The most bizarre news stories from 2019 you won't believe are real

These days, it seems like every news story was pulled straight from a low budget B-movie. Seriously, talk about a dumpster fire. Whether you're reading about new political scandals, the creeping climate apocalypse, wonky weather radar readings, or a bunch of social media users wanting to storm Area 51, it's increasingly easy believe that reality as we know it might either be a simulation created by evil robots or maybe a ridiculous reality prank show put on by some alien version of Ashton Kutcher.

What, you think that sounds far-fetched? Well, arguably weirder things have happened. For proof you need look no further than the front page of your favorite newspaper/RSS feed in good ol' 2019. Some of the headlines on recent events are total lunacy, and it only gets worse when you find out the true explanations. Talk about a wacky world, huh? Here are the stories that are making 2019 such a bizarro year.

The Russian spy whale that was too friendly to leave

Okay, so when you first read in May 2019 that an alleged Russian spy whale had been found in Norwegian waters and was playfully refusing to leave ... well, you probably double-checked to see if you were reading the Onion doing a sponsored Aquaman tie-in. Honestly, who could blame you?

But no, alas, it was the Washington Post, and this craziness really went down. Basically, a charming beluga whale discovered near the city of Hammerfast, Norway, kept seeking out human attention, even allowing people to pet its nose. Now, wild belugas are certainly social butterflies, but they don't usually nuzzle up to people, so this behavior was awfully suspicious. Sure enough, the whale was found to be wearing a harness that said "Equipment Saint Petersburg." Gasp! As it happens, there is a longstanding theory that the Russian navy has conducted a special operations sea mammal program for years, using whales and dolphins as spies. No, the animals don't get paid, though the Russian Defense Ministry did post an ad in 2015 offering $24,000 for five dolphins, which definitely raised some eyebrows.

However, according to the BBC, the Russian navy denied these accusations of using the whale as a spy. When interviewed, Russian Col. Viktor Baranets said, "We have military dolphins for combat roles, we don't cover that up," which is apparently supposed to be less bizarre or frightening, somehow?

Finland gets rocked by the first heavy metal knitting contest

Some things just fit together so perfectly that you can't imagine them apart. You know, like peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Shoes and socks. Or, of course, the universal combination of heavy metal and ... knitting? Hmm. According to the Associated Press, July 2019 was rocked by the historic premiere of the first-ever Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship, held in — where else? — Finland, a place where metal is so mainstream that folks often just emit chaotic death growls in place of breathing. Just kidding about the breathing, but heavy metal really is a huge deal in Finland.

Anyhow, as the drums pounded and electric guitars pulsed through the air, a crowd of 200 people cheered on an array of competitors who had traveled from all over the world, including a 35-year-old nurse from Michigan who performed with her 71-year-old mother and a 64-year-old friend. These die-hard metal fans, armed with needles and wool, tried their best to knit to the beat. The swift-handed winners proved to be a five-person crew from Japan, the Giga Body Metal team, and with a second Heavy Metal Knitting event planned for 2020, they'll have lots of time to practice a repeat performance.

Arizona driver survives when a giant cactus punctures his windshield

Somehow, this story would be easier to imagine if it involved a giant walking cactus monster like the Cactuar in Final Fantasy, but no. It was just a regular ol' saguaro cactus on the outskirts of Tucson, and somehow this dude got the entire thing wedged into his car.

As the Associated Press explains, the Arizona driver — whose name was not publicized, probably to his vast relief — may have been inebriated, which would help explain this whole thing. Evidently, he was crossing over the median when, through some disastrous swerve or another, he managed to get the entire trunk of this saguaro cactus off the ground and straight into the middle of his windshield. Now, if you've ever been unlucky enough to get pricked by a cactus, you're probably wincing at the thought of just how many of those quills he had to get pulled out afterward. Twenty, 50, 100? The Associated Press said he "escaped injury," so maybe zero? Quills aside, at least he survived.

A politician's press conference accidentally uses Facebook's cat filter

Talk about a purrfectly bizarre scenario. In June 2019, the BBC reports that Pakistani politician Shaukat Yousafzai streamed a live press conference on Facebook. Nothing unusual about that — that's just social media for ya. Unfortunately for Yousafzai — but to the delight of the young, and the young at heart — someone managing the feed accidentally turned on the cat filter, meaning all those oh-so-serious politicians were streamed to viewers with cartoon cat whiskers and pink ears on their faces. Oops!

