Monday, December 24, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Think You're Smarter Than A Monkey?

(I apologize for a lack of posts lately. Work has been crazy, and I've been traveling a lot).

As if we didn't need any more proof that college students today are falling short, scientists have been pitting chimps against college students in a variety of mental tasks. Not surprisingly, the chimps are as smart or even better than the human "scholars." Incoming freshmen are taking remedial courses (AKA skills they should've learned in high school) at an alarming rate, and maybe we should reward them with bananas or some other kind of tasty treat.

It seems to work for the chimps.

Earlier this month, scientists at the University of Kyoto were surprised to find that young 5-year old chimps were actually better than college students at memory tasks. Even after three months of memory training, three of the brighter students could still not match the chimps' ability to remember sequence-oriented tasks.

Did the students have too much saki???

So scientists at Duke University took the research further and found that the chimps performed just as well as the college students at mental addition. Jessica Cantlon, a cognitive neuroscience researcher at Duke, helped test the monkeys and college students in "non-verbal math." She said, "It shows when you take language away from a human, they end up looking just like monkeys in terms of their performance."

Hahahaha...take that college kids.

In this study, both groups were paid for their time and efforts. The two chimps got to drink Kool-Aid, and the college kids got $10. But something tells me those students were drinking another kind of Kool-Aid.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Holiday Blues...Fact or Fiction

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...

This Christmas song classic, Same Old Lang Syne, by Dan Fogelberg is a song I go from hating to really liking. I'm not sure how I feel about the song right at this moment, but during the holiday season, many of us are led to believe that despite this being a season of joy, it's often times a season of saddness for many others.

We've all heard about the holiday blues. For a variety of reasons, the holidays are also associated with depression and increased suicide rates.

Is there some hard evidence to back up this phenomenon?

Let's use plain logic. During the holidays, many of the innate dangers include:

1) Shopping. The crazy old ladies stampede during "Black Friday." Grabbing a flatscreen TV for $300 brings out the violent tendencies in even the most mild of grandmas. Two words, folks: online shopping. Learn it. Live it.

2) Overeating. Begin with Thanksgiving, throw in Christmas chocolate, beer, and more turkey - you've got a recipie for a heartattack. You'll probably join a fitness club and go the first couple months. By April, you'll forget where the damn club is located. But you know where McDonald's is, right?

3) Drunk driving. New Years can be deadly. Why people still drink and drive is really beyond me. If you want to kill yourself, go ahead. Just don't take an innocent family of four driving home from Christmas dinner with you.

4) Speaking of killing yourself. Suicides happen because you're depressed. Why would you be depressed this time of year? Maybe you lost out to one of those aggressive ladies in your quest for a cheap flatscreen. Maybe your expanding waist has got you down. Maybe you're all alone, and the holidays just make you feel even more solitary. Or, perhaps you HATE your family and you'd rather jump off a bridge than be stuck in a room with kin.

5) Speaking of depressed. Don't forget about all those Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferes out there. Our bodies respond to's one of our great regulators. Shorter days, longer nights, cold temperatures - it's a very real disorder.

6) Finances. With all that giftgiving, did you really think that credit card bill was just going to go away? Add taxes to that list - maybe you live in a state where you pay some sort of personal property tax this time of year, as I do in Missouri. Forking over $3,000 by December 31st isn't so damn jolly, now is it? Don't forget about having to heat our homes and paying for gasoline for those holiday trips. By January, you're broke.

7) Work. You work in retail? I imagine you retail folks are suicidal by mid-December. I feel for you guys. I'm EXTRA nice to those in retail this time of year, unless they're jerks. Do you have major projects due? Isn't it fun cramming those last-minute performance reviews and budget worksheets before the end of the year so much fun?

Despite all of these stressors, the evidence shows that the suicide rates actually dip during the holiday seasons. Maybe spending time with friends and family lifts our spirits and helps us get through this tough time.

