Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

The Many Methods of Keeping the Dead in Their Graves

Zombies, vampires, and revenants are known to rise up from the graves of dead people and wander the earth, terrorizing and killing the living- or even eating them. These tales have been around so long and in so many places that cultures have developed quite a few methods for keeping the dead underground. We know this because ancient graves are excavated for archaeological purposes, and the evidence is there. Before being buried, bodies have undergone such indignities as tooth removal, stakes through the heart, chains holding them down, or even decapitation.

While the idea of keeping the bodies from digging their way out is the most common reason for these measures, it's not the only possibility. Interpreting ancient burial practices is a guessing game, and some cultures may have used these things for religious reasons, or to signify something about the person or the way they died. Some barrier methods may also have been used to keep the living from robbing those graves. Read about eight historical methods for keeping buried bodies buried that we've discovered, and what we know about each, at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Bin im Garten)

The Allure of Foods Containing Cyanide

Think of the delicious sweet aroma that comes from marzipan, or Amaretto liqueur, or anything with a touch of almond extract. That scent comes from benzaldehyde. It is a part of nature's underhanded scheme to destroy mankind, although the plants that produce it would tell you it's just a defense mechanism so they can reproduce successfully.

Some plants produce amygdalin in their fruit pits. When that chemical is released by crushing or chewing, the amygdalin breaks down into two chemicals: the benzaldehyde that smells so good, and cyanide. The way these plants evolved, any creature that eats it is supposed to learn to stay away when they encounter that smell -or else just die. However, humans love it. Amygdalin is present in the seeds of peaches, apricots, cherries, mamey sapote fruit, cassava, and most of all, almonds.

But don't let that keep you from eating those foods. Cultivation of almond trees has given us the sweet almond, which has way less cyanide than natural bitter almonds, and people have learned to process the other foods to reduce their toxicity. You have to wonder how many people were killed on the way to learning those methods. Read about the cyanide in natural fruits and nuts at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Ivar Leidus)

How to Perform a Basic Coin Vanishing Trick

I had some training in the art of illusion, or "magic tricks," many years ago when I worked at an amusement park during college summers. I can tell you from experience that it is easy to see how a trick is done once you get used to it, but it is hard to make it work in front of viewers. That takes practice, and lots of it, to make it seem natural. Making a coin vanish from your hand is the simplest and most basic magic trick you'll ever do, but if you can get it right, and understand the effort it takes, you can go on to learn many astounding illusions and impress everyone you meet. Magician Oscar Owen is glad to teach you many more illusions through his YouTube channel. He also offers a free magic course that emphasizes how fast you can learn magic tricks. But illusions are like chess; it takes about five minutes to learn it, but a lifetime to master it.

That said, the static image in this video still bothers me, because it looks like he's got a crusty wound on his hand. I don't know where that came from, but it's not relevant to the trick. -via Digg

Troll Girl Pays the Price for Being Different

An odd-looking baby is abandoned at the church steps and is taken in by a nun. The "troll girl" grows up as an outcast, trying to hide her true nature. She just wants to blend in and be left alone, but she is bullied relentlessly. Along the way, she finds inner talents that come in handy when she has to save the only person who ever loved her unconditionally. Troll Girl was written and directed by Kay Carmichael of Giantslayer Studios.   

A Curious Custody Case for the Paris Police

A strange case of child trafficking came to light in Paris in 1909. A six- or seven-year-old girl approached the police and eloquently told a story in a language no one at the station could understand. When they determined she was speaking Armenian, an interpreter was brought in. The girl said a woman had kidnapped her from her grandparents' home in Syria. Only after the child's picture appeared in the newspaper did the woman emerge. The American woman said the girl was her daughter, who she had sent to her grandparents' home as an infant when she became a teenage widow, and she had recently retrieved her. The woman spoke a combination of English and French, and she and the child had no common language.  

The child, upon hearing that story, expanded her account by declaring she knew her mother, and had seen her only a year before, and that other parts of the woman's tale were untrue. She said her name was Marianne, although the woman called her Annette.

Another newspaper account has more details on the story, although it may be a little hard to read. The American woman's story was investigated, and apparently she had used several different names in her travels, and had drafted a letter to her husband about bringing home a young servant. Her story then expanded to accommodate that discovery, in that her second husband didn't know about her child from her first marriage, so she concocted the servant story. While we still don't know what happened in the end, it is doubtful that Marianne was allowed to leave Paris with the woman who claimed to be her mother.


