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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In November, as Canadian protesters bemoaned what they said were the effects of global warming on outdoor hockey, the Associated Press reported on a form of the sport seemingly immune to climate change: underwater hockey. Teams of six players--each outfitted with snorkel, mask, fins, and a short wooden stick--hit a plastic-coated lead puck across the bottom of a swimming pool, surfacing for air only when absolutely necessary. There are about 50 underwater hockey teams in the U.S., and 17 countries will compete in world championships next year in Sheffield, England.

Government in Action

General Pellumb Qazimi told Reuters in October that Albania's military is scrapping its fleet of obsolete Soviet-designed MiG fighter jets. The country never used them in battle, but 35 Albanian pilots died over the years in accidents while flying them. And the Hindustan Times reported in September that the 97 official rat catchers on New Delhi's payroll hadn't recorded a single capture since 1994. (An AP reporter in New Delhi confirmed that this wasn't for lack of opportunities.)

Are we safe yet? In October the state of Kentucky received a $36,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security to help prevent terrorists from using bingo and other games of chance to raise money. Also in October, the Tampa Tribune reported that two lower-tier Florida tourist attractions--Dinosaur World in Plant City and the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs--were on Homeland Security's list of "critical infrastructure" that the state had to "harden" against terrorist attacks.

The democratic process: Randy Hale was elected to the school board in Romoland, California, in November, despite having been incarcerated since September for a parole violation. (He's due to get out in February.) And in October James Skwarok withdrew from the race for mayor of Victoria, British Columbia, rather than face likely legal challenges from the city; a one-issue candidate opposed to the pumping of raw sewage into local waters, he'd campaigned while wearing a turd costume, using only the name Mr. Floatie.

Police Report

Footage recorded in October by a surveillance camera at Sonny's Pizza and Pasta in San Clemente, California, showed a burglar entering late at night and emptying the safe, then picking out an apron and making himself a large pizza with numerous toppings. Apparently surprised by the arrival of an early-shift worker, the burglar fled with the money but without the pizza. And according to an October arrest warrant for former minor league baseball player Mark Guerra, the Apalachee Correctional Institution in Sneads, Florida, paid Guerra $1,247 to play on the guards' softball team, which he led to victory in a Department of Corrections tournament.

People With Issues

Sean Kobin, 20, was arrested in Milwaukee in November after allegedly persuading a 33-year-old woman to drink concentrated drain cleaner, then videotaping her as she vomited. (The woman was hospitalized.) Police said the tape also showed at least three other women drinking various substances and vomiting, and last year Kobin was jailed for encouraging a 13-year-old girl to drink bleach, urine, and lighter fluid. Also in November, an 18-year-old male was charged with indecent exposure in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after being discovered at a local cultural center one afternoon with his pants and underwear down, fooling around with a seminude female mannequin. (A police officer said, "There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin. That's the only way I know how to put it.")

Things You Probably Didn't Know

A new speed record for blind drivers was set in September, when 33-year-old Hein Wagner (aided by a navigator) reached 167 miles per hour in a Maserati V8 GranSport on an airstrip in Mafikeng, South Africa. (Wagner was also a member of the South African cricket team that won the inaugural blind World Cup in 1998.) And according to a November article in the Harvard Law School Record, Harvard libraries contain at least four books bound in human skin, including a 17th-century treatise on Spanish law with an inscription calling the binding "all that remains" of a man named Jonas Wright.

Least Competent Criminals

Bryan Perley of Orlando, Florida, was charged on several felony counts in October after he allegedly walked into a state administrative office, claimed to be a merchant marine officer, and attempted to serve a phony arrest warrant on a worker there against whom he had a longtime grudge. According to a report by WFTV TV, when the colleagues of the intended victim (who had the day off) wouldn't cooperate with him, Perley called the police for backup, telling a dispatcher, "They don't understand the chain of command in government. I've warned them."

Thinning the Herd

A 43-year-old motorcyclist was killed in October when he crashed into a guardrail on Interstate 35 near Osceola, Iowa; according to witnesses, at the time of the crash he was standing up on the motorcycle's seat with his arms folded. And a 19-year-old driver was killed in West Rutland, Vermont, in September while performing a Jackass-inspired stunt: as two passengers videotaped him, he set his car's cruise control at 30 miles per hour, then opened his door and jumped out.

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

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