Weird Universe Blog — January 23, 2021

Operation Decoy - the song

In August 1962, New York City cops patrolled the streets while dressed as women in order to trap muggers. They called this Operation Decoy.

I didn't realize, when I posted about Operation Decoy two years ago, that it had inspired a song.

More info: Discogs

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 23, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Music | Police and Other Law Enforcement | 1960s

The Magic Land of Allakazam:  Mark Wilson, RIP

The Wikipedia page.

Alas, Mark Wilson is no more.

To Our Magical Friends...
Dad always said, “The best kind of legend to be is a Living Legend”. But sadly, as of Tuesday, January 19th at 4:40pm, Husband of Nani, Father of Mike & Greg, Legendary Magician, Author, Producer, and so much more… James Mark Wilson transitioned from our earthly existence to the ethereal.
Wishing to be with his family, he shared his love, bright outlook, and ambitions for the future, then he passed quietly, without pain, or a single complaint, comfortably at his home with Nani and his boys by his side.
Mark Wilson, the name by which he is best known, was born in Manhattan, New York on April 11th, 1929, in the loving arms of his mother Francis (Teta) Wilson and father James (Jimmy) Wilson. His parents raised him during the Great Depression and through WWII. By example, they taught him to preserver through difficult times and overcome obstacles with determination. His mother, Teta, often said, “Don’t worry honey, it will be alright.” Mark developed a “never give up” attitude, and learned that kindness, compassion, and love were the most important things in life.
He spent his over 91 years on Earth, sharing his passion for making people happy through the art of magic by blazing new paths to reach audiences around the world.
Mark’s trademark phrase, “Happy Magic” was his and Nani’s sign-off words for countless live and television performances… “Happy Magic” is how he signed autographs… and “Happy Magic” was his own unique friendly and approachable style of performing.
Mark’s creativity, originality, and leadership were based on respect and honor for others. Mark finished on “the right side of magic history” morally and ethically. With his loving wife Nani Darnell at his side, he achieved a longer list of “Historic Firsts” than many dream of in multiple lifetimes.
MAGIC Magazine named Mark Wilson, “One of the Ten Most Influential American Magicians of the 20th Century.”
Mark’s influence is still evident today, as he was so thankful to hear “Mark Wilson” and the Magic Land of Allakazam referenced in the newly released feature film, One Night in Miami.
Whether you know him from his TV appearances, his Live productions, the Mark Wilson Complete Course in Magic book, or one of his many in-person Magic University classes at the Magic Castle, or through one of his many other achievements… Mom and Mike and I are so proud that he brought “Happy Magic” into not only your life, but the lives of more people around the world than he could possibly meet.
"A lifetime of magic has taken Nani and me around the world and helped us make friends everywhere." 
 - Mark Wilson
He is already dearly missed,
Greg Wilson, on behalf of the Wilson Family

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jan 23, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Magic and Illusions and Sleight of Hand | Television | 1960s

January 22, 2021

Eating Mrs. Grote’s Sandwich

Rev. Jensen evidently thought Mrs. Grote's sandwich tasted pretty good. His wife, however, was not amused.

Mrs. Jennie Jensen, in her court action, charged her husband with "taking several bites from Mrs. Grote's sandwich at a picnic party while refusing to take even one from hers."

Los Angeles Evening Post-Record - Jul 28, 1927

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 22, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Food | Divorce | Marriage | 1920s

January 21, 2021

Music of the Plants

Is your plant a budding Beethoven? From Music of the Plants:

Since the 1970s, Damanhur — a Federation of Communities with its own constitution, culture, art, music, currency, school and uses of science and technology ( — has researched communication with the plant world. As part of this research, they created an instrument able to perceive the electromagnetic variations from the surface of plant leaves to the root system and translated them into sound... By deciphering and registering the impulses and interactions of plants, they have developed a device that uses a MIDI interface to transform the plant's resistance from a leaf to the root system into music.

You can listen to the music of your own plants for a price starting at €397 (about $480).