I wish you the best of luck getting through this time of year. And I hope you get a giant Christmas bonus check this year - even if it is a year-long subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poop Transplant Saves Grandmother

I really hope you haven't just eaten. If so, I suggest you skip this post for a time when you can be sure you won't lose your lunch.

83 year-old Ethel McEwan of Scotland contracted a very serious intestional bacterial infection called Clostridium Difficile. This is a highly deadly "superbug" and was not responding to antibiotics. So what did the doctors do?

They gave her a dose of her daughter's poop.

Yes. Poop. Feces. Excrement. Doodie. Crap. Shit. Turd. Ass Goblins. Lincoln Logs.

How did this process work? The treatment involved taking her daughter's poop, liquifying it, and then feeding this liquid poop down a tube into Ethel's stomach. This method helped restore the bacteria level in her belly, which in turn helped her fight off the illness.

Here's what Mrs. McEwan had to say about her treatment:

When you tell people about the treatment, they wrinkle their noses,” says Mrs. McEwan. “But it’s not like they put it on a plate and have you eat it. You don’t ever see or smell a thing. People will have a blood transplant or a kidney transplant – what’s the difference with this?”

The difference is that you ate liquid turd.

Oh well, that's the way the poopie crumbles.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't Be A Turkey, Give Thanks

For Thanksgiving 2005, I wrote about the myth of the amino acid tryptophan inducing that Thanksgiving dinner nap we all love. Thanksgiving 2006, I wrote about the science behind why some foods taste delicious to us.

This year, I decided to focus on the whole giving thanks part of Thanksgiving.

University of California - Davis psychology professor, Dr. Robert Emmons, has been researching just how important it is for us to give thanks. According to Dr. Emmons, people who show gratitude on a daily basis for all of life's little blessings are:

* exercising more
* complaining of fewer illnesses
* feeling better about their lives overall
* feeling more loving
* feeling more forgiving, joyful, enthusiastic and optimistic about their futures

"Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people's lives," Emmons says.

In his book, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, he gives us 10 researched-based strategies for practicing true gratitude. Apparently, you can just half-ass think of a couple things you're thankful for as you pass the mashed potatoes.

True gratitude involves contemplation and introspection.

So I guess I'll start. I'm very thankful for all of you. I appreciate your readership, your comments, and your coming to my little corner of cyberspace. To all my ol' faithfuls and newly found buddies, thank you very much.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mexicans In Space

By the end of this year, the Mexican Senate is expected to approve the creation of Mexico's very first space agency: AEXA, or Agencia Espacial meXicanA. Maybe someone should first teach them how to make a proper acronym.

The goal of creating such an agency is to be able to participate in further technological and scientific study. Many of the discoveries involved during space-science research is applicable to all kinds of advancements here on earth - such as areas of telecommunications, meteorology, and robotics.

Beginning with a budget of $2 million USD, this new Mexican Space Agency hopes to begin operations early next year.

If they are able to one day create a space station, do you think they will cram 185 astronauts in it?

I'm all for countries wanting to get in on the technologies produced from space exploration and science, but let's be reasonable. $2 million bucks? The Mexican Navy consists of a small dingy with two guys sleeping in it with fishing rods tucked in their arm pits. They could use a new boat, don't you think? Aren't there better ways Mexico could spend their money? Like, I dunno, feeding their people?

For $2 million, the closest thing they'll get to space exploration is by building a giant catapult to launch people over the border.

I wonder how tacos taste in zero-gravity...

Monday, November 5, 2007

"That's a negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full"

If you don't know what movie that line above came from, you must've missed the 80s.

Anyway, it's November now - and that means it's time for birds of all sorts to migrate South for the winter. Here in the Midwest, you can look up in the sky and see these creatures flying in huge "V" and "J" shaped formations. Incredibly, the same troop of birds fly right over the neighborhood every year. That sounds like a wonderful show of Mother Nature, and I appreciate all of that. But I can do without all the bird poop that lands on everything.

This year, as I drove near a large lake and several Canadian geese decided to drop their bombs on my windshield, I wondered why these birds fly in that "V" formation anyway. I had heard that it had something to do with aerodynamics of some sort. Also, I thought maybe it made the geese feel they were each a part of a avian gang or something.

