Weirdness takes many forms, and 2009 had its share of weird events. Here's a look back at the strangest news stories of the year drawn from the realms of pseudoscience, the paranormal, media hype, outright lies and the just plain strange.
9. Trailcam Transforms Hiker into Bigfoot
When some hunters set up a camera to record wildlife in the Minnesota woods, they accidentally photographed a hiker or hunter on a trail. A few local Bigfoot buffs concluded that the dark figure was probably Bigfoot, much to the embarrassment of other Bigfoot researchers who claimed it was just a guy in a dark outfit—unlike the famous 1967 image of Bigfoot, which couldn't possibly be a guy in a dark outfit.
8. Turin Shroud Duplicated
A team of Italian scientists duplicated the Shroud of Turin, believed by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus. The test does not prove that the shroud was faked, merely that it could have been faked. Believers, of course, remain unconvinced, and Shroud T-shirt sales remain brisk.
7. Dogs Maul Mother Earth
According to research published in New Scientist, a medium-sized dog is more damaging to the earth than a gas-guzzling SUV, based on the amount of land and resources each uses in the course of a year.
6. Sleeping Girl Wakes Up with Star Tats
An 18-year-old Belgian girl claimed she fell asleep at a tattoo parlor and woke up to find 56 star tattoos on her face. She accused the tattooist of inking her without permission, and the girl's father threatened to sue. She later admitted that she had been awake and requested the tattoos, and lied about it because her father was furious when he saw them.
5. New Jersey UFO Hoax
When mysterious red lights appeared in the night sky over New Jersey, many people believed that extraterrestrial spacecraft were visiting the Garden State. The following day, this columnist solved the mystery, later described by the hoaxers on April Fool's Day as "a social experiment." The hoaxters were ultimately fined $250 each.
4. King of Pop Murdered
Michael Jackson, the weird and reclusive King of Pop prepared for a comeback after a decade of scandals and botched plastic surgeries — only to be killed by a drug overdose, his death ruled a homicide. Wonder how many psychics predicted that for 2009?
3. 'Chupacabra' in Creationist Museum
A scroungy-looking animal (likely a coyote with mange) was found dead in Blanco, Texas. The animal was stuffed and mounted, then displayed as the mysterious chupacabra (the legendary Hispanic vampire beast) in an upstate New York museum dedicated to proving that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Weird with a thin glaze of crazy.
2. Balloon Boy Circus
When six-year-old Colorado boy Falcon Heene was claimed by his publicity-seeking father to have climbed into a homemade weather balloon before it took to the skies, many people smelled something fishy. Nonetheless, the police launched a search (and news media launched a circus) that ended with the boy safe at home—and charges brought against the family.
1. Old Calendar Scares People
Worrywarts grew nervous and New Age authors grew rich as concern spread that a calendar used by ancient Mayans would run out in 2012, signifying—well, maybe doomsday, or maybe nothing. Modern Mayans were annoyed by the whole thing and reported that the "end" of their ancestors' calendar was not high on their list of worries.
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Benjamin Radford is managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. His books, films, and other projects can be found on his website. His Bad Science column appears regularly on LiveScience.