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In Butler County, Pennsylvania, in March, 42-year-old Tammy Lynn Felbaum was charged in connection with the death of her sixth husband, James Felbaum, from complications of a botched castration. Tammy (who used to be known as Tommy Wyda and allegedly castrated himself in 1980 to move up in the queue for sex-reassignment surgery at Case Western Reserve University's medical school) was known in the community as an amateur medical practitioner who allegedly worked on animals, and in a previous career as a stripper was known for crushing empty soda cans between her breasts. A crude surgical-consent form signed by James was found in the couple's home, but Tammy told police that she had nothing to do with the fatal operation, that James had performed it himself.

In February the British publisher Travelman installed three vending machines in London train stations to sell single-sheet collections of poetry that fold like a map.

Former tennis great Bjorn Borg, responding to what he calls Europe's "delicate problem" of having too few taxpayers to support a growing population of retirees, ran a full-page English-language ad in Sweden's leading financial newspaper Dagens Industri in March urging people to step up their procreation. The ad, purchased by Borg's clothing company, suggests that readers "get to it" and "fuck for the future."

DUI Defense du Jour

According to a March 16 story in the Los Angeles Times, fire-breathing magician Randall Richman, 32, will argue at his upcoming DUI trial that his breath-test reading detected only the lighter fluid he uses in his act (though the police report said he also had bloodshot eyes and could not stand up).

Inadequately Protected From Himself

In January former Long Island police officer Dominick Steo filed a $45 million lawsuit in federal court in Central Islip, New York, charging that the police department ill-advisedly furnished him with a service weapon during a period of depression, which he used to shoot himself in the head three months later....In November 2000, 17-year-old Richard L. Garcia filed a lawsuit against the city of Bradenton, Florida, because police stopped him while he was driving drunk but then let him go with no penalty. (He crashed a few minutes later, suffering serious injuries.)...And in November 2000, Shane Colburn filed a suit for $20,000 (U.S.) in Penrith, Australia, against the couple who roughed him up and whose dogs attacked him after he was discovered burglarizing their home.

Weird Science

A team of researchers from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands announced in December that after nearly four years of research it had figured out how to store and pour draft beer on zero-gravity space stations. The team injects carbon dioxide against a flexible membrane inside the keg, which forces the beer out without commingling the liquid and the gas (like a conventional keg does) and ejects the beer in liquid chunks the size of table-tennis balls.

In a February dispatch from Tblisi, Georgia, the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that surgeons at the prominent Institute of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery had successfully replaced a cancer patient's amputated penis with a substitute made from his left middle finger and had created a channel inside to allow urine (and semen) to pass.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Two Baptist women in Louisburg, North Carolina, are doing a brisk business with their shop, Seek Ye First Lingerie, which caters to religious women who want to be alluring but not sleazy. According to a January report in the Raleigh News & Observer, the most popular part of the shop is the rack labeled the "Thong Center."

Hormel Foods announced in January that it will sell a binding substance derived from pork and turkey protein to General Motors, which will use it to make molds for casting metal parts.

Miami's B.E.D. restaurant serves its customers not at tables but on large beds (as big as 600 square feet for parties of ten)....And New York's Ike appeals to baby boomers by offering a Swanson's TV dinner for $6.

Personal property of the late opera diva Maria Callas fetched about $1.25 million at a December auction in Paris, with most of the media attention devoted to 13 lots of brassieres and lingerie, which were bought by a group of Callas's admirers working through a private foundation. The purchasers, appalled at the estate owners' greed in cashing in on Callas's underwear ($5,000 for a girdle, slightly more for a black lace slip) intend to burn the items or place them in extremely deep storage.

Recurring Themes

Robert Norton of Pekin, Illinois, has been sentenced twice more since he was last mentioned in News of the Weird. Now 77, Norton likes to garden in the nude, to the consternation of his neighbors. Despite more than 20 arrests and several convictions, he insists that his activity is protected by the U.S. Constitution....And in December 62-year-old Charles Stitzer was convicted of the same offense in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, having "alarmed" a neighbor despite the fact that he was 200 feet away and night was falling.

Thinning the Herd

Three reveling college students have died from falls or incompetent leaps during this year's spring break: a Florida man, 20 (climbing balcony to balcony in Daytona Beach); a Kansas man, 18 (climbing balcony to balcony at a Mexico resort); and a New Jersey man, 19 (leaping from a balcony into a swimming pool but missing, in Fort Lauderdale). Another man has survived falling off of a motel building in Panama City Beach, Florida.

In the Last Month

A public school program in Buffalo, New York, announced it will pay some high school students $5 an hour to attend English and math classes this summer....A 7-Eleven clerk in Aberdeen, Washington, was taken by paramedics to an industrial shop, along with the store's autolocking safe, to have her fingers extricated from the coin-deposit slot....A stickup man wielding a toy gun robbed the Glebe Side Kids toy store in Ottawa, Ontario....And in Gloucestershire, England, Princess Anne was fined about $700 for driving her Bentley about 90 mph and ignoring a police officer chasing her. The princess said she assumed the officer's flashing lights indicated a royal escort.

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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