Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Favorite Holiday Book

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.

B is for Basil, assaulted by bears.

Heehee. These are excerpts from Edward Gorey's classic book, "The Gashlycrumb Tinies." I'm not kidding. I love it. Someone gave it to me as a present a long time ago, and I read it whenever I need to cheer myself up. (My favorite? "N is for Neville who died of ennui.") You can read the whole thing here. (In English AND Spanish!)

On the subject of books, the illustrious (and hilarious) International Mastermind has started an amazing "Freaky Book Club" blog. It's devoted to the kind of books that inspire the imagination (and possibly a few goosebumps). So if you're looking for some first-class entertainment (or want to tell everyone about a book that's blown your mind), make sure to visit by clicking here.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This is Your Last Reminder!

Tomorrow is the last day we'll be accepting stories for the Tales of Adventure contest! So enter now! Fabulous prizes await you!

(Art by Mark Ryden)

Aliens Attack Italy

Three years ago, a number of strange and unexplained events took place in the small Italian town of Canneto di Caronia. Ordinary household appliances and furniture began bursting into flames. TV cameras captured the blazes, and one scientist who had traveled to Italy to observe the phenomenon witnessed an unplugged electrical cable catch on fire for no apparent reason.

The Italian government has managed to rule out a number of possible causes--including Satan and his Demons--and now it seems that they've determined the true source of the fires. Aliens. That's right. The Italian government has concluded that extraterrestrial beings were the culprits. They've even identified a field near the village where they suspect the UFO may have landed.

Don't believe me? Read more here. (For the record, I think this is pretty nuts.)

(Above: The Alien Abduction Lamp)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Superheroes Anonymous

This morning I received another tip from a reader (thanks, Willamina!) about an exciting event that took place in Times Square yesterday. Just after 12PM, superheroes from around the country gathered on 42nd Street for the very first meeting of "Superheroes Anonymous."

Among the thirteen real-life superheroes in attendance were "Direction Man" (shown below, right), who guides lost tourists through the city and "Red Justice" (below, left) who spends his day on New York's subways, "encouraging young people to give up their seats to those who need them more."

Those not shown include "The Super" who does free repairs for needy apartment dwellers (while wearing a red cape and green tights) and "The Cleanser" who helps keep the city clean (while rocking a white cape and yellow rubber gloves).

It may sound like a joke--but it's not. These upstanding citizens take their jobs as superheroes very seriously. (They even have their own Myspace site.) And I think it's fabulous! Not only are these people doing what they can to help others, they're doing it with style and a sense of humor.

Which makes me think. What superhero identity would I assume?

Read more here.

(Photo by Cary Conover for The New York Times)

Another Shadow City Discovered!

This is the most exciting thing I've read about in months! Thanks so much to Chris for sending me the link.

Fresno, California has its own secret, underground city. Beneath the neighborhood that was once Fresno's Chinatown lies a series of brick-walled tunnels that can only be accessed through trapdoors in the basements of old buildings. (Sound familiar? It gets even better.)

Today the subterranean world is populated solely by bats, rats, and alley cats. But according to some residents, the tunnels were still hopping with activity as recently as the 1950s. Rick Lew, who claims to have visited Fresno's Shadow City as a child, recalls seeing gamblers, bootleggers, and other shady types mingling with townsfolk who had come looking for a thrill.

After more than 100 years of use, the tunnels were abandoned shortly after Rick Lew's visit. By the end of the 20th century, most people believed the tunnels under Chinatown were little more than an urban myth. Now archaeologists are investigating, and they're using radar to locate long forgotten passages. Some believe that the network of tunnels may be far larger than anyone imagined.

Read more here and here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Haunted Houses

I just found this great slideshow of haunted houses around the country. Enjoy!

Treasures Lost and Found

Today's post is all about treasure. Not the kind that was buried by pirates beneath a giant X mark on some remote desert island, but about the treasure that's hidden all around us--often in plain sight.

