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News of the Weird


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In March, as everyone was busy condemning the use of steroids by athletes as cheating, Wired magazine pointed out that more than a dozen major-league baseball players have permanently enhanced their natural physical abilities through laser eye surgery. (Many pro golfers, including Tiger Woods, have also had their below-average vision improved this way.) The article predicted that soon healthy pitchers will elect to strengthen their elbows by undergoing so-called Tommy John surgery (as of now performed only to repair torn arm ligaments), enabling them to throw harder than ever, and that further in the future athletes will have muscle cells extracted, reengineered for greater strength, and reinserted in their legs or shoulders.

Can't Possibly Be True

The North Dakota senate voted in March to make it easier to obtain a concealed-weapon permit by eliminating the shooting test, in which applicants must hit a human silhouette, about a foot and a half square, seven times out of ten at 21 feet. Permit holder Carey McWilliams, 31, of Fargo told an Associated Press reporter he disapproved, saying, "I don't think everybody under the sun should just be able to walk in and get a weapon. You've got to have standards." McWilliams, who in his second try on the test hit the target ten times out of ten, is legally blind, able to distinguish only shades of light; he carries one of his four pistols regularly.

In March veteran criminal George Kaminski, 53, complained to a reporter from the Herald of Sharon, Pennsylvania, that there aren't enough four-leaf clovers at his current residence, a minimum-security facility in nearby Mercer. Kaminski has collected a world-record 72,927 four-leaf clovers over the last ten years, entirely on the grounds of Pennsylvania prisons, but an Alaskan man now claims to have more than 76,000 and has applied to Guinness for recognition. "The guy's got the whole world," said Kaminski of his rival. "I have two or three acres."

According to a report issued in March by the Netherlands' Health Care Inspectorate, doctors at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam kept quiet for six to eight months after discovering a local outbreak of lymphogranuloma venereum, a sexually transmitted disease almost never seen in Western countries, to ensure they'd be the first to publish an article on it.

Compelling Explanations

A 24-year-old woman was hospitalized in April near Massapequa, New York, after a five-inch hunting knife flung by her boyfriend lodged in her neck. According to the victim's stepmother, the boyfriend claimed he'd been throwing a stick for his dog, then decided to throw the knife instead, but a loop on the knife handle caught on his finger, redirecting the blade into the young woman's throat. Unable to speak shortly after surgery, the victim wrote police a note reading simply "It was an accident," and the man was released after questioning, but a county detective conceded that "the details of this story are really murky right now."

People With Issues

In March gasoline sniffer Brian Taylor, 36, was sentenced to three months in jail for violating a court order barring him from gas stations near Middlesbrough, England. At the February proceeding where the order had been issued, magistrates heard testimony about Taylor (who doesn't drive) terrorizing gas station customers and staff on more than 50 occasions and viewed security-camera footage showing him slashing a fuel line and huffing the fumes, then dancing wildly around the pump area.

Least Competent Criminals

No Longer Weird category 17, "Burglar falls asleep during job," doesn't cover people who never make it to the scene of the crime. In March police arrested Steven Jakaitis, 42, whom they found asleep in a car idling outside a CVS pharmacy in Quincy, Massachusetts. He had a nylon stocking over his head and a cap pistol in his pocket, and beside him on the car seat was a note reading "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors know Empty the All the register."


John W. Hill of High View, West Virginia, was arrested near Saint Louis in March after sheriff's deputies stopped to see why he was parked alongside I-70. Hill, dressed in an Indian vest without a shirt, cargo pants, and combat boots, told them he was bringing Bibles to Native American children in South Dakota. Smelling marijuana, the officers searched his vehicle and found several loaded pistols, a loaded assault rifle, an eight-inch knife, and about 400 rounds of ammunition. They later said he told them, "It's dangerous out west."

The BBC reported in March that since December someone had been anonymously visiting a remote farmhouse in Lincolnshire, England, and leaving behind shoes--more than 30 pairs altogether, often still bearing price tags. The house's residents said they had no idea who was doing it or why, but video footage they took shows an elderly couple in a green car pulling up, dropping off shoes, and driving away.

Thinning the Herd

Police in Lake City, Michigan, said they didn't think a 19-year-old man who bled to death of two self-inflicted knife wounds in March intended to kill himself; he apparently meant to cut himself only superficially while on the phone with a 911 operator so he could accuse his neighbor, with whom he'd been feuding, of stabbing him. Also in March, police in Corpus Christi, Texas, said they believed a 42-year-old man found dead in a car parked next to a garden store had suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage after breaking in and trying to steal a concrete statue of the Virgin Mary.

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

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