Bizarre Stories: Fan Death

A murderer waiting in your room so
it can kill you when you fall asleep?

Among the bizarre history, places, events, animals, etc. that this planet and the people on it have to offer are what we call urban legends. Urban legends may have some basis in fact, be a result of mass hysteria or stem from misinformed reporting, as is the case with so-called fan death. This interesting urban legend has no basis in fact. Because this is demonstrably true, this urban legend is more bizarre than most. At least Chupacabra has obscurity to hide behind. No one can conclusively say it is not true. However, fans are located on every continent and it is easy to prove that they do not kill people.

In South Korea and, according to some sources -- Japan, electric fans can kill you if you leave them on overnight in a closed room. The excuses for this silly idea range from "it causes hypothermia" to "it chops air particles into pieces so you cannot breathe." Given that fan blades cannot chop particles -- most of them cannot even chop a finger -- it is easy to say that is not true. As for the hypothermia claim, most reported fan deaths happen in South Korea in the summertime. Anyone who has tried to use an electric fan to cool his or her room on an 85-degree Fahrenheit night can tell you that is not happening.

Fans in South Korea now have timers on them to stop them after a person has fallen asleep. The interesting thing about this is that all of the "fan deaths" that are reported in South Korea, from what we could find, occur at night. People surely leave fans on without a timer during the day in South Korea. Why are they only dying at night? The most popular theory is that these people are actually dying from heat-related causes. Heart conditions, lung conditions and other medical issues coupled with extreme heat, of which there is plenty in South Korea during the summer months, can and do kill people. They say elderly are more susceptible to fan death. The elderly are also more susceptible to heat-related death. Timers and death scares can conserve electricity. Case closed?

Bizarre Facts: Adolf Hitler Liked to Paint

Adolf Hitler -- what is not bizarre about that man? Every time you think you know everything there is to know about the most hated man in history, there is something to surprise, such as his attempt to become a painting student. The little factoid discussed here is only bizarre if you really think about it. After all, Hitler is not the only man to have been both insane and a mediocre artist. Had he been a touch less homicidal, he may have been an artistic genius, but I digress. What is bizarre about Hitler's attempts at art are how ridiculously popular they were during the Third Reich. 

Hitler went to Vienna to study painting, but was turned down by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna -- twice. They told him that he was not suited to be a painter, in so many words. At their suggestion, he then considered architecture. However, as a high school dropout, he was unable to study architecture. He spent some time painting, despite his rejections, but met with very little success until . . .  he became a crazed, murderous tyrant.

During the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler's art was quite popular and reproduced extensively. Therefore, there are countless examples available for our perusal today. I would like to be able to say that it is worth viewing. However, it seems his critics are not biased due to his reputation. He really had only mediocre talent at best.

One of Hitler's many portraits of buildings.

Mary and Jesus Painting attributed to Hitler.

Bizarre Places: Wright's Underwater Billiards Room

Thursley Lake by David Leeming
The statue atop the dome and the outbuilding
leading to the underground room are pictured here.
James Whitaker Wright was a man who made a fortune in the mining business. He did what many such men do and built frivolous structures with his money. He purchased an estate on a park that is now known as Witley Park. His home there was nothing short of a mansion. Beside it was a man-made lake that still exists today, though the mansion burned down in 1952. However, the bizarre structure that Wright built there still stands, though some believe it to be legend. It is a billiards room, located beneath the lake.

There is a small outbuilding on the lake. Inside of the building, which is now reportedly locked and access to it restricted by the current owner, is a metal spiral staircase. At the end of the staircase is a tunnel, which leads to J. Whitaker Wright's more than one hundred year old billiards room. On the ceiling of the billiards room is a glass dome that, while once a fish observatory, is now covered in algae and only lets in a dim light from above. On the lake, there is no evidence of this dome, save a statue that sits at its peak. Urban explorers love the eerie abandoned room that is likely dangerous to enter. Its state is not the only eerie thing about it, though.

J. Whitaker Wright made some shady business moves that landed him in court for fraud. People lost money and they were not happy with him. Though he seems to have been a popular man, he was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison on January 26, 1904. That was also the day he died. Almost immediately after he was sentenced, Wright swallowed cyanide at the Royal Court of London.

