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News of the Weird

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Leady Story

Professor George Harker, chairman of Western Illinois University's department of recreation and tourism and an expert on the philosophy of leisure, was formally charged in March by school officials with taking excessive vacation time and shirking some university duties. Said Harker, "I try to work my own personal experiences into the classroom." Harker said his colleagues are probably jealous that he is a nationally known expert on nude beaches.

Grown-Ups

In January, a judge in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, forwarded to the grand jury charges by a 12-year-old boy that he was forced to participate in sex orgies with his mother, her husband, and the couple's female housekeeper. The housekeeper had later been fired for "playing house" (having sex) with the boy out of the context of the "family" unit.

In December, a school bus driver in Del Valle, Texas, was running a half hour late on his route because he stopped to write up reports on unruly children. Several worried parents began to search for the bus, but when they found it they were not able to retrieve their kids because the driver had locked the doors, citing rules against discharging passengers except at official stops. The driver drove away with angry parents banging on the bus and hanging on the doors and with others chasing the bus in a 20-car caravan. After driving to the bus office, the driver fled from the bus, but at least one parent got in a good punch.

In December Canadian postal authorities were investigating which volunteer, of a group assigned to write responses to kids' Santa Claus letters, wrote a four-year-old Oshawa girl (who had requested a doll and had promised to leave milk and cookies), "Stop writing, you bitch."

Taipei police, wearing shields, were called to the parliament in December to quell a rumble, started when the opposition party's bill to reduce jail sentences for antigovernment protesters was defeated. Teacups and fruit flew through the air, and furniture (including many wastebaskets and the speaker's chair) was heaved onto the floor.

In January, the speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives banned liquor on the floor, cutting off the tradition of cans of Donald Duck orange juice into which vodka had been poured. Also prohibited were popcorn fights, paperwad fights, pizza parties, and naps.

High school teacher Peter Mayall Galloway was arrested in January in Quinlan, Texas, and accused of bribing two of his failing students to break into his estranged wife's home in exchange for passing grades.

In November in Waverly, Texas, high school football coach Larry Spacek and his assistant were suspended for their attempts to convince a 14-year-old boy to improve his grades so he could make the team. Spacek grabbed the boy and had started arranging to hang him by the neck from the ceiling of his office when the assistant, saying he had a "better idea," grabbed the boy in a hammerlock and held a pistol to his head.

Oops!

Because of a clerical error, the U.S. Supreme Court in March attached Ohio inmate Martin Crago's unsuccessful appeal to the rejection of petitions from several prisoners on death row. In doing so, the court was formally pronouncing that it was constitutionally OK to execute Crago, despite the fact that he had only been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The superintendent of the Floyd County, North Carolina, school system apologized in February for the mistake of one of his teachers. In the lesson on Martin Luther King Jr., the teacher had told the class that Rosa Parks (who set off the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955) was the person who assassinated King in 1968.

Two men kidnapped a woman from her home in Woodland Hills, California, in December. After binding her, carrying her to their hideout, and waiting 28 hours to heighten her husband's anxiety, they made her call him and demand $35,000 ransom. Upon overhearing the conversation, they realized that they had gone to the wrong house and that she was not the one they had intended to kidnap. They apologized and let her go, wishing her "Merry Christmas."

Patrick Pinnock, 30, was arrested for burglary in Hartford, Connecticut, in January when he broke into an apartment to get money for drugs. It was the apartment of two police officers, who were awakened by the noise and made a quick arrest.

Gailen Byland, 35, accidentally shot himself in the buttocks while warming up his car in Anchorage, Alaska, in November. He was wearing a gun and holster and bumped the steering wheel, causing the gun to cock. When he tried to take it out to uncock it, it went off.

On a Saturday morning last June, two men, searching for a place to purchase traveler's checks, walked through the front door of a bank in West Hollywood, California. The bank, whose lights were on, was closed, as it does not do business on Saturday. Apparently the janitorial crew forgot to lock up.

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

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