Max Martin Finally Speaks on Hit Songwriting Secrets: ‘It’s Almost Like Science to Me’

Pop maestro Max Martin is not a fan of giving interviews, but opened up in a new interview with the UK Telegraph, revealing a few secrets to his success.

While the 48-year-old hit maker is credited with more than 70 US Top 10 hits and 22 No. 1s —including “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off and the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” — he is notoriously private with the press.

Martin, however, is being forced into the spotlight promoting the new West End musical, “& Juliet,” a reimagining of William Shakespeare’s tragic “Romeo and Juliet.” The new tale shines a light on a now woke Juliet opting out of committing suicide with Romeo, instead heading off to experience life with her nurse. The play includes 30 Martin hits, including Romeo singing the Ellie Goulding track “Love Me Like You Do,” Juliet belting out Perry’s “Roar” and Shakespeare leading the company through a rendition of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”

While discussing his career and the musical — inspired by ABBA’s jukebox show, “Mamma Mia!” — Martin revealed a few ingredients in his hit-flavored secret sauce.

Made Up Words and Bad Grammar = Pop Hits

Pay no mind to the odd lyrics  “Sadness is beautiful / Loneliness is tragical” in the Backstreet Boys’ song “Shape of My Heart” or the tragic slaughtering of grammar by Ariana Grande in the Zedd collab “Break Free” (“Now that I’ve become who I really are” and “I only wanna die alive,” for instance); there is a method to the madness, Martin explains. “I grew up on Elton John and the Beatles and I had no idea what they were saying, it was just gibberish. If we come to a place in a writing session where one word might be better sense but the other option sounds cool, I will always pick the one that sounds appealing to me.” If you “say something meaningful with the right sort of phonetics. Then you’re golden,” he says.

Every Max Martin Song Has an Equal Number of Syllables

“If the first verse is super-busy, a lot of words, maybe the next part should be the complete opposite, with long notes,” he says. “It’s a good resource when you’re stuck. But the thing that happens within the method has to be free-flowing and creative in order to be great. That’s the magic part.”

Collaboration is Key

“If you’re working with someone whose point of view is really far from yourself, like a young girl in her twenties, the story needs to come from them,” says Martin. “I like being around people who keep me curious. Experience might be one part of the puzzle, but beat-making and trendsetting, it’s a young person’s game.” To stay in that game, one must remain open to new pop trends. “If 200 million people love [something] then I try to understand why. It’s almost like science to me; you listen and try to crack the code.”

Vocals Don’t Necessarily Have to Be Great to Sell a Song

“There’s lot of singers who are not maybe considered great but have a sound that’s unique and are geniuses in telling the story. If you’ve done your job, it should feel like no one else can sing that song.”

Teamwork Beats Lone Rangers

The top 100 biggest hits of 2018 were each composed by an average of 5.34 writers. Noel Gallagher of Oasis doesn’t approve (“two guys do the beats, another one does the top line, another does this, that and the other. It’s the death of art, because there are no artists — there are just writers and performers”). But Martin has a different perspective. “I think art is art, however it’s made,” responds Martin. “I’m a huge fan of what Noel did with Oasis. But in the whole history of pop, from Elvis to Motown to Whitney Houston, great artists have had songs written for them by teams.”

His Own Music Would Lay Off the Beats

What if Martin made his own records? “It would probably be acoustic, melancholic and very super-melodic. My favorite feeling in music is dancing with tears in your eyes. I guess it’s a Scandinavian thing.” Will it ever happen? “Never,” he says.

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The Warmest Fuzzy Slippers You'll Ever Wear (They're Microwavable!)

We love our fuzzy slippers, but even the fuzziest of the fuzziest can only produce so much warmth on their own. We love soaking our feet in a hot bathtub to really hit the spot, but then we’re just stuck sitting in one place — and with wet feet!

Don’t worry, because we found a way to heat up our frozen toes while keeping them dry and staying mobile — and there’s no sacrifice of fuzziness! These slipper boots are microwavable — yes, seriously — and they are possibly our favorite thing on the planet right now!

Get the Intelex Cozy Body Boots starting at just $24 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 17, 2019, but are subject to change.

Reviewers say these slippers are heavenly and that there’s nothing better to come home to on a cold night. They’re calling them the ultimate relief after a long shift at work, or even after a day of practicing jumps at the ice rink. Even those with neuropathy and arthritis are huge fans of these soothing slipper boots, loving how they warm up their feet and leave them feeling relaxed in seconds!

These microwavable, ultra-plush booties are filled with specially-treated millet grains to warm us up, as well as dried lavender. This lavender produces a gorgeous aroma, creating an extra-soothing, spa-like experience — and reviewers say the scent lasts and lasts!

Get the Intelex Cozy Body Boots starting at just $24 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 17, 2019, but are subject to change.

These boots are amazing for warming up feet after trudging through snow or soothing them after a busy day, but they’re also great at creating a calming environment. They’re perfect for stress relief and relaxing when you’re feeling anxious. They can also help to set a peaceful mood when you’re getting ready for bed. Going on a trip? We would never travel without these. We’ll be needing them after a flight or a busy day of sightseeing!

Want to know another secret about these boots? They can be used to cool our feet too! Just stick them into a plastic bag and place the bag into the freezer. This will be perfect for hot summer days or calming any stubbed toes!

These slippers fit adult sizes six to 10 and are currently available in four variations: two solids and two prints. If you were looking for a holiday gift for someone and weren’t sure what to buy them, look no further. Everyone loves cozy things — now you just have to figure out which version they’d want: Brown, Cream, Snowy or Tawny!

