News of the Weird

Week of September 10, 2000


-- An August Wall Street Journal dispatch from Nuoro, Sardinia (Italy), described locals' love for "casu marzu" ("rotten cheese"), brown lumps of sheep dairy, crawling with maggots, a "viscous, pungent goo that burns the tongue" and whose "wiggling worms (often) jump straight toward the eyes with ballistic precision." Though the cheese is banned by the government, a black market has pushed the price to double that for ordinary cheese. Some locals believe the maggots provide authentication, in that it is only when the maggots die that the cheese is inedible.

-- Damanhur, a 23-year-old, largely self-sufficient commune in northern Italy, features an underground, five-story-deep temple (an expansion of 10 times the space is under way); 500 full-time residents; its own currency, schools and tax code; and renowned workmanship that produces Tiffany-style glasswork and silk and cashmere fabrics for European designer labels. According to a July New York Times report, Damanhur was a secret until 1992, when an expatriate sued to get his money back, causing the tax collector to take an interest. Among the passions of the New-Age group are active experiments with time travel and an absolute ban (Damanhur's only "rule") on smoking.

The Orgasmic Bureaucrat

In an interview in May in the trade journal of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safety standards program, Marthe Kent, said she loves her job: "I absolutely love it. I was born to regulate. I don't know why, but that's very true. So as long as I'm regulating, I'm happy." Kent, who heads the agency's controversial ergonomics program (which oversees the effects of, for example, furniture design on back stress), said, "If you put out a reg, it matters. I think that's really where the thrill comes from. And it is a thrill; it's a high."


-- Motorist Michael Eck, 43, a Teamsters truck driver, endured an ultimate-experience, 12-minute thrill ride in his Chevrolet Impala in August on Interstate 83 near York, Pa. According to police reports, another truck driver, James E. Trimble, 65, felt Eck had cut him off during a lane change and angrily bumped Eck's car with his Peterbilt 18-wheeler at 60 mph, and did not stop bumping him. One hit damaged Eck's fuel pump, disabling the engine, and Trimble continued to ram the Impala at full speed for eight miles ("I counted 24 bumps until I stopped counting," said Eck) until police pulled him over and arrested him. Eck was not injured but was disappointed that police would not let him fistfight Trimble before they took him away.

-- Latest Survivors: Eugene Slocum, 52, walked three miles with a fractured neck to get help after a rural truck collision (Brighton, Colo., May). Leslie Roth, 35, suffered only a minor headache after being struck by two separate bolts of lightning on July 15 while with an Outward Bound wilderness school group (Killarney, Ontario). Jose Rojas Mayarita, 39, was incapacitated in his isolated boat for two days before help arrived, after a 10-foot-long marlin leaped from the water and speared him, penetrating all the way through Mayarita's abdomen (near Acapulco, Mexico, July).

Questionable Judgments

-- To encourage hunting, Canada's Ministry of Environment introduced regulations in August to allow children as young as 12 to learn to shoot ducks and geese. The country has 60 percent fewer hunters than 10 years ago, said the Canadian Wildlife Service, which has led to animal overpopulations. Participating kids must have had a safety class and must be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 18 years old, but gun-control and children's advocates were nonetheless enraged.

-- Mount Clemens, Mich., attorney Michael L. Steinberg was sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt of court in May as the result of his repeated refusal to obey Judge Michael Martone's admonitions to turn off his cell phone in the courtroom. The last straw for Judge Martone was when Steinberg chose to interrupt his questioning of a witness to take a call.

Family Values

-- In June, Darryl Ennis, 34, called 911 in Slidell, La., for the sole reason of getting police assistance to force his mother to cook him some pork chops. When he allegedly verbally abused the emergency operator for declining his request, officers went to his home and arrested him.

-- Very Much Opposed to Becoming a Grandmother: In August, Glenda Dowis was arrested by police in Lake Clarke Shores, Fla., near West Palm Beach, and charged with forcing her 16-year-old pregnant daughter at gunpoint into the Aware Woman Medical Clinic for an abortion. After Dowis allegedly told the staff that she would "blow (her daughter's) brains out" if she refused the abortion, someone called 911. According to a detective, Dowis is a construction worker who had been trying very hard to social climb and thus felt that having a pregnant teen-age daughter would ruin her standing.

In Their Own Words

The 21-year-old Lower Paxton Township, Pa., man (still unidentified in press reports) whose teen-age girlfriend used Quick Tite glue to bond his penis to his abdomen on July 11 to punish him for cheating on her, to the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News: "She knew I was a dog and she found out I was fooling around on her, but it shouldn't have come down to that. She could've just slapped me or something."

Recurring Themes

-- During its first year (1988), News of the Weird reported on a Houston fellow named Patrick Johnson, who was not a bus-company employee but who liked nothing better than to dress up in company uniforms, hop into an unoccupied transit bus and drive a route, picking up and discharging passengers to satisfy his love of buses. In June 2000, Pittsburgh Port Authority police arrested a man with the same obsession: Ronald Johnson (no relation, as far as authorities know), 21, who admitted that he had taken three buses out in recent weeks and picked up and discharged riders. A Port Authority executive said Johnson "does have (bus-)driving skills," had a uniform, and apparently "loves buses."

Thinning the Herd

July 4, 2000: A 43-year-old man in Lombard, Ill., and a 34-year-old man on New York's Long Island were killed when their unlicensed fireworks did not immediately ignite and the men peered down the launching tubes as if that would help them detect the problem, only to catch the explosion full-force. Also, a teen-ager was killed in Des Moines, Iowa, when a firecracker tossed out the window of their SUV blew back inside and exploded, igniting other fireworks, which caused the driver to crash into a pole.

Also, in the Last Month ...

City College of New York announced it will provide students, staff and faculty with professional philosophy counseling in its health-care facility. Officials at Cape Canaveral finally learned the origin of the plastic bags of urine found recently in a launch-pad complex; a worker was too lazy to use the rest room, which was an elevator ride away. Police called to an apartment where a man had been dead for a week were held at bay for two hours by the man's 18 cats, aggressively guarding the body (Cairo, Egypt). A 29-year-old man who broke into a house at night and fondled a sleeping woman's thigh was chased by the woman's boyfriend out the door, where the molester tripped and broke his leg (Chambersburg, Pa.).

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

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