So of course I did some research, just in case you were wondering the same thing.

A flock flying in formation is known as an echelon. Now, I think that's an incredibly cool word. It sounds like a great name for a car. "Hey, I drive a Toyota Echelon." I'm going to use echelon in all sorts of ways now in order to impress people.

There are two main reasons why birds fly in such a pattern.

One: birds are able to conserve energy, taking advantage of the updraft of air created at each birds' wingtips. A bird is able to get some free lift, and in the process not have to work as hard to stay up in the air. But what about the bird leading the charge at the point? Well, that dude is going to have to work his beak off. The two birds on the very end are also S.O.L. But as the bird tires, he'll move out of formation and they will all sort of swap positions.

Two: birds are able to communicate easier while flying in formation. Flying in this pattern allows each bird to see the others. Despite this advantage, you can often see that one bird not paying attention. Every echelon has some dummy that decides to daydream during flight and miss the turn...then he's by himself, flapping his little heart out. Hopefully, he'll catch up. If not, he'll be a lone goose. In actuality, he'll probably just find another gang to join. Many times, these idiots will go try to fly in formation with an airplane.

I think the science of aerodynamics can be utilized in all kinds of applications. Jet planes have flown in V-shaped patterns in order to take advantage of less drag. Motorcycle gangs have been seen cruising down the highway in similar fashion.

Recently, I witnessed an echelon of very hungry people get off a tour bus and attack a lunch buffet. The lead person looked like would eat anyone in his way. You can bet I dropped my breadstick and got the hell away from them.

Stay off the Highway to the Danger Zone.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween Wrap-Up

Again, thanks to those that read my Spooky Stories Series this year. I hope it was both entertaining and interesting.

A few of you have actually been coming to my blog since 2005, and you just might remember my posting a picture of my son, The Dominator, in a Transformers costume I made. I decided after a year off, I would once again create a Halloween costume for my now seven-year old.

The Dominator wanted to be a cyborg - not THE cyborg featured in the D.C. Comics, but just a cyborg. Below is the final result:

The Dominator Cyborg: Half boy, half machine

Notice the blaster marks on the robotic arm and face. It's rough being a cyborg.

The glowing laser sword on his hand is removable in case any bad guys wanna get messed up.
That is indeed a circular light on his chest, little LCD lights all over that chest plate, and the robotic eye and tubing all glow in the dark.

Here's what I used to make this suit:

*A plain white mardis gras mask: $3 at Wal-Mart
*Used skating pads/gear: $4 at Goodwill
*Old tap light that I repaired: FREE
*Tiny portable LCD lights: $6 at Hobby Lobby
*Laser sword: $1 from the Dollar Store
*Glow in the dark rubber rope: $4 at Hobby Lobby
*Tubing: FREE (I work in hospital sales, so I just used some IV tubing and stuff)
*Cheap-ass glue gun that smoked and then blew up in my hand: $1.00 at the Dollar Store
*Fine quality glue gun that worked very well: $5 at Hobby Lobby
*Silver Metalic spray paint: $5
*Cardboard for chest plate: FREE
*Silver, white, black acrylic paint I already had: FREE
*Black foam: $1 at Hobby Lobby
*Foam weather stripping with adhesive backing for chest plate: $2 at Wal-Mart
*Various velcro: $4

*Some junk including a piece from a broken sweater shaver thingy I used to make the robotic eye, pieces from a broken little portable radio for the chest plate and robotic knee, and two medicine container caps for the robotic arm: FREE

Total cost: $36
Total hours of labor: 16

Why or why didn't I just buy him a costume?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spooky Story Four: A Skeptic's Experience

I hope you've enjoyed this year's Spooky Stories Series, and I decided to save the best for last.

The following story was told to me by a good friend. He will remain anonymous, but I assure you that this is his personal, first-hand experience. Before he told me this incredible account of his very scary run-in with the supernatural, he explained that he was a big-time skeptic. Anything paranormal, he immediately discounted. In fact, he and his wife were both atheists.

