News of the Weird

Week of April 23, 2000

-- A group of athletes and administrators of the traditional Turkish sport of oil wrestling (grappling contests made more interesting by heavy applications of olive oil) protested to the government in April when they discovered that an organization of gay men was planning to attend a major tournament in July near the city of Edirne to ogle. (According to a Reuters news service reporter, "Putting a hand down the opponent's trousers to get a better grip is a common tactic.")

-- The chief justice of oil-rich Brunei ruled in March that Prince Jefri, the 46-year-old brother of the Sultan of Brunei, was entitled to an allowance of about $300,000 a month while awaiting trial on the Sultan's lawsuit that Jefri misspent $15 billion while in charge of the country's investments. A preliminary audit showed that playboy Jefri had bought himself $2.7 billion worth of toys in 10 years, including 17 airplanes, 2,000 cars, and a huge yacht that he named "Tits," and whose two dinghies he named "Nipple 1" and "Nipple 2."

An Urban Legend Come to Life

Two years ago, in a bogus Internet news story, a South African hospital with a high fatality rate had discovered that a cleaning lady had been plugging her floor polisher in each night by briefly unplugging an appliance that was, unknown to her, a life-support machine. In November 1999, Chicago's TV Channel 7 lost sound for 25 minutes on the final night of the crucial ratings "sweeps" week when cleaning-service personnel plugged a floor buffer into the station's master control outlet, overpowering an audio circuit and driving away 40 percent of the prime-time audience.

Government in Action

-- After Ivory Coast's soccer team was eliminated from the African Nations Cup in January, the country's military ruler, Gen. Robert Guei, had the team arrested and put in a military prison for two days. Addressing the players, Guei said, "I asked that you be taken there so you reflect awhile. Next time (if you play badly) you will stay there for military service ... until a sense of civic pride gets into your heads."

-- In January, a Philadelphia city-funded community organization published a pamphlet on health and safety tips for prostitutes, which recommended always getting on top, negotiating price before getting into a car, and getting the money in advance. Also in January, a member of the Canadian Parliament released a list of recent pamphlets directly funded by the government, including "How to Communicate With the Dead," "How to Stimulate the G-spot," and "How to Understand and Enjoy an Orgasm."

-- Despite many anti-smoking programs sponsored by the U.S. government, a Senate subcommittee found last year that the Department of Housing and Urban Development had spent $4.2 million since 1996 to help American Indians build discount cigarette stores as part of the federal community block-grant program. (In April 2000, legislation was introduced in the Senate to end the practice.)

-- In January, a New York state administrative law judge ruled after four hearings in three years that Krystyna Maliszewska, 51, of Brooklyn was not eligible for worker compensation because she had not provided the proper "medical evidence" that her leg had been amputated (even though voluminous hospital records were in her file). Maliszewska attended each hearing and could have shown her artificial leg and the stump that ends at her right knee but was never asked even to speak. (After a February New York Daily News story, the state quickly reopened the case.)

People With Issues

-- Wynema Faye Shumate, 65, was arrested in Ladson, S.C., in March on two charges of mishandling a dead body. The case came to light when a 27-year-old Englishman flew to America to marry Shumate after a hot Internet romance but discovered that Shumate was not the age-30ish woman she had portrayed online. According to police, when the man asked Shumate if she had other surprises, she told him about the carved-up body in the freezer, which was that of her male former housemate, who Shumate said had died the year before of natural causes. Shumate was cleared of causing the death, but, according to the Englishman, the wedding is off.

-- In a case unique among women who keep too many cats at home, a judge in Fairfax County, Va., told U.S. Navy program analyst Kristin Kierig in November that she could keep the 104 cats that share her Annandale, Va., townhouse because the house is apparently clean and the cats groomed and in good health. Kierig produced medical records on the cats, showed that she cleans the 101 litter boxes twice a day and keeps the 15 water bowls and 20 food bowls stocked, and said she can recognize each cat by name (but she did confess that her house might have an "odor").

-- In March, Benjamin Thomas Douglas, 34, was sentenced to 180 days in jail for the latest in what police call serial public masturbation incidents in the middle of department stores in Dallas and its suburbs of Plano and Mesquite. And the month before that, Philadelphia police were hunting a man in his early 20s for seven incidents of public masturbation at area fast-food outlets over a four-month period; in each case, according to the police reports, the man reached a climax quickly and then left without his order.

Recurring Themes

-- News of the Weird has regularly reported highway truck spills over the years, but a December spill in Providence, R.I., interwove another News of the Weird theme: the tacky, wayward public official. Rhode Island Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor Thomas E. Jackvony Jr. was charged with larceny because, according to police, when he was supervising the cleanup of grocery-store items from an 18-wheeler's spill, he also grabbed whatever items he could and put them into his car. Police recovered 15 packages of cookies, 15 home electronic scales and 20 cassette tapes.

-- More Divine Dentistry: A News of the Weird roundup in July 1999 listed several cities in which worshipers recently have claimed that, following prayer, gold teeth and fillings appeared in their mouths in place of the previous porcelain and silver. Later that year, similar divine outbreaks occurred, at a New Life Community Church revival in Weatherford, Texas, and with Pentecostals in Orangevale, Calif. As with the earlier instances, some of the faithful stuck to their claims even when their own dental records showed they had gold fillings all along.

The Only Way Out

A 57-year-old Halifax, England, man, distraught at his wife's death, decapitated himself with his homemade guillotine (December). A 30-year-old man attempting suicide in Rustenberg, South Africa, put a firecracker in his mouth and lit it; the explosion shook his house and mangled his face, but he survived (January). A 29-year-old man, driving to work at rush hour near Washington, D.C., and arguing with his fiancee on his cell phone, shot himself to death, with the resulting collision tying up traffic for hours (February).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A man in a wheelchair and wearing a beanie robbed a Wells Fargo Bank, instructing the tellers to fill the beanie with cash (Pleasant Hill, Calif.). A woman won $171,000 from a jury for slipping on a piece of broccoli in a Grand Union supermarket (Bennington, Vt.). A Washington, D.C., police officer was found guilty of sexual assault, becoming the 16th officer on the force in 15 months to be convicted of a crime. The Ohio liquor control agency banned as offensive the Belgian ale Manneken Pis because its label features a boy urinating. At least two viewers smashed their TV picture tubes trying to kill the high-definition cockroach crawling across the screen as part of a recent Orkin commercial.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)

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