Welcome to the five stages of reading Alien Hand Syndrome: Astonishment: This is amazing! Insecurity: I’m a smart person how could I never have heard of this before? Panic: Please, don't let it end. Gratitude: Great!and look, there are over 90 more essays where that one came from. And Zeal: You won't believe what I just read.
Collected and curated by Alan Bellows and his team at DamnInteresting.com, with over 400,000 unique visitors a month, this is the stuff nightmares are made of, and no one will be able to stop reading: Giant Carnivorous Centipedes; Mike, the Headless Chicken; The Exploding Lakes of Cameroon; The Swirling Vortex of Doom; Secret Agent Cyborg Cats; Fiery Balls of Naga; The Deepest Hole; The Terrifying Toothpick Fish; and, of course, Alien Hand Syndromea disorder wherein a person's hand develops a "will of its own," unbuttoning shirts, grabbing at the steering wheel, tossing away cigarettes, and in some cases actually attacking its host.
Most entries are full-blown narratives, complete with illustrationsfor example, pointing out step-by-step how "The Halifax Disaster" unfolded. Other entries examine short-take anomaliessuch as unusual drug side effects, including the antidepressant Clomipramine (spontaneous orgasm upon yawning), the hormone Oxytocin (increases one's generosity), the medicine for Parkinson's disease, Ropinirole (compulsive gambling), and Viagra (priapus syndrome, with a remote chance of gangrene curable only through penectomysay no more).
|Publisher:||Workman Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||7.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Alan Bellows, aka "The Professor," is the writer, designer, managing editor, and marketing mastermind behind DamnInteresting.com. A software designer, he developed his fascination for the odd and unexpected while doing programming for the library industry. He lives with his wife in Orem, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
The Naga Fireballs
A fire-breathing river perplexes citizens and scientists
Every year in October near the end of Buddhist Lent, hundreds of people gather after dusk at Wat Paa Luang, a 450-year-old temple on the edge of the Mekong River in the Nong Khai province of Thailand. Though they cannot predict the exact times or locations, a little patience usually earns spectators a view of a small, pinkish sphere rising out of the surface of the river. The glowing ball lingers above the river for up to a few moments, then ascends rapidly and silently into the atmosphere until it is lost to the eye. Most such nights there are dozens to hundreds of the fist-sized wisps flying skyward. Unlike so many other outlandish claims that photography cannot adequately capture, the Naga Fireballs have been witnessed by thousands of people for hundreds of years.
To believers, these fireballs are the breath of “Naga,” a large, magical serpent who patrols the river. Many of the locals tell tales of spotting a silvery flash of scale or speak of an elusive photograph proving the existence of the elusive Naga. Others seek a more rational explanation.
To many, the fireballs appear artificial in their origin, and thus they consider the entire event a hoax. These naysayers, however, offer only anecdotal evidence to support their theory. Supposed hoaxes include tales of the Wat Paa Luang monks secretly planting or lighting fireworks in order to draw crowds, or that the fireballs are simply a tradition of the region’s youth celebrating in what amounts to a centuries-long ongoing prank. In any case, 100 years of verified sightings makes the case for a conspiracy a weak oneany such ongoing effort would require preparation, equipment, and a superhuman commitment not to brag to the pretty girls who show up to view the spectacle.
Others believe that a natural phenomenon is at play, but look to other causes than the breath of an enormous, camera-shy serpent. While the phenomenon is most readily observed at night, there are some credible reports of daytime fireballs as well, though they are difficult to see in the light. Their appearance is also not isolated to Octoberthey have been spied throughout the year but are especially common in May.
One theory proposed by Manas Kanoksin, a doctor from Nong Khai, postulates that fermenting sediment on the river’s bottom causes pockets of methane gas to form. He further suggests that the Earth’s position in relation to the sun at those times of year causes the bubbles to rise and then spontaneously ignite at the in the presence of ionized oxygen. Other researchers point out that the rocky river bottom doesn’t have much sediment and that the river’s turbulent waters would break up any such methane bubbles before they could reach the surface. Nevertheless, a 2002 study using robotic submarines indicated that the methane theory was at least viable, although it did not address the question of how the bubbles could reach the surface intact.
In 2003, the Thailand Science Ministry released a report that claimed to have solved the mystery of the fireballs. A thermo-scanner was set up near the riverbank, and several teams of specialists stood watch where the fireballs are commonly seen. Reportedly, the scanning equipment detected the movement of phosphine gas coming off the water before anyone could see a fireball form. The presence of phosphine seems a reasonable conclusionas methane released by decay of plant and animal remains could combine with phosphorus from chemical fertilizer used on nearby farms to form the gas. This does not, however, explain the source of energy or microbes required to make the balls of gas appear fiery.
