The Roman Catholic diocese in Brussels was shaken by two events in March. First eight nuns sold their convent in Bruges without permission for $1.4 million and moved to France, where they used the proceeds to buy a castle, 11 racehorses, and six luxury automobiles. Then a cigar-smoking, defrocked nun from the diocese took over a vacant part of a convent in Nieuwpoort and turned it into a luxury hotel.
Creme de la Weird
Edward Karst, former mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana, was arrested in New Orleans in March after reportedly threatening by mail to kill all members of the state supreme court. One letter read, "Execution is perfectly legal [if] precipitated by a 30-year [history of] character defects by government officials who failed to do their duty." Karst was suspended as a lawyer in 1983 and failed reinstatement in 1986.
In March Christina and Cliff Fields summoned police to their home in San Carlos, California, to help them with their burgeoning pet-rat problem. It had started when they were given one as a gift. Then they purchased two at a pet store. Because rats can have up to five litters per year of up to 11 rats each and begin breeding at two months of age, the Fieldses ended up with over 300 pet rats in their apartment.
Police in Redford, Michigan, charged Dale Roy Dietz with child abuse in January for ordering his child to act (as police described) "like a robot" when he was around his mother, Dietz's estranged wife, for the purpose of irritating her. Dietz reportedly called the nine-year-old boy daily to talk about their "mission" to rattle the mother (whom Dietz called "Fang") and encouraged the boy not to speak or eat or obey and to attack the mother as often as possible. Police say the calls might have changed the boy's personality.
John Troy Seay, 21, who avoided a murder charge by refusing to join his associates in a contract killing of a 19-year-old woman in October, pleaded guilty in Eugene, Oregon, in February to having had sex with the body afterward.
Odds and Ends (Mostly Odds)
Lisa Lyles, winner of a Boston bank's "all the compact discs you can take from Tower Records in two minutes" contest, said she swam laps, practiced yoga, learned "hand-stickiness control," and drew maps of the store's terrain in preparation. She swept up $2,000 worth--five times what the bank had anticipated.
Cuba's communist party expanded Valentine's Day this year into a celebration of "love for one's nation, for one's work, love for one's comrades." Speculation on the part of Cubans in Miami ranged from a belief that the government needed to divert people's attention from economic problems to the possibility that Fidel Castro had fallen in love.
After recent court decisions concluded that overwork contributed to the deaths of several office workers, the Sony Corporation announced that all employees in Japan will be required to take a vacation every year whether they want to or not.
A new political party in Czechoslovakia called Friends of Beer, formed in February, aims to improve the quality of Czech beer while driving down its price.
Fifty-two cars were smashed, 3 people killed, and 30 in jured in a chain-reaction pileup on a downtown bridge in Green Bay in March. The cause was a combination of fog and paper-mill smoke.
The government of Thailand recently requested help from the World Health Organization to determine the cause of the mysterious deaths of "hundreds" of apparently healthy Thai citizens, aged 20 to 40 and working in various countries. Despite extensive tests, the only common denominators are that the workers die in their sleep of heart failure and have blood in their lungs.
In December the government-owned Ugandan telephone company cut off service temporarily to the rest of the government for failure to pay its overdue bill of around $5.4 million.
Michael Doucette, 17, of Concord, New Hampshire, named as the nation's safest teenage driver in a contest last summer, was killed in February when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and smashed into a car driven by a 19-year-old woman, who also died.
In March boxer Geoff McCreesh lost by disqualification in Longbridge, England, when he abandoned his match with Robert McCracken in the third round and leapt out of the ring to participate in a brawl involving first-row fans.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.