Top 5 Bizarre Disasters

1. The St. Pierre Snake Invasion

Volcanic activity on the ‘bald mountain’ towering over St Pierre, Martinique, was usually so inconsequential that no one took seriously the fresh steaming vent-holes and earth tremors during April, 1902. By early May, however, ash began to rain down continuously, and the nauseating stench of sulphur filled the air. Their homes on the mountainside made uninhabitable, more than 100 fer-de-lance snakes slithered down and invaded the mulatto quarter of St Pierre. The 6-ft long serpents killed 50 people and innumerable animals before they were finally destroyed by the town’s giant street cats. But the annihilation had only begun. On May 5, a landslide of boiling mud spilled into the sea, followed by a tsunami that killed hundreds and, three days later, May 8, Mt Pelee finally exploded, sending a murderous avalanche of white-hot lava straight toward the town. Within three minutes St Pierre was completely obliterated. Of its 30,000 population, there were only two survivors.

2. The Shiloh Baptist Church Panic

Two thousand people, mostly black, jammed into the Shiloh Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 19, 1902, to hear an address by Booker T. Washington. The brick church was new. A steep flight of stairs, enclosed in brick, led from the entrance doors to the church proper. After Washington’s speech, there was an altercation over an unoccupied seat, and the word ‘fight’ was misunderstood as ‘fire’. The congregation rose as if on cue and stampeded for the stairs. Those who reached them first were pushed from behind and fell. Others fell on top of them until the entrance was completely blocked by a pile of screaming humanity 10 ft high. Efforts by Washington and the churchmen down in the front to induce calm were fruitless, and they stood by helplessly while their brothers and sisters, mostly the latter, were trampled or suffocated to death. There was neither fire – nor even a real fight – but 115 people died.

3. The Great Boston Molasses Flood

On January 15, 1919, the workers and residents of Boston’s North End, mostly Irish and Italian, were out enjoying the noontime sun of an unseasonably warm day. Suddenly, with only a low rumble of warning, the huge cast-iron tank of the Purity Distilling Company burst open and a great wave of raw black molasses, two storeys high, poured down Commercial Street and oozed into the adjacent waterfront area. Neither pedestrians nor horse-drawn wagons could outrun it. Two million gallons of molasses, originally destined for rum, engulfed scores of people – 21 men, women and children died of drowning or suffocation, while another 150 were injured. Buildings crumbled, and an elevated train track collapsed. Those horses not completely swallowed up were so trapped in the goo they had to be shot by the police. Sightseers who came to see the chaos couldn’t help but walk in the molasses. On their way home they spread the sticky substance throughout the city. Boston smelled of molasses for a week, and the harbour ran brown until summer.

4. The Pittsburg Gasometer Explosion

A huge cylindrical gasometer – the largest in the world at that time – located in the heart of the industrial centre of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, developed a leak. On the morning of November 14, 1927, repairmen set out to look for it – with an open-flame blowlamp. At about 10 o’clock they apparently found the leak. The tank, containing 5 million cu. ft of natural gas, rose in the air like a balloon and exploded. Chunks of metal, some weighing more than 100 lbs, were scattered great distances, and the combined effects of air pressure and fire left a square mile of devastation. Twenty-eight people were killed and hundreds were injured.

5. The Gillingham Fire Demonstration

Every year the firemen of Gillingham, in Kent, England, would construct a makeshift ‘house’ out of wood and canvas for the popular fire-fighting demonstration at the annual Gillingham Park fête. Every year, too, a few local boys were selected from many aspirants to take part in the charade. On July 11, 1929, nine boys – aged 10 to 14 – and six firemen costumed as if for a wedding party, climbed to the third floor of the ‘house’. The plan was to light a smoke fire on the first floor, rescue the ‘wedding party’ with ropes and ladders, and then set the empty house ablaze to demonstrate the use of the fire hoses. By some error, the real fire was lit first. The spectators, assuming the bodies they saw burning were dummies, cheered and clapped, while the firemen outside directed streams of water on what they knew to be a real catastrophe. All 15 people inside the house died.


