News of the Weird | News of the Weird | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » News of the Weird

News of the Weird


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Lead Stories

According to a February issue of New Scientist, an electric device manufactured by Medtronic that's surgically implanted near the spine in sufferers of Parkinson's disease to block pain also seems to produce female orgasms. Stuart Meloy, a doctor in North Carolina, heard one female patient's distinctive moan; he had an inkling about a second woman when she complained that the device was useless in blocking pain but refused to let him adjust it.

Political reform: Vermont state senator Robert Ide proposed a bill in January that would punish politicians placing "factually incorrect or false" ads with fines of up to $5,000. In January three Puerto Rican legislators, claiming to be tired of their colleagues' on-the-job drinking, introduced a bill to outlaw it, to be enforced by four random tests a year. A similar bill introduced to the Ontario legislature in December would require members to undergo three random urine tests a year and to report for rehab if they test positive for drugs.

People Different From Us

A 45-year-old man in Dunedin, New Zealand, pleaded guilty in January to stealing huge amounts of mail from his neighbors over a four-year period after piles of it three feet deep, some of it rotting or rodent eaten, were found filling every room of his house. Among the stash were lots of checks, but no attempt had been made to cash them; the man explained simply that he was "lonely and liked reading other people's mail."

Crimes of the Groin

In December in Las Vegas, Don D. Astorga was sentenced on federal smuggling charges after airport police found 12 baby lizards (including two endangered specimens) stuffed in his crotch. Austrian botanist Johann Zillinger was arrested in February on his way to the Rio de Janeiro airport for allegedly attempting to smuggle out five parakeet eggs, which he had carefully stored in his crotch to keep warm. And police in Providence, Rhode Island, arrested Frank Corsi in October and charged him with shoplifting; witnesses at Shaw's Supermarket said he had stuffed a bag of frozen shrimp down his pants and walked out of the store.

The Continuing Crisis

Good news for the incredibly sensitive: In January the Scottish Fire Service Fairness and Diversity Forum in Edinburgh declared that the term "firefighter" was "too aggressive" and deterred women from aspiring to the job; the group recommended that the title be changed to "firemaster." In December the school board in Cecil County, Maryland, proposed banning the game of dodgeball and other "activities requiring human targets" because they are inappropriate for young children.

Latest news from the lower intestine: In January, after being fed laxatives by police, a thief in Perth, Scotland, finally passed several pieces of jewelry he had swallowed during a getaway four days earlier. But Robert Vienneau withstood a heavy barrage of laxatives in early December as police in Magog, Quebec, attempted to recover a diamond ring he admitted swallowing during a heist; as of press time no ring has emerged.

Leading Economic Indicators

According to a January London Daily Telegraph dispatch, there was such demand for silicone breast implants in Brazil last year that surgeons were complaining about long hours and supply houses ran out of the largest size in November, necessitating a waiting list.

In November North Korean workers began dismantling the 175-year-old Ushers brewery in Trowbridge, England, which their government had just purchased, responding to a printed For Sale ad, for about $2 million. Officials plan to reconstruct it in a suburb of Pyongyang in an attempt to improve the quality of the country's beer.

Least Competent People

John Robert Broos Jr., 57, was charged with obstruction of justice in December after reporting that he had been mugged in the parking lot of the Saint Croix Casino in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. Broos appeared to have been beaten up, but he was apparently unaware that a parking lot surveillance camera had recorded him walking over to a light pole, banging his head against it three or four times, reaching down for some dirt and gravel, and smearing it against his face. Then, still on camera, he checked his appearance in the mirror of his truck, and, apparently unsatisfied, smashed his head against the pole several more times before returning to the casino and reporting the "robbery." A county prosecutor later said Broos had concocted the story to cover his $50 gambling loss.

Undignified Deaths

Men at work: A 31-year-old employee of an antiques-restoration company in Newtown Borough, Pennsylvania, was killed in December when he fell into a vat of paint stripper. In Waterford, Connecticut, in July, a 29-year-old man delivering a 1,300-pound photocopier was crushed to death when the machine fell on him. The same month, a 31-year-old winery worker in Lodi, California, drowned when he slipped and fell into a vat of cabernet sauvignon. And a 27-year-old world-class water-skier drowned during a race near Grafton, Australia, in October when five swans were scared by his boat and flew into his path, knocking him out.

In the Last Month

Artist Michael Landy staged a two-week show in London during which he pulverized every last one of his possession (7,006 objects, including a Saab) as an anticonsumerist statement. Roman Catholic bishop Juan Antonio Reig of Segorbe, Spain, proclaimed the use of birth-control pills acceptable for nuns stationed in war zones, where the risk of rape is high. A New Mexico legislator introduced a bill intended to prevent fraud at livestock shows, baning such steer beautification measures as dyes and wigs but permitting natural shampooing and blow-drying. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the DUI-related forfeiture of a man's $40,000 SUV, confiscated by police after the man was found drunk, sitting in the driver's seat listening to music, in his driveway, on the day he bought the vehicle.

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

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

Add a comment