Two minutes after the press conference ended, the official video was deleted, but recordings and screenshots were already saved, and the endless array of goofy memes will probably haunt these guys for eternity. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party blamed human error and claimed that actions had been taken to avoid a repeat performance. Honestly, though, maybe more people would watch these sorts of things if they were a little more entertaining.

Man buys $8 million island, then allegedly tries to steal coffeemakers from Kmart

Rich people have the dumbest priorities sometimes. Take Andrew Lippi. According to CBS News, this guy purchased an entire land mass, Thompson Island, off the coast of Key West for $8 million. Now, as if that wasn't enough proof that he had more money than he knew what to do with, the Miami Herald reports that he'd also purchased the actual house used for Season 17 of the MTV reality show The Real World. Just for kicks he put it on Airbnb for $999 a night.

Now, the point here isn't to gloat over this middle-aged guy's riches, but rather to point out that Lippi wasn't some downtrodden dude in need of a quick buck. That's why it was so utterly nonsensical when in April 2019 he was arrested for trying to steal products worth the mountainous sum of $300 from Kmart, of all places. Police said his method was the ol' fake return trick, where he attempted to return the boxes for such items as a Keurig, a Hamilton Beach coffeemaker, and light bulbs, only for the boxes to be found stuffed with other items, like a basketball. Ever heard that saying about how you can be "penny smart, but dollar stupid?" Yeah.

This dumb idea got him charged with grand theft. No worries, he can definitely afford a good lawyer.

Zoo allows you to name a cockroach after your ex for V-Day

Valentine's Day is a beautiful day to spend time with your beautiful, loving partner — you know, if you have one. However, if you were stuck spending Valentine's Day 2019 brooding over a bitter breakup, then you would've been delighted to know that a zoo in El Paso, Texas, wanted to give you the opportunity to get some passive-aggressive revenge, according to NPR.

The El Paso zoo's "Quit Bugging Me" event allowed spurned lovers to name a cockroach after their ex. Why? Because on Valentine's Day you would have the opportunity to watch a poor roach named John or Jane or whatever get ripped apart and devoured by bloodthirsty meerkats. If this sounds awesome to your lonely ears, well, you aren't the only one: KFOX14 reported that over 6,000 people submitted their former partners' names. When the cockroaches were released on Valentine's Day — and then viciously chomped down by the meerkats — only a dozen people attended in person, but over a thousand watched the Facebook live stream. Not only that, but the zoo made over $3,000 in donations from this whole shebang, so the event was definitely a big success. Well, for everybody but the cockroaches.

Message in a bottle makes it across the ocean after 21 years

At least once in your life, you might have been tempted to write down some details about yourself on a scrap of paper, stuff it into a bottle, and send that SOS to the world, as The Police sang all the way back in 1979. Honestly, nobody ever finds these bottles ... usually. Sometimes, though, they turn up in unexpected ways.

Back in 1998, according to United Press International, a 13-year-old New Hampshire boy wrote a note stating, simply enough, "Hello, my name is Matt Rhoades. Please write back." Short and sweet. The kid then wedged this into a plastic bottle and cast it off into the blue expanse, presumably never to see it again.

For the next two decades, that little bottle swam almost 3,000 miles across the ocean, and in 2019 it was found on a Scottish beach by the family of Mike Bolam. Rather than replying via another bottled message — seriously, it's not a reliable mail delivery system — Bolam contacted the now-adult Matt Rhoades on Twitter. Rhoades, now a 34-year-old musician and lead vocalist of the Boston-based metal band And Then There Were None, told the Newburyport News that if he'd realized the bottle was going to turn up a few decades later, he probably would've written something more substantial. But hey, the bottle's headline-making return did coincide with the band's comeback tour, so that's some pretty awesome timing.

Tiny "sweat bees" found in woman's eye, feeding on her tears

If you're the squeamish type, you might want to sit down and brace yourself before reading any further.

Ready? Okay. In April 2019, according to CNN, a woman in Taiwan went the doctor with a severely painful swollen eyelid. The pain started after something blew into her eye during a visit to a deceased family member's grave site and didn't stop after she washed the area with water. Now, the woman probably knew the eye pain was bad news, but she probably didn't expect the docs to find that four tiny "sweat bees," which are insects only 3 to 4 millimeters in length, had become nestled inside her eyelid. In the absence of nectar and pollen, they had been feeding on her tears. Doctors successfully removed the insects from her eyelid, but tragically in the three hours the sweat bees had been there, they caused a bacterial skin infection and severe erosion of her cornea, severely reducing her eyesight to around 20/200.

