Bizarre Plants: Gympie, Gympie

Gympie, Gympie
courtesy of Petr DlouhĂ˝
There are plants that eat things, sting things, have exploding seedpods and more. Among these dangerously strange plants is one that goes by many names, but my favorite of them is gympie gympie. Its Latin name is Dendrocnide moroides. It is a stinging shrub that grows in Indonesia, Australia and the Moluccas with some seriously effective defense mechanisms.

Along the entire roughly 3 to 9 foot tall plant are stinging hairs that can embed themselves in your skin. These stingers emit an extremely painful neurotoxin. The sting causes a cluster of red dots that eventually spread until they grow together. The intense pain is known to be strong enough to put people and animals out of their minds. It can go on for months. What is worse, allergic reactions to the plant may get worse with repeated exposure, as with researcher Marine Hurley.

Stings from the gympie gympie can allegedly kill humans and large mammals. That means victims should get the stinging hairs out as soon as possible and seek palliative treatment. You can remove the stingers with a hair removal strip. Most people don't have those lying around while hiking, but being aware of your surroundings and being prepared goes a long way, so start if you know these plants are nearby.

The Bizarre Letter of the Axeman of New Orleans

Sometimes, even serial killers take bizarre to another level. Sure, they are already inherently weird, since most of us just do not go around axing people, but there are those who go above and beyond the standard serial killer oddity. One of these killers, who is presumably a man, but was never caught, is the so-called "Axeman of New Orleans." As mentioned above, him killing people is not exactly strange in the world of serial killers, so we are going to skip that and get straight to a letter purportedly written by him and that gives citizens an odd get out of murder free card.

(If you want to read a detailed account of the Axeman of New Orleans' crimes, there is a thorough one here.)

In a letter dated March 13, 1919, the Axeman of New Orleans or someone purporting to be him wrote a tremendously creepy self-assessment and threat. The self-assessment was predictably grandiose. He was no man. He was Satan's homie, blah, blah, blah. On top of this, he professes his love of jazz music. Okay, so he likes jazz music. Not that strange. He then says he will "visit" the city "next Tuesday night." The date was March 19. Anyone playing jazz music would be spared. Seriously? What kind of serial killer is this?

The Axeman never did kill anyone that day. It was not because the whole city was playing jazz. Many were, but many purposely did not. Maybe he just wimped out. He did kind of set himself up for failure there. Maybe the letter wasn't really written by him. Whatever the case, it was a strange enough story to make it into "American Horror Story: Coven," in case you are interested in seeing an entertaining account of the time.

By the way, speaking of weird, I now have the Beatles' "Taxman" stuck in my head as "Axeman." You're welcome.