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News of the Weird

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In November a judge in Oakland, California, dismissed the 1992 libel lawsuit More University filed against its former student, Allan Steele, along with Steele's fraud claim. Steele, disillusioned after allegedly paying more than $200,000 in tuition for a "Ph.D. in Sensuality," had called the school merely a cult that featured prostitution and drug use. More's lawyers told the court that Steele was happy enough with the school when it awarded him a certificate for his ability to achieve a "Victor-accepted orgasm" and when he was demonstrating sexual techniques for the campus station KLIT TV.

The Weirdo-American Community

On December 8 the Rhode Island attorney general ended a 20-year legal battle with Bill Davis, getting him to agree to gradually clean up his mountain of old tires in Smithfield; the state had called it a fire hazard. Davis, who estimates he has 33 million tires, started his collection as an investment, hoping to use the rubber in the tires as a source of petroleum in the event of a 1970s-style oil embargo.

Latest Religious Messages

According to a videotape of the May meeting of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Party, guest speaker Reverend Matthew Trewhella told his audience that church congregations should be prepared to fight physically against legal abortions. He said he'd trained his 16-month-old son to identify which finger is his trigger finger and told parents not to play "pin the tail on the donkey" but to substitute an exercise in which a child is blindfolded and learns to take a gun apart and put it back together.

Just before a vote on the school budget in Haddam, Connecticut, about 20 anonymously posted signs appeared around town that read "For Christ's Sake, Vote No." The budget, which had been rejected twice before, passed by 34 votes, and supporters attributed the reversal to the offensiveness of the signs.

Acting on a warning from her priest in Fortaleza, Brazil, unemployed maid Maria Benoiza Nascimento, 39, burned a winning $60,000 lottery ticket in November because she feared going to hell. Nascimento's husband is also unemployed and four of their seven children are seriously ill, but her Assembly of God minister told her not to take "the devil's" money.

Recent religion-related tragedies: In November in Los Angeles a man and his two sons who were preparing to go to church sat in their van in the garage warming the engine and were asphyxiated by exhaust fumes. In August in Brazzaville, Congo, 142 Roman Catholics died in stampedes when 50,000 showed up to meet a priest who supposedly performed miracles. In October in Provo, Utah, Scott Hone, 23, was charged with attempted murder of his wife in a fight that started during a family prayer. And in July in Riviera Beach, Florida, police gunned down Gustavus Jody Francis, 22, who lunged at them with a knife because they tried to stop him from hacking his arm off to prove that Jesus would replace it.

Inexplicable

In August near Leon, New York, Aaron Miller, 17, an Amish man, tried to outrun sheriff's deputies in his buggy. The officers followed patiently in their cruiser for four miles and ultimately charged Miller with traffic violations.

Wayne Rieschel, a prosecutor in Dallas County, Missouri, told reporters in May that, after consulting with the state attorney general's office, he could find no law that had been violated by the owner of a tanning salon who secretly videotaped his female customers nude. Among the 83 victims were Rieschel's wife and daughter.

In April prosecutors in Gastonia, North Carolina, charged Reverend William Darryl Lippard, 40, who was in jail awaiting retrial on a sexual-assault charge, with manufacturing wine in his cell. Jailers confiscated sugar, milk cartons, and glass jars and said Lippard was selling the wine to other inmates.

Last May Saint Peters, Missouri, population 45,000, became the first city in the country to post only metric traffic signs. Overnight Speed Limit 35 signs became Speed Limit 60. Said the public works director, "We're pretty progressive here in Saint Peters." But according to an Associated Press reporter, the director may have misunderstood federal regulations on the timetable for conversion.

Five Portuguese Americans living in Massachusetts went on hunger strikes in November to protest the failure of the cable-television system in Somerville, New Bedford, and Fall River to carry a Portuguese channel as part of its "basic cable" service. The system had planned to make the channel part of its more expensive program package.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Diana Gazes's $29-a-ticket psychic spoon-bending seminar last July reported that Gazes told the 100 attendees that their powers of concentration would "cause an alteration in the spin of the atoms" of a spoon. To achieve that, the student should grasp the spoon in both hands with thumbs underneath the smallest part of the handle and "apply some downward strength." (Not surprisingly, the Chronicle reported, spoons handled in this manner bend fairly easily.) As Gazes shouted "Bend! Bend!" the attendees leapt to their feet, waving spoons and shouting, "I bent!"

Keary Johns, 23, a student and former football player at California State University, Fullerton, filed a lawsuit in June against political-science professor Julian Foster. According to Johns, he was failing Foster's course, and when he asked permission to drop it Foster gave him the option of getting an F or six lashes on his bare bottom. To save his grade-point average, Johns took the spanking, which he now calls inappropriate and humiliating.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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