Wikipedia has become such a daily part of my online life (like email – remember life before email? Anyone?), that it’s both startling and a little thrilling to find outré articles or even stray sentences and paragraphs that make me do a double-take and read them again to make sure I read them right.
There’s something about that flat, unemotional, just-the-facts style that makes the bizarre content even more absorbing and, in some cases, hilarious. Like in high school, when we were first introduced to the thesaurus and promptly looked up all of the synonyms for “prostitute.” (Forgive! We were kids! The words sounded funny!)
Herewith, a selection of Wikipedia articles that have caught my eye over the years. And stuff that I spent way too much time this evening discovering for this post.
Some excerpts are just sentences that I found worth keeping or pondering; others will, I hope, lead you to click through and read the full articles. There are many funny, weirdly interesting, unusual, poignant, and even downright creepy stories lurking within Wikipedia’s vast and lightly inhabited archive.
At the bottom of this post are some links that can help you with your own explorations.
Polybius (video game)
Polybius is a supposed arcade game featured in an Internet urban legend. According to the story, the Tempest-style game was released to the public in 1981, and caused its players to go insane, causing them to suffer from intense stress, horrific nightmares, and even suicidal tendencies. A short time after its release, it supposedly disappeared without a trace. Not much evidence for the existence of such a game has ever been discovered.
Cronkite trained himself to speak at a rate of 124 words per minute in his newscasts, so that viewers could clearly understand him. In contrast, Americans average about 165 words per minute, and fast, difficult-to-understand talkers speak close to 200 words per minute.
Florence Foster Jenkins
From her recordings it is apparent that Jenkins had little sense of pitch and rhythm, and was barely capable of sustaining a note. Her accompanist can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes. Her dubious diction, especially in foreign language songs, is also noteworthy … Despite her patent lack of ability, Jenkins apparently was firmly convinced of her greatness. She compared herself favorably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and dismissed the abundant audience laughter during her performances as “professional jealousy.” She was aware of her critics, but never let them stand in her way: “People may say I can’t sing,” she said, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”
The covers of Doll Man’s comics frequently portrayed him tied in ropes or other bindings, in situations ranging from being tied crucifixion-style to a running sink faucet, to being hogtied to the trigger and barrel of a handgun. The persistence of this male bondage motif in Doll Man comics among others can be contrasted with other comic books which historically portrayed women in positions of vulnerability and submission.
Um, the er, um, f-word
Battle of Ryesgade
The Battle of Ryesgade was a nine-day series of street fights in mid-September 1986, in the Copenhagen street Ryesgade. It was the most violent event in a long-standing conflict between the Copenhagen city council and the city’s community of squatters. Faced with an ultimatum to leave their illegally occupied housing or face eviction, the squatters instead fortified the streets around their building so strongly that it became a cop-free zone. They took advantage of this lack of control by burning down a building belonging to the Sperry Corporation. For nine days, massed police unsuccessfully attempted to evict the squatters. The civil disorder was of a magnitude never before seen in Denmark. After communicating a manifesto through the media, the defenders finally abandoned the squat and dispersed without being apprehended.
Lucia Pamela (1904-2002) was a St. Louis, Missouri-born multi-instrumentalist and former 1926 Miss St. Louis who, in 1965 recorded the album Into Outer Space With Lucia Pamela. The self-funded album (released in 1969) consisted largely of Pamela breathlessly telling listeners of her adventures in outer space where she meets intergalactic roosters, Native Americans and travels upon blue winds.
Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion
The Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion was a television signal hijacking in Chicago, Illinois, on the evening of November 22, 1987. It is an example of what is known in the television business as broadcast signal intrusion. The intruder was successful in interrupting two television stations within three hours. Neither the hijacker nor the accomplices have ever been found or identified.
Scroll down to the external links section of the Wikipedia article and watch a recording of the video on YouTube.
Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. (ca. April 12, 1892 – April 13, 1973) was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois. He has become famous for his posthumously-discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story.
Theodore Sturgeon vividly recalled being in the same room with L. Ron Hubbard, when Hubbard became testy with someone there and retorted, “Y’know, we’re all wasting our time writing this hack science fiction! You wanta make real money, you gotta start a religion!” Reportedly Sturgeon also told this story to others.
