5 Ridiculous Secrets Only Two Living People Know: Part 2
We've already told you that some of the best-guarded secrets in the world can be for the most ridiculous things, but it turns out there are a lot more of those than we originally thought. Here are five more things you will never learn in your lifetime -- unless you happen to be one of the only two people on the planet who already know them.
The Meaning of the Led Zeppelin Symbols
What Is It?
Quick: What's the name of the fourth Led Zeppelin album? Led Zeppelin IV? ZoSo? Girls, Girls, Girls? No, no, and shame on you. The "title" is actually a bunch of weird signs. This is one of the best-selling albums of all time, containing classics like Black Dog, Rock and Roll and Stairway to Heaven, and only two people in the world know what the title really means (one of whom has apparently forgotten it).
He could have written it down, but noooo. Groupies.
You see, in 1971 Led Zeppelin decided to release an album without any text or markings of any kind on the LP cover, which only depicted a cryptic image of an old man carrying a bundle of sticks. It would be lazy of us to attribute this decision to drugs but, OK, yeah, that's probably it. In lieu of a name, Atlantic Records asked the press to refer to the record as a series of four metaphysical symbols, even distributing graphics in various sizes that they could use:
"And now let's hear 'Stairway to Heaven' from, uh ... let's say, the Rolling Stones."
Each symbol was selected by one of the four band members to represent himself. Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham have been upfront about the meanings of their respective symbols: the two in the middle come from The Book of Signs, and the one with the feather was created by Plant to represent the fabled lost continent of Mu. Bonham's mystical avatar is also rumored to be inspired by the Ballantine beer logo, because apparently the man was known to enjoy a drink or two every now and then (he's dead now).
Forty shots of vodka can do that.
But the first one, the one that looks like it says "ZoSo," was designed by guitarist Jimmy Page ... and no one knows what the fuck it means. Well, almost no one.
Jimmy Page himself and (maybe) Robert Plant.
That's a big "maybe."
How It Is Kept Secret:
Simple -- by consistently refusing to explain what it means for 40 years. The symbol has become a kind of stand-in for the fourth album's title and is also indicative of Led Zeppelin as a whole -- it continued to be used by the band during subsequent tours and in promotional art, while most of the rest did not. It's also the only one that looks like someone spent more than 15 seconds thinking it up.
"Jimmy, hurry up. Robert's so bored he's just parked his car in a tree."
What makes this extra mysterious is that Page is known for being pretty well-versed in arcane knowledge: he was (and possibly still is) a huge collector of occult paraphernalia and a devout follower of the works of Aleister Crowley. According to one theory, the symbol was derived from a 16th-century arcane glyph representing planet Saturn:
You have to squint.
As for what it means in terms of Jimmy Page, the only person he's ever told is bandmate Robert Plant. Plant was so shocked by the revelation that he went ahead and forgot all about it. In his own words: "You may not believe this, but Pagey once took me aside and said 'Look, I'm going to tell you the meaning of this once, and then I shan't ever mention it again--or at least, not for a long, long time anyway.' And would you believe that I have since forgotten what it was, and now Pagey won't tell me."
The closest we've gotten to a straight answer was the time the two were doing an interview for an Australian TV show and an audience member interrupted them to ask about the symbol. Plant, who may or may not have forgotten the real answer at that point, jumped in and replied "It means frying tonight." We'll probably have to wait 40 more years to figure out what in the hell that means.
But expect to see "Led Zep's Whole Lotta Bacon" any day now.
The Results of the Academy Awards
What Is It?
As much as we've mocked the Oscars in the past, we still think it's pretty impressive that, even in this era of phone-hacking tabloids and sleazy celebrity gossip websites, the Oscar winners have never, ever leaked out before the actual ceremony. In 83 years. Neither have the Golden Globe winners, but that's slightly less impressive because no one cares about them.
Run along now, we're talking about grown-up stuff.
After all, the Academy Awards ceremony is one the most-viewed television events every year, and each year bookies all over the world take huge bets on the winners -- even Vegas is considering getting in on the action on an official, legal basis. That's how good the security is on this thing. That's all thanks to PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants, who handle all of the ballots on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Accountants apparently being the only people who can count in Hollywood.
Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas, accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
How It Is Kept Secret:
First of all, each ballot is counted and the results tabulated totally by hand. Each year, these two men know who will win in all 24 categories approximately 48 hours before the ceremony because they counted it their damn selves.
This means they got to say "Marisa Tomei? Really?" before anyone else in the world.
Each ballot also includes an electronic control number, so that if a ballot is lost or stolen, that control number is immediately stricken and a replacement sent out. Other than that, though, nothing is computerized; the main reason they've never been hacked is simply that there's nothing to hack. The two accountants use good old pen and paper to sort through the ballots sent in by the members of the Academy, which are marked in pencil, pen or, in at least one case, crayon.
Oh, and everything is counted in a windowless, secure room in a secret location. On the night of the Oscars, LAPD officers in tuxedos escort each man, via separate routes, to the ceremony. Each carries a suitcase containing half of the winning envelopes, presumably so that if one is hijacked or exploded by terrorists, at least they can go through with half the show and fill the rest of the air time with awkward comedy and dance numbers.
No one would really notice the difference.
Even after they're arrived at the theater, though, the accountants still aren't allowed to let the envelopes out of their sight. They have to literally stand at the edge of the stage all night, without bathroom breaks, personally passing out said envelopes to the presenters. Also, they have to memorize all the results in case of slip-ups or Kanye-esque outbursts.
All that for a stupid awards show. If the security at the Electoral College was half that good, chances are at least one of our presidents would have never been elected. You all know who we're talking about.
That's right, President Whiskers (1904-1908).
The Ayapaneco Language
What Is It?
This isn't some secret nerd dialect created for a Star Trek fan fiction -- the Ayapaneco language has been used in Mexico since before there was a Mexico. It survived the Spanish invasion and was a "vibrant" tongue in the Tabasco area as recently as 50 years ago. Then Spanish became mandatory in schools, and locals started moving away. Ayapaneco, like many other native Mexican dialects, began dying out simply out of apathy.
There's just no decent swear words, which is all you ever need to learn anyway.
Over the years, attempts to teach Ayapaneco to a new generation have failed after free classes proved seriously uninteresting to anyone with access to any other hobbies. While there are a handful of people left who understand some words and phrases, by now there are only two fluent Ayapaneco speakers on the entire planet.
Or a heck of a lot less than there are fluent Klingon speakers.
Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez.
How It Is Kept Secret:
In this case, it's actually the opposite: an anthropological team is actively attempting to save the language by compiling a dictionary. Researchers are scrambling to compile as complete a vocabulary as fast they possibly can before the language dies out -- literally, since the two remaining speakers are now 69 and 75 years old. Obviously the most logical way to do this would be to sit Manuel and Isidro down together and let them shoot the shit for a while.
The only problem? They refuse to speak to each other.
It turns out "suck my dick" is a very complicated phrase in Ayapaneco.
Despite being only six years apart in age and living less than a mile apart in the same village, the men won't talk. So what happened? Did one of them sleep with the other's wife? Was there some sort of complex political and/or soccer-related disagreement we can't begin to comprehend? Actually, it looks like they simply don't care for each other very much. That's the whole reason.
"He has a mole on his forehead that I find awkward to look at."
One researcher explained that "they don't have a lot in common" (being the only two people in the planet who can speak a rare language doesn't amount to much), and apparently the two men think this is a good enough reason to let a huge part of their culture die. So that's two things they have in common: an ancient, nearly extinct tongue and irrational stubbornness. And it's not a case of not giving a fuck about their roots, by the way: Manuel actually tried teaching the language himself years ago, but class attendance was low.
"I shouldn't have scheduled classes during 'Must-See TV'."
Another language, Ter Sami, is also spoken by only two elderly people in Russia, but at least we can blame the Soviets for that one.
The Hapsburg Napkin Fold
What Is It?
A fancy napkin design that puts all cliche wedding place setting to shame, the imperial napkin fold is so important that it is actually an Austrian state secret.
This sure makes all our alien conspiracies and assassinations look like shit.
That impressively starched bread holder is remarkable in that it's made out of just one impossibly folded piece of cloth, and also because it sort of looks like a dong. How do you even get one napkin to do that? We're pretty sure some of those angles shouldn't exist. Stare at it long enough and it's like looking into an Escher painting. If you try to fold it yourself and take a wrong turn, you might unleash an elder god. Possibly one who looks like a dong.
