The Year in Weird Stories

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Clockwise: EDGARD GARRIDO/REUTERS, MIKE THEILER/REUTERS, BALLARAT WILDLIFE PARK, REGIS DUVIGNAU/REUTERS

From attempting to eat DWI test results to 100 missing human brains, 2014 ushered in strange headlines and bizarre tales of human achievement—but mostly ineptitude. And while the media doesn’t have a perfect track record for getting things right this year, reporters have a special place in their heart for stories in which weirdness and reality collide. Below we’ve compiled a list of the 20 most bizarre stories from this past year (both in Newsweek and elsewhere) that confounded us.

The Mystery of the Missing Brains in Texas

Here’s a real head scratcher: How did 100 brains from the University of Texas at Austin’s collection vanish earlier this year? Answer: They didn’t. Confusion arose when one report alleged the noggins had been tossed out, while another claimed they had been transferred to another campus. In early December, the mystery was solved. The school released a statement later on clarifying that the brains had been discarded by environmental workers in a routine clearance of biological waste.

American Student Rescued After Getting Stuck in a Giant Vagina Sculpture

Truth or dare? Depends, but maybe don’t pick dare when you’re standing in front of an enormous vagina sculpture. In June, an American exchange student got wedged inside Fernando de la Jara’s Pi-Chacán vagina-shaped sculpture at Tubingen University in Germany as part of a dare. It took 22 firefighters to get him out, but not before said friend had uploaded the photo for all of reddit (and the world) to see.

The World’s Oldest (and Largest) Wombat Turns 29

Patrick the wombat weighs almost 100 pounds, and has defied expectations of how long these fellows are supposed to live. The “gentleman of the wombat world” recently celebrated his 29th year on Earth at his home in Melbourne, Australia. Here’s to 29 more, you old soul.

Furry Convention Disrupted After Gas Leak

Thousands of people who dig dressing up in animal costumes, also known as “furries,” had to scurry out of this year’s Midwest FurFest Convention in Rosemont, Illinois, after an ‘intentional gas leak’ halted the art and performance festivities. Earlier this month 19 people were sent to the hospital after a toxic level of chlorine gas began spreading from the ninth floor, in what organizers called “an intentional criminal act.” So far, no suspects have been found.

Great Dane Has 43 Socks Removed From Stomach in Emergency Surgery

Ever wonder where that other sock goes? Maybe your dog ate it. No, really: a Great Dane in Oregon had to undergo emergency surgery in September, a procedure which revealed 43½ socks in his stomach. It’s unclear how the 3-year-old pup ate half a sock, though, in what physicians at Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital called “the strangest case in the hospital’s history.”

PETA Founder Newkirk Explains Her ‘Unique’ Will: Barbecue Me and Send My Eyeballs to the EPA

Earlier this fall, we interviewed PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk about her one-of-a kind will. Among her directives: a request that the “meat” of her body “be used for a human barbecue,” and instructions for PETA to remove, mount and deliver one of her eyes to the head honcho of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “as a reminder that PETA will continue to be watching the agency until it stops poisoning and torturing animals in useless and cruel experiments.”

Aliens Could Destroy Earth Because We’re ‘Too Noisy,’ Says Top Physicist

Good news, earthlings! Plasma physicist John Brandenburg presented a paper titled, "Evidence of a Massive Thermonuclear Explosion on Mars in the Past, The Cydonian Hypothesis and Fermi's Paradox," at this year’s Meeting of the American Physical Society detailing how the human race could be wiped out by aliens via a nuclear attack because we’re “too noisy.” Brandenburg believes that Martians were wiped out the same way many years ago so, you know, turn down the volume a little next time you bump the Wu-Tang Clan.

Palin Family Brawl

It sounds like something that would be on Jerry Springer: The Palins roll up to a party in Alaska in a stretch Hummer. Drunken words are slurred, Bristol throws a mean right hook, Track thumps his chest, and the former first lady of Alaska, Sarah Palin, screeches “Don’t you know who I am?” The best boon for journalists after the fact? Audio clips, courtesy of the Anchorage Police Department.

