Child Drowned for an Hour but Survives, 1986

Read of how a little girl survived a 1-hour submersion in freezing creek water one Summer in Utah.

On a hot June day the birds were singing, the bees buzzing, and mum’s voice on the phone wafted through the warm air, so warm after a late start to Summer.

Her reassuring tones set her blond-haired toddler at ease to range the backyard’s expanse and soak up its lush colours.

The green foliage was offset by a beautifully painted butterfly, drifting into focus for the keen-eyed child.

Two and a half-year-old Michelle Funk’s eyes sparkled in awe and the eyes on the butterfly’s wings waved back. She lunged to grope the floating beauty to hold it. The butterfly flittered on towards the sound of gushing water.

Could the intrepid infant reach the insect before the forest of grass which marked the garden boundary end the chase? Her mother’s voice was now almost drowned out by the babble of icy cold water below.

She got her break; in a chance moment the butterfly dipped in time for Michelle to swing her little arms up and capture her quarry.

But the ground treacherously slipped downwards; her face an instant of triumph turned to alarm as she vanished under the grass blades towards the water’s edge …Michelle’s alert older brother hared back to the house.

At the Bells Canyon Creek-bank Michelle tumbled down through the grass then plunged over the edge. There was no one to respond to her gurgled cries. As the warm sun rays glistened off the mountain meltwater Michelle slipped under, lost.

Michelle drowned in the Bells Canyon Creek for over an hour (thisisgoodgood.com)

The minutes ticked by; her skin now a ghostly white and her flame barely flickering. After 66 minutes a rescuer finally hauled her blue, lifeless form from the 4 Celcius (40 Fahrenheit) water. Could she be saved at all? If there was even the smallest chance it was worth the try.

They rushed her to hospital where a Dr Bolte was waiting. The extreme time Michelle had been submerged had surely drowned her. Many doctors, knowing how long she’d been submerged, would have declared her dead on arrival — indeed some of them thought Bolte crazy for even entertaining the notion she had a decent chance.

Yet one factor was in her favour; instead of sealing her fate, the icy submersion had slowed down her metabolism to the extent her body’s oxygen needs were suspended. What’s more by happenstance, Dr Bolte had been preparing for such an emergency for months. He and his team went straight to work.

They started injecting warm fluids into Michelle’s veins and stomach and squeezed warmed air through a tube into her lungs, but three hours after the child had fallen into the creek she was still lifeless. Meanwhile, Michelle’s parents and doctors feared her resuscitation would merely bring her back to a vegetative state. They persevered.

However it was when her body reached 25 Celcius (77 Fahrenheit) that Bolte allowed himself to think there was hope for the poor little thing yet. She gasped; moments later she opened her eyes; then her pupils, responding to the bright lights in the operating room, narrowed — a sign of returning brain function. And then, to everyone’s cheers and high fives, a faint heartbeat was detected.

Michelle was saved and made a full recovery with no lasting cognitive damage. Even the staid Journal of the American Medical Association described the case of Michelle Funk as “miraculous’’.

Her treatment went on to form the protocol for treating previously deadly cases of drowning.

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Drunken Aviator Lands in City Centre, 1956

In perhaps the greatest ‘hold my beer’ escapade to date, Thomas Fitzpatrick stole a plane to prove he could fly from Jersey to New York in just 15 minutes. Read about how he won his crazy bet.

Bulky sedans rumbled sedately along the right-angled streets, and haggard creatures of the night here and there passed under the patchy street lighting past rows of rectilinear brownstone tenements.

It was the witching hour on St Nics Avenue in New York City’s heart. Of course in the city that never sleeps life still stirred, and it was about to get a serious wake up call.

Jimmy was wiping down the bar waiting for the last of his patrons to stumble out after a long night. The edge of his lips curled up with a wry smile; earlier that night one of his favourite patrons, a gung-ho flyboy named Thomas ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick made a bet that he could fly from New Jersey to New York City in 15 minutes. ‘I’ll land out there to prove it, how ‘bout that?’ slurred Fitz. ‘OK ya crazy, drunken Irishman’ laughed Jimmy ‘Hold my beer, will ya?.’ And, with a leery grin, Fitzpatrick plodded out the door.

