An August Knoxville News-Sentinel story profiled the self-described prophet Richard Settle, 44, who began spreading the gospel three years ago by vandalizing buildings in several states, sometimes by painting religious symbols on the buildings and urinating on walls. He has been charged with crimes in ten incidents and convicted so far in three. Settle's mother said his behavior is due to a fractured skull he suffered 21 years ago when he was hit by a car.
Career Skills: Use 'Em or Lose 'Em
In June, according to police, former master bank robber Stephen Reid, 49, who had been straight since 1987, having written a best-selling novel and married an acclaimed poet, robbed a bank in Victoria, British Columbia; he and a partner were arrested after a brief chase and shoot-out. And in April, Forrest Silva Tucker, 78, who once escaped from California's San Quentin Prison on a jerry-built river float, was arrested and charged with robbing a bank in Jupiter, Florida; his car crashed into a tree after a brief chase.
Recent rages: Donovan Moore, 43, was cited for disorderly conduct in April in Janesville, Wisconsin, after he cut into a line of cars in a funeral procession and then made obscene gestures at the mourners. And in May, Ohio's Barberton Herald ran an item that read: "A 33-year-old West Virginia man drove his vehicle into a 30-year-old Barberton woman's fence, then tore her gate off its hinges. He had driven to town to try to have sex with her, but she refused, so he drove back to West Virginia."
In Saddle, Arkansas, Victoria Smith, 58, was arrested in March after pulling a gun on a pastor at a Baptist church during the closing prayer because he hadn't preached from Revelations, which Smith wanted another church member, with whom she was feuding, to hear. And Wesley Free, 44, was arrested in February after firing on the congregation at the Church of the First Born in Oklahoma City, allegedly because the pastor wouldn't remove his name from the membership rolls.
In July four men won $7,500 each from the city of Livermore, California, to settle a lawsuit over alleged police misconduct during a sting operation at an adult bookstore. According to the men's lawyer, police violated his clients' privacy by spying on them while they were masturbating inside a booth in the store's video arcade.
Last year Susan Bauer of De Forest, Wisconsin, claimed she couldn't cut her grass, in violation of a city ordinance, because she was protecting exotic prairie plants. When that excuse was rejected, she filed a lawsuit in July claiming that her bad back exempts her from mowing the lawn under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
In June state regulators threatened to pull the license of Monique Dostie's home for the mentally disabled in Lewiston, Maine, over her rules prohibiting sexual activity and sexual materials. Dostie refused, citing her Catholic beliefs, her residents' limited abilities, and the absence of complaints from their families. The state stood firm, and in August Dostie shut down the home and left town.
In July the Arkansas supreme court tossed out the DUI conviction of Michael Norris because police had administered a field sobriety test in his bedroom. Police had gone to his home on a tip just after Norris had arrived and were let into the house by Norris's mother-in-law. The court ruled that searches for DUI offenses without a warrant were illegal and that the mother-in-law couldn't legally give permission for anyone to enter Norris's bedroom.
Alcohol Was Involved
Introducing a new category to acknowledge that if people didn't drink, there wouldn't be enough weird news for a weekly column: In a June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors affirmed that decapitated rattlesnake heads are still capable of injecting venom and that research shows that young men, "particularly while intoxicated," disproportionately receive such bites by "voluntarily" biting a snake's head off.
Pedagogy Survey: Nude Students, Nude Teacher
In May officials at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, canceled a course on shamanism after learning that instructor Lennart Aastrup had convinced his 23 students to take off their clothes in class so they could better identify their bodies' energy patterns. Two weeks earlier Los Angeles police had arrested elementary school teacher Wendell Smith, 46, after his fourth-grade students turned him in for stripping and making obscene gestures during class.
No Longer Weird
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but that now occur with such frequency they must be retired from circulation: The dog that steps on his master's gun, causing the gun to fire and hit the master, sometimes fatally, as happened to a 51-year-old man in the town of Bad Urach, Germany, in August. And the pack of animals that breaks into a liquor storage area, drinks up, and then goes on a drunken rampage, as happened in March and April with rats (moonshine at a police station) and monkeys (liquor samples in a government testing lab) in New Delhi, India.
Least Competent Criminals
Criminals imitate the Three Stooges: Donnell Taylor, 35, was arrested in June and charged with burglary of a nursing home in Pasadena. Taylor had opened a sliding glass door for a quick getaway, but an employee later closed it; Taylor's crash through the door left a blood trail, which police followed to make the arrest. And in July a man in a ski mask with a gun rushed the front door of a closed convenience store near Tallahassee that had recently limited its hours. The man slammed into the locked door, stunning himself and knocking two packets of marijuana out of his pocket before he escaped.
In the Last Month
A 210-pound, 30-year-old honeycomb was removed from inside the walls of a home in Tucson. A 14-year-old in South Yorkshire, England, disclosed he is the father of a pregnant 12-year-old's child (she was his 11th sex partner) and told reporters, "I think I will make a good dad." Volunteer firefighters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, doused a blaze inside their station that did $50,000 worth of damage to a fire truck. Air New Zealand agreed to offer compensation to a passenger from Los Angeles who looked down to find a rat nibbling her knee. A burglar in Snellville, Georgia, lowered himself through a restaurant's grease vent, then changed his mind but couldn't get back out because it was too slippery and had to wait 11 hours to be rescued.
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.