News of the Weird

Week of December 17, 2000


-- New York doctors, praising an unconventional remedy for diarrhea in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in November, surmised that sufferers might merely lack certain predator bacteria in the colon (killed off, perhaps, by antibiotics) and thus might benefit from a transfusion of bacteria from a person with a normal amount of such predatory bacteria among his "fecal flora." A "stool donation" by a healthy person, the doctors wrote, homogenized in a blender and introduced (after an enema) into the patient by a colonoscope, might establish a sufficiently strong bacterial mix to kill the organisms causing the diarrhea.

-- The Los Angeles Times reported in December that a scammer had recently rented out as many as 20 rooms in an abandoned inner-city hospital as apartments, at rents from $300 to $400 a month, and that among the amenities of the complex, according to a tenant, was a children's recreation area that was formerly the operating room, complete with obsolete equipment (including syringes) and blood caked on the floor. (Since the scam was discovered, city agencies have been busy relocating the tenants.)

Latest Herculean Self-Litigators

-- In September, Linda Wallace, a former resident of Rocky River, Ohio, and who during two years there was the object of a dozen neighborhood noise complaints, filed a second trillion-dollar lawsuit against the city, this time because she says officials insulted her son; two weeks earlier, she had sued a town police officer for a trillion dollars for false arrest. And several Los Angeles contractors petitioned a court in July to restrict lawyer Robert W. Hirsh from filing lawsuits because of the 82 personal lawsuits he has initiated in 18 years against his home contractors, his clients, his brokers, the hotels and restaurants he frequents, his synagogue, his insurance companies, his former employers, and other targets, many of which he receives cash settlements from in order to end the litigation. Said Hirsh, "I'm not going to be a patsy."

Least Competent People

-- Luis A. Chavarria, released from prison in 1999 after serving 10 years for murder, was charged in Bonita Springs, Fla., in October with possessing a firearm. Chavarria was arrested at a hospital, where he was being treated for a gunshot to the foot which he received in bed when he accidentally engaged the family-heirloom, double-barreled shotgun he said he sleeps with every night.

-- A 43-year-old man was hospitalized in Richmond, Va., in October after being blown off the top of a van at about 50 mph. Police said the man was trying to hold down some wooden fencing that he and another man were trying to move without the benefit of rope, when a gust of wind carried him off.

First Things First

-- The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported in October that a recent University of Tennessee Medical Center memo directs that UT athletes be treated in the emergency room ahead of all other patients (except those with trauma or chest pain). According to the protocol, if the athletic department calls ahead, the caller will not be put on hold, the athlete's medical records will be pulled immediately, and upon arrival, the athlete will be escorted to a private room and treated promptly. (Until recently, the Medical Center was embarrassed that UT athletes preferred treatment by the competing St. Mary's Medical Center.)

-- In October, after a Detroit judge allowed four high school rape suspects back to school pending trial, the River Rouge School Board permitted them back on the football team, too, just in time for the team's final-game push for a perfect 9-0 season. (River Rouge lost, anyway, but still made the playoffs.) And in October, a star Lowndes (Ga.) High School football player was permitted back on the team despite his guilty plea for sexually molesting a student, in contrast to the experience of two players in adjacent Cobb County, who were kicked off their team altogether when charged with vandalizing mailboxes.


-- According to calculations by the Albuquerque Journal in October, all 18 of the public schools around the city that were named among the state's 94 high-improvement schools (based in part on math scores) actually had scores that decreased from the year before. The state school superintendent, when asked about his poor arithmetic, blamed the errors on a traditional bane of test-takers: "working too quickly."

-- Too Clever for Their Own Good: In Akron, Ohio, a 10-year-old boy hiding from his mother in leaves he had just raked was hospitalized in October with minor injuries after his mother drove off (and over the leaves) in the family's minivan. And four days earlier, near Ashby, Minn., a teen-age boy playing a prank put some logs across a road just to make a relative have to stop and remove them in order to drive on; however, the relative chose instead to drive around the logs and accidentally ran over the boy, who was hiding in the grass, and he had to be hospitalized.

Recurring Themes

-- In 1999, News of the Weird reported on the rare Sumatran titan arum plant, one of which was about to blossom in a California library despite being thought by many to be the world's most putrid "flower" (resembling rotting flesh). In August 2000, another of the Sumatran plants blossomed before hundreds of disgusted visitors (as usual, blooming for one day, after 13 years' cultivation) in the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, whose botanists have dubbed it the "penis plant" because of its 6-foot-long pod.

-- In 1990, News of the Weird reported on a man playfully testing a bulletproof vest by having a friend stab him with a knife, which was not supposed to penetrate the lining but did (sending him to the hospital). In October 2000, a 20-year-old man in Swan River, Manitoba, tested his bulletproof vest by having his roommate shoot him. The vest stopped the first shot (by a .22-calibre rifle), but even with a telephone book inserted underneath the vest, the second shot (with a 12-gauge shotgun) cracked the man's ribs, sending him to the hospital.

Thinning the Herd

A 41-year-old Air Force Reserve pilot was killed near Tulia, Texas, in August when he lost control of his F-16 while aerobatically buzzing the farmhouse of his in-laws. And a 32-year-old man was killed on Interstate 26 in Orangeburg, S.C., in September when, riding without authorization atop a tractor-trailer, he was wiped out by an overpass. And a 29-year-old man driving in a Ventura County, Calif., recreation area in his off-road vehicle was killed in October; he was using a flashlight to substitute for his failed headlights when he accidentally drove over a cliff.

Also, in the Last Month ...

An Australian research company, Autogen, purchased the exclusive right to use the genes of all 107,000 citizens of the South Pacific island of Tonga. To substitute for a broken fire alarm system at a courthouse, the government hired 20 people to roam the building daily from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. at $8.90 an hour, to do nothing except look for fires (Phoenix). Officials finally mailed $8 million in settlement checks to 502 inmate-victims of New York's Attica prison riots, which occurred in 1971. A woman purchasing chicken wings at McDonald's (offered during a trial promotion) discovered one of her "wings" was actually a fried chicken head, with clearly visible beak, eyeballs and red comb (Newport News, Va.).

(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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