist‘s very dark humor.

“The law is clear: everyone who kills another person will have his head cut off.”

  • An since we’re talking about beheadings, I took the above photograph at Vienna’s Kriminalmuseum di Vienna. It is the head of criminal Frank Zahlheim, and on the cultural implications of this kind of specimens I wrote a post last year that you might want to re-read if you’ve got five minutes.
  • Greta Thunberg becomes a pretext to clarify what autism and Asperger’s syndrome really are (article in Italian).
  • In England, back in the days, whenever someone died in the family the first thing to do was tell the bees.
  • To conclude, I leave you with a picture of a beautiful Egyptian mummified phallus (circa 664-332 a.C.). See you next time!

Mike, il pollo senza testa

Il 10 Settembre 1945  il contadino Lloyd Olsen, padrone di una fattoria a Fruita, Colorado, decise che era ora che sua moglie Clara gli cucinasse un bel bollito di pollo.

Scese nell’aia, prese un’accetta affilata e con un colpo deciso staccò la testa ad uno dei suoi galli. Ma il pennuto non aveva voglia di morire: dopo aver corso un po’ in giro, il gallo si tranquillizzò, e ricominciò a raspare il terreno alla ricerca di cibo, e ad aggiustarsi le piume proprio come tutti gli altri polli.

Quando, la mattina seguente, Olsen lo trovò ancora vivo, pacificamente addormentato con il collo riparato sotto l’ala, decise che – visto che l’animale aveva tanta determinazione nel restare vivo – avrebbe tentato di trovare un modo per nutrirlo. Lo battezzò Mike, e cominciò a somministrargli acqua e sementi attraverso un contagocce.

“Mike, il meraviglioso pollo senza testa”, divenuto in fretta una celebrità, visse tranquillo e pasciuto per ben 18 mesi. Gli scienziati scoprirono che la decapitazione gli aveva lasciato intatta la base del cervello, che è sede di gran parte dei riflessi motori di polli e galline. Un grosso grumo di sangue aveva inoltre bloccato l’arteria, impedendogli di morire dissanguato.

In quei 18 mesi Mike passò dal peso di due libbre e mezzo alla bella stazza di otto libbre: “era un bel pollo grasso, che non aveva idea di essere senza testa”, raccontano i testimoni. “Miracle Mike” partì in tour per tutti gli Stati Uniti, fu assicurato per 10,000$, la sua foto venne pubblicata su Life e Time, e ovviamente vinse un Guinness World Record. Morì soffocato proprio durante questa “tournée”, in un motel dell’Arizona, una sera che gli Olsen non riuscirono a trovare in tempo il contagocce che usavano per sbloccargli la trachea.

Ancora oggi, però, la storia di Mike ispira ottimismo: a maggio, nella cittadina di Fruita, si tiene annualmente il Mike’s Festival – con danze, musica, esposizione di automobili, costumi, e gare folli come la “corsa senza testa”. Il favoloso Mike ha un suo sito internet, un negozio di gadget, degli sponsor e addirittura un fan club.

E ci insegna che perdere la testa non è poi tutta questa tragedia.