Pentheraphobia, pelicans and other stuff |

Pentheraphobia, pelicans and other stuff

The world is a whacky place so I rarely have to look far for material for this column. As I sit here writing this, I can see a pelican fishing in the bayou outside my window; if you’ve ever doubted that God has a sense of humor, take a good look at a pelican … it’s pretty clear that God has a heavenly sense of humor.

Every once in a while, it’s fun to do a little research to find strange but amusing stuff. You don’t need to go to those weird fantasy websites, in fact, I’d recommend avoiding any website that includes the word “fantasy” because you never know who might click the “History” button on your computer… not that I know anything about that … oh, never mind … just don’t do it!

Luckily, you don’t have to do any research at all to find strange but amusing facts because I’ve already done it for you! What a strange service I provide — to think up mildly musing stuff and, failing that, to look up mildly amusing stuff and share it with you. That’s why they pay me the mediocre money!

For example, did you know that studies have revealed that approximately 15 percent of matter in the air of a typical subway station consists of human skin? I can tell that is true but that isn’t even the weirdest part of what those studies found; it also showed that the skin came mostly from the heel of the foot, armpits and butt. I find that a bit odd because whenever I go to a subway station or to a Subway restaurant for that matter, I’m almost always wearing a shirt, shoes and pants — almost always.

You might expect skin from hands, forearms or even cheeks (stop it, I meant facial cheeks) because they are generally uncovered. Butt skin … really? No wonder the Japanese wear mask while riding the subway!

If Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth (and the jury is still out on that one; have you been to Hooters?) then the Italian island of Povgelia may well be the saddest place. The small island has been the site of battles, a quarantine area for plague victims and, eventually, the home of an asylum for the mentally ill. At one point it was offered up to some monks to use as a monastery but even these guys who had taken a vow of silence, poverty and (ugh) chastity decided homelessness was better than Povgelia.

After a doctor from the asylum threw himself off the wall reportedly to escape some very aggressive ghosts, the Italian government offered a 99-year lease to anyone who wanted the island; there were no offers. The Italian government considers the island to be so dangerously haunted that they officially restrict the public from visiting. I’m not fluent in Italian but I’m pretty sure that Povgelia is from the Latin “mythica ubanica” or, in modern terms, horse-hockey.

Pentheraphobia is the unnatural fear of your mother-in-law. I don’t have a joke for this one; I just thought you should know.

Mississippi newspapers from 1942 tell of a man known only as “The Phantom Barber” who broke into people’s homes at night just to cut their hair. Normally, I don’t go in for local lore or legends, but I believe in the Phantom Barber and I believe he’s still around. I can’t prove his existence but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some of his work. Don’t believe me? Look around the Jackson Airport during a two-hour layover or visit a casino in Biloxi then get back to me on that. Yikes!

It’s said that if you put two straws in your mouth, one inside a drink and one outside of it you will not be able to drink from either straw … well, of course, you can’t! If you try that you’re a moron and should not be allowed to play with straws.

Consuming dynamite has been known to turn urine deep red or amber in color which people often mistake for blood. How often? Who are these people and why are they eating dynamite? What the heck?

Believe it or not I didn’t make any of this stuff up; OK I didn’t completely make this stuff up. I couldn’t make this stuff up, I’m just not that clever, but I don’t have to because we live in a whacky world. A world with pelicans and fantasy websites … or so I’m told.

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at