The first story concerns a New York woman named Elizabeth Gibson who happened to spot something unusual one morning on her way to get coffee. Leaning against a pair of garbage bags that had been set out on the street was a large, brightly-colored painting. Ms. Gibson, who's apparently no stranger to Dumpster diving, decided to take the artwork home. For years, Ms. Gibson wondered about the odd painting hanging on her living room wall. Finally, she decided to do a little detective work. Turns out the painting had been stolen from a wealthy art collector in the 1980s. Its value was recently assessed at around $1 million. Ms. Gibson had to give it back, of course, but she received a nice reward--and the satisfaction of knowing that she's got an excellent eye for art. (Read more here.)

The second story is even stranger. A family in Pennsylvania somehow heard a rumor that there might be coins hidden in one of the walls of the old house they had purchased. So they called in Jeff Bidelman to help them find out of the rumors were true. Sure enough, Mr. Biedelman discovered a hole that led to a hollow space behind one of the walls. When he kicked the wall in, thousands of coins poured out. Seems an old couple that had once owned the house had used the hollow space as a piggy bank. But they weren't just stashing pennies. Some of the coins were more than 300 years old. The "collection" is said to be worth more than $100,000. (More here.)

Still hungry for tales of treasure?

Here's a story about a Viking ship that was found under an English pub, and another about a Viking treasure, which was also discovered in Britain.

Time to go dig up the back yard, I think!

Friday, October 26, 2007

No Photoshop Necessary

This newly discovered species of squid has what looks to be human teeth!

Creepy Cute

Finally my twin passions for cute little creatures and all things dangerous can be combined into one fabulous post! Worth1000 just sponsored a photoshop contest, which they described in this way . . .

"It's adorable - I just want to pinch its little cheeks. May I? Oh look, he's grabbed my finger. Awww. Oh, he's biting it. Ow. Hey, my hand! Stop it! Aaugh! MY ARM! OH GOD -- GET IT OFF . . . In this contest, we want you to show us something that looks cute at first glance, but hides a lethal secret. Show us kittens concealing cutlery. Penguins with poison pincers."

The entries are all great, but the ones shown above are my personal favorites. You can view the rest on the Worth1000 website, but I warn you that some of them are pretty gruesome and not suitable for anyone who faints at the sight of fake blood.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Haunted Thursday: Part Two

Children and parents who frequent the local playground in Firmat, Argentina began to notice something VERY unusual four months ago. One (just one!) of the swings on the swing set was swinging by itself. It was creepy at first. And then it got worse. According to this article in The Sun (a London newspaper) the swing moves non-stop for ten whole days before it comes to a rest. Then, after a little while has passed, it starts to swing again.

Scientists have no idea what's causing the movement, but they've ruled out the wind, as well as magnetic and electrical fields.

Read the article, and see a video of the phenomenon here.

Haunted Thursday: Part One

The photo above was taken in 1995 when spectators gathered to watch the Town Hall in Shropshire, England burn to the ground. None of them recalled having seen anyone peering out at them from the fire. But when Tony O'Rahilly had his pictures developed, he found that one clearly showed a young girl standing calmly at the building's door.

The photo is now one of the 15 most famous ghost pictures of all time. See the rest here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Now That's What I Call Recycling

Scottish artist David Mach created this gorilla made entirely of metal coat hangers. From RubenMiller. (No relation.)

Man-Eating Trees

Those of you who've read Kiki Strike are probably aware that the subject of carnivorous plants is among my many obsessions. So imagine my excitement when I came across this short article from the Express News Service in India:


MANGALORE: Carnivorous trees grabbing humans and cattle and gobbling them up is not just village folklore.

Residents of Padrame near Kokkoda in Uppinangady forest range sighted one such carnivorous tree trying to dine on a cow last Thursday. According to reports, the cow owned by Anand Gowda had been left to graze in the forests.

The cow was suddenly grabbed by the branches and pulled from the ground. The terrified cowherd ran to the village, and got Gowda and a band of villagers to the carnivorous tree.

Before the tree could have its meal, Anand Gowda and the villagers struck mortal blows to the branches that turned limp and the cow was rescued. Uppinangady range forest officer (RFO) Subramanya Rao said the tree was described as ‘pili mara’ (tiger tree) in native lingo.

He had received many complaints about cattle returning home in the evenings without tails. On Friday, the field staff confirmed coming across a similar tree in Padrane, partially felled down.

