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News of the Weird



Lead Story

A London firm recently began marketing cigarettes under the brand name "Death." Said firm director B.J. Cunningham, "I'm being honest. I am selling death." Every package features a skull and crossbones and this warning: "Cigarettes are addictive and debilitating. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you smoke, quit." Cunningham, a heavy smoker, said sales are going fine.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In October outside the airport in Paducah, Kentucky, an unidentified man who had been seen earlier trying to trade his leather jacket for a ticket to California was killed when he fell off the wing of a Northwest Airlines commuter plane, which he was hitching a ride on, at an altitude of 300 feet.

In November 32-year-old Danny Shaune Clemons was released from the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Greensburg (after having served five years for assault and burglary) and was by custom given $75 by the state to tide him over. Less than an hour later, while waiting for a train to take him to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where a job awaited him, he was robbed.

William James Oden, 20, tried to break into a Pancake Pantry restaurant in Nashville in September through, for some reason, an air duct on top of the building. Because the duct was caked with grease, he slid down too fast and became snagged in the vent with his arm lodged tightly under his neck, strangling himself to death.

James Bullock and Paul McGuire, both 22, after netting $8,000 in a robbery in the Bronx, New York, ran into a traffic jam and leapt over the side rail of a four-story elevated roadway, landing in an abandoned lot full of broken glass. One was critically injured, the other suffered minor injuries, and both were captured easily.

Bobby Joe Reid died in December in Taylors, South Carolina, of a seizure and cerebral hemorrhaging while having sex with his married girlfriend on the floor of her living room. The frightened woman dragged Reid into her backyard and then called police to report a prowler. Reid still had his pants around his ankles when police arrived.

People Unclear on the Concept

According to the Economist, a government scientist in Wales discovered a way to grow four-leaf clovers after cracking the plant's genetic code last year. He plans to start marketing them this year.

To resolve a neighborhood noise dispute in San Luis Obispo, California, municipal judge Donald Umhofer ruled in December that the three basset hounds belonging to Bruce and Brigitte Howey may bark only once an hour, for no more than two minutes at a time, and must remain silent from 8 PM until 8 AM.

The U.S. Treasury Department reported in September that the latest monthly tally of unsolicited contributions toward retiring the national debt was 22, ranging from $5 to $45,344. About $20 million has been raised since 1961. The national debt is currently $3.9 trillion--about $15,000 per person.

In August police in Wichita, Kansas, reported they suspected that a man had beaten his three children with a board because they had refused to wear red ribbons in support of antiabortion protests.

The Tokyo newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported in November that a good-conduct code had been drawn up by Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest (30,000 members) crime syndicate, in which they vowed not to "inconvenience the public" as the Japanese police begin a crackdown on underworld crime. According to the code, members may not throw cigarette butts on the ground, make grand entries into rooms, or give out business cards with the gang's symbol.

Least Competent Person

Latest negative-cash-flow robbery: A man held up a Circle K store in Waco, Texas, on November 29 after first diverting the clerk's attention by putting a $20 bill on the counter and asking for change. He then pulled a gun and demanded the entire contents of the cash register, which amounted to $15. He left the $20 bill on the counter as he fled.

Creme de la Weird

In December police in Genoa, New York, shot and killed farmer Rolf Rahn, 37, who had shot a plumber during an argument and then holed up for 16 hours. Rahn claimed that he was an alien and the plumber an android, and demanded that police provide him with a spaceship for his getaway. Later investigators discovered the remains of 50 cats in Rahn's freezer, some in plastic bags with labels indicating that their cause of death was "because of a demon."

The Diminishing Value of Life

Robert G. Hill, 24, was shot to death in Tarpon Springs, Florida, in September and his roommate was wounded, allegedly by Charles W. Sutton, who had become exasperated that the roommate would not acknowledge the magnificence of Sutton's car.

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

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