News of the Weird

Week of January 28, 2001


-- Twenty-two-year-old Devin Grant survived virtual target practice by three Atlanta police officers on Dec. 14, catching 16 bullets in the neck, back, arms and leg, with 24 separate wounds, but was out of the hospital seven days later. One bullet severed an artery, but Grant's muscularity slowed the release of blood, allowing him to remain alive until he could be treated. (He went immediately from hospital to jail, however; the shots were fired after Grant allegedly pointed a gun at officers following a 20-mile automobile chase, which started, police said, when Grant attempted to evade an arrest warrant for a traffic violation.)

-- Daily Variety reported in January that Britain's Pathe Pictures had scheduled an April shooting date for the $7 million comedy "Thunderpants," which it described as the story of "an 11-year-old boy whose amazing ability (to break wind) leads him first to fame and then to death row, before it helps him to fulfill his ambition of becoming an astronaut."

For Immature Readers Only

Welsh entrepreneur Ben Holst formed a company recently to distribute pillows shaped like breasts (the TitPillow Co.), following a grant from the Prince's Trust (headed, on paper, by Prince Charles). And at the stage show "Puppetry of the Penis," which ran for three months recently in London's 600-seat Whitehall Theater, nude actors artistically twisted their private parts into shapes resembling, for example, the Olympic torch and a hamburger. And a November feminist conference at Penn State University featured workshops and exhibits organized on a theme of regaining control of a word the organizers regard as empowering but which is now a despised vulgarity (calling their event "Cuntfest").

The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced

-- In November, off-duty Chicago police officer John Sebeck (240 pounds, with a master's degree in social work, which helps him on the job in counseling elderly abuse victims) was suspended for punching a 72-year-old man (115 pounds) in the face following a minor traffic accident. And in Springfield, Vt., in October, Brian Dodge, 44, owner of two Christian radio stations (including LOVE radio in Madbury, N.H.), was charged with punching his wife and choking her with a towel (and was subsequently arrested for violating a stay-away order).

-- Their Life's Work: In November in Plainfield, Ind., a space-heater fire wiped out George Marchiando's two-story dream house that he had spent all his spare time over the last 10 years building and which was three-fourths finished. And in August at the airport in Lakeland, Fla., David Eachon, 32, finally took off in the scaled-down replica of a British World War II Spitfire fighter plane that he had spent the last nine years building, but crashed shortly after takeoff and was killed.

-- New York state Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, co-sponsor of anti-stalking legislation, pled guilty in January to harassing her ex-boyfriend in 1999, including, the man said, making dozens of hang-up phone calls; bursting into his home in the middle of the night; tailgating him in a car; and posing as a cosmetics saleswoman in order to get the phone number of the man's new girlfriend.

Courtroom Follies

-- In November, Chicago divorce court judge Edmund Ponce de Leon ruled that a pregnant wife must give her estranged husband visitation rights to the baby she was about to give birth to and that, for the baby's well-being, it should be given breast milk during the visitation; thus, the judge ruled, the mother would have to pump extra breast milk in advance for the husband to feed to the baby. (Shortly afterward, an appeals court suggested he rethink the order, and at a December hearing, he changed his mind.)

-- In October, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that, just because a man had been convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing his 8-year-old stepdaughter, he did not necessarily pose a threat to molest his own children, aged 3 and 5, and thus could retain custody of them. And the same month in Chicago, juvenile court judge Michael Brown ruled that a father could have an unsupervised visit with his three adopted sons even though recently accused of sexually abusing other foster children under his care.

Latest Patron Saints

In November, the Russian Orthodox Church named the apostle Matthew as the patron saint of the country's tax police, who the church felt needed an image boost because they resemble SWAT teams, dressing in black masks as they barge into businesses to audit them. And in October, the Vatican announced a patron saint for politicians (St. Thomas More of England, who was beheaded in 1535), the latest of nearly 300 named by Pope John Paul II, and Vatican observers believe St. Isidore of Seville will soon be named patron saint of the Internet.

People Not Like You and Me

In December, Yokohama, Japan, shopkeeper Akira Ishiguro, annoyed at shoppers who are "teasers," allegedly made a woman get on her knees and apologize to him because she did not want to buy the coat she had just been handling. Ishiguro had once locked a woman inside the store until she agreed to buy something, and in fact pressured the coat-handling woman into changing her mind and handing over about $25 as a down payment.

Recurring Themes

Super-messy homes have been a News of the Weird theme since its first year in 1988 (reporting on a San Jose, Calif., couple and their adult son, who collected garbage from dumps to store at home and in a growing number of storage lockers). In December 2000, a married couple (both well-paid U.S. Department of Labor employees) in Fairfax County, Va., were ordered out of their three-story home by authorities because of the mess. Trash was so heavy that walls had separated from ceilings; cleanup crews had to crawl on their stomachs to get to some of the garbage; and feral cats, rabid raccoons and rats (a nest in the oven and one rodent weighing nearly 3 pounds) ran wild. As she witnessed the county's cleanup, the wife moaned that she was losing "everything that was precious to me."

God's Will

A 45-year-old woman who was killed as she walked onto I-55 near Sherman, Ill., in October was revealed to have been a member of a Jehovah's Witnesses breakaway group that believes they should test their faith (much like snake handlers do) by standing in the middle of traffic. A few days before her fatal demonstration of faith, she had been pulled to safety from the same highway as she attempted to proselytize to drivers zooming by.

Also, in the Last Month ...

New Hampshire state Rep. Tom Alciere resigned after constituents discovered longstanding statements on his Web site praising people who murder police officers (though he wrote that he himself was "too chicken" to partake). In official papers filed with Georgia's Department of Education, school districts inexplicably reported that 112 students were murdered last year (the actual total was zero). A man who identified himself only as Obi-Wan Kenobi was arrested for stealing a car, which he said was on orders from "The Force" (Bismarck, N.D.). A 43-year-old man was charged with three recent bank robberies after walking up on stage at a comedy club and offering a conscience-clearing confession (Macon, Ga.)

Thanks This Time to Gary Abbott, Paul Hirschfield, Joel O'Brien, John Cieciel, Martha Swift, Arthur Fields, Juliana Abbott, Mike Lewyn, Chris Nalty, Rob Borosak, David Lips and Gary Goldberg, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisers and Chief Correspondents.

(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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