However no detailed inquiry was made as the authorities were not asked for any report, Rao said."

Holy moly! A quick web search turned up some more tantalizing information. According to Cryptomundo, from the 1850s to the 1940s, there were multiple reports of man-eating trees in Madagascar. Wikipedia adds that a Dr. Carl Liche claimed to have seen a woman devoured by an African tree in 1878. There are also accounts of such bizarre plant life in the Philippines and Central America.

Is it possible that there might be some truth to these stories?

For those of you who share my interest in meat-eating plants (such as the Venus Flytrap shown below), Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the subject.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zombie Day

There have been a lot of Zombie-related happenings here in New York lately (including "Zombie Yoga"). But the Canadians seem to take the undead VERY seriously. Click here for pictures of Toronto's Zombie Day, during which hundreds of the living dead wandered aimlessly through the city's streets. Some of the costumes are pretty amazing.

Kiki Strike Sidewalk Art!

As you probably know by now, I'm a huge fan of street art. In my opinion, it's one of the very best things about living in New York. So I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have some created for Kiki Strike! The hole above can be found on the corner of 79th and 5th Avenue, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's the work of an artist named Hani, and the New York news interviewed him yesterday as he was working. Pretty cool, huh?

Oh yeah, and I passed a very unusual work of art yesterday on the Upper East Side. Sitting right outside of a fancy house was this giant foot. Intriguing.

Reminder: Send Your Tales of Adventure

You have one week left! The Tales of Adventure contest will end on Halloween. So send your stories before it's too late.

For more information on the contest, click here. As far as the amazing prizes are concerned, I've just received a shipment of Kiki Strike T-shirts, and they're AMAZING! And the winning author will be one of the first people on EARTH to get one!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Make Police Sketches of Your Friends and Loved Ones!

From time to time, I find something online that could turn out to be VERY useful. Like this fantastic site that allows you to create sketches like the ones the cops use to track down wanted criminals. You may have to tinker with the site a bit before you get it right, but the results will be well worth your time. Just imagine all the fun you can have! (I doubt I need to spell it out for you.)

After all, nothing says, "I care" like a personalized police sketch or wanted poster.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are You Being Watched?

England is all a flutter these days about a new technology that's being considered for use in the country's secondary schools.

Seems microchips are being embedded into school uniforms so that students can be tracked--their every movement monitored by school computers. Take one step off campus and alarm bells will go off. Teachers will even be alerted if a student just seems LIKELY to misbehave. Right now the system is still being tested, but one day it could be a reality for millions of kids. (Read more here.)

In the US, some schools are taking equally controversial steps that include fingerprinting students and imposing dress codes so strict that you can be punished for wearing a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt.

Unfortunately, in both Britain and the US, school kids don't have the same rights as adults. A doctrine called "in loco parentis" allows educational facilities to assume the responsibilities of parents during school hours. That means while you're in school, the Constitution (which ensures the right to free speech, among other things) does not protect YOU.

Somehow that doesn't seem quite fair.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And I Was Sure I'd Seen Everything

(Above: Which of these machines is not like the others?)

This morning I came cross a fascinating article about a trend that boggles my mind. (And my mind isn't easily boggled.) According to the New York Times, the Japanese have begun coming up with some interesting ways to combat urban crime. But instead of turning to the martial arts and kicking criminal butt, they're opting for camouflage.

And not just any camouflage. One inventor has come up with a skirt that morphs into a vending machine costume and a backpack that can turn an average kid into a fire hydrant. There's also a handbag that, when tossed to the ground, resembles a manhole cover. (See below.)

It starts to make a little sense, until you realize that Japan is still one of the safest places on Earth. In most parts of the country, you're more likely to die of fugu poisoning or get trampled by Godzilla than you are to get mugged.

Read the original article and see more pictures here.

Pictures by Torin Boyd/Polaris for The New York Times

How to Protest with Panache

You may have heard about the troubles in the Southeast Asian country of Burma (also known as Myanmar). It's ruled by an oppressive military regime which forces most of the Burmese people to live in terrible poverty. Recent protests inside the country have gotten a lot of attention here in the US.

