Minneapolis is weird (in the BEST way), but these unusual events certainly add an extra layer of strange to this city’s history. Some are hilarious, others disastrous, and a few just leave us scratching our heads and wondering what the heck happened. Here are 13 of the strangest things that ever happened in Minneapolis:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1880: Dr. H.S. Tanner tests an outlandish theory about “human hibernation” by fasting for 40 days…but that’s only one piece of Dr. Tanner’s unusual story.
Dr. H.S. Tanner was a Minneapolis physician who, in 1880, developed a rather unusual theory; he believed there was a rising rate of humans buried alive after being wrongly pronounced dead, when they were, in fact, hibernating. Yes, hibernating. To prove that "human hibernation" was real, Dr. Tanner fasted for 40 days under medical supervision. It became quite a public spectacle - tickets were sold to see the starving man for 25 cents! Medical practitioners around the world expressed concerns and debated over the likelihood of his death during the fast, but Dr. Tanner survived, claiming only mild stomach discomfort. He went on the fiercely endorse extreme fasting as a miracle cure for several different diseases.
But this story gets weirder… it seems that Dr. Tanner’s (eventual) death was quite a confusing event. In fact, he was reported dead multiple times by different news organizations, only to reappear elsewhere a few years later. In 1881, he travelled to Amsterdam to meet a Dutch physician who challenged him to repeat his fasting experiment. Dr. Tanner is said to have tripped and tumbled down a flight of stairs, sustaining injuries that resulted in death. In 1891, a woman named Elizabeth McVey reported her own 43-day-long fast… and she claimed Dr. Tanner had been by her side the entire time, passing away shortly after she completed the fast. Dr. Tanner’s name popped up frequently in other news stories, several including alternate stories of the doctor's death. In 1896, a newspaper published a lengthy obituary for Dr. Tanner, reporting him dead in a fire in Akron, Ohio. In 1897, a man named H.L. Kramer advertised a challenge offering $10,000 for anyone who could out-fast his contestant… who was Dr. Tanner.
So when, exactly, did Dr. Tanner die? Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe he was just hibernating the whole time...
1869: A photographer walks away unscathed after being hit by a several-hundred-pound falling icicle while shooting the frozen-over Minnehaha Falls.
Charles Zimmerman is one lucky man… icicles are deadly! Zimmerman found himself on the wrong side of a plummeting ice bomb while photographing Minnehaha Falls, and he not only survived, he walked away without a single broken bone. We bet he was pretty sore, though!
1953: A Cold War experiment run by the U.S. military releases clouds of zinc cadmium sulfide gas over Minneapolis… 61 times.
Whoops… this is a piece we would rather forget and DEFINITELY wish never happened. Minneapolis was one of several toxic test sites (including Winnipeg, St. Louis, Fort and Wayne, among others) used to research aerosol chemical dispersion in the event of biological warfare, despite reports that the project was an experiment intended to protect people from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear attack. Either way, it wasn’t good. Zinc cadmium sulfide is a suspected carcinogen, and follow-up studies have discussed the possibility of lingering negative health effects, including an increased number of stillbirths and heightened cancer rates in people who lived in the four areas of Minneapolis where the toxic material was sprayed.
May 1965: St. Paul and Minneapolis end up in different time zones.
Despite being literally next door to each other, St. Paul and Minneapolis spent two weeks in different time zones! Although Daylight Saving Time was unofficially used in America during both WWI and WWII, the United States didn’t fully standardize time zones until 1966. In May 1965, St. Paul joined with most of the country in beginning a coordinated Daylight Saving Time; however, Minneapolis made the decision to hold off on the change, electing to begin two weeks later on a date established by state law.
We’re glad this one got cleared up… can you imagine how difficult it would be to make plans with friends living just across the river?
1985: Minnesota decides that there’s no such thing as “drunk in public”
You may have seen this one on various lists of “weird laws” - many of which are outdated or straight-up false - but this is one of the few that stands up to the claims. In 1985, Minnesota passed a statute titled “Drunkenness Not A Crime” that states, “No person may be charged with or convicted of the offense of drunkenness or public drunkenness.” Of course, this does not apply if you start breaking other laws (like drunk driving, getting into bar fights, destroying property, causing disturbances, or stopping to pee in an alley…), but this is one of the few places where you won’t be legally punished if you are a little bit wobbly on the walk home. The hangover is punishment enough.
(We are NOT responsible for any bad decisions you may make while intoxicated, but the law we reference is Minnesota Statute 340A.902)
February 1986: A Minneapolis man “assassinates” a photo at Black Forest Inn.
To celebrate a 1970 exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photographer Richard Avedon gave a signed photo to the owners of Black Forest Inn. The photo, which depicts 10 women at the 1963 Daughters of the American Revolution convention wearing sashes and pins commemorating their charitable work, is still there… with the addition of two bullet holes.
It seems one of the bar patrons wasn’t a fan of Avedon’s work. During a lunchtime rush, a man seated at the bar fired off three shots aimed at the photo (the third bullet missed). Chaos ensued as the diners at the full restaurant moved to escape. The man, however, seemed satisfied with his work, left calmly, and walked to the police station to turn himself in.
Rather than repair the photo, the owners of Black Forest Inn chose to leave it as-is, only repairing the wall around it. Avedon doesn’t seem to mind; he visited the bar to see his damaged photo and said that he liked the change. The photo has since become a great conversation piece for visitors to Black Forest Inn!
May 13th, 1994: A runaway gorilla takes a 45-minute-long stroll through the Como Zoo.