Connecticut Man Tries to Eat Sobriety Test Results

In early November, a Connecticut man was arrested after attempting to eat his DWI test results, according to authorities. When his breathalyzer test results were coming through, Kenneth Desormes snatched the documents and tried to chow down.

The Canadian Dentist Who Wants to Clone John Lennon

Dr. Michael Zuk, a Canadian dentist, encountered a very special tooth in 2011—one reportedly belonging to John Lennon. Now, Zuk is intent on cloning the late Mr. Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980. Of course, there are legal, ethical and logistical issues standing in the way, but in an interview with Newsweek’s Zach Schonfeld, Zuk was optimistic about his plans to resurrect Lennon in the near future.

Philly Jesus Statue Indecent

A Philadelphia teenager faces up to two years of jail time for simulating oral sex with a Jesus statue in the town of Everett, Pennsylvania, giving new meaning to “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Woman Sets Her Roommate On Fire After He Tossed Out Her Leftovers

It’s a drag when you see passive-aggressive notes labeling food in your fridge, but at least your roommate didn’t set you on fire after you tossed out her leftovers. That’s what Melissa Dawn Sellers, 33, of Florida, did when her roommate Carlos Ortiz, 42, threw out her Italian takeout leftovers: She doused him in nail polish remover and lit up.

#Fangate

2014 was a year of #gates: Bendgate, Gamergate, and, perhaps most strangely, Fangate. The dispute was coined #Fangate in mid-October when Florida Governor Rick Scott wouldn’t stand alongside former Governor Charlie Crist in a debate because Crist had the nerve to bring a portable fan onstage. Dare we say he wasn’t a fan?

4-Year-Old Accidentally Shares Heroin Packets With Classmates

Sharing is caring, but it can be lethal. In October, a young girl in Delaware accidentally gifted her classmates packets of heroin, thinking they were candy, after her mother gave her the wrong backpack. Luckily, no kids opened the packets.

Man Who Threatened to Commit Suicide Inadvertently Saves Person Drowning

Last spring, a man standing atop the London Bridge threatened to jump to his death. Police were called, and upon their arrival, discovered that another person had been drowning below in the River Thames. He was rescued in a lifeboat, and the suicidal fellow was escorted to safety in this uplifting tale.

How a Mushroom Found in Buckingham Palace Explains Santa Claus

Earlier this month, hallucinogenic mushrooms were discovered in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. But as this story posits, shamans often used these psychoactive fungi as part of a ritual near the winter solstice. Even stranger, these shamans have been described to bring gifts 'round in a sleigh. Remains to be proven by academics, but the parallels with Old St. Nick are striking.

Demon Toy Wand

Do you believe in magic? An Ohio mother bought a toy wand for her daughter, only to discover an image of a demon child self-mutilating behind the foil covering the toy. They weren’t taken off the shelves, but try to not let that image haunt your nightmares tonight.

Grandmas Tagging Themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook

Hip-hop impresario Grandmaster Flash was being tagged in hundreds of Facebook posts he hadn’t made. Turns out tech-savvy grandmas were being duped by Facebook’s autofill function, which kept accidentally tagging them as the '80s rap pioneer. Flash took it well, though, and said “This is Hip Hop!” in a statement addressing the snafu.

Man Claims Part of Africa So His Daughter Can Be a Princess

Jeremiah Heaton, of Virginia, traveled to Bir Tawil and staked out land unclaimed by Egypt and Sudan to fulfill his 7-year-old daughter’s wish of becoming a princess. In an interview with Newsweek, he spoke becoming king of “the dusty corner of the Earth that nobody wanted,” a place he dubbed the Kingdom of North Sudan. Sound like a hoax? It’s not: A Disney film based on the saga is in the works.

Creationist Raises Enough Money After Bill Nye Debate to Build Noah’s Ark

Founder of Kentucky’s Creation Museum, Ken Ham, said earlier this year that he had amassed enough money after a debate with Science Guy Bill Nye to begin constructing a life-size “replica” of Noah’s Ark that would depict animatronic animals coexisting with dinosaurs. Let that one sink in for a moment.