That said, it's a huge relief that she got medical attention, and quickly. Had she waited things out, it might have been necessary to remove her entire eyeball. So today's lesson? If you have severe eye pain, get it checked out ASAP.

This guy sued his parents for extremely uncomfortable reasons

As Jerry Seinfeld once joked, moving back into your mom and dad's old house isn't usually a sign that adult life is moving forward smoothly. To be fair, though, things happen, which is why one unnamed Indiana man took refuge with his folks following a 2016 divorce. He was able to move out again ten months later, but in 2019, this 40-year-old man decided to sue his parents for $87,000, according to the Associated Press, over a pretty weird moving related incident.

What sort of catastrophe could possibly be worth ruining your family relationships in such an expensive way? Uh, the reason is awkward.

The man claimed that his parents had thrown away a dozen boxes of his adult films and magazines, including titles like "Big Bad Grannys," which he estimated to possess a total worth of $29,000. Now, sure, that's a lot of money to throw away, but why would anyone — especially a man seemingly broke enough to move back in with his parents for almost a year — have invested such a ridiculous sum of money into that sort of thing? You could rent your own place for a year or two for that amount. According to the Detroit Free Press, the man's evidence of wrongdoing includes an email from his father, who evidently said he was doing his son "a big favor." Not exactly the kind of conversation you want to share over Thanksgiving dinner.

Stop flushing your drugs, folks

Crystal methamphetamine is insanely dangerous stuff, so you can't blame police for being cautious. Nonetheless, the Loretto Police Department of Tennessee probably went a bit overboard in a July 13, 2019, Facebook post, when — in the midst of describing the real risks posed by flushing meth down the toilet, and thus contaminating the sewer water supply — they not only expressed worries about what meth-addled ducks or geese might do, but also cautioned that if discarded drugs floated down Shoal Creek or the Tennessee River, it might create "meth-gators." Yes, you read that correctly. Meth-gators.

Whoa, somebody call up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Would the meth-gators have super-strong muscles? Hey, maybe Walter White could cameo as their villainous leader!

Not surprisingly, this bizarre warning about meth-gators earned widespread mockery, appearing on news outlets like CNN and NBC News. In fact, the BBC even interviewed Loyola University's Dr. Robert A. Thomas, who debunked the meth-gator concept by pointing out that only a truly colossal amount of methamphetamine could have any impact on those hardy alligator bodies. Loretto Mayor Jesse Turner, for his part, says the whole thing was a joke. So does the Loretto Police Department.

The smell of a certain spiky fruit evacuates an entire library

If you've ever been to Southeast Asia, you've probably heard of or experienced durian. Though many people love the strange, spiky fruit, it's become something of a prank icon, known for possessing a powerful odor that freaks out the uninitiated. The smell of durian is so strong, in fact, that in Singapore, durian is actually banned in public transport like buses and trains, as well as many outdoor areas, according to the BBC.

Now, dealing with the strange smell of durian is one thing, if you're ready for it. If you're not, though, it can be quite alarming.

In May 2019, CBS News reported that an entire University of Canberra library in Australia was evacuated — with over 550 folks fleeing the premises in less than six minutes — over a rancid odor, believed to be a gas leak. The odor turned out to be nothing but a section of durian stinking up the place. Yes, it really smells that strong. Don't believe it? Lean in and take a whiff.

Cell phone sacrifices itself to save man from arrow

Tonight, when you check your last text messages and plug your phone in for the rest of the evening, you might choose to hold a moment of silence for one particularly brave cell phone that took an arrow to the heart so its owner could live.

According to Reuters, a 43-year-old man in Nimbin, Australia, was standing outside his home when he was confronted by a man wielding a bow and arrow. This might sound like an incident from the Middle Ages, but since it actually happened in 2019, the homeowner raised his cell phone to snap a photo of the intruder ... who then responded, perhaps predictably, by firing an arrow at the man. Luckily, the cell phone was perfectly positioned to block the arrow, which pierced through its screen and sent the impaled device crashing against the man's face. The man survived with nothing but a laceration on his chin. The cell phone, on the other hand, was dead. RIP.

Authorities said the 39-year-old attacker was arrested at the scene and later charged.