News of the Weird

Week of October 29, 2000


-- Rapidly gaining viewers in the competitive Moscow TV market is a program called "The Naked Truth," on an obscure channel, which features straight news delivered by a 26-year-old female anchor, but who appears from time to time topless, or while undressing, or while being fondled on-camera. According to an October New York Times report, however, the station's policy is that any news of President Putin or other leading officials must be delivered while fully clothed.

-- A Quebec-based sect, the Raelians, announced in September that it would start work immediately, in an unidentified Third World country's laboratory, toward cloning a human being, specifically the American girl who died recently at the age of 10 months and whose parents paid the Raelians $500,000 to duplicate her. According to a Princeton University researcher, the technology exists right now to carry out the work within a year. Founder "Rael" (the former Claude Vorilhon) believes that all humans are clones of extraterrestrials and says Raelians could eventually offer a cloning service for about $200,000.

Electric Chair Mania!

"Rides" called "The Original Shocker" at a Rockville, Md., arcade and "The Electric Chair Game" at various parks in Italy are simulated fatal experiences in a death-row electric chair, from the strapping-in to the controlled dose of electricity (voluntarily administered, enough to cause heavy vibrations) to the sound of sizzling juice to the cloud of smoke, and capped by a flat line on a heartbeat monitor. "Winning" involves staying in the chair until the machine declares you dead; losers release the electrodes early. And among America's best-selling toys last summer was Death-Row Marv (McFarlane Toys, $24.99), in which a man strapped into an electric chair trash-talks his "executioner," almost begging to be lit up with more jolts of electricity.

Unclear on the Concept

-- State officials near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, issued $100 citations in August to two drivers whose U.S. Government water trucks were on their way to fight the Montana fires. The officials discovered that the trucks exceeded the highway weight limit of 17 tons (by 1 and 2 tons, respectively). According to the Helena Independent Record newspaper, the trucks were permitted to head out to the front lines only after they had dumped enough water to satisfy the inspectors.

-- In a video outtake mistakenly telecast on a Cape Cod (Massachusetts) public-access cable channel on July 31, the organizer of a cat-adoption service was shown being yelled at by her cameraman-husband (who was off-camera) to get the adoptable cat she was offering to stop squirming during the taping. One viewer told the Cape Cod Times, "The (cameraman) must have used the 'F' word 50 times, along with verbal threats to the kitten (to strangle it)."


-- In July, a federal grand jury in Charlotte, N.C., indicted 18 people in an interstate cigarette-smuggling ring (profitable because of the wide disparity in state taxes), accepting the government's evidence that at least part of the motivation for the scheme was to raise money for the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.

-- Cristal Campbell, 29, was re-arrested on July 12 in Boston after pulling a prank to escape and spending five days on the lam. At a court hearing on July 7, she urinated on the floor but claimed that she was pregnant and that her "water had broken" and thus was rushed to a hospital by concerned court personnel (most of whom were males who accepted her claim uncritically). Campbell is wanted on more than 50 con-artist warrants, and indeed, after court personnel took her to the hospital on July 7, she escaped twice more before her July 12 capture.

Cliches Come to Life

-- Yell What in a Crowded Theater?: In June, Sasha Aleksandr McClain Coe, 22, was charged with reckless endangerment in Sevierville, Tenn., after setting off a string of firecrackers in a theater during the movie "The Patriot." The 78 panicked patrons struggled angrily to get out the doors but once outside, they surrounded Coe and held him for the police.

-- Man Bites Dog: Richard Nelson, 40, fleeing on foot after being stopped in a stolen car, found his arm in the grip of Bear, a Canton, Ohio, police dog, and decided to retaliate by biting the dog on the nose to get it to loosen its grip. Instead, Nelson's bite caused Bear to tighten its jaw, so hard in fact that one of Bear's teeth broke off in Nelson's arm and had to be surgically removed.

In Their Own Words

John Roberts (executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, commenting in the Chicago Sun-Times on the ACLU's support for the speech rights of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which is being sued by a Massachusetts couple as having inspired a pedophile to rape their son): "My wife's an early-childhood educator. (Because of the ACLU's position) I was expecting to find my clothes out on the lawn when I got home."


Innocent Middle-Named Waynes? In July, CBS News and three newspapers jointly offered to underwrite DNA testing of an already-executed man to determine whether, for the first known instance in U.S. history, the judicial system had put an innocent man to death. The subject of the test would be the Perry, Ga., man convicted on conflicting evidence of a 1981 rape-murder and executed in 1996, and who made News of the Weird because of his name: Ellis Wayne Felker. Also, in August, Texas Gov. George W. Bush issued a pardon to convicted rapist Roy Wayne Criner (the victim was also murdered, but Criner was charged only with the rape) because his DNA did not match that found on the victim, as reported in News of the Weird in July 2000.

Least Competent Criminals

Traffic patrol officers often find that a suspected drunk driver will try to switch seats with a passenger after a stop, before the officer can reach the car. However, that strategy succeeds only if the passenger is more sober than the driver. In July, police in Lake City, Tenn., witnessed a driver-passenger switch, but it did not matter because both failed sobriety tests (along with the two people in the back seat). And in August, Hackensack, N.J., police stopped a weaving van to discover an open bottle of Scotch, an impaired 20-year-old man in the driver's seat, and an impaired 22-year-old man sitting in his lap; apparently, the two men got stuck trying to execute the seat switch.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A female placekicker who was cut from the Duke University football team won $2 million when a jury attributed her release primarily to her gender, despite evidence that several competitors were better kickers. Two prison guards were indicted for smuggling out sperm belonging to organized-crime inmates, who recently became fathers despite their long incarcerations (White Deer, Pa.). The Tampa Bay Devil Rays apologized to members of a local high school band, who were to play the national anthem on the last day of the season, for requiring them to buy tickets to get into the ballpark. A 54-year-old ex-Marine stabbed his new son-in-law (Air Force) during a heated discussion of which military service is best (Linwood Township, Minn.).

(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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