Good laughs, thought Jimmy.

That was almost an hour ago. A barking dog out the window broke his reverie and Jimmy looked up to see a late night walker and his dog facing opposite directions; the man was pulled back by his leashed dog.

The mut was staring back up the street and whined, its head tilted with that gaze of rapt concentration only a dog can do. “Come on!” the guy bawled, looking bewildered.

Then Jim detected the sound of an engine, but it was no automobile; it was more of a deep buzz, and it quickly got louder.

That sound was one of a small plane approaching and, crazy as it sounds, Fitzpatrick was making his approach to land the thing on the Avenue.

One or two cars screeched to a halt as the small aircraft buzzed overhead. Bedroom lights flicked on and anyone quick enough caught a fleeting glimpse of Fitzpatrick as he zipped by.

Jimmy slammed the door open in time to witness, mouth agape, the plane touchdown and whizz past his bar before coming to a stop.

So Fitz won the bet after all!

The stolen plane on St Nics Avenue, complete with chalk outline (cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com)

After leaving the bar, Fitzpatrick had hightailed it 15 miles across the state line to Teterboro Airport and there, stole an aircraft.

What the wager was is unknown but he won his bet and his antics made newspaper headlines. The New York Times called the flight a “feat of aeronautics” and a “fine landing”, and a plane parked in the middle of the street made for quite a sight in the morning.

For his illegal flight, he was fined $100 after the plane’s owner refused to press charges.

Incredibly Fitzpatrick performed the same stunt again in 1958 because in another bar someone questioned the story. For that, he was sentenced to 6 months incarceration, blaming his antics on the “lousy drink

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The 14 Year-Old Cop, 2009

The embarrassing episode for the Chicago Police Dept. when they discovered a teenager had managed to get hold of a uniform and go under cover as a cop. Find out what duties he performed during his ‘shift’ and try to figure out how he slipped through the net.

It was just past lunchtime and a young lad named Vincent Richardson, who stood at 5ft 3in (1.6m) tall, felt a tingle in his belly which he could not decide was down to nerves or excitement; it was his first day on the job. He did not let his nerves show though as he walked up to the rear entrance of a Chicago P.D. Grand Crossing District station.

He told an officer smoking by the entrance that it was his first day and could he enter the security code on the lock? The officer obliged and he slid in.

He approached the Sergeant’s Office to report for duty. The sergeant glanced up at the small-statured officer before him and noted his watchful brown eyes and coat collar turned up against the January cold.

Officer Richardson signed out a ticket book and radio, was assigned a partner, and began his first day on the beat.

For six hours that afternoon Richardson attended five traffic accidents and used the squad car’s computer to check license plates. It’s alleged he also took the wheel of the police car and may have helped handcuff a suspect.

His ruse was discovered by a supervisor who noticed Richardson was missing his badge, gun and a newspaper in place of a ballistic vest in his vest carrier.

To their great consternation Richardson was discovered to be just a 14-year-old high school kid. For the stunt, Richardson was placed on juvenile probation.

But he clearly got a taste for the uniform; amazingly he was caught impersonating a police officer again in 2013 and 2015. For the most recent felony he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Vincent Richardson aged 17 (chicago.cbslocal.com)
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Lawnchair Larry’s Balloon Flight 1982

To fly is a dream, and every kid imagines acquiring enough helium balloons for a little aerial adventure. Big kid Larry Walters actually pulled off the stunt for real in an epic flight over Los Angeles. Read about how he did it here.

Who hasn’t held a bunch of helium balloons as a kid and imagined the fun they could have if only they could gather enough balloons to lift off, see the world with a bird’s eye view for a brief while before landing again? Larry Walters was one of those kids.

As an adult, he tried to become a pilot but poor eyesight ruled that out, yet the dream to fly remained. Sitting in his backyard one day in Los Angeles, USA he devised a plan. He attached 43 weather balloons to his lawn chair (which he christened ‘Inspiration I’) and filled them with helium.

