News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 21, 2004


Adding to the Disney-fanatic adults who have appeared in News of the Weird is George Reiger of Bethlehem, Pa., who has now been tattooed with Disney-related images 1,600 times, adding about one per week. Reiger said he spends $50,000 a year on his Disney habit, owns 19,000 items of memorabilia, and has fitted his house with Disney touches. In February, Reuters news service asked his opinion of chairman Michael Eisner and of potential Disney owner Comcast Corp., both of which Reiger denounced as indifferent to the original Disney magic. "A lot of people ask me," Reiger said, "if I got (a tattoo of Eisner), where would I put it?"

Least Competent Good Ol' Boys

In December, on their second try, six men managed to set fire to a cross in the yard of a Dade County, Ga., white woman whose daughter was dating a biracial man, but then they couldn't control the flames, which threatened an "innocent" white neighbor, provoking one of the men to call 911, leading eventually to their arrests. The county, in Georgia's northwest corner, is known as the "state of Dade" for its isolation and insularity (99.4 percent white), but Sheriff Philip Street did bring himself to denounce cross-burning as "old school."

Life Imitates "Christine"

On Jan. 30, as Angel Eck, 20, drove her Pontiac Sunfire on Interstate 70 toward Denver, she suddenly could not slow down. The car was locked in overdrive and climbed to 100 mph; the ignition would not disengage; and the clutch and accelerator were stuck. A half-hour later, two enterprising Denver police officers, having been alerted by cell phone and reprising a tactic from the old "CHiPs" TV show, slowed the car by allowing it to repeatedly bump the rear of their squad car until it came to a stop. A few days later, idling in the shop at Green Mountain Auto Service, the car jumped gears and pinned a mechanic against an inside wall until a colleague set the emergency brake.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Separation of Church and Clinic: At a November hearing on Thomas DeVol's business practices, Missouri's State Committee of Psychologists also heard evidence that the marriage counselor had described himself as a "Christian psychologist" who estimated that, during his 20-year practice, about 150 of his clients were possessed by demons and other "evil spirits." (The committee was still deliberating DeVol's fate at press time.) And in February in Genoa, Italy, Catholic Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone announced formation of a committee of three priests and three health professionals to decide, in possible cases of satanic possession, whether the parishioner should be referred to counseling or to an exorcist.

-- Update: Indian sadhu Lotan (aka Ludkan) Baba was reported in News of the Weird in 1995 for his 2,500-mile holy journey through the Indian countryside traveling by lying on the ground and rolling over and over and over, the entire distance (doing from six to 13 miles a day). In September 2003 (reported in video on the CBS News Web site in January 2004), he set out on a 1,500-mile trip, rolling from Ratlam, India, to Lahore, Pakistan, where he said he hopes to thank President Pervez Musharraf for his India-Pakistan peace initiatives.

-- From an underreported profile of Mel Gibson in The New Yorker (Sept. 15, 2003), discussing his then-upcoming film, "The Passion of the Christ": "There is no salvation for those outside the Church. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. (But) she's Episcopalian. (S)he believes in God, she knows Jesus. (A)nd it's just not fair if she doesn't make it (to heaven); she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair (that she will not be saved). I go with it."

Bright Ideas

-- Mile High Outfitters, a backcountry expedition organizer in Challis, Idaho, has petitioned the U.S. Forest Service for permission to install three commercial, recreational hot tubs smack in the middle of an unspoiled wilderness area, and the service is now considering the proposal (the public comment period having ended early this month). Each tub would require 1,250 gallons of water, heated by wood-burning stove, replenished every three days in-season, even though motorized vehicles to bring the water in are not now permitted.

-- Burnsville, Minn., according to city planner Mike Niewind, hopes to solve some garbage, energy, odor and environmental concerns all in one project by expanding its landfill, by 2007, to create an electricity-producing methane plant (to power 3,000 homes) underneath an 18-hole golf course that will be built on a manmade, pristine, 100-foot-high plateau offering scenic views of the Mississippi River Basin.

Least Competent Criminals

At his trial in November for stealing the equivalent of US$150,000 worth of jewelry from a house, Daniel Dady, 20, offered the defense of lack of motive, in that he had just inherited the equivalent of US$30,000 and did not need more. The jury found him guilty anyway, and at his sentencing in January, Judge Peter Jacobs not only sentenced him to 4 1/2 years in detention but also ordered him to hand over the inheritance to his victim as partial restitution (an inheritance the judge would not have known about had Dady not spoken up in November).

Recurring Themes

A suspected prostitute became the latest police detainee to commandeer a patrol car and drive it away after twisting her body to move her cuffed hands from behind her to the front of her (all in a briefer time than it took officers to walk around the outside the car) (Kensington, Pa., February). And a Harrods Estates broker announced that he had sold a private, one-car parking space in the tony Knightsbridge section of London for the equivalent of US$187,500.

Precocious Kids

A 7-year-old boy was arrested and charged with sexually molesting a 5-year-old girl (Morristown, N.J., November). And an 8-year-old boy, accused of fondling four 7-year-old girls, agreed to enter sex-offender rehabilitation (Mount Clemens, Mich., December). And a 12-year-old girl, who was improperly touched by a 40-year-old man (resulting in his conviction for lewd conduct), was revealed by court investigators to have voluntarily performed oral sex on, or intercourse with, at least 40 men (Monterey, Calif., February).

Also, in the Last Month

Ms. Farrah Daly, 27, who told officers (upon her arrest for allegedly stealing $1 million in jewels from her employer) that she was too "cute" to go to prison, was sentenced to three years in prison (Akron, Ohio). And a 30-year-old man challenged as unconstitutional the police search of his 18-month-old son's diaper that produced a stash of cocaine (a search the police defended as legal, in that they had noticed a "large load" in the diaper (Evansville, Ind.). And a restaurant selling only dishes made with Hormel Spam opened in an upscale shopping mall in Manila, Philippines.

(CORRECTIONS: Three weeks ago, I reported that serial killer Andrew Cunanan had been a "former lover" of Gianni Versace, when in fact no such relationship has ever been established, and I reported that an owl with cataracts had been fitted with "contact" lenses, when the owl had merely been surgically provided with "artificial" lenses. I apologize for the errors.)

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