Get the Intelex Cozy Body Boots starting at just $24 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 17, 2019, but are subject to change.

Looking for something else? Check out more from Intelex here and other slippers available at Amazon here!


Check out more of our picks and deals here!

This post is brought to you by Us Weekly’s Shop With Us team. The Shop With Us team aims to highlight products and services our readers might find interesting and useful. Product and service selection, however, is in no way intended to constitute an endorsement by either Us Weekly or of any celebrity mentioned in the post.

The Shop With Us team may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. In addition, Us Weekly receives compensation from the manufacturer of the products we write about when you click on a link and then purchase the product featured in an article. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product or service is featured or recommended. Shop With Us operates independently from advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback at [email protected] Happy shopping!

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Scarlett Johansson Regrets This Crimped Hairstyle the Most

Crimped hair may be back in style, but don’t expect to see Scarlett Johansson jump on the trend anytime soon.

The actress, 34, opened up to PEOPLE about one of her biggest beauty disasters, which she jokingly says now “lives on the interweb forever.”

“There was a year that I went to the Tony Awards — I must have been 19 or 20. I wanted a hairstyle that looked like [actress] Jean Harlow’s,” Johansson tells PEOPLE about her look for the 2004 award ceremony.

However, her hair didn’t turn out exactly how the star envisioned. “It looked like a crimping iron. Basically, a crimping iron was taking a stand on my head,” Johansson said. “Yeah, it was electrical socket crazy.”

While the actress didn’t love the crimped look, that hasn’t stopped her from experimenting with her hair in plenty of other ways. She’s dyed her hair a fiery red hue multiple times, been both a blonde and brunette, and has sported everything from straight to curly to half-shaved pixie styles. Johansson’s fearless approach to switching things up never fails to leave her fans on their toes.

“The best thing about hair color is that it’s only temporary,” the actress told InStyle in 2017 of her ever-changing hair looks.

— with reporting by Julie Jordan

This article originally appeared on People. For more stories like this, visit

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Winter 2019: When is the first day of winter? When is the winter solstice?

Snow has covered parts of the UK last week and temperatures plummeted to their lowest in autumn so far reaching -8.1 in Dalwhinnie, Scotland. There is more cold weather on the way, but believe it or not, winter has not yet begun.

The clocks switched backwards by one hour in October and now we are feeling the effects of dark mornings and evenings as days grow shorter.

There are Christmas decorations already in some stores, major retailers are releasing their Christmas adverts and mince pies are back in stock – but when does winter officially begin?

Depending on which calendar you use to mark the seasons of the year, winter has two different start dates.

It varies according to either the astronomical or meteorological definition of the seasons.

Read More: Prevent frost on a car with these simple homemade tools 


  • UK snow forecast: Met Office warns -10C deep freeze from two systems

The meteorological calendar states the four seasons are split into three months of the year each.

This is based on the Gregorian calendar, and so with this system Sunday, December 1 is the first day of winter.

Under the meteorological calendar, the last day of winter would then be February 28, 2020.

However, according to the astronomical calendar, winter does not begin until Sunday, December 22.

This date is also known as the winter solstice and always occurs either on December 21 or 22.

The winter solstice is the day of the year which sees the fewest sunlight hours of the year.

According to, this year on December 22 the UK will see just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds of daylight.

The Sun will rise at 8.04am and set at 3.53pm.

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  • McDonald’s Christmas advert 2019: Watch McDonald’s Christmas ad HERE

This is because the Sun reaches the most southerly point on its axis, and is when the North Pole is tilted the furthest possible distance from the Sun.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the reverse is true in that the longest day of the year takes place.

After the winter solstice typically temperatures become colder, with the coldest months of the year being December, January and February.

The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which means Sun stands still.

This was because it seemed as though the Sun’s path north or south stopped before changing direction.

The winter solstice is often celebrated at Stonehenge, as the particular arrangement of the stones allows the sun to peek through the monument as it rises.

For this reason, historians believe Stonehenge was built specifically for the winter solstice.

There are often live streams of this event so people around the world can witness the sunrise at the stone monument.

Stonehenge is located in Wiltshire and dates back to the late Neolithic period – around 2500 BC.

Newgrange in Ireland is another monument dating back thousands of years that appears to have been built in alignment with the solstice.

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Beach dwellers share what has washed up onshore

Dummies, cutlery and a 60-year-old deodorant bottle: litter-pickers reveal shocking amount of plastic rubbish washed up on UK beaches – with one woman finding 345 pieces in a few hours

  • #2minutebeachclean encourages people to pick up what they find on the beach 
  • Twitter users shared findings including festival bands, a dummy and camel toy 
  • One woman in Northern Ireland picked up 345 pieces in one afternoon
  • Movement run by The Beach Clean Network, which encourages beach cleaning

Volunteer litter-pickers have revealed the shocking pieces of rubbish they’ve found strewn on Britain’s beaches. 

Litter pickers from across the country took to Twitter to share snaps of their findings after spending just two minutes picking up non-perishable litter while out walking.

Posting using the hashtag #2minutebeachclean, people revealed the haul of rubbish they’d found washed up to shore including old toys, a deodorant bottle from the 1950s and discarded tampon applicators.

