News of the Weird

Week of October 20, 1996

-- On Sept. 19, a branch of the large, financially troubled Czech Republic bank Agrobanka was robbed of about $8,000. The next day, Agrobanka head Jiri Klumpar praised the robbery as a sign of public confidence, signifying that people now believe the bank actually has money in it.

-- More Anal-Retentive Suspects: Charinassa Fairley was charged in July with killing her husband in Baton Rouge, La., after police found a checklist that included the notations "Make a prank call to him; offer food and love; make him take a bath with you. Put on gloves" and "Make love like never before for the last time. Lay down after he falls asleep. Pop him." And in September, former Navy Ensign Dana R. Collins, 35, was convicted of the murder of a colleague after police found a to-do list that included the items "Take him out," "Cut him up/take head/fingers and toes," "Put him in 2 bags," and "Drive body to Pennsylvania. Keep head and fingers and toes -- scatter on way back." And after Gary Lynn Davis, 43, was arrested in July and charged with sexual assaults on several children around Adrian, Pa., police found in his home a neatly printed, three-page list of 125 "Boys and Girls I've Been With" that included abbreviations for the acts committed with each.

-- The New York Attorney General's office announced in September that a new state law banning prison inmates from throwing bodily fluids at guards did not cover one pressing problem: Some inmates recently mailed their semen in plastic pouches to their wives or girlfriends as an expression of love, and the envelopes squished open when run through mail-sorting machines, splattering workers. However, since the inmates did not intend to splatter them, the law does not apply.

THE LITIGIOUS SOCIETY

-- In July, artist Victoria Baldwin prevailed in her lawsuit against the Sydney, Australia, salon Synergy over a bad haircut she got last year. She won $750 plus $234 to compensate her for the hats she had to buy to disguise the cut, which she described as so bad that she looked like Hillary Clinton.

-- Three Texas residents filed a lawsuit in Lufkin, Texas, against the Walt Disney Co., objecting to three recent films marketed to family audiences that they say actually contained subliminal sexual messages: "The Little Mermaid" supposedly has a scene in which a minister has an erection; a voiceover in one scene in "Aladdin" whispers "Take off your clothes"; and "The Lion King" contains a scene in which the word "sex" is formed with clouds, grass and flower petals.

-- Scott Byron Morrison, 47, in jail awaiting trial for the 1995 murder of his ex-wife, filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Calgary (Alberta) General Hospital in August. Morrison claims that if the hospital had properly treated him for a mental illness, he would not have been released and would not, four days later, have killed the woman with a shotgun blast.

-- Earlier this year, unsuccessful Puyallup, Wash., school-board candidate Dale Washam filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Washington state Republican party and others because, he said, the Republicans stole the 1994 "Contract With America" idea from him. Washam said he originated the concept of holding political candidates to their promises when he ran in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

-- Customer Jerry Merich filed a lawsuit against the Starbucks Corp. in July over a 1995 injury in which a Starbucks employee in the company's Littleton, Colo., shop greeted him with a "high five" slap of the hand and caused a shoulder injury which left Merich unable to work for six months.

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

-- In August, Chris Bowdish's Chevron gas station in Lake Oswego, Ore., offered free mammograms administered by local hospital personnel. Said Bowdish, "You can tune up your body while you're having your car tuned up."

-- A Minneapolis firm is marketing an electronic device that allows people to see whether they have the proper temperament to become parents in that it "cries" at random intervals (more often on the "cranky" setting than on the "easy" setting) and stops only when the "parent" reacts properly. To stop the crying, a probe must be held in place for up to 35 minutes to simulate the time required to feed, bathe and comfort the crying infant. Shaking or tilting the device causes it to register an "abuse" signal.

-- At a trade fair in Vienna, Austria, in August, body-paint artist Karl Machhamer demonstrated his design for a skin-tight latex condom, custom-painted onto a penis. He plans to market bottles with enough paint for three applications, along with instructions, for about $8. The main drawback is the seven-minute wait while the paint dries.

-- In July, Philadelphia inventor Bill Killian introduced the Lawn Buddy message machine, in which a 5-inch-tall mechanical animal arises from a flower pot placed by the front door, announces that the resident is away, and invites the visitor to say a message. Killian says it will be on the market in early 1997 for about $30.

-- Earlier this year and backed by $100,000 in federal, state and private grants, Kodiak, Alaska, photographer Marion Stirrup developed PlanTea, a nutrient-rich mix of kelp, fish bone meal, dried beet root powder and other ingredients, which she touts as a superior plant food. Stirrup says the list of ingredients came to her telepathically from her 16-inch palm plant, georgiane (which prefers its name spelled with a lower-case G, Stirrup said).

NO LONGER WEIRD

-- Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (7) The person believed to be missing and dead but who attends his own funeral and shocks the mourners, as did Dulal Chandra Das, who turned up in October after having merely gone off from his home in Calcutta, India, to pray for a while. And (8) the episodes of just-desserts shootings in hunting season, as when Clifford Shellman allegedly shot to death another hunter in May near Blooming Grove, N.Y., after the two inadvertently coaxed each other closer together by sounding their turkey lures.

UNDIGNIFIED DEATHS

-- In August, a 60-year-old stray-dog caretaker was killed in Los Angeles when four large sacks of dog food fell on top of her in her home. And in August, the Ontario Labour Ministry issued a warning after two professional divers drowned in June and July in ponds while searching for golf balls for Sports Quest Inc., which runs a $500,000-a-year business of reselling "experienced golf balls." And Basilio Re died in the village of Vigogna, Italy, in July, during a party to celebrate his 100th birthday, when a gust of wind blew off his hat and he suffered a heart attack chasing it.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 74777.3206@compuserve.com.)

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