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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In July a 32-year-old woman who works in the wardrobe department at Universal Studios in Hollywood got lost while driving on the lot and found herself following a tram. The tram, which was carrying studio visitors, proceeded down the middle of the "Red Sea" attraction, where the waters are mechanically "parted" for the tram. However, the instant the tram is through, the water is released; the woman was trapped in the middle of the "sea" for about an hour until fire fighters rescued her.

News of the Judgment Impaired

Reuters News Service reported in August that prisons in Romania are experiencing a wave of inmates hammering nails into their skulls so they'll be transferred from overcrowded cells to prison hospitals. Nails that go an inch deep or less are removed without surgery, but several men have driven the nails deeper into their brains.

In July the town council in Peru, Vermont, ordered Roland Williams out of his house for a month while authorities cleaned the place up. Williams had been purchasing large quantities of dog food and cola every day to feed hundreds of rats that had gathered on his property. And New York City officials reported in May that a woman feeding cereal to rats in her apartment and singing to them also slept in a chair so they could have her bed.

In March in Durham, North Carolina, suspected drug dealer Anthony Mason, 21, took off running when police attempted to question him. Mason was wearing fashionably droopy sweatpants, and during the chase they slipped down his legs, sending him sprawling. He was quickly arrested.

Police in Coldwater, Ontario, suspected that potential thieves had placed the bomb that exploded inside the night deposit box at the Toronto-Dominion Bank in June. However, Constable Doug Langlois said he doubted the culprits got any of the money, because the blast sent the several thousand dollars inside flying through the air and brought neighbors out to fight for whatever money hadn't been burned or shredded.

In June police in Morristown, New Jersey, arrested Stanley Robinson, 34, for drug possession. Robinson had stopped his car to allow a parade with police escorts to pass. About a dozen officers were standing in front of Robinson's car when he decided to pass the time by counting the ten vials of cocaine he had with him.

Jill Mayfield, 21, accepted the marriage proposal of Doyle Kelley, 35, in Joplin, Missouri, in June. It would be Kelley's third marriage; Joplin police have charged him with strangling his first wife and drowning the second in a bathtub. And in April Lillian Elease Lewis, 42, married Lucien Samuel Sherrod Jr. in Nashville, Tennessee, even though Sherrod was incarcerated with charges against him for killing his second wife and an indictment against him for attempted murder of his first wife.

In May 1993 Eric Jason Fann, then 21, was in jail in Kansas awaiting extradition to serve time in Texas for burglary. According to his later confession, Fann so feared Texas prisons that he threatened to kill President Clinton, figuring such a threat would get him a federal prison sentence instead of the Texas time. In July 1994 he was convicted and indeed sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, but the sentence is to start at the end of his Texas sentence.

In January robbery suspect Phillip Christopher Hines, 23, was shot by police in Odenton, Maryland, inside the grocery store he was accused of robbing. According to police, Hines charged at them while yelling "Bang! Bang!"

In July officials at California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo set up a video camera to find out who was responsible for a rash of vending-machine break-ins on campus. One man was caught on tape and arrested, and the police seized his truck. The Los Angeles Times reported that the man later paid the impoundment fee on the truck with 924 quarters.

John Blumberg, a high school history teacher in Kissimmee, Florida, was suspended for five days recently for poor judgment in staging a reenactment for his class of the assassination of President Kennedy. Blumberg took the class out into a field and had a student fire his father's rifle, which was the same model as the one used by Lee Harvey Oswald, three times at a target as far away as Kennedy was from Oswald, to demonstrate Oswald's firing pattern.

Customs officials aided by drug-sniffing dogs arrested Mary Gray, 43, of Chicago at O'Hare Airport in June as she returned from Jamaica with 27 pounds of marijuana in her suitcase. She said she thought the marijuana would be undetectable because it was sprinkled with a "magic voodoo potion" she'd bought from a witch doctor in Jamaica.

The Weirdo-American Community

In April in Rochester, New York, Jeffrey Watkins, 24, was convicted of breaking into five mausoleums and of stealing the skull of a woman who died in 1933. Watkins, who refers to himself as "the Grinch," wrote in a confession that he had slept with remains inside coffins: "I'm a walker of both sides. What I mean is good and evil. I feel safe with the dead, and I can trust them. I need their company to make me peaceful inside."

Least Justifiable Homicide

On July 16 a 21-year-old man was fatally stabbed in the chest in a New York City subway train. Witnesses said he was stabbed because he was apparently victorious in a staring contest with the man who killed him.

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

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