Volunteer litter-pickers have shared photos of the dispiriting amount of plastic washed up on UK shores. Diane Watson posted this photo of an angry-looking pocket toy alongside a discarded tampon applicator found while taking part in a two-minute litter pick on a UK beach

User called YorkHouseMarazion shared a picture of a broomstick and a boot, calling the beach clean ‘interesting’ 

Beach dwellers who underwent a two-minute clean of their local coast revealed what they found washed up onshore – including a plastic bottle from the 1950s

Volunteer Lesley Crawshaw shared that among the sweet wrappers, bottle caps, and polystyrene she found, a rubber duck was left abandoned on the shore on the Northern Irish coast. 

She wrote: ‘My first plastic duck! Out lifting litter at Ballyholme Beach and Ballymacormick Point this afternoon. One bag – 345 pieces.

‘High tides and  windy weather have sent all kinds of plastic crap onto our shores. Lots of sweet wrappers, bottle caps, & polystyrene #liveherelovehere #litterati rubber duck.’

Founder of the movement Martin Dorey explained that after years of watching the problem of marine litter increase, he started the beach clean to inspire people to help out

A user who goes by the name of Llanengan Litter Picker, shared a picture of an unusual figurine they think could have an interesting origin story

Adam Farrelly commented: ‘A #2minutebeachclean along the tideline at Dymchurch this evening, resulted in a handful of assorted plastics and a minion!’ 

Debbie Bate revealed:  ‘2 minute Beach clean on our Harlyn walk today; found this festival wristband from 2014!’ 

A user who goes by the name of Llanengan Litter Picker, shared a picture of an unusual figurine they think could have an interesting origin story. 

They wrote: ‘Found this on yesterdays beach clean, its an unusual figure just wondering if anybody knows of its origin? Please retweet and share so we might possibly find out some details on it!! #hellsmouth #abersoch’. 

Adam Farrelly found a Minion toy from the ‘Despicalble Me’ franchise along the tide line at Dymchurch beach 

Two of the same toy were found by seperate users on their respective beach cleans 

Debbie Bate revealed that she found a discarded festival wristband from 2014 on her walk through  Harlyn beach 

Another user called YorkHouseMarazion  shared a picture of a broomstick and a boot with the caption: ‘Today’s #2minutebeachclean at Marazion was interesting’. 

Diane Watson shared two posts, one showing a toy alongside a discarded tampon applicator, while another showed a deodorant bottle from the 1950s. 

She wrote: ‘Sick of finding tampon applicators on the beach.’ 

‘Is this the oldest thing I have found ? Deodorant bottle from 1950s …so maybe 69 years old found on the beach this morning.’  

#2minutebeachclean is a movement run by The Beach Clean Network, which encourages people to take a small amount of time out of their day and pick up any litter they find on the beach. 

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Playboy who ‘refused to grow up’ kills his dad after his allowance is cut off

After growing up in a world of extreme wealth and privilege, Thomas Gilbert was never willing to accept anything less. His family were well known among the high society of New York, and it was an enviable position for the young man to be in.

Thomas’s dad, Thomas Sr, was a notable Wall Street banker, and mum Shelley was a former debutante. Thomas had been educated at the best schools in Manhattan and had gone on to study economics at Princeton University, where his father had also studied.

But while Thomas Sr made millions of dollars by setting up his own investment company, Thomas graduated without any real ambition – except the desire to remain among the elite.

His parents hoped at some point that Thomas would carry on his father’s legacy as a top financier. But until then, he had no job, and they had no choice but to fund his lifestyle.

By 2015, Thomas was living in an apartment in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, and his parents paid the $2,400 (£1,800) a month rent. He split his time between the flat and the family home in the Hamptons – the famous holiday stomping ground of the East Coast rich – where he surfed and went to the summer parties.

With his charm and striking good looks, Thomas, then 30, was very popular on the social scene.

$1,000 pocket money


Being unemployed didn’t curtail his playboy lifestyle. Pocket money from his parents of $1,000 a week – on top of paying for his rent – enabled it.

Thomas attended events and galas with New York’s elite. He was a member of private members’ clubs and travelled the world in luxury – all paid for by 70-year-old Thomas Sr and Shelley. They even covered the cost of his Jeep and the many parking tickets he had thoughtlessly racked up.

Thomas was always asking for money, believing it was a bottomless pot. His family were rumoured to be worth $200 million, but in reality, a lot of their money was tied up. Thomas Sr had just applied for a loan to start a hedge fund, but had been declined by the bank.

It was time to start being more careful with outgoings and their biggest one was their son. Thomas had been taking advantage of their generosity for too long. They decided to cut down his allowance and encouraged him to get a job to support himself.

They reduced the amount to $400 a week and even that was in danger of being stopped for good.

On 4 January 2015, Thomas’s allowance was down to $300 and he turned up at his parents’ Upper East Side home unannounced. He said he wanted to talk business with his dad, and his mum was thrilled. She thought maybe their strategy to make him stand on his own two feet was finally working.

Thomas asked her to get him a sandwich and a Coke – a drink he knew she didn’t keep in the house. She happily obliged to go out and get it.

As she left, she hoped father and son would bond.

Lying in a pool of blood

When Shelley returned not long afterwards, Thomas was gone, and she had a terrible feeling of foreboding.

Then she found her husband in a pool of blood next to their bed.

She rushed forward, calling out his name, thinking he’d passed out, but then she saw the bullet wound in his skull, and his brains on the floor… and started to scream.

While she’d been out, her son had pulled out a Glock 40-calibre gun, pressed it against his dad’s skull and pulled the trigger. Thomas had then placed the weapon in his dad’s hand to make it look like he’d shot himself.

