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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

A June Chicago Tribune story reported on the increasing popularity of therapeutic self-trepanation (drilling a hole in one's head). Trepanation activist Peter Halvorson recalled that drilling into his skull 25 years ago ("Smoke was coming out of the hole," he said) resulted in "a heightened, childlike sense of awareness" and a permanent state of higher consciousness.

In June a jury in Portland, Oregon, awarded $900,000 to a car salesman who said a urologist had kept him addicted to painkillers just so the doctor could hit him up for free auto service. Plaintiff Larry Benson said David R. Rosencrantz started tapping him for freebies 18 years ago, when Benson was a grocer.

David Weinlick, 28, married Elizabeth Runze, 28, in Bloomington, Minnesota, in June after a courtship that consisted of a brief conversation. Weinlick had asked friends to undertake a national search for a bride, promising to marry the woman they chose. His friends interviewed 30 women at a "bridal candidate mixer," then voted. According to Weinlick's rules, his friends got one vote each, friends of the candidates half a vote, and bystanders a fourth of a vote; voting was to continue until one candidate got at least 60 percent. Said search coordinator Steve Fletcher, "This may be an idea that spreads."

Formerly Weird, Now a "Syndrome"

A humane society official told the Washington Post in April that several thousand people in the United States suffer from "animal collector syndrome," accumulating many more pets than they can care for. For example, when health inspectors raided Doris Romeo's "Pets for Life" headquarters last year in Los Angeles they found 589 cats, many emaciated and ill, with feces-covered countertops and floors giving off "a smell you never forget," according to a city vet. Romeo apologized for the condition of the house, saying the cleaning people hadn't been there in three days.

The Majesty of the Law

In June the Vermont Supreme Court rejected the complaint of suspected drunk driver Raymond G. Blouin, who said he had a constitutional right not to have disclosed to police whether he had just belched. Police said the question was necessary because a recent belch might have thrown off Blouin's Breathalyzer result.

In Over Their Heads

In separate episodes in May and June, three people got caught contriving serious hoaxes to cover up minor incidents. A 23-year-old security guard in Zion, Illinois, created an elaborate story about an intruder after he accidentally shot himself in the foot. In Alexandria, Virginia, a boy made up a kidnapping story after he disappeared for a while, depressed over a bad grade; 70 police officers were mobilized. Another boy in Alexandria accidentally dialed 911 at a pay phone and, too embarrassed to admit his error, made up a detailed story about an attempt to kidnap him.

Poor Sense of Smell

In February narcotics officers in Lone Star, Texas, detained a driver and his 18-wheeler when their dogs "detected something," but after unloading the truck discovered it contained nothing but 20 tons of broccoli. And in June a thief stole an 18-wheeler from a truck stop in West Plains, Missouri, but abandoned it after about an hour, apparently when he discovered that it held only 20 tons of liver.

Great Art!

In May students in a fine arts course at Leeds University in England helped by school and private grants totaling about $2,000, created a class project that they said was "designed to challenge people's perception of art" and explore the limits of its definition. The project consisted of the 13 students taking a holiday at a coastal resort in Spain. Not surprisingly, most of the sponsors demanded refunds.

In June an auction of conceptual and minimalist art from the past 30 years at Christie's in New York City exceeded sales goals. The works included Bruce Nauman's concrete block with an audiotape inside of a woman screaming ($288,000), four Sigmar Polke canvases bearing incorrect mathematical equations ($882,000), and On Kawara's seven paintings featuring only the dates May 1-7, 1971 ($574,000).

A February show by Boston performance artist Paul Richard consisted of a room that was completely empty except for a stack of T-shirts for sale for $20 each. "Usually you go to an opening and nobody looks at the art anyway," he said. At a previous show, patrons filed in to watch Richard eating lunch.

San Francisco sculptor Joe Mangrum, who had accumulated $1,480 worth of parking tickets, persuaded the city art commission in March to let him disassemble his 1986 Mazda, pile the pieces in Justin Herman Plaza, and call the sculpture Transmission 98; for his work he collected a $2,000 fee from the city. A spokesperson said the art commission had been unaware of Mangrum's tickets.

Performance artist Bob Powers, in an April interview in the Village Voice: "I would be thrilled if I got a $25,000-a-year grant for the rest of my life. I don't want money for any lofty goals. I want it just because I'm lazy and tired." Among Powers's recent works: "Ode to a Buttered Roll" ("How do you do it? Sixty cents. So tall, so round, so many poppy seeds. Sixty cents....One corner deli owner tried to charge 75. Sixty cents") and a work in which he uttered the same sentence ("No, but I gave you a 20") 30 times.

Least Competent Criminals

A 16-year-old boy was recaptured in Sylmar, California, in April after having escaped from a juvenile detention facility. He'd kicked out a window in the infirmary and had been on the run for about seven hours when he was spotted in line at a McDonald's, still wearing his inmate's uniform of orange pants and a shirt with "Juvenile Hall" printed across the chest.

Recurring Theme

Recent Bobbittizers: Kim Phuong Tran, 38, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in Vancouver, British Columbia, in June. Her husband allegedly was having an affair; she cut off his penis and flushed it down the toilet. Deici Mascada, 19, was sentenced to seven years in prison in Monterey County, California, in May. Her husband was also allegedly having an affair; his member was reattached. In Lima, Peru, in May, Maria Rosa Tayasco, 37, who thought her husband had abused their daughter, was freed when he declined to press charges. His penis was also sent down the toilet. And a man in Bossier City, Louisiana, was charged with filing a false police report saying a woman had Bobbittized him in March. He was found to have done it himself.

Thinning the Herd

A 47-year-old man was killed in Arjay, Kentucky, in June when his lifelong friend Silas Caldwell, 47, missed after he agreed to try to shoot a beer can off the man's head. And a 28-year-old man drowned in Fox Lake in June after an explosive blew a hole in the bottom of his boat. Police theorized that he'd intended to use the explosive to drive fish to the surface so they would be easier to catch.

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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