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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In March an 18-year-old dockworker at Roadway Express in Dallas was arrested at a Western Union office and charged with forgery after improperly trying to cash a check made out to his employer. The man produced a photo ID that gave his name as Roadway V. Express. After questioning him, the Western Union manager said, "OK, Mr. Express, I'll be right back [with the money]," but went into another room and called police.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The hog-farming Fox family of Mahaska County, Iowa, which for ten years has been selling vials of boar semen for artificially inseminating sows, recently expanded its operation to include a drive-through window for farmers in a hurry. Said Genette Fox of the playfulness of customers, "'Order of semen and fries'--I've heard that a million times."

Sigma Chemical Company in Saint Louis gained notoriety in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing for making the artificial scents used for training dogs to find bodies amid rubble. According to the March issue of Discover magazine, the company makes these smells: pseudo corpse I (which resembles a body that's been dead fewer than 30 days), pseudo corpse II (more than 30 days), pseudo drowned victim, and pseudo distressed body (which resembles the scent of a person still alive but in shock), with pseudo burned victim in the works.

According to a Reuters News Service report in February, sales are booming for such businesses as the Baltimore firm Stocks & Bonds Limited, which makes special furniture for erotic restraint, discipline, sadism, and masochism. A primary reason for the upsurge is the interest of mainstream couples, some of whom even shop while pushing their kids in strollers. Said an erotic-furniture maker, "Some people get excited about the fact that they might serve coffee to their parents on a table they used to tie each other to the night before."

In December a $60 million lawsuit was filed against Quaker Oats Company by the families of some mentally handicapped children who were allegedly the subjects of the company's experiments in the 40s and 50s. The children were told that eating the oats, which contained radioactive tracers, was part of a science club experiment, when in reality it helped Quaker in its competition with rival Cream of Wheat. The radioactive bits, according to the lawsuit, allowed researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to trace the absorption of the oats' calcium and iron into the body.

In Fremont, California, paramedic Paul Schmidt, 29, was fired in March for running a side business. He and a partner were marketing a set of nine photo cards of gruesome accidents and murders--"Cards of Death"--for $8.95.

Late last year a tavern owner in Halle, Germany, Bernd Helbig, introduced "beersicles" at about $3.50 each.

Family Values

In December New York City welfare authorities took custody of three small children who were discovered, filthy and starving, when the father called police to report that his girlfriend (the kids' mother) was missing. Asked by police why he hadn't fed or cleaned his children himself, Ahmed Aldaeesheh said, "I don't do that."

William Harasymow, 25, and his brother James, 22, were sentenced to 90 days in jail in Edmonton in January for cultivating marijuana in their home. According to the brothers, who'd never been in trouble with the law, the elaborate setup of plants in their basement had been their father's all-consuming passion until he died two months earlier, and the brothers had not yet decided what to do with them. Said William, "You love your dad. But it sucks. He didn't leave us with much."

In January in Palm Harbor, Florida, a 41-year-old ex-pastor pleaded guilty to persuading his daughter, then age 6, to touch him sexually while he videotaped her. Reflecting on the community support for the ex-pastor, county judge Charles Cope rejected the normal three-year prison term for the man and instead sentenced him to house arrest--in the same house where the girl, now 8, lives.

Unclear on the Concept

In the last statement given before his February execution in California for murdering and sexually mutilating 14 teenage boys in 1979, William George Bonin said the death penalty "sends the wrong message" to America's youth.

In February John Howard opened a Ku Klux Klan museum and apparel store called the Redneck Shop in Laurens, South Carolina. Telling a reporter about the reaction he's gotten, Howard said, "The only people I've had a problem with, who took it as an insult and a racial situation, have been blacks. I didn't know blacks were so prejudiced." (Shortly after it opened, a man in a pickup truck rammed the storefront, shutting Howard down.)

In March in Keene, New Hampshire, Judge Philip Mangones declared unconstitutional a search of the dormitory rooms of two Keene State College students. The students had consented to the search, and more than six ounces of marijuana had been found, but the judge said that the students had been too stoned to know what they were doing when they consented.

According to a March Associated Press story, Multimedia Entertainment Incorporated, the producer of the Jerry Springer Show, recently filed a lawsuit against four Toronto comedians who'd fooled the show's staff posing as a couple, their baby-sitter, and her boyfriend on a show themed around men who sleep with their children's baby-sitter. Multimedia says such hoaxes threaten the integrity of daytime talk shows.

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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