Shelley dialled 911 and said her husband had been shot. When asked who had shot him, she replied, ‘My son. He’s nuts, but I didn’t know he was this nuts… He shot him in the head.’

The police found Thomas and he was arrested.

He pleaded not guilty on the grounds of insanity and claimed he was mentally ill.

The killing was a New York scandal and sent ripples through the upper echelons. Whispers circulated that Thomas had often acted strangely, but nobody could believe he’d shot his dad in cold blood. Everyone was talking about it. It even captured the imagination of Hollywood. Jake Gyllenhaal has reportedly signed on to produce a film called Gilded Rage, based on the murder.

At the five-week trial in October this year, the defence claimed Thomas was schizophrenic and he’d committed the killing during a psychotic break.

His mum Shelley testified for the defence and backed up the claim that her son was mentally ill.

‘Tommy was far sicker than we ever really knew,’ she said.

The prosecution described Thomas as a troubled young man who had ‘an easy life handed to him on a silver platter’, but had failed to make anything of himself and, consequently, developed a hatred of his successful dad who was now restricting his spending.

A symptom of entitlement

‘The defendant didn’t want to grow up and be an adult,’ they said. ‘When his father tried to push him along in that direction and cut his allowance, he threw the ultimate tantrum.’

The court heard how Thomas had researched murder online before the killing and had driven all the way to Ohio to buy the gun months in advance.

He’d visited websites such as and, which the prosecution said was clear premeditation and a reaction to him being cut off from his money.

‘The free ride was going to end,’ they said. ‘It wasn’t a symptom of psychosis, it was a symptom of entitlement.’

The court rejected the insanity claim. Later, jurors would say it was because Thomas had deliberately sent his mum out to get him a drink and food so he could shoot his dad. By getting his mum out of the way, he knew his coming actions were wrong.

The jury found Thomas guilty of second-degree murder and gun charges. The fall from grace was complete.

At the sentencing in September, the toll of the past four years could be seen with the dramatic transformation of playboy Thomas, now 34. Rather than tanned and clean cut, he was dishevelled with a beard and unruly hair. His designer suit had been replaced with a prison jumpsuit.

Thomas’s mum pleaded for leniency. She was tearful as she read aloud a statement and called her son a ‘good boy’ who struggled with mental health issues.

‘My husband would still be alive if we got him to a psychiatric hospital 15 years ago,’ she said.

The prosecution described Thomas as a sociopath, saying, ‘He wanted his father dead and so he devised a plan to murder him.’

When Thomas spoke, he referred to himself as ‘the defendant’ and used the opportunity to criticise his legal team, but not to show any remorse. He was sentenced to life with a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Justice Melissa Jackson agreed with the jury that Thomas was responsible for the brutal act that day.

‘You knew exactly what you were doing,’ she told him. ‘You were not insane at the time you killed your father. You were not insane then. You are not insane now.’

After a lifetime of being part of the elite, Thomas finds himself behind bars.

His feeling of entitlement made him turn on his own family. He’d lived a life of privilege, but despite being given everything he’d ever wanted, he would end up killing out of pure greed.

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Are baby monitors picking up paranormal activity?

When baby monitors go bump in the night

We know it sounds crazy, but parents around the world swear their tot-checking devices are picking up paranormal activity. Eimear O’Hagan listens in nervously…  

When baby monitors go bump in the night

Picture an autumnal Friday evening when, after a typically boisterous bathtime followed by the donning of superhero pyjamas, my four- and two-year-old sons, Ruadhán and Donnacha, are – hallelujah – tucked up asleep in their respective bedrooms.

Collapsing on the sofa with a well-earned G&T, I glance at the baby monitor to see a now familiar, but still somewhat unnerving, sight in Donnacha’s bedroom: three small green specks of light flickering on the screen as they dance like fireflies above my snoring toddler’s cotbed.

I can guarantee if I crept up the stairs and opened the door there would be no sign of them. They are only visible on the monitor’s screen, and only ever appear when the camera is in Donnacha’s bedroom – nowhere else in our home or at the hotels and friends’ and relatives’ houses where we’ve used it.

I first noticed them over a year ago, when we moved my youngest son from a cot in our bedroom to his own room in our three-bed, 19th-century home in the Scottish Borders. They don’t appear every night but we still see them several times a month.

Initially, I heeded my husband Malcolm’s pragmatic insistence that some sort of electrical interference or a fault with the monitor was to blame. But that didn’t explain why we only saw the orbs at home.

Malcolm is as ‘non-woo-woo’ as they come and refuses to ponder any sort of otherworldly explanation. And, conscious that revealing UFOs appear in my child’s bedroom at night in my mum-circles might mark me out as odd, I kept shtoom. That is until I saw something on Instagram that sent shivers down my spine.

Are you freaked out or rolling your eyes? 

These examples from the thousands posted on YouTube could prove there are ghosts in the machine…

  • In a clip that went viral in 2016, baby Connor appears to possess supernatural skills by balancing on the side of his cot for 22 seconds. This, coupled with his glowing eyes and rapid head movements, made millions of viewers speculate that the child was possessed. His parents, Chuck and Kate Booth, faced accusations of faking the video but they appeared on a national news show in the US to insist not.  
  • According to father Mitchell Mansfield, a ball of light started appearing at around the same time, 11pm each evening, for several weeks last year. He says it hovered above his son for an hour or so before leaving.  
  • Australian mum Jade Yates says she was watching her daughter Ruby sleeping through the monitor when a shadowy figure appeared on the screen and lingered above the baby for a few minutes. 