Pen spinning is known as “pen mawashi” (compare for example mawashi-geri, “round-kick”) or, more disparagingly, “ronin mawashi” “college student spinning” in Japan where the pastime has been popular since at least the 1970s, and where the Pen Spinning Association Japan is now dedicated to promoting the aspiring art form.
Ishi (ca. 1860 – March 25, 1916) was the last member of the Yahi, the last surviving group of the Yana people of the U.S. state of California. Widely acclaimed in his time as the “last wild Indian” in America, Ishi lived most of his life completely outside European American culture. At about 49 years old, in 1911 he emerged from the wild near Oroville, California, leaving his ancestral homeland, present-day Tehama County, near the foothills of Lassen Peak … Ishi means “man” in the Yana language. The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber gave this name to the man because it was rude to ask someone’s name in the Yahi culture. When asked his name, he said: “I have none, because there were no people to name me,” meaning that no Yahi had ever spoken his name.
User:Ardonik/I ate my cat
I’m using this page to record translations of the English phrase “I ate my cat” in (hopefully) every written language ever conceived by man.
Michael Fagan incident
Michael Fagan (born 1951) was an intruder who broke into Buckingham Palace in Central London and entered the Queen’s bedchamber in the early hours of 9 July 1982. The unemployed father of four children managed to evade electronic alarms as well as both palace and police guards.
The Game (mind game)
The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which, according to the rules of The Game, must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game; players can only attempt to avoid losing for as long as they possibly can. The Game has been variously described as pointless and infuriating, or as challenging and fun to play. As of 2010, The Game is played by millions worldwide, although in theory, the whole world is playing it.
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically valid sentence in the English language, used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs.
Boston Molasses Disaster
The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. A large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days, the area still smells of molasses.
Lenna or Lena is the name given to a 512×512 pixel standard test image which has been in use since 1973, and was originally cropped from the centerfold of November 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It is a picture of Lena Söderberg, a Swedish model, shot by photographer Dwight Hooker. The image is probably the most widely used test image for all sorts of image processing algorithms (such as compression and denoising) and related scientific publications.
Five Tibetan Rites
The Five Tibetan Rites is a system of exercises reported to be more than 2,500 years old which were first publicized by Peter Kelder in a 1939 publication entitled The Eye of Revelation. Although practically nothing is known about Kelder, one source reports that Kelder was raised as an adopted child in the midwestern United States, and left home while still in his teens in search of adventure. In the 1930s, Kelder claims to have met, in southern California, a retired British army colonel who shared with him stories of travel and the subsequent discovery of the Rites. Originally written as a 32-page booklet, the publication is the result of Kelder’s conversations with the colonel. The Rites are said to be a form of Tibetan yoga similar to the yoga series that originated in India. However, the Five Rites and traditional Tibetan yoga both emphasize “a continuous sequence of movement” (Sanskrit: vinyasa), whereas Indian forms focus on “static positions”. Although the Rites have circulated amongst yogis for decades, skeptics say that Tibetans have never recognized them as being authentic Tibetan practices.
Cool Wikipedia lists
This page is for Wikipedians to list articles that seem a little unusual. These articles are valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica.
The motherlode of pages to while away many a carefree hour or twelve!
List of lists of lists
On Wikipedia, many lists themselves contain lists.
Certainly, this has to count as both a ridiculously recursive title, yet an oddly noble example of Wikipedian organization.
List of common misconceptions
This is a list of current, widely held, erroneous ideas and beliefs about notable topics which have been reported by reliable sources. Each has been discussed in published literature, as has its topic area and the facts concerning it. Note that the statements here are the correct facts, not the misconceptions themselves.
Wasting time with Wikipedia?. A great great great collection of links contributed by Web surfers like yourself. Start here.
Best of Wikipedia. Sadly, looks like a cobweb site now, but hosts a good archive of topics.
The Wikipedia Knowledge Dump (WikiDumper.org)
From the bold to the beautiful, from the wicked to the wise, every day the Wikipedia team relegates possibly “inappropriate” submissions to the garbage dump of time. Here, we make selected “potential” rejects immortal and preserve them for posterity. (All of these entries have been nominated for deletion at the time of posting.)
Seven Most Bizarre Wikipedia Articles
Strange Wikipedia Articles - U2 Community Blog post
10 Interesting And Unusual Wikipedia Articles