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Valentine’s Day cards inspired by the master of horror, David Cronenberg
02.13.2017
02:35 pm

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Sex

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There’s a website out there claiming that in 1992 some company printed a set of 21 Valentine’s Day cards, each with a picture and come-hither motto riffing off the mostly grisly works of David Cronenberg. Whoever runs the site was cleaning out the storage space of a “distant relative” in North Hollywood, and came across several deadstock sets of the Cronenberg Valentine’s product, alongside similar Valentine items promoting “CareBears, Michael Jordan, and Jurassic Park.”

I ain’t buying the idea for a few reasons—not a single hit comes up for the set on eBay, which strikes me as a prerequisite to believing a story like this. The name of the company, Ephemerol, is a reference to a drug in Scanners that’s way too cute to be real, in my opinion.
 

 
Meanwhile, the picture of the set looks like it could have been made by anyone possessing a decent color printer, and the cards themselves seem decidedly post-Internet in nature. Having said all this, it would be cool and hilarious if something as dark as this had ever made it to the Spencer’s Gifts in your mall in the George Herbert Walker Bush years, but I’m betting ‘twas never thus.

Still, the cards are quite amusing. You can use the site to send your sweetie a Cronenberg Valentine’s Day card, virtual email style. Rigorously hewing to the 1992 premise, you won’t find eXistenZ or Eastern Promises here—the only movies available date from 1992 or before—Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, Videodrome, The Fly, and Scanners are the main ones used.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Was Groucho Marx’s famous anthem ‘Hooray for Captain Spaulding’ actually a celebration of cocaine?
02.13.2017
12:42 pm

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Drugs
Movies
Music

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Rule of thumb, the earlier a Marx Brothers movie was made, the better it probably is. The initial impulse of the brothers’ manic energy and inventive wordplay was difficult to reproduce as time wore on, although they did make seven first-rate Marx Brothers movies before tailing off (the last really good one being A Day at the Races from 1937). 

The first two Marx Brothers movies were The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), and both were based on successful Broadway musicals. Monkey Business from 1931 was the first script that was originally developed to be filmed by a Hollywood studio, that being Paramount.

For my money, Animal Crackers might be the quintessential Marx Brothers movie. Groucho plays an African explorer named Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, and the movie opens with a bang when four African men carry Capt. Spaulding into a hoity-toity gala party in a sedan chair. Groucho immediately breaks into “Hello, I Must Be Going,” which prompts the entire chorus, including Margaret Dumont and Zeppo, to break into “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” in which Groucho actually doesn’t do much singing, he mainly does funny dances between the choruses.

The song was written for the stage musical by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby in 1928. Interesting choice for a name, “Captain Spaulding,” because that name was actually associated with a cocaine dealer who had gotten into serious legal trouble a few years earlier. It’s hard to project back in time to know what it meant to name a Groucho Marx character Captain Spaulding, but it seems a fair supposition that for certain ears, the phrase “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” might essentially have been the equivalent of “Hooray, my coke dealer is here!”

Who was this original Captain Spaulding? For that we turn to the tragic life of one of Hollywood’s early stars, Wallace Reid, who had appeared in D.W. Griffith’s two most famous movies, Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, but was better known as a romantic lead in movies like Carmen (1915) and The Affairs of Anatol (1921). After suffering a serious injury in a train wreck in 1923, he became addicted to morphine and passed away at the age of 31.

In his biography Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol, E.J. Fleming described the drug scene in the silent era as follows:
 

Drugs were plentiful and expensive. Stars used them to cure hangovers from “bathtub gin” or from fruit punch laced with 200-proof alcohol. The bigger dealers concentrated on a single studio and used a network of low-level studio employees as paid couriers. “Mr. Fix-It” served Fox, “the Man” and “Captain Spaulding” at Lasky. “Spaulding” was once arrested for selling drugs but when he threatened to name names the charges were dropped.