Or maybe an Egyptian god with a silly hat.
Originally, the design was used at the dinner table of the emperor or empress of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The empire may have collapsed, but the timeless secret of the penis-napkin lived on, and it's still used at banquets when a foreign head of state is visiting. The fold is considered so important that an example of the royal bread holder appears in pretty much every museum in Austria and Hungary. With guards watching it at all times, apparently:
Two anonymous government employees who hopefully have more to do in their day-to-day jobs than fold cloth into the shape of genitals.
How It Is Kept Secret:
Apparently, the two people who know how to do the fold will pass on the technique before they die (as long as they aren't killed at the same time in a bizarre napkin-folding accident).
Austria's leading cause of death among males between 30 and 45.
Even though the technique is described as a "closely guarded secret," there is no record of it being written down and held under lock and key somewhere. As far as we know, they don't do anything special to protect its secrecy. But that's the thing: they don't have to. It's that difficult. Now, we're sure some of you will look at that picture and think, "How hard can it be?" -- but keep in mind that these napkins are in public view every day of the year in Austria and anyone can take pictures or video of them. Yet nowhere on the Internet is there the solution for how to do it.
We're talking about the same Internet that can teach you how to fold an origami Batmobile.
Or maybe it's less about how hard it is and more about the fact that not a lot of people seem to be aware that such a thing as a secret imperial napkin even exists. Let's just hope nobody puts a video of the fold on one of the world's most popular comedy websites where millions of people can- OH NOOOO.
The World's Greatest Card Trick
What Is It?
Called the Holy Grail of card tricks, this seemingly impossible illusion is known as "The Berglas Effect" or "Any Card at Any Number." Why? Because the magician is able to produce any card requested by the audience anywhere inside a deck without even touching it.
Invented by magician David Berglas in the 1970s, the trick is mind-blowingly simple. The magician shows a pack of cards to the audience and then gives it to a random person. Another random person is asked to name any card (let's say the ace of spades) and third one is asked to name any number between one and 52 (let's say 12). The 12th card in the deck, as counted off by the audience member who was holding the pack this whole time, will somehow be the ace of spades.
Obviously there are a lot of variants and ripoffs of this trick with varying degrees of hackery involved (even Criss Angel has done it), but in Berglas' version, he uses a perfectly normal, often borrowed deck of cards, and none of the people in the audience are working with him. So how does he do it?
David Berglas and (apparently) his friend and apprentice Marc Paul, the guy in the video.
Seen here with obnoxious facial hair.
How It Is Kept Secret:
By refusing to tell anyone how to do it, no matter how many times they ask him. We should mention at this point that Berglas escaped Nazi Germany as a child, became a U.S. intelligence officer and acted as a consultant on several James Bond films, which probably means he let the screenwriters follow him around and take notes. If this man says, "No, I will not explain my card trick to you," you shut the fuck up and go hide under the nearest table.
"I got this medal for killing Stalin. I was 100 feet from the bedroom, with my hands tied."
Keep in mind that stealing magic tricks is rampant among magicians, as demonstrated by that time Wolverine stole Batman's greatest trick in the film The Prestige. Since intellectual property law doesn't cover magic tricks, once the secret of how to perform any trick is out, there's nothing a magician can do to stop others from performing it or even explaining it to regular people. So if you happen to come up with the most-impressive card trick of all time, the only thing you can do is keep your mouth shut.
We're on to you, man.
While Berglas eventually divulged most of his famous tricks, he still refuses to explain this one. According to rumors, he once told the secret to a reporter who will release it once he dies. As we mentioned, several other magicians have performed different versions of this trick, but the most convincing is the one by Marc Paul ... who happens to be a close friend of Berglas.
It's possible that Berglas told him, or that Paul figured it out on his own by studying his work, or maybe came up with his own version. Either way, Marc Paul ain't saying how he does it either, because he has dignity.
Something rare in modern magicians.
For awesome secrets we have discovered, check out 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention and 6 Massive Secret Operations That Are Hidden All Around You.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the secret to Brockway's beard.
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