News of the Weird

Week of September 26, 1999

-- Department of Energy security guidelines released in August, in response to reports of Chinese espionage, include a requirement that workers report any "close and continuing contact" (defined as two or more visits) with nationals from 25 specified countries. DOE official Edward Curran acknowledged to reporters that continuing sexual relationships are covered but that one-night stands are not and said he did not believe the guidelines would undermine romance or encourage promiscuity.

-- An August London Observer story alerted Britons that this summer's New York City fashion fad of live snakes as women's accessories would soon hit England. Londoners just back from Manhattan reported they had seen "several" or "quite a few" snakes on the street, from dance-club exhibitionists to the upscale patrons of trendy bars like Max Fish, with serpents usually carried in handbags and chosen for their color, e.g., albinos or green garters or bright-banded corn snakes.

"Minnesota Nice"

-- In May, William Pittman, an official at the Hazelden Foundation near Minneapolis and an authority on alcoholism and anger management, pled guilty to harassing his ex-wife, including sending anonymous notes suggesting she kill herself. And in September, anesthesiologist Thomas J. Valente, 41, pled guilty in Apple Valley, Minn., to punching a 69-year-old woman in the face in a road-rage incident. And in August, Debra A. Doherty, 38, was charged in Minneapolis with administering a nearly fatal beating with a broomstick and a crutch to a 39-year-old roommate with muscular dystrophy.

The Weirdo-American Community

-- In May, Miami-Dade police arrested John Troy Davey, 37, and accused him of being one of a gang of serial flashers working Miami neighborhoods. Gang members' outfits included bandannas, g-strings and women's panties with the crotch cut out. According to police, the men discussed techniques and target neighborhoods on the Internet.

-- At an academic conference on sexuality in Madison, Wis., in May, Robert Bahr, the founder of a newsletter on masturbation, told attendees that some of his readers have adopted the "solo" sexual orientation, being neither hetero- nor homo- nor bi-sexual. According to Bahr, in remarks reported by Canada's National Post, these men "have fallen in love with their own reflections." Some engage in "marathons of masturbation, honeymoons in which they lock themselves away in their own homes, parading naked from mirror to mirror."

-- In June, a Sandpoint, Idaho, publisher released a book on numerical patterns that reveal the "musical and electromagnetic frequencies for spiritual evolution and world healing," patterns that appeared spontaneously one day on his author's car windshield, he said. The publisher is dentist and Harvard-degreed health educator Leonard Horowitz, who told the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review in July that he used to calm his root-canal patients with holistic techniques rather than anesthesia.

-- In an August Providence Journal profile, 47-year-old substitute teacher Herb Gardner of Smithfield, R.I., described his 30-year obsession with the late actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by the Charles Manson family in Los Angeles in 1969 at the age of 26. With his wife's support and inspired by his collection of Tate posters, videos and other memorabilia, Gardner spends his time energetically pointing out to all who will listen that Tate was not a Hollywood swinger but a gentle and charitable person and that one reason he was put on Earth was to defend her honor.

Too Much Time on Their Hands

-- According to a May Reuters dispatch, the city-supported Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik is closing in on its goal of housing at least one sample penis from every mammal native to Iceland. Only "man" and one species of whale are missing, and curator Sigurdur Hjartarson has solved the first problem with a letter from an 83-year-old former Lothario promising his organ upon his death (in an erect state if doctors can act quickly enough). Some whale species, though, have only the tips displayed because the entire organs are too long (10 feet) or too heavy (more than 100 pounds).

-- In June, the Tokyo firm Epoch introduced the Plantone, an egg-shaped, battery-operated, $55 appliance that, when wired to a plant's leaves, checks its emotional state and reports that to the caretaker in a series of lights and sounds.

-- In an April feature just after the air war over Yugoslavia began, the Boston Globe profiled a group of Watertown, Mass., residents who met daily to engage in an "advanced" form of Transcendental Meditation to send brain waves of calmness halfway around the world to dissipate the stresses that caused the war. Said one participant (described as a "financial writer"), "We're undermining warlike tendencies." The meditation failed for 80 days, but on June 21, NATO ended its bombing campaign.

Psychogenic Fugues

People recently formally diagnosed with "psychogenic fugue" -- temporarily abandoning one's current reality and falling into a substitute -- which of course informally describes most people reported in News of the Weird: Tim Carpenter, 44, former publisher of Christian books, pled guilty in Springfield, Mo., in July to causing a false police report; in December 1998, he had walked away from his home and job in Springfield and was found the next week working in Memphis, Tenn. And Dan Ristau, 50, was convicted of trespassing in Geneseo, Ill., in June for going to an acquaintance's home in the middle of the night and sitting on her bed because he said he needed to talk to her.

Recurring Themes

Latest woman to continue to propose everlasting matrimonial bliss with a man who earlier attempted to kill her: Hong Kong waiter Ms. Au Wing-sze, 18, who in August vowed to marry Tang Kwok-wai even though he had just been convicted of tossing her over an 18th-floor balcony and stomping her hands as she clung to the railing. (She hung on long enough for a downstairs neighbor to pull her to safety.) Said Au's lawyer, "If anything, (the incident) has only strengthened (their) relationship."

Least Justifiable Homicides

Virgil A. Henderson, convicted in Minneapolis in March (victim had been dogging Henderson to take a bath and change clothes); Brian N. Wright and Rantone D. Howard, charged in Independence, Mo., in April (victim crashed a party and drank beer without permission); James Gatling Jr., convicted in Newport News, Va., in February (wanted to buy victim's Porsche but felt victim humiliated him by insinuating Gatling was unworthy of a Porsche).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A nun was charged with lying to police about being robbed in order to cover for $20,000 of church money she had naively donated to a scam artist (Santa Monica, Calif.). A deli named a burger for college student Shaun Reilly in honor of his periodically scarfing down six 8-ounce cheeseburgers and five pounds of fries at one sitting (Brighton, Mass.). A 39-year-old man was arrested for burglary after being found inside a church, passed out from communion wine (San Diego). A high-ranking Canadian pro-gun lobbyist was cited by police when his gun accidentally fired a round through his wall and into a neighbor's apartment (Regina, Saskatchewan). Iran's supreme leader decreed that the punishment for politically opposing the death penalty would be the death penalty.

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

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