We promise this one has a happier ending than the Harambe story (R.I.P.). On May 13th, 1994, a 400-pound gorilla named Casey escaped from his enclosure and wandered through the Como Zoo for 45 minutes. Zoo staff managed to hit him with a tranquilizer dart, which didn’t knock him unconscious, but did send the sleepy animal searching for his cozy bed back in his own enclosure. Casey had climbed over a 15-foot-tall concrete wall and through a 4-foot fence to escape, which (obviously) led Como Zoo officials to take a closer look into additional safety features.
Nobody was injured during Casey’s adventure through the zoo (we think he just wanted to say hello to his other animal friends), as visitors were quickly moved to safety; however a few people did get a shockingly close-up view as he passed within feet of them. No witnesses reported feeling threatened by Casey.
November 8th, 2012: Strange, unidentified sounds leave Minneapolis residents (and officials) very confused.
Reports of a loud buzzing hum sent people into a tizzy when neither witnesses nor city officials could explain the eerie noise heard across several Minneapolis suburbs. This isn’t the first time weird, unexplained sounds have been heard here; creepy reports from June, 2011 describe a mysterious rumbling roar and several different cities across the state have reported unusually loud rattling noises since 2009.
Minneapolis isn’t alone in the weird sound realm - noises like these (and some that are quite a bit more disturbing) occur around the globe. Deafeningly loud booms and weirdly mechanical noises are often reported, but “The Hum” is probably the most famous of the bunch. The persistent, low-frequency humming phenomena has been been widely reported in places like Taos, New Mexico, but similar reports of “The Hum” pop up around the world, including in parts of Minnesota. Of course, conspiracy theories about start flying every time something like this occurs; some claim extraterrestrial involvement, others point fingers at secret military operations, but most assume it’s caused naturally by several (far more likely) sources. It’s still a little unnerving, though.
November 26th, 2012: Guinness World Record set for the largest gathering of mustaches.
1,131 mustachioed men gathered together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to set a truly unusual world record: the world's largest gathering of mustaches. The event was organized by KARE-11 TV as a part of the “Movember” fundraising event, which raises money and awareness for men’s health and prostate cancer.
In 2015, Denver residents made a pretty weak attempt to outshine our outlandishly awesome achievement by hosting a similar event… setting a different Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people wearing FAKE mustaches. Sorry about your inability to grow real mustaches, Colorado. We’re still the champions of the AUTHENTIC honor.
2012-2015: Walker Art Center's Internet Cat Video Film Festival
In 2012, the Walker Art Center made worldwide headlines with the debut of the Internet Cat Video Film Festival - an outdoor event featuring an 80-minute-long compilation video of the best cat videos on the Internet. More than 10,000 people attended the show!
“CatVidFest” was such a hit that the Walker continued the tradition for the next three years, accepting more than 10,000 submissions for inclusion in the feature-length show. Though unusual in nature, the event had everything you would typically see at any other film festival; viewers voted for the coveted Golden Kitty Awards and there were even celebrity guests, including Lil Bub and the cute little girl from the “Kittens Inspired by Kittens” viral video. Some attendees even dressed up as kitties themselves and brought along their own furry friends!
2015 marked the end for the Walker Art Center’s CatVidFest, but the event went out with a bang by taking an international tour! Other groups have expressed interest in keeping the tradition alive... and we definitely support that decision.
2013: Competitive eater Joey Chestnut sets a world record for eating 54 brain tacos.
The Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl is undoubtedly awesome; it holds the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Largest Gathering of Zombies” and it attracts more than 30,000 groaning, shuffling, and fantastically-costumed fiends each year… but the thought of brain tacos makes our stomachs turn.
Don’t worry - they aren’t human brains. The tacos are made from pork brain, which is actually a delicacy in some parts of the world and is used to make tacos de sesos. On October 12th, 2013, Competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut set a world record at the Zombie Pub Crawl for chowing down on 54 brain tacos, which took only 8 minutes. We'll stick with chicken, please.
February 2013: A 300-student food fight at Minneapolis South High School turns ugly, requiring police intervention.
Admit it: we’ve all dreamed of having one of those epic food fights like you see in the movies (or maybe you have been lucky enough to toss a few Jell-O balls yourself), but this food fight turned into a disaster when it escalated into a full-on 300-person brawl. The fistfight resulted in injuries serious enough to send one teacher and three students to the hospital, while many others sustained milder bumps and bruises. The police were called to come break up a battle that they definitely didn’t expect when heading into work that morning.
2013: A 94-year-old Ex-Nazi Commander is discovered living in Minneapolis.
In 2013, Michael Karkoc, a former Nazi who commanded a Ukrainian WWII military unit, was discovered living in Minneapolis. The Associated Press uncovered that the then-94-year-old man had flown under the radar for more than 60 years, living in Ukrainian neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis. Immigration papers from 1949 show that Karkoc declared no military service upon his arrival to the U.S.; however, a 1944 SS payroll document listed Karkoc (as well as his birthdate and hometown) as the highest-ranking officer of a unit that took part in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising in Poland.
Perhaps the most confusing piece of the story is simply how long it took for Karkoc to be discovered. Although former Nazi members are still discovered around the world from time to time, Karkoc didn’t exactly go to great lengths to cover up his trail. In 1995, he even published a memoir that discussed his past military activities, and his book was available at both the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library.
Karkoc’s case is still open. Although he has yet to be extradited, Polish prosecutors have continued to investigate evidence of his potential participation in war crimes. German prosecutors made the decision not to pursue the (now) 97-year-old, as they deemed that his age made him unfit to stand trial. His age may indeed prevent him from ever making it to court, as such complex judicial procedures often take several years.
Did these weird stories leave your head spinning? Do you have any other bizarre Minneapolis tales to tell?