News of the Weird

Week of July 4, 1999

-- An evangelical Christian organization in Hereford, England, announced in May that it had established a 24-hour-a-day camera trained on Jerusalem's eastern gate to capture Jesus' millennial return ( Also in May, the firm Triumph International Japan announced it would soon market the Armageddon Bra, with a sensor in the shoulder strap to warn wearers against millennial doomsday objects falling from the sky.

-- Sister Mary Rinaldi, director of development for the Salesian Sisters Roman Catholic order in New Jersey, told television reporters in April that more than 2,500 benefactors have paid $100 and up for nuns to pray for them daily. Rinaldi said the sisters are not selling their prayers; rather, she said, they will pray for anyone, but those who contribute money get special attention from their own designated nun, with proceeds to fund their retirement home. A Pennsylvania order has a similar program, "One on One With a Nazareth Nun."

Another Reason for U.S. Independence from England

In April, just as North Carolina Rep. Frank Mitchell was introducing his bill to plug a loophole in state law that did not fully punish schoolteachers who have sex with their students, the chief inspector of schools in Great Britain was still dealing with fallout from his February remarks that teacher-student sex could sometimes be "experiential and educative" and should not necessarily result even in the teacher's firing.

Inside the Killer's Mind

Ms. Suphatra Chumphusri, explaining why she killed her drug-dealing son in December in Chiang Rai, Thailand: "No matter how much I loved him, I had to do it for the sake of the general society." And according to the court-appointed psychiatrist examining last summer's U.S. Capitol shooter Russell Eugene Weston Jr., the two deaths were unavoidable because Weston had to get the "ruby satellite" in a Senate office in order to stop the Capitol Hill cannibalism that had produced rotting corpses, which would otherwise infect everyone with "Black Heva," "the most deadliest disease known to mankind."


-- Latest Highway Truck Spills: Several tons of chocolate bars (Hershey's, Reese's, etc.) on Interstate 80 near Grinnell, Iowa, March (which caught fire and burned out of control because of the chocolate's oil); a truckload of rock salt in Pittsburgh, March (giving great protection against ice to a small patch of East Carson Street); a tanker truck of tequila near Opelousas, La., June; and 20 tons of explosive black powder just before rush hour in Springfield, Va., at the Capital Beltway's busiest interstate interchange.

-- Sounds Like an Urban Legend, But It's Not: In April in Fayetteville, Ark., exploding beans and rice tore a hole in the roof of Steve Tate's home. Tate had packed the food in frozen carbon dioxide in 6-foot-long pipes for later storage at a cabin, but the gas needed some room to expand. Bomb technicians from nearby Springdale exploded the other pipefuls Tate had prepared.

-- Livermore, Calif., whose population includes many smart people who work for two nuclear research labs, organized digging crews in June to search for its time capsule, which was created with great fanfare in 1974 but now cannot be found because no one remembers where it was buried. It is about the size of a beer keg but was interred unceremoniously by a work crew so as not to encourage thieves.

-- In February, Japanese tourist Satoshi Kinoshida, 48, was hospitalized in Taipei, Taiwan, after he tripped at a hotel and fell onto a chopstick he was holding and had it penetrate about an inch into his right eye socket. (It missed his eyeball, and he was not seriously hurt.) And in March, a 20-year-old man in Thisted, Denmark, had to be taken from a bar to a machine shop late at night so a technician could disassemble a condom machine in which his finger had become stuck.

-- In April at the Westchester (N.Y.) Medical Center, surgeons were preparing a patient for a long-awaited kidney transplant when they realized that the kidney -- on ice in a plastic box in the operating room -- was missing. Ninety minutes later, after an all-out search, the box and kidney were found in a trash bin, having been mistakenly set out for recycling. According to Medical Center officials, the kidney was still viable when implanted, but later failed for other reasons.


-- An April Associated Press feature reported on people (mostly rural Southerners) with a fondness (or addiction) for eating kaolin, the smooth clay used in chalk, paint products and ceramics. Small snack bags of kaolin (even though labeled "not for human consumption") are sold at convenience stores in central Georgia, where half the world's kaolin is produced, and even at farmer's markets in Atlanta. Some kaolin eaters say it settles the stomach, but medical authorities say it leads to constipation and serious liver and kidney damage.

-- Among unusual museums recently in the news: Ed's Museum (publicized in a May USA Today story), bequeathed by Edwin Kruger to the town of Wykoff, Minn., in 1989, consisting of Ed's stuff, interesting only because Ed lived alone and saved everything he ever owned. And the renovated William P. Didusch Museum in Baltimore, also known as the museum on the history of urology (subject of a Baltimore Sun story in January), displaying historical kidney-stone-remedying implements, which are not to be viewed by squeamish men.

-- From a May New York Times profile of Max McCalman, the cheesemaster ("maitre fromager") at the upscale Picholine restaurant in Manhattan: "You must look at (the cheeses)," said McCalman, "smell them, touch them, taste them. Sometimes, I even listen to them and they talk to me." His "office" is his dank, one-of-a-kind "cheese cave" in which he tends to his inventory for hours. Recently, a doctor diagnosed the pain in McCalman's arm as "cheese elbow," which has limited his personal slicing to the soft cheeses.

Recurring Themes

Women With Too Many Cats (and very smelly houses): Alice Tyhurst, Watsonville, Calif. (43 cats, discovered by authorities in May); Dixie Bielenberg and husband John, Decatur, Ill. (211 cats, December); Linda Marie Reynolds, age 50, Wilmington, N.C. (12 cats and 28 dogs, February); a 56-year-old woman, Omaha, Neb. (104 cats, along with a bathtub half-filled with cat waste, May); Janice Van Meter, Dale City, Va. (68 cats, April); Julie Harris, age 37, head of the "Feral Cat Project," Portsmouth, N.H. (31 cats, April).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Two grown men robbed a 9-year-old boy of $6 at his curbside lemonade stand (Cincinnati). A Baptist pastor with 24 years in the pulpit was arrested at a mall doing underskirt videotaping (Atlanta). A high school science teacher was forced to resign after showing her class an execution video to demonstrate "electricity" (Savannah, Ga.). A woman who plays bagpipes for tourists' tips withdrew her lawsuit against Swissair for lost income due to last year's crash of Flight 111 (Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia). A sanitation plant computer-system test for Y2K problems was unsuccessful, resulting in a 4 million-gallon spill of untreated sewage into streets and a park (near Los Angeles).

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

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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