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News of the Weird



Lead Story

An unidentified man created a stir in London in September by patrolling the streets in a superhero costume--gold cape, boots, and goggles with a skintight blue suit--and offering to help motorists whose cars had been immobilized by Denver boots. "Angle Grinder Man," who says he works as an office clerk during the day, claims he's cut the boots from more than a dozen vehicles so far, and though he knows what he's doing is against the law, he doesn't mind taking the risk to provide a "public service." He maintains a Web site and a hotline to publicize his crusade (he refuses payment), and despite warnings from police he says he has no plans to stop, adding, "I like wearing the costume."

People Different From Us

In September in Cincinnati, Ohio, Matthew Long (who weighs 116 pounds and has only one leg) was acquitted of assaulting his girlfriend, Vicki Smith (250 pounds), who claimed he'd choked her with their dog's leash. (Police could not find a leash at the scene, supposedly because the dog had eaten it.) Long's version of events was that he'd threatened to kill himself in front of Smith (though both are already married to other people, he believed she was seeing a third man), and when she tried to leave he grabbed her to try to keep her from walking out, clinging to her as she dragged him through the house. ("Love does that," he added.) After Smith admitted in court that she could throw Long around "like a rag doll," the judge found him not guilty.

More Things to Worry About

Cambodia plans to create a tourism zone at the cremation site of dictator Pol Pot, whose Khmer Rouge regime ran the "killing fields" where two million people died; though there are more than 19,000 mass graves throughout the country, the government has passed them over to spend millions rebuilding the offices and hideouts of several Khmer Rouge leaders and erecting a museum and theater complex nearby. And in September, Derrick and Patricia Cogan of Bristol, England, managed to enjoy a weeklong holiday in their RV, even though it had just suffered $3,300 in damage when it was hit by a cow that fell into the quarry where they store the vehicle.

Least Competent Criminals

In July in Portland, Oregon, Lyle Hartford Van Dyke Jr. was sentenced to eight years in jail for trying to pass $3 million in bogus currency, some of which bore a photo of the Queen of England. And in September in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, 24-year-old Michael Christopher Harris was arrested after he tried to pass a $200 bill--labeled a "Moral Reserve Note" and carrying a picture of George W. Bush--at a Blue Flame convenience store. Police determined that Harris had already bought groceries at a local Food Lion with one of the bills, and had been given 50 dollars in change.

Science on the Edge

In August scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, who were tracking whales and studying their excrement (DNA analysis of feces can determine an animal's diet noninvasively), achieved what they believe is a historical first: they captured photographic evidence of a whale fart as it bubbled to the surface near their ship. Said researcher Nick Gales, "The general rule that flatulence is worse than halitosis is certainly also true for whales."

Leading Economic Indicators

An August New York Daily News report on housing in Manhattan included these recent offerings: a 250-square-foot apartment near Gramercy Park for $167,500; a 240-square-foot walk-up on W. 10th Street for $179,900; and a 160-square-foot co-op in the West Village for $135,000 (quickly sold).

In July retired developer Bill Martin, 65, announced that he had agreed to buy a dilapidated nudist park in Hudson, Florida, formerly notorious for its racist policies, and convert it into an unsegregated, family-oriented Christian nudist resort. (He plans to call it "Club Natura.") Said Martin, "Body shame is an indicator of our alienation from God, self, and others. It is a bondage from hell and, according to the Bible, a direct result of Satan's deception."

The Perpetual Campaign to Make Everyone Perfect

In August in Melbourne, Australia, at least eight child-care centers prohibited children from dressing up as superheroes, lest it encourage playground bullying and violence. In May a primary school near Birmingham, England, banned parents from its annual sports day because spectators embarrass children who do not win the games or races. Also in August, an Irish government minister discussing the ramifications of a proposed workplace smoking ban encouraged churches to use incense sparingly, because it might harm altar boys and girls regularly exposed to it.

In the Last Month

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (whose net worth is estimated at over $4 billion) was rejected for a Sears credit card as he shopped in Queens to publicize proposed changes in city sales taxes. A spokesman for President Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador was scheduled to give a TV interview to publicize a campaign to address Ecuadorans' notorious indifference to punctuality, but he got to the station late. And in Athens, Georgia, a 42-year-old salesman for Tires Plus was arrested after offering a female customer four tires for sex.

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

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