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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

About 25 employees of the Boston Public Library had to use the city's grief-counseling services in August after a burst water main flooded a building and soaked 50,000 cartons of books. Said a library executive in the Boston Globe, "It's a process just like when someone dies." One employee complained of recurring nightmares about the flooding in which she tries but cannot save the books.

Beyond global warming: In an August issue of the New Scientist, two physicists from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain reported that hell is very hot (833 degrees Fahrenheit), but so is heaven (about 450 degrees). The researchers used passages in the Bible which state that brimstone (sulphur) boils in hell and that heaven contains "sevenfold," the light of the sun for seven days.

Among the performances at New York City's International Fringe Festival in August: a 45-minute satirical bigoted rant against hunchbacks from Nebraska; a six-person troupe performing Eugene Ionesco's play The Bald Soprano continuously, 24 times in 24 hours; and Brown and Blue, an "ode to excrement," celebrating "what a simple way it [presents] to look at things."

Bottom of the Gene Pool

Police in Bonita Springs, Florida, charged Randall James Baker, 45, with aggravated battery in August for shooting his friend Robert Callahan in the head. A sheriff's spokesman said Baker and Callahan had a playful tradition of trying to shoot the little buttons off the top of each other's baseball caps. Alcohol reportedly played a role in the game.

The World Series of Selfishness

Vying with David Cash, who has been widely vilified for failing to stop his best friend from killing a seven-year-old girl in a Nevada casino and then claiming that his notoriety has helped him meet women: Young director and actor Vincent Gallo, who savaged Robert De Niro and other actors in the Hollywood Reporter in August and added, "I like that girls recognize me from my work because it's easier to talk them into fellatio." And Scott Johnson, father of one of the boys accused of opening fire at a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, criticized authorities after his son's sentencing hearing in August, saying that the youth camp to which his son was headed had a poor reputation and that school officials shared the blame for the shootings.

Recent Feeble Reactions

Tony Faulks, 39, who was convicted of robbery in July in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after police found $1,300 in marked bills in his underwear, said he doesn't trust banks and always keeps his money down there. And Mr. Siut Cheng, attempting to get out of a speeding ticket in July while hauling a van full of lobsters, offered the New Jersey trooper five of the shellfish as a bribe. And former Nazi concentration camp guard Jack Reimer, testifying at his citizenship revocation trial in New York in August, answered charges that he fired his gun into a group of Jews in Trawniki, Poland, in 1941 by claiming that he thought they were already dead.

Wedding Bell Blues

India's Hindustan Times reported in July that a bride called off her wedding in the town of Hapur because she was upset that the groom had begun drunkenly insulting everyone in sight. All was not lost, however: a guest at the wedding immediately proposed to the woman, and the new couple was married later that evening. And in August the Guardian reported that a wedding in Heraklion, Crete, was aborted when the bride caught the groom sharing the soon-to-be conjugal bed with his best man the night before the wedding.

Schemes

In July three men linked to the Republic of Texas separatist group were arrested in Brownsville, Texas, and charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. According to the FBI, they had threatened several state and federal officials, and had concocted a plan to shoot President Clinton with a modified Bic lighter that would fire a hypodermic needle, out of which would shoot a cactus thorn that had been dipped in anthrax bacteria or the neurotoxin that causes botulism. The attorney for one of the men called the alleged plan too "cockamamie" for the government to take seriously.

In June Thomas Stanley Huntington, 52, pleaded no contest to fraud in Aztec, New Mexico, in a scheme to sell "California red superworms." Huntington had told buyers that the worms, which he sold for $125 a pound, could eat nuclear waste and that a nearby radiation-waste cleanup plant would buy all the worms they could breed.

In April Hong Kong kitchen worker Yung Kwong-ming, 34, was ordered to undergo counseling after he was nabbed for offering a teenage girl a free gynecological exam if she gave him a urine sample and her underpants. His first attempt had been successful, but a second young woman called the police, who set up the sting.

Herb Cruse, 77, was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, in August and charged with extortion against a cinema chain. He had claimed to have put his aunt's cremated remains into a popcorn machine at a theater and threatened to expose the chain for selling "cannibal corn." Cruse told reporters after his arrest that he didn't really do it, but that he did put some ordinary ashes into one of the chain's popcorn machines several years ago because he was mad at the company, and that he mailed the company a letter of apology last March. However, federal prosecutors said he had recently contacted the company again to try to extort money and cited a flyer in a theater parking lot reprising the cannibal corn story and inviting aggrieved patrons to sue the theater.

Least Competent Criminals

Four teenagers were charged with misdemeanors in Oxford, Ohio, in August for egging the houses of city officials in a dispute over the town's water tower. Police identified the boys by looking at surveillance videotapes from the town's only grocery store and finding the recording of the four kids buying a large quantity of eggs the day before the incident.

Recurring Themes

Several times in its ten years, News of the Weird has reported convictions of young women who passed themselves off as young men in order to date and have sex with young women. In June Angela Marie Hoyle, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail for her ten-month relationship with a 14-year-old girl in Gastonia, North Carolina, during which Hoyle used a strap-on device to have sex. Said the victim, "I [hadn't ever] had sex or did anything with another person, so I thought [this way] was normal."

No-Fault Infanticide

Tanya Denby, convicted in Newport News, Virginia, in August of beating her three-year-old daughter to death: "I can't see my baby anymore, but she's in a much better place. I'm glad God took her." And Patricia Wells, indicted in April in Camden, New Jersey, for aggravated manslaughter after six kids, including one of hers, died when the van she was driving at 70 mph with no license and a .151 blood-alcohol level crashed: "It was the children's time to go, and God wanted those children."

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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