If you follow the news at all (and unfortunately, it can be hard to escape sometimes), then you know that crazy stuff is going down every day. But even with all of the news coverage out there, a few of the more…ummmm…interesting stories can slip through the cracks. Like most places, Virginia has her fair share of good news – but on occasion, things just get really weird, really fast. Here are few stories from Virginia’s past and present that show the slightly stranger side of our state.
1. In 1849, Henry "Box" Brown, a 33-year old slave, escaped to freedom by having himself shipped in a wooden crate to abolitionists in Philadelphia.
Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, but as a young man, was sent to work in a tobacco warehouse in Richmond. After his wife and children were sold to another master, he resolved to gain his freedom by any means. With the help of local abolitionists, he had himself crated and shipped for the sum of $86 dollars on March 23, 1849. Twenty-seven hours later, he was received by members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. He went on to be a public speaker and active member of the Anti-Slavery Society.
2. And speaking of traveling by mail…in March 1915, 6-year old Edna Neff was sent via United States Parcel Post from her mother's house in Pensacola, Florida, to her father in Christiansburg. Turns out it was cheaper than the train.
When the U.S. Postal Service began Parcel Post shipping (no longer limiting mail to envelopes), the weight limit was 50 pounds. Since sending a child by mail was significantly cheaper than sending them by train, a number of children were "shipped" to relatives, despite the post office's claim that it was not allowed. (For the record, the children were not in boxes, rather postage was attached to their clothing and they rode with the mail. )Edna Neff's journey cost 15 cents and remains the record for the longest distance any child traveled by post.
3. An Australian investment group bought $5 million worth of Virginia lottery tickets in 1992 and won $27 million in the jackpot.
By using nearly all possible number combinations, the investment group more than quadrupled their investment. The winning ticket was part of bulk purchases made at up to 125 grocery and convenience stores in the Norfolk and Richmond areas. The win was legal at the time, but since then, legislation has been formed preventing bulk lottery purchases of this nature.
4. In 2004, a private day school in Alexandria accidentally served students margaritas instead of limeade.
To be fair, it was green and in an unmarked pitcher in the fridge. As the
reports, the school's kitchen staff found the pitcher full of pre-mixed margaritas left over from a staff party two days earlier and thinking it was limeade, served it up as a special lunchtime treat. Fortunately, most of the children took only a sip before declaring it "gross" or bypassed it altogether because it "smelled funny." On the bright side, at least no one sniffed it and said, "Oh yummy, this smells like mommy."
5. In 2014, Abingdon gained a real life princess when Emily Heaton's father, Jeremiah, claimed 800-square miles of land on the Egypt/Sudan border and declared himself king.
Richmond Times Dispatch
reports that when Jeremiah Heaton's daughter, Emily, said she wanted to be a princess, he made it happen. After learning of a parcel of land in the Eastern African region of Bir Tawil, one of the only unclaimed territories left in the world, the Abingdon man traveled to the site and planted a flag designed by his children. Heaton claimed the land as the "Kingdom of North Sudan," naming himself king. Naturally, his daughter is now referred to as Princess Emily.
6. Wise County native, George C. Scott refused the Academy Award nomination for his role as General George S.Patton in 1970. He won anyway.
Scott claimed that the awards process was a "meat market" and he didn't want any part of it. It was his second time refusing a nomination, having already turned down his 1962 nomination for "The Hustler," which he also won.
7. In November 2012, Hank the Cat from Springfield came in 3rd in the 2012 U.S. Senate race. What does that tell you about the state of our political affairs?
The would-be senator kitty gained international attention after his satirical run for U.S. senate earned him 7,319 write-in votes and a strong 3rd place finish behind Tim Kaine and George Allen. Sadly, Hank passed away in 2014, otherwise, he might just be running for President. He would have had my vote.
8. In 2007, when a a 75-year old Virginia woman wasn't happy with her Comcast service, she destroyed their local office with a hammer. Don't judge. We've all thought about it.
When 75-year old Mona Shaw from Bristow was disappointed in the service she received from Comcast, she made it clear. After several attempts at getting her services restored, the churchgoing AARP secretary marched into her local Manassas Comcast office, hammer in hand, and as
reports, proceeded to smash a keyboard, knock over a monitor and destroy a phone. As she stated, "I figured, 'Hey, my telephone is screwed up, so is yours.'"
9. In 2011, a “cow” stole 26 gallons of milk from a Wal-Mart in North Stafford
Ok, it wasn’t really a cow, rather a man dressed as a cow...and crawling on all fours. In 2011, an 18-year old North Stafford man crawled into the local Walmart in full cow costume. After putting 26 gallons of milk in his cart and sauntering out of the store, on 2 legs by this time (does that make it LESS weird?), he ditched the costume but was later apprehended from video surveillance. Sigh. Only in Virginia.
10. In May 2015, a Virginia Beach man handed a bank teller a politely written robbery note…and walked out of the bank with $150,000. He objected to being arrested on the grounds that he has simply made a "request." Logical, no?
While it pays to have manners, Dominyk Antonio Alfonseca could also use a little common sense. The
reports that in early May, Alfonseca walked into a Virginia Beach bank and handed the teller a note reading, “I need 150,000 Bonds Right NOW!! Please. Police take 3 to 4 minites to get here, I would appriceate if you Ring the alarm a minute after I am gone... Make sure the money doesn't BLOW UP ON MY WAY OUT ,-)" The teller complied (I'm guessing it was the winky-face emoticon that did it) and Alfonseca was on his way. Later, he posted 2 videos of the "transaction" and a photo of his note to Instagram.
When Alfonseca was picked up 22 minutes later by the police, he objected to the robbery charge. His argument? He was polite, he said "please" and he wasn't committing a robbery, simply making a request. In later reports to a local news station Alfonseca asked to give a “shout out” to Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga - as one does, of course.
Something tells me this is the kind of guy who chooses to represent himself at the trial.
Any fabulously fun or wonderfully weird stories we’ve missed? Be sure to tell us about them in the comments below!