Truly Curious Eats – The Annual Gala of the Explorers Club

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Members of New York’s exclusive Explorers Club get together once a year at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to enjoy some of the most unusual dishes ever conceived. From live tarantulas to juicy cow eyeballs, the menu of the Annual Gala of the Explorers Club features everything you’ve never wanted to put in your mouth. A fair warning – make sure you’re reading this and especially watching the video, on an empty stomach.

The annual gala dinner of the Explorers Club is no dainty affair.It’s a black tie event, but that’s about it as far as niceties are concerned. As you’re about to see for yourself, guests of this bizarre dinner gleefully sink their teeth into live tarantulas, tear the heads off exotic roaches, nib on succulent cow’s eyeballs and snack on battered monkey’s hands. Not really the kind of things ordinary people usually get dressed up for, but then again, Explorers aren’t exactly ordinary. These are people who have traversed the Earth in various expeditions of exploration, who love to discover new and fascinating things, even when it comes to food. This annual gala gives most of them a chance to try obscure dishes, even if they aren’t the most appetizing in the world.

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Sci-Fi Speed Dating – Because Geeks Need Love Too

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It’s hard out there for a geek, especially when it comes to finding a date, but thanks to events like Sci-Fi Speed Dating, comic-book and video game enthusiasts actually have a chance of finding a special someone who shares their interests.

Sci-Fi Speed Dating is an event that takes place at Comic Cons around the USA, giving geeks the chance to meet like-minded members of the opposite sex, and hopefully lay the foundation for a real relationship. Ryan Glitch, the man who came up with the idea for Sci-Fi Speed dating, actually met his girlfriend at one of these events and is now on a mission to help fellow geeks find their Princess Leia, Catwoman, or whatever other fictional character they might fancy. He travels the country attending Comic Con events looking for single male and female attendants willing to give his speed dating session a try. His idea was so popular that Sci-Fi Speed Dating actually got its on series on TLC, called “Geek Love”.

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Ghost Money – Currency of the Afterlife

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If there is indeed such a thing as afterlife, the Chinese and Vietnamese might just be the richest people there. And that’s because their living relatives make sure they are well provided for – by throwing money into flames. Well, not real money. Only fake notes. This fake money is commonly known as ghost money, “Joss paper” and as ‘pinyin’ (literally ‘shade’ or ‘dark’ money) in Chinese. The ghost money, along with other papier-mâché items (usually expensive stuff) are burned as a part of Chinese tradition – on holidays to venerate the deceased, and also at funerals, to make sure that the spirits have plenty of good things in the afterlife.

Traditionally, Joss paper is made from coarse bamboo paper or rice paper. The Joss is cut into squares or rectangles and has a thin piece of square foil glued in the center. Sometimes, it is even endorsed with a traditional Chinese red ink seal depending on the particular region. The paper is generally of a white color (symbolizing mourning) and the foil is either silver or gold (representing wealth), hence the name, ghost money. The three types of ghost money are copper (for newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown), gold (for the deceased and the higher gods), and silver (for ancestral spirits and local deities). Sometimes Joss paper is completely gold, engraved with towers or ingots. The burning of joss paper is not done casually, but with a certain reverence, placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Some other customs involve folding each sheet in a specific manner before burning. The burning is mostly done in an earthenware pot or a chimney built specifically for this purpose.

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Vietnam Festival Is Dedicated to Meeting Ex-Lovers

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Most people cannot stand the thought of their partners even talking to their exes, let alone socializing with them. But things are different in a small community of Vietnam. A yearly ‘love market’ of sorts is held in the hillside village of Khau Vai, 500km north of Hanoi, near the border with China. It takes place each year, on the 26th and the 27th of the third month of the lunar calendar. During these two days, hundreds of ex-lovers from various hill tribes like Nung, Tay, San Chi, Lo Lo, Dzao, Giay and Hmong are reunited. They trek in from various mountainous districts nearby to be able to spend two days with the ones they could not spend their lives with.