 
So one of the main drug dealers in Hollywood used the name “Captain Spaulding” in Hollywood, but there was also an incident in Paris in 1920 that gave the name a strong association with cocaine. Olive Thomas was a silent film actress who died in 1920 at the age of 24 of acute nephritis caused by accidental poisoning. Her death was eventually declared accidental, but her sudden hospitalization and initially mysterious death ensured that her case would be headline fodder for weeks. A man with the name of “Spalding” was connected to the case, and actually was given a prison sentence for smuggling cocaine into France. As the New York Herald reported on September 6, 1920: 
 

American is Imprisoned for Smuggling Cocaine
                         
    An American who gives his name as Spalding has been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for smuggling cocaine into Paris from Germany.  The supply, which amounted to four kilogrammes, was concealed in a trunk which went astray and was sent to the depot for lost articles.
    Here, after several days, it was claimed by Spalding, who declared to the Customs’ officers that it contained nothing of a dutiable nature, a statement which was disproved upon examination.  In his defense, Spalding stated that the trunk had been consigned to him by a friend, one Mrs. Green, from Mainz.

 
This “American named Spalding” actually was a captain and was referred to as such in an article that appeared a week later.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
None more black: The grim American gothic horrors of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’
02.13.2017
11:56 am

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Books
History
Movies
Occult

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Black River Falls’ Miss Congeniality circa 1890

Between the years 1890 and 1900, something terribly wrong happened to the good people of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. A tiny mining town populated mostly by Norwegian and German immigrants lured by the promise of cheap land, the once-bustling community fell into disrepair in the late 1880s when the inhospitable climate caused the mines to shut down, essentially dooming the town and everyone in it. While the town did ultimately survive, the ensuing decade was merciless to Black River Falls residents. A thick, impenetrable darkness descended on the town as the population withered, succumbing to poverty, disease, madness, murder, and worse.
 

 
In 1973, Michael Lesy told the terrible true tale of Black River Falls in Wisconsin Death Trip, a book that juxtaposed stark images shot by photographer Charles Van Schaick, who documented the town’s downward spiral in a series of jarring portraits, with matter-of-fact newspaper reports of all the murder, mayhem, devil-worship, suicide, hauntings and general bedlam that infected the town like a virus. If ever a place was cursed, it was Black River Falls, and Wisconsin Death Trip remains one of the bleakest, most devastating accounts of rural American life ever published. Seriously, this place was essentially Hell on Earth.
 

All this and diphtheria, too: a typically unsettling slice of life death in Black River Falls.
 
Witness, if you will, just a smattering of the horrors within:

A ten-year-old boy and his younger brother run away from home, find a remote farm several miles away and promptly blow the owner’s head off. They spend the rest of the summer frolicking at the ill-gotten farmhouse until the farmer’s brother comes for a visit. The boy is sentenced to life in jail.

A funeral director is suspected of botching a burial. The woman’s body is exhumed and the woman is found to have been buried alive, her fingers bitten half off in madness after discovering her horrific fate.

A sixty-year-old woman, afraid that the rash on her back would kill her, steps into her backyard, douses herself with gasoline and self-immolates.

A young mother takes her three children out for a day at the beach, and then drowns them, one by one, while the others watch. A fifteen-year-old Polish girl burns down her employer’s barn—and his house—because she wanted some “excitement.” 

A young German man, having only moved to Black River Falls a month prior, attempts suicide by train, lying down on the tracks and refusing to move. He is finally removed by four men. He later vanishes.

A teenage girl, jilted at the altar by her fiance, goes mad with grief, hanging herself in the local asylum. Meanwhile a young man, also recently jilted, shoots his ex-fiance and then himself. A recently divorced man shoots his ex-wife and her family dead in the crowded town square.

An outbreak of diphtheria kills off a score of local children. The school is closed and the houses of the afflicted burned to the ground. A formerly world famous opera singer moves to town and within a month is reduced to eating chicken feed to survive.