Although he does not practice any sort of religion, he now doubts that death is truly the end.

Here is "Tom's" story:

In 1986, my wife and I were expecting our first baby. We had lived in an apartment, and thought having a real house would be a better place to raise a family. We didn't have a lot of money for a down payment, so we decided to rent a home first - with a portion of our rent going towards the purchase of the house. We found a great little town just outside of Kansas City. It had the feel of a small town, but had all the stores and businesses all conveniently there.

Our new home was a charming Victorian, built in 1900. It had three bedrooms, one bath, and a detached garage. It even had a yard which we thought we would fence-in later. We were excited, and we thought this started-home was perfect for us.

Early on, some very strange things happened. Lights would flicker off and on, and rooms would suddenly get very cold. I thought that all of this was from living in an old drafty house. Maybe when the heater kicked on, it would make the lights blink - or maybe a lack of insulation made a room cold when the winter wind blew.

Neither of us believed in any of that ghost shit. In fact, we didn't believe in any sort of afterlife at all. Ghosts, spirits, hauntings - it was all bullshit. But living in this house, we started to wonder.

I'm a big time checker. I check, double-check, triple-check stuff before we go to bed or leave the house. One night, my wife and I were going to go out to dinner and a movie. My wife went to our garage to wait in the car while I went through my ritual. I checked the gas stove, the lights, the back door, etc. I did leave one light in the living room on - just so we wouldn't come home to a completely dark house. All was perfect, and so we left to go on our "date."

Three hours later, as we pulled up to the house, we knew something was wrong. The porch light was on. When we got inside, we freaked out when we could see that every single light in our house was now on. Not just the light fixtures, but ALL the lights - including the lamps, and closet light bulb. My wife grabbed the phone, thinking we had been robbed while we were out. But after doing a quick sweep, we saw no sign of a robbery.

We also noticed that a few appliances were on as well. The empty dishwasher was going and the TV in the living room was on.

There was no explanation for this, and we didn't really try to find one.

In the next few months, all kinds of weird stuff happened: footsteps in the hall at night, we would hear doors shut on their own, and our keys would constantly go missing. All of these did have a reasonable explanation, however.

When my wife was six months pregnant, we had an experience that forced us to leave the house immediately and permanently.

One night, we were both completely asleep. Suddenly, we heard a woman screaming downstairs. It was an angry scream, and then she was sobbing. I turned on the light, and my wife and I looked at each other in horror. We heard a man yelling; it sounded like he was yelling at the woman, telling her to stop crying. The lady screeched back at him, and the man's booming voice yelled right back.

Our immediate thought was that people had broken into our house and were now arguing in our living room. My wife hid in the closet while I grabbed the baseball bat from under the bed to chase out the intruders. As I ran down the small hallway and down the steps, I was screaming bloody murder like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. I was hoping my fury would scare the burglers away. The man and woman were still screaming at each other, and when I reached the bottom of the steps, I heard a forceful "Shhhhhhhhhh!"

When I turned the corner, the living room was still. I fumbled for the light switch and hit it. The living room was just as I had left it - no intruders. With my aluminum bat, I did a search throughout the first floor for any sign of the angry, arguing couple - and found nothing. All the doors were locked, the windows were shut. TV and radio both off.

What the hell?

If I had been home alone, I would've easily explained that I must've been dreaming and jolted myself awake. That happens to everyone. The dream feels real, and for the first few seconds upon waking up, you're still sort of dreaming. But I know I was wide awake. And my wife had heard exactly what I had heard: a man and woman screaming at each other in what sounded like our living room.

The idea that we had heard disembodied voices in our house terrified us.

We had had enough. All of the strange experiences in the house put together was just too much. My wife was pregnant, and this was not the kind of house to bring a baby home to.

So we left.

We lost our $300 deposit and six months worth of rent, but we felt it was worth it.

But our story doesn't end there. Fast forward nearly 20 years later to 2004.

