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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

A 23-year-old man in Hartland, Maine, was taken to the hospital in March after attempting to crucify himself. According to an account in the Portland Press Herald, he built a wooden cross, laid it on the floor, and nailed one of his hands to it. "When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911," a Somerset County police officer said, adding that it remained unclear whether the man wanted medical attention or assistance in completing the job.

Politicians on the High Road

At a rancorous meeting of Republicans in Jefferson County, Kentucky, last month, party official John Lawlor and former Louisville mayoral candidate Peter Hayes got into a heated argument. Lawlor claims Hayes punched him, though Hayes denies this. Lawlor told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Hayes tried to provoke him by asking whether he was having a homosexual affair; Lawlor says he was gay "at one time" but no longer is. Hayes said that he simply asked why Lawlor had opposed his bid to be a delegate at the state convention and that Lawlor replied it was because Hayes, who belongs to the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, was a "Moonie." Lawlor acknowledged he used this term and that Hayes objected to it. Hayes claimed Lawlor then taunted him by saying "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie," but Lawlor said he could recall saying only "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie."

Least Competent Criminals

In March in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a 40-year-old man and his 16-year-old son attempted to rob three other men of the beer they were carrying. In the struggle that followed, police said, the son pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. Two of the victims ran away; the son fired at the third but instead hit his father in the chest, neck, and face. The beer did not change hands. Also in March, according to police in Toledo, Ohio, Joseph Allen Wilson, 18, accidentally shot and killed his 30-year-old accomplice in an attempted robbery of a convenience store. The accomplice had been posing as a customer whom Wilson then threatened with a gun to convince the clerk to open the register.

Least Competent Humans

Larry Feingold, 53, was convicted of reckless endangerment last month in New York City for a February 2003 incident in which he attempted suicide by putting out his stove's pilot lights, turning on the gas, and lying down near the open oven door. Gas filled the apartment and exploded a few hours later (apparently ignited by a spark from the refrigerator compressor), blowing down the walls of Feingold's and neighboring units and raining debris on the street 12 stories below; eight people were injured. At his trial Feingold--a lawyer who served as a judge for a city agency that holds hearings on, among other issues, building and fire code violations--testified that he was unaware at the time that gas could explode. "I thought that gasoline did," he said, "but I didn't know about gas." And last November Bromley Preston, 45, was informed by an insurance company that he would receive no compensation for wages lost after he cracked his head open while using the water slide at the Lakes Resort in Berry Springs, Australia, in January 2003. Preston feels there should have been a sign warning him not to go down the 100-foot slide head first and on all fours, "like a dog."

Weird Science

In February researchers at the University of Southern California reported on their efforts to create a genetically modified mouse with an increased number of hair follicles in its skin. The resulting mice had, as hoped, thicker fur and more whiskers than typical mice and, unexpectedly, "significantly larger" genitalia as well. On the other hand, they also had hair-sprouting follicles in place of glands in their eyes and on the pads of their feet, and some had misshapen or missing claws.

Obsessions

According to a March Arizona Republic profile, Haskell Wexler, 85, of Phoenix, is in his 12th year of contesting three $31 parking tickets. He received the tickets in December 1992, not long after Phoenix raised the fine for parking violations from $6 to $16, with a $15 penalty for late payment. Wexler has argued in a series of lawsuits ("at least a dozen," says an attorney for the city) that these sums are excessive and thus in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights; his current suit requests $250,000 in compensation for the cost of fighting the tickets.

In the Last Month

In Jefferson, West Virginia, a speeding pickup truck swerved across a lane of oncoming traffic, hit a low stone wall, jumped over a parked truck, and landed on the roof of Fish Bowl's Bar and Grill, setting the building ablaze. Jefferson fire chief Mark Ford commented, "This one's going to go in Firehouse magazine."...And at West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley, England, Dave Alsop stopped his car, a bluish gray Renault, so he and his friends could photograph a pair of white rhinoceroses mating. Sharka, the male rhino, promptly uncoupled and tried to mount the car instead, denting two doors and stripping off both side mirrors before Alsop could drive away, with the rhino in pursuit.

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

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