A farmer decapitates all of his chickens and burns down his farmhouse, convinced that the devil has taken over his farm. A drifter is taken in by a kindly family. He has dinner with them and as they sleep, he shoots them all and then himself.

And there’s more, so much more. Just endless misery death, murder, mutilation, arson, starvation, cruelty and unrelenting depression. And all in the space of just a few years.
 

 
In 1999, a highly unsettling documentary based on Lesy’s book was released. Also titled Wisconsin Death Trip, it showed the photographs, recounted the newspaper reports, and recreated many of the crimes in black and white, bringing Black River Falls’ grisly past to life. The film also juxtaposes the town’s lunatic ancestors with dead-eyed portraits of the then-current residents, less murderous but still as dazed and depressed as ever, staring blankly into the camera at nursing homes or bus stops, clearly waiting for the Lord or somebody merciful to end their dreary, pointless existences. I would not recommend consuming both the book and the documentary in one sitting unless you have a bucket of Prozac handy, but I will say this: You might think you’re pretty goth ‘n all with your serial killer books and your Bauhaus records, but you are definitely not Black River Falls goth. Those motherfuckers were the real deal.

Watch ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
‘Very unfair!’: Trump’s Tweets have been turned into an emo song
02.13.2017
11:15 am

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Amusing

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The folks at Super Deluxe noticed that Donald Trump’s tweets are super emo and turned his Twitter meltdowns into a perfectly shitastic emo song. There’s really not much else to say about this. You just have to hit play and listen. And maybe sob quietly to yourself or do a bit of self-harming.

One unanimous observation has emerged in the YouTube comments: You could play this at a Hot Topic store in 2017 and no one would be the wiser.

 
via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Battle of the female sideshow freaks: ‘Spidora’ vs the ‘Headless Girl’
02.13.2017
10:55 am

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Amusing
Kooks

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Circus banners for ‘Spidora’ and ‘Olga the Headless Girl.’
 
Originally conceived in the late 1800s by London-based vaudeville illusionist Henry Roltair and hugely popular at Coney Island in the late 1930s, “Spidora” was a disturbing illusion featuring the head of an actual woman with the body of a giant spider. When it comes to the equally disturbing “Headless Girl” sideshow attraction, we have a man from Hamburg, Germany purporting to be a physician called “Doctor Heineman” (aka Egon Heineman) to thank for “Olga the Headless Girl” which he debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 to a crowd of stunned onlookers. But which macabre human/animal hybrid was the bigger faux freak? Before I let you the reader decide, let’s dive into a little history lesson on both bizarro illusions before we slug this one out.

According to details in Joe Nickell’s 2005 book, Secrets of the Sideshow, he saw an early iteration of Spidora at Coney Island when he was a kid. The Spidora illusion was wickedly popular and Nickell recalls the words of the carnival barker prepping the crowd for what they were about to see: 

Step right up folks and meet “Spidora,” the Spider-Girl! Born with the head and face of a beautiful girl and the body of an ugly spider, she survives in total misery, for no man could ever love her.

The barker would also note that Spidora who made her living as a sideshow attraction and, just like a real spider, ate flies and other insects. There were several adaptations of Spidora, some more believable than others. At worst you saw a woman with her head protruding out of a box with a spider body crudely attached to her. At best you would be treated to an expertly crafted spider web made of white twine and spider body and legs made of fake fur. The legs would also include tubing so that the girl playing Spidora could make the legs appear to move on their own. Spidora’s actual body would be concealed behind a wall in a box in which her spider web, spider body, and head were macabrely displayed for curious onlookers to ponder before moving on to the next attraction. Spidora inspired many other human/animal hybrids such as the “human butterfly,” and “snake girl” illusions—and as I’m sure many of our readers will recall a character from Tod Browning’s 1927 film The Show “Arachnida - the Human-Spider,” played by the gorgeous Edna Tichenor.

