News of the Weird

Week of December 14, 2003


Enraged that his computer was virtually disabled by e-mail spam earlier this year, Charles Booher, 44, of Sunnyvale, Calif., allegedly repeatedly threatened employees of the spammer with torture (castration with a power drill and an ice pick) and murder (using a gun and anthrax spores). He was arrested in November and admitted to the Reuters news agency that he had "sort of lost (his) cool" at the bombardment of penis-lengthening ads from DM Contact Management. DM's president blamed a rival company for stealing DM's e-mail address and said such companies give a bad name to the penis-enlargement business.

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) "Patrol Car Hit by Flying Outhouse" (an October Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about Wisconsin trooper Rich Vanko's squad car being smashed when a truck carrying portable toilets lost one along Interstate 90); (2) "Shatner Frozen Horse-Semen Suit Dismissed" (a July Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader story about William Shatner's ex-wife's accusation that she was being denied divorce-settlement-mandated access to a breeding stallion for her own farm).

The Truth Is Out There

Prof. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University said recently that, hoaxes aside, there is enough legitimate evidence of Bigfoot to warrant a comprehensive scientific investigation of his existence, once and for all. (National Geographic reported in October that a Texas fingerprint expert, as well as noted chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, have said they are certain of Bigfoot's existence.) And Provo, Utah, explorer Steve Currey is organizing a July 2005 expedition to the North Pole (cost: $21,000 per person) to find the so-called polar "opening" to the hollow center of the Earth, supposedly the kingdom of God where the biblical 10 Lost Tribes reside.

The Litigious Society

-- A scheduled guest on the Dr. Phil TV program filed a lawsuit in November, claiming it was the show's producers' fault that she had an anxiety attack in her quarters right before the show and tried to climb out a second-story window. She fell and shattered her leg so badly that it had to be amputated. And "Wheel of Fortune" contestant Will Wright, 38, filed a lawsuit in October against Pat Sajak for hurting Wright's back by jumping onto and bear-hugging him to celebrate Wright's having just won $48,000 during a 2000 show.

-- Gary Moses and Rannon Fletcher, both 17-year-old inmates at the Iberia Parish (La.) jail, filed separate lawsuits in October against jail officials, for $1.5 million and $650,000, respectively, because they were allowed to buy cigarettes at the commissary even though they are underage.

-- Former Australian inmate Craig Ballard won a settlement of his lawsuit in September for the equivalent of about US$70,000 against the Grafton Correctional Centre in New South Wales for head injuries that occurred when he fell out of a bunk bed. Ballard was in prison for a vicious assault against a woman.

-- Fear of Lawyers: The Dollywood amusement park in Tennessee announced the end of free passes for the blind and the crippled after someone complained of discrimination against people with other disabilities, who still had to pay (October). And the town of Mosgiel, New Zealand, barred children from sitting on Santa's knee this year because of the risk of future molestation complaints. And the Royal British Legion announced it will no longer give out poppy pins to donors on Remembrance Day (for military veterans) because of fear that people might stick themselves and sue. (November).

Super-Criminal-Friendly Judges

In November, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Susan Winfield ordered no jail time (just drug treatment and probation) to a 25-year-old man who has 33 burglary arrests and seven convictions, including a gun count, plus previous failed probations and failed drug rehabs. And in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Dean Edmondson, 26, a white man, was sentenced to only house arrest in September after a conviction for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old aboriginal girl, whom Justice Fred Kovach found was perhaps "the aggressor."

Secret Lives

In August, residents learned that the county librarian in Concrete, Wash., offered her spare-time services as the S&M dominatrix Lady Jane Grey in nearby Bellingham. Despite her credentials and passion as a librarian, her contract was not renewed in November. And in August, Shannon Williams, 37, a teacher for the Berkeley (Calif.) Unified School District, was arrested for misdemeanor prostitution. Williams, who was previously scheduled to be on a leave of absence this school year, said in September she would challenge the prostitution law as unconstitutional.

Recurring Themes

Just as the towns of Kennesaw, Ga., and Virgin, Utah, had done, the 50-home village of Geuda Springs, Kan., through its town council, voted in November to require every household to own a working firearm, for "emergency management." (Later, the mayor vetoed the ordinance, but it will be reconsidered in February.) And for the second time in 12 months, news broke in November that a python had crushed and swallowed a human. (Unlike the devouring of a small boy in Lamontville, South Africa, in 2002, the body of 38-year-old Basanti Tripura, of the Rangaman district in Bangladesh, was downed only to the waist before villagers killed the snake.)

Least Competent Person

Officials in Lakeville, Ind., weren't certain, but it appeared that a cause of a fatal Oct. 10 car crash on U.S. 31 might have been that Dale Brenon, 50 (a private detective who survived in critical condition), was working on his laptop computer while driving. (The driver of the other car was killed.) A police spokesman said the computer was thrown clear of the collision but was turned on, and a program was running.

Alternate Universe

In October, former Massachusetts day-care center proprietor Gerald Amirault, who is believed to be the last person still imprisoned on the basis of now widely discredited, fantastical, heavily coached, child-sex-abuse testimony from the 1980s, finally won parole and will be freed in April. Officials have long refused to cut him slack because of his defiant, 18-year insistence that he never molested a single child. He noted that his sociology textbook for an in-prison college course mentioned his own case as an example of that era's hysteria-driven prosecutions of accused child molesters.

Readers' Choice

As part of a hazing ritual for a new Ku Klux Klan member near Johnson City, Tenn., in November, several Klansmen would shoot the man with paintball guns while another simultaneously rapid-fired a 9mm pistol overhead to make the pledge believe he was being shot with a real gun. According to police, one of the bullets, fired straight up in the air by Klansman Gregory Allen Freeman, 45, came down through the skull of Klansman Jeffery S. Murr, 24, who was hospitalized in critical condition. Freeman was arrested.

Also, in the Last Month

A 19-year-old intoxicated backseat passenger was convicted of drunken driving because he reached to adjust a stereo control and accidentally bumped the idling car's gearshift into "drive" (with a police officer watching nearby) (Tinn, Norway). An 18-year-old woman, wielding a putty knife, allegedly robbed a neighbor during the time she was awaiting trial for robbing a convenience store wielding an ice-cream scoop (Harrisburg, Pa.). Jeweler H. Stern introduced luxury Brazilian flip-flops adorned with diamonds and gold, at about the equivalent of US$22,000 (Sao Paulo).

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

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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