News of the Weird

Week of December 16, 2001

-- As of September, Gregory Goins, age 47 and often homeless, had made 1,209 ambulance visits in five years to the emergency room at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., at a cost in public funds of about $900,000, to deal with "chest pains," sometimes as often as twice a day. Because he is in poor health, with very high blood pressure, the hospital is obliged to treat him, and according to an Associated Press dispatch, hospital personnel have grown accustomed to him despite the burdens he places on them. Said one doctor, "He's got his 15 minutes of notoriety every day of the week."

-- The man appointed by the governor of Texas as the state's director of homeland security in the U.S. war on terrorism, David Dewhurst, is also a candidate for lieutenant governor, and his recent patriot-themed campaign ad featured a large U.S. flag with a smartly dressed soldier standing in front of it. However, it was later discovered that the soldier in the photograph was not an American but a German soldier in a Luftwaffe uniform.

-- In Cleveland, police charged Joshua Brissett, 19, with fracturing the skull of his 5-month-old boy, and prosecutors say he likely was trying to pound or mash the head so it would be more like the shape of his own head. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (questioned by Channel 5 News) said that some ancient cultures engaged in head-shaping, to help a child grow taller.

More Evidence That Smoking Is Dangerous

An 18-year-old student at the University of Arkansas fell to his death in October from a fifth-floor ledge, where he had gone to light up because he lives in a smoke-free dorm. And in November, a Greyhound bus capsized about 50 miles south of Phoenix, injuring 33, when a passenger fought the driver for control of the steering wheel at 70 mph, stemming from his frustration at not being able to smoke on the bus. And in October, early in the Afghanistan fighting, one of the first Taliban soldiers to become a prisoner of war had left himself vulnerable when he departed his post near Deshitiqala in order to buy cigarettes (and he was captured by the Northern Alliance).

Questionable Judgments

-- In October, jurors in Austin, Texas, rejected the request of convicted child molester Milton Wayne Somers, 45, to be released as no longer posing a threat to kids, instead sentencing him to life in prison. Somers' main argument for leniency was that, a year ago, apparently annoyed at his uncontrollable love for little girls, he stuck a shotgun between his legs and blew off his testicles (and then he reloaded and shot himself again, for good measure). He said he is not dangerous because he has no sexual impulses, but his ex-wife said that Somers told her his self-castration was just a ploy to stay out of prison.

-- In an Ontario Provincial Police raid near Brechin in October, authorities seized 20,000 marijuana plants, but only a few samples were kept as evidence, with the rest hauled away to a landfill via 50 truck-trips. However, the word quickly got out, and a gold-rush of prospectors swarmed over the dump, taking away as many of the decaying plants as they could, until police were able to close it off. Several dozen people were said to have grabbed some of the trees, but only six were caught and arrested.

-- Paul Claren, 52, a psychiatric nurse at an Ohio state hospital in Akron for 18 years before he was fired, was himself ordered to a similar facility in November with diagnoses of paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, after he shot out the home windows of several ex-co-workers he didn't like.

-- Buffalo Bills running back Travis Henry was sentenced in November to 100 hours' community service after pleading guilty to attempted sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old girl, but the court then assigned him to Buffalo's St. Augustine Community Service Corp., where most of his duties will consist of counseling youth.

People Different From Us

Mr. Tom Leppard, in his late 60s and having retired after 28 years in the military, lives alone on Scotland's Island of Skye (about 125 miles from Glasgow), after having spent about $9,300 to tattoo leopard spots all over his body and be outfitted with fangs by his dentist so he will look the part of the leopard he so admires. Leppard told Britain's Daily Record in October that after he retired, he "couldn't mix with ordinary people" and now spends weeks at a time without seeing anyone except for the periodic trips he makes by canoe to pick up supplies.

Update

Avant garde British artist Damien Hirst, who first made News of the Weird with his exhibit of a dead sheep, skinned and suspended in formaldehyde, saw his brand-new installation at London's Eyestorm Gallery go missing briefly in October. The work is a collection of found objects recovered from an artist's launch party (cigarette butts, beer bottles, soda cans, candy wrappers, etc.), and a cleaning man mistook it for the nightly garbage and tossed it out. Gallery officials re-created it later by referring to a photograph of the exhibit to get the exact placement of the items.

Undignified Deaths

A coroner's inquest fixed the cause of a 14-year-old girl's death as hitting her head on a concrete piling after she fainted at gross photographs in FHM magazine (Harrogate, England; September). The father of a high school football player was accidentally killed by a blast from the cannon that the team uses to celebrate touchdowns (Trenton, Mo.; September). A 35-year-old man died while practicing archery in his back yard when his cesspool collapsed underneath him, creating such a cave-in that it took 18 hours to pull the body out (Huntington, N.Y.; September).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Radio personality "Dave the Dwarf" Flood, 37, filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Florida's ban on dwarf-tossing exhibitions in bars, as an unconstitutional restriction on his freedom (Tampa). British police proposed a register/database to keep tabs on troublemaking children, down to age 3. Several female cheerleaders were suspended from the squad for their onfield banner calling on their football team to "rape" the Eaglecrest High Raptors (though they claimed they didn't mean it that way) (Denver). An 8-year-old boy saved his teacher's life with the Heimlich maneuver, which he learned merely from having read about it in his mother's day-planner (and he said he was prepared to do a tracheotomy with a pen knife if that hadn't worked) (Issaquah, Wash.).

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

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