News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JULY 21, 2002


-- More News From the Front Lines: The Jammu and Kashmir State Cable Car Corp. continues to run its gondolas at the mountain resort of Gulmarg (according to a July Washington Post dispatch), passing within 3 miles of the "Line of Control" that separates Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir (and despite the gondolas occasionally picking up ground fire); business is down considerably for skiing, hiking and golf, but still, frolickers show up. And according to a June report in Lebanon Daily Star (via The Wall Street Journal), Israeli and Hezbollah forces on the Lebanese border, on stand-down from live ammunition, recently exchanged "fire" with a paint-gun blast, pingpong balls and eggs.

-- In June, retired British actor Michael Fabian was sentenced to six months in jail for duping an employment agency into sending him 12 actors for a job he had, before leaving town without paying. Fabian had been on trial for harassing a prosecutor and had acted as his own lawyer, presenting a lavish, theatrical defense, for which he thought he needed the inspiration of a good audience, i.e., the 12 actors, sitting in the gallery. (Still, he was convicted.)

Too-Busy Parents

Among people who have recently forgotten that they had kids locked up in hot cars (which Centers for Disease Control said has killed at least 27 toddlers since 2000): Tarajee Maynor, age 25 (her two kids died while she kept a three-hour hair salon appointment, Southfield, Mich., June); Jorge Villamar, 59 (left his 16-month-old granddaughter in a sweltering car for an hour and a half, Central Islip, N.Y., July); and two parents who on July 8 had left kids in hot cars in Fort Worth, Texas (fatal to a 6-month-old boy), and Scarborough, Ontario, but whose names had not been released at press time.

Best in Show

-- Simply Dapper, age 6 months, won four prize ribbons at the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association show in Costa Mesa, Calif., in May. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the rodent's "shiny beige coat, sweet temperament, and a blood line dating back 12 generations" were the main factors in his success. Contest rats have fancy names (e.g., "Himalayan" rat) but cost only a few dollars to acquire and are genetically the same as ordinary, Dumpster-diving Norwegian rats.

-- During the same week in February that the Westminster Dog Show opened in New York City, United Arab Emirates held its first-ever beauty contest for camels in Abu Dhabi, with total prize money of about $27,000. And in June, an Interlachen, Fla., farmer named a goat (which he said came from a long line of show goats) Li'l Dale when it was born with a white marking in the shape of a "3" on its brown coat (and which the hundreds of Floridians who flocked to see it thought was surely a divine sign about the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt). (Babe Ruth also wore number 3, but the visitors seemed certain the goat did not refer to him.)

Bright Ideas

-- To deal with the city's mounting dog litter problem, officials in Anchorage, Alaska, proposed in May to help call recalcitrant dog owners' attention to the problem by squirting a dab of peanut butter on each pile of dog poop in the parks and on sidewalks. (The idea is that owners would more conscientiously clean up so that their own dogs would not be tempted to try to eat the peanut butter.)

-- In June, Harvey, Ill., Baptist minister Rev. Roland Gray was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for faking at least 14 auto accidents to defraud insurance companies of more than $450,000; "I consider myself a man of God," Gray told the judge, "(but) I got a little confused." Also in June, Mr. Andrea Cabiale, 40, of Turin, Italy, was charged with arranging at least 500 bump-and-stop car accidents involving young female drivers, in largely unsuccessful attempts to date them; in Cabiale's apartment were 2,159 photographs of female car owners and their damaged vehicles.

-- John Patrick Bradley, 56, and three women were arrested in March in Los Angeles for an ambitious scheme in which recent U.S. immigrants were charged as much as $25,000 for the promise of becoming citizens. The ruse involved an almost full-scale replica of the official immigration service process, including elaborate materials and tests and a swearing-in ceremony, with Bradley dressed as a judge, leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Christopher Watt, 15, who it is believed entered a 9-foot-diameter pipe in the Ottawa, Ontario, sewer system on a dare, was swept deep into the foul waters for five hours on June 10 before rescue crews got to him on an inflatable raft. And a 12-year-old boy, helping his father clean the family's backyard sewer in Chicago on June 6, got stuck in the muck for several hours until 28 firefighters and 10 paramedics freed him.

Least Competent Criminals

Eight-year fugitive John Thomas Boston, 39, who mailed a note in March to Louisville, Ky., police just as he crossed into Canada, informing them that they would never catch him, was arrested in April in Dallas and charged not only as a fugitive but for the first time with three 1994 rapes. Boston's main error (other than returning to the U.S. from Canada) was to lick the envelope containing the taunting note; his DNA allegedly matched evidence from the rapes.

The Classic Middle Name (all-new)

Arrested for murder: Kenneth Wayne Hall Sr. (Gaffney, S.C., March), David Wayne Satterfield (Dallas, March), Shelly Wayne Martin (Baltimore, May), Jason Wayne Petershagen (Alvin, Texas, May), David Wayne Crews (Knoxville, Tenn., June), Mark Wayne Lomax (Houston, April), Jeffrey Wayne Paschall (Draper, Utah, June). Convicted of murder: Mark Wayne Silvers (Anderson, S.C., April), Darren Wayne Campbell (Coquille, Ore., May). Sentenced for murder: Michael Wayne Cole (Goldsboro, N.C., March). Murder conviction overturned and new trial ordered: Michael Wayne Jennings (Contra Costa County, Calif., May).

"Through the Front Door and Hang a Left"

Melodie Morsicato, 45, was arrested in New Britain, Conn., in March after she crashed through the front door of a Target store at 4 a.m. in her Nissan Stanza and, once inside, continued to drive around the store. And a 37-year-old woman drove into the Ginger Inn Chinese restaurant in Durham, N.C., in April in her Honda SUV and, once inside, continued driving around the dining room. And two men in their early 20s were arrested in El Dorado, Ark., in April for riding their horses into a Wal-Mart and around the store for a few minutes; police said alcohol was involved.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Bell South telemarketer Maria del Pilar Basto became a hero, calling Leonardo Diaz to sell him more minutes for his out-of-minutes wireless phone, and happening to reach him as he was trapped in a blizzard in the Andes Mountains and had almost given up hope of being rescued (Bogota, Colombia). Health inspectors arrested a 57-year-old man and charged him with manufacturing 30 pounds of "bathtub cheese" (Napa, Calif.). Pakistani officials arrested leaders of a tribal council that had ordered an 18-year-old woman gang-raped as revenge against her brother, who had been seen walking beside a woman of higher status (Punjab province, Pakistan). Vandals struck the First United Methodist Church with hate graffiti, but had trouble with Satan ("Satin") and Rebel ("Reble") (Prestonburg, Ky.).

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