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News of the Weird

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An evangelical Christian organization in Hereford, England, announced in May that it had established a 24-hour-a-day Web camera trained on Jerusalem's eastern gate to watch for Jesus's return at the millennium. Also in May Triumph International Japan announced it would soon market the Armageddon Bra, which has a sensor in the shoulder strap that detects objects falling from the sky.

Sister Mary Rinaldi of the Salesian Sisters Roman Catholic order in New Jersey told TV reporters in April that more than 2,500 benefactors have paid $100 and up for nuns to pray for them daily. Rinaldi said the sisters are not selling their prayers, explaining that they will pray for anyone, but that those who contribute money get special attention. A Pennsylvania order has a similar program, "One on One With a Nazareth Nun."

Another Reason to Stay Independent From England

In April, just as North Carolina representative Frank Mitchell was introducing his bill to revise a state law so that schoolteachers who have sex with their students would be punished, the chief inspector of schools in Great Britain was still dealing with fallout from his February remarks that teacher-student sex could sometimes be "experiential and educative."

Inside the Killer's Mind

In December Suphatra Chumphusri explained why she killed her drug-dealing son in Chiang Rai, Thailand: "No matter how much I loved him, I had to do it for the sake of the general society." And the court-appointed psychiatrist examining Russell Eugene Weston Jr., the man who went on a shooting rampage in the Capitol Building, killing two, said Weston believed he had to get the "ruby satellite" in a Senate office to stop cannibalism that had produced rotting corpses. The corpses would infect everyone with "Black Heva," which Weston called "the most deadliest disease known to mankind."

Oops!

Latest highway truck spills: Several tons of chocolate bars on Interstate 80 near Grinnell, Iowa, in March, which caught fire and burned out of control because of the oil in the chocolate; a truckload of rock salt in Pittsburgh, also in March; a tanker truck of tequila near Opelousas, Louisiana, in June; and 20 tons of explosive black powder just before rush hour in Springfield, Virginia, also in June.

Sounds like an urban legend, but it's not: In April in Fayetteville, Arkansas, exploding beans and rice tore a hole in the roof of Steve Tate's home. Tate had packed the food in frozen carbon dioxide in six-foot-long pipes to store at a cabin, but the gas expanded. Bomb technicians exploded the rest of the pipes Tate had prepared.

The city government of Livermore, California, organized digging crews in June to search for its time capsule, which was created with great fanfare in 1974. Now no one can remember where it's buried. It is about the size of a beer keg and was interred unceremoniously by a work crew to discourage thieves.

In February Japanese tourist Satoshi Kinoshida, 48, was hospitalized in Taipei after he tripped at a hotel and a chopstick he was holding penetrated his right eye socket. It missed his eyeball, and he was not seriously hurt. And in March a 20-year-old man in Thisted, Denmark, had to be taken from a bar to a machine shop late at night so a technician could disassemble a condom machine in which his finger had become stuck.

In April at the Westchester Medical Center in New York, surgeons were preparing a patient for a kidney transplant when they realized that the kidney--which had been on ice in a plastic box--was missing. Ninety minutes later the box and kidney were found in a trash bin, having been mistakenly set out for recycling. According to center officials, the kidney was still viable when implanted, but it later failed for other reasons.

Obsessions

An April Associated Press feature reported on people with a fondness for (or addiction to) eating kaolin, the smooth clay used in chalk, paint products, and ceramics. Small bags of kaolin (labeled "not for human consumption") are sold at convenience stores in central Georgia, where half the world's kaolin is produced, and at farmers' markets in Atlanta. Some kaolin eaters say it settles the stomach, but medical authorities say it leads to constipation and serious liver and kidney damage.

Among unusual museums recently in the news: In May USA Today reported on Ed's Museum, bequeathed by Edwin Kruger to the town of Wykoff, Minnesota, in 1989. It consists of everything Ed ever owned. And in January the Baltimore Sun wrote about the renovated William P. Didusch Museum, which focuses on the history of urology.

In May the New York Times profiled Max McCalman, the cheese master (maitre fromager) at the Picholine restaurant in Manhattan. "You must look at [the cheeses]," said McCalman, "smell them, touch them, taste them. Sometimes I even listen to them and they talk to me." His "office" is a dank "cheese cave." Recently a doctor diagnosed the pain in McCalman's arm as "cheese elbow," which has limited him to slicing only soft cheeses.

Recurring Themes

People with too many cats (and very smelly houses): Alice Tyhurst of Watsonville, California (43 cats, discovered by authorities in May); Dixie and John Bielenberg of Decatur, Illinois (211 cats, December); Linda Marie Reynolds, age 50, of Wilmington, North Carolina (12 cats and 28 dogs, February); a 56-year-old woman in Omaha (104 cats and a bathtub half filled with cat waste, May); Janice Van Meter of Dale City, Virginia (68 cats, April); Julie Harris, age 37, head of the Feral Cat Project in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (31 cats, April).

Last Month

Two grown men robbed a nine-year-old boy of six dollars at his curbside lemonade stand in Cincinnati. A Baptist pastor with 24 years in the pulpit was arrested at a mall in Atlanta videotaping up women's skirts. In Savannah a high school science teacher was forced to resign after showing her class a video of an execution to demonstrate electricity. A woman from Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, who plays bagpipes for tips, withdrew her lawsuit against Swissair for lost income due to last year's crash of Flight 111. A sanitation plant computer-system test for Y2K problems was unsuccessful, resulting in a four million gallon spill of untreated sewage into streets and a park near Los Angeles.

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.

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