According to the June issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers in Philadelphia recently found that laboratory rats could learn to get water for themselves just by thinking about it. The researchers discovered which areas of the rats' brains were activated by thirst and rigged a water reservoir to open when triggered by an electrical charge from those areas. Scientists believe the breakthrough will someday enable humans to move artificial limbs.
Adult pedophiles unnecessary: Police in York Haven, Pennsylvania, announced in July that over the last two years at least 17 kids aged 7 to 16 belonged to a club in which they taught each other to have sex. Three days after that the Washington Post reported an unusually high incidence of oral sex among middle school students in the Washington, D.C., area. The kids seemed to consider the practice more the latest trend than an expression of affection.
Creme de la Weird
In April Rene Joly, 34, filed a lawsuit in Toronto against several drugstore chains and the Canadian defense minister, charging that they conspired to kill him by putting poisons in his prescriptions and a microchip in his brain. In May he told reporters, "Genetically speaking, I'm a Martian," having been cloned from material recovered from NASA missions. The college-educated Joly apparently impressed some reporters with his eloquence and respectable demeanor, but one defense lawyer said Joly "has watched too many episodes of The X-Files."
On January 31 worshipers at an annual Hindu festival in Singapore proved their faith by sticking skewers through their skin. The pain is a measure of devotion. According to a Reuters wire-service report, one man let relatives push six-inch stakes through his cheek and tongue, pins into his forehead, and hooks into his chest and back attached to a frame containing religious symbols. Believers say prefestival rituals, including abstaining from sex, help them go into a trance in which they can ignore the pain.
In March Angel Luis Montes, 26, was sentenced in Lamar, Missouri, to probation for receiving stolen property. In court he referred to himself as "Angel Montes Clinton," the president's son, as well as the Unabomber and the husband of "Prince [sic] Diana," with whom he said he fathered 100 children. Montes claimed to be embarrassed by his "father" for carrying on with Monica Lewinsky and said the president needs to keep his private parts "where they belong."
In May a Jerusalem Post reporter interviewed an alleged extraterrestrial by telephone with the help of Adrian Dvir, an engineer who develops computers for the Israeli military. The alien, "Fenix," said he was 200 years old and was calling from the vicinity of Uranus using electronics that translated his speech into Hebrew. Fenix said he chose Dvir for contact because the engineer had enrolled in psychic-training courses monitored by Fenix's race, the Kliendcontlars. Fenix called Dvir (from a number blocked by Caller ID) and spoke for 85 minutes.
At his June pretrial hearing in Worcester, Massachusetts, on racketeering charges, Vincent "Gigi Portalla" Marino claimed the federal government implanted a tracking device in his buttocks when he was in the hospital in 1996 to have a bullet removed. A Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman denied the charge, even though Marino said a DEA agent once asked him to sign a release form to let the feds remove the device.
Unclear on the Concept
In June in Ottawa, Ontario, Richard Hamilton, 29, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for robbing a fast-food restaurant. Hamilton had pulled a .32 caliber bullet from his pocket, waved it around, said he had more where that came from, and demanded money from the cash drawer. He got about $200 but was apprehended a few minutes later.
Kikui Tomoe, 79, habitual pickpocket arrested in Tokyo in April with the wallet of a 52-year-old woman: "When I see wallets in a crowd, I feel as if they are calling out to me to take them."
Republican presidential candidate Dan Quayle, commenting in May on Crossfire about the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado: "You're not there to be just the child's best friend. You're there as a parent. And if you see a sawed-off shotgun or whatever else laying around [the child's room], take it away."
Throughout the spring in South America, South Africa, Canada, and the United States, hundreds of worshipers claimed that gold teeth and gold fillings have appeared spontaneously in their mouths as a result of prayer. Pastor Dennis Morgan-Dohner of Big God Ministries in Indiana boasted that God gave him a platinum filling. However, two of the claimants, Canadian TV evangelists Dick Dewert and William Thiessen, were forced to issue corrections when their dentists reminded them that their fillings had been installed the conventional way. Said Thiessen, "I [now tell] people to please check their dental records before they declare a miracle."
In 1988 Iranian Merhan Nasseri, then 46, landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris after being denied entry into England because his passport and United Nations refugee certificate had been stolen. No country would take him in without papers, including France, and he has lived in Terminal One ever since. News of the Weird reported on Nasseri in 1991, 1995, and 1998. In July Belgium granted Nasseri refugee status, but at press time he had not decided whether he wanted to leave the airport.
In the Last Month
Police in Winnipeg confiscated 800 marijuana plants from a storage locker when the owner forgot to pay the rent. In Santa Clara, California, the robbery of a gun range was foiled when an employee shot the suspect in the shoulder. A dairy farmer, distraught over his son's recent suicide at Niagara Falls, wielded a 3,000-gallon manure spreader in a standoff with Falls police and threatened to hose down tourists. And Americans Billy Mitchell and Steve Keiner quietly added to the nation's sports history: Mitchell posted the first perfect game in the 19-year history of Pac-Man in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, and in Coney Island Keiner wrested the Mustard Yellow International Belt from a Japanese man by eating 20 hot dogs in 12 minutes.
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/Shawn Belschwender.