A friend of a friend had posted about an app that links to her baby monitor and sends notifications to her phone when there is movement or sound in her baby’s room – and how she gets these when the house is empty. She also wrote that she has seen a ‘figure’ in her child’s room on her monitor.

Another mother commented that she didn’t invest in a baby monitor because of so many unsettling tales she’d heard about them picking up ‘paranormal activity’. A quick scan of some popular online parenting forums reveals lengthy discussion threads about this. Part of me scoffed. What nonsense. But… the orbs. What if my monitor was also attracting spiritual visitors? ‘Is this a “thing”?’ I wondered, goosebumps creeping up my arms.

Fully expecting to be laughed off social media, I posted a request for other parents with spooky baby monitor experiences to share their stories. To my great surprise, I was inundated. A colleague recounted hearing a recording of a friend’s baby-monitor where the name ‘Steve’ was whispered over and over (the family in question don’t know a Steve). Then another recording of their child saying, ‘Someone’s at the window… They want to get in.’ So unsettled were the parents they called in a medium, who believes the child has psychic abilities, and are now selling their house, too spooked to stay.

Sarah, from Dartmoor, also contacted me. At pains to insist she was a sane, rational person, she told me about her six-year-old son’s bedroom in their barn conversion, which by day is an ordinary little boy’s room filled with Lego and storybooks. But by night it seems to be a hive of ‘activity’.

‘This used to be my husband’s grandmother’s home – my son’s great-granny. His bedroom was her kitchen where she spent much of her time before she passed away and the building was converted,’ said Sarah. ‘Although he’s six, we still use a baby monitor because his room is a little way from ours, in case he is poorly or needs me in the night.

‘Since he began sleeping in there five years ago, we have regularly seen two light sources on the monitor – one is a round ball, the other more ribbon-shaped – that travel around the room at varying speeds.’

Sarah and her husband tried to find a rational explanation for the orbs, but failed. Then, Sarah says, ‘One night, after a glass of wine, I asked my husband if he thought it was possible that his grandmother was still present in the house. He was sceptical but we decided to test the theory. Standing in the hall outside the room and watching the monitor, he asked, “Granny, is that you? If it is, can you show your presence?” Immediately the round ball of light flashed across the room. Then I asked, “Are you just checking on him?” and as the light hovered on the end of the bed, we saw an indent on the duvet as if someone was sitting there.

‘I know it sounds crazy, but I do now believe she has a presence in that room, maybe because it was her haven when she was alive. I don’t feel frightened by it. In fact, it’s nice to think she’s watching over her great-grandson.’

Another mother, Hayley, got in touch to tell me about her video monitor which picked up three balls of white light hovering in the open doorway of her sons’ room one evening. ‘I froze and tried to tell myself it was just a reflection of something, then the balls rose in the air, moved into the room and circled over my sons, then aged three and one, before whooshing towards the curtains and vanishing,’ says Hayley, a business owner from Cheshire. ‘It was over in less than 15 seconds. I bolted up the stairs to find the boys sleeping soundly, but the room had a very calm, settled feeling. I felt very shaken and upset.

‘I never saw anything on the monitor again but after that my youngest went through a phase of telling me there was a man in his room. He would wave at the ceiling and say he was waving goodbye to him.’

According to psychic Amanda Tooke, infants and monitors are the perfect storm when it comes to rousing the paranormal. ‘Babies and children up to the age of about seven are very receptive to seeing and hearing spirits and angels. They are too young to have been conditioned into not believing in such things, they simply accept. As we get older, we’re told these things don’t exist so we close off to them even though they are all around us,’ says Amanda. She believes that ‘spirits use electrical devices to communicate so it’s not uncommon for parents to see and hear things on monitors that they can’t explain. It’s a golden opportunity for spirits to make themselves known. They don’t want to scare us with a full-blown apparition so they use the monitor to present as a light or a sound.’

I tell Amanda an anecdote from a mother called Stacie who contacted me. Stacie’s mother-in-law had died from cancer when Stacie was pregnant with her first child, a boy. When he was three months old, she moved his crib from her bedroom to his own nursery, which had very creaky floorboards.

‘One night, about a week after we moved him into that room, I woke to hear the floor creaking through the monitor. At first, I assumed it was my husband, then I realised he was in bed next to me,’ says Stacie. ‘Then, clear as anything, I heard my mother-in-law saying “You’re so perfect, I’m so proud of you.” I leapt out of bed and ran to his room but he was sleeping peacefully.

‘Around the time she died I had experienced very strong, premature contractions – I was only 28 weeks pregnant. Two years after her death my second child, a girl, was born on the same date she’d died. Towards the end of that labour I didn’t think I could carry on, but I heard her voice comforting me and saying that I was having a girl. It’s hard not to believe that she wanted to be part of her grandchildren’s lives even after death.’

Tales from the crib 

There are many stories of baby monitors picking up supernatural activity. Three mums share their creepy experiences 

When my daughter Sarah was two we moved into a very old rural cottage. Previously a brilliant sleeper, she began getting up every night, crying and unsettled, complaining she was cold even though the house was warm. The GP checked her out and said she was fine so we invested in a video monitor to keep an eye on her. Every night we would hear a ‘shhhing’ noise, and the temperature notification on the screen showed her room was much colder than the rest of the house, before Sarah would start crying out for us. I was really frightened and confided in my mother, a practising Catholic, who insisted the house be blessed by the local priest. My husband and I agreed and after the blessing – which included holy water being sprinkled in Sarah’s room – she returned to sleeping through and there were no more noises via the monitor.

