weird and wacky holidays happening in April

April 22 is In God We Trust Day

in god we trust dayToday is In God We Trust Day. On April 22, 1864, Congress ordered the redesign of the one-cent piece and the minting of a new two-cent coin bearing the motto. On March 3, 1865, Congress passed another act directing the U.S. mint to place the words on all gold and silver coins.

The phrase is often attributed to lawyer Francis Scott Key, who witnessed the British bombardment of Baltimore Harbor on September 13, 1814, during the War of 1812, which lasted much longer than its name suggests.

Key wrote the poem Defence of Fort M’Henry, which was later set to the tune of a popular British song, Anachreon in Heaven, and renamed The Star-Spangled Banner. In the fourth stanza, like many sports fans, Key expresses a belief that God is on our team’s side.

We include the poem in its entirety because, like us, you may not have seen it. We’ve never heard it at a sporting event. It would be cruel and unusual punishment for the fans and for the singer trying to hit the high notes again and again.

Defence of Fort M’Henry

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there —
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream —
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havock of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul foot-steps’ pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home, and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto — “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

On July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law declaring that In God We Trust must appear on all currency. The first paper money bearing the phrase was issued the following year. He also made it the nation’s official motto, replacing E pluribus unum (Latin: Out of many, one), the country’s unofficial slogan since its inclusion on the Great Seal of the United States created in 1782.

Have a happy and healthy In God We Trust Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 21 is Keep Off the Grass Day

Today is Keep Off the Grass Day. It may just be a clever way to stitch together Pot Smoking Day (April 20) and Earth Day (April 22). But there’s an event that it should represent, even though it happened a few calendar days later.

keep off the grass dayOn May 1, 1894, a wealthy Populist named Jacob Coxey arrived in Washington, D.C. with an “army” of 500 men to demand the government create jobs building roads, bridges, etc. to help alleviate unemployment in the depression caused by the Panic of 1893.

Word of “Coxey’s Army” preceded it. In anticipation of its arrival, 1,500 soldiers were mustered, with thousands more ready to be mobilized if necessary. But during the march from Ohio, many lost enthusiasm and left to go home or find work. Other so-called armies, meant to converge on Washington around the same time, had dwindled to nothing before reaching there.

Despite his group’s militaristic name, Jacob Coxey had come not to stage a coup but to give a face to poverty-stricken citizens who desperately needed work.  He set out to make a speech on their behalf in front of the U.S. Capitol building. But the moment he stepped on the Capitol lawn, he was arrested for walking on the grass.

Fifty years later on May 1, 1944, at the age of 90, Jacob Coxey was finally allowed to deliver his speech from the steps of the U.S. Congress. Here is a portion of it:

…Up these steps the lobbyists of trusts and corporations have passed unchallenged on their way to committee rooms, access to which we, the representatives of the toiling wealth-producers, have been denied.

We stand here today in behalf of millions of toilers whose petitions have been buried in committee rooms, whose prayers have been unresponded to, and whose opportunities for honest, remunerative, productive labor have been taken from them by unjust legislation, which protects idlers, speculators, and gamblers.

We come to remind the Congress here assembled of the declaration of a United States Senator, “that for a quarter of a century the rich have been growing richer, the poor poorer, and that by the close of the present century the middle class will have disappeared as the struggle for existence becomes fierce and relentless.”

…Coming as we do with peace and good will to men, we shall submit to these laws, unjust as they are, and obey this mandate of authority of might which overrides and outrages the law of right. In doing so, we appeal to every peace-loving citizen, every liberty-loving man or woman, every one in whose breast the fires of patriotism and love of country have not died out, to assist us in our efforts toward better laws and general benefits.

Today, Coxey’s words still ring true. Here’s to everyone who refuses to keep off the grass!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 20 is Lima Bean Respect Day

lima bean respect dayToday is Lima Bean Respect Day. We don’t know who invented this holiday, but we suspect it may have been someone who grows them. So let’s cultivate a little knowledge about this underappreciated legume.

Lima beans have been found at archeological sites dating back as far as 6000 BC. They were named by Spaniards traveling through Lima, Peru in the 15th century.

The fiber in lima beans helps lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar level while insoluble fiber improves bowel regularity, which is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.

They’re low in fat and full of protein, iron, magnesium, folate, manganese and calcium. They contain protease inhibitors that may halt the development of cancerous cells. Their high molybdenum content helps people who have sulfite allergies due to insufficient levels of molybdenum in their bodies.

Lima beans contain a cyanide compound and should not be eaten raw. Only varieties with the lowest cyanide levels can be legally sold in the United States. Cooking destroys it.

