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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In November radio evangelist Reverend Joseph R. Chambers of Charlotte, North Carolina, issued a warning that Barney, the TV dinosaur, is a tool of Satan because he teaches kids to love others in spite of their differences. In September Baptist Reverend Charles Mainous, Pastor Tom Coffman, and other ministers in the Columbus, Ohio, area issued a similar warning about the Reverend Billy Graham, who Coffman said is "helping the anti-Christ" by bringing various religions together.

Questionable Judgments

David Schlemm, in the Milwaukee County House of Corrections for battering Renae Hertlein, applied for a Thanksgiving Day pass under the jail's liberal holiday policy. Employees granted his request even though he'd written down Hertlein's address as his destination. Fifteen minutes after Schlemm left, a hysterical Hertlein called the police because Schlemm was trying to break in.

Blaise Pugh was arrested in Washington, D.C., in September after he made several boasts on a taped episode of the Sally Jessy Raphael TV show about having violated parole. Pugh told a surprised Raphael that he had no fear of being exposed on television. Federal marshals raided his home while the show was being aired and found Pugh watching himself on TV.

In April a French physician addressing the American Burn Association annual meeting in Cincinnati said a prescription psoriasis drug is being misused in his country to accelerate suntanning. He reported on the cases of 12 women who had burned an average 95 percent of their skin. The exposure also radically increased their risk of skin cancer.

The Associated Press reported in July that the defect rate for condoms dispensed in Arkansas state health clinics and schools was more than ten times higher than the rate tolerated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that the FDA considered getting a court order to seize the condoms. However, the Arkansas Health Department, then under the direction of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, decided that keeping the defect rate secret would "serve a greater public health purpose" because the public would not lose confidence in condoms.

Brazilian farm laborer Francisco Asis dos Santos was hospitalized near Sao Paulo in November after he shot himself in the eye. He told doctors he'd had a bad toothache and tried to shoot the tooth out, but missed.

In August the Maine supreme court finally rejected the appeal of Douglas Merrill, who'd sought damages from the Central Maine Power Company after he was badly burned in a 1976 incident. He'd been trying to cook an eel using a live electrical line at a Maine Power substation.

In August in Kennett, Missouri, Larry White pleaded guilty to burglary just before trial and was sentenced to six years in prison. He'd tried to eliminate the possibility of a shoe print when he kicked open a door by removing his shoe. But he left a clear, identifiable footprint, which is more useful to detectives.

For a November pep-rally contest four girls representing the four classes at Silverton Union High School in Oregon vied to see who could sit the longest on a block of dry ice, which is much colder than ordinary ice. The stunt lasted only 15 minutes, but the four were rushed to the hospital with second- and third-degree burns.

An unidentified man wound up in a Phoenix hospital in critical condition in December after allegedly robbing a Whataburger restaurant and fleeing. The man's car crashed into a bridge railing during the police chase; quickly deciding his chances were better in the river, he dived in headfirst. The river was dry.

In December a 32-year-old man drowned near Fort Worth, Texas, in a pond just off the 17th hole of the Lancaster municipal golf course; he'd been diving to salvage golf balls. Three days later in West Haven, Connecticut, a 42-year-old man who'd just safely dashed across six lanes of I-95 was killed by a car when he went back onto the highway to retrieve his hat.

In November a jury in Columbia, Missouri, convicted Elmer Tatum, 35, of robbery, based in part on the disguise he used. A witness said the robber wore a large black garbage bag over his body with only one hole cut out for his right arm. Tatum's left arm had long ago been amputated.

According to police in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Michael Wright and Steven Bean, both age 18, confessed in November to robbing a gas station. The two were hospitalized at the time of their confessions because each had been shot in the shoulder. They'd claimed another man had committed the robbery and shot them during his getaway, but confessed they'd shot each other.

The Weirdo-American Community

Terry Mount, 48, was charged with criminal trespassing in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in September. According to police, Mount, the maintenance supervisor of a large apartment building, had entered at least 20 apartments and stuffed men's magazines, women's underpants, condoms, and other sexually oriented items behind heating vents.

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

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