Sometimes, in the course of researching internet rumors and viral phenomena, we are surprised by what we find. And since Jan. 4 marks National Trivia Day, we are commemorating a few of our recent stories that could fall into "trivia" category:
What Was the Flatwoods Monster (and, for that Matter, Mothman)?
According to Joe Nickell, a long-time paranormal investigator, the famous cryptid "monsters" in West Virginia were likely nothing more than owls that spooked people so badly that they believed they saw something otherworldly. Add in some opportunists and sensational media coverage, and you have yourself a full-blown paranormal monster story.
Did a Photograph Show a Crashed Flying Saucer?
The photograph looks like it could be a scene from the TV series "The X-Files." It shows a flying saucer crashed into the ground, with two men, one of them wearing a black fedora, looking on in the foreground.
But the picture isn't real.
As we documented, the image did in fact originate from "The X-Files." It was a still from 2016’s “The X-Files: The Event Series.” The image circulated online as a misleading ad promising to show photographs that have been "declassified" by the government.
Is the 'Penis Flytrap' Real?
Yes, but (sadly) that's not its real name.
In 2019, photographs of a plant that looked like a human penis went viral online. Although some dubbed it the "penis flytrap" (a play on the real name of another plant, the Venus flytrap), that is not its real name.
The plant belongs to the Nepenthes genus. Clinton Morse, living plant collections manager at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, told Snopes by email in 2019:
It is certainly a Nepenthes species and certainly looks like an authentic image. … All Nepenthes have a similar passive pitfall trap that develops with a closed trap, and as the trap matures the ‘lid’ opens up. The pitchers in the attached image are just starting to open thus giving them a rather penile appearance. I’ve never heard of them being called “penis fly trap,” but it is a rather accurate descriptive name.
Is the 'Penis Snake' Real?
While we're on the topic of things you may have seen online that looked like genitalia, some readers asked whether an image of a "snake" that looks like a penis was real.
The image was real, but if we're going to nitpick details, the animal pictured wasn't a snake. As we noted in November 2021:
While these pictures often make their way around the internet attached to names like “penis snake,” “floppy snake,” or “man-aconda,” this creature’s proper name is Atretochoana eiselti. And while this animal’s internet nicknames would lead some to believe that these photos show a sort of phallic-looking snake, this animal is actually a species of caecilian, a group of limbless amphibians.
Did Researchers Really Extract Human DNA from Head Lice on Mummies?
This may sound like the plot to a "Jurassic Park" spinoff, but it's not science fiction. As we reported, "researchers writing in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Biology and Evolution described human DNA that had been extracted from the “cement” that the tiny lice use to glue their eggs to human hair."
The "cement" from the lice was found on the remains of mummified people who lived in the Andes in what is now Argentina, and were buried an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 years ago.
Did a Woman Really Poop the Length of a Bowling Lane and Set a Record?
A rumor has circulated online for years that holds that a woman by the name of Michelle Hines set a record by producing a 26-foot-long piece of excrement at a bowling alley in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1995.
We're not sure if "impressive" is the correct word to use here, but that rather daunting record wouldn't even be physically possible. As we pointed out, the human large intestine is only about five feet long.