The “Headless Girl” routine was a rather terrifyingly realistic looking illusion, especially given the time period in which it came to be. When Olga was displayed in a store window in London, shocked onlookers recoiled at the headless torso of a woman with tubes running from her throat to a contraption that supposedly controlled her food intake. As with Spidora, Olga would also be copied by other illusionists who called her “Tina” and the classier sounding “Mademoiselle Yvette” who all claimed that the woman—despite not having a head—was being kept alive by the feeding tubes and unexplainable technology. As you will see in the photos, the headless girl act is optically baffling. To help bolster the authenticity of the headless girl, many of the attractions would include backstory as to how the poor thing lost her head—such as a shark attack or an unfortunate showgirl who parted ways with her head thanks to a truck.

According to one of my favorite spots on the Internet, Sideshow World, the headless girl illusion continued to appear around the U.S. and the world through the 1980s and a version even made an appearance at Ozzfest in 2002. And as I’m a huge fan of all things Ozzy, it is that last bit that has me giving the edge when it comes to creepiness to Olga, and her many headless counterparts/knock-offs. I’ve included photos of both strange illusions below as well as a vintage footage of a headless girl illusion being performed at Coney Island. Stay sinister my friends.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Devil’s Jukebox: Why Big Stick is the greatest rock n’ roll band OF ALL TIME (if you ask me)
02.13.2017
10:31 am

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Music
Punk

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The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that Big Stick might be the greatest rock n’ roll band OF ALL TIME. I mean, I can’t think of anybody better. Could the Beatles write a song as visionary as “Do Not Rape My Sister At the Municipal Pool” or as nuanced as “Girls on the Toilet”? Well, even if they could’ve they certainly fucking didn’t, I’ll tell you that much. Big Stick did.

Big Stick slithered up from the NYC art-rock underground in the mid-80s like brightly colored lizards, worlds apart both stylistically and sonically from the noise-damage darlings of the junkie punk scene they emerged from—Pussy Galore, Reverb Motherfuckers, White Zombie—or their high profile big mean daddies in Sonic Youth, the Swans, or Foetus. Sure, they were just as druggy, and probably even snottier than their deathtripping brethren, but they had style, and a sense of showmanship long abandoned by the then-reigning Feedback Mafia. Sorta like the more playful, less genocidal version of Jim Thirlwell and Lydia Lunch, John Gill and Yanna Trance were a live-work-fuck-kill together couple who brewed up their crazed sonic schemes in their very own secret headquarters, explaining little and revealing even less. They performed wearing elaborate masks, and all known press photos were similarly mysterious affairs, shrouding their true identities in a veil of feathers and wigs and antlers. It was crazy but sexy, and the secret-squirrel gag was the perfect compliment to their bizarre cut and paste electro-skronk.
 

 
The music that Big Stick played simply did not exist before they did, and whether directly or otherwise, their dizzying, junkdustrial, urban warfare psychedelia was the seminal first step in what became a whole host of so-hip-it-hurts rock sub-genres in the ensuing decades. Their abrasive pastiche of distorto-punk guitars, drawling slacker-rap, and cheapjack drum machine beats was pretty much the blueprint for the electroclash movement that made Satanic superstars out of Peaches and A.R.E. Weapons. The concept of a two-man (or woman) primitive blues-punk racket, pioneering when Big Stick did it, is now a guaranteed recipe for at least fifteen minutes of rock radio-baiting success. Disco punk was their thing too, way before Electric Six took a trip to the gay bar.  If being a dozen years ahead of your time was at all profitable, then Gill and Trance would be zillionaires by now. But it’s not, is it?

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
Finland unveils its new Tom of Finland emoji character
02.10.2017
01:31 pm

Topics:
Queer
Science/Tech
Sex

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Last year Finland became the first country to produce its own set of national emojis; last week the country enxpanded its collection from 49 to 56, and one of the new additions represents legendary gay icon Tom of Finland.

Keeping in the spirit of emojis, Finland’s full collection of emojis is quite whimsical. There are icons dedicated to “Headbanger,” “Fashionista Finns,” and “Four seasons of BBQ,” for instance.

