News of the Weird

Week of October 12, 2003


Renewing a debate, Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr reported in September that human infection by Taxoplasma gondii (to which cat owners are vulnerable as they clean litter boxes) tends to make women "reckless" and "friendly" and men "jealous" and "morose." Though any mammal could pass the toxins, cats that handle dead birds, bugs or mice rather easily pass it in their stools, though only for a few days after their first infection. (A 2001 report by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland had suggested that such infections might even cause schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.)

People Different From Us

For a September report, an LA Weekly writer hung out with Benji Breitbart, 20, Doug Marsh, and several other "Disneyana enthusiasts," who spend hours nearly every single day at Disneyland; have almost total recall of the park's history and culture; rabidly collect memorabilia; and preach with intensity on which aspects of today's park Walt Disney would not have approved. DE's usually wear Disney-themed clothes; use the pronoun "we" as if the park were theirs; and are dismissive of the obsessives of "Star Trek." ("Trekkies are devoted to some stupid pop-culture fad," said Marsh, but "Disney fans believe in the magic.") Why, Breitbart was asked, was Disney such a central force in his life? "I tried to figure that out. I just ended up with no answers."

Can't Possibly Be True

-- According to two maintenance workers on duty in Cleveland's Carver Park Estates in September, James Black, 49, either boldly or obliviously dragged a dead, bloody body out of his apartment house in broad daylight and laid it on the ground in plain sight of the two men, then calmly went back inside and emerged with a mop, which he used to swab blood from the sidewalk. The incredulous workers immediately called police, who arrested Black and the next day charged him with aggravated murder.

-- In June, a judge in Washington, D.C., sentenced Bernard Johnson to 12 years in prison for shooting D.C. Police Det. Anthony McGee three times. However, the judge immediately suspended five of the years, and of the remaining seven, five were mandatory for merely carrying a firearm during the crime, leaving the add-on punishment for actually shooting the cop to two years, or eight months per bullet hole.

-- The July amateur wrestling match in Tbilisi (former Soviet republic of Georgia), between Dzhambulat Khotokhov (123 pounds, from Russia) and Georgy Bibilauri (112 pounds, from Georgia) ended in a draw, and afterward, both wrestlers broke training briefly for ice cream and cake to celebrate Bibilauri's birthday. Bibilauri is now 5 years old; Khotokhov is 4.


-- A man fled the motor vehicles office in Leesburg, Va., after a September incident in which he, silently and calmly, presented a DMV employee with a postcard photograph of a banana being shot by a bullet, and the legend "banana=DMV." The man then hurried out, and when several employees got to the parking lot in pursuit, there were bananas strewn around the lot but no one in sight. Said the Leesburg police chief, "This (man) is a different (kind)."

-- After a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge, FBI agent James Hanson III paid a $105 fine and $12,000 in restitution to the Barbary Coast hotel in Las Vegas for a May incident in which he, for some reason that he has yet to make public, fired two shots from his service weapon at a lobster in a walk-in cooler. It was a late-night incident, with no one in the vicinity, but Hanson was captured on a surveillance tape. Hanson was in Las Vegas for an accounting seminar.

-- In August, around the time that the Ten Commandments monument was moved out of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery because of a federal judge's ruling that it was too much of a religious statement for government property, Ms. Blanca Castillo petitioned county commissioners in Fort Worth, Texas, to remove a statue in front of the county's administrative building because it was insulting of religion. The offending statue, of a sleeping panther, struck Ms. Castillo as too paganistically feline, and therefore "sinister," and she recommended a statue of something else, such as a steer.

Smooth Reactions

Kevin French, 46, pleaded guilty to shooting his neighbor in the head with an air rifle because he mowed his lawn too often (Elmira, N.Y., April). An inmate (unnamed in an internal report by a psychiatric prison) went into a violent rage and took a therapist hostage after fellow prisoners laughed at his drawing of "toilet paper" in a game of Pictionary (Abbotsford, British Columbia, July). Walter Travis, 68, was arrested for shooting a neighbor several times after the neighbor's dog pooped on his lawn (Indianapolis, August). Danny Ginn, 46, was arrested for commandeering a garbage truck at gunpoint because he was tired of the truck's driver using Ginn's driveway to turn around in (Bedford, Ky., August).

Least Competent People

A 26-year-old man will be hospitalized "for months" in Illawarra, Australia, following an August accident that authorities speculate might have been inspired by the film "Jackass." The man was apparently walking across a room with a lighted firecracker between his posterior cheeks when he slipped and fell backward to the floor. The explosion resulted in a fractured pelvis, severe genital burns, hemorrhaging from the buttocks and ruptured urethra, leaving him incontinent and sexually dysfunctional.


Extreme body-piercing in Arizona was a subject fit only for the alternative newsweekly New Times Phoenix in 2001, but in August 2003, Tucson's mainstream press (Arizona Daily Star) followed an 18-year-old man, who was having four modified deep-sea (8-gauge) fishing hooks threaded into his back so that he could be hoisted toward the ceiling and suspended for 20 minutes of what the man said was the worst pain he'd ever felt (for the privilege of which he paid $150). Said the piercing shop's wrangler, Chris Glunt, "For some it's like a spiritual thing. I've suspended to clear my head. You can focus and concentrate on where you stand in life."

Good News for the Rodent Community

(1) Japanese scientists (Yokohama City University) said in September that they had created tumor-suppressing nerve stem cells that reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's disease in rats. (2) Wake Forest University researchers said in April that they had created a 700-mouse colony that could survive any number of direct cancer-cell injections. (3) University of Pittsburgh researchers said in April that they had developed a gene therapy in rats to restore surgery-damaged nerves needed for erections. None of the therapies has yet been successful with humans.

Undignified Deaths

A 69-year-old man, on the job as an employee of a surveying company, stuck his head up from a manhole in the driveway of a residential development and was fatally hit by an SUV (Greenwich, Conn., September). A 16-year-old boy died from a punch in the chest during a game in which schoolboys take turns smacking each other to see who is the toughest (San Jose, Calif., July). A man lost control of his car and crashed into the O.R. Woodyard Co. funeral home and died at the scene (Columbus, Ohio, August).

Also, in the Last Month

Canadian military police seized 983 marijuana plants being grown by squatters on an active, 17-square-mile artillery range (Nicolet, Quebec). On the first day of a Philippine citizens' group's campaign to expose government officials who spend public funds on their mistresses, more than 500 tips came in to its hotline. And the New York Post revealed that among the 10 highest paid New York City municipal employees were three school psychiatrists and a gym teacher.

(CORRECTION: In a July column, I referred to two 22-month-old girls' "parents" as in a petulant stand-off as to whose turn it was to take care of them, with both driving off, leaving the girls in the street. Christy Leann Radacy is indeed the mother, but the man was not the girls' father. It was Sari Muhanna, who is Radacy's boyfriend and who was indicted, with Radacy, in September. I apologize for the error.)

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or or go to

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