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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

The Los Angeles Times reported in January on the unusual success of Moscow's Cat Theater, whose 300-seat shows remain sold out weeks in advance. The show's proprietor, Yuri Kuklachev, has trained cats to climb poles, walk tightropes, push toy trains, leapfrog over human backs, and balance atop tiny platforms.

New Scientist announced in January that Australian biologist Roger Short has applied for funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health because he believes he can grow human sperm inside the testicles of mice by injecting them with human testes cells.

According to a February report in Georgia's Savannah Morning News, Henry Ingram Jr. recently registered a restriction on his 1,600 acres of land near Hardeeville, South Carolina, that bars northerners from setting foot on any part of it. The ban applies to members of the "Yankee race" (through birth or at least a year's residence), to anyone named Sherman, and to anyone with a last name that is an anagram of Sherman. Ingram is upset at the recent development of Hilton Head Island and other areas.

Bad Ideas

According to a January Associated Press report from Zinnowitz, Germany, Cuban pro boxer Juan Carlos Gomez, in town training for his next fight, was racially insulted by two skinheads in a billiard hall. Gomez punched one man in the face, and the skinheads left. Three days later, a larger group of skinheads confronted Gomez and his entourage in front of their hotel and resumed the insults. Again, Gomez punched one of them in the face, and the crowd left.

The Denver Post reported in September that Jenny Roper was ordered to pay her estranged husband $4,000 under Colorado's no-fault divorce law earlier in the year, even though he was awaiting trial at the time for hiring someone to kill her (he was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison). Under Colorado law, marital misconduct is irrelevant in a divorce, and Jenny earned more than her husband.

In September four special-education students in Howe, Oklahoma, filed a lawsuit against the school system, their principal, and a teacher for an unconventional history lesson. According to the lawsuit, the kids had been shackled with masking tape, paddled, and imprisoned in a feces-smeared shower stall, all to simulate the appalling conditions aboard slave ships.

A 33-year-old man was arrested in Anaheim, California, in November and charged with robbing a credit union after he attracted the attention of police because of his appearance. After the robbery, police said, the man broke into an apartment and took a business suit for a change of clothes, but for some reason decided to wear fuzzy pink slippers as part of his outfit. Said police sergeant Joe Vargas, "He couldn't

give us a logical reason for wearing the slippers."

In Portsmouth, Virginia, in November, Judge Von Piersall dismissed charges against former high school track coach John W. Crute, 47, who had videotaped girls in a locker room. Judge Piersall said the tapes were not lewd under Virginia law because they portrayed mere nudity, even though Crute had spliced scenes from hard-core pornographic videos with the shots of the girls.

In November Ellen Hanson, police chief of Lenexa, Kansas, purchased an airline ticket to go to a police conference but had to change plans because of a family illness. Rather than have the department purchase another ticket for her substitute, officer Dawn Layman, Chief Hanson made up an official police ID card with her name and Layman's face to present to the clerk. Someone tipped off the airline, and after a lot of explaining, Chief Hanson apologized.

The Associated Press reported in November that Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, New Hampshire, may be violating state law by employing Shawn McEnany, 35, as a teacher. McEnany was hired in 1990 despite two misdemeanors for unlawful sexual contact, but a school spokesman said that McEnany's employment there was not risky because the school was for boys only when McEnany was hired, and his conviction involved a girl.

In July the Texas supreme court threw out a $7 million judgment in favor of a girl who was born without fingers on her right hand, allegedly due to her mother's having taken the controversial morning-sickness drug Bendectin. The girl's lawyers filed a motion in November asking the court to reconsider its decision, but it referred to the justices as "the nine nutty professors" and said they symbolized the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, War. The motion was denied.

In October Lyman Ray Postoak Jr., 44, was found guilty of armed robbery in Oklahoma City. Postoak chose to act as his own lawyer during the two-day trial and wore his jail-issued orange coveralls in front of the jury, telling the judge he felt more comfortable in them. The jury gave Postoak 125 years.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

In Rangoon, Burma, in August, Htun Wai, who as minister of health in 1988 was reported to have had wounded freedom fighters shackled to beds and denied medical help, was struck by a hit-and-run driver. He died shortly afterward when no hospital would admit him because he had no money. No hospital employee recognized him as a former official.

Updates on News of the Weird Characters

In 1987 Odell Sheppard (who appeared here in 1997) was jailed in Chicago at age 40 for contempt of court in a child-custody dispute for failing to tell the whereabouts of his daughter, Deborah, then 2. Sheppard has always maintained he knows nothing about Deborah's disappearance. He was finally released in January of this year after Deborah's mother passed away, ending the dispute. And a Norwegian astrophysics student, 39 (News of the Weird, 1993), who was barred from Oslo University at age 22 because he refused to bathe and who had sued unsuccessfully several times to be readmitted, filed a lawsuit in January against the Norwegian government in order to place the matter before the European Court of Human Rights.

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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