The images of Touko Laaksonen, published from the 1950s to the 1980s under the catchy pseudonym Tom of Finland, consisted largely of fantastically muscular sailors, bulging cops, and lascivious leather enthusiasts, and rapidly became a key part of the gay aesthetic of the 20th century and beyond.

An article on This is Finland’s website states:
 

[Laaksonen’s artworks] made, and continue to make, a significant contribution to the way sexual minorities perceive themselves. Laaksonen is often considered Finland’s most famous artist internationally. His work has adorned postage stamps–the most popular stamp set in the history of the Finnish Postal Service–and now it has also become an emoji. The emoji recognises the impact and importance of Tom of Finland’s art, and appears just before same-sex marriage officially becomes legal in Finland (as of March 1, 2017).

 
Here’s what the emoji looks like:
 

 
It’s clear that whatever discrimination and abuse Laaksonen may have experienced in his lifetime, Finland has recently made a concerted effort to embrace its country’s most famous artist. As mentioned, three years ago the country released a line of Tom of Finland postage stamps, sparking international headlines. Now you can find an emoji of his likeness on the country’s main website.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Dope Man: Trump’s dad nearly ran for Mayor of New York, watch his racist 1969 test commercials
02.10.2017
10:50 am

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History
Politics
Race

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UPDATE: Politico is now saying that the videos were a hoax. It looks like Sidney Blumenthal got punk’d. The spots were pulled on both Vimeo and YouTube. About an hour later the London Review of Books scrubbed the offending paragraph (see below) from their website with this message:

The original version of this piece contained two passages that require correction and clarification. At the time of the Roy Cohn leaks mentioned, the New York World Telegram was owned not by Hearst but by Scripps Howard. A paragraph referring to Fred Trump’s campaign for mayor of New York, although it accurately reflected Trump’s racial attitudes and his hostility towards Mayor John Lindsay, has been removed because the campaign ads referred to appear to be clever fakes.

“Dope Man” also made Snopes just now.

Yet another skeleton hiding out in Donald Trump’s closet, these unused TV spots were created when his father, Queens-based real estate developer Fred Trump, was mulling over challenging Republican mayor John Lindsay—who had angered Trump by refusing him certain city contracts—in the New York City mayoral race of 1969. Ultimately Trump Sr. decided not to run, but at least two television commercial tests were produced, proving, if nothing else, that the nut didn’t fall very far from the tree in his son’s case.

At first glance, the “Dope Man” spot almost seems like a parody or media-jamming meta-prank. I mean, WHO would have been so classless as to do something like this? [Editor: A Trump?] Although the two commercial tests have been posted on YouTube and Vimeo since mid-October of last year, no one has really touched them. It just doesn’t seem like they could be real… (like that Woody Guthrie song about “Old Man Trump” that seemed so Snopes-worthy at first) but here’s a citation from an article written by Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal that appears in the February 16th issue of the London Review of Books.

Check it out, folks:

In 1969, Fred Trump plotted to run for mayor of New York against John Lindsay, a silk-stocking liberal Republican. The reason was simple: in the wake of a New York State Investigations Commission inquiry that uncovered Fred’s overbilling scams, the Lindsay administration had deprived him of a development deal at Coney Island. He made two test television commercials. One of them, called ‘Dope Man’, featured a drug-addled black youth wandering the streets. ‘With four more years of John Lindsay,’ the narrator intoned, ‘he will be coming to your neighbourhood soon.’ The ad flashed to the anxious faces of two well-dressed white women. ‘Vote for Fred Trump. He’s for us.’ The other commercial, ‘Real New Yorkers’, showed scenes of ‘real’ people from across the city, all of them white. Fred Trump, the narrator said, ‘is a real New Yorker too’. In the end he didn’t run, but his campaign themes were bequeathed to his son.

There are no more words. NO MORE WORDS.
 
