News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



Ultra-Orthodox California rabbi Nachum Shifren, 53, cuts a dashing figure on the beach at Malibu, where he is the legendary surfer "Shifty," easily spottable on 20-foot waves by his long beard, according to a September profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune. In his spare time (he says he is ready to ride 24/6, allowing for the Sabbath), he has conducted "Passover surfaris" and beach bar-mitzvahs, and his lectures on Deuteronomy include the observation that "surf punks" paddled out into the Red Sea during the Jews' exodus from Egypt. "(T)he whole religious experience," he told the reporter, "the outer body experience, is encompassed in the act of surfing."

Things People Believe

(1) The sheriff in Tucson, Ariz., warned the public in August of a gang of women who lure horny men via newspaper ads into believing that they can buy a starring role in an adult video, citing the recent case of a man who was enticed to send $1,100 to set up a video shoot, then $7,000 more, then $8,000 more, and then another $8,000; he quit only when he learned that the women had persuaded his parents to pay $20,000 more for their son's "acting" career. (2) Lau Yat-fai, a 5-foot-9, 23-year-old basketball player in Hong Kong, paid the equivalent of about US$1,400 for electrical treatments from two "beauty centers" that had promised to make him tall. (After filing a lawsuit, he got a partial refund in October.)

Thinning the Herd

A man's body was found by divers in the Pend Oreille River near Newport, Wash., on Sept. 25; sheriff's deputies estimate that he was carrying about 40 pounds of beer (a satchel full around his body, plus cans in his pocket) but said they would wait for an autopsy before commenting. And a 25-year-old driver was killed in St-Joachim, Quebec, on Sept. 24 when another car veered into his lane and hit him; police said the deceased was within his own lane but was distracted, in that he was apparently at the time engaged in sexual intercourse with a female passenger. (Having intercourse while driving, said a police spokesman, "makes driving that much more dangerous.")

Can't Possibly Be True

-- The Muscular Dystrophy Association, a Tempe, Ariz., real estate firm, and two charity promoters were sued in September by Keith Schott, a golfer who had apparently legitimately made a fully witnessed hole-in-one during a charity round but who was allegedly turned down for the widely advertised $1 million prize when the sponsors imposed a rule that the money shots had to be videotaped. "Remarkably," said Schott's lawyer, "the defendants changed the rules on the spot."

-- North Carolina state Sen. Sam Ellis' bill to change a section of state law that actually gives an enormous right to rapists failed in committee this year, with the result that some rapists may inevitably go free. If a rape victim chooses to carry her baby, and then place it for adoption, state law requires that both parents agree to the adoption in writing, with no exception for babies conceived by rape. Thus, rapists might withhold their consent, thwarting the mother's wishes, unless she agrees not to press charges for the rape. According to a September Raleigh News and Observer story, at least three women have recently been in that situation.

-- The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Spain's El Pais newspaper, in a now-discontinued ad for a 90-day subscription, had run photos of the New York City skyline, before 9/11 and after, with the tag line, "You can do a lot in one day. Just imagine what can happen in three months."

Unclear on the Concept

-- Laurie David is the social-activist wife of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" TV star Larry David, well known for speaking out on, and rallying other activists on, environmental issues, such as the need for energy conservation. According to a report in the September Atlantic Monthly, David shuns commercial airliners to get to her speeches (even though the increase in fuel usage to carry a person of her size would be negligible), preferring to make special trips each time by private jet, which a New Republic columnist calculated uses as much fuel in one cross-country round-trip as a Hummer uses in a year.

-- In September, a Roanoke (Va.) Times story documented the righteous complaint of Melissa Williamson, 35, that street construction noise outside her home in southeast Roanoke, especially by jackhammers, would have a harmful effect on her unborn child, then two months from term. The published Times story ignited a firestorm of reader mail because it was accompanied by a candid photo of Williamson in her front yard, looking annoyed at the construction mess, but puffing away on a cigarette.

Creme de la Weird

David Roy Truscott, 35, pleaded guilty in Cornwall, England, in September to three arsons and a burglary of a farmhouse near Redruth, but the burglary was less significant than what he did when he got onto the property. Police said Truscott had submerged himself in a manure pit in order to masturbate. (Also, containers of liquid sludge were found at his home.) At the crime scene, two items of Truscott's were picked up, but of questionable usefulness given the severity of his alleged behavior: tissues and rubber gloves.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Edwardsville, Ill., charged David Wroten, 20, with fraud in September after, they say, he took out membership in an online dating service by paying with a check drawn on the county jail, where he had been held earlier this year for theft. Wroten, like all inmates, had been issued a check for the cash he had on him when he was booked, and he allegedly copied the check form. Police were confident Wroten was their man because, naturally, he had posted a photograph of himself on the dating service site.

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) The government of Vietnam is said to be moving to lethal injection for capital punishment because its firing squads, populated with volunteers, too often nervously miss. (b) An airplane hangar in a Los Angeles suburb was found filled with bags of empty soda cans, to a height of 10 feet, with police believing a gang has been stealing cans from homeless people. (c) A California county is systematically ticketing drivers who appear to be high only on kava herbal tea. (d) A Missouri man fled a court hearing on an animal abuse charge but was captured a few minutes later hiding in a doghouse.

Recurring Themes

In September, Floyd Edwards, 78, set out to drive his friend Ruth Stancil, 62, and Edwards' son Clifford from their home near Erwin, Tenn., to nearby North Carolina towns for shopping, as they routinely do once a month. The round trip is usually about 100 miles, but once again, a senior driver became confused, lost track of time and distance, and was fearful of stopping. By the time the three returned, 60 hours later, they had traveled 1,600 miles, as far as an Atlanta suburb, where Edwards accidentally fell at a gas station and hit his head, necessitating a call to police, who were able to help the group turn around.

Readers' Choice

In September, according to a report in Tehran's daily Mardomsalari newspaper, a local court ordered a husband to stop beating his wife. However, the Iranian woman, identified only as Maryam J, said she would have accepted an order that just limited the beatings to once a week. "Beating is part of his nature," she said, "and he cannot stop it." The disconsolate husband said, "If I do not beat her, she will not be scared enough to obey me."

Answer to Almost All True: (a), (c) and (d) are true.

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