Taste for the Weird

‘A yogi levitates at the Conway Hall’, ‘Golfer is knocked out by his own back-swing’, ‘Tarantulas employed to guard jewellery’.. and the stories keep coming because there seems to be an unlimited appetite for the strangest, weirdest and sensational. 

And why not? ‘A cheating husband reveals lover’s details in sleep’ would be a nightmare right? ’A shop assistant loses $2,700 by misreading price tag’ is ideal for a resume. Who knows, ‘Portrait of a politician sculpted in poo’  may actually be an act of flattery and perhaps ‘A forger’s spelling error’ was a freudian slip (yeah, right).

Observe the seemingly limitless updates in the weird and bizarre categories on sites such as Daily Bhaskar http://daily.bhaskar.com/bizarre/1 & Daily Picks and Flicks http://dailypicksandflicks.com/category/weird-3/strange-news/ And you weren’t tempted to read beyond the headlines?

Rude tube https://www.youtube.com/user/RudeTubers Vidmax.com http://vidmax.com/wtf-videos may satisfy a limited demographic but the benign and ridiculous seem to regularly appear at the end of prime-time, free-to-air news bulletins.

But as is often the case & on closer inspection the formula for this type of news may not be so obvious. Real macabre and horror (of the homicide variety) are avoided so that the serious is bypassed for the trivia and funny lending to the full spectrum of human emotions. The scary of the spook variety is supplanted with the slap-stick spook; its not so much ‘The ghosts at Huddon-le-Green’ but rather ‘Girl sees religious message in tomato’ or ‘Man lets honeybees form enormous beard on his chin’. Things can be funny peculiar and not just plain scary or as so many commentators say of our 24/7 news cycle, ‘exhaustive and unrelenting’.

What is surprising is the sheer number of weird and ridiculous stories so much so it may seem impossible to replenish and to satisfy an equally insatiable appetite for them. And they seem to match the text message- micro blogging society we have become. Explanation equals title equals news grab;Fresh air for sale’, ‘Russian politician attacked with cake and Bus stop stomper’.

But records show the scammers and swindlers have been making news for some time. It’s nothing new. All you need is the incitement and the opportunity and suddenly there’s no end to the associated crimes. Pennsylvania is home to one of the longest door-to-door scams since the 1930’s. A group of scammers some 5000 strong of the Williamson clan carry out dodgy house repairs. When the bad weather comes the house paint runs and the freshly laid asphalt repairs conveniently wash away. Of course during the period of the swindle the Williamson’s children are placed in public schools. And then its on to the next rip-off. Today’s headline could read something like ‘Repair racket swindle’.

Tokyo is home to a well practiced con since the 1960’s. Pedestrians conveniently bump into an unsuspecting car and while they’re writhing on the ground hostile crowds gather blaming the innocent driver. Perhaps ’Set-up pedestrian accident’ would be today’s sound grab.

So if you’re in the mood for the crazy and colourful there’s an endless supply. Weird News http://metro.co.uk/news/weird/ & But First http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/programs/butfirst/ are especially noteworthy for the real and seemingly nonsensical.

Levitating Yogi at the Conway Hall
Levitating Yogi at the Conway Hall

Weird sources:

James Morton and Hilary Bateson, Conned: Scams, Frauds and Swindles

Tim Healy, Strange But True

Geoff Tibballs, The Mammoth Book of Weird News

Dziemianowicz, Weinberg & Greenberg, 50 Ghost Stories