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The cockroaches that ate Natick

U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center, Rte. 27, Natick

The Natick Labs are bizarreness incarnate.

Researchers here once built a "solar furnace" to give pigs really bad sunburns (they wanted to simulate the effects of a nuclear blast). They invented boots that had the raised outline of an average Vietnamese peasant's bare foot instead of treads on the bottom (so soldiers could traipse through the jungles of Vietnam and the Viet Cong would look down and be fooled into thinking "nope, nobody here but us Commies"). And they developed the extrusion process that made Chicken McNuggets possible.

In the early 1970s, the labs imported sizeable quantities of Giant Hissing Madagascar cockroaches (so-called because, well, they are huge and they hiss and they normally only live on Madagascar) to see what would happen when they zapped them with large amounts of radiation.

In 1974, the experiments ended - with a fair number of the roaches still alive. Lab personnel dumped them into plastic bags and then sprayed them with carbon tetrachloride. The chemical killed the adults but did nothing to any eggs they were carrying. A contractor then disposed of the bags in the nearby town dump - where they promptly disintegrated (because that's what carbon tet does to plastic bags). The eggs hatched and the baby roaches promptly invaded nearby homes in search of food. The town health inspector downplayed the problem - until residents threatened to begin shoving the egg cases in his mail slot.

It took nine months to eliminate the roaches - thanks in no small part to DDT that the army gave out to any resident who showed up at the lab with a bucket to carry it home in.

Mutant Irradiated Cockroaches Attack - The account on which the above is based.



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