Now, women around the world have found a new way to protest the regime. They're sending them their underwear. (I'm not kidding. It was in the New York Times.) Supposedly the superstitious generals who run Burma believe that contact with women's underwear "saps them of their powers."


Thursday, October 18, 2007


A number of you have asked how to participate in the Readergirlz myspace chat with Kirsten Miller that kicks off Friday night at 8PM Eastern time. Here are five easy steps.

1. If you're a member of myspace, log on.

2. Click on this link:

3. Scroll down until you see "Forums"

4. Click on the Forum Topic that says: "October19: Kirsten Miller"

5. Chat away!


You can still view the chat. (Just follow steps 2-4.) Unfortunately, you won't be able to ask questions through Myspace. So if there's a question you'd really like answered, send it to before 8PM (Eastern time) tomorrow night! Kirsten Miller will answer it during the chat!


Toilet Snakes are Real!

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that I worry about.

On Monday, Brooklyn resident Nadege Brunacci felt the need to pay an early-morning visit to the bathroom. She'd finished her business and was washing her hands when she happened to look down at the toilet. There, looking back at her, was a seven-foot python!

(I'm impressed Ms. Brunacci kept her cool, but I wonder what would have happened if she'd "discovered" the snake just a few seconds earlier.)

After slamming the toilet lid and weighing it down with a heavy box, Brunacci waited for the Fire Department to arrive. New York's Bravest were forced to cut through the pipes in a neighboring apartment to capture the snake, which had slithered out of sight. Nobody knows where the snake came from. Let's just hope there aren't more of them lurking in New York's sewers!

Read the whole story here.

Create Your Own Chimera

The Bronx Zoo has a great new game on its website that allows you to create your own chimera (a beast composed of parts of many different animals).

Try it out here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Don't Forget!

This Friday is the Readergirlz chat with Kirsten Miller. Tomorrow, I'll post instructions for those of you who aren't members of myspace!

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

Every year, the Capuchin monastery in Palermo, Sicily attracts hordes of visitors. Most have little interest in the monastery itself--they come to see what lies beneath it. Lined up on the walls of underground crypts are thousands upon thousands of the most remarkable mummies in the Western world.

It all started in 1599 when a monk by the name of Silvestro de Gubbio was mummified and placed in the monastery's catacombs. Soon, having your corpse preserved and hung on the wall was all the rage, and Palermo's big-shots paid good money to be put on display in their finest duds.

Inside the crypts, there are separate halls devoted to the mummies of professionals, priests, women, and men. Many of the deceased still sport the hats, hoop skirts, or neckerchiefs that were fashionable in their day. There are also a remarkable number of children to be seen. In fact Palermo's most famous mummy is that of Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920 at the age of two. She's so perfectly preserved that she's known as the "Sleeping Beauty."

Rosalia (shown below) was one of the last to be interred in the Capuchin catacombs. She lies surrounded by more than 8000 of her fellow mummies, and you can pay your respects to all of them by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

World's Weirdest Moths

Moths. Not the most interesting subject, you say? Well until today, I might have agreed. Then I discovered this list of the top ten weirdest moths. There's one that looks exactly like a hummingbird (see below), a "vampire" moth, and even a moth that appears to have a human skull on its back. And the best thing is . . . there's nothing cute about them.

Check the rest out here.

Finally a Reason to Go Camping

This is the coolest tent I've ever seen. (Though how are you supposed to get inside?) Designed by Dutch artist Dre Wapenaar, it's one of the many innovative outdoor dwellings he's created.

Now you can purchase the Treetent at Neiman Marcus for the bargain price of $50,000! That's one expensive camping trip.

The Littlest Piglet

Yeah, I know. What is it with me and teensy animals? Believe me--I'm not one of those people who ooooh and ahhhh at every adorable creature I come across. And I'd rather jump off the Brooklyn Bridge than participate in the LOL cats craze. But something about little dogs, frogs, or pigs fills me with glee.

And I have to say, finding this picture of little Tetley made me practically giddy. No bigger than a teacup, this miniature pig will never grow past the size of a cocker spaniel. See more pictures here.

No more cute animals for a while. Back to the strange, bizarre, and disturbing!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Smell Dead People!

