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News of the Weird



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According to the recent book White Man, Black War, Rhodesian military officers once tortured a black guerrilla by forcing him to listen continuously to a John Denver record played at high volume.

Least-Competent People

William Sibila, 34, was killed in September when he fell 35 feet onto a cement landing while trying to escape from the prison ward of the Nassau County Medical Center in New York. He had misjudged the 55-foot drop and made his bed-sheet rope only 20 feet long.

A robbery at Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits in Birmingham, Alabama, in June was cut short when the robber fled, startled by an oven timer signaling that a batch of biscuits was done.

Ronald McClanahan, 41, was arrested in September when he tried to rob a gun shop in Columbia, Missouri, with a knife. He tried to open the electronic cash register by randomly pushing buttons, but then became frustrated and tried to carry it away until the cord got caught, yanking him to the floor. When an employee approached with a shotgun, McClanahan first lay perfectly still, then bolted up, yelling, "Go ahead and shoot me," and tried to lug the cash register out again. Then he dropped it so he could flee, but when the drawer broke open, he stopped to grab some money. As he ran for the exit, gun-wielding employees blocked him. When police arrived, they had to use force to loosen his grip on the money.

Mary Martinez of San Francisco was sentenced in April for attempting to forge the signature of a well-to-do woman on a check she had presented to the Peninsula Bank in Millbrae, California. The name she tried was Joyce State, who, unknown to Martinez, is the wife of the president of Peninsula Bank.

A man received second- and third-degree burns on his upper body in July when he apparently attempted to steal copper wiring off a live 46-kilovolt line near Cartersville, Georgia. A Georgia Power Company official said copper-wire thefts have increased since the price of metals began to rise.

According to clerk Trena Purvis of the C&W Pawnshop in Mount Gilead, North Carolina, a 29-year-old regular customer took cash and jewelry in an August armed robbery during which he said "I've got a gun" as he was pulling a knife out of his pocket.

In May, a man in Wichita Falls, Texas, was arrested in the office of police chief Curtis Harrelson when he doffed his hat to introduce himself and two packets of marijuana, which he had apparently forgotten were hidden in the hat, fell to the floor. The man had come to the station to recover his impounded car but, having forgotten his ID, was told he had to see the chief personally.

Two Kansas City bank robbers escaped in August after one of the elaborate maneuvers they used to avoid being followed backfired. They had laid on the ground behind them several boards with nails protruding upward but then inadvertently drove over one of them, puncturing a tire and forcing an escape on foot.

Two brothers, John and David Limoli, described as "unpopular" among their neighbors, died in May after a seven-hour standoff with Cleveland police when their house caught fire and they could not escape. Several homemade firebombs the brothers had tried to throw out the window at police caromed off windowsills and back into the house, igniting the fire.

Latest Testosterone Surges

The Reverend Thomas J. Welsch, 39, and his wife, Jean, 40, pleaded guilty in August to five counts of abuse of three teenage girls in Cambridge, Maryland. According to police, on a 1987 camping trip the couple set up a tepee, bathed one of the girls, 17, and tied her legs with rawhide strips, whereupon Welsch, clad only in buckskin, performed a sexual "ceremony."

Reason magazine reports that a survey of hotel bills from last year's convention of religious broadcasters revealed that 80 percent watched an X- rated movie on their hotel room's closed-circuit channel.

Bobby Ray Hicks, 38, was arrested at the Frederick's of Hollywood store in Oklahoma City in August after he wandered around the store a little too long while trying on men's G-strings, exposing himself to store clerks and customers.

Arthur Sharland, 77, was found dead recently in West London sitting in an armchair with two wires from an electric socket attached to his nipples with crocodile clips. A mass of tiny scars, some quite old, suggests that he had indulged in the habit for many years and might simply have misjudged the voltage.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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