News of the Weird

Week of October 22, 2000


-- Legitimate Chinese cricket-fight promoters once again staged their national championship matches in Beijing in October despite fears from their ranks that illegal gambling was ruining their "sport" that has endured for 1,000 years, according to a New York Times dispatch. Thousands of men descend on farmers in Shandong province each summer, seeking crickets of the proper physique and character to endure rough matches inside 8-inch-wide plastic containers. Matches end when one contestant tries to flee or gets tossed around hopelessly by the other.

-- The University of Surrey (Guildford, England) announced in October that it was adding to its curriculum in service-sector management by appointing a professor of airline food. A Surrey official said the school intended to beef up its graduate and undergraduate course offerings in in-flight catering and told The Guardian newspaper that the professor would be appointed from either the field of gastronomy (how food is served) or the field of food science (concentrating, for example, on freshness).

Middle Fingers in the News

Janet Woods, the acting principal of Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pa., angry at reporters' questions about a rumored gun incident, allegedly displayed a middle finger and told camera operators to "Shoot this!" (August). And in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Kamol Kaewmora, 50, recipient of the gesture, was arrested and charged with shooting to death the 41-year-old German motorcyclist who had displayed it to him (August). In August, a state court in Lancaster County, Pa., and a federal court in Fayetteville, Ark., dismissed criminal charges against people who had made the gesture, and the Arkansas judge in fact ruled the defendant's right to flip the bird at a state trooper was protected by the U.S. Constitution.


-- Newcastle, England, body piercer Lorna Larson accidentally hit a vein while working on the tongue of Gemma Danielson, 18, in July and by the time Danielson got to the hospital, she had lost four pints of blood. Said Danielson, "(Doctors) said they had never seen anything like it." Larson said she was mortified: "That's the last tongue I do."

-- Joseph Pileggi, 69, filed a lawsuit in Akron, Ohio, in July seeking money damages over his 1997 marriage to Carli Buchanan, 61. He claims he intended to marry not Buchanan, but his long-time girlfriend, who is Buchanan's mother, Ducile Palermo, 83. He claimed that he did not realize until May 1999 that the "wrong" woman's name was on the license (despite Buchanan's insistence that Pileggi consummated the marriage with her on the wedding night).

-- Latest Highway Truck Spills: 26 alligator carcasses, weighing nearly 5 tons (headed for a processing plant near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., October); U.S. Army Multiple Launch rockets (from a military truck, adjacent to an elementary school near Hugo, Okla., August); and a load of completed Advanced Placement tests (being taken from a New York City testing center to Educational Testing Service in New Jersey, of which 84 were never recovered, thus hindering those students' college careers, May).

Adventures in Ignorance

-- In August, Davidson, N.C., police officer Scott Searcy asked to search a woman's car for drugs, giving as his legally required basis ("reasonable suspicion") solely the fact that on the front seat was a copy of the weekly newspaper Creative Loafing, whose cover story on local drug enforcement was illustrated by a photo of a marijuana plant. Said Assistant Chief Butch Parker, "(Searcy) thinks he had reasonable suspicion, and we do, too." (The woman consented to the search, and nothing illegal was found.)

-- In July, Rev. Nelson W. Koscheski, a delegate from Dallas to the national Episcopal convention in Denver, was seen scattering salt under the tables of openly gay and lesbian delegates. According to some authorities, tossing the salt is a symbolic gesture to rid the premises of Satan. After some participants expressed their outrage, Rev. Koscheski resigned as a delegate.

-- Lisa Alger of Roy, Wash., had to take her claim all the way to state judge Paul Treyz in June, but she finally got a dismissal of one of the municipal citations against her for housing an unlicensed cat named "Patches." Reason: "Patches" is a stuffed animal. (The local Humane Society monitors for violations of licensing law by knocking on doors and asking kids the names of their pets, so it can check license lists. When Alger's 7-year-old son mentioned the highly regarded "Patches," and the Humane Society found no license for it, it wrote Alger up without investigating.)


Jail guards employed by the Nova Scotia government had their "privilege" of being able to eat free in the inmates' dining room taken away in July because of budget cuts and must now pay $2.50 to get their prison meal. And Brazilian multimillionaire Jair Coelho, 68, was arrested in August and locked up before trial; he had made a fortune on the country's jail contracts, supplying nearly inedible food, but the government proved that he got the contracts through bribery, and thus he must now eat his own food.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird mentioned in 1999 that the Safety Tanteisha detective agency in Osaka, Japan, was selling about 200 aerosol spray kits a month (at $400 each) to help women find out whether their men are having affairs, by detecting the presence of fresh semen on their underwear. In July 2000, according to a Phoenix New Times report, a venerable local medical lab has introduced Forensex, which charges spouses and lovers from $350 up to test partners' underwear for semen (hers, to see if sperm is present; his, to see if he has ejaculated at inappropriate times).

The Only Way Out

In August, a 20-year-old man who worked at a landscaping business in Phoenix proposed to his girlfriend (she accepted), took her to the worksite, turned on a woodchipper, climbed in, and tried to pull her in, too. He was killed, but she escaped. Also in August, the style and etiquette columnist for The Times of London was found dead, clad only in a shirt, beneath his fourth-floor apartment window, but colleagues said the suicide scenario was too tacky for the man. Said one friend, "(H)e'd have wanted to be really dressed appropriately." Said the coroner, "It would be likely that he would write a letter to explain, and no doubt on the Smythson's notepaper that was found in the (apartment)."

Also, in the Last Month ...

The new head of a Hudson River environmental organization, on a well-publicized maiden kayaking voyage around New York City, discovered a floating corpse. A Zambian man was granted a divorce after testimony that his wife routinely locked him in the bedroom at night to stop his philandering (Lusaka, Zambia). Police said two burglary suspects, left alone briefly in a stationhouse storage/interview room, stole some Twizzlers and the change from the office coffee fund box (Albuquerque). Police-dog trainee Ben, let out of a squad car on a rural road to relieve himself, picked up the scent of a nearby, 125-plant marijuana field (Perkins Township, Maine).

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

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

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