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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

According to a March item in London's Daily Telegraph, one or two orangutans disappear from a nature rehabilitation park in remote Sabah, Malaysia, every month. Some of the orangutans have been found in the homes of childless park workers, dressed in toddlers' clothes and with their heads shaved to look more like humans.

At a May hearing, the Ohio state medical board began considering whether to discipline Toledo pediatrician Gary F. Gladieux, 43, who was accused of having sex with three women during their visits to his office. The board cited a 1991 American Medical Association ruling declaring physician-patient sex unethical, but Gladieux says the ruling doesn't apply to him because he had sex not with his patients but with their mothers, who had brought the patients in for their appointments.

In June brothers Geoffrey and Aaron Kuffner were arrested in New Orleans and charged with terrorism for mailing and hand-delivering suspicious packages to local government and news media offices, causing some of the buildings to be evacuated. The packages contained innocuous items and a four-page manifesto vowing that "violent acts of consciousness have only begun." According to police, the men's goal was to call attention to the public's ignorance of poetry, and one of their demands was that all state inaugural speeches be written in iambic pentameter.


In May alarmed employees of the Women's Community Health Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, called police after a car carrying three nuns pulled into the center's parking lot. The employees feared the nuns were the first sign of a large protest, but after several squad cars appeared the nuns explained that they were members of a cloistered order on their way to a doctor's appointment when their car developed alternator trouble.

Latest terrible heating-oil accident: In December a heating-oil company delivered 800 liters of oil into a pipe outside Tom Deline's home in Madoc, Ontario, while he was away. The delivery was meant for Deline's neighbors; he doesn't have a storage tank in his home. Deline said he hopes cleanup work on his basement will be done in time for him to move back in by the end of 1997.

In Memphis, Tennessee, Brandon B. Hughes, 18, in court in March to challenge traffic violations that would probably have earned him only a fine, was arrested on far more serious charges when he raised his hand on the witness stand and a packet containing a gram of cocaine fell out of his pocket.

Latest highway truck spills: a load of french fries on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in April; fortune cookies and duck sauce on a state road outside Charlottesville, Virginia, also in April; five tons of chicken innards on Interstate 64 in Hampton, Virginia, in June; 20 tons of canned Campbell's soup on Interstate 5 in San Diego in February; 200 gallons of human waste on Interstate 270 in Columbus, Ohio, in April; and the next month in Columbus, 22 tons of plastic garbage bags.

In May Phillip Michael was acquitted of a murder charge in Edmonton, Alberta, despite a damaging letter he had written to a friend explicitly detailing the testimony Michael needed from him to beat the rap. According to the prosecutor, Michael missed the friend's street address by one digit, and the letter was returned to the jail, where it was lawfully opened and consequently used in court.


In New York City dental patient Nelson Berrios, 48, suffered a minor back injury in April when he bolted out of the chair and jumped from a second-story window after police rushed into his dentist's office. They were after the dentist. And a month earlier seven people jumped out of a second-story window in New York City when they mistakenly thought police conducting a drug raid next door were actually coming for them. Police ended up arresting them anyway after officers found a bound woman in the apartment from which they had jumped.

In May James Shenkel was charged with aggravated assault in Pittsburgh after rushing to his sister's defense in a domestic dispute. Shenkel's brother-in-law Michael Stefanowicz had allegedly promised to cook manicotti for his wife, Shenkel's sister, but instead fixed spaghetti, which is easier to make. Stefanowicz's wife told him he was lazy, which provoked Stefanowicz to call her a fat pig. When the fight started to get physical, Shenkel allegedly fired a shot at Stefanowicz, but missed.

Medical Milestones

Two Swiss neuroscientists, writing in the May issue of Neurology, presented findings on several dozen people who were previously indifferent to fine cuisine but developed a passion for it following injuries to the right front quadrants of their brains. Citing analogous cases of teetotalers who became alcoholics after similar brain damage, the researchers theorized that such injuries suppress a control mechanism.

In an April Times of London report on his forthcoming book Why Is Sex Fun?, UCLA physiology professor Jared Diamond claims that technology will soon permit men to breast-feed their children, though psychological barriers will remain. Diamond says men have an undeveloped ability to produce milk and that there are thousands of instances on record in which hormonal imbalances have produced actual male lactation.

In May El Tiempo, the leading newspaper of Bogota, Colombia, reported that doctors had spotted a pair of surgical tweezers in a stomach X-ray of Silvio Jimenez, 67. They were left there during an operation in 1950, but Jimenez said that only in recent months had he begun to feel abdominal pain.

In April researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine announced they had created a strain of mice twice the usual size, with broad shoulders and massive hips. The researchers cut out a gene that inhibits muscle growth and believe the same thing can be done for chickens and cattle.

In February sailor Peter Goss, 35, performed surgery on himself to repair an inflamed tendon while he was 1,300 miles off the coast of Chile competing in an around-the-world yacht race. As a guide, Goss used instructions faxed to him by a French doctor.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Shawn Belshwender.

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