Best weird news stories of 2022
A top ten list of the most fascinating news of the year
Happy new year! I thought it would be fun to do a wrap-up post for 2022 ranking my favorite weird stories of the year that I covered in my Weekly Weird News roundups that I did almost every week in 2022.
Since I’ve been writing about weird news events in the media for well over 10 years now (my popular website, Doubtful News, began in 2010 and ended in 2017), I’ve seen how social media, tabloids, and popular news aggregators can propel these stories into virality. In the process, all nuance (and critical thinking) gets lost as people choose to ooh and ahh instead. Rarely do they pause to think more deeply about what really is happening and why it has become popular news. Events in other countries often result in misinformation because of what is lost or missed in translation. It can be impossible to get reliable details from news accounts in order to follow up on the facts and make reasonable conclusions. It is very rare to see a follow-up to the original story where the mysterious answer is revealed. The mystery itself is what is popular. It feels like people would rather not know the truth. But I do. That’s why this site exists.
I plan to continue writing about weird news stories related to natural anomalies and strange social spectacles in 2023 as best I can. If you see local news about anomalies or general weirdness in your part of the world, please drop me a line on Mastodon, comments, or messages through substack or via email or my website. I really love hearing from you.
On to the countdown.
10. Queen Elizabeth’s death heralded by signs in the skies.
When the Queen died on September 8, people noted rainbows and cloud formations that appeared in her likeness. None of the atmospheric effects were uncommon but the timing caused people to associate them with the event. The tabloids capitalized on the interest and sentiment. Such content is guaranteed to get clicks as many look for deeper meaning and a sense of universal connectedness.
9. Milky seas phenomenon confirmed by satellite and boats on location.
Sailors have reported that on rare occasions the night sea turns white even though the waves are black, and the depths emit a disorienting glow, like snow. In July, it was reported that the glow is “caught on camera” by a boat that was in the area at the same time the satellites recorded the remote glow. It was the first time that real-world evidence of milky seas was correlated with satellite imagery. The observation confirmed the effect starts 10 m below the surface and is caused by luminescent bacteria.
8. Locals find weird hairless “dog” who refuses to be caged
A woman rescued a sick and hairless “dog” in southeastern PA in January. The animal rescue workers could not decide if it was a dog or coyote. To most of us, it was CLEARLY a coyote, and one that didn’t appreciate a cage. It broke out of the cage and the facility after a week of captivity. But not before they took a DNA sample that revealed it was indeed a coyote.
7. A deadly sinkhole and a massive sinkhole
Two dramatic sinkholes made the news in 2022. In July, people at a pool party in Tel Aviv witnessed a sinkhole open up and swallow people through the bottom of the pool. One man died. It later turned out the pool was not built properly over the sinkhole-prone area. Then, in late July, a gigantic hole opened in the Chilean desert near a copper mine. The hole was about 600 feet deep. No one was hurt but the argument about repairing the ground continues.
6. Deer’s third eye discovery
A deer killed in November in Texas resulted in a very weird discovery. The male deer had a peculiar abscess on its face. The taxidermist preparing the head mount discovered the animal had grown an additional fully formed eye under the skin between the normal eye and nose. The National Deer Association noted they had never encountered a case of a three-eyed deer before.
5. Strange plane sounds
This story had me laughing. In September, passengers on several American Airline flights heard strange and unpleasant noises coming across the cabin intercom. The grunts, groans and breathy moans sounded like they were from a male human but the staff could not figure out what was happening or how to stop it. It may not have been the first incident or the same plane. The official comment is that it was an issue with the public address system amplifier but not everyone was convinced by that answer.
4. Birds responsible for rains of fish
2021 ended with my favorite news story - that of the Texarkana fish rain. Paul Cropper and I worked together to write up an article about the suspected cause based on the evidence. We published this in Fortean Times in July of 2022. It was likely birds vomiting up their last meal which was only partially digested. Just after this publication and my attempts to get mainstream news to pick it up (they didn’t), additional confirmatory evidence of the bird theory appeared in California where an explosion in anchovy population caused birds to gorge themselves. They “lightened their load” over some nearby residential areas. We felt pretty vindicated. But we suspect the same silly explanations about waterspouts will resurface the next time this very Fortean event occurs. Feel free to download the FT print from my website.
3. Historically low water levels reveal long-hidden secrets
Many times this year, beginning in the spring, I posted stories about finds that result from historic low water levels due to drought. The biggest worldwide story was the several human remains found in Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas. On Dec 31, the Guardian published a wrap-up on the facts and official efforts to identify them all. Some were definitely homicides, others appeared to be drownings. But the modern tragedy is the climate change that indicates a system in peril - water supplies evaporating with no solution in sight. The revelation of the remains is a stark signal that we might all perish if we don’t act. The drought revealed other surprises across the world where ships, remains of cities, dinosaur trackways, and long-lost objects were uncovered.
2. Amarillo creature photo and creative imitations
In June, the Amarillo zoo shared a strange security image that sparked what I call “mass opinionation” - where people can’t stop themselves from putting in their two cents about what is in the picture. This one gave them plenty of room to let their imagination run wild. Almost none of it was legitimate. But it legitimately gave the zoo lots of attention. So other zoos copied it, which also revealed how easily it could have been hoaxed. I didn’t think it was a hoax, I thought it was just a distorted real picture of an animal. This story definitely made the “Top Cryptid” news stories of the year, which also goes to show just how awful the evidence for “real cryptids” is. This was simply a fun story. It becomes less fun when people believe the nonsense is real.
1. Furry green snake captured
My favorite story of the year was about a weird animal, of course. A REAL one that many people misinterpreted. The best part about this was that it was a genuine animal in a strange condition and I was able to find out exactly why it was the way it was by an expert who examined it firsthand. It was the furry green algae snake. Photos and video of the snake caught in Thailand created a viral sensation as people tried to guess if it was real, a hoax or a genuine anomaly. One of the great things about Twitter (that I will miss) was crowd-sourcing questions to people around the world. I did this and a follower who understood the language pointed me to a link from a Thai wildlife investigator who went to the village to identify the snake. In his video, you can see him lifting it out of the water, eventually identifying it as a Deuve’s water snake that had extensive algae growing on its scales. The snake lives in stagnant water. Mystery solved. I loved learning about this weird new thing! That’s why I do this newsletter - to share interesting new things about the natural world.
Honorable mention: Dog rescued owner
Subscriber Glenn mentioned that he had a favorite story of the year. On a frigid night in January in Vermont, police responded to a call of a dog on the interstate. When they investigated, the dog led them to the overturned vehicle with two people inside. It turns out the story was not all good news since others died but great dog stories have become a standard feel-good news report.
Thank you so much to all the subscribers, readers, and sharers who spent some quality time with me this year. Here’s to another year of weird but real news stories!