Tales from the Fortaean Times
Alexander Mitchel, 50, bricklayer from Kingslyn, Norfolk, died from laughing in 1975 when watching the TV comedy "The Goodies". He had recently eaten, and after 25 minutes of laughing on a full stomach, his heart failed while he was watching a fight between a set of bagpipes and a black pudding.
In January 1979, 73 year old Rob Ham fell rear end first into the dustbin he kept on his front porch in Rochester, New York. He spent the next three days jammed up to his armpits, with his legs sticking in the air. On the first day an 11 year old newspaper delivery girl waved to him and said hello. He waved back and mumbled something, and she went on her way. On the second day the postman saw his hand move, but ignored it. On the third day, the newspaper girl's mother came to investigate and found him still there. By that time he'd died of heart failure.
Leslie Merry, 56, was murdered by a turnip thrown from a passing car, as he was walking near his home in Lincolnstone, East London, in July 1989. He was believed to be victim of a vegetable throwing gang, responsible for 23 incidents when melons, potatoes and cabbages were thrown at passers by. Among the most seriously hurt were a jogger who needed surgery for internal injuries, after being hit in the stomach by a cabbage. Leslie Merry was struck from behind, and at first thought he had been kicked but saw the turnip rolling away. He was taken to hospital and received treatment for a fractured rib, but died later from a ruptured spleen. Police failed to find the murder weapon, but remarked that "if a group of youths are walking or driving around at night with raw turnips or similar vegetables then they are probably not planning to eat them."
Egyptian born rape crisis counsellor Umila Nelson, of California, clubbed her husband William to death with a lamp. They had had an argument about money. She then tied him to a mattress before dressing up in red shoes, a red hat, and blood red lipstick. After that she hacked her 16 stone husband to pieces and skinned him, barbecued and ate his ribs, and ground up the rest of his body in the garbage disposal. Jailed for 27 years she told the judge she was a warm person who wouldn't harm a mosquito.
A distinctly grisly tale comes from southern Germany. A 91 year old grandmother was certified dead from heart failure and was buried in January 1986. After the mourners had left, gravedigger Amile Grath was shovelling the earth back into the grave, when he heard a knocking as if the old woman was kicking the coffin lid. He fetched five people from the funeral firm responsible for the ceremony, and for ten minutes they stood around listening as the sound grew fainter and stopped. Then they carried on and filled in the grave.
Postmen haven't been getting a good press lately. A survey by Which? magazine has accused Britain's postmen of being disorderly and error-prone. They're a model of efficiency though, compared to Giuseppe Cazenza, 26, of Parroni, Italy, who is possibly the most incompetent postman of all time. Things began to go wrong for Mr Cazanza from the moment he became a postman in 1995. "He was rather malcoordinated," explained post mistress Carla Droppi. "On his first day alone he managed to set fire to the sorting office and to run me over with his van." This, however, was just a prelude to the disasters that were to follow. In 1996, Mr Cazenza lost the village's entire Christmas post after crashing into a river, while the following year he had to be rescued on no less than seven occasions after getting his hand stuck in letterboxes. The last straw came when he accidentally ran over his postmistress a second time, whereupon he was finally sacked. "We had to tell him by telephone", explained Ms Droppi, "because his dismissal letter got lost in the post."
It's all been going horribly wrong with snakes. Australian lavatory-goer Alan Sparkings, 51, spend two days on the toilet in the company of a deadly Taipan snake. Mr Sparkings was sitting on a public lavatory in Queensland when he noticed the deadly snake beside his foot. "Taipans are deadly," he explained, "and I knew that unless I sat perfectly still and quiet I was dead. " Sit still and keep quiet is therefore exactly what he did, remaining thus for almost 48 hours, willing the snake to slither away. This it singularly failed to do, however, and eventually, realising he couldn't stay like that forever, he made a whispered appeal for help to someone in the next cubicle. Experts soon arrived to deal with the reptile, only to discover that it was a rubber one left by the previous occupant. "I almost crapped myself when I saw it," admitted Mr Sparkings.
In America, a man has been imprisoned for illegally opening 4000 boxes of breakfast cereal. John Weintraub, 34, of Washington, had become obsessed with the plastic models of American presidents included as free gifts in packts of Happy Morning Muesli. "I'd been collecting them for two years," explained Mr Weintraub, "and had the whole set except for Thomas Jefferson. I'd bought hundreds of damn packets but he was never in them. It was infuriating." So infuriating, indeed, that, frantic to complete his set, Mr Weintraub broke into a local cereal factory and proceeded to break open every Happy Morning box he could find in a desperate search for his concluding president. Sadly, he failed to find one and, having been discovered by security guards, was arrested and jailed. "It's okay though," he smiled, "because at my first prison breakfast I opened my Happy Morning mini-pack and - what do you know? - there was Thomas Jefferson inside!"