Watch ‘Dope Man’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Pot Sasquatch’ interrupts live news broadcast
02.10.2017
10:23 am

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Amusing

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Forget about Sasquatch sightings, those are sooooo last year. We’ve now moved on to the “‘Pot Sasquatch.” Apparently, he (or she) is alive and well and living in Springfield, Massachusetts. If you don’t believe me, the Pot Sasquatch was caught on video during WWLP’s meteorologist Jennifer Pagliei’s winter storm coverage. It’s crystal clear. Not like those blurry 1970s Bigfoot footage we’re used to seeing.


 
If there’s a Pot Sasquatch—and the proof is right here—then there has to be a hash oil-coated Loch Ness Monster roaming the waters somewhere harshing the mellow of fisherman and sailors, too. I believe!
 

 
via Mashable

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Train vs Elephant’: New music from The Residents
02.10.2017
09:59 am

Topics:
Music

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If you count back to the release of their first single, “Santa Dog,” The Residents have been releasing work for 45 years. It’s amazing to ponder, almost half a century of continuous innovative productivity, in music, film/video, and interactive digital media.

Their initial burst of creativity resulted in a run of deeply weird and absolutely wonderful releases culminating in 1979 with the definitive opus Eskimo or in 1980 with the definitive opus The Commercial Album, depending on who you ask (I’m on team Commercial Album, if you’re keeping a tally). In the ‘80s, they embraced the BIG IDEAS that would define the rest of their career, most notably embarking on the multi-LP “Mole Trilogy.” In the ‘90s, they reached a commercial peak with three universally acclaimed CD ROM “albums”—fully interactive music and video projects that hybridized concept albums, video games, and animated films. In the 21st Century they’ve settled into a long string of conceptual releases that started with 1998’s Wormwood, wherein the band tackled THE BIBLE.

The Residents’ album concepts have often revolved around getting into the heads of the marginalized—they did a CD ROM about sideshow freaks (Freak Show), an online interactive missing-person mystery (The Bunny Boy), a first-person narrative of a sexual predator (Tweedles). So it was a surprise to learn that their new album would be about something as comparatively prosaic as train accidents. The band discovered a trove of turn-of-the-20th-Century news articles about the dangers of train travel, and, struck by the contrast between the eloquent expressiveness of the era’s newspaper writing and the utter mayhem of the events described, they conceived The Ghost of Hope. The album includes contributions from keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman, whose weirdomusic bona fides are enviable—he’s served with Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, and the Pixies, among many, many others.
 

 
It’s Dangerous Minds’ privilege today to share that new album’s track “Train vs Elephant.” Though the title would seem to be a straightforward enough description, we nevertheless reached out to the band for comment, and were treated to an exegesis by Homer Flynn, the Residents’ longtime spokesman and graphic designer, whose tenacious insistence that he’s not their singer has been widely disbelieved for about as long as he’s been their press mouthpiece.

TRAIN VS ELEPHANT

September 17, 1894

At the time of this strange incident, the railway line connecting Teluk Anson and Tapa, in the western part of Malaysia had recently been completed, so exposure to train travel was relatively new. Several years later, a Malaysian man recalled the time in his youth when he found a sign shrouded in the undergrowth on the outskirts of his town: “THERE IS BURIED HERE A WILD ELEPHANT WHO IN DEFENSE OF HIS HERD CHARGED AND DERAILED A TRAIN ON THE 17th DAY OF OF SEPTEMBER 17, 1894.”

Curious, the man researched the incident, speaking to several people old enough to remember the suicidal encounter between the train and the elephant. Some felt the bull was seeking revenge for the death of a calf recently killed by the same train, while others felt the event was purely a territorial dispute with the elephant defending its turf from the newly invading “Metal Monster.”

The British engineer claimed the beast had staked its spot in the center of the tracks and no warning deterred its determined charge as the train thundered down the track at a speed of fifty miles an hour. While the impact of the crash killed the elephant, the bull did successfully derail the engine and three coaches.

 
Have a listen to new music from the Residents, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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