Weekly Weird News for 31 December 2021
The world is upside down and it's raining fish
Here we are at the end of 2021. What a shitshow it’s been. Everything has been weird, everything has felt upside down. Even the upside-down things have turned upside down - technically, that would mean they are right side up but they're not! It’s all very confusing because we never get the whole story, which is nuanced and complicated. Instead, we get dramatic pieces, often exaggerated and usually incomplete, from the news media. I hate to say it, but expect more of the same for a long while. One should be prepared to sort through the shit.
Here’s a cool graphic developed by Axios, one of the better news sources out there, showing how short the attention span of the American news consumer is. We can’t afford to spend time understanding an event when we are constantly bombarded with information from all directions. We are news junkies.
Of note, in reading the year-end wrap-ups in the traditionally weird subjects of cryptozoology, general paranormal activity, and ufos, I’m struck but how none of the news from these fields actually had any important implications to society. It was all a lot of hype - jacked-up stories with no substance, much of it projection of wishes of what “might” be. And then most stories evaporated, leaving only a sticky residue behind. (Except for one story this week. Keep reading!)
2021 has been another year of not finding ghosts, Bigfoot, Nessie, aliens, or psychic powers. Yet, the social media environment has made a huge portion of the population more eager to accept these concepts (and even more absurd claims) as genuine. The power of Facebook, YouTube, and various slanted sources to spread dubious claims has expanded and now includes even more powerful platforms (like WhatsApp and TikTok) to deliver cognitively “sticky” fringe claims that go viral within days. We have to become more digitally literate. It seems necessary that society also should become more literate, in general, about how information distribution works, the hidden agendas at play, and to recognize the desperate need to think critically.
That’s what this newsletter is about - pointing out the weirdness and hoping that you will think a little deeper about it. But, hopefully, it’s still fun at the same time and a bit of a break from the regular scary news.
Thanks for reading!
Now for the weird news of the week.
Apple air tags misused
Devices that are intended to help you find things like keys and bags may be used for more nefarious purposes. Evidence is growing that Apple tracking tags are being used to stalk people (that’s a given), but also for stealing cars. People have been reporting that they are receiving messages alerting them to a nearby tag that is tracking them. The AirTag sends a signal that any nearby iPhone, iPad, or Mac can detect. Clearly, this device was a boon to jealous partners stalking their mates. But the claims of surveillance for criminal actions are not quite confirmed yet. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/apple-airtag-showing-up-crimes-rcna9416
Major Alexa Fail
In another oddly evil tech twist, Amazon’s Alexa home device reportedly had a major flaw exposed when a child asked the device for “a challenge”. It responded by telling her to "Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs”. The “smart” speaker uses web information to supply responses. Amazon has updated the software. Considering the source of the information from this device, it hardly seems like a “smart” thing to ask for advice. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-59810383
Christmas church photo is ray of hope
A church in Mobile, Alabama made headlines when a photo revealed a dramatic ray of light emanating from the central crucifix. From the extra photos supplied, we can see that light can enter the church from the doors directly opposite the reflective object. The most probable explanation is that at this time of the year, at a certain time in the evening, low rays of the sun reflect off the metallic surface. Some testing could have confirmed this but no one wanted to ruin a very good story. https://newschannel20.com/news/offbeat/unedited-christmas-eve-photo-shows-ray-of-light-projected-from-crucifix-church-says
Rain of fish in Texarkana
Well, I love a good fish fall!
This has to be one of my favorite stories of the year and it’s shaping up to be the best-documented case of a truly “Fortean” phenomenon. On Wednesday afternoon as multiple storms blew through Arkansas and Texas, many people reported finding fish on the ground and witnessed them hitting the ground. The storm did not produce a documented tornado, from what I have seen so far, but the strong storms were producing lightning and possibly hail.
Stories of animals falling with rain are ubiquitous. But the evidence is almost always poor. This is the first time I’ve seen solid evidence that fish were deposited in several locations at once, on a rooftop, and in the beds of pickup trucks. (A video is shown at the end of this article but as of this posting, I have not seen a video of the fish actually falling. I’ll keep searching.)
One to two dozen fish in clusters were found in several different locations but more information is forthcoming. Researcher Paul Cropper, who tipped me about this story, is coordinating with witnesses and local university researchers to collect samples of the fish and other details. The multiple locations and number of witnesses seem to rule out hoaxes, birds dropping the fish, or flooding of a stream. The common explanation, even from meteorologists responding to this story, is that a strong updraft pulls fish from the water and dumps them some distance away. This claim is unsatisfactory for several reasons - one of which is that it’s never been documented to occur. The fish were fairly small - no greater than 5 inches, seemingly of a single type in the same area but possibly different in other places (bass, minnows) and might have been blown out of the nearby lakes. But they have mass that is difficult for just the wind to affect. And how did they get out of the water? The bodies showed trauma from impact, sometimes just pieces were found. I have not heard any mention that any were alive.
It’s tricky to discern what could possibly have happened without very careful records of observations. This is a fascinating mystery indeed! I hope more info is forthcoming. https://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/2021/dec/29/fish-appear-in-several-places-in-texarkana-after/ (soft paywall on this story - shut off java script to view) Or https://www.arklatexhomepage.com/news/local-news/fish-rain-from-sky-in-texarkana/ (may not be available outside US)
Continued mystery booms in San Diego
Residents of San Diego have experienced multiple “mystery booms” in the past year with no definitive explanation. The singular “boom” events shook homes and rattled nerves in February, June, and most recently, on December 2 and 28. The booms are not earthquake-related (even if shallow, the extensive seismic monitoring in California would spot even tiny quakes). The most reasonable explanation is military test flights of supersonic aircraft. But, no one is admitting it. https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article256912582.html
For more on mystery booms, check out my Spooky Geology article on it.
Croydon cat killer
Hundreds of cats were reported dead or missing in a 5 years stretch in London. Local rumor grew that there was a cat killer in Croydon. The police conducted a long and expensive study only to conclude there was no evidence of a person murdering cats. Recently, the Royal Veterinary College concluded many animals may have been victims of foxes. However, the locals are not accepting this conclusion. This is not uncommon. People become invested in a certain fear that can’t be shaken no matter the reassurances given. See examples of many urban legends or folk tales that people still insist are true but have mundane explanations. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/croydon-cat-killer-hunt-fear-hunt-b973875.html
Attack squirrel caught
A woman who regularly fed a squirrel in her yard got a hard lesson when the squirrel’s behavior turned aggressive and it attacked and bit 18 residents. The squirrel, named Stripe, had to be captured and was euthanized. The woman suspects it was sick to make it turn like this but, the bottom line is, don’t feed squirrels or bears or any other potentially dangerous animals. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/buckley-grey-squirrel-stripe-attack-biting-village-wales-residents-b974135.html
Alex Jones breaks up with Trump over vaccine remarks
Here is an example of the upside-down turning upside down. Trump’s buddy Alex Jones has turned on him when Trump suddenly turns pro-vaccine. After an interview where Trump stated the COVID vaccines were safe (and gave himself credit for their development), his followers had a bit of a breakdown. Jones went on a tirade called him “one of the most evil men who has ever lived.” The conflicting information created outrage and those who experience it scramble to come up with excuses. However, what we also see here is a group of followers who are more fanatical than thoughtful. They follow based on their personal worldviews, which they seem very unwilling to surrender, no matter what. These are strange and dangerous times, indeed. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2021/12/26/alex-jones-slams-donald-trump-for-telling-the-truth-about-the-covid-19-vaccine/
Buckle up for 2022. It’s going to be another bumpy ride.
Best wishes on the New Year to all of you.