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News of the Weird


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Lead Stories

Parrots in the news in August: Roger Schlup filed a $200,000 lawsuit against a veterinarian in Sydney, Australia, claiming he failed to fix his macaw's broken leg and instead broke the other one. Macaws can mate only while standing at odd angles on perches, and Schlup figures "Nelson" is done as a procreator. And in Chicago transportation analyst Steve Lewins, who claims he has information on alleged federal government complicity in the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the Challenger explosion, said he's had to protect himself against death threats by having a "killer parrot" guard his home.

The Des Moines Register reported in July that among the treasures uncovered at the excavation site of the steamboat Bertrand, which sank on the Missouri River near Omaha in 1865, were four pocketknives with glass rivets that contained pornographic photos. They're evidence, said conservator Jeanne Harold, that people haven't changed much in 131 years.

Police Blotter

Crime California-style: In August in Toronto two jewelry-store robbers made a successful getaway after they stole a car in front of the store and drove it to their getaway car--parked a half block away.

In Edmonton, Alberta, in May police received a report that an armored car was weaving erratically on the road and that a guard appeared to be signaling for help by repeatedly swinging a door open. Thinking there was a holdup, officers in six cars gave chase, only to find out that one of the guards had farted, and the other guard was trying to air out the cab.

In June a burglar raided an impotence clinic in Melbourne, Australia, stealing dozens of bottles of drugs, including some powerful enough to induce five-day erections. Police were not certain whether the burglary was a prank or was committed by someone with a serious need.

Steve Tsoukalis, 59, manager of the Raintree Super Foodtown in Freehold Township, New Jersey, was charged with a hunting law violation in March after he fired his .410-gauge shotgun at some sparrows that had flown inside the store. Foodtown employees said wild birds flying into the store had been a problem for a while and that this was Tsoukalis's preferred method for dealing with them.

According to police in Huntington Beach, California, in June, it was the incessant chatter of Karen Pedersen, 52, that caused the man who was stealing her truck to give up and flee. She had intercepted the man before he could drive it away, and despite his having a gun, she just began talking nonstop. Said Pedersen later, "He sounded irritated. He said, 'I can't believe how this is going. This is like something out of the movies.'" After she gave him a T-shirt to wipe his fingerprints off the truck, he fled.

In March the police department in Nagasaki, Japan, began an investigation of several officers who allegedly helped a suspect get a gun while in custody. According to a witness, the officers promised the man a lighter sentence if he would buy a gun from a friend over the phone, have it delivered to the police station, and then let the officers confiscate it so that they could get a prized weapons-charge arrest entered in their records.

Bottom of the Gene Pool

Marine corporal Corban Backstrand, 24, stationed near Hiroshima, won a dare in June while out with friends. He stuck his head in front of a moving cargo train and was knocked unconscious.

According to Gardner, Kansas, sheriff's lieutenant Bill Garrett, a woman was treated for a scalp wound in July after her husband shot her while the two were playing hide-and-seek in the woods. According to Garrett, the husband said the couple had played hide-and-seek with handguns before.

In July, Owensboro, Kentucky, road-department driver Sam Holinde, driving his 20-ton dump truck across a bridge with a "limit 3 tons" sign, got about halfway across before the bridge collapsed. The fall was short, and Holinde suffered only minor injuries.

In March, "Slim Jim" James Schmedding was hospitalized with a serious head injury after participating in a stunt for radio station KQCC-FM of Rock Island, Illinois. Schmedding had volunteered to be packed in a 55-gallon drum and rolled down a flight of stairs. When he didn't fit inside, he agreed to remove all the padding from the barrel to make room.

In June the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs ordered Harold P. Weingold to pay $500,000 in restitution to customers who knew him as the "lottery doctor." During 1992 and 1993 Weingold persuaded 2,000 people to buy an average of $250 worth of good-luck trinkets--key chains and baubles and "cosmic protectors" that were simply solar-powered calculators--that he said would guarantee them a "93 percent" chance of winning.


News of the Weird's first report on the art of butter sculpting in 1993 covered works at state fairs in Pennsylvania and Minnesota and also a Buddhist monk's Tibetan yak butter sculpture loaned to a Chicago museum. In August 1996, Norma "Duffy" Lyon sculpted a life-size butter cow for the 37th straight year at the Iowa State Fair. For her second butter subject she depicted the stoic American Gothic farmers. A few years ago, she sculpted singer Garth Brooks.

Recent Passings

In May in Australia identical twins John and William Bloomfield died of heart attacks minutes apart at age 61. In Madisonville, Kentucky, in June, twins Welbert and Wesley Cannon, 20, were both hit by a freight train just two miles from the spot where their father was fatally hit by a freight train in 1987. And in July in Los Angeles, Avi Gesundheit passed away.

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 Belshwender.

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