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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Michael Braithwaite, owner of the Love World sex shop in the mountain village of Putney, Kentucky, recently underwent a religious conversion and burned $10,000 worth of vibrators, leather toys, and porn paraphernalia, then renamed the store Mike's Place and started selling Bibles and other Christian items. And according to a January report in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a 31-year-old environmental lawyer manufactures and sells high-quality silicone sex toys shaped like religious figures (Moses, Satan, Judas) under the name Divine Interventions. One sex-shop owner in the Castro district said he might carry the Jackhammer Jesus ("People hate the Catholic church around here"), but that he had too many Buddhist customers to stock the Buddha model.

In January a 51-year-old woman calling herself "Mrs. B" picketed the Roman Catholic diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, wearing a black ski mask and carrying a sign reading "The Bishop Forgot My Exorcism." She believes that between 1993 and 1999 she was possessed by as many as ten demons, and though she appealed to six dioceses in three states, none provided her with an exorcist--which she characterizes as "unpardonable neglect." Among her signs: speaking in languages she'd never heard (such as Gujarati) and having her eyes move "without my permission."

Readers' Choice

Edward Blaine, 61, who served nearly 20 years after a 1963 conviction for bank robbery, was arrested in January and charged with robbing the Union Bank & Trust in Port Royal, Virginia. Apparently he's grown even more incompetent with age: Police said Blaine fled with hundred-dollar bills falling out of his pockets and arrived at his getaway car (a rental) to discover he'd locked the keys inside. He grabbed a piece of wood and tried to smash the window, then gave up and threw the wood at a nearby truck--provoking the man who owned the truck to grab a gun and chase Blaine down. Blaine tried to shoot the man in the ensuing struggle, but he couldn't get his pistol out of his coat pocket and shot himself in the leg. Then the man shot Blaine, wounding him in the same leg.

Compelling Explanations

In January a judge at London's Old Bailey released chronic recidivist Mark Patterson, 42, after his 32nd conviction (this one for burglary) because Patterson claimed to need drug rehabilitation in order to fulfill his calling as a poet. (His subsequent ode to the judge, in part: "I've now been set free / In a blaze of publicity / So that everyone can see / My great ability.")

Chutzpah!

In January a judge in Monroe County, New York, denied Jerold Ponder's application for a handgun permit, and Ponder appealed--even though he was in jail, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend. Ponder claimed that her death was an accident (supposedly she grabbed at his rifle while they were target shooting), but he's since been convicted, in part because she'd been shot twice. He also lost his permit appeal.

Creme de la Weird

Margie Schoedinger of Missouri City, Texas, filed a lawsuit in December against George W. Bush for a series of misdeeds he supposedly committed as governor, including watching her, drugging her, and having sex with her and her husband. Her rambling complaint, filed in Fort Bend County Court, claims that the Sugar Land Police Department investigated her and can thus corroborate many of her allegations--for instance, that "plaintiff had seven dates (which became seven lovers), had told no lies, committed no crimes, gotten two traffic tickets, and dated George W. Bush as a minor." A department spokesman said no one there had any idea what Schoedinger was talking about.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

In December in Belleville, Illinois, 32-year-old Ron Landon was captured by police after he ran through a pasture to avoid arrest for several traffic violations. Landon tried to hide in a shallow ditch filled with water, but several horses wandered over to take a closer look at him, attracting officers' attention.

Our Civilization in Decline

The Atlanta firm Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences studies consumers' brains with MRI machines while they look at pictures of products, so that researchers can see which areas are stimulated and thereby infer subconscious emotional connections and true preferences. On the Canadian public radio program Marketplace in December, a Brighthouse spokesman tried to say as little as possible about this "neuromarketing" technique: "Right now [our clients] would rather not be exposed. We have been kind of running under the radar with a lot of the breakthrough technology."

In the Last Month

9In Norwich, England, Fairway Middle School barred students from throwing snowballs without permission of the target....In Lexington, Kentucky, district judge Dan Ballou refused to let two teenage speeders attend traffic school (to purge their driving records) until they'd dropped to the courtroom floor and done 50 push-ups....And a woman in Tacoma, Washington, told police that a man attacked her in her home and tried to rape her; when she began to pray ("Please, God, no") the rapist asked if she was Christian, and when she said she was, he zipped up, apologized, shook her hand, told her to lock her door, and left.

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

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