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News of the Weird

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Los Angeles hypnotherapist Yvonne Smith said in May that more than 30 people had joined her support group for people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. The group meet monthly in Smith's home to discuss their problems in coping, for example, with memories of aliens' sexual assaults, with aliens' planting of tracking devices inside abductees' bodies, and with abductees' methods of distinguishing between alien abductions and abductions engineered by the CIA. Said Smith, "Because [alien abduction] is controversial, there's still a certain stigma attached to it."

Cliches Come to Life

The Washington Post reported in June that Wang Dan, 24, the Chinese government's "most-wanted" student agitator in the 1989 prodemocracy demonstrations, who was jailed for three years as a dissident, has bought business clothes, has moved to entrepreneurial Guongdong province, and is actively seeking to join money-making enterprises.

In May Mark Kreider of Newcastle, Delaware, a full-time Deadhead, was robbed of $5 and shot in the back following a Grateful Dead concert in Sacramento, California. Kreider could not help police pinpoint where the crime was committed because he said he did not realize he had been shot until at least an hour afterward, when his back began to hurt.

In April a gang attempted to dig a 40-foot tunnel into the Bank of Montreal vault. They had to abandon the plot when they inadvertently disturbed the roots of a tree, which caused the tunnel to collapse.

A March bomb threat to Luigino's pasta plant in Duluth, Minnesota, was traced to a patient in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital. After identifying a likely suspect, a police officer asked a nurse to ask the man gently if he had "made a phone call." When asked, the man abruptly replied, "I didn't make a bomb threat."

A late-1992 survey of the members of the Maryland General Assembly, conducted by an American University graduate student researcher, revealed that three times as many members are "heavy" drinkers as in the state at large.

In November attorney Jay Rothman filed a lawsuit against a Tarzana, California, flower shop that had misplaced a love note that he had composed for his wife and that was to accompany a bouquet on the occasion of the birth of their daughter. Rothman declined to settle the lawsuit because, he said, the note he composed was unique. Said Rothman, "I'm a hard-nosed, aggressive plaintiff's attorney. [Writing the note was] one of the only times in my life that I was really inspired."

A 31-year-old man was killed in Ponoka, Alberta, in May when, in a fit of anger at a bad golf shot, he flung his club. It broke in half, and a jagged end snapped back and speared his neck, cutting his carotid artery.

Stanford University researcher Felicia Pratto reported in October that a person's mental processing system gives more attention to negative images than to positive ones. She said this "automatic vigilance" was probably evolutionary and protected individuals from danger. The only nonnegative stimuli to have such a powerful effect were those associated with reproduction.

Seeds of Our Destruction

In May, to boost morale in war-torn Sarajevo, local fashion designers and the Bosnian army organized a "Miss Besieged Sarajevo" beauty pageant. During a procession onstage, the contestants, some of whose bodies bore shrapnel scars, held a banner reading, in English, "Don't Let Them Kill Us." The 17-year-old winner, questioned by an Associated Press writer, responded, "Plans? I have no plans. I may not even be alive tomorrow."

In June the World Organization Against Torture told the United Nations it had hard evidence of a growing trade in the organs of children, citing a kidnapped boy and girl discovered in Colombia with their eyes missing. The group said street children in Haiti, Guatemala, and Brazil are often systematically killed for their organs.

The Weirdo-American Community

In May Gerald W. LaPre, 40, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, was charged with smuggling 30,000 books out of area libraries, or checking them out with bogus library cards, during a ten-year period and storing them in his house, his car, and a rented storage locker. LaPre once told a reporter that he had a "passion for books that fills a part of me like nothing else."

I Don't Think So

Convicted serial killer Randy Kraft filed a $60 million lawsuit in May against Warner Books and author Dennis McDougal, arguing that their book Angel of Darkness defamed him. Kraft, who is on death row for the sexual torture and murder of 16 men, said the book is unfair in its portrayal of him as a "sick, twisted" man.

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

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