Top 5 Most Bizarre Videos

1. The Alphabet David Lynch Wikipedia

The Alphabet. This is the first film David Lynch recorded – based on a dream by the young sister of his then girlfriend. I really think this is first equal with the Artaud piece, but I had to pick one or the other. This is nightmare material. Make sure you watch to the end as the very last scene if horrifying. I promise you will have nightmares after watching this. A final note: Lynch’s girlfriend is the singer.

2. Homage to Artaud Antonin Artaud Wikipedia

Born in 1896 (died 1948), Artaud is one of the most unusual artists of the 20th century. He wrote poetry that was banned by the French government, assisted in some of the most bizarre films in history, and even wrote music. He had a small part in the film The Passion of Joan of Arc (hailed as the film with the most emotional performance ever captured on film by Maria Falconetti). I found this little excerpt with Artaud’s name attached. I have no idea what the hell it is supposed to be – but believe me, it is freakish and definitely earns top spot!

3. Rabbits and the Idol

This is a very strange animated short film. I think there is a moral to the story – I am not sure what it is!

4. Holy Mountain Alejandro Jodorowsky Wikipedia

The Holy Mountain is a 1973 cult film directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky who also participated as actor, composer, set designer, and costume designer. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein of ABKCO after Jodorowsky scored an underground phenomenon with El Topo and the acclaim of both John Lennon and George Harrison (John and Yoko Ono put up production money).

5. Symphony Mechanique Georges Antheil Wikipedia

Antheil, an American composer, wrote this score to accompany a dadaist film. This piece of ballet music which is impossible to play in full, is set to a film by Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955). Strangely, it was not until the 1990s that the film and score were brought together. The film and music is a masterful example of the movement. It is hard to believe that this is from the 1920s, nearly 100 years ago. Here is the Ballet Mécanique (with plane propellers and various other strange instruments). This is Antheil’s most famous work.


Bizarre Data Loss: What’s Your Story?

Computer users have lost data under very bizarre circumstances.

As data storage technology expands to accommodate business production - including email histories, company records and research - digital data forms a large part of a company’s backbone. In one famous case, an employee left a rotting banana on an external hard drive, which seeped into the mechanism and compromised all of his saved data. Do you have a messy desk? Don’t leave your lunch on your computer because even breadcrumbs can jam the tiny mechanisms that make the drive run.

When a data storage medium is crammed with photograph albums, Mp3 music and private records or calendars, it’s a big part of our personal lives, too. And we take it with us everywhere. If you’re clumsy, don’t leave a cup of coffee within an arm’s reach of your hard drive. Liquids and oils will almost certainly make your data too slippery to handle. Nevertheless one person greased his hard drive with mechanical grease because it was squeaking!

Pack your belongings for travel with care. Don’t slide toiletries into your laptop bag and risk spilled shampoo on your personal or professional hard drive. Every year, data recovery firms receive hard drives that have been left in the path of moving vehicles. At the airport, laptop bags and external devices have been crushed under luggage carriers. Don’t drop your laptop, ever. Not from a high counter, a moving car, over a balcony, or - and this really happened - from a helicopter. Remember that digital data - although recoverable in all of the instances above - is easily lost.

Protect your data and save yourself plenty of personal and professional trouble.

Nevada Doctor Charged with Medical Malpractice

Kevin Buckwalter, a Las Vegas-area family doctor, has recently been stripped of his medical license after a series of investigations revealed that at least eight of his patients died due to negligence and medical malpractice.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the state medical board, Buckwalter has allegedly over-prescribed prescription drugs and failed to monitor their use among his patients for years.

In one shocking example, medical records reveal that Buckwalter prescribed a single patient over 17,000 narcotic painkillers within a 4-year period – even after that man had already experienced an overdose on the same pain medication.

Details of Buckwalter's Medical Malpractice

Through the investigations of the Nevada Medical Examiner's Board, state officials have found evidence indicating that Buckwalter has recklessly prescribed potent drugs, without performing proper medical exams of patients, in dozens of cases.

While, to date, eight patients are known to have died due to Buckwalter's malpractice, tens of others have filed reports with the state medical board indicating that they have experienced severe injuries as a result of Buckwalter's reckless practices.

Along with prescribing the highly addictive drug OxyContin, Buckwalter also has a history of inappropriately prescribing patients:

  • Hydrocodone (an addictive opiate-based painkiller that is commonly marketed as Vicodin)
  • Methadone
  • Xanax