November 24 is D.B. Cooper Day

DB Cooper DayOn November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He was wearing a suit, had no discernable accent, drank bourbon and soda and smoked several cigarettes. He also handed a flight attendant an exceedingly polite note informing her he had a bomb and intended to hijack the plane.

He then held the passengers and crew hostage while he negotiated with the FBI, demanding $200,000 in $20 bills and four parachutes. Upon landing, the ransom and parachutes were delivered and Cooper released the passengers. Three pilots and a flight attendant stayed onboard and took off from Seattle with instructions for all to stay in the cockpit and to maintain low airspeed and an altitude of 10,000 feet.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, a light went on in the cockpit to indicate that the rear stairs had been lowered. When the plane landed with the stairs down, the FBI found two parachutes and, on Cooper’s seat, a black clip-on tie. It was assumed Cooper had jumped. We call it an assumption only because the mystery surrounding what followed calls everything into question.

Cooper was never found, in spite of intense searches by ground and air. For all anyone knew, he might’ve tossed out the money, dropped the chutes and fallen into the talons of a giant bird of prey. None of the money has been spent. (It was marked.) In 1980, three bundles of bills totaling $5,800 were discovered under a couple inches of sand on the Columbia River. The serial numbers matched those on the ransom money.

To this day, theories abound but no other confirmed evidence exists. Would “Dan Cooper” be annoyed or amused that, after police interviewed a man named D.B. Cooper in the early days of the investigation, the press and public have misidentified him ever since?

Over time, the unanswered questions about this case have obscured the fact that the man was a hijacker, turning him into something of a folk hero. The legend of the well-spoken man who robbed the government and vanished into thin air fires the imagination. Is he sipping mai-tais on a beach somewhere? Is he drinking a coffee next to us in a diner?

New people are introduced to the story every year. A popular theory that the series Mad Men would end with Don Draper becoming D.B. Cooper turned out to be completely wrong but only added to the myth’s allure. Will we ever find out what really happened? Probably not; but we’ll always have the legend of (Dan) D.B. Cooper.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


October 19 is Stuck in Line with a Conspiracy Theorist Day

Today’s holiday, Stuck in Line with a Conspiracy Theorist Day, commemorates an event taking place this morning in local post offices across the United States. (The post office seems to be the locus of many of these incidents. Coincidence? You decide.)stuck in line with conspiracy theorist day post office line

An old man who speaks little English is trying to send a registered letter to Albania. This incenses today’s conspiracy theorist who helpfully informs everyone else within earshot, “That’s the oldest scam ever. They get you to fill it out for them and then later, they go, ‘Oh, I don’t know!'” It’s unclear what this scam could accomplish but the old man leaves to fill out his envelope, and it appears that the time for our theorist to elaborate has passed.

But that doesn’t stop him. “That’s like the Federal Building in Chicago.” (“That’s like” is a segue favored by the conspiracy theorist, obviating the need for any real connection between subjects.) No one looks at him. He takes this as a signal to proceed. “You know, the government, nobody lives in DC. There’s nobody there, they all live in the federal buildings. You can tell from their license plates.”stuck in line with a conspiracy theorist day

The utter lack of any reaction—in fact, everyone has stopped moving to avoid attracting his attention—urges him onward.”The diplomat plates have two lines and three stars. Get it? It’s like the donkey. That’s why they do that.” And here is where our man derails, goes off a cliff, where his sense factory explodes.

“It’s like tungsten. Tungsten.” He says it a third time. He must like the feel of the word on his tongue. “You know what tungsten is, like spark plugs, they put it in the spark plugs.”

His declarations devolve into conspiracy salad. They always do. The ultimate disappointment that follows being stuck in line with a conspiracy theorist is that we’ll never know what scam the Albanian was planning or the hidden meaning embedded in diplomatic license plates.

In 2015, Worldwide Weird Holidays created this unofficial holiday to celebrate the quest for truth and the desire not to have to hear about it while in line. Have a happy Stuck in Line with a Conspiracy Theorist Day, if you can. If you know the secret significance of tungsten, please let us know. But first, seek help, because that means you’re the conspiracy theorist. We just blew your mind!

Learn a little here:
Moon Landing Faked!!!-Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories – Scientific American

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 15 is Saint Swithin’s Day

st. swithin's day

St. Swithin, Winchester Cathedral

Today is Saint Swithin’s Day, a Roman Catholic feast day dedicated to the ninth-century Saxon Bishop of Winchester. (Spellings of his surname have varied. Swithin is correct in modern English, while Swithun was the spelling of choice in Old English. In the original Saxon language, according to Butler’s The Lives of the Saints, it was spelled Swithum.)

Swithin’s name has been associated with the weather for several centuries. The following Elizabethan rhyme, still well-known in the British Isles, explains:

St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

Before the bishop died on July 2, 862, he asked to be buried outside so he would be trodden upon and the rain could fall on his grave. While the particulars of this story cannot be confirmed, his body was buried outside in front of the west door of the Saxon Old Minster. Visitors can see its outlines, now traced in brick.

