News of the Weird

Week of September 3, 2000

(NOTE: Two weeks ago, some editions of News of the Weird contained an item that was, to my embarrassment, made up (the strip-club owner who had never heard of Rev. Billy Graham). I apologize to readers. -- Chuck Shepherd)


-- In a July hearing in Akron, Ohio, Judge James Murphy briefly reopened a 1994 case to take testimony from the victim, who was only 7 at the time but who now claims to remember the incident much better. His rectum had been torn by (according to police) his mother's ramming him with an object because he had soiled his pants or (according to the mother) a sexual attack by the family's pit bull (corroborated, perhaps, by the fact that dog semen was found in the rectum). The mother is serving a life sentence, but her son (who was reticent at the trial, because of trauma) is now positive that the dog did it. A week after the hearing, Judge Murphy let the conviction stand, relying on other 1994 testimony.

-- In August, entrepreneur Adam Bilski received a license from the city of Oswiecim, Poland (aka Auschwitz), to open a disco on the spot of a World War II-era tannery that "employed" concentration-camp workers and became a gravesite for many of them. And in September, "Stalin's World," a tourist attraction devoted to themes of the World War II-era Soviet police state, is scheduled to open near Gruta, Lithuania, which was a gateway through which 200,000 Lithuanians passed en route to Siberian labor camps. The developer said he even plans to have visitors eventually enter the park on cattle cars and eat oat gruel and fish broth, just as the prisoners did.

Use Columbus' Libraries at Your Own Risk

In Columbus, Ohio, on July 12, Lester DeBoard, 36, was sentenced to five years in prison for luring an 11-year-old girl to a far corner of a public library, where he had fondled her feet. (He faces a similar charge in a library fondling in nearby Worthington, Ohio.) Four days later, police arrested Dwight D. Pannell, 40, for the assault of a 33-year-old female student (a stranger to him) in the main library at Ohio State; with a motive he is keeping to himself, he allegedly pricked her foot with a syringe containing an unknown substance.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- The same engineering firm responsible for the notoriously wobbly Millennium Bridge in London, England, which has been closed as unsafe, was identified as the consultant for the soon-to-be-released Bioform brassiere, according to an August report in the London Daily Telegraph. The Ove Arup company found that replacing the bra's underwire with plastic bands would more comfortably distribute the load and reduce stress; it is also working on shock absorbers to make the Millennium Bridge once again usable.

-- In May, the Food and Drug Administration approved the prescription product Eros Clitoral Therapy Device, a suction-pump instrument that increases blood flow for the purpose of improving sexual responsiveness. (Rudimentary blood-flow suction-pump devices for men, not approved by FDA, have long been on the market and sell for far less than Eros' $359 price tag, and in fact are illegal to possess in Alabama, Texas and Georgia, which ban devices sold for the purpose of stimulating sex organs.)

-- In July, engineer Roman Kunikov gave a public demonstration in Ufa, Russia, of his gasoline-powered boots that he said would enable the wearer to jump around at about 12 feet per stride and run at a pace of about 25 mph. The boots, not yet on the market, weigh about 2 pounds each, including fuel.

Weird Science

-- While U.S. sewage plants efficiently screen out bacteria and solid waste, many older facilities cannot break down certain chemicals and hormones in pharmaceuticals, including pain killers, caffeine, antibiotics and birth control pills, which, as they spread into wastewater, cause environmental harm, including mutations in the reproductive organs of fish. Findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society earlier this year (including studies blaming perfumes), along with recent studies from Europe's waterways (involving antidepressants, seizure medication, cancer treatments and cholesterol-lowering compounds) warn that certain species of fish are in jeopardy of extinction.

-- Latest Useful Genetic Alteration: In June near Plattsburgh, N.Y., Nexia Biotechnologies began nurturing about 150 goats that had been specially bred with a gene from a spider, with the ultimate goal to create silk fibers ("BioSteel") strong enough to use in bulletproof clothing and for aerospace and medical applications. Spider silk has long been admired for its lightweight strength and elasticity.

-- University of South Florida professor Stuart Wilkinson recently developed a robot that fuels itself with sugar and which the professor hopes will be able to power itself even more versatilely by eating vegetation (although unlike sugar, which produces only water and carbon dioxide as byproducts, vegetation would create waste-disposal problems). According to a July BBC News report, E. coli bacteria are provided to break down the food and convert it into electricity.

People Who Are Not Like You and Me

Police in Durham, N.C., said that the three 15-year-old boys rushed to Duke Hospital on the evening of July 28 with gunshot wounds to the leg had actually shot one another, voluntarily. Said a police spokesman, "They wanted that status symbol of telling their friends they were shot."


News of the Weird has reported several times recently on the "sport" of cockfighting, which is still legal only in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana, and is under constant criticism from state legislatures and animal-rights activists. However, according to a June New York Times story, the cockfighting infrastructure (33-state breeding industry plus designer-drug developers to enhance roosters' fighting performance) is flourishing, and cockfighting continues illegally in many other venues (for example, police raided events this year in Philadelphia and New York City). Furthermore, an anti-cockfighting bill in Congress, with broad bipartisan support, has been derailed, according to a July Washington Post story, because of the influence of the breeding industry.

Least Competent Criminals

T'Chacka Mshinda Thorpe, 25, was arrested in Lynchburg, Va., in May and charged with possession of cocaine after a brief chase; police caught up to him after Thorpe tripped on his low-riding baggy pants, fell, and fractured his femur. And in March, Edney Raphael, 39, running from a stabbing in Philadelphia with a bloody knife in his hand, was captured following a foot chase; he had turned his head to see where the officers were and run smack into a parking meter.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 49-year-old man shot up a bar, wounding five people, on orders from "the Lord," who said subsequent instructions would come from "Nash Bridges" (Topeka, Kan.). A 30-year-old Danish soccer fan returning at night from the Copenhagen-Viborg game in a fans' bus peered out of the skylight and was decapitated by an overpass. And in separate incidents, two elderly people were rescued after enduring three days each, precariously trapped and hidden in rural isolation without food or water (an 83-year-old woman in her car, which plunged off an overpass and hung in a tree above a swamp in Broward County, Fla., and a 75-year-old man in Carroll County, Va., stuck 15 feet down in his outhouse when the floor collapsed).

(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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