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MAYBE FRENCHMAN EATS GROCERY CARTS BUT DOES ANYONE EVER WIN SWEEPSTAKES?

READER'S DIGEST has published a book entitled "Facts & Fallacies." I haven't read it but I have seen press releases featuring a number of tidbits. The material, unfortunately, contained no information on the fact-or-fallacy status of the magazine's multiple sweepstakes promotions.

To her sorrow, Marina got involved in one of them. Since then she has received at least a dozen different stages of the contest. Make that a dozen different stages of some sort of contest. When she could no longer figure out if she was still in the original sweepstakes or had been shuffled into four others, she gave up.

That hasn't discouraged the magazine. New opportunities for incredible wealth keep coming in. As near as we can figure, the winner of one of the contests will be determined in 1995. But that's another story.

What we are concerned with here is the book, "Facts & Fallacies." After browsing through the press releases, I wondered how readers were supposed to figure out which stories are fact and which are refugees from supermarket tabloids. So I called the company's headquarters in Pleasantville, N.Y.

The man on the phone said everything in the book was a heavily-researched fact.

I told him I was ready to accept the article about Michel Lotito, a Frenchman who eats grocery carts, television sets, bicycles and aluminum skis. But then I got to the part that said he ate a Cessna 150 airplane. Not at one sitting. According to Reader's Digest he did it over a period of two years. A snack here, a full meal there, it adds up.

But what about Dr. Arthur Lintgen, the music lover in Pennsylvania who supposedly can study the grooves in a record and tell, within 15-30 seconds, what song he's looking at. Lintgen claims that he can see that different instruments make different grooves.

I was just about to challenge that one when I read the last line of the release. The doctor can only do his trick with music he's familiar with, like Beethoven. Small deal. I can look at the grooves on an Eddy Arnold disc and tell you which tune is which because I know where they are on the record.

In fairness, some of the facts are believable and interesting. Some, however, appear to be drawn from old wives tales and others aren't all that amazing.

The old wives section includes good news for anyone plagued by bleeding gums. Just try a little powdered human hair. It's a big seller in the Far East. If you have gum problems and high blood pressure, too, you can get a package deal on powdered hair and the body fluids of worms.

Then there was the one about Secret Service reports that the Soviet Union has developed a breed of tiny people only 12 inches tall to operate its space ships. Oops. That story was in the Sun, a supermarket tabloid.

On a more scientific plane, dieters will be pleased to learn they don't have to worry about calories. All they have to have is patience. The Earth's gravity is weakening. In a thousand years we could all lose an ounce.

My favorite fact involves a former president of the United States. In 1964, things were not going well on New Hanover, an island near New Guinea. Trash pickup was slow and the coconut harvest was down. So island residents decided to show their disdain for their government by buying Lyndon B. Johnson.

They collected about $3,000 and were ready to change the course of world history when a regiment of Australian soldiers showed up and restored the power of the local political hacks.

I accept all of the above. But I still want to know if the sweepstakes are real.

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