Perhaps Larry thought the whole endeavour would go like something out of a kid’s movie; he’d float up, enjoy the blissful views, wave at onlookers here and there, then drift down again. And what better than to do so with a nice bite to eat and beer – bliss. 

Suitably kitted out then, and with a pellet gun to shoot the balloons when it was time to descend, his friends cut the cord that anchored him to his jeep. 

What actually happened is he shot into the sky, climbing to 4,900m (16,000 feet) and drifted there for more than 45 minutes, frozen and frightened. He then crossed an aeroplane approach corridor to Long Beach Airport and two commercial jets reported the strange sight.

Eventually Larry gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons and descended. His balloons caught in a power line, causing a neighbourhood blackout for 20 minutes but he landed unharmed.

Larry attached 43 weather balloons to his lawn chair (groovyhistory.com)

Larry was arrested upon landing and fined $1,500. Talking to reporters, the Police stated: “We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed. If he had a pilot’s license, we’d suspend that, but he doesn’t.” 

For his part, Larry declared “It was something I had to do. I had this dream for twenty years, and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm.” 

He was awarded the title of ‘At-Risk Survivor’ in the 1993 Darwin Awards but sadly committed suicide the very same year.

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Freak Streak of Coincidences Saves Choir from Death, 1950

The ‘Miracle of March the 1st’ was so incredibly fluky, that if you’d been there it would have you believing in God for sure!

It was a frigid evening on the first day of March in 1950 and the clock was ticking towards utter tragedy for the fifteen members of the West Side Baptist Church choir, in Beatrice, Nebraska.

The modest-sized, white wooden slatted church had been silently filling with leaking natural gas since the Reverend Walter Klempel had lit the furnace earlier in the afternoon in preparation for the evening’s choir practice.

By the time the scheduled choir practice came around, at the usual 7:20 pm, the church was full of highly combustible gas.

Five minutes later it happened; the building exploded so violently it blew the church to pieces and rocked the town, shattering nearby windows and knocking the nearby radio station off air.

Beatrice church after the gas explosion (beatricedailysun.com)

The tight-knit community feared the worst as blaring sirens heralded the arrival of the first fire engines. First responders and neighbours searched through the wreckage yet inexplicably and with a huge sense of relief they found no bodies amongst the debris. So where on earth was the choir?

Bizarrely none of them had arrived because a weird run of coincidences had caused them all to be running late. It was a miracle, and if this didn’t affirm one’s faith in divine intervention, whatever would? What caused this miracle?

Incredibly all fifteen members had been running late because of trivial delays.

Reverend Klempel for example, who had lit the furnace causing the gas leak in the first place, was due to return with his wife and daughter yet the young girl noticed her dress was stained as they were leaving. This caused her mother to pick out another dress and begin ironing it. They were still home then the church exploded.

For Joyce Black, who actually lived just across the street from the church, she was feeling “plain lazy” that evening. She wanted to remain snuggled up in her warm house against the biting wind outside and delay her departure until the last minute. Joyce was only reluctantly peeling off her blanket to get moving when the deafening crack of a hundred timbers planks shattering to pieces terrified the bejesus out of her.

The pianist Marilyn Paul usually arrived 30 minutes early. She took a nap after dinner however and overslept. Her mother, the choir director, struggled to rouse Marilyn until 7:15 pm. Marilyn was still struggling to get ready when she and her mother heard the blast.

Another member, Herbert Kipf, was actually on his way ahead of schedule when he remembered an important letter he needed to write, so he turned back home to do so. Another had their car breakdown, delaying three members.

Another two young ladies were held back listening to something interesting on the radio. The rest of the choir were delayed by similarly banal reasons converging into the extraordinary.

The ‘Miracle of March the 1st’ is still spoken of with reverence to this day in Beatrice.

Fortune Cookie Reveals Winning Lottery Numbers, 2005

Read about the reaction when, in Iowa 2005, fortune cookie lucky numbers caused 25 times more players to win the state lottery than anticipated.

You know how at the end of a Chinese restaurant meal you get a little fortune cookie to crack open with some lucky numbers and wise words of oriental counsel inside?

Surely those lucky numbers couldn’t be so lucky as to win you the lottery? But this actually happened to dozens of state lottery players in Iowa, 2005.