The Unique River That Flows to Two Oceans

Gravity will have its way, and it controls the way water works everywhere on earth. Water falls from the sky and then flows downward along the slope of the earth. Traditionally, people have respected that, and settled into places where nature provides a water supply. But in the modern era, people often disregard nature's water supplies to rely on technology. Still, there's a limit to how much we can do to overcome the laws of gravity and the enormous geography we have. Half as Interesting take a look at the way water flows in North America, and focuses on a singular anomaly in Wyoming. That's the home of mysteriously-named North Two Ocean Creek. Far from any ocean, this is the one place along the Continental Divide where water can flow to either the Atlantic or the Pacific Oceans! It's not a phenomena we can engineer to bring water to the people who need it; it's both unique and natural.  

Illustrating the Pain of Beauty

The photograph above by photographer Dina Litovsky has gone viral for showing the state of a model's feet during New York Fashion Week. Litovsky has covered Fashion Week for 12 years now, and has always taken pictures illustrating the pain caused by constant changes of high heels on the models working the many shows, but most were not published. However, Litosky keeps them for her personal project Fashion Lust.

The model's wounds were not caused by this particular pair of shoes, but they do allow the damage of the entire week to be exposed. You can see they are too small, as are most of the shoes provided for the fashion shows. They are designed to look good, not to walk in. And that's the story of high heels.

Women unwittingly continue the centuries-old tradition that "beauty is pain" when we buy expensive shoes only to classify them according to the number of blocks they can be worn without causing blisters.

Litovsky tells the story of this image and what it says about the lives of everyday women at In the Flash. -via Nag on the Lake 

(Image credit: Dina Litovsky)

Piece of Cake: A Drama Behind the Scenes in a Bakery

Two brides, porcelain wedding cake toppers Val and Mara, are unsatisfied with the grooms they are paired with. Val's designated groom turns abusive, and his bride is injured but not destroyed. The other couple, Mara and Jesse, come to the rescue and the whole cake shop turns into a war scene. After the violence dies down, Val and Mara really only want to be with each other. It's a touching tale, but the real story is revealed in still shots shown during the credits. I had to laugh when the shopkeeper arrived the next morning. As Marvel has taught us, never leave before the credits roll. The award-winning short film Piece of Cake was written and directed by Sophie Feher and produced by Emma Goeas at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Lightning Rod Fashion: The Wearable Tech of the 18th Century

As soon as Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in an electrical storm (and didn't die) and then invented the lightning rod, the idea was appropriated by the fashion world. Electricity was such a modern concept that it became the next big thing for a while. Lightning rod fashion reached its height in fashionable France, where one could purchase a lightning rod hat (le chapeau paratonnerre) equipped with a grounding wire dragging behind the wearer, or carry a lightning rod umbrella (le parapluie-paratonnerre). If it worked to keep a house safe from lightning, why wouldn't it also work for a pedestrian on the streets?

That was just the beginning of electrical fashion. As soon as the battery was invented, the trendiest people rushed to wear jewelry or decorate their clothing with lights. You could even hide the battery in your bustle! Read about the 18th-century fad for electric fashion at Messy Nessy Chic.

Drone Follows Mountain Biker in Vertigo-Inducing Downhill Run

Warning: this video may induce a little queasiness. We've seen heart-stopping POV videos of mountain bikers wearing helmet cams. The next iteration of this type of videography is from the view of a FPV (first person view) drone. In this sequence, we follow champion racer Kade Edwards down the Red Bull Hardline downhill mountain bike race track in Wales, an extreme track if you ever saw one. Can Edwards stay upright on this terrifying run? Can the drone keep up with him? Can the drone navigate through thick groves of trees? (Spoiler- not in the first attempt.) Can we keep our stomachs from leaping while watching? Edwards makes the run look easy, although we all know that it takes both skill and daring, and the drone pilot did a fantastic job, drawing kudos from professional FPV drone pilots. Any of us would have crashed and burned in either role. -via TYWKIWDBI

Mother of Triplets Disappears- Police Notified 84 years Later

Agnes Fults of Kimberly, Idaho, gave birth to three daughters in 1934. Josephine, Julene, and Joyce Fults joined their older sister Mabel and father Alton and made the family locally famous. The triplets were followed by local newspapers as they grew up. But Agnes disappeared from the public record in 1939. Agnes' sister Martha Hagerman took charge of her four nieces, and moved them to Tennessee in 1940, but then returned to Idaho in 1949.