My wife and I were at a party held by my co-worker. In the course of the evening, there was a couple sitting at the breakfast table talking about having lived in a haunted house ten years ago. Of course we had to listen. They spoke of the usual stuff - creepy sounds, cold spots, doors slamming. But the wife said that she saw a man's ghost in the living room, and from what I could tell, she was still terrified from that experience.

Someone asked where this house was, and it was the very same house my wife and I had lived in 18 years ago! We sat down and began talking about our own experiences in that same house, and the other couple had heard a man and woman screaming at each other too.

Being able to compare "notes" and really corroborate our experiences was so validating to us. Now I know for a fact we weren't crazy, and that what we heard and saw was REAL.

Even to this day, I'm a skeptic - but at the same time, I'm not so easily dismissive. From my own personal experiences, no one can tell me that we had just imagined it, or give us any other sort of ordinary explanation. To me, there is no doubt that for nearly six months, my wife and I lived in a real haunted home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spooky Story Three: The Ghost Hunters

Roto-Rooter plumbers by day, ghost hunters by night - Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the T.A.P.S. (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) have worked to legitimize the idea that there are indeed some real ghosts going bump in the night.

Featured on the Sci-Fi channel on Wednesday evenings, Jason and Grant made ghost hunting more mainstream. By using a variety of high-tech tools like EMF detectors, digital voice recorders, and infrared cameras, they've taken a more scientific approach to hunting ghosts. Their objective isn't to prove the existence of ghosts at a particular location, but to DISPROVE any notion there are ghosts. It's a very different perspective and one that gives these ghost hunters a more skeptical slant.

Last night, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson came to St. Louis to discuss what they actual do, what they don't do, and cover some of the more interesting things they've found. They said that overall, they've been able to debunk 80% of all claims...but it's the remaining 20% that remains unexplained.

Over one-thousand people waited in line at the city library, and only 700 got to stay. Unfortunately, I was in the group of about 350 people that were stuck in a large room forced to watch Jason and Grant's presentation via closed circuit TV and sound system. Nevertheless, I found the seminar both entertaining and educational.

Here are just a couple cases they discussed last night:

The Stanley Hotel

This is the hotel that served as the inspiration (and actual shooting locale) for Stephen King's The Shining. The spirits of a past maid's children can still be heard playing in the halls up on the fourth floor. In Room 401, Jason witnessed a drinking glass on his nightstand shatter from the inside out, and he was able to catch on night vision video his closet door opening and then later closing by itself.

Last Halloween, the ghost hunters actually broadcast the entire investigation LIVE, and viewers were able to send text messages to both Jason and Grant during the six hour hunt.

During this awesome live broadcast, they even heard a girl's voice saying "hello" and laughing while investigating the cellar.

The Armory

T.A.P.S. investigates an old armory in New Bedford, MA built in 1903. Soldiers have reported all kinds of freaky things like large metal doors opening and closing on their own and all kinds of apparitions and ghosts being seen. What makes this episode so interesting is what happens to the soundman.

Frank DeAngelis is carrying a large boom microphone with both hands and a 40 pound equilizer in a case around his neck. Frank is a hardcore skeptic, often attributing any sort of paranormal activity to swamp gass, mass hysteria, or people smoking too much weed. But in one milisecond, Frank goes from big time skeptic to ulitmate believer.

He's literally attacked by an entity, and his life is changed forever.

Jason Hawes explained in the seminar that Frank immediately flew back home to California. They were able to talk him into flying back to finish production of their investigation, but Frank decided to not work on any more Ghost Hunters episodes.

I've thought about maybe producing my own ghost hunting video blog, but it would be full of nothing but footage of me screaming like a girl and running away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spooky Story Two: Haunted Illinois College

Jacksonville, IL is a really nice smaller town about two hours north of St. Louis. It's a great place, and the blending of the modern world with the historic buildings makes for an interesting visit. Jacksonville is also home to Illinois College, founded in 1823. The college has had many incredible visitors and speakers including Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The school was an important site for the Abolitionist Movement, and many tunnels from the Underground Railroad can be found beneath the campus grounds.