After Wright's death, his estate was purchased by Lord William Pirrie. Lord Pirrie was one of the designers of the RMS Titanic. He was supposed to be on the ship when it sank, but he got sick and cancelled. Between him, Wright and the billiards room, this is one bizarre story for the books.

Bizarre Events: The June Bug Epidemic

June Bug (Public Domain Image)

The June Bug Epidemic was a case of mass hysteria that occurred in a North Carolina textile mill in 1962. Several workers came down with an illness that made them dizzy and nauseous. There was also vomiting. Because there were some June bugs in the mill, they began to believe that the bugs had bitten them, causing the illness. While some of the workers may have been bitten, there is no illness connected with the bite of June bugs. By the time the event had reached its peak, 62 of the mill workers had come down with the mysterious illness. The CDC investigated the case and reached the conclusion that it was mass hysteria.

While mass hysteria is more a diagnosis of elimination than anything, it is nearly certain in some cases. In the case of the June bug Epidemic, the victims all worked closely together. No physical reason for the symptoms, such as a virus, was detected. All of the victims had the same or similar symptoms. All of this on top of the fact that the symptoms matched some of those associated with mass hysteria led to the diagnosis of it.

Mass hysteria occurs when a group of people is convinced they are ill because of the symptoms of one or a few. It is presumed that there is at least one truly ill person in some cases, but that the illness only spreads through the convictions of the others. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and dizziness. These are also symptoms of acute anxiety. If a person becomes convinced that they are going to "catch" what someone else has, they may develop anxiety. If this happens to enough people in a given area, mass hysteria results.

Bizarre Creatures: Gef

Gef was, well, no one is really sure what Gef was, if anything. The story and name are just bizarre enough to warrant mention. However, the only thing we are sure about it when it comes to Gef is that he was talked about, by the family that introduced him to the media and the media.

Gef was an entity, an animal, of some sort that a family who lived in the British Isles claimed lived in and around their house. The Irving family, who lived on a farmhouse called Cashen's Gap on the Isle of Man, claimed that Gef first appeared in autumn of 1931. Now, before you start thinking this is some ghost story, read on. Gef did not make the pages of That is Bizarre by being a run-of-the-mill ghost.

There were three members of the family, a 13-year-old girl and her parents. Oddly, some sources say the girl was the most connected with Gef and others say it was the father. Either way, the whole family seems to have experienced whatever or whoever Gef was, if only a shared hoax or delusion. Whatever happened in that farmhouse started as scratching sounds, like an animal nesting, according to the Irvings. It sounded like a creature was leaving in the walls of the back of their farmhouse.

Over time, the creature sounds started to include the barking of a dog and the gurgling of a human infant. As if that is not creepy enough, the Irvings say the creature progressed to speaking -- as in speaking human words to the Irvings. Among some of the notable things that Gef said to the Irvings are the following:

"Vanishing . . . " he would reportedly say sometimes before ceasing to speak.

He claimed he was a mongoose named Gef, though James Irving (the father) initially called him "Jack."

When claiming he was a mongoose, Gef also said he was roughly 79-years-old and from New Delhi.

When the family attempted to photograph him, though they say he hid most of the time, he said he was horrifying, in so many words. He said if they saw him, they would turn to stone or a pillar of salt.

He called himself a "clever mongoose," the "ghost of a weasel" and an "earthbound spirit." 

He said, "If you knew what I know, you'd know a hell of a lot." 

Gef once pretended he was poisoned.

The being supposedly spied on neighbors and reported to the Irvings, even though the Irvings did not tell him to.

According to a contemporary newspaper, he was told the Irvings that he would follow Voirrey (the daughter) wherever they took her, after they got scared and had her sleep in their room with them.

Voirrey said he swore a lot. However, accounts of him seem to indicate that he was easily angered, often simply conversational and somewhat egotistical, assuming he existed.

James kept a record of the Gef happenings, which stopped after he died and the family moved. He wrote of Gef throwing things without being in the room. He wrote of small glimpses the family had of the creature, which they said looked like a small rodent. Evidence of the creature's existence include the family testimony, reports of testimony from visitors to the Irving house, indirect testimony of "belief" in the creature from neighbors and media reports that survive to this day.

There are several theories regarding what Gef was, the most obvious being a poltergeist and a hoax. There is, of course, the possibility that it is all true, though that is obviously unlikely. What is interesting is that young Voirrey reportedly maintained that Gef was real publicly until her death in 2005.