This concept might sound extremely unusual to us, and there might be every possibility of a cat-fight breaking out if this unique love festival was held anywhere else in the world. But the people of Khau Vai have a strong reason for the celebrating their love market. It has been a part of their tradition for centuries, originating from a local legend. The story is rather sad – an ethnic Giay girl from Ha Giang had fallen for a Nung boy from Cao Bang., but she is said to have been so beautiful that her tribe did not want her to marry a man from another community. What followed was a bloody war between the two tribes. As the lovers witnessed the tragedy that surrounded their lives, they decided to part ways in the greater interest of peace. But their love did not die there. A secret pact was made between the lovers to meet each other once a year in Khau Vai– on the 27th day of the third Lunar month. The tradition is still being carried on today. On the designated days of the festival, local artists decked up in colorful clothes reenact this tale of forbidden love.

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Macabre Rituals – The Annual Cleaning of the Dead at Pomuch Cemetery

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It’s fascinating how bizarre the rituals of the dead can get. The latest we’ve discovered is from Pomuch, Campeche, a small Mayan town in Mexico. In Campeche, the day of the dead, which is not unlike Spring Cleaning, is honored each year. On this particular day, families visit the cemetery to participate in the ritual cleaning of the bones of their loved ones. The squeaky-clean remains are then placed on display along with flowers and a new cloth for veneration.

The custom applies to anybody who dies in Campeche, ranging from young to old. Every corpse is buried for three years and then, on the Day of the Dead, the bones are dug up, cleaned and transferred to a wooden crate. The waiting period of 3 years is important because the bones need that time to dry out. The wooden crate is placed on permanent display in the cemetery. From then on, people go to the cemetery to pay their respects and clean the remains every year. Nov 1st is the day dedicated to dead children, known as the Dia de los Niños (Day of the Innocents), and Nov 2nd is for everyone else. The custom of cleaning the remains of dead relatives is said to date all the way back to Mayan practices – when the skulls of ancestors were retained and worshipped. The significance behind the ritual is to help people deal with the pain of losing a loved one. It is also believed to keep families together. The most important belief, however, is that a relative whose remains are poorly taken care of can become angry and wander through the streets.

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Lighting Up Christmas – The Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando

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The Philippines is home to a variety of Christmas traditions, but particularly famous is the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, the capital of the province of Pampanga, a 1.5 hour ride from Manila. Locally, the festival is known as the Ligligan Parul. It showcases the most popular product of Pampanga – the ‘parol’, or lighted stars. The artisans of Pampanga are renowned for their ability to create the biggest and most elaborate parol in the country. Each year, the best parol makers of the region show off their creations at the Giant Lantern Festival, vying for the title of ‘winning parol’ and lighting up the night sky.

In the early days, parol had simple star shaped designs, but they have evolved a lot over the years. Today, the biggest ones are about 40 feet in diameter and shapes vary from floral patterns to religious symbols. They are generally made from materials like soft drink straws, crepe paper, glass, plastic, bamboo dowels, and some even contain assorted electronic parts. For the artists who make the parol, excelling at their work is a matter of pride and building a reputation. Several hours go into the making just one of these superb works of art, and the cost can rise to several thousand dollars. Of course, once the Holiday Season is over, their creations have little use.

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Party Like There’s No Tomorrow – Russian Revelers Pay $1,000 to Celebrate Apocalypse in Soviet Era Bunker

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A Cold War bunker in Moscow designed to protect Soviet leaders in case of nuclear attacks will host the ultimate doomsday party. Revelers willing to part with $1,000 will be able to celebrate the coming of the Apocalypse in a safe environment that can withstand nuclear catastrophes and earthquakes.

Sure, $1,000 isn’t cheap, but with the world coming to an end, you might as well spend your life savings partying, right? That’s what the administrators of Bunker 42, in Moscow, are hoping, anyway. The shelter located 65 meters underground has been decorated especially for this special end-of-the-world party, after receiving a large number of requests from Russians looking for a chance to survive the impending doom. According to senior bunker guide Alexei Pavlovsky, the idea behind the event is pretty simple:  : A lot of many people would feel much calmer if they could spend this critical day surrounded by maximum comfort and safety. And who are we to say no?” Can’t argue with that, now can you?

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Indian Believers Roll in Food Scraps of Higher Caste to Cure Their Illnesses

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A century old ritual in India dictates that those considered low-caste Hindus must roll in the remains of food eaten by members of a higher caste. But it’s not the ritual itself that’s strange. The strange part is that while social activists are actually seeking to outlaw the practice, the ‘low-caste’ Hindus don’t want to stop rolling in the leftovers.