With all of this rich history, you know this place has to be haunted

Beecher Hall was built in 1829. This two-level building is now used as a meeting hall for two fraternities - Sigma Pi and Phi Alpha. There's been tons of reports of footsteps that can be distinctly heard in one room, always coming from another. If somebody follows the sound, then the footsteps will suddenly be heard in the other room instead. Decades ago, this was a medical building and cadavers were secretly stored on the upper floor. Some believe that this may explain the ghostly activity.

The med students here were not supposed to have the cadavers, but they stole them from local hospitals and cemeteries for their studies. They hid the corpses in the attic until the stench of decaying flesh alerted college officials to their presence.

Other legends claim that the ghost here is that of Williams Jenning Bryan, who has returned to haunt his frat house. He was a member of Sigma Pi and was often in the building during his years at Illinois College. There are others who say that it might be Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, since he had stayed there during his visits.

The David A. Smith House was built in 1854 and is home to three sororities. There are several different stories regarding the young daughter, Effie Smith, and her suicide. Whatever the varying circumstances, the one common denominator is that she jumped out a window from the attic. To this day, they say if you move Ellie's rocking chair away from its spot near that window and leave the room, the chair will somehow return to its proper spot.

Perhaps the most compelling haunting is at Ellis Hall, built in 1957. The urban legend was that some girl didn't get a bid from a sorority and she hung herself in Room 303. In that room and those dorms surrounding it, doors will open and shut on their own, radios will turn on and off by themselves, and windows will also open and close.

After some digging, the truth is that no girl killed herself there. However, a young lady named Gail did die in Room 303. She was already terminally ill while attending college, and passed of natural causes in bed. In fact, a plaque in her memory is still on the door of room 303.

Students living in or near the room say that doors often do open and close on their own and they are always missing stuff. If they ask Gail to return the missing item, it will sure enough be found shortly thereafter.

One former resident that lived in the room directly below room 303 said that she often heard knocking sounds from the other side of the wall. The funny thing is, it's an outer wall and there aren't any trees or object even close to it.

Another former student said:

"I attended this college and stayed in the dorm where this girl died (My girlfriend at the time was a student and it was in her dorm). My former girlfriend woke up to find a female ghost floating above her over the bed. The radio would often come on by itself, but it would always play music from the 70s or 80s even though we never left it on any stations that would play music from that time. We were also awakened by her hair dryer turning on by itself."

Illinois College is absolutely full of all kinds of reports - from Civil War soldier ghost sightings to objects floating around. Sturtevant Hall, Crampton Hall, the McGaw building, Rammelkamp Chapel, and the Fayerweather House all have just tons and tons of stories.

In fact at the Fayerweather House, the attic was converted into a series of dorm rooms, but they are no longer used. No one would stay there, as too many students complained of freaky things happening too often. Reports of footsteps and scratching on the walls at night, doors slamming, and even objects flying around the rooms was enough for the adminstration to close the newly renovated doorms for good.

Whether or not you believe that the campus of Illinois College is haunted, you can't so easily dismiss the thousands of reports from students and faculty alike - and I'm sure it's a repuation the administration doesn't want to advertise.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spooky Story: The Linda Sherman Mystery

This is not an urban legend or simple folk tale. The following is a very real story - a true mystery that happened when I was in high school here in the St. Louis area. ..

In 1985, Don and Linda Sherman were struggling to keep their marrage intact. They had separated and reconciled several times, but it seems divorce was imminent. Don worked in a machine shop, and Linda worked nights at the U.S. Government Records Center. They lived in a modest house in Vinita Park, a manicipality in northwest St. Louis County. On April 11th, Linda filed for a dissolution of marriage. Despite this, Linda continued to live with Don and their 9 year-old daughter, Patty.

On April 22nd, Linda clocked out of work at 2:16 AM and went home to sleep on the couch. Don took their daughter to school that morning, and at 6 PM Don says he saw Linda leaving for work.

