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October 2010

"Halloween Horror"

When I was a teenager, I heard the Halloween horror stories, including the horrific razor-in-the-apple ones. Andrew Cline at the American Spectator, citing the work of Joel Best and Gerald Horiuchi--I don't know the latter, but I've read some of Best's work and I think highly of it--writes that they were never true:

Starting in 1969, tales of Halloween horror took a suddenand unexplained leap in the public consciousness. Researchers Joel Best and Gerald Horiuchi, writing in 1985 in the journal Social Problems, found that from 1969 to 1973, America was awash in stories of terrifying Halloween-night sadism. All the now-familiar crimes were reported -- razor blades in apples, poisoned kids, sexual assaults and abductions, you name it. Many were reported inmajor newspapers, including the New York Times. . . .

In their 1985 research, Best and Horiuchi found that not a single story of Halloween sadism was true. No child in America had ever found a razor blade in his apple. There were no random poisonings, and there was no increase in assaults, abductions, tortures, kidnappings, or anything else. The tales were all hoaxes.

India grows 15 billion coconuts per year . . .

. . . all harvested by hand. (India is third in world production, behind Philippines and Indonesia.) It's hard work. As economic opportunities in India increase, fewer people want to do it. So the Kerala state government is offering a 1 million rupee prize to "to devise a machine that could ascend a coconut tree and harvest the nuts, thereby doing away with the need for human climbers."

What Midnight Madness is like . . . at Cal Tech

Should Cal Tech have midnight midness? You decide.

A men's team that has not won a conference game in 25 years — it is 0-297 during that time — ran onto the floor accompanied by one cheerleader, the school's only cheerleader, and only on nights when he doesn't have a lot of homework. The overworked guy wore spiked orange hair, orange short-shorts, striped orange socks and an exhausted smile.

"Excuse me, but the correct term is 'Cheermaster,' " said senior Kyle Verdone. "I dress up like an idiot and dance, so I've earned it."

A women's team with a program record of 42-269 took the floor to wild cheers from a crowd of students, some of whom could have joined the squad on the spot. Four of this year's players, you see, have never even played high school basketball. . . .

It's easy to cheer when your team is Duke. It's harder to cheer when your team's operative word is "Duck!" The only thing that comes close to matching these Caltech kids' brains, it seems, is their backbone.

"This was amazing," said men's Coach Oliver Eslinger, who devised the Midnight Madness. "This shows the importance of community to these kids. This shows the optimism and belief in all of us."