What Ripley May Be Missing:
Firestarter, Lungs & the Killer Dingo
Vietnamese girl sets things on fire with her mind. Boy undergoes surgery to remove live fish from lungs. Lungs found on a Los Angeles street. A dingo ate my baby. Perhaps, it was a good thing for Robert Ripley to have passed away at the time he did. At least he got spared the embarrassment of having to compete with these recent headlines.
Thing is, despite widely reported, few know for sure whether these are facts or Internet hoaxes, something the good Ripley wouldn’t believe on anyway. It’s even more unsettling, because, as entertainment feeds up the news cycle, most just choose fiction over reality any time.
Such public gullibility paid Ripley’s bills, to be sure, but still, whereas he’d have to move heavens and earth to find that exquisite piece of oddity of the natural world, we don’t need to move a muscle to be bombarded by them. As you read this, the lower-third part of the screen in front of you is probably displaying an unsorted string of news stories.
Very few will deserve more than a few seconds of your attention, but whether you choose to click on any of them is already enough to give advertisers and snooping bots a pretty good idea of what kind of consumer you are.
We are of the curious kind, and simply love weird stories, as our readers have already noticed. Then again, we hate to be taken for a ride as much as the next blogger. And hoaxes are free trips to a hell of shame to make no one proud.
So it may have been just a good thing that Ripley didn’t live to deal with them. He’d probably be outdone by them more often than not, anyway, and what a poorer and less imaginative world we’d all be living in now, hadn’t been for his Believe it or Not series.
Aware of the malefic power that hoaxes exert over people’s carefully constructed reputations, and how hard it is to fathom what possibly can the perpetrators gain from them, we need to make a full-blown disclosure about the stories that follow.
At this point, we have been unable to confirm or dismiss any of them, despite the full coverage they’ve been receiving from the media. Some sound reasonably possible, while others, plain fishy. But alas, no belief should be suspended on the account of our own gullibility. We’re doing it because we enjoy riding it, but you don’t have to, regardless that you believe them or not.
FIRESTARTER ON THE LOOSE
We’ve seen this movie before. Cute girl and her troubled papa shared a kinetic power: they can put things on fire. The sweetie pie is even more dangerous, because she ignites things whenever she feels angry. Which is almost all the time. Sinister cult and government people want a piece in the action. They try to control them both but wound up burnt to a crisp.
The case of an unnamed 11-year-old girl from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City seems to track closely the 1984 movie, except perhaps for the lack of a suitable Tangerine Dream soundtrack. This sweetie pie stands accused of burning down almost the entire third floor of her family’s home, and apparently, it’s not the first time.
No cult or government Men in Black got into the action, so far either. Or maybe they have and we just don’t know about it. The site that reported the case (that’s right, a big red flag here; news about it couldn’t be found on any major Asian newspaper sites) say that power outlets and her don’t seem to get along and catch fire. So for those around her, she’s likely becoming difficult (and expensive) to handle.
Her family is kind of freaking out too, since they took her on vacation and she burned their hotel room and even a toilet seat got singed. Now, they sleep with a set of house keys, for a quick escape, buckets of water and wet towels, just in case. Like in the movie, she’s been taken for tests at the Hong Bang International University, and there goes another red flag too.
A WEIRD BRAIN HALO
Just in case, someone should rent the movie. You see, they’ve called an ‘expert in radiesthesia,’ which if you should know, it’s the ‘ability to detect radiation within the human body,’ a skill most scientists seem to be unaware of. The university claims to have invited a panel of physics, medical doctors, psychologists and even sociologists to conduct tests with the girl.
That’s when we worried a bit about the whole thing. Maybe we’ve watched too many movies, but what if someone decides to try to ‘tap’ this power? We can hear the evil laughter somewhere in the background, while the poor girl lies strapped onto a hospital bed, with countless of electrodes and tubes inserted in and out of her body, her eyes welling with tears and… sorry, we’ve got carried away.
University director Dr. Nguyen Manh Hung said that Radio Frequency Interference tests showed a weird “halo” in the right hemisphere of the girl’s brain, which may be the source of her pyrokinetic power. But while the university seems to be basking in the glare of the media’s attention, other tests conducted at Cho Ray Hospital and the Children No 2 Hospital failed to detect anything abnormal.
LIVE FISH INSIDE LUNGS
This case goes like this: after almost a hour of surgery, doctors successfully removed a nine-centimeter live fish from the lungs of a 12-year old Indian boy. Apparently, he’d inhaled it while swimming with friends in a river. The boy is fine but the fish didn’t last much longer after the operation. You’re probably thinking about something else that’s hard to swallow in this story, right?
But even though we’re still not completely convinced about it, we simply couldn’t disprove it, either. And a few news outlets with a reputation to preserve went on record to report it, so if we’re giving credence to a hoax, at least we’re not the only ones. Besides, if you take it for its entertainment value, it’s not every day that a story as such comes along.
A message sent to Dr. Pramod Jhawar, listed as the head of the operation and whose professional profile, or of someone under this name, is part of the public record, remains unanswered. To the Indian press, the good doctor said that ‘the fish was alive and taking its last breath when the bronchoscopy was done.’
LUNGS FOUND IN THE STREET
Across the Pacific, another set of lungs captured world news reports too. This one was found on a sidewalk of South Los Angeles, and according to the city’s County Coroner Office, they’re not human. Not that this detail makes the incident any easier to swallow either. The gory finding was taken to the morgue for further tests.
There’s yet no word of what kind of animal the set of lungs belongs to, assuming it’s organic, not alien, or why it had been dumped on the street on a Monday morning. Still, the LA Sheriff’s Department has deployed its best men on the case and apparently there’s already a firm conclusion about the organ.
At a quickly-assembled press conference, the department’s spokesperson, Ed Winter, told reporters that the ‘organ did not appear to be attached to a body.’ With that sensible revelation, an unmistakably wave of relief irrupted throughout the room. Could you believe it?
BLAME IT ON THE DOG
Finally, this story is the one with the most evidence that’s actually real, and even though it’s also the lamest, it involves the disappearance of a baby who would be a 32-year old woman today; a mother who went to jail for a crime she seems to not have committed; and wild animals of the Australian outback. Oh, yes, and a Hollywood movie with Meryl Streep too.
In 1980, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton took baby Azaria Chamberlain to a family vacation at Australia’s Ayers Rock, but somehow, the baby disappeared overnight, and she was accused of her murder. She did go to jail for a while but her sentence was overturned. She had, however, already been convicted in the court of public opinion, in a case that captivated the world, at least for a while.
‘A dingo’s got my baby,’ the phrase uttered by Streep in the movie (she, of course, was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, but there must be people who think she deserved to win it), became emblematic of those who, when pointed to the evidence against them, come up with an outrageous excuse to defend themselves.
Except, of course, that in this case, the mother was right all along, according to coroner Elizabeth Morris. Australia’s largest terrestrial predator, Dingoes are genetically diverse from American dogs, but like all canines, hunt in packs and do threaten humans. Chamberlain-Creighton’s claim was never too far out from being considered, but evidence has only recently become conclusive.
Unlike the other stories above, this one has a different twist: the joke on believing something outrageous is on us, and people did get unfortunately hurt in the process. There’s some kind of lesson behind all that but we completely fail to see what it is. Somewhere, we feel the man who’s buried at the Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery in California, has moved a bit in his grave.