In a seemingly quirky solution to speeding drivers, news of an inflatable doll tied to a tree trunk as a sort of makeshift stop sign recently lit up the web in China. Innovative, to say the least, but also entirely false.
It all began on July 30 in the city of Ningbo, which is found in China’s Zhejiang province. At around eight in the morning, a man named Fan was driving to work in his car, when an unusual sight caught his eye. On the side of the road, an elderly woman with greying hair was hauling a scantily clad plastic mannequin toward a pedestrian crossing. Pulling up to a red light, Fan watched as the woman knotted the mannequin to a tree near the intersection. Amused, Fan took a photo of the bizarre scene and then posted the image on the Chinese social networking website, Weibo.
The picture was an immediate hit. Internet users puzzled over what could possibly be going on in the photo, throwing out different theories as to why the woman would tie a negligee-wearing mannequin to the trunk of a tree. Bit by bit, the story began to warp. The plastic mannequin became a blow-up sex doll, and its perch on the side of the road was clearly meant to slow down passing traffic. Even the province where the incident took place changed from Zhejiang to Shandong.
But the story didn’t stop there. Soon enough, news website the Huffington Post picked up on the buzz, reporting: “An unidentified elderly woman was getting fed up with drivers speeding past a crossing near her home in China, according to Car News China's interpretation of Chinese-language newspaper Tiexue… the resourceful granny tried slowing down drivers with the aid of a strategically positioned inflatable girlfriend”.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Tiexue isn’t a newspaper but an online forum, and despite widespread speculation, it is still unknown exactly why the woman in the photo bound the mannequin to the tree.
On August 4, a local newspaper in the city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, finally cleared some facts up once and for all. Fan’s photo had in fact been taking in Ningbo. Fan has also, on several occasions, attempted in vain to dispel the murky details surrounding the image, saying that they were based on nothing more than conjecture. And so, the mystery surrounding the old woman and the mannequin remain.