Despite the locals’ preference for romantic silver-serpent stories, the harsh light of science is slowly disassembling the superstitions. Regardless of its natural or supernatural origins, however, this curious and beautiful phenomenon seems to be unique in our world, which lends it a certain awe that no number of sticks-in-the-mud may dislodge
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Big Book Theory ix
A Alien Hand Syndrome 2
The Amber Tide 6
An American Coup d'État 8
Amoebic Altruism 12
Animal Weaponry 15
B Bacteriological Apocalypse 17
The Bath Schoolhouse Explosion 19
Beheaded and Bewildered 22
Birth Control of Antiquity 25
A Booger a Day Keeps the Doctor Away 28
Bryukhonenko's Dogs 31
C Capgras Syndrome 34
Carnivorous Giant Centipedes 36
Centralia's Hidden Inferno 38
Charles Bonnet Syndrome 40
Clever Hans the Math Horse 44
Cognitive Glitches 47
Coley's Cancer-Killing Concoction 49
Corpse Acres 52
Cyborg Spy Kitties 56
D Davy Crockett: King of the Atomic Frontier 58
Deep Water Mysteries 61
Dogs of War 63
Dreaming on Demand 65
The Dwarf Who Became a Giant 69
E Earth's Artificial Ionosphere 71
The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth 74
The Exploding Lakes of Cameroon 80
F The Farewell Dossier 83
The Fartiste of Paris 86
A Fluke of Nature 90
The Fordlândia Fiasco 92
G Gelotology 101 95
The Gimli Glider 100
Guppy Love 106
H The Hail from Hell Theory 109
The Halifax Disaster 113
High-Rise Syndrome 117
I Interstellar Eavesdropping 119
Irrational Optimism 125
K The Kola Superdeep Borehole 128
Kowloon: The Walled City of Darkness 131
L The Lake Peigneur Disaster 134
LeMessurier's Mess 137
M The Mad Gasser of Mattoon 140
Mad Jack Churchill 143
The McCollum Memo 145
Mike the Headless Chicken 149
The Molasses Flood of 1919 152
Montagu's Manufactured Major 154
N The Naga Fireballs 157
Nature's Nuclear Reactors 159
Nazi-Thwarting Norwegians 161
The Niihau Island Incident 165
The Nucleon 168
O Onoda's Long War 171
On the Origin of Circuits175
Operation Pastorius 179
Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 184
Outer Space Exposure 188
P Peculiar Parasites 191
The Pepcon Disaster 193
The Phobia Factory 196
Pleasure on Demand 200
Poland's Germ Gambit 204
Project Pluto 206
R The Revelations of Restored Sight 209
S Secret Agent Candy Jones 213
Sidis's Superbrain 216
The Skyhook 220
Spies on the Roof of the World 223
Spring Heeled Jack 227
Submersible Aircraft Carriers 230
The Sun Gun 234
Sylbaris the Survivor 237
T Terror on Wall Street 240
Tesla's Tower of Power 245
The Treacherous Toothpick Fish 249
The Tree of Ténéré 251
Tsar Bomba: The World's Most Massive Weapon 253
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study 256
U Unanticipated Side Effects 260
Undark and the Radium Girls 262
Undead Hamsters and the Gaia Theory 266
Urine for a Treat 269
The USS Pueblo and the Hawaiian Good Luck Sign 272
V Vaseline's Healing Power 276
Vesna Vulovic's Lucky Day 278
W Walking Corpse Syndrome 280
Weird Weaponry 284
Z Zero Recall 287
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A collection of strange and interesting stuff: medical oddities, freakish disasters (natural and man-made), historical curiosities, etc. The entries range from mildly intriguing to utterly fascinating, and are written in a clear, pleasant, not overly sensational style with just enough depth and a nice sprinkling of humor. I'm very impressed by the fact that some real care and critical thinking seems to have gone into selecting and presenting these stories. As it happens I was already familiar with a number of the subjects included here, and I know that those are quite well-documented and real, which makes me feel reasonably confident about the validity of the ones I hadn't heard of. And when the evidence for something is circumstantial or incomplete, that fact is carefully and cheerfully acknowledged. You don't always see that kind of care being taken with collections like this, and I appreciated it.My favorite pieces? Well, there's the story of the pilot who safely landed a 767 that had run completely out of gas on a tiny, middle-of-nowhere airstrip he remembered from several years previously... not realizing that it had been converted into a racetrack in the meantime and that he was landing on race day. Or there's the one about the oil rig crew who drilled in the wrong spot and ended up draining an entire lake into the (up to that point, fully functioning) salt mines underneath. Oops! Or there's... Well, I could go on.There are a ton of these strange-but-true books in existence, and a megaton of websites, but this is easily one of the best examples I've encountered. I enjoyed it enough that if these guys happen to put out a follow-up volume, I'll happily pick up a copy of that, too.
This was the first Early Reviewers "win" that I can whole-heartedly say I loved receiving. I'm a huge fan of Workman Publishing -- every book I've ever bought from that publishing house has been attractively designed and packaged, and "Alien Hand Syndrome" definitely falls into that category.The book itself is like a treasure trove of oddities -- an updated and expanded Ripley's Believe It or Not! I've only scanned through about 1/3 of the content (at random) so far, but I've enjoyed most of the entries I've read, and I'll be happy to give this one a positive review.
