Stranger than Fiction

The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader


In 2008 a health spa in Zneleznovodsk, Russia, dedicated a statue to an important member of its team: the enema. “We administer enemas nearly every day,” said spa administrator Alexander Kharchenko. “So I thought, why not give it a monument?” They commissioned local artist Svetlana Avakina to create the work. She drew inspiration from 15th-century Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, which depicts three cherubs stealing a sword from the god of war. Avakina replaced the sword with an enema syringe. The bronze statue stands five feet tall and cost $42,000. “An enema is an unpleasant procedure, as many of us may know,” said Avakina. “But when cherubs do it, it’s all right.”


In September 2008, Framingham State College in Massachusetts sent a fund-raising letter to alumni. Here’s an excerpt:

With the recent economic downturn and loan crisis, it has become even more important for Framingham State College to receive your support. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Was it a goof? Did an incomplete draft get sent by mistake? No. The 312-word letter—which had 137 “blah”s—was supposed to be funny. However, many of the 6,000 recipients contacted the school and said they were insulted. Framingham’s vice president of admissions, Christopher Hendry, admitted that it was a “misguided and embarrassing attempt to connect with alumni in a different way.” Or as one graduate commented: “The fund-raising letter was impudent and childish. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”


Legal aide Erin Brockovich made history in 1996 by winning a class-action lawsuit against a giant utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, for toxic contamination of groundwater in a small California town. The $333 million settlement was the largest to date and made Brockovich famous—especially after Julia Roberts played her in a movie about the lawsuit. She got a $2 million bonus for winning the case and bought her dream house in Agoura Hills, California, for $600,000. Shortly after moving in, Brockovich discovered that it was contaminated with toxic mold. (She sued.)


A street musician from the Dutch town of Leiden was so inept at playing his saxophone that local shop owners called the police. After hearing the man play, the cops confiscated his instrument.


Rescue crews in Portland, Oregon, were called to the scene of a single-car accident one summer evening in 2010. When they arrived, they were alarmed by the extent of the injuries. The victims’ faces were all bleeding; their skin was white, as if they were dead; and blood and guts were smeared all over their clothes. It was quite gruesome. Or was it? It turned out that, when the accident happened, the five people were on their way to a costume party, all dressed and made up like zombies. Said police sergeant Greg Stewart, “We’re glad that everyone is alive, despite being undead.”


Yvan Arpa, CEO of the Swiss wristwatch company Romain Jerome, claims that two-thirds of wealthy people don’t even use their watches for the intended purpose. “Anyone can buy a watch that tells time,” Arpa explains, “but it takes a truly discerning customer to buy one that doesn’t.” That’s the strange idea behind the company’s “Day & Night” watch. It’s intended to be more a status symbol than a timepiece, because it doesn’t give the wearer the hour or even the minute—only whether it is currently daytime or nighttime. Cost: $300,000.


In 2004 the U.S. Postal Service allowed Internet users to make their own postage stamps featuring pictures of anything they wanted. The program was a success: Two million stamps were printed in the first six weeks. Then it was terminated. Why? As a joke, some pranksters printed stamps with a picture of Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”), the man who used the Post Office to mail letter bombs in the early 1990s. The USPS didn’t think it was funny.


Responding to a call of an alligator threatening kids in an Independence, Missouri, neighborhood in June 2011, officers located the creature in a yard belonging to Rick Sheridan. With orders to shoot the animal on sight, an officer fired two rounds into it. That’s when Sheridan came running outside, yelling, “What are you doing? It’s made of concrete!” When asked why he had a concrete alligator in his yard, Sheridan explained that it works better than a “No Trespassing” sign.


An amusement park ride at the Scandia Family Fun Center in Sacramento, California, lifts customers 160 feet in the air and then spins them around at 60 mph. Nearby residents finally got fed up with the thrill-seekers’ bloodcurdling screams and filed a class-action suit against the park. But park manager Steve Baddley is already taking steps to limit the noise on the ride (which he originally purchased because of its relatively quiet motor). Baddley’s first step: No screaming allowed. “If we can hear a noise, we’re required to take you off the ride,” he says. The name of the ride: “The Screamer.”


