9 Medical breakthroughs: In February surgeons removed a cataract from the eye of the National Zoo's six-foot-long Komodo dragon Muffin in the hope that she would better see the studly male Friendty and thus be more likely to mate with him. In January doctors in Johannesburg, South Africa, performed spinal surgery on a ten-foot-long python that had been run over by a car. And in Jackson, Michigan, in February veterinarian Timothy England fitted a stray rooster with artificial legs after amputating his natural ones because of frostbite.
9 Gas in the news: Police in Janesville, Wisconsin, responded to a 911 call in December over a domestic disturbance that the wife said had begun when the husband inappropriately passed gas as they were tucking their son into bed. And in January in Perth, Australia, John Douglas Young, 47, was convicted of a child-abuse charge for offering two boys $5 each to pass gas in his face so that he could later masturbate to the mental picture of the encounter. (Young's unsuccessful defense was in part to recite a long list of movies, books, and TV shows in which passing gas was a theme.)
9 In March in Appleton, Wisconsin, Nadean Cool won a settlement of $2.4 million in her lawsuit against her former psychotherapist, Kenneth Olson. She claimed that he'd persuaded her she had 120 personalities (including that of Satan and of a duck) and then billed her insurance company for group therapy because he said he had to counsel so many people.
Creme de la Weird
9 In October the Washington Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Benjamin R. Hull on a technicality. Hull had been found guilty of defrauding the state worker-compensation office of $96,000 after he admitted that he got a friend to help him shoot himself below the knee of his left leg. (Five years earlier he had tried to take the same leg off with a chain saw but got only partway through because the saw kept malfunctioning.)
9 In January the Australian Medical Journal reported that an electrician who had chewed electrical cable to satisfy his oral fixation when he was forced to work in no-smoking buildings had developed lead poisoning. The man said he had chewed almost a yard of cable a day for nearly ten years because it had a sweet taste, especially near the center.
9 In November a 50-year-old man was arrested in Albuquerque after his 13-year-old stepdaughter told police that he had made her perform a series of bizarre acts that were supposed to toughen her for her quest to get a learner's driving permit. According to her complaint, the girl had to stop her driving lessons with her stepfather whenever he showed her an index card with a written instruction. Among other things, the cards called for her to pour shampoo and dirt on her hair, wear a dog collar, do sit-ups, stand naked in the glare of headlights, and stand tied to a bar with a ball in her mouth.
9 Continental Airlines filed a lawsuit in November in Newark, New Jersey, against Deborah Loeding, who the airline said endangered passengers in order to get revenge on her ex-husband, a pilot. Loeding had baked him some bread, but had surreptitiously laced it with marijuana so that he'd fail the airline's drug test and get fired--which did happen, although he was later reinstated when Continental learned what had happened.
9 In October a judge in Baton Rouge abruptly declared a mistrial in the eight-year-old lawsuit Mary Ann Turner had filed against her ex-husband Alan Ostrowe. The judge said that Turner's testimony was overly theatrical. According to Turner, when she was hospitalized for birth-canal surgery in 1972, Ostrowe, without her permission, persuaded the surgeons to remove her clitoral hood. The couple's eldest son said Ostrowe wanted to "control my mother's sexuality in order to compensate for his sexual inadequacies."
9 In Djakarta, Indonesia, Reuters news service reported in January that a 29-year-old woman, upset with her unfaithful boyfriend, released a half dozen cobras in the crowded karaoke bar where he works.
First Things First
9 The New York Times reported in November on a project by the Picatinny Arsenal in Rockaway Township, New York, to create more environmentally friendly bullets. (Three years earlier the federal government had closed a nearby firing range because spent, leaded bullets were contaminating the soil, endangering people and animals.)
Least Competent Criminal
9 In January Michael Coulter, 32, was arrested for shoplifting in Cookstown, Ireland, having made off with shoes, socks, and boxer shorts. Coulter was not difficult to spot during his getaway. At seven feet five inches, he is reported to be the tallest man in Ireland. Said one officer, "Everyone knows him, and you can see him coming a mile away."
9 In 1995 the Brazilian government's AIDS-awareness campaign made News of the Weird because several men named Braulio had complained publicly that they'd felt humiliation because the main character in the advertising spots--a talking penis--was also named Braulio. In January 1997 the campaign resumed with the main character an unnamed, variously costumed turkey.
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 Belschwender.