News of the Weird

Week of March 21, 1999

-- In March, Alan and Christine Davies of the Welsh city of Rhondda, were awarded about $200,000 from the driver who caused the collision that, according to doctors, left Alan with a rare brain injury. Alan developed "Capgras' syndrome," a separation of connections between visual perception and emotion which causes the victim to imagine that a person whom he recognizes (in this case, Christine) is actually someone impersonating her. Alan is convinced that the real Christine died long ago and refuses to become intimate with the "impostor." A court psychiatrist called Alan's condition permanent.

-- Prominent Christian conservative psychologist Paul Cameron told Rolling Stone magazine in a March interview that he feared gay sex would supplant heterosexual sex unless a vigilant society repressed it. "Marital sex tends toward the boring," he said. "Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does." If all one seeks is an orgasm, he said, "the evidence is that men do a better job on men, and women on women." "(H)omosexuality," he said, "seems too powerful to resist."

-- In February, based on a prosecutor's complaint that a boy, Ayman Khadari, had roughed up a 2-year-old neighbor girl, a judge in Alexandria, Egypt, declared the boy (who was not in court) guilty of assault. The judge sentenced the boy to six months in jail and instructed the prosecutor to have him arrested. The complaint had not stated the boy's exact age, and only when the father brought him to an appeals court to challenge the ruling was it discovered that the newly convicted hoodlum was only 18 months old. (The girl's parents, who instigated the complaint, had long been feuding with the boy's parents.)

The Judicial Temperament

In road-rage incidents in Rochester, N.Y., in February and Delaware, Ohio, in June, the alleged maniacs were judges. Rochester judge William Bristol, reportedly miffed that a confused driver had stopped in the middle of the road, was accused of pounding on her windshield "like a lunatic" and following her home so that he could tell police her address. In the Ohio incident, judge Michael Hoague was convicted of threatening a 24-year-old woman whose car he said he had observed being driven recklessly. According to the woman, Judge Hoague had tailgated her at high speeds while yelling profanities, and he later ordered her to his courtroom despite the fact that no charge had been filed against her.

Teachers From Hell

-- In August, the mother of high school student Justin Burnett filed a lawsuit in Chicago against the school board and shop teacher Philip Rush, who had admitted shocking disruptive students by hooking them up to a spark plug and a current-producing crank, sometimes, according to the lawsuit, for as long as 30 seconds. According to the school superintendent, Rush said the disciplinary stunt was a "teaching tool" for kids to see how electricity worked.

-- In Wichita Falls, Texas, former elementary school principal Terry Hitt said in October he would challenge the state's attempt to revoke his teaching certificate. He said he had a teaching ability that was a "gift from God," despite his having admitted earlier in the year that he had stolen his students' prescription Ritalin, melted it down, and shot up with it.

-- In Lop Buri, Thailand, in November, teacher Sombat Boon-namma was accused of punishing seven students by forcing them to hold their hands over a candle's flame until burned badly enough that they required hospitalization. Ms. Sombat said she was merely trying to narrow down the suspects in a recent theft and thought that an innocent person would have no fear of the flame. And the Cairo, Egypt, daily newspaper al-Akhbar reported in December that a teacher in a suburban elementary school had been accused of punishing a rowdy 10-year-old boy by forcing him to stare at the sun for such a long time that he suffered retina damage.

Unclear on the Concept

-- In December, Gina Tiberino, 32, a secretary for the Spokane, Wash., sex-crime prosecutors, was fired, one month after she reported that she had been raped. She attributed a work slowdown to typical post-traumatic effects of the assault, pointing out that she had never received negative job evaluations before the incident. Her superiors, though, said she had become "too focused on (her) personal tragedy."

-- In August at several mink farms in England, animal rights activists surreptitiously "liberated" 6,000 of the aggressive, unruly animals. In the following weeks came dozens of reports of minks killing pets (dogs, cats, hamsters), chickens, birds in a sanctuary and endangered water voles. Many minks themselves were killed, either by people protecting their own animals or in fights with other minks, and some minks were said to have died of the stress of being released into the wild.

-- In December, Texas' Commission for the Blind (which provides workplace support to the visually impaired) was found by the U.S. Department of Justice to have discriminated against two of its own sightless employees and so paid $55,000 to settle the employees' complaints. The commission had previously issued printed employee manuals but had no Braille or large-type versions for its blind or sight-impaired workers.

-- In December, Great West Casualty Co. filed a $2,800 lawsuit against the estate of Ms. Gertie Witherspoon, who was 81 when she was struck and killed near Harrisonville, Mo., by a Vernon County Grain and Supply tractor-trailer insured through the firm. Great West contends that Ms. Witherspoon was negligent in walking in front of the truck and seeks to recover from her heirs the money it had to pay out in front-end damage.

-- In January, a 16-year-old driver and his 20-year-old passenger smashed their car at a high rate of speed through the glass doors of their high school gym in Doylestown, Pa., and into a concrete wall, in what the driver said was a suicide attempt brought on by depression. However, both were wearing seat belts and were not seriously hurt.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in January 1998 on a motorist killed by a flying cow (propelled through the air and through the windshield after being hit by another car). In February 1999 the same thing happened to the driver of a pickup truck near Vacaville, Calif., after a car hit a cow on Pleasants Valley Road. (Five days earlier, near Prattville, Ala., a 19-year-old motorist was killed in the same way by a 300-pound flying hog.)

Least Justifiable Homicides

Edmonton, Alberta, February: A 34-year-old man was beaten to death in a fight over whose turn it was at a tavern's pool table. Black Oak, Ark., February: A 65-year-old man was shot to death in an argument over whether the town needs sewer service. Miami Beach, Fla., March: A 66-year-old man was shot to death at a condominium association meeting by a man enraged that someone had stolen his garden hose.

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

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