In one of the mid-week ‘Powerball’ draws the expected number of Level 5 Prize-winning tickets – $100,000 or $500,000 prizes – was 4.

State Lottery Directors were absolutely flummoxed to find out that this time there were a whopping 110 winners, and most had apparently used the numbers included in a fortune-cookie message.

Doug Orr, Powerball Marketing Director reported “With the systems reporting so many plays of 22–28–32–33–39 and Powerball 40, it is likely that most drew their luck from a very fortunate cookie. The cookie was one number away from winning the $25.5 million jackpot.

The odds of winning the $100,000 prize were about 1 in 2.9 million, yet the seers at the cookie factory smashed those odds.

They no doubt garnered a lot of fans of their cookies and sure made it a very expensive week for the good people of the Multi-State Lottery Association too.

There were 110 winners of the Iowa State Lottery in 2005 – up from the expected 4 (snopes.com)

Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, 1919

Boston was hit by one of the weirdest disasters ever heard of, when the city docksides were deluged by a wave of sticky molasses. Read about the suffering it inflicted and how the city’s streets reeked for years after.

Molasses (Black Treacle) is a thick, heavy substance refined from sugar cane. In Boston, 1919, the Purity Distilling Company used it to ferment ethanol, the stuff used to manufacture alcohol and even munitions at the time.

Shipments were stored in a giant tank on the harbourside which stood 15 m (50 ft) tall by 27 m (90 ft) in diameter and contained as much as 8,700,000L (2,300,000 US gal). At midday in mid-January, possibly due to thermal heating, the stored liquid expanded and the huge container burst open and collapsed.

Witnesses reported that they felt the ground shake and heard a roar, a long rumble similar to the passing of an elevated train; others reported a tremendous crashing, a deep growling, “a thunderclap-like bang!”, and a machine gun-like sound as the rivets shot out of the tank.

The liquid is much heavier than water and so was extremely destructive as a wave smashed and sploshed across the harbour, 8 m (25 ft) high at its peak and moving at 35 mph (56 km/h). Several blocks around were flooded.

The Boston Post reported: “Molasses, waist deep, covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage… Here and there struggled a form — whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was… Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly-paper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings — men and women — suffered likewise.

The thick, heavy wave of molasses devastated Boston’s harbourside (bostonglobe.com)

21 people and several horses died, and over a hundred more people were injured. The clean-up took weeks. The event passed into folklore and for years afterwards the streets still reeked sickly sweet on hot Summers’ days.

R. Christian’s Enigmatic Stones, 1980

When a man commissioned a strange structure to be built on behalf of a mysterious group, it left stone masons scratching their heads. But that structure, since dubbed ‘Georgia’s Doomsday Stonehenge’, still stands today. Find out what is inscribed on it and why it is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

In June 1979, a man using the pseudonym Robert C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing Company on behalf of “a small group of loyal Americans” which intended to remain anonymous and commissioned a structure.

Christian delivered a scale model of what he wanted with ten pages of specifications. He explained that it would function as a compass, calendar and clock, and should be capable of withstanding catastrophic events.

Joe Fendley of Elberton Granite assumed that Christian was a ‘nut’ and attempted to discourage him by giving a quote several times higher than any project the company had taken, explaining that the Guidestones would require additional tools and consultants, but Christian happily accepted the quote.

The finished product was unveiled on March 22, 1980.

That structure is called the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. It has been carefully crafted with astronomical features, with the four outer stones being oriented to mark the limits of the 18.6-year lunar declination cycle for example.

A set of ten guidelines is also inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
The Guidestones seem to advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism (wired.com)

The fact that the Guidestones’ authors are anonymous and they apparently advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism has made them a target for controversy and conspiracy theories.

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Armoured Bulldozer Rampage, 2004

The story of the man who built himself an armoured bulldozer to attack and destroy his town has since passed into legend. But was Marvin Heemeyer just a spite filled brute, or a symbol of the ‘little guy’ perennially oppressed by corporate power?

A man by the name of Marvin Heemeyer sat in his Komatsu D355A Bulldozer as he used his workshop crane to lower twelve tonnes of composite armour on top of him, effectively entombing himself. With the fate he had decided for himself however, he wasn’t concerned.

This was the culmination of an 18 month project to build himself a ‘Killdozer’; a behemoth complete with gun ports (for three rifles), cameras and air-conditioning. Heemeyer’s plan was to treat the town of Granby, USA to a destructive rampage in revenge for a series of injustices he felt he had suffered.

So, what had led Heemeyer to this moment?

‘Marv’, a man described by many as ‘likeable’ and ‘affable’, had bought some land in Granby for $48,000 in 1992 to build an air muffler workshop. Later he agreed to sell his land to a Mr Cody Docheff for $250,000, but changed his mind. Why, is unclear but he then demanded $375,000 before raising the price again to $1,000,000, pricing himself out of a deal that would help facilitate the construction of a concrete factory next to his business.

In 2001, local authorities approved the construction of the concrete factory anyway.

Heemeyer attempted to appeal the decision but was unsuccessful. It was claimed by Heemeyer that the construction blocked access to the shop. He was also fined $2,500 for various violations, including “not being hooked up to the sewer line” When he mailed in the cheque, it included a note with “Cowards” scrawled on it. Clearly, Heemeyer was pissed.

I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable”, he wrote. “Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things.

On June the 4th, 2004, Heemeyer was ready. He smashed his Killdozer through his workshop wall and, predictably, lumbered towards his first target, the concrete factory. Over the next two hours, police tried to stop him but the Killdozer’s armour was impervious to anything they could throw at it, including gunfire, explosives and stun grenades thrown down its exhaust chute. It was all the cops could do to keep everyone out of Heemeyer’s destructive path.

Helicopter footage of Heeymeyer’s Killdozer rampage (youtube.com)

In the end, Heemeyer’s trail of destruction was halted when his armoured brute fell into the cellar of a hardware store he’d demolished. Unable to get out, and unwilling to go to jail, cops heard a solitary gunshot go off inside the Killdozer.

Heemeyer had damaged thirteen buildings, including the town hall and caused $7,000,000 worth of damage.

Heemeyer’s legacy is controversial; for some he is remembered as a folk hero, who stood up to ‘the man’ that had tried to bully him in the interests of big business and point out that Heemeyer avoided killing anyone. Yet for others he was a terrorist and the fact there were no casualties was more by luck than design.

Iowa’s Route 6 – The Road Built in an Hour, 1910

To build a solid, major road, hundreds of miles long in one hour defies belief, but that is what the Iowa State authorities performed in 1910. Read how they pulled it off.

In the USA in 1910 the motorcar’s popularity was really taking off with the launch of the Model T Ford two years earlier. In Iowa State, before the U.S. Highway System came into being in 1926, roads were maintained and promoted by local organisations which sought to drive traffic into their communities.

Yet there was one major obstacle on the road to prosperity; Iowa was gaining a nasty reputation for the poor state of its roads.

They would become impassable for weeks at a time due to snow and mud, farmers weren’t able to get their products to the nearest rail station and it slowed and even halted mail delivery at times. Iowa got nicknamed the ‘gumbo state’ (gumbo being a thick brown stew).

At a Good Roads Convention in Des Moines on March 8–9, 1910 it was decided that a well maintained River-to-River Road from Davenport to Council Bluffs would help change Iowa’s reputation.

To that end 10,000 Iowans turned out one day under the White Pole Auto Club’s banner, and with thousands of picks, shovels, ploughs, and scrapers they made tremendous progress.

Amazingly, these men completed the road in just one hour; all 380 miles (612 km) of it, and with road signs erected by the day’s end!

That road is Highway 6

Governor Carroll arranged for the farmers who lived along the route to work on the road (docublogger.typepad.com)

Now, Iowa possessed a road that within a year was widely recognised as the standard of the world.

This is a real road, and even when the ocean-to-ocean highway shall be a fact in the luxurious future, transcontinental automobile travellers may continue to look forward to this particular stretch in pleasant anticipation.” wrote Victor Eubank, after completing the pioneering Raymond and Whitcomb cross-country tour in 1912.

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