Angela, Belfast

Once, when my daughter was about two, my monitor picked up my daughter laughing at something in her bedroom. I went to check on her and she was pointing at something and saying, ‘Man, funny man’ then, ‘Mummy’s grandad.’ I told her, ‘No, Grandad is at home, go to sleep.’ She looked at me very seriously and said, ‘No. MUMMY’S grandad.’ He had died a year before she was born.

Kirstie, Milton Keynes

One night when my son was three months old, we were staying at my parents’ house with his crib and monitor in the spare room. Mum and I were watching TV when we heard a tuneless whistling via the monitor. I raced to the room but it was empty, bar my son. A few days later, Mum mentioned it to a neighbour who told her that an elderly man, known for walking around whistling, had lived in her house years before.

Catherine, Edinburgh

Amanda believes it’s common for loved ones who have died to want to be around when a new child is born. ‘If parents are open to the idea that a deceased relative is present, then they may well see or hear activity that otherwise would be missed or dismissed, because spirits are very subtle.’

Of course, for every believer there is a sceptic and consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic says all of these experiences are rooted in normal parental emotions, not the paranormal.

‘It’s very natural for parents, especially those of young babies and toddlers, to have an intensified sense of anxiety and alertness triggered by physiological factors and things such as sleep deprivation, plus the stress and new responsibilities that come with parenthood. It’s a time of great change in every sense, and that can have a knock-on psychological impact,’ says Dr Touroni.

‘Parents pay more attention to what is around them because of that heightened concern, noticing things they may previously have missed, and may read these sights and sounds as suspicious or even dangerous, because of their anxiety.’

Dr Touroni also explains that believing a deceased relative is present is more likely to be rooted in grief than the paranormal. ‘The arrival of a child can trigger feelings of loss and a deep-rooted desire for that absent person to be there. So a person can project that desire and believe something they see or hear is a “sign” of their presence. It’s totally understandable and if it gives someone comfort there’s no harm in it.

‘These beliefs only become problematic when they start to affect a parent’s day-to-day life. For example, if they become paranoid about their child’s safety or can’t move on from a loved one’s death because they believe they’re still present.’

I ask Amanda about the green lights in my son’s room. ‘Orbs, which can be different colours, are often angels – these are different to spirits. Spirits are loved ones who have passed over, but we all have an angel assigned to us,’ she says.

I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this to my husband – or whether I’m convinced. But there is no disputing that many parents believe something supernatural is going on in their child’s room. Do you? 

  • Have you experienced something strange on your baby monitor? Tell us your stories at [email protected]



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Growing numbers of mini Dachshunds being dumped by owners who bought them to look cool on Instagram – The Sun

MINI Dachshunds are being dumped in rescue centres by owners who bought them to look cool on Instagram.

The Kennel Club has seen a 23 per cent rise in litters of mini sausage dogs thanks to their popularity on social media and in adverts.

Celebrity dachshund fans include singer Adele and Sex And The City actress Kim Cattrall, 63. There are more than 12million posts devoted to #dachshund on Insta.

Christine Furneaux, from Dachshund Rescue, said: “In the last year we’ve re-homed 157 dogs, many of them smooth haired mini Dachshund which are very popular with social media influencers at the moment.

“It seems people buy these dogs, often for between £1,200 and £1,800, without doing their research and understanding the needs of the breed.

“Although they are cute, they are active and are not the most obedient.

“If owners are at work all day and only have a dog walker to call in on them, they will get bored and become destructive. Another sad thing we see is couples treating them as babies.

“Then, when a real baby comes along and the dog gets jealous, it’s up to rescues to pick up the pieces.”

The Red Foundation Dachshund rescue say four times as many dogs have been handed in this year than two years ago, from 50 in 2017 to 170 so far this year.

Sharon Laird from the charity said:

“We’ve seen a rise in dogs being given up. It’s also worrying that there has been an increase in ‘rare’ colour dogs, including blues.

“These can come with health risks meaning many insurers won’t cover them.

“It’s worrying that unscrupulous breeders are selling these at inflated prices.” The gene that causes the rare colours which can sell for up to £8,000 can result in Colour Dilution Alopecia or CDA meaning hair drops out leading to baldness, sunburn, infections and even cancer.

Another condition the breed is susceptible is Intervertebral Disc Disease, which can require expensive surgery.
Because backyard breeders often don’t carry out genetic screening for this dogs are being sold to owners who are unaware they face a lifetime of health problems.

Christine suggested potential buyers do proper research and find a reputable breeder to avoid these problems.

She said: “Dachshunds are real characters. They can be bossy and like to rule the roost.

“They’re not handbag dogs.

“With mental stimulation, adequate exercise, being kept at a healthy weight and being treated like dogs and not babies, they can bring lots of happiness to the right owner.”

You can find out more about the breed at or

Star of the week

WHENSpringerpoo Rolo was rescued from a puppy farm, RSPCA staff feared he might not survive as he had eColi.

But the little dog put up the battle of his life and today, thanks toowner Claire Dean, he is bringing happiness to other people as a Pets As Therapy dog.

Claire and Rolo are regular visitors to their local children’s ward at Southend Hospital and he also comforts peoplenearing the end of life.

Claire said: “Theycan stroke him and it’s nice for him to bring joy to people who really need it.

Follow Rolotherescue therapydog on Facebook.

Pet Vet

Sean McCormack, head vet at the tailored food firm

JACKIE HEATH from Birmingham fears German Shepherd Sasha will be upset if she gets another dog. 

