News of the Weird

Week of December 3, 2000


-- A court in Council Bluffs, Iowa, will rule in early December on whether to admit "brain fingerprinting" evidence that might free Terry Harrington, who has been in prison for 22 years for a murder he says he did not commit. Iowa psychiatrist Lawrence Farwell developed the technique, which he says measures brain activity (or inactivity) following attempts to trigger memories; tests on Harrington showed him with no memory of the murder or the crime scene but with memories of attending a rock concert with friends on the same night.

-- High school student Brandi Blackbear filed a federal lawsuit against the school district in Broken Arrow, Okla., in October for suspending her twice during the previous school year, once for her Stephen King-type writing journals and once after the assistant principal implied that Blackbear's Wiccan "curse" actually caused a teacher to become ill. "I, for one," said the Oklahoma director of the American Civil Liberties Union, "would like to see the (evidence) that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell."

Some of the More Obscure Election Weirdness

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution database match proved that 5,412 dead Georgians had voted since 1980, with 15,000 more potentials this year. Tom Wesson, an Anglo running for constable in Dallas, lost even though he had given himself an edge by renaming himself "Tomas Eduardo Wesson." Kari Brandenburg, the Albuquerque district attorney, won re-election easily over a man who had sent her a syrupy, flirtatious e-mail message in October but later claimed it was really meant for his wife. To comply with residency requirements, a school board candidate in Miami tried to claim he lived in a 9-by-11-foot storage shed on his father's property, but a judge dropped him from the ballot. And "psychic" Jacqueline Stallone, interviewed before Election Day, said her dogs had told her telepathically that Bush would win the presidency by "200" votes.

Leading Economic Indicators

-- France's communist party, once serious opponents of capitalism and religion but lately in severe organizational decline, hosted a glamorous fund-raising party in Paris in October with the fashion house Prada (featuring supermodels and other trendy guests), and then a week later staged an art show featuring 30 works portraying a heroic Jesus Christ.

-- The Birch K9 Health & Fitness Centre opened earlier this year in Heywood, England, providing hydrotherapy, whirlpool, treadmill and magnetherapy to dogs under the direction of trainer Dave Burdon, according to an August report in The Washington Post. Despite the club's success in rehabilitating dogs' natural muscles that have weakened through dog owners' indolence, one British newspaper quipped that Birch K9 is the kind of thing that could only happen in America.

-- So important is the vodka industry to the Russian economy that in August, police in Moscow forcibly entered the Krystall (Stolichnaya Vodka) factory, ostensibly to seek tax documents but actually to install an insurgent board of directors to commandeer tax revenues and profits. And so important is the tequila industry to the Mexican economy that earlier this year, federal police moved into the western states that grow agave (the cactus-like plant that is the main ingredient in tequila) to guard the crops; recent agave thefts have sent the tequila price out of range for many Mexicans, from about $11 a bottle to about $33.

-- Prostitutes in Romania's dismal economy have been forced to spruce up their services, according to a June Reuters dispatch from Bucharest, by agreeing to cook and clean up after making house calls. And an exclusive Tokyo club has gone even further: For about $1,000, the customer can visit a brothel decorated as a traditional Japanese man's "home" fantasy, of a beautiful young "wife" who waits on him hand and foot, watches the TV shows he wants to watch, listens to him brag about his day, refrains from mentioning her own problems, cooks him a meal and has sex with him.


-- Latest Survived Impalings: A 22-year-old Spokane, Wash., pizza delivery driver was hit in August by a 2-foot-long piece of rebar that shot through the windshield and penetrated his skull, protruding from the back; he requires extensive rehabilitation. And an 18-year-old University of Southern California student fell out of a second-story apartment window in September and skewered her buttocks on two wrought-iron security bars; four USC football players rushed to help, pushing her body upward to relieve the pressure until paramedics arrived.

-- Christines: A 1982 Chevrolet Citation (faulty wiring) in Winter Haven, Fla., and a 1991 Eagle Talon (ignition came on when the trunk was slammed) in Milton, Ontario, reportedly started up on their own in incidents in August and October, respectively. Firefighters were hosing down the Citation when it mysteriously lurched away from them; the Talon suddenly ran down a bystander (hospitalizing him in serious condition) during a car auction.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported cases of severe motherhood envy in 1992 (Texas), 1996 (Alabama) and 1998 (Illinois), when pregnant women were killed and their abdomens slashed open so that the fetuses could be stolen. In September 2000, according to police in Ravenna, Ohio, Michelle Bica killed a pregnant woman and stole her baby, but because police suspected her, Bica shot herself to death several days later. In all four cases, the babies survived.

In Their Own Words

Retiree Neal Terry, 78, profiled in an October Dallas Morning News story about his "hobby": "I've dedicated my life to irritating people. It's a special gift that I have." "I tell my grandsons, 'You're not going to like everybody you run across, so go ahead and irritate them.'" (Terry insisted that no one has ever gotten really angry at him, even the times he sang the Partridge Family song, "I Think I Love You," over and over at work.)

Law of the Jungle

Troy Carlisle, 28, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October after being convicted in Brandon, Miss., of forcibly taking the life jacket of a 7-year-old girl and leaving her to drown in a Arkabutla Lake; Carlisle told police, "I was thinking I was gonna die or she was gonna die." And in July, Alvin Latham was charged with second-degree murder after he survived the sinking of a shrimp boat in a storm off of the Louisiana coast; police said Latham stabbed the captain to get the ship's only life vest.

Also, in the Last Month ...

The president of the Caesars Atlantic City casino resigned, seeking treatment for compulsive gambling. A married couple, both with doctorate degrees, shot each other to death in a gunfight while their young daughters were watching TV in another room (Sacramento). Home-invading robbers tied up a family on Halloween night and loaded up their valuables, diligently pausing several times to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters (Westminster, Calif.). Jailers confiscated Derrick Echols' artificial leg after he used it to beat a cellmate with and said they probably wouldn't give it back to him until he is released (Peoria, Ill.).

(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

More like News of the Weird