News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- Parrots in the News in August: Roger Schlup filed a lawsuit against a veterinarian in Sydney, Australia, for about $200,000 because the vet allegedly failed to fix the broken leg of Schlup's macaw and even broke the other one. Macaws can mate only while standing at odd angles on perches, and Schlup figures "Nelson" is done as a procreator. And in Chicago, transportation analyst Steve Lewins, using stationery of his employer, the investment firm Gruntal & Co., said he had information on alleged federal government complicity in the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the Challenger explosion and said he has had to deal with death threats against him by having a "killer parrot" guard his home.

-- The Des Moines Register reported in July that among the treasures turned up at the excavation site of the steamboat Bertrand, which sank on the Missouri River near Omaha, Neb., in 1865, were four pocketknives with glass rivets that contained explicit, pornographic photos. They are evidence, said conservator Jeanne Harold, that people have not changed much in 131 years.

-- A coroner's inquest in Bexley, England, in September revealed the dominance that the late Karen Morgan, 29, apparently held over her parents and younger brother. Morgan was long bedridden with a brain tumor and pneumonia but so comprehensively dictated the family's eating, bathing and television-viewing habits that the three survivors did not think they could function without her. Police found notes showing all three intended to kill themselves as soon as they had enough money to buy sleeping pills.


-- The California Style in Crime: According to police in Toronto, Ontario, in August, two men who had just executed a well-planned jewelry store robbery made a successful getaway but only after stealing a car in front of the store in order to drive to their getaway car, which was parked a half a block away.

-- Six Edmonton, Alberta, police cruisers chased and stopped a Loomis armored car in May after a report that it was weaving erratically on the road and that a guard appeared to be signaling by repeatedly swinging a door open. There was no holdup, according to police spokesman Kelly Gordon; rather, one of the guards had passed gas, and the other guard was attempting to air out the cab.

-- A burglar raided an impotence clinic in Melbourne, Australia, in June and made off with dozens of bottles of drugs, including some powerful enough to induce five-day erections. Police were not certain whether the burglary was a prank or was committed by someone with a serious need.

-- Steve Tsoukalis, 59, manager of the Raintree Super Foodtown in Freehold Township, N.J., was charged with a hunting law violation in March when he fired his .410-gauge shotgun at some sparrows, which were inside his store at the time. Foodtown employees said wild birds flying into the store had been a problem for a while and that this was Tsoukalis' preferred method for dealing with them.

-- According to police in Huntington Beach, Calif., in June, it was the incessant chatter of Karen Pedersen, 52, that caused the man who was stealing her truck to give up and flee. She had intercepted the man before he could drive it away, and despite his having a gun, she just began talking nonstop. Said Pedersen later, "He sounded irritated. He said, 'I can't believe how this is going. This is like something out of the movies.'" After she gave him a T-shirt to wipe his fingerprints off the truck, he fled.

-- In March, the police department in Nagasaki, Japan, began an investigation of several officers for allegedly helping a suspect get a gun while in custody. According to a witness, the police promised the man a lighter sentence if he would buy a gun from a friend over the phone, have it delivered to the police station, and then have it confiscated from him so that the arresting officers could claim a prized weapons-charge arrest for their records.


-- Marine Cpl. Corban Backstrand, 24, stationed near Hiroshima, Japan, won a dare in June while out with friends. He stuck his head in front of a moving cargo train and was knocked unconscious.

-- In July, according to Gardner, Kan., Sheriff's Lt. Bill Garrett, a woman was treated at Olathe Medical Center for a scalp wound after her husband shot her while the two were playing hide-and-seek in the woods. According to Garrett, the husband said the couple had played hide-and-seek with handguns before.

-- In July, Owensboro, Ky., Road Department driver Sam Holinde, driving his 20-ton dump truck across a bridge with a "limit 3-ton" sign, got about halfway across before the bridge collapsed. The fall was short, and Holinde suffered only minor injuries.

-- In March, "Slim Jim" James Schmedding was hospitalized in fair condition with a serious head injury after a stunt by deejays at radio station KQCC-FM of Rock Island, Ill. Schmedding had volunteered to be packed in a 55-gallon drum and rolled down a flight of stairs. When he did not fit inside initially, he agreed to remove all the padding from the barrel to make room.

-- In June, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs ordered Harold P. Weingold to provide $500,000 in restitution to customers who knew him as the "lottery doctor." During 1992 and 1993, Weingold somehow persuaded 2,000 people to buy an average of $250 worth of good-luck key chains and baubles, and "cosmic protectors" that were merely solar-powered calculators, to guarantee them a "93 percent" chance of winning lotteries.


News of the Weird's first report on the art of butter-sculpting in 1993 covered works at state fairs in Pennsylvania and Minnesota and a Buddhist monk's Tibetan yak butter sculpture loaned to a Chicago museum. In August 1996, Norma "Duffy" Lyon sculpted a life-size butter cow for the 37th straight year at the Iowa State Fair and as her traditional second butter subject at this year's fair chose to portray the stoic "American Gothic" farmers. A few years ago, her second subject was singer Garth Brooks.


In May in Australia, identical twins John and William Bloomfield died of heart attacks minutes apart at age 61; in Madisonville, Ky., in June, twins Welbert and Wesley Cannon, 20, were both hit by a freight train just two miles from the spot where their father was fatally hit by a freight train in 1987; and in July in Los Angeles, Mr. Avi Gesundheit passed away.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or

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