Q) “My daughters would love Sasha to have another dog to play with, but I think Sasha, who is five, will get really jealous.

She’s been the only dog in our family for so long and I don’t want her to be sad that there is another dog in our family.”

A) As long as Sasha enjoys the company of other dogs she meets out and about, then I think it’s a great idea to get a second dog.

It’s an ideal time with her being five to think about it now, especially if getting a new puppy. Just make sure not to pay all the attention to the new dog.

A rescue dog is also an option, and then you have the benefit of introducing Sasha to several new dogs and let her decide who comes home to join the family. A bit more difficult to do that with a new puppy. Another dog in her life will most likely be a positive, and provide a welcome playmate as your daughters suggest.

Zoe Bird of Guildford, Surrey has an eight-year-old Staffie, Lala, that eats things he shouldn’t.

Q) “Lala loves to eat grass and when he’s playing out he picks things up from the floor that he shouldn’t and starts to eat them. What can I do to try and stop him from doing this?”

A) First of all, it’s quite natural for dogs to eat grass from time to time. Sometimes it’s for the sweet flavour when grass is growing, other times it may be to relieve an upset stomach.

Sometimes it can be because they are lacking fibre in their diet. I’d start by checking Lala is on a high quality diet, tailored to his needs and that he’s getting the right amount of food for his activity level and size. If he’s very hungry, or the food is lacking in fibre or calories, or is just poorly digested, it could mean he’s hungry all the time.

Staffies have a tendency to be quite curious so exploring objects with their mouth is quite common. Train him using the “Leave” command, and substitute the unwanted behaviour by redirecting him to exciting chew toys.

Win a festive collar

WE have six £40 ginger- bread print sets from Leo, Charley and Me ( give away.

They come in small, medium and large, are machine washable and have a comfy lining. For a chance to win, email [email protected] Use subject line LEOCHARLEYand say what size you would prefer.

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Amazon Reviewers Say These Levi's Skinnies Are the 'Perfect Everyday Jeans'

The quest for the perfect pair of jeans is ruthless and stacked with sky-high obstacles everywhere we turn. In one direction there’s sagging denim — and in the other there’s an impossibly tight fit. We even experience both of these problems in just one pair of jeans sometimes!

Pretty much every clothing brand out there makes denim, so narrowing the choices down to find the perfect pair is a lengthy and arduous task. Well, it would be, at least — but we kind of did that part for you already. We found the best jeans from the best brand — and ordering a pair of these babies doesn’t even require shelling out the big bucks. They start under $30!

Get the Levi’s Women’s 711 Skinny Jean starting at just $28 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 16, 2019, but are subject to change.

These Levi’s 711 jeans have hundreds and hundreds of reviewers gushing over everything about them. They say they’re magical — the perfect everyday jeans. Maybe the perfect jeans really do exist, after all! So many are complimenting the denim, calling it almost velvety — and loving how it has just the right amount of stretch but doesn’t sag. They’re so relieved to have found skinny jeans that are actually skinny and not just parading around as such, and can’t get over just how flattering this pair is. They’re even obsessed with smaller details like the spacing of the back pockets. In this case, we’re falling in love everywhere we turn!

These jeans are made of a stretchy cotton blend that’s slim through the hip and thigh and skinny down the leg so it hugs your body rather than constricting or pinching it. It has a mid-rise silhouette with a zip fly and button closure, as well as a traditional five-pocket styling. There are belt loops too! We’d never forget to accessorize.

Get the Levi’s Women’s 711 Skinny Jean starting at just $28 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 16, 2019, but are subject to change.

These jeans are currently available in over 20 variations. There are light-wash options, dark-wash options, distressed options and even patterned options if you’re into leopard print — and who isn’t? They all have super fun names too, like Still Dreamin’ and Ready or Not. We know we’re ready!

To ensure your pair of 711 jeans “flatters, holds and lifts” the way it’s constructed to, make sure to check out the detailed size guide in the photos on Amazon. That way, as soon as your package arrives in the mail, you can slip these bottoms on and go show them off immediately!

Get the Levi’s Women’s 711 Skinny Jean starting at just $28 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, November 16, 2019, but are subject to change.

Not your style? Check out more from Levi’s here and other jeans available at Amazon here!


Check out more of our picks and deals here!

This post is brought to you by Us Weekly’s Shop With Us team. The Shop With Us team aims to highlight products and services our readers might find interesting and useful. Product and service selection, however, is in no way intended to constitute an endorsement by either Us Weekly or of any celebrity mentioned in the post.

The Shop With Us team may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. In addition, Us Weekly receives compensation from the manufacturer of the products we write about when you click on a link and then purchase the product featured in an article. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product or service is featured or recommended. Shop With Us operates independently from advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback at [email protected] Happy shopping!

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Film Review: ‘Line of Duty’

High on energy if low on credibility, “Line of Duty” stars Aaron Eckhart as a cop from Birmingham, Ala., whose day gets a lot more hectic when he’s caught up in a kidnapping whose victim is under immediate mortal threat. This latest from prolific genre helmer Stephen C. Miller is a little off-putting at times with its undercurrent of pro-police, anti-everyone-else rhetoric — though that may play well with some of the target demographic. In any case, action fans looking for a lot of forward motion could do worse than this lively, increasingly over-the-top feature-length chase. It opens Nov. 15 on U.S. screens, day-and-date with on demand.