Being left out in the elements was considered a terrible indignity by the Church. According to folklore, nine years after his death, workers attempted to dig up his grave but were met with a torrential downpour that swamped the proceedings. The heavy rains lasted for forty days, signaling Swithin’s disapproval.

On July 14, 971, it appeared that Swithin had changed his mind. The weather remained fine as his body was exhumed and “translated” to a shrine within the cathedral. On October 30, 974, his bones, called relics, were moved once again, this time to a jewel-encrusted gold and silver feretory platform behind the altar, a gift from Edgar, King of Wessex.

His head was moved to a separate locked compartment on the altar, where it remained until 1006 when Alphege was elevated from Bishop of Winchester to Archbishop of Canterbury and took it with him to his new post. Other parts of his skeleton were probably divided among several shrines over the following years. (The Second Council of Nicaea had decreed in 787 that every altar should contain a relic, so bones were often split up to make sure every church had at least one.)

Norman invaders razed the church and built a larger cathedral on the grounds. On July 14, 1093, Swithin’s bones—his relics—were translated to a shrine behind the new altar. A tunnel called the Holy Hole was dug so pilgrims could crawl directly under his bones, the better to receive their rumored miraculous healing powers.

In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII seized control of the Roman Catholic Church, stood in judgment of “clerical abuses” such as excommunication, forbade appeals to the Pope, and declared himself head of the Church of England. In the predawn hours of September 21, 1538, the king’s men entered Winchester Cathedral, destroyed the shrine and stole the platform. It was melted down a couple of years later. A builder filled in the Holy Hole.

saint swithin's day

Winchester Cathedral

In spite of his moniker, Saint Swithin was never officially canonized by the pope. (That practice wasn’t introduced until two centuries later.) The Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park, London, measured rainfall between 1841 through 1860 and found that the highest number of rainy days occurred when July 15th had been dry. In other words, his feast day is no more predictive than Groundhog Day.

Although nothing remains of the shrine today, those who make the pilgrimage to Winchester Cathedral will see the modern-day memorial and have the chance to walk in the footsteps of more than a millennium of history. We think Saint Swithin would approve.



Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 8 is the Soapy Smith Wake

Today is the 43rd annual Soapy Smith Wake. Since 1974, descendants of Jefferson “Soapy” Smith have held an annual wake for him on the anniversary of his death in Skagway, Alaska, on July 8, 1898.

soapy smith's wake

Soapy Smith, image at legendsofamerica

Jefferson Smith was a con man who lived to prove the axiom, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” He gained his nickname due to his prize soap scam, in which he’d set up a display of soaps, make a show of placing bills from one to one hundred dollars around several bars, wrap them to resemble the other bars, then appear to hide them in the stack.

A shill he’d plant in the crowd would pay a dollar, unwrap a seemingly random soap, pull out a bill and start shouting about his winnings. This convinced others to clamor to buy the other bars. There were no more winners. Smith had used sleight of hand of hand to conceal the fact that he had not put the money-wrapped bars in the pile. Halfway through, he announced the hundred dollar bill hadn’t yet been found and auctioned off the remainder.

At some point in Smith’s mostly successful twenty-year career, Smith was arrested for running the prize soap racket. The police officer forgot Smith’s first name and wrote “Soapy Smith” in his logbook. The name stuck.

Smith’s luck came to an end on July 8, 1898, after his crew bilked a miner out of a sack of gold in a crooked game of three-card monte. Four men, including Frank H. Reid, confronted Smith, who refused to return the gold or turn over his associates. In the ensuing gunfight, Smith and Reid exchanged fire. Smith was shot through the heart and died instantly; Reid, shot in the groin, died twelve days later of his injuries.

Soapy Smith was buried several yards outside the Skagway city cemetery. Over the years, his reputation grew to that of a Klondike-style Robin Hood, fleecing the rich to give to the poor. There’s no evidence he did anything but line his own pockets and those of the public servants and businessmen he bribed.

Reid became painted as a villain who murdered Smith. If we assume the two men shot each other—and there are those who question that—then Smith must have shot Reid first, since he couldn’t have fired after being shot through the heart. Unless the gun went off as he was falling, but then we’re getting into grassy knoll territory.

On July 8, 1974, members of Smith’s family and their friends began the tradition of holding a wake at his gravesite, toasting him with several bottles of champagne. When the group felt nature calling, they started another tradition by entering the cemetery proper and relieving themselves on the grave of Frank H. Reid.

A reporter present at the wake dubbed it the “sprinkling of Frank.” The Smiths and many residents found it humorous at the time. The family continued to furnish champagne for years until the wake was finally banned from the cemetery and moved to the Eagles Hall in downtown Skagway.

If you can’t make it to Skagway to celebrate, The Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, has held a Soapy Smith Party every year since 2004. No matter where you are, raise a glass, if you like, and toast the cantankerous, thieving criminal known as Soapy Smith. And if you have to pee, please use a restroom.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays2017