Show a little respect for lima beans today. Relax: We’re not saying you have to eat them.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 19 is Bicycle Day

Today is Bicycle Day, a holiday originated in 1985 by Northern Illinois University professor Thomas Roberts to commemorate the first LSD trip, taken on April 19, 1943.

bicycle day

Albert Hofmann

Chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on November 16, 1938, at the Sandoz laboratory in Basel, Switzerland, while experimenting with ergot fungus to find medicinal treatments for circulatory and respiratory depression.

When animal testing showed no effects other than restlessness, research was discontinued and the substance destroyed. Hofmann still believed it was an important discovery. Almost five years later, he decided to take another look. While synthesizing it, he began to experience strange sensations.

Later, Hofmann reported the incident to his supervisor:

Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.

Hofmann believed the LSD had caused the experience after he had accidentally absorbed a small amount through his fingers. To test his theory, he waited until the next working day, Monday, April 19, 1943, and purposely swallowed 250 micrograms, the amount he incorrectly estimated as the minimum dose required to have any effect. (It’s actually 20 micrograms.)

Here are his lab notes from April 19th:

4/19/43 16:20: 0.5 cc of Vi promil aqueous solution of diethylamide tartrate orally = 0.25 mg tartrate. Taken diluted with about 10 cc water. Tasteless.

17:00: Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh.

At that point, Hofmann lost his ability to write. In his autobiography, LSD: My Problem Child, he described the struggle to speak intelligibly when asking his assistant to escort him home. Due to wartime restrictions on the use of motor vehicles, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. He wrote of the ride:

On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had travelled very rapidly.

At home, Hofmann’s condition rapidly worsened as he experienced anxiety, feared he was going mad and became convinced the LSD had poisoned him. He had moments of clarity, telling his assistant to call a doctor and ask a neighbor for milk, which he believed might work as an antidote.

When his neighbor arrived, he barely recognized her, seeing instead a malevolent witch wearing a lurid mask. He drank two liters of the milk she brought. By the time the doctor showed up, Hofmann felt the worst had passed but was still unable to speak. His heart rate and blood pressure were normal. He had no physical symptoms other than extremely dilated pupils.

Reassured that he wasn’t dying, Hofmann’s fear gradually gave way to a sense of wellbeing.

Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.

After six hours of brutal highs and lows, the effects subsided. Hofmann awoke the next morning feeling physically tired but mentally refreshed and happy, experiencing heightened senses of taste and sight that lasted throughout the day.

His experiment showed that LSD could evoke profound psychoactive effects at very low doses. Sandoz named the new drug Delysid and began sending samples to psychiatric researchers.  Due to the intensity of focus and introspection it caused, Hofmann couldn’t imagine that anyone would use it recreationally. (Much to his chagrin, proponents like Timothy Leary proved him wrong about that.)

In 1953, The CIA began to investigate its possible use in mind control through its now notorious Project MKUltra. The program’s charter was to find drugs that could induce confessions or wipe an enemy’s mind clean so it could be reprogrammed.

LSD was administered to mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes. Other experiments involved employees, college students and military personnel, many of whom were provided with little to no information about the nature of the tests.

The CIA conducted 149 separate mind-control experiments; up to 25 of those used unwitting subjects. This violated the Nuremberg Code, enacted after World War II to punish Nazi doctors who experimented on concentration camp prisoners.

In 1973, the CIA shuttered MKUltra and ordered all records destroyed. First-hand testimony, court transcripts and the few surviving government documents show that at least one test subject died. (Frank Olson, an army scientist, committed suicide one week after his drink was mistakenly spiked with the drug.) Many others suffered psychological damage or insanity as a result of the project.

By the end of the 1970s, Sandoz discontinued manufacture of the drug that had once shown such promise. Hofmann’s ride was largely forgotten until Professor Roberts resurrected it in 1985 as “Bicycle Day.” Since 1985, it has been celebrated on April 19th, the anniversary of the first intentional LSD trip.

Have a safe and happy Bicycle Day!

P.S.: If you truly want to have your mind blown, scroll to Chapter 7, page 319 of Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments: Final Report – October 1995 to read about “Non-therapeutic research on children,” which entailed feeding radioactive substances to disabled kids.

The craziest thing we encountered while researching this holiday was Human Drug Testing by the CIA, 1977: Hearing before U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources. The entire text is fascinating but skip to page 183 to read Dr. Sidney Gottlieb try to evade Senator Ted Kennedy’s questions about Operation Midnight Climax, in which agents hired prostitutes to work in rooms they outfitted with full surveillance. They could then dose the johns and/or prostitutes and observe their behavior.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays