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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

The lingering influence of Mike Tyson: In February a 35-year-old mother in West Monroe, Louisiana, allegedly bit a teacher, a teacher's aide, and the principal during a parent-teacher conference. And in January a couple in Clay County, Kentucky, filed assault charges on behalf of their son against his high school basketball coach, Bobby Keith, for allegedly biting the kid during a game. Also in January, a Nebraska court of appeals ruled that teeth are not a "dangerous weapon" under state law and that bites should therefore be considered minor assaults.

The London Daily Telegraph reported in January on the thriving clinics of Dr. Robert Lefever, who specializes in helping people who are obsessed with helping other people. Among the 500 patients a year he sees in London and Kent are a number of women who compulsively marry alcoholics so they can cure them. Another recent patient was hospitalized after taking care of an overweight woman confined to a wheelchair; she was exhausted from pushing the woman around.

Timothy Lobdell, 20, escaped from Alaska's Fairbanks Correctional Center in January but was picked up the next day after he was recognized by several people. Lobdell, who was awaiting sentencing for assaulting a police officer, has an expletive (the reports did not reveal the specific word) tattooed in inch-high letters on his left cheek.

The Litigious Society

Bowler Sheila Torimino filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Montclaire Bowl in Edwardsville, Illinois, in December after a piece of popcorn stuck to her shoe caused her to lose her balance during her approach and sent her sprawling. She claimed Montclaire Bowl should have posted warnings about popcorn on the floor.

In November Vickie Dugan, who had been fired from her job of women's softball coach at Oregon State University, won $1 million from a jury in her sex discrimination lawsuit. Dugan showed she was paid less than the men's softball coach and argued that both her win-loss record (9-112 in conference games, 0-24 her last season) and the fact that two mostly female search committees had recommended she be replaced were irrelevant.

In December prison inmate Patrick McGuire, 58, won about $52,000 from a facility in Kingston, Ontario, for a 1988 injury he suffered when a bale of hay fell on him during a work detail. He was in prison for murdering his wife.

A Hindu man, Mukesh K. Rai, filed a lawsuit in Ventura, California, in January against Taco Bell for giving him a beef burrito instead of a bean burrito, which for him is "the equivalent of eating his ancestors," said his lawyer. Rai claims he required medical attention, was forced to miss work, and will have to travel to India for "purification." Taco Bell had offered to exchange the beef burrito for a bean one but, according to Rai, refused to refund him the price difference between the two.

The family of Karen Seaton, who died in 1995 after falling off a bar stool and hitting her head at Wild Willie's in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a lawsuit in January against the bar for having served her too much to drink.

In September Anoki P. Sultan filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., against Roman Catholic Archbishop James Hickey, claiming that the church was responsible for the devil taking over his body in 1983. Sultan said the possession accounted for his being out of work, dropping out of college, mental illness, smoking cigarettes, speaking in tongues, and engaging in homosexual acts. He sought either $100 million or an exorcism. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Weird Science

A December issue of the British medical journal the Lancet featured the case of a 44-year-old woman who had been treated for bouts of spontaneous orgasms. The incidents occurred approximately every two weeks, lasted for about a minute, and, according to her physicians, "were neither particularly pleasurable nor satisfying because they were out of her control." Doctors detected an abnormality on the right side of her brain and treated her with epilepsy medicine.

In a September issue of New Scientist, researchers in Germany revealed that a type of hermaphroditic flatworm mates through what they call "penis fencing." In bouts that can last up to an hour, one worm lashes out with its penis to attempt to inject sperm into another, while the potential mate does the same. Often both worms are left severely punctured.

University of Texas sociologist David Buss told reporters in September that interviews he conducted with 107 couples reveal that certain behaviors are highly indicative of a tendency toward infidelity. Among them: arriving late for dinners or meetings, spending a lot of time looking in the mirror, forgetting to thank friends for favors, laughing at injured animals, running up debts, and walking out of a room without turning off the light.

A British research team, writing in the December issue of Nature Genetics, identified a gene disorder that makes some people smell like rotting fish. Most people produce an enzyme to absorb a foul-smelling protein made by bacteria in the stomach, but in those who can't produce the enzyme, the protein seeps out through their breath or perspiration. Said one researcher, "These are severely isolated, depressed, and lonely people."

Sports News

In January police in Istanbul, Turkey, confiscated 121 cleavers and scimitars and arrested 114 people before a soccer game against visiting Bursaspor. And in November someone fired a small tracer rocket during Yugoslavia's national championship basketball game in front of 7,000 fans in Belgrade; the rocket hit acting mayor Milan Bozic, burning him and others and setting off a melee.

Recurring Themes

Latest prices charged by parents selling their kids: $7,400, in Covington, Louisiana, in January; $1,000, in Orlando, Florida, also in January. Latest attempted robbery in which the unarmed perp simulates a gun with his thumb and forefinger but doesn't have his hand in his pocket at the time: La Ronge, Saskatchewan, in December.

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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