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 21, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Music | Nature

The Society to Save Rocks Rockathon

One does not generally think of an assortment of random boulders as a heritage site or playground. But the Society to Save Rocks has a mission to promote the use and protection of such places, and celebrates in their annual Hyderabad Rockathon.

Oh, yes: and snakes.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jan 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Nature | Parades and Festivals | India

January 20, 2021

Whistling Accelerators

Accelerators have inspired a number of weird inventions. For example, a few years ago we posted about the "Deaccelerator" which was a device that aimed to prevent speeding by making it harder to depress the pedal in your car once you reached a pre-set speed (usually 50 mph).

We've also posted about an effort to replace the accelerator with a pedal. The faster the driver pedaled, the faster the car would go. This was designed to give drivers some exercise as they commuted to work.

And yet another odd accelerator invention is the whistling accelerator. The idea is that if the accelerator is depressed too rapidly it will produce an annoying whistle. This will remind the driver not to accelerate too quickly, thereby saving gas.

The idea for a noise-making accelerator goes back to a 1958 patent granted to Philip Kershman of Los Angeles. He had rigged up an accelerator so that it would ring a bell if depressed too quickly.

Eighteen years later, in 1976, Henry Merriman of Michigan simplified this idea by replacing the bell with a whistle. He basically took a squeeze toy and attached it to the underside of the accelerator.

Merriman's squawking accelerator

St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette - Apr 30, 1975

Another whistling accelerator was patented in 2012. Its design was more sophisticated, but it was overall the same idea — accelerate too quickly and the thing starts whistling. The patentees described it as a "vehicle fuel efficiency monitor and signalling device".

Personally, I'm content to drive without any bells or whistles attached to the accelerator.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 20, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Inventions | Cars | Cacophony, Dissonance, White Noise and Other Sonic Assaults

The Frito Twist

NOTE: the text below calls it a 78, but it looks pretty much like a 45 to me.

This 78 rpm record was made by the PAMS (Production, Advertising, Merchandising Service) production company in February 1962 for the Frito-Lay company to promote its Fritos snack food with a dedicated jingle, the “Frito-Twist.” The disc’s white paper label bears the Fritos and PAMS logos on both sides. Side A plays “The Frito Twist,” and Side B contains the instructional “How to Twist.” (In earlier versions of this promotional record, side A featured “Dallas: My Home Town” with “The Frito Twist” on side B.) The music for the “Frito Twist” was written by Euel Box, a Dallas-based composer and arranger best known for his work on the “Benji” movies of the 1970s and 80s, and a music director for the PAMS company. The sound engineer on the recording was Dick McGrew (as noted in the fine print along the edge of the record).The Dallas-based PAMS production company was founded in 1951 by William B. Meeks, Jr., often credited as the creator of the musical station break. In the 1950s-1970s, advertisers looked to music and dedicated jingles to help promote their products. They aimed branded dance fads in particular at teenagers and young adults.

More info here.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jan 20, 2021 - Comments (6)
Category: Business | Advertising | Music | Junk Food | 1960s | Dance

January 19, 2021

The Revlon Fingernail Rumor

For decades, beginning around World War II and persisting until at least the 1980s, a rumor circulated alleging that Revlon was willing to buy people's fingernails "for experimental cosmetic purposes" as long as they were over an inch long. The going price was said to be around $10 per nail.

Revlon repeatedly denied the rumor. Nevertheless, it continued to circulate.

I wasn't able to find any references to the rumor online. So it must have finally faded away.

The Miami Herald - Jan 18, 1969


The Indianapolis News - June 18, 1979

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jan 19, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Body | Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators | Myths and Fairytales

The Traveling Candy Store

I must confess that the notion of a vehicle that brings candy directly to you had never occurred to me before. But what a great idea!

Here's the tale of a modern incarnation.

Here's their website, with an itinerary.

And here's the tale of someone who had the idea 100 years ago! (Scroll up.)

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jan 19, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Business | Retailing | Motor Vehicles | Travel | Candy | 1920s

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