New York City is not the best-smelling place on Earth--to say the least. But apparently the Bronx (an area that lies north of Manhattan), is particularly stinky. In recent months, residents have been complaining about odors ranging from the sweet stench of sewer to the unmistakable fragrance of fresh cadaver.

So what does the city do when the complaints start rolling in? They send out odor inspectors--specially trained indivduals whose powerful noses can track down the source of the smells. These brave souls are willing sniff the foulest scents so the rest of us don't have to.

Read the original report in the New York Post.

(Below: The Post's map of the odors wafting through the Bronx.)

In the Future, Everything is Cute

Here are a few of the new "concept" cars unveiled by Nissan, Honda, and Toyota at the Tokyo Auto Show earlier this month. The Japanese are big on cute, which they call "kawaii." (Hello Kitty is practically a religion in Japan.) It's such a huge part of their culture that you'll even see burly construction workers walking around with cute little anime characters dangling from their cell phones.

Also, you might want to check out these photos of the world's smallest cars. They're far more interesting than you'd think!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Karate Nuns

"In 1991, a group of French nuns arrived in New York to open a mission. All of them were from the Order of Fraternite Notre Dame. Not one spoke English. Their first plan was to establish a soup kitchen for the poorest of the poor. They chose a storefront in Spanish Harlem and started working.

"Shortly after their arrival, they began to study the martial arts. Though they would never use the arts to hurt someone, a number of them have become quite good. Sister Mary, who is just over five feet tall, is the most serious."


The New York Underground Railroad

The New York Times has a great video tour of places in Brooklyn that many believe may have been stops on the Underground Railroad. These were buildings in which escaped slaves could hide as they traveled north to freedom.

Though it's not profiled in the video, Bialystoker Synagogue in Manhattan (shown above) is also thought to have played a role in the abolitionist movement back in the days when it was known as the Willett Street Church.

According to the synagogue's website, "In the corner of the women’s gallery there is a small break in the wall that leads to a ladder going up to an attic, lit by two windows. Legend has it that the synagogue was a stop on the Underground Railroad and that runaway slaves found sanctuary in this attic." Oddly enough, they don't mention what lies UNDER the building.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Evidence of Ghosts? You Decide!

The owner of the George and Dragon Pub in Phoenix, Arizona claims there's more to his establishment than meets the eye. According to David Wimberley, the bar is frequented by members of the spirit community. Guests have experienced, "glasses being thrown, names being called out, women being grabbed by invisible hands and bottles of beer exploding in midair."

Now Wimberley says he has proof of the haunting. Ghost hunters from West Coast Paranormal recently investigated Wimberley's claims and managed to record what they say are voices from beyond. Listen to the tape here. I don't know if it's "proof," but it sure sent chills up my spine!

Read the original story here.

(Below: The George and Dragon Pub)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dissecting Hello Kitty

Artist Michael Paulus has managed to get underneath the skin of many famous cartoon characters. He's stripped them down to their very bones, revealing the bizarre skeletons beneath. His drawings are both beautiful and weird--and I'd love to have one for my wall! (I think I'd put it in the bathroom.) Check them out here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Looking for Tales of Adventure!

This is your chance for fame, fortune and glory! (OK, maybe not fortune.) It's time to share your stories. So send us an account of . . .

1. An adventure you've had.
2. A ghost you've encountered.
3. Or a "case" you've solved using your Kiki Strike skills.

This isn't a creative writing quiz. The stories don't need to be long. Heck, they don't even need to be true. (As long as we can't tell the difference.) They just need to be exciting.

An independent team of experts will pick the most thrilling (not necessarily the most beautifully-written) tale. On November 1, the winning story will be posted on the blog for all to read, and its author will receive a special package, including a signed copy of the Empress's Tomb, a Kiki Strike T-shirt, and more!

Send your stories to


What Happened to That Fungus?

OK, here's something I'd never seen before today. The Hydnellum peckii, otherwise known as the "Bleeding Tooth Fungus" is supposedly quite common and can be found under conifer trees.

But I've spent a lot of time in the woods (don't ask), and I think I'd remember coming across a mushroom that looked like a crime scene.