Officer Frank Penny (Eckhart) is a street cop with a world-weary, borderline-demoralized demeanor (we don’t find out exactly why until much later), starting his day bantering with a favorite neighborhood kid (Elijah Cooper). Some blocks away, his superiors are orchestrating a trap in which they hope to capture one of the kidnappers of Chief Volk’s (Giancarlo Esposito) 11-year-old daughter (Nichelle Williams). But the perp (James Hutchison) gets away, running straight in the direction of Penny, who hears the fracas on police radio. Despite direct orders to stand down, he gives pursuit, leading to a confrontation in which he’s forced to kill the other man.

This is a disaster, as the child is in a drowning chamber with little time left, and the authorities now have no way to discover her location. Penny is promptly stripped of badge and gun for being a “damn cowboy.” Guilt-riddled over having potentially lost an innocent’s life (not for the first time), he decides to immediately continue the search for her on his own — or rather with the dubious assistance of Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton).

She’s a pesky internet live-streaming reporter-of-sorts who’s glommed onto the emergency and has a trite, catchphrase-driven Anti-authoritarianism 101 attitude. As the clock ticks, he’s forced to let her ride along in exchange for use of her car. Their crash-, explosion-, and bullet-laden next hour or so soon entangles them with the remaining kidnapper (Ben McKenzie), a real nutcase with an axe to grind against police in general, and zero hesitation at killing anyone in his path.

Though not exactly inspired or original, most of “Line of Duty” is too giddily propulsive to be dull — even if it does grow rather ridiculous, complete with a late sequence in which people are actually hanging off other people dangling from a TV helicopter over a burning building. There’s a lot of last-second rescues and improbable escapes amid machine-gunfire. But more annoying is writer Jeremy Drysdale’s somewhat reactionary subtext, in which cop Eckhart nobly blames himself for incidents in which he’s not at fault, while the civilian world conversely seems populated almost exclusively by crybabies, weirdos, psychos, and people who just get in a man’s way.

Ava and her apparently sole coworker (Jessica Lu as Clover) at “” are portrayed as young P.C. dilettantes who spout vaguely rebellious clichés about “empowering anyone who stands up and makes a difference” (to which Clover responds “That’s deep, sis”) by providing “the real news” as opposed to “that b.s. fed to you by corporations.” Yet they’re also click-obsessed, illegally eavesdrop on police communications, get hysterical under pressure, and otherwise prompt endless paternal eye-rolling from Penny. Of course, corporate media is even worse, as represented by Dina Meyer’s cynical, ruthless local TV news exec. There are also passing caricatures of society’s supposed ills, such as a black gay bodybuilder in gender-blurring makeup (Gary Peebles), that keep undercutting any serious tension here with condescending broad humor.

If you overlook this crude messaging and just take “Line of Duty” as an action cartoon stacked high with cliffhanging moments, it’s entertaining enough — even the ludicrous arrival of inspirational nonsense and hugs-all-around can be taken as perhaps a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek. Positing Penny as the old-school he-man who barely knows how that dang intranet works, the film nonetheless is very up-to-the-moment in pandering to the notion that nothing is valuable unless it’s watched by some public or another. Not only are nearly Frank and Ava’s adventures streamed online (then picked up by TV), but the finale sees them cheered by a suddenly-materializing rainbow community of ambulance-chasers.

Eckhart gamely throws himself into a very physical role. Characterization-wise, however, he and everyone else here aren’t given much to work with, though they do as well as they can. The talented McKenzie (“Gotham,” “Junebug”) in particular is wasted as a villain who’s so simplistically malevolent, he’s practically foaming at the mouth.

Where “Line” (which until recently was titled “Live!”) excels is in getting a lot of bang for its buck in overall packaging, with solid orchestration of stunt work, crowds, well-chosen locations, and so forth. It’s all maximized by Stan Salfas’ sharp editing and DP Brandon Cox’s widescreen lensing. An occasional CGI element shows its seams, but otherwise Miller proves adept at delivering something close to A-level production values on what were surely B budgetary means. However, as with his recent action-schlock vehicles for Willis, Stallone, Cage, etc. — comprising 10 features in the last seven years — the C-minus material makes you wish he’d aim a little higher.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Line of Duty'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 11, 2019. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

Production:A Saban Films, Lionsgate release of a Saban Entertainment, the Solution Entertainment Group and Ingenious Media presentation of a Hassik Films Ltd, Solution Entertainment Group, Sprocketfeller Pictures production, in association with Heavy Dose Studios, Sentient Entertainment. Producers: Myles Nestel, Craig Chapman, Skip Williamson, Scott LaStaiti, Tiffany Stone, Martin Sprock, Renee Tab, Christopher Tuffin. Executive producers: Marc Gabizon, Markus Aldenhoven, James Swarbrick, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Christelle Conan, Simon Williams, Ryan Johnson, Adam Goldworm, Aaron Eckhart, Lisa Wilson, Stephen Emery, Elsa Ramo, Tiffany Boyle. Co-producers, Peter Fruchtman, Patrick Hibler, Wild Bunch Germany.

Crew:Director: Steven C. Miller. Screenplay: Jeremy Drysdale. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Brandon Cox. Editor: Stan Salfas. Music: The Newton Brothers.

With:Aaron Eckhart, Courtney Eaton, Ben McKenzie, Giancarlo Esposito, Jessica Lu, Dina Meyer, Jan Jeffcoat, Kaj Goldberg, Elijah Cooper, Gary Peebles, James Hutchison, Betsy Landin, Nikola Shreli, J. Cameron Barnett, Nichelle Williams.

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