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News of the Weird

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The London firm Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson announced in August it would begin offering insurance policies to cover people worried about alien abduction. A premium of about $155 a year would pay an abductee about $160,000 (provided the abductor wasn't from earth) and double that if the insured were impregnated during the abduction. Since alien powers are unknown, men can purchase the impregnation rider also. Said Goodfellow director Simon Burgess, "I personally would not buy [this] policy."

Pushing the envelope in police sex stings: In April a sheriff's spokesman in Fort Collins, Colorado, admitted that police officers had actually had sex with prostitutes during a January sting instead of arresting them at the point when they'd agreed to have sex for money. Said the spokesman, "The officers thought they needed to do what they did to make the case." And in June North Carolina alcohol law-enforcement agents in Jacksonville made similar admissions. One agent testified that he had put his fingers on a woman's genitals in order to "feel it occurring." Said the officer's lawyer, "If this wasn't the proper role of law enforcement, I don't know what is."

Contest mania: In August a federal appeals court in Saint Louis forced Nationwide Insurance Company to award an ex-employee who won a slogan contest "his and hers" Mercedes-Benzes despite the company's claim that it was just kidding about offering the cars as prizes. And in July David Lee filed a lawsuit against the Cafe Santa Fe in Rogers, Arkansas, after it denied him a Jet Ski because he failed to write a reason why he liked a certain menu item on his prizewinning entry form. Lee contends that the required "25 words or less" includes "zero words."

Questionable Judgments

Amid howls of protest, Florida's "vampire rapist" and a beneficiary of the state's early-release prison program, John Crutchley, 49, was let out on 50 years' probation in August after serving only ten years in prison for a heinous blood-drinking rape in 1985. Crutchley, however, violated probation by testing positive for marijuana on the day of his release. He was then sentenced to 50 years behind bars.

In May Linda Siefer, a church secretary, was sentenced to two years in prison for a scheme in which she removed all $20 bills from the collection plates at Saint Michael's Catholic Church in Kalida, Ohio, over a four-year period. Siefer and her husband lived well above their combined $32,000 income, but the scheme didn't come to light until a bank employee noticed there were never any $20 bills in the church's deposits.

In April in Bedford, Virginia, John M. Kirby decided to show off as he drove some friends by a group of police officers. Kirby yelled an insult, and the officers, seeing Kirby's faulty taillight, chased him. According to police, Kirby had marijuana in the truck and a suspended driver's license.

In June, after an investigation in Montreal, coroner Teresa Sourour criticized Fleury Hospital for not immediately coming to the aid of a 75-year-old man who had suffered a heart attack just outside the building. Hospital employees had reportedly discussed going out in the minus-20-degree weather to help the man but decided just to call an ambulance instead. The man died a few minutes later.

In July William Keith Fortner, 35, on probation last year for sending three nude photos of himself to a nurse, pleaded guilty in Saint Louis to sending another one--to the judge who gave him probation. Fortner had left a message on the female judge's voice mail that said: "I really like you. I hope you don't get upset with the picture I [am sending]. I hope you remember me."

After a major riot in April at the Winnipeg jail, supervisors hired temporary cleanup workers from the city. Among those who applied and were hired, according to the Winnipeg Sun, was Stephen Lee Gressman, 30. At the time Gressman was on Manitoba's ten-most-wanted list for extortion and assault. He worked a few days and left town just before being identified.

In July Richard Gallagher was arrested in Mineola, New York, and charged with aggravated harassment after making a telephone call to get help blowing up the high school where he had just lost his job as custodian. The call he made was to a number he had obtained from a friend. Unfortunately for him, the number belonged to Peter King, a U.S. congressman. Said Gallagher to police, "I thought he was one of the boys."

The Democratic Process

In June Scott Glasrud, a teacher in Albuquerque, lost the Republican primary for a state senate seat by two votes. The next month he realized that his father-in-law and mother-in-law's write-in votes for him hadn't been cast in time because of a death in the family.

In August Julian Carlo Fagotti, 30, kicked off his TV ad campaign for a seat on the city council of Curitiba, Brazil, by standing before the camera nude except for one of his brochures held in a strategic spot. Said Fagotti, "[My opponents] are the ones to be ashamed [for how they treat the voters]."

Update

News of the Weird reported in 1991 that the town council in Avon, Colorado, had resorted to a contest to name the new bridge over Eagle River linking I-70 with U.S. 6. Sifting through 84 suggestions, the council voted to give it the official name Bob. In August 1996, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the name Bob is running in second place in an official contest to rename Canada's Northwest Territories province after Nunavut becomes a separate jurisdiction in 1999.

God's Will

In July, 58 worshipers seeking divine protection on an astrologically unlucky day were crushed to death by other stampeding worshipers at two Hindu shrines in the cities of Haridwar and Ujjain, India. And police say that in August in New Orleans, Melvin Hitchens, 66, read the Bible on his front porch, fetched his gun, and shot to death a neighbor with whom he'd been feuding about the cleanliness of their yards.

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 by Shawn Belschwender.

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