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In March a Stavropol Airlines passenger jet literally fell apart in the air because of rust, killing 50 and becoming the latest Russian airline tragedy. In May the Russian press reported that 76 top Russian aviation officials flying to the U.S. declined to take the national airline Aeroflot because of safety concerns, choosing to fly Finnair instead. Also in May, courageous U.S. astronaut Michael Foale took his turn on the aging Russian space station Mir, which has been in orbit for 11 years despite being expected to last for only five. This year alone Mir has experienced a fire, a breakdown in the main oxygen system, a partial power loss, the overheating of one of its air purification systems, and a crash with an unmanned cargo vessel.

In 1993 India Scott of Detroit dated both Darryl Fletcher and Brandon Ventimeglia, moving in with Fletcher in 1994 when she was pregnant. Neither man knew about the other, and Scott told each he was the father. For two years she managed to juggle the men's visits, but in March 1997 she announced she was marrying another man and intended to move out of the area, prompting both Fletcher and Ventimeglia to file for custody of "his" son. Upon learning of each other's existence, Ventimeglia and Fletcher took blood tests to determine which of them was the real father of the boy they had been caring for. The tests revealed that neither was.

Connecticut police academy: Robert Jordan filed a lawsuit in May against the New London, Connecticut, police department for illegal discrimination, claiming he was rejected as an officer solely because he scored too high on an intelligence test. The department claims Jordan would get bored on the job and be a bad officer. And the Associated Press reported that new-recruit classes in New Haven include training in the arts, such as watercolor painting, drawing, and ballet. The idea for the classes came from former police chief Nicholas Pastore, who resigned in February after admitting that he had fathered a child with a prostitute.

I've Got My Rights!

More than 200 students at Molalla High School in Oregon petitioned officials in May to overturn the school's policy of requiring girls to wear bras after two female students were sent home for not wearing them. Protesters complain that the dress code is not fairly enforced in that well-endowed violators are more frequently punished than less-well-endowed violators.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled in December that Caterpillar Inc. workers who were on strike from June 1994 to December 1995 were entitled to be compensated for the popcorn, sodas, ice cream, and other snacks that the company provided workers who remained on the job during the strike.

In February the student government at Oxford University in England appointed a person to patrol the grounds and stop couples from displaying affection in public. Petting was banned from one dining hall and another facility was divided into heavy- and light-petting-allowed zones. The government also banned sexual intercourse in libraries between 3 AM and 8 AM, although there was no evidence that anyone had ever had sex there.

Two inmates serving life sentences at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola--one for murder, the other for rape, robbery, and kidnapping--filed a lawsuit in February claiming officials have denied them the chapel space and equipment necessary to observe their religion of satanism.

Not My Fault

According to police in Mesa, Arizona, in 1995 Jean K. Dooley opened fire with a handgun at Valley Lutheran Hospital intending to kill her husband, who was a patient there. She missed him but managed to accidentally hit a nurse and a paramedic. In January 1997 she filed a lawsuit against the hospital for failing to stop her from bringing the gun inside.

In March the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court voted unanimously to revoke the $15 million award that a jury had given to Jose Barretto, who is paralyzed from the waist down. Barretto had sued Richmond Hill High School in New York City for failing to stop him from horsing around before volleyball practice as a student in 1988. With the coach momentarily out of the gym, Barretto allegedly tried to show off for his friends by running toward the net from 30 feet away and diving over it, landing on his head. Said Barretto, "I accept part of the blame, but what about the responsibility of the teacher and the school?"

In April Federico Perales, 52, was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and charged with stabbing his wife to death in front of their two teenage kids. Perales allegedly was angry that the three of them started dinner without him. According to the Peraleses' son, Perales's last words to his wife were, "You pushed me to the limits. You did this to yourself."

Creme de la Weird

In April Mary Durante, who had recently inherited a house in Newark, New Jersey, found 133 neatly stacked boxes in the attic, each with the remains of a cat wrapped in newspapers dating back to 1945. The house once belonged to the former Newark Star-Ledger pet columnist William H. Hendrix, now deceased.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Sandra L. Archer, 35, was sentenced to two years in jail in April for disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals after videotapes surfaced of her having sex with her boyfriend atop groups of dogs, including sick ones, that they had obtained from local shelters. The boyfriend, Mark W. Williams, 36, is awaiting trial.

The Mainichi Daily News of Tokyo reported in April that a 24-year-old local man from Adachi-ku was charged with assaulting a 17-year-old schoolgirl on her way home. According to police, the man rubbed saliva in the girl's hair because he was angry that her socks were too loose around her ankles. Police quoted him as saying, "When I saw those socks, I just went crazy."

According to a recent Canadian documentary film, Troy Hurtubise, a scrap-metal dealer from North Bay, Ontario, embarked on a ten-year, $100,000 project to build a safety suit that would enable him to wrestle and defeat a grizzly bear. He has not yet found a bear to wrestle, but he has spent so much money on the suit that he recently had to file for bankruptcy.

Well Put

In May Michael Forgue, a restaurateur in Jackman, Maine, expressed doubt that his neighbor James Darrow was guilty of the murder for which he had been arrested and allegedly claimed credit: "They don't call [him] 'Big Jim the Liar' for nothing. You name it, he lied about it."

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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