News of the Weird

Week of November 5, 2000


-- Wealthy retired Italian law professor Giacinto Auriti began in July to circulate a private currency, called the "simec," among citizens (and about 40 shopkeepers) in the town of Guardiagrele (about 125 miles from Rome), to "prove" his longstanding theory that any currency, if put in the hands of consumers instead of banks, yields more purchasing power. Auriti prints the simecs, sells them at par with the lira, and then guarantees to merchants that he will redeem them at double their value (by paying out from his family fortune), thereby encouraging merchants to lower their prices. The simec has caused an explosion of consumer sales, but the government believes the whole idea is ridiculous and will collapse as soon as Auriti stops guaranteeing simecs' value.

-- The World Wrestling Federation (whose savage, tawdry matches, under the slogan "WWF Attitude!" top cable TV ratings) filed a lawsuit against William Morris Agency in October, asking a judge to please rescue it from a 1997 contract in which it handed over to the agency a piece of every future dollar it earns. WWF argues that, unable to protect itself, it was bullied by WMA into signing an exploitative contract.

Cavalcade of Hypocrisy

In October, Matthew J. Glavin, president of the conservative legal foundation leading the fight to disbar President Clinton for lying about his sexual affairs, was charged with public indecency, allegedly caught trolling for anonymous male sex partners in a suburban Atlanta park. And John Paulk, whose personal "religion cures homosexuality" experience landed him on the cover of Newsweek in 1998, was demoted as an executive with the Christian group Focus on the Family after he was caught in October reveling in a Washington, D.C., gay bar. And Mike Trout, another Focus on the Family official, resigned in October after confessing to an extramarital affair.

Police Blotter

-- Two Altamonte Springs, Fla., police officers were suspended in August after a photograph turned up of one officer exposing his genitals during a music festival. The two officers had been stationed near the stage for security and were being handed fans' cameras to take close-up photos of the performers, and somehow, one fan got her camera back with the extra photo. Initially, the officer who aimed the camera defended his action by claiming, inexplicably, that he and his buddy were just fooling around and that he did not believe there was film in the camera.

-- Jeffrey Bruette and his former roommate filed an $8 million lawsuit against the Montgomery County (Md.) Police in July, alleging that they were humiliated when child-pornography charges were filed against them because of a videotape they had shot and handed to police. In early 1999, the two men, concerned that a teen-age neighbor boy was stealing from them, had set up a surveillance camera, which happened to catch the boy involved in sex with the men's dogs. They ultimately handed the tape to police to facilitate the boy's getting counseling, but then police arrested them as if the video had been made for sexual purposes, and the men now sue to clear their reputations.

Ewwwwww! Gross!

-- In July, residents of Wertz Avenue in Charleston, W.Va., were just about at the breaking point because of chronic blocked-sewer problems. Not only do the city's storm drains regularly get clogged, sending raw sewage into the street, but recent sewer line backups have spilled waste from Gunnoe's Whole Hog Sausage slaughtering and processing plant, in the form of waves of blood and meat chunks oozing down the street.

-- Chippewa Falls (Wis.) High School senior John E. Smith Jr. was suspended in September for a revenge-based prank in which he brought a cake to school and announced that it was his birthday and that he wanted to share it with administrators. As the six staff members who accepted his generosity found out with their first bites, the secret ingredient in the cake was clumps of hair from different areas of Smith's body.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Darryl Bruce McDowell, 34, was arrested near Cranbrook, British Columbia, in July and charged with assault and seven other counts related to roughing up his common-law wife, against whom he was allegedly retaliating for her having tried to leave him. According to his own testimony at a bail hearing, McDowell uses a wooden rod from time to time to discipline the wife and her children as the Book of Proverbs "command(s)" him to do. Said McDowell, "There is no enjoyment about rodding. It's a biblical imperative."

-- Among the issues roiling the Roman Catholics' Italian Bishops Conference in Turin in September was the pending recommendation that all exorcisms be conducted in Latin rather than in local languages, and an important subissue, according to a report from The Independent (London), was how Satan ought therefore to be addressed: by the formal version of the Latin pronoun "you" ("lei") or the more intimate version ("tu").

Those Sensitive Fetuses

-- Sylvia Louise Gillard O'Brien filed a lawsuit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in August, asking about $7 million from Coca-Cola because, while she was pregnant in 1997, a Fruitopia bottle broke while she was drinking from it, cutting her lip and causing her to bite on shards; she claims that her resulting fear of miscarriage caused the fetus, now a child of 3, to fail to trust and like her sufficiently. And Jeffrey and Julie Marie Leinweber filed a lawsuit in Medina, Ohio, in July for $50,000, claiming that Mrs. Leinweber's third-trimester fetus was so stressed by an auto accident (even though the child, now 3, shows no apparent effects) that the "special bond between mother and child" was "taken away" by the collision.

Recurring Themes

In 1999, News of the Weird reported on two South Koreans who ran insurance scams by chopping off their own feet and finger for payoffs of $40,000 and $7,500, respectively. During a two-week period in August 2000, three more scams were reported: Huang Chun-ming, 35, hacked off his wrist after purchasing additional insurance (Taichung, Taiwan); Chen Shih-hung, 37, chopped off his finger to make his claim (Chiching, Taiwan); and a 28-year-old man was charged with collecting $15,000 in an insurance payout in Dusseldorf, Germany, after he castrated himself and blamed it on a gang's attack.

Undignified Deaths

A 16-year-old boy riding in a car near Gaston, Ore., in August was killed by an airborne, 1,500-pound elk that had just been hit by a truck. In April, another 16-year-old boy, on his bicycle, was killed by an airborne deer that had just been hit by a car in North Canton, Ga. (And in August, Hida Yochikata, 37, survived, but with major back injuries, after being hit by an airborne dog that had fallen from a ninth-floor window in a Paris suburb.)

Also, in the Last Month ...

Murder defendant Gregory D. Murphy, strolling out of his uneventful pre-trial hearing, suddenly turned and coldcocked his lawyer with a left to the face (Alexandria, Va.). A woman filed a lawsuit against the American Red Cross, claiming that she contracted oral herpes from her CPR class's unsanitized dummy (Hammond, Ind.). In a settlement of fraud charges with the Florida attorney general, a psychic hotline agreed to hire only people who swore in writing that they had psychic powers. An off-duty police officer, out on bond after his arrest on suspicion of DUI in the deaths of two motorists, was himself hit by a drunk driver a week later while out bicycling (Kailua, Hawaii).

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

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