News of the Weird

Week of October 19, 2003

LEAD STORY

According to a September BBC report, police in South Korea are investigating some of the 22,000 complaints made already this year by computer gamers that characters and property that they have acquired in such all-consuming games as "EverQuest" and "Ultima Online" have been stolen by hackers and sold to other gamers to make their own playing more successful. Experts say such theft of "intangibles" should be punishable by law, but the value of the stolen property might be inconsequential, except to those players whose entire lives revolve around a game and for whom the acquisition of a character or property might have involved hundreds of hours of playing.

People Different From Us

In September in Pinson, Ala., Joseph Logan, 46, was arrested for assault just after watching Alabama's 34-31 football loss to Arkansas on TV, which Logan took pretty hard. He started ranting, slamming doors, and throwing dishes into the sink, and it was at this point that his son, Seth, 20, chose to ask Dad innocently if he would help him buy a car, at which point Dad grabbed a gun, put Seth in a headlock, and fired a bullet near Seth's ear. Said a sheriff's deputy, "I know we take football serious in the South, but that's crossing the line."

U.S. Customs Is on the Job!

In August, U.S. Customs confiscated an SUV being used to smuggle Mexican immigrants into the country, but later admitted that their thorough search of it had overlooked a 13-year-old girl hiding inside; she was discovered 42 hours later. And in July, Adrian Rodriguez was imprisoned (but released by an appeals court a month later) because Mexican authorities found 33 pounds of marijuana that U.S. Customs had failed to find in a vehicle it had just sold to him at auction. That was the third time recently that someone had bought a vehicle from U.S. Customs that contained overlooked marijuana and for which the purchaser spent at least some time in prison (in one case, one year) before things were straightened out.

Our Litigious Society

-- Former Ball State University student Andrew Bourne, 23, and his parents filed a lawsuit in September against the school and the manufacturer of its aluminum football goal posts. Bourne suffered a broken leg and vertebrae when, during a raucous end-zone celebration after a 2001 victory over the University of Toledo, students pulled down the goal posts, hitting Bourne.

-- John Clayton III was awarded $1.5 million by a jury in Greensboro, N.C., in September based on injuries he suffered as a passenger in a car whose driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. The car Clayton was a passenger in was a police car; he was being brought to the station on an outstanding arrest warrant when the officer-driver hit the brakes. Clayton claimed the sudden stop caused him "back problems."

-- Kevin Presland was awarded about the equivalent of US$150,000 by a judge in Sydney, Australia, in August because the Hunter Area Health Service psychiatric hospital released him too soon in 1995, after which he killed his brother's fiancee. This was not a lawsuit by the victim's family against the hospital; this was a direct payout to Presland, whose injury was that he was made to suffer temporary prison conditions after his arrest (he was acquitted because of his psychosis), whereas if he had never been released, he would have experienced only psychiatric-hospital conditions.

-- Former Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa filed a lawsuit in September against a fan who attacked him during a September 2002 baseball game in Chicago, and also against the ballpark's (U.S. Cellular Field's) security firm and its concessionaire. (However, several days after the initial attack, Gamboa had told the Associated Press, "The fault is with the two people (the fan and his minor son) who did it. I'm not one who looks to (spread) blame. It's nobody's fault but the two idiots who did it.")

Recent Highway Truck Spills

A trailer full of toilet bowls, which accidentally came unhooked and overturned on Interstate 88 near Colesville, N.Y. (June). A trailer full of compressed paper and sex toys (including whips, plastic breasts and blow-up dolls), which spilled onto the northbound M6 highway near Castle Bromwich, England (June). And two tractor-trailers full of honeybees (80 million on Interstate 95 near Titusville, Fla., in April, and another measured at 500 beehives of "thousands of bees each" on Interstate 435 near Claycomo, Mo., in June). (Most of the bees were recovered by using smoke to put them temporarily to sleep.)

Compelling Explanations

In an August story about the driving record of U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow of South Dakota (who had just killed a motorcyclist in a collision), the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that Janklow's defense (that he had to swerve to avoid another vehicle) was the same one he had used for each of three previous collisions (one swerve was for an animal, not a vehicle), and that in none of the four instances was there any corroborating evidence of the other vehicle or animal.

Update

News of the Weird reported in December that Inga Kosak had won the first World Extreme Ironing Championship in Munich in September, based on running a course through several stations (e.g., up in trees, in the middle of streams) and ironing a designated garment. An October Wall Street Journal story shows the "sport" as growing in prominence. South African Anton Van De Venter, 27, broke the high-altitude record in August by ironing his national flag at the 20,000-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, while nude, in freezing temperatures (quote: "I came, I saw, I pressed a crease"), and British diver Ian Mitchell sawed through ice in Wisconsin in March and submitted photos of himself in a wet suit "ironing" (with a Black & Decker Quick 'n' Easy) a shirt that was braced against the underside of the ice.

Ewwww, Gross!

A deep-sea research voyage in June, jointly run by Australia and New Zealand scientists, discovered what The Age newspaper called an 1,800-species "freak show" of bizarre creatures (their condition caused in part by the extreme water pressure, which may be hundreds of times greater than at the surface). Examples include: the fangtooth (teeth, longer than its head, would puncture its brain if not for special tooth sockets); the viperfish (whose head is on a hinge); the coffinfish (with a glowing "sign" on its head to attract prey and the ability to swallow large quantities of water to avoid predators); a squid with one big eye (for offense) and one small one (for defense); and the snotthead, which was not described.

Give Them Points for "Style"

-- A 17-year-old boy, after receiving a free Krispy Kreme doughnut at an Erie, Pa., store promotion, stepped back in line for another but was refused. According to the Erie Times-News, he returned a few minutes later with a McDonald's sack over his head and asked for a doughnut but was again refused. Then he fell to the floor and flailed his arms and legs, demanding another free doughnut, and was cited by police for disorderly conduct.

-- In Edmonton, Alberta, in July, Anthony Alan Burton pleaded guilty to a 2002 robbery that went down this way: He had wrapped his head in gauze, covered his face with silicon putty and rouge (and oversized glasses), grabbed a Samurai sword, walked into a Jehovah's Witnesses hall, and screamed, "I am the evil that you have read about! This is the face of evil!" He was in the middle of collecting cash and credit cards from everyone when the police arrived. (A psychiatrist had testified that Burton had run out of medication several days before.)

Also, in the Last Month

The Oklahoma treasurer released a list of unclaimed property that included the refundable $100 utilities deposit paid by accused terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui when he lived in the state to attend flight school. And a delay on a London underground train was caused when an apprentice driver fainted while listening to his instructor describe vasectomy surgery that had developed complications. And Family Christian Stores, the largest Christian retail goods chain in the U.S., announced it would begin opening on Sundays.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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