News of the Weird

Week of January 12, 1997

-- Can't Hold It In: The school board in Durham, N.C., suspended a substitute teacher at Hillside High School in November after she urinated into a trash can during class, allegedly because of a medical condition. And fifth-grade teacher Dow Ooten, 36, was suspended in Charleston, W.Va., in December after he brought his soiled trousers to a school board meeting to show what he was forced to do because the faculty restroom door was locked. And in November, a similarly soiled Tom Pak won a $45,000 settlement from Los Angeles County, whose property tax office clerks made him wait at a desk, without a restroom break, in retaliation for his having arrived 15 minutes before closing to make payments on more than 200 properties.

-- Latest Ear Technology: In November, police in Independence Township, Mich., arrested a 45-year-old man and charged him with peeping into windows at the Clarkston Motor Inn, basing the arrest on the earprints he allegedly left on the windows. And one month later, in Vancouver, Wash., Judge Robert L. Harris ruled that the prosecutor could use an earprint found on the bedroom door of a murder victim in the trial of his suspected killer.

-- Actress Anya Pencheva announced in November a plan to divert her fellow Bulgarians' attention from grim economic problems: She would have a plaster cast made of her breasts, to display in the National Theater in Sofia. Said Pencheva, "It is a pity to focus everything on (budget cuts) when there are such beautiful breasts around."

THE CONTINUING CRISIS

-- According to a September report in Toronto's Globe and Mail, the University of Toronto's medical school employs actors and other people for $12 to $35 per hour to be practice patients for its students. Bob LeRoy, 45, commands the top pay because he is a rectal-exam patient. Said LeRoy, "I always hope the student with the biggest finger goes first."

-- The Wall Street Journal reported in September that about 100 "laughing clubs" had sprung up in India in the last year based on the philosophy of Dr. Madan Kataria, who says the ancient yoga breathing and laughing exercises can help people shed inhibitions, build self-confidence, stop smoking, alleviate high blood pressure and arthritis, and stop migraine headaches. After conventional stretching, adherents engage in silent laughs, out-loud laughs with their lips closed, and the roaring "Bombay laugh." Dr. Kataria worries only that some day the government might try to tax laughter.

-- Suicide Chic: A September story in London's Sunday Times described Venice, Italy, as a new trendy site for unhappy Europeans' and Americans' suicides, inspired by the movie "Death in Venice." (About 50 people attempted suicide in the past year; all but a half-dozen were unsuccessful, usually because the canals into which they leap are deceptively shallow.) And the San Francisco Examiner reported in September that 11 people in the previous 18 months had rented handguns at local gun ranges and killed themselves on the premises.

-- According to an August dispatch by Britain's Guardian News Service, the family of Chiang Kai-shek (the Chinese ruler who was chased out by the communists, to Taiwan, in 1949 and who died in 1975) is growing weary of the "temporary" storage of his skeleton in Taiwan, where it has been kept in preparation for its triumphant return to the mainland upon the fall of the communist government. According to practitioners of the art of feng-shui, the spirits are upset that the skeleton is kept in a box in the living room of the family estate instead of being buried in China.

-- Students rioting in August at South Korea's Yonsei University apparently found weapons in short supply and used whatever was available. When police finally quashed the protest, the geology department faculty discovered that about 10,000 rare rocks, collected over 30 years and considered irreplaceable, were missing. A few were recovered from the streets, chipped or broken.

-- In September, David Cook of Caledonian University (Glasgow, Scotland) told the British Psychological Society's annual conference that his three-year study shows that politicians have significant behavior patterns in common with criminal psychopaths. Cook said that criminals were relatively easy to analyze but that he did not have as much data as he would like on politicians: "(They) don't like to be studied."

-- In October, Miss Canada International, 20-year-old Danielle House, was removed from further competition after being charged in St. John's, Newfoundland, with punching out her ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend in a bar. Ms. House said she had been in counseling recently for "low self-esteem."

-- In Santa Fe, N.M., Christine Bodman announced in November that a group of massage therapists has formed the Massage Emergency Response Team to minister for free to stressed-out firefighters, police officers and paramedics.

-- Latest Bobbittizations: On the evening of November 17, Ms. Renu Begum, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Ms. Raquel Nair Lucio, in Tiete, Brazil, at about the same hour on the clock (but 10 time zones apart) severed their respective husbands' genitals in jealous rages.

-- In August, a federal judge in Springfield, Mo., dismissed the lawsuit of Jennifer Stocker Jessen, now 24, who had claimed that repressed memories of childhood abuse by her step-grandfather returned to her in 1988. The triggering mechanism, she said, was her hitting an opossum in the road with her car.

THE WEIRDO-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

In September in East Orange, Vt., Christie's auction house sold almost $2 million worth of automobiles (including 33 Stutz Bearcats) that belonged to eccentrics A.K. Miller, who died at 87 a few years ago, and his wife, Imogene, who died in 1996. The couple left millions more in gold and silver and other valuables but lived like paupers, sometimes eating dog food or bread made of flour they had swept off the floor, sometimes shopping at yard sales, sometimes dressing in rags. As treasurer of his church, Mr. Miller had once refused to accept a small increase in electricity rates and converted the entire church to kerosene lamps. The Millers paid property taxes but no other ones, and the federal and state governments are now claiming $8.2 million.

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: (13) The gun expert who accidentally shoots himself while demonstrating safety techniques, as did Constable Randy Youngman, who took a shotgun blast in the leg while teaching a safety class in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in December. And (14) the periodic warnings about global warming caused by excessive methane production by flatulent livestock, as was announced in a European Commission strategy paper released in November in Brussels.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 74777.3206@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)

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