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News of the Weird

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In September Libya's Moammar Gadhafi announced that he had given up hope for unifying the Arab world and that he would begin to align his country with Africa. "Africa is a paradise," he said. "I would like Libya to become a black country. Hence, I recommend to Libyan men to marry only black women, and to Libyan women to marry black men."

A University of California professor's request to see FBI records on Groucho Marx was granted in September. Included were reports of Marx's friendships with liberal Hollywood types and his public quotes critical of the United States, some of which were obviously jokes. However, several pages of his file remain secret "in the interest of national defense or foreign policy," says the government.

The Baltimore Sun reported in October that several residents of Venice on the Bay on Maryland's Patapsco River have recently complained to authorities about people sprinkling cremated remains on the waterfront. Some sprinkle them in the water while people are swimming, sometimes the wind blows them onto residents' property, and recently someone emptied a large plastic garbage bag full of ashes on a small beach.

Municipal Crises

An official in New Zealand proposed in September that the historic Maori name of Te Hupenui be restored to the village currently known as Greytown, even though Te Hupenui roughly translates as "the big snot." And the San Jose Mercury News reported in May that Don Wolfe, mayor of Saratoga, California, was seeking to change the local perception that the city's name (derived from the Iroquois) means "floating scum on the water." Wolfe said it really means "hillside country of the great river."

Life Imitates the Three Stooges

In Thunder Bay, Ontario, in August, a 48-year-old woman was hospitalized after she tumbled from a third-story window while shaking the dust from a rug. And in September the curator of a museum in Baroda, India, discovered that an attendant had accidentally vacuumed up parts of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

Crystal-Clear Logic

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, an unidentified boy complained in May about the city's ban on street corner squeegeeing: "What would they rather I do--be squeegeeing or breaking into your house, stealing your stuff, and raping your kids?"

Punishment Fits the Crime

In May India's defense minister, George Fernandes, ordered three bureaucrats from his finance office to spend a week on the notorious Siachen Glacier in Kashmir, where temperatures are usually well below zero and wind speeds average 60 miles per hour. The bureaucrats had taken three years to process paperwork to procure snowmobiles for the government's use on the glacier, and Fernandes said the men needed to understand why they should have worked faster.

Latest Religious Messages Received

In a Boston Globe interview in August, Roman Catholic nuns from the Sisters of Saint Joseph described their obsession with the Red Sox, admitting that they frequently call in to sports talk-radio shows and get rowdy at the games. One nun said they especially enjoy dogging former Red Sox players like Jose Canseco: "It is not un-Christian to boo." And the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Edmonton, Alberta, believe they were instrumental earlier in the year in saving Edmonton's hockey team, the Oilers, by praying that the team would not be relocated. According to an archdiocese spokesman, the sisters especially enjoy booing the Calgary Flames.

Lowana Adie, manager of the Salvation Army thrift shop in Trail, British Columbia, gave away all her merchandise in June because, she said, an angel told her to. In September of last year Deborah Wilson had less luck replacing tobacco and alcohol products with gospel tapes at her convenience store in San Pablo, California, in an effort to please God. She was out of business by January. Said Wilson, "I just figured [that] if people loved God, they would support me financially and buy other things."

Latest exorcism news: The Roman Catholic Church in France revealed earlier this year that it now employs 95 exorcists, the highest number there in a century, which some observers suggest is a reaction to the millennium. In Albuquerque in June Liz Madrid filed a lawsuit against the public school system after her 16-year-old son was allegedly exorcised by a school counselor who noticed a pentagram on his notebook. Also in June lay exorcist Baron Deacon stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and attempted to exorcise the demons from Congress. He soon quit, acknowledging that the job was too big for him.

In August Josh Hempel, 16, of Calgary, Alberta, was struck by lightning shortly after daring God to strike him if He really existed. Hempel recovered after being hospitalized. And at the Bathgate Golf Club in West Lothian, Scotland, in June, Father Alex Davie was playing in the Clergy Golfing Society tournament when lightning struck the tip of his umbrella and, a few minutes later, a tree under which he had sought refuge. He suffered a sore arm but continued his round.

Least Competent Criminals

William S. Burress, 49, collapsed and died in Cincinnati in October minutes after he had lowered himself out of a second-story window in the Hamilton County jail, where he had been held on robbery charges. Burress's 20-foot-long bedsheet rope had ripped in half, causing him to fall to the sidewalk. A worker inside the jail said he heard a loud smack on the concrete and someone moaning, "Ohhh, my head."

Recurring Themes

"Body modifier" Steve Haworth of Phoenix, last written up in News of the Weird in 1993 when he started a business offering skin branding, is now up to customer number 450, according to a U. magazine story in September. He says his latest service is implanting beads and spikes just below the surface of the skin for a three-dimensional effect.

Killed by Their Best Friends

In Orinda, California, in September, Michael Trevethan, 42, was crushed to death against a fence post by his truck, which had been accidentally knocked into gear by his dog when Trevethan got out to open his front gate. And in Milwaukee John Hwilka accidentally shot himself to death while showing his mother how to use a .45-caliber handgun when his poodle jumped into his lap and jarred his hand.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago, IL 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration by Shawn Belshwender.

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