The case of Agnes Fults' disappearance was brought to light when Julene's granddaughter Marsha Trotter and Mabel's granddaughter Rebecca Hardesty met through Ancestry.com and learned they were second cousins. They were both looking for any record of their great-grandmother Agnes after 1939. They knew from their grandmothers' recollections that their mother had simply disappeared, and they weren't supposed to talk about it, ever. The family story was that Agnes abandoned her family, but the rumor mill in Kimberly had it that Agnes was killed and buried in a potato field. There was no missing person's report ever filed. Trotter and Hardesty recently contacted Kimberly police, and they are opening an investigation, which will include the use of ground-penetrating radar on the empty plot where the Fults home once stood. Read the fascinating story of an 84-year-old mystery at KTVB.  -via Strange Company

The Lovely Lilting Sound of the Aztec Death Whistle

No, you won't die if you hear the sound of an Aztec death whistle, but you'll hear it a lot in this video, and you might want to be ready with the volume control. It can cause a jump scare in the people in the next room, or make children cry. It's a small instrument that looks like no more than a duck call, but the sound it produces is like a terrified person screaming beyond control. If you were in enemy territory, or had the possibility of an invading army, hearing this in the night would make the hairs on your back rise up. Not knowing what's going on and hearing what sounds like someone dying would ruin your evening considerably. James Orgill of The Action Lab (previously at Neatorama) actually made some Aztec death whistles with a 3D printer. He tells us both the history and science of these whistles, and blows those darn whistles quite a few times. That's an interesting and sneaky way to lead up to an ad for the 3D printer. -via Digg

Celebrate World Gorilla Day on September 24

World Gorilla Day has been celebrated on September 24 every year since 2017. That date was chosen because it was on that day in 1967 that the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda was founded by gorilla researcher Dian Fossey.

Gorillas are the world's largest primate. There are two species, the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla. All gorillas are classified as Critically Endangered, with the exception of the subspecies called the mountain gorilla, which is classified as Endangered. This weekend many zoos are holding special programs so you can learn more about gorillas. This includes the Los Angeles Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Little Rock Zoo, the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Louisville Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, and possibly at another zoo near you.

And if you can't get to your local zoo for the festivities this weekend, you can read about gorillas and see a gallery of enchanting photos of them at Smithsonian. 

(Image credit: Robert from Uganda gorilla safari tours)

Ze Frank Has the Lowdown on Coral Reefs

In the latest edition of Ze Frank's True Facts series, we learn about reef coral. Yeah, it's an animal, although what we see of them are their shells, which make a reef. One animal of coral is called a polyp.

You might wonder how Ze could ever make a bawdy, silly, joke-filled video about coral, but he manages to do so. What we would call building a reef, he describes as a polyp "farting crystals." You get the idea. Yeah, it's a ridiculous way of telling a story, but that makes it much easier to learn how coral works. Or at least more likely to be remembered. See, already I am impressed that coral reproduces both sexually and by cloning themselves. And they have several ways of eating. The images in this video are beautiful to look at, but gross when you find out what's really happening. There's a one-minute skippable ad at the five-minute mark.

The Oldest Wooden Structure Ever Found Predates Homo Sapiens

Wooden artifacts from the Stone Age are very rare because organic material tends to break down over time. But in 2019, a pair of logs were discovered at a river bank in Zambia that seemed ancient. They were deliberately connected at a right angle by carved notches in each log, like putting together Lincoln Logs. Or a real log cabin, for that matter. Archaeologists think it may have been a walkway, or part of a pen for storing firewood or food. Or it could have been the base of a dwelling. Now the results of a luminescence dating test are in, and the logs are 476,000 years old! That makes them, linked together, the oldest manmade wooden structure ever found.

But what kind of man made this? The oldest Homo sapiens fossils are 300,000 years old, and they were found in Israel. The people that used tools to make these logs fit together had a brain sophisticated enough to plan their work and carry it out with stone tools over time. The discovery also hints that wood was a more common material for Stone Age life than we knew. Read about the discovery and what it might mean at CNN. -via reddit

(Image credit: Professor Larry Barham/University of Liverpool)

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