In 2006 India’s Medical Association started investigating three doctors who had appeared in television advertisements to promote voluntary amputation surgery to beggars. In India, street beggars can earn more money by eliciting sympathy for missing appendages. The more missing appendages, the more they earn. The doctors charged fees of about $200 for the “investment” of removing a leg below the knee.


While filming a scene in Baltimore, Maryland, for Homicide: Life on the Street, actor Richard Belzer, who played Detective Munch, was standing on a sidewalk in his police costume when a real-life shoplifter turned the corner and happened upon him. The robber dropped his loot and said, “Oh sh*t, it’s Munch!” Security officers quickly apprehended the man.


In September 1864, Civil War general Nathan Forrest was leading his Confederate troops north from Alabama toward Tennessee. He planned to attack the Union post in Athens, Alabama, having heard that Union reinforcements were approaching, and wanted to take the fort before they arrived. The problem: The post was well manned and heavily fortified. Forrest was greatly outnumbered, but he had a plan. He sent a message to Union commander Campbell requesting a personal meeting. Campbell agreed to the meeting. Forrest then escorted him on a tour of the Confederate troops, during which Campbell silently calculated the number of troops and artillery surrounding his fort. What he didn’t realize was that Forrest’s men—after being inspected and tallied—were quietly packing everything up and quickly moving to a new position, to be counted again. Campbell didn’t realize he was seeing the same troops over and over again. Assuming he was vastly outnumbered by the Confederates, he returned to his fort, pulled down the Union flag…and gave up without a fight.


An anti-spam software company called SpamArrest had to issue this apology to its customers: “Recently we have received some inquiries regarding a mailing we delivered to users of SpamArrest. Because of this, SpamArrest will not send unsolicited bulk e-mail again.”


The Bluebird is a classic play about two children who go searching for the Bluebird of Happiness. A designer at a Midwestern theater thought it would be a great idea to have real bluebirds fly around the theater at the end of the play. So he sprayed pigeons with blue paint and put them in little cages hanging above the audience. Sadly, he failed to consider what the paint, combined with the heat from the lights, might do to the birds. On opening night, the cages were opened at the end of the show…showering a horrified audience with hundreds of dead “bluebirds.”


In April 2010, police in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, received a strange call: A woman said she was walking through town when she felt a sharp pain in her chest. She looked down and saw a tiny dart sticking out of her blouse. A little while later, a similar call came in from another person, and then another, and then another. Then it dawned on police that they were dealing with a serial tiny-dart shooter. Thankfully, the darts weren’t poisonous. And the cops had a lead: One of the victims saw a small tube sticking out of the window of a black minivan, which sped away. Police found the minivan; sitting inside was 41-year-old Paula Wolf…and her blow darts. Why did she do it? “I like to hear people say ‘ouch.’”

This article is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Funniest Ever Bathroom Reader. Over the past 25 years, the Bathroom Readers’ Institute has published more than 40,000 pages of bathroom reading. In this book you will find the funniest 288 of them (with a few all-new funny pages squeezed in just because we couldn’t help ourselves). That’s page after page after page of laugh-out-loud dumb jokes, dumb jocks, toasts, pranks, kings, kittens, caboodles, and, of course, poorly translated kung-fu movie subtitles—such as. “It took my seven digestive pills to dissolve your hairy crab!” So whether you like your humor witty or witless, light or dark, or silly or sublime, you’ll laugh until your head explodes. Chortle at…

Since 1987, the Bathroom Readers’ Institute has led the movement to stand up for those who sit down and read in the bathroom (and everywhere else for that matter). With more than 15 million books in print, the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series is the longest-running, most popular series of its kind in the world.

If you like Today I Found Out, I guarantee you’ll love the Bathroom Reader Institute’s books, so check them out!

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