News of the Weird

Week of December 12, 1999

-- Life Imitates "Weekend at Bernie's": In November, government officials in East London, South Africa, thwarted an attempt by two men and a woman to register a corpse for pension benefits. According to the South African Press Association, the three propped up the recently deceased man (who they said was merely ill) at the window serving the illiterate and held his hand out to be fingerprinted before a clerk got suspicious.

-- A November feature in Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper recounted the exhibits in Philadelphia's Mutter Museum of medical oddities, including the preserved corpse of a woman with a condition that turned her fatty tissue, upon her death, into a soap-like mass that halted decomposition; the "Muniz collection" of circular-sawed Peruvian human skulls; the extensive, 70-year-old Chevalier Jackson Collection of Objects Swallowed and Inhaled; and the huge colon (described as "about the size of a large basset hound") that caused fatal constipation.

Latest Inappropriate Nude Activities

Parishioners at Saint Andrew's Church in south London, England, overpowered a naked, sword-wielding man after he had attacked nine people during a children's service (November). Two former Rutgers male basketball players filed a lawsuit against the school and its coach for making them run laps naked during a practice two years ago (November). A naked University of California at Santa Cruz student was hit by a car, commandeered it, drove off, and promptly crashed into a tree (October). A judge released often-nude gardener Robert Norton, 76, of Pekin, Ill., after his 19th arrest, but said he will go to jail if he is seen naked again (August). ("I can't (promise) anything," Norton said.)

Compelling Explanations

-- Douglas Alan Feldman, 41, was sentenced to death in Dallas in August for two road-rage murders, based in part on letters he had sent to a former girlfriend after his arrest. Wrote Feldman: "I found it quite pleasurable to kill those two men. If you are an angry person and someone provokes you to violence, (it) feels wonderful to cause their death and to watch their pain."

-- When Lawrence Russell Brewer Jr., the second defendant to go to trial in the 1998 Jasper, Texas, racial dragging death, showed up in a Bryan, Texas, courtroom in September 1999, the arresting sheriff had trouble recognizing him because Brewer was so much heavier (having gone from a 30-inch waist to a 40). Brewer's explanation was that he so feared that a Y2K computer crash would wipe out his prison commissary account that he had decided to spend down all his money right away on junk food.

-- In August, an 87-year-old woman, pursued for 30 miles along southern California's Pacific Coast Highway by siren-blaring sheriff's deputies who wanted to stop her for a traffic violation, said when she finally pulled over that she had kept driving because the deputies never did what cops do in the movies: overtake her and force her over. And one month later a jury in Frederick, Md., acquitted motorist Ester Maria Pena, 59, who said she failed to stop for a pursuing officer's siren-wailing car because he didn't do what cops do "in the movies": overtake her and block the road.

-- In August, The Sunday Oklahoman newspaper revealed that the charity Feed the Children, through poignant TV appeals, took in an extra $6 million in the 45 days after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing but gave only half of that to bombing victims, putting most of the rest into its investments because, according to president Larry Jones, there was no proof that the donors intended the money for bombing victims. The newspaper also reported that "almost none" of the $47 million raised last year by Feed the Children actually went toward feeding children.

Latest Rights

-- In August, a Portland, Ore., jury acquitted drunk-driving defendant Robert Lee Buskirk after a judge accepted his argument that incriminating statements he made at the scene not be used against him because he was so drunk he didn't know what he was doing when he waived his "Miranda" right.

-- In 1994, psychologist Kenneth Olson of Phoenix, already on probation with the state's licensing board for a 1988 exorcism, filed a lawsuit against the board, asserting that he had a constitutional right to perform a 1993 exorcism on an 8-year-old foster child (and to be paid $180 for it by the state's Child Protective Services). (In July 1999, a federal appeals court ruled against him.)

-- Milwaukee's Thomas Rollo, 53, chopped off his arm at the elbow with a homemade guillotine in October, but authorities found the arm in his refrigerator and made plans for reattachment surgery. However, Rollo refused the surgery, threatened to sue, and promised to chop the arm right back off if it were reattached. However, a week earlier, a judge in Norwalk, Conn., acting on an emergency request from Norwalk Hospital, ordered a 42-year-old man who had severed his penis to submit to reattachment surgery.

Canadian Urinary Crises

Canadian military officials told reporters in September that 23 of their 32 Hercules transport aircraft require expensive structural repairs to replace a main aluminum beam; the beams were corroded by urea acid from urinators who splash (or miss the mark altogether) in the planes' crude cargo hold toilets. And later that month, an official of the upscale University of Toronto Athletic Centre health club told the National Post newspaper that the reason its automatic-flush toilets weren't working is that men were too fast on the draw; because the members were often naked when using the urinals and thus did not take time to unzip and zip, some spent less than the minimum nine seconds needed to reset the flushing trigger.

Update

In September, authorities in Lincoln, Ill., said the "Sock Man" (reported in News of the Weird earlier this year) from nearby Springfield had finally slipped up and committed a crime when he tried to abduct three kids. In Springfield, he had offered female strangers $100 for their socks, and in nearby Auburn in August, he allegedly offered young girls $5 to chew some gum and give it to him. Springfield and Auburn police said neither of those incidents was illegal (or, as a Springfield officer said, "It's no crime to be weird").

Thinning the Herd

One month before the Texas A&M bonfire tragedy, a 17-year-old University of Oklahoma football fan in Kingfisher, Okla., accidentally shot himself to death while celebrating the team's victory over Texas A&M. And in September, a 21-year-old Bryant College (Smithfield, R.I.) student, trying to slide down a banister in a residence hall, was killed when he fell three stories onto his head.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A man and his son, ages 54 and 17, were arrested in Columbus, Miss., for burglarizing a home, both dressed in ninja costumes, armed with swords and star-shaped throwing blades. An armed-robbery suspect, hiding from police in a tree at 4 a.m., was arrested when his wristwatch alarm sounded (Reno, Nev.). Officials at a landmine museum adjacent to two schools finally acceded to demands to defuse its 463 live mines (Zendajan, Afghanistan). A 37-year-old woman was cited for driving on a major freeway while reading a book (Ottawa, Ontario). An ultra-Orthodox religious court in Jerusalem banned women from using cell phones in public, ruling that it makes them look like prostitutes.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or Weird@compuserve.com.)

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