Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do you have an old Singer sewing machine?

If so, you might be sitting on a minor gold-mine - if you can get it to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi police say they are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy old-fashioned sewing machines for up to $50,000 (£33,500).

The Singer sewing machines are said to contain traces of red mercury, a substance that may not exist.

But it is widely thought that it can be used to find treasure, ward off evil spirits or even make nuclear bombs.

It is believed that tiny amounts can sell for millions of dollars, the Saudi Gazette reported.

The paper said that trade in the sewing machines was brisk across the country.

Rumours about the sewing machines have been spreading for days by word of mouth and over the internet, it said.

These included rumours that foreign experts and companies had been buying up Singers.

In Dhulum, it was reported that people had broken into two tailors' shops to steal the machines.

In the city of Madina, people were holding mobile phones up to the machines, due to the belief that they could be used to detect the presence of red mercury.

It's total codswallop, of course. 'Red mercury' is a catchy name for a previously unknown 'mineral' that first came to public attention in the 1980's. However, as Nuclear Threat Initiative points out (italics mine):

Red mercury has been the subject of films, books, newspaper articles, and high-level political intrigue, yet, according to much-publicized statements from British, Russian, and U.S. government officials, no material matching the properties of red mercury exists, and no such material is used in the construction of nuclear weapons.

So I'm afraid the excitement among buyers in Saudi Arabia seems doomed to disappointment. On the other hand, Saudi owners (who by now are surely sellers) of old and otherwise useless sewing machines must be very, very happy - and much richer!


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