The ritual, called Madey Snana (Spit Bath) is specific to the state of Karnataka, during an annual event at the famous 4000-year-old Kukke Subramanya temple in the coastal district of Mangalore. It is also followed at the Sri Krishna temple in Udupi town. As a part of the century-old Snana, Dalits (members of a lower caste) roll over leftover food eaten by Brahmins (the upper caste) every year, in the belief that all their troubles will disappear and ailments will be cured. It is practiced every year on the festival of Champa Shasti or Subramanya Shasti. Last year alone, 25,000 people rolled over the ‘spit’ of the Brahmins. This happened even as the district administration watched helplessly after their attempts to ban the practice failed.

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Sharp Music at New York’s Annual Musical Saw Festival

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Who would have thought that an ordinary carpenter’s handsaw could be used to produce music? But apparently it can, and has been for the past 300 hundred years. And in order to commemorate this bizarre yet unique tradition, the NYC Musical Saw Festival is held in July of every year, in Astoria (Queens), New York City. Ever since the festival was established by founder and director Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz in 2003, musical saw players from all over New York and the world have come together to preserve and honor this rare form of music. In fact, for saw players in far-flung countries like Germany, Sweden, India, China and Japan, Astoria has become a pilgrimage place of sorts. Every year, the sawist who travels the greatest distance in order to attend is awarded the title of ‘guest of honor’.

At the Musical Saw Festival, the players socialize and hear each other play. There are solo performances and jam sessions as well. They even take the opportunity to educate each other about the different types of saws and various techniques of playing. Overall, the atmosphere is said to be rather friendly and encouraging. But the festival is not limited to saw players. The event is open to the public, so people are welcome to come in and learn about the musical saw, or just enjoy a concert or two. An art exhibit and a workshop are also part of the festival.

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Controversial Riot Training Experience Teaches People How to Cause Havoc

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English company Wish.co.uk has sparked controversy for giving people as young as 16 the chance to take part in an actual riot, during a day-long activity called the  Riot Training Day Experience. Organizers promise noise, fire, smoke and fear as the main ingredients.

If the name Wish.co.uk sounds familiar, it’s probably because they’re the guys behind other unique experiences we’ve featured on Oddity Central in the past, like the Zombie Boot Camp and the Zombie Shopping Mall experience. After pitting people against zombies and werewolves, they decided it would be a good idea to offer them the opportunity to experience riots from both sides of the fence – the rioters and the baton wielding riot policemen. The adrenaline-packed staged riot takes place on an industrial estate, near the town Droitwich, Worcestershire, costs £79 ($127) per person, and has apparently been booked up every weekend for the next four months. Despite its commercial success, local authorities aren’t at all pleased a “riot training” is being allowed to take place. ’Not only are they showing people how to instigate a riot, they are showing them how to instigate a riot well. It is utterly irresponsible,’ local Member of Parliament Peter Luff told the Daily Mail.

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Japanese Self-Confessed Geeks Attend Masked Matchmaking Event

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Japanese geeks, commonly known as “otaku”, too shy to go out and meet a potential date face to face attended a special matchmaking event where everyone wore anime character masks to conceal their identities.

The event called “Ota-konkatsu” took place in Kuki City, north of Tokyo, a “holy place” among anime fans. The city is home to the Washinomiya Shrine, which was a location in the 2007 television adaptation of Kagami Yoshimizu’s manga Lucky Star, a very popular anime series, and since then Kuki City has become a sort-of otaku pilgrimage site. Data shows the direct economic effect of Lucky star on the city is estimated to be about 100 million yen (US$1.22 million) over the past five years. So it’s no wonder why this location was selected for an otaku-oriented matchmaking event. Ever since 2009, Japanese geeks have attended matchmaking events in Kuki City, hoping to find like-minded partners, but organizers thought they’d be more successful if participants could get over their excessive shyness. So at this latest even, everyone wore anime masks to conceal their identity.

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Liars Face Off in World’s Biggest Liar Competition

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Every year, experienced liars from all over the globe gather in Santon Bridge, a tiny village in Northwestern England, to compete for the coveted title of world’s biggest liar. Before you make any suggestions about who should participate in this wacky contest, you should know politicians and lawyers are barred from entry, as they are considered to have an unfair advantage.

