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Lead Stories

Central Illinois farmer Dan Aeschleman recently converted his land to a more lucrative use: attracting foxes and collecting their urine, which he sells to landowners ($11.95 for 16 ounces) who spray it on their property to scare off other animals. According to a September report in the Pantagraph of nearby Bloomington, Aeschleman says the tricky part--his method of collecting (10,000 gallons a year)--is a trade secret.

A New York appeals court ruled in July that a 53-year-old woman who is still dissatisfied with her body after 12 plastic surgeries over a seven-year period could sue her doctor for malpractice (despite having consented to all the procedures) because she might suffer from body-dysmorphic disorder, which causes a person to think her body is ugly. Doctors contacted by the New York Observer wondered how many of their patients are totally free of the disorder.

Revoke Her Parenting License!

According to prosecutors in Martinsville, Indiana, Judy Kirby, 31, mother of ten children, intentionally killed four of them in March when she drove into oncoming traffic for more than two miles and eventually struck a minivan (also killing three of its occupants); her doctors say they will testify at her upcoming trial that she suffered from postpartum depression and should not be punished.

The Continuing Crisis

A highlight of the East Finley Summer Festival in Claysville, Pennsylvania, in July was the return of the popular chicken-flying contest after a ten-year hiatus. As explained in the Observer-Reporter of nearby Washington, chickens are placed in ordinary mailboxes, which are then quickly opened, somehow sending the birds flying hundreds of feet. The longest flight wins first prize. Festival sponsors said they had tried replacing chicken flying with cow-patty bingo, but it was not nearly as exciting.

Relieving the doctor shortage: According to an April Los Angeles Times report, Adam Litwin roamed UCLA Medical Center with impunity for six months last year, chatting up "colleagues" and keeping himself busy; his lack of medical training was discovered when a pharmacist reported an irregularity with a prescription. And Gary Lee Stearley received excellent reviews from several doctors at Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital for his work as a physician's assistant before it was discovered in June that he had no medical credentials; he had previously worked at hospitals in Seattle; Richmond, Virginia; and Washington, D.C.

No substitute for a loyal dog: Kysor the dog, owned by the sheriff of Sevier County, Tennessee, was praised in a July Knoxville News-Sentinel report as so faithful that even a stab wound to his head inflicted by a fleeing suspect couldn't make him lose his grip on the suspect. The suspect also tried to sic his own dog on the weakened Kysor; according to a deputy, however, "He whistled for him, but his dog wouldn't come."

In June a federal grand jury in Springfield, Missouri, indicted Todd Morman Murray, 27, on charges that he stole 45 pounds of explosives from a chemical plant and hid them in his children's playhouse.

Humans Disrespecting Trains

A young man in San Clemente, California, suffered a broken arm in June when he walked so close to some railroad tracks that a passing train knocked his surfboard out of his hands. A 25-year-old woman in Mount Prospect, Illinois, lost the toes on her right foot in July when she crawled under a slow-moving train to get to the other platform. And in Trevor, Wisconsin, in June an inebriated man was saved by his wife, who pulled him from the path of a speeding train just in time after he had lingered on the tracks to make an obscene gesture at the engineer.

Lesson to Kids: Be a Total Screwup, Make Millions!

According to news reports, July Kentucky lottery winner Mack W. Metcalf, 42, of Florence, Kentucky, who received a lump sum of $34 million, has racked up DUI and other traffic charges, has been evicted for nonpayment of rent, and owes some $31,000 in child support. Shortly after he received his payout, he handed a woman $500,000 as a gift but has since sued to get the money back, arguing that he was drunk.

Recurring Themes

The classic middle name (all new): Arrested in San Diego in August for killing his roommate, Aryan Wayne Duntley. Also in August, arrested in Oilton, Oklahoma, for killing a young neighbor girl, Robert Wayne Rotramel. Sentenced in Orange, Texas, in July for murdering and beheading a 20-year-old woman, Christopher Wayne Gregory. Application for DNA testing rejected in August in a murder case against him in Illinois, Randall Wayne Stevens. Convicted in Irving, Texas, in September for the murders of five people at a car wash, Robert Wayne Harris.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Edward William Heckman, 58, was charged in July near Jonesboro, Georgia, with killing his wife after she refused to have sex with him. Baby-sitter Robert Cooper, 22, was convicted in June in Calgary, Alberta, of killing two young boys because they hindered his attempted seduction of their mother. A man in his 20s allegedly killed 11 people with an Uzi at a nightclub in Bogota, Colombia, in June after being rejected by a woman.

In the Last Month

In Rochester, New York, the powerful magnet in an MRI machine disarmed an off-duty police officer reporting for a scan while armed; the gun slammed against the machine, causing one round to fire into a wall. Singapore's leading newspaper published a how-to guide to having sex in cars, in support of the government's campaign to raise the birthrate. The supreme court of New Hampshire ruled that a candidate for office had the right to parade on the street dressed as a penis, because he was commenting on the political system.

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

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

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