He would be the last person to see her alive.

Linda never reported to work that day. Eventually, the police got involved in the search for Linda Sherman. Linda's family knew from the beginning that something was very wrong. They said that there was no way Linda would just leave her daughter without a word. In fact, everytime Linda tried to leave her husband for good, she had always taken Patty with her.

Five days later, police found Linda's Volkswagon Beetle at Lambert Airport's short term parking lot. Other than a couple of personal items, there was no trace of Linda. Of course the husband was the prime suspect, but investigators could not find one shred of evidence to prove he was involved in his wife's disappearance.

All the leads were exhausted, all potential suspects were cleared. Police turned to the media for help. Without a break, they could not solve this mystery.

Five years later, on June 28th 1990, flight attendants having lunch at the Casa Gallardo in Bridgeton, Missouri saw something very strange in the bushes. On the other side of their large window, they saw a human skull facing them. They thought it was a joke, and the manager shut the blinds. When he went out to investigate, it was clear that the skull was REAL. Bridgeton police came and the skull was taken to the St. Louis County medical examiner's office. The unidentified skull was stored on a shelf at the county morgue.

Fourteen months later, a strange envelope was mailed to the Vinita Park police station. Inside was an orange flyer advertising a Super Bowl promotion that the Bridgeton Casa Gallardo had run months ago. On the back, written in purple ink was:


Lt. Michael Webb of the Vinita Park police department immediately contacted Bridgeton police, and they confirmed that a human skull was indeed found at the Casa Gallardo there. Lt. Webb sent Linda Sherman's dental records to the county morgue where forensic tests proved that they were in possession of Linda Sherman's skull.

The FBI tested the envelope and letter, and found nothing. The sender had been very careful. Vinita Park police now had a homicide investigation, but no where else to go now. They did have new questions, however:

Where is the rest of Linda Sherman's remains?
Who sent this letter after the unidentified skull had been found by Bridgeton police?
Why write the letter on the back of a Casa Gallardo promotion?
And finally:

Why would someone take just Linda's skull and place it in plain view of customers at the Casa Gallardo restaurant??? Someone had to have gone to where Linda's remains were buried, unearthed them, and just took the skull. The thought was horrifying.

In November of 2001, Linda Sherman's story was featured on the television program Unsolved Mysteries. After more advanced forensic years later, they are no closer to solving Linda Sherman's mystery. It's been 22 years now since Linda Sherman's initial disappearance, and 17 years since the gruesome discovery of her skull at the restaurant.

It remains an unsolved case to this day...

Monday, October 1, 2007

3rd Annual Spooky Stories

It's hard to believe, but it's that time of year once again where I share some very spooky stories. As always, I would appreciate any submissions from you folks - it seems every year I get several really good ones. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

In the last couple years, I've talked about the Mothman, the real Exorcist, and the famous Lemp Mansion. What I'd like to do is keep that local theme going this year, and share many freaky stories centered around the St. Louis area.

It should be very easy to do, especially with all the stuff that happens in Alton, IL - which is probably only second to New Orleans or Philadelphia in being the most haunted city in the country.

So I hope you're ready for some good spooky stories!

You can submit your own story HERE.

Here are a few of my favorite spooky stories from October of 2005 and 2006:

The Lemp Mansion: I get at least 20 hits a day about this very haunted house here in St. Louis

The Mothman and The Mothman Returneth: Weird, but I get at least 50 hits a day about the Mothman.

The Real Emily Rose: This story of demonic possession is pretty freaky. I think the recordings of her exorcism scare the hell out of my readers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Russian Gerbils In Orbit

What the hell is going on over there in Russia?

First, they claim the North Pole.

Then they test a Father of All Bombs and declare it the most powerful non-atomic bomb ever.

After that, they get real cozy with Iran.

And now, they're sending gerbils into space???

Maybe Putin should put his shirt back on and run his police-state country the right way (Putin - the other white meat. He's bringin' pasty back...yeah!).