The World’s Biggest Liar competition is held every year, in November, in honor of of 19th-century Bridge Inn landlord Will Ritson, who was famous for his incredible stories. He always claimed his tales were true, although most of them sounded like this: the turnips in Wasdale (a valley in Cumbria) are so big that after locals quarry into them for their Sunday lunch, they can be used as sheds for their sheep. In honor of this legendary liar, the Santon Bridge pub has been organizing a competition to crown the world’s biggest liar. Competitors have just five minutes to tell the biggest and most convincing lie they can think of, without using any props or scripts, or telling jokes. Over the years, people have won the contest with stories about World War II German submarines invading England to capture digital television decoders, or magical journeys to Scotland in trash cans that went under the sea. It’s reported that one year, a bishop went on stage and won the contest with a single line: “I have never told a lie in my life!”

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Indian Men Get Trampled by Cattle in Traditional Ritual

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In villages around the Ujain region, in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh, men lay down on the ground and have their cattle trample all over them, as part of a bizarre centuries-old ritual.

There are a many things people will do in order to have their prayers answered by their gods, but until today, I didn’t know getting trampled by cattle was one of them. In a weird example of blind faith, dozens of villagers from Bhidawad village and neighboring settlements decorate their cattle with colours and henna in different patterns, then lay down on the ground and get trampled by the confused animals. The ritual takes place on the occasion of Ekadashi, a day after Diwali, the popular Hindu festival of lights, which was celebrated around the world on November 13. The whole village gathers in the streets to witness the painful event that they believe will make Hindu gods answer their prayers. ”This is a traditional festival observed during Ekadashi fast after which the entire village’s cows are made to run over men lying on the ground, ” local Rekha Dubey told reporters. ”We worship the cows before the ritual and also fast for five days and sing hymns during the festival.”

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Ultimate Trampoline Dodgeball Takes Gym Sport to New Heights

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The first trampoline dodgeball court was inaugurated in 2004, and the sport has been growing in popularity ever since. Now, the world’s first Ultimate Trampoline Dodgeball Championship might finally bring it into the spotlight.

There are a lot of popular sports played on giant trampolines these days, including basketball and volleyball, but trampoline dodgeball has to be the most exciting one yet. Created by Sky Zone Sports, this revolutionary game is played by the same rules as traditional dodgeball, with some slight differences. Instead of just trying to dodge and catch the balls by running around the court, in trampoline dodgeball the playing surface is made up of several trampolines, allowing the players to jump 10 feet in the air or bounce off the walls and “floor”, and making the experience even more fun. Two teams of five go against each other in 4-minute-long matches, with the one knocking out all opposition players being declared the winner. If at the end of four minutes, both teams have players on the court, the match goes into sudden death, until the first player is knocked out. In the upcoming championship, the team who wins two matches out of three will advance into the next stage of the competition.

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The Mind-Blowing Installations of Bloemencorso, an Annual Flower Parade in the Netherlands

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Held every year in the Dutch town of Zundert, Bloemencorso is the world’s largest flower parade made entirely by volunteers. Millions of flowers are used to decorate giant floats built from steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché.

The Netherlands is inextricably linked to tulips, but at the annual Bloemencorso flower parade, it’s all about dahlias, as these are the only flowers used to decorate giant floats made of steel wire, cardboard and papier-maché. Every year, members of 20 hamlets from the tiny town of Zundert (population 20,000) work hard to win the title of most beautiful flower float in show. Preparations begin months before the big event, as the older members of the hamlets are tasked with  planting and growing the colorful dahlias needed to cover the larger-than-life installations. Although Bloemencorso takes place on the first Sunday in September, tents are set up around town in May and June, and from then on, members of the competing hamlets start working on their masterpieces. They discuss design ideas and building techniques, but it’s the three days before the big event that are the most stressful. Because the flowers have to be fresh, contestants can only start applying the dahlias on the Thursday before Bloemencorso. If need be, hamlets will work night and day putting needles through the flowers, and sticking them in just the right spots on the cardboard body of their mobile installations. But all the effort pays off once these mind-blowing creations make their way through the streets of Zundert leaving crowds of spectators in awe.

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