I knew when I saw the title of this book, Alien Hand Syndrome, that I was going to like it. I requested it, hoping I would get a review copy of it (rather than something like "Coping with Acne: A Personal Story") -- and, for once, I actually got the book I wanted. Generally speaking, I seek out and love books like this; books full of short, random, weird trivia that makes you stop and go, "Huh! I didn't know about that. How about that!"Let me put it to you this way -- I was not disappointed.I read about self-sacrificing amoebas; about the women who painted radium on glow-in-the dark watch dials in the 1800's (and their cruel fate); about "Corpse Farms"; about the one man who survived the Mt. Pele eruption; about a blind man who was given sight and how it ruined his life -- and many, many other random and interesting things. Not even to mention the titular "Alien Hand Syndrome", and my personal favorite syndrome (which I am purposefully refraining from naming. It's a secret.)I do have a couple slight criticisms of the book: first, that there seemed to be a large preponderance of stories about war-related items. Not that I have a problem with interesting facts related to wars -- but a few of them, to me, didn't seem all that surprising or unusual. (I'd heard them before. But then again, as I said, I'm a bit of a "weird facts" buff.) Second, there were a few items that were more "theoretical" than factual -- where they more or less said, "There was an unsubstantiated study that said..." and then expounded on that point. Not that they didn't make a point to say that the study was unsubstantiated... but I just would have preferred if they left the one or two hazy, theoretical items out of the book.All and all, though, a most enjoyable reading experience. Would probably be a good "bathroom book" (if you know what I mean; short articles that take five to ten minutes to read...) It's the kind of book you can pick up, open to any page, and read -- or start from the beginning and read through. Recommended! -- Mrs. Hall
I've been a fan of Damn Interesting for some time so I was quite excited to receive Alien Hand Syndrome. If you're a fan of the site, or of Mental Floss, then you'll love this book. Full of interesting trivia and knowledge in easy to digest articles, you can pick and choose or read the whole thing through in one sitting. Would make a great present for anyone who has any kind of interest in the weird and bizarre.
If you like websites like Mental Floss and Damn Interesting, this book is definitely for you. Since I'm really into that kind of trivia, I'd heard of most of the phenomena listed in the book, but there were some I hadn't heard of before, which is a nice surprise, and even the entries I already was familiar with were good reads.I've passed the book on to my 66 year old mom after convincing her she'd be interested in it. She, in turn, has unsuccessfully tried to pass it on to a friend of hers who would love it. The problem is the title and the cover art. I guess it looks too National Enquirer and not Believe It or Not.So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the cover or title are putting you off, give the book a chance! It's a lot of fun and you want someone you know to have read it, too, so you can talk about it with someone.
This book was a fascinating read, mostly stories that I had never heard before. Having the stories placed in alphabetical order made the layout very accessible, and also did not give an order of importance to the stories, letting one decide what they found the weirdest for them. I actually was quite sad to come to the end of this book, and look forward to reading another volume of weird stories in the future. With this many that I'd never heard of, I'm certain there are more out there waiting to be revealed.
When I was young I read every Ripley's Believe it or Not paperback I could find. As I grew up I was drawn to things like The Book of Lists and other compendiums of the unusual, forgotten, and just plain bizarre. My interest drifted; none satisfied my maturing tastes.Until now. Alien Hand Syndrome is the most original, erudite, adult, and fascinating "book o stuff" I have ever read. A complete delight from end to end.It takes a lot to surprise me. I read voraciously, But 80% of this book is new to me. The world's largest bore hole in Russia might just be the USSR's greatest scientific achievement, but is largely unknown. Ethyl poisoning, a horror indeed, was caused by additives crowed about in lavish advertising for decades. The Nucleon was a nuclear powered car that persisted as a project for decades, ohmygod. Evolutionary (self-evolving) circuitboards! Vaseline, a gelid waste product, becomes a ubiquitous and useless staple! How to control your dreams!For me, the most moving and amazing of all is the study of and revelations about humor, and laughing. But the book is chock full of what smart people want to know. These aren't gee-whiz, ain't-it-weird blurbs, but well-written, sharply focused essays by pros.I like the skeptical tone, nicely underplayed. More, please. Make this a series. Ripley's for grown-ups, with humanity, excellent selections, wicked humor, and respect for human foibles and frailties woven through-out. A home-run.
Filled with fascinating, fun facts presented in with humorous accessibility. Whether you are interested in crime, natural phenomena or that edgy disease to mention when calling in sick for work, this is your book.Did you know that Vaseline can be used to prevent frostbite on your chicken's combs? Do you live in Illinois but never heard of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon? Even if you are familiar with alien hand syndrome - you diagnosed it on 'House' before the docs did - don't think you can't learn something from this book.(This is also the only non-Michael Jackson related place where I have seen mention made of Diprivan. Did you know it can cause red urine? Michael may have. But I didn't.)
Fascinating stories. Set up as generally short articles on bizarre and/or interesting topics. From the guy who used to run the "Damn Interesting!" website in which he e-published similar articles. Having been a person who often read articles on his website, I was not dissappointed in this book at all.