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News of the Weird

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In March Pope John Paul II presided over the beatification--which may signal imminent sainthood--of a man whose name gave rise to a popular synonym for a stupid person. The 13th-century theologian John Duns Scotus was a powerful medieval thinker, rivaling Saint Thomas Aquinas, but by the 16th century his disciples had lost an intellectual power struggle and were denounced by the Dutch scholar Erasmus as not exactly bright, which ultimately gave us the term "dunce."

Just Can't Stop Myself

Larry Burchfield, 28, was arrested in Martinsville, Indiana, in November and charged with burglary. He was discovered inside a home at 3 AM, when the owners were awakened by the sound of Burchfield playing their piano. He did not stop playing until police arrived.

In Atlanta John Thomas Harmon, 34, who had just been released after serving 10 years of a 20-year sentence for assault involving incidents of kissing and biting women on the buttocks, was arrested in December and charged in three similar cases (two kissing and one licking).

Recently there have been several reports of grown men appearing in public wearing diapers and little else. Richard L. Beay, 26, was arrested in January in West Allis, Wisconsin, after he asked a female high school student if she would change him. Danny R. Owens, 44, was released by police in Williamsburg, Kentucky, in February and told to go back home to Knoxville, Tennessee, after reports in three states identified him as a habitual diaper wearer. And a 52-year-old man was stopped by police in Contoocook, New Hampshire, in March after he had been seen in a parking lot wearing only a T-shirt and a disposable diaper with duck designs on it.

George S. Jonas, 57, who had just been released from prison after serving 3 years of a 30-year term for burglary and who had announced that his burglary career was over--even calling himself "George Jonas, Master Burglar (Retired)"--was arrested again in October for burglary of a Miami town house. Jonas is the author of the 1980 book The Complete Burglary Prevention Manual--Illustrated, which he wrote while serving another burglary sentence.

The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida was "by far the most flagrant abuser" of the Congressional Record's policy that members of Congress may submit any written material for publication, irrespective of its relevance to congressional business. As of October she had had more than 400 items printed, costing taxpayers $405,000.

In November a Los Angeles jury convicted professional clown Terry ("Clownzo the Clown") Knutson of six counts relating to his messy house and property, including "rodent harborage." Neighbors had complained for 15 years about the garbage, but Knutson was defiant: "Everything here has a purpose. My life doesn't need to be put in order."

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In March a 35-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of burglary in Fort Worth, Texas, when a home owner returned from shopping and discovered him in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet.

A 19-year-old man was killed in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, in February, when a 30-ton boulder fell from a cliff onto his grandparents' mobile home and crushed him while he was watching television. His grandfather was thrown across the room and suffered a broken shoulder.

In October a 30-pound meteorite fell from the sky in Peekskill, New York, passing through a parked 1980 Chevrolet that belonged to Michelle Knapp, 18. She heard a crash, then rushed outside to see a huge crater where her car had been.

Two California miscreants paid a disproportionately high price for their crimes recently: In Chatsworth a 23-year-old man was killed by a train after he fell onto the tracks as he was trying to sneak into a drive-in movie. And in Los Angeles a man in his 20s, who had hid in the housing under a bus in an attempt to escape from jail, was killed when his body became wedged in the axle.

The Weirdo-Anglican Community

In a 1992 issue of Sexual and Marital Therapy Journal, two therapists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London described the "orgasmic reconditioning" they performed on a 20-year-old patient named George. They reported "partial" success in getting George to switch his masturbatory stimuli from the family car, an Austin Metro, to photographs of naked women. George had reported having been aroused only when sitting in the car or when squatting behind it while the engine was running. (Previously, George had been sexually preoccupied with urination by dogs, children, and women.)

Inexplicable

The York County Teen Pregnancy Coalition in Pennsylvania sponsored the first "Great York County Sex-Out" on March 23, urging that no sex acts take place for 24 hours in order to encourage teenage abstinence. The coalition published a list of "substitute" activities that included talking, moonlight walks, cookie baking, and cold showers. The coalition chairman, Joe Fay, said, "If you can control yourself for one day, you can control yourself any day."

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

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