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News of the Weird


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The Two Rivers Baptist Church in Memphis established a special Christian Halloween exhibit this year to compete with local haunted-house exhibits that church officials fear are tools of the devil. "Halloween used to be fun and silly," said church official Jeff Atwood. "[Now] it encourages occultic activity." One of the rooms in "Judgment House" is "hell," with 140-degree hot-air vents; another room shows Jesus on a throne allowing Christians into heaven while dispatching their non-Christian loved ones to hell. In San Diego the Potter's House Christian Fellowship's Halloween haunted-house exhibit featured skits showing aborted fetuses.

Weird Science

In October a British dermatologist reported that a 26-year-old female patient, involved in hormone therapy to get rid of excess facial hair, suddenly became sexually irresistible to her pet rottweiler. The doctor, writing in the medical journal the Lancet, said the dog "would not leave her alone" and attributed its behavior to changes in the woman's skin secretions.

An eight-month study at the University of Iowa Hospital, released in July and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reported that hospital personnel who work with patients wash their hands less than half as often as rules require. Resulting infections may cost $10 billion a year.

Science News reported in January that male members of a remote Amazonian tribe called the Achuar Jivaro drink an herbal tea each morning that contains as much caffeine as five cups of coffee, but then vomit most of it up in a "macho ritual" to avoid the effects of overdose.

Entomologists from Tel Aviv University have been studying the Oriental hornet, whose skin, they believe, stores solar energy and acts as an organic semiconductor. In a March study the researchers hooked up six of the hornets and obtained enough electricity to run a digital watch for several seconds.

In September the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation reported the development of an odor that makes gamblers bet more. In a study in Las Vegas, slot machines outfitted to emit the odor racked up 45 percent more business. The neurologist who conducted the study predicted that the scent will become widely used in Las Vegas.

People Unclear on the Concept

Swedish justice minister Gun Hellsvik came under criticism in October over a rehabilitation program established to help prison inmates adjust to society. The program included an in-prison session to teach inmates skeet shooting--by letting them practice with shotguns.

In October an envelope containing $15,000 in cash was left anonymously on a chair at the Detroit IRS office with the instruction to apply it "to reduce the national debt."

A 16-year-old boy was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri, in August and charged with the armed robbery of a jewelry store, during which he allegedly shot two people. Police said his motive was to acquire enough money to settle fines for his overdue library books at school.

In April Franciscan friar Father Bede Ferrara handed out coupons in Somerville, Massachusetts, offering his parishioners "50 percent off" of the penance for their sins. He said he thought his parishioners needed a boost because of economic woes in the area, and so offered them the opportunity to atone for a sin by, for example, saying only 15 Hail Marys instead of 30.

In July Judge Robert Zack of Broward County, Florida, found topless hot-dog vendor Terri Cortina not guilty of indecent exposure. In court Zack read aloud a law that stipulated that it is illegal "for any person to expose or exhibit his sexual organs." Said Zack, "I don't think this lady has male sexual organs. I [have] no choice [but to release her]."

The Weirdo-American Community

In August Tobias Allen of Seattle, Washington, a pen pal of convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy, released for sale his new board game Serial Killer. The players choose high-risk or low-risk killings (e.g., killing a politician or a street person, respectively), and the game pieces are plastic babies that represent victims. The game, which has a suggested price of $49.95, comes in packaging modeled on a body bag.

Least Competent Person

Joe Albert Ruiz, 19, was arrested in Santa Maria, California, in September. Police said he had broken into a car in the middle of the night and was in the trunk disconnecting the rear speakers when the trunk closed and locked him in. Neighbors reported strange noises, and a police officer called to the scene heard Ruiz banging on the trunk and yelling, "Let me out!"

Undignified Deaths

Carl Jeffrey, 44, shot himself to death in Phoenix in August after blowing up his home with explosives. Jeffrey had just lost a long battle with the IRS over back taxes and had received notice to vacate the home.

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

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