News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded in May that Costco Wholesale Corp.'s firing of Kimberly M. Cloutier for refusing to stop wearing an eyebrow ring at work constituted religious discrimination in that Cloutier is a member of the Oregon-based Church of Body Modification. The church says piercings and tattoos "are essential to our spiritual salvation." Based on the EEOC ruling, Cloutier, 27, of West Springfield, Mass., filed a federal lawsuit against Costco for not "accommodating" her religious practice, as required by law.

-- Police in Modesto, Calif., arrested Kelli Pratt, 45, in October and charged her with domestic abuse after she, enraged by her husband's refusal to have sex, allegedly held him down and bit him so viciously and so many times that his severely ripped-open skin was ripe for the bacterial infection that killed him six days later. Kelli suffers from multiple sclerosis and often uses a wheelchair; husband Arthur, 65, had recently been hospitalized for diabetes. Said an arresting officer, "(Kelli) refused to wash up (before we videotaped her), so she basically looks (on the tape) like a vampire with blood all over her face and teeth."

Parents Shooting Their Kids

A man accidentally killed his 14-year-old son with a crossbow when he mistook the boy for a deer (Adamsville, Ohio, October). A man accidentally shot his adult son with his Father's Day handgun (which the son had loaded before gift-wrapping) (Coraopolis, Pa., June). Mothers in Jackson, Wis., and Port Richey, Fla., shot their sons (ages 9 and 10, respectively) with BB rifles in object lessons taken too far (August; September). A man accidentally fired his hunting bow, driving an arrow into the skull of his 11-year-old daughter, but she survived (Muncie, Ind., September). An 8-year-old boy was taken away by child welfare officials in September after his stepfather shamelessly admitted that he had used a stun gun on the boy for being late for school (Sweeny, Texas).

The Litigious Society

-- Otis Stansbury, 34, of Long Eaton, England, filed a lawsuit in August against door-to-door salesman Jay Sims and his company, Accident Group, whose business is helping customers in personal-injury lawsuits. Sims had just left the Stansbury home (after failing to sign them up) when, according to the lawsuit, he attempted to catch a ball among kids playing in front of the Stansbury home, slipped, and fell on top of 6-year-old Yohan Stansbury, sending the boy to the hospital with head injuries.

-- Cherise Mosley, 19, filed a lawsuit against the Aaron Family Planning Clinic in Houston in August, seeking damages for the abortion it performed on her two years earlier when she was a minor. Mosley admits that she produced a false ID card at that time, showing that she was over 18, for the express purpose of receiving the abortion without having her parents notified. Now, Mosley apparently regrets the abortion and claims the clinic should have detected that her ID was false and thus notified her parents, who, Mosley believes, would have talked her out of the abortion.

-- Josephine Bailey filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in August, two years after her 22-year-old son staggered out of Rick's Pub in Hurricane, W.Va., after a night of drinking and, according to police, collapsed under an idling 18-wheeler across the street, shortly after which he was run over and killed when the driver pulled away without noticing him. Ms. Bailey, who is suing Rick's owner and the trucking company, had said earlier that she couldn't believe her son would do such a foolish thing: "He'd never put himself in that kind of predicament."

Questionable Judgments

-- In a decision hailed by animal-rights activists, District of Columbia judge Frederick Weisberg in July sentenced John Hardy, 49, to prison for assaults he committed during a domestic altercation, which broke out when Hardy and his wife were scuffling and ended when Hardy's pit bull became excited, provoking Hardy to fatally stab him. Weisberg sentenced Hardy to three months for assaulting his wife and 24 months for the attack on the dog.

-- Decisions announced one day apart in September: Toronto prosecutors dropped the public nudity charges against seven men who marched naked in a Gay Pride parade, concluding that it would be impossible to convict them, in that they were wearing shoes. And the Washington state Supreme Court dismissed voyeurism charges against two men who had been convicted of shooting "upskirt" photos of women in public, concluding that the state peeping-tom statute applies only to victims who have an "expectation of privacy" because they are in secluded places.

People Different From Us

Linda Henning, 48, went on trial for murder in Albuquerque in September, charged as being the dupe and accomplice of cancer-curing, 2,000-year-old guru Diazien Hossencofft in the murder of his wife, the late Girly Chew Hossencofft. Henning was described by longtime friends as exceptionally level-headed, right up until the day she met the charismatic Hossencofft, after which she became "crazy as a loon," according to one, in that she believed that reptilian aliens were ready to take over the world, using cryogenic pods. (She wrote that reptilian George W. Bush maintains his human visage through "the use of magnetic fields to create holograms.") Hossencofft has since come clean about his frauds, but Henning apparently continues to believe.


News of the Weird reported on the annual Gotmaar festival in Pandhurna, India, in 1989, describing how, despite the village's increasing modernization, its work comes to a halt after the first full moon in September, with males dividing into two groups to gather rocks and throw them at each other, attempting to injure as many people as they can. (At sunset, they stop, nurse the wounded, and return to normal life.) Apparently, the festival continues with equal vigor, despite attempts in recent years to make it less violent. In September 2002, participants again rejected safety rules, and 550 were wounded, some seriously.

Brief Thrills

Terry Devine jumped on a motorcycle immediately after receiving his driver's license in Greymouth, New Zealand, in September and sped off at almost 100 mph; his biking experience lasted about 45 minutes, until police caught him, and his license was suspended. And to address a self-described "mid-age crisis," Jim Zimmerman of Saginaw, Mich., bought a Harley-Davidson in September, even though he was 60 years old and hadn't been on a bike in 30 years; 10 seconds into his first ride, he slammed into a utility pole and broke several ribs, and shortly afterward sold the bike.

Thinning the Herd

-- Cases Closed, Less Paperwork: A man fleeing police in a stolen car leaped from it as it headed for a wall, but tripped and was pinned under it and fatally run over (Los Angeles, April). Terrance Claybrooks, 27, with a lengthy record and running from police, hid inside a friend's ice-cream truck freezer, but suffocated on carbon dioxide fumes from the dry ice (Nashville, June). Edward McBride, 37, fleeing police after a burglary, drowned in the Arkansas River, weighted down as he was with about 50 pounds of stolen cameras (Tulsa, Okla., August).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Researchers writing in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reported that putting duct tape over a wart for six days makes the wart easier to remove than does the standard practice of freezing it. And German inventor Matthias Knigge said he has developed a desk with an inflatable airbag, for office workers looking for a quick nap (Hamburg). A nude male jumped onto the ice at a National Hockey League game, but immediately slipped, hit his head, and knocked himself out cold (before coming to and being carried out on a stretcher) (Calgary, Alberta). A cattle truck crashed, killing the driver and nine cows and injuring four other cows so badly they had to be euthanized (as opposed to the 16 surviving cows, which were loaded onto another truck to continue on to a slaughterhouse) (Marietta, Ga.).

(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