In April the Unique Recoveries collection agency in Bombay, India, hired six eunuchs to embarrass debtors into paying up by dancing around and threatening to expose their genitallessness. Unique's director said he expects his business to expand and that he plans to hire 100 more eunuchs. In Bombay many eunuchs earn money by crashing weddings and hanging around until they are paid to leave.
A May San Francisco Chronicle article reported that the war in Yugoslavia has disrupted a Kosovar international crime network that "dominated" the narcotics business in Europe. It has now been supplanted by more vicious Albanian crime organizations, which sometimes operate in conjunction with Mafia families and with support from the Albanian parliament. In March a major Albanian crime boss was arrested in Milan posing as a diplomat en route to an International Criminal Tribunal meeting in France.
In April the deadline of the Great Floridian Marker Program, which seeks to recognize the 2,000 all-time greatest Floridians by the millennium, was extended again, to September. Though the program is more than a year old, it has received only 170 nominations.
Leading Economic Indicators
In January officials in Chelyabinsk, Russia, imposed a monthly tax of five rubles (about 20 cents) on pet dogs, based on their use of electricity and water. In May the owner of an antique shop in Sofia, Bulgaria, told reporters he hoped the bombing in neighboring Yugoslavia would end quickly so that the value of missile debris he was selling (from NATO misfires that hit Bulgaria) would not be lowered by a glut in the market. Also in May the Knight-Ridder news service reported that Chile has made up for lagging copper revenues by exporting disposable diapers made from swamp moss and aftershave lotion made from snail slime.
Artists wielded chain saws in March along a waterfront in Samchok, South Korea, for the Male Root Carving Competition. Penises up to nine feet long are fashioned from pine logs to commemorate an event that legend says took place 400 years ago: a sailor died on a fishing trip and left a forlorn virgin waiting on the shore. The phalluses are intended to appease her spirit and are dumped in the water after the event.
Recently the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group governing Afghanistan, decreed that a traditional pastime of the Gurbuz tribespeople is a form of gambling and therefore illegal. In the game two men tap eggs together, and the one whose egg breaks is the loser. In January Taliban soldiers tried to break up a game in the city of Khost. Five soldiers and seven tribesmen were killed.
In April William Whitfield, 34, was awarded $185,000 by a judge in Calgary, Alberta, for injuries he suffered when motorist David Calhoun smashed into his truck in 1990. Among the crash's consequences, according to medical testimony, is Whitfield's desire, still present despite electroshock therapy, to kill Calhoun in retaliation. According to the judge, Calhoun failed to testify at the trial out of fear of Whitfield, who has told his lawyer that he intends to kill Calhoun and then himself.
Of ten U.S. representatives who pledged in 1992 not to serve more than eight years in office, only six are keeping their promises. Republican Tillie Fowler of Jacksonville, Florida, said in December that she might run in the year 2000 because, when she made the pledge, "my problem was, I was too honest."
Roy Hopkins, 32, spoke to a Toronto Star reporter in March about having recently confessed to a 1995 murder for which another man had been serving a life sentence: "I may be a criminal, and I may be a thief, and I may be a robber, but I ain't a lowlife."
Charles Ng, who was convicted in February in Orange County, California, of 11 torture murders in a spree during 1984 and '85, claimed at his sentencing hearing in April that it was really his late buddy Leonard Lake who masterminded the killings and that he, Ng, had a dependent personality disorder that made him too docile and compliant. Ng had fled to Canada and fought extradition for six years after the killings and since his return to the U.S. has used numerous tactics, including firing several of his lawyers and suing three of them, to delay going to trial.
In 1992 News of the Weird reported that Cornell University researcher Jay Georgi had developed an artificial dog heated with cow blood to breed 12,000 fleas a day that he shipped to pharmaceutical companies to test flea and tick remedies. In June the New York Times reported that Georgi now mainly sells the artificial dogs, but he does keep a small population of fleas on hand for small orders and emergencies. Georgi says he's still fascinated by fleas: "I'm very fond of them."
The Only Way Out
In February the mayor of Carsonville, Michigan (population 583), hanged himself in his toolshed three days before a recall election provoked by objections to his bill-paying lapses and violations of open-meeting laws. And in March in Tokyo, a 58-year-old executive, upset about being asked to retire early from Bridgestone Tire Company, committed hara-kiri with a 14-inch fish-slicing knife in a company conference room.
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/Shawn Belschwender.