10 gerbils were launched into space and will return after 12 days in order to test the potential effects of a manned space journey to Mars. There are special machines on board the space craft that will simulate daytime and nighttime conditions, and another neat gadget will clean their poop.

This experiment will enable scientists to determine salt exchange mechanisms in zero gravity conditions. I also strongly suspect Russian scientists just want to watch a gerbil poop while floating in mid-air.

Upon returning to Earth, several of these rodent cosmonauts will be dissected. I hear grilled gerbils taste like chicken. Scientists have sent chimps, rats, spiders, and all kinds of animals into space, but this is the first time gerbils have been sent. Many animal rights activitsts are protesting, but you can bet none of them are in Russia.

I hear Richard Gere is upset about this gerbil experiment, and is willing to plant a big fat kiss on Putin's left nipple to save the gerbils.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Czech Bounced

I've written about Foreign Accent Syndrome and xenoglossy a while back. I told the story of Tiffany Noelle Roberts, born and raised in the good 'ol US of A. But after recovery from a stroke, Ms. Roberts spoke with a perfect English accent (an accurate blend of English Cockney and West County).

It seems the brain is still a mystery, and after a head trauma, you're never quite sure what you're going to get. Take Czech motorcycle speedway racer, Matej Kus for example...

The 18 year-old had a terrible accident on the track last week, and was knocked out cold for 45 minutes. His teammates rushed to his side, along with paramedics. They were all relieved when Kus finally awoke. But his buddies instantly knew something was very strange about their teammate: Matej Kus spoke perfect English.
Kus's English prior to that moment was very limited, his teammates remarked. But right there, in front of them, as Matej was speaking to the paramedics about his injuries, he spoke in absolute crystal clear English.

Peter Waite, the promoter for Kus's team, the Berwick Bandits, said: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was in a really clear English accent, no dialect or anything. Whatever happened in the crash must have rearranged things in his head. Matej didn't have a clue who or where he was when he came round. He didn't even know he was Czech. It was unbelievable to hear him talk in unbroken English."

Kus flew home, and his ability to speak English disappeared as he recovered. In fact, he needed an interpreter to speak with the media for him. Despite a knee injury, a near-death experience, a strange and sudden ability to speak another language, and then having that ability just as suddenly disappear, Kus still has his sense of humor. Via his interpreter, he said:

"Hopefully I can pick English up over the winter for the start of next season so I'll be able to speak it without someone having to hit me over the head first."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Wanna New Drug

Many times, the proper medications can improve the quality of life for patients - may even save their lives. There are those moments, however, where this process goes awry. Sometimes, patients have to go through a trial and error process to find the right drugs and dosages. But what about those meds' side effects?

Recently, many precription drugs' side effects have made headlines. For example, because of the warning that went out in 2004 concerning antidepressant drugs contributing to suicide tendencies in teens, the number of teens even being diagnosed with depression has dramatically dropped. Why? Because doctors are afraid of being sued, so they are reluctant to even give that diagnosis - even if it is the proper one.

The result: teen suicide shot up 14%.

Don't forget about those Ambien side effects that made headlines last year. People were sleep walking and waking up in the middle of the street or eating the entire contents of their refrigerators.

Recently, the Mayo Clinic has been investigating the side effects of drugs classified as dopamine agonists - these are used to help patients with Restless Leg Syndrome. One drug is marketed as Requip. On its website, it states: Also tell your doctor if you or your family notices that you develop any unusual impulses or behaviors, such as pathological gambling or hypersexuality

Huh? Pathological gambling or hypersexuality???


Don't forget about that new diet drug Alli. It's warnings include wonderful terms like "gastrointenstinal discomfort" and "oily stools." Oily stools??? The manufacturer even goes as far as to recommend that a person taking Alli wear dark or brown pants. You've got to be kidding me.

This gives new meaning to the term spontaneous combustion. Maybe they should require those on Alli to wear Depends instead. Brown pants might make your "oily stools" less obvious visually, but I'm sure the smell will give it away.

Maybe, just maybe, sometimes the side effect of a drug just isn't worth it.