News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 1, 2005


While Congress and the sports world are busy condemning the use of steroids as "cheating," golfer Tiger Woods and other athletes have already artificially enhanced their natural abilities with impunity through Lasik eye surgery (improving vision to 20/15 or 20/10). More ominously, according to a Wired magazine story in March, the time will soon come when perfectly healthy baseball pitchers and other athletes choose so-called "Tommy John surgery" (until now performed only to repair ruptured arm ligaments), which can make an elbow even stronger than it naturally was, allowing pitchers to achieve higher velocity than ever. Other predicted enhancements include the removal, re-engineering, and re-insertion of leg, arm and shoulder muscle cells to add strength.

Can't Possibly Be True

-- The North Dakota legislature voted in April to ease licensing for carrying concealed weapons by removing the shooting test (to hit a miniature human silhouette at 21 feet), but that was over the objection of licensee Carey McWilliams, 31, who told an Associated Press reporter in March, "You've got to have standards." McWilliams, who hit the target 10 out of 10 in his most recent test, is legally blind, able to distinguish only shades of light (thus apparently giving new meaning to "concealed weapon" when he looks for his).

-- Veteran criminal George Kaminski, 53, complained in March to a Sharon (Pa.) Herald reporter about his most recent prison assignment, to a minimum-security facility in Mercer, Pa., because the grounds were short on clover. Kaminski has collected 72,927 four-leaf clovers in the last 10 years, entirely on the grounds of various prisons, but he is alarmed that an Alaskan man now claims to have 76,000 and has applied to the Guinness Book for recognition. "The (Alaskan) guy's got the whole world," said Kaminski, "(but) I have two or three acres."

-- The Netherlands Healthcare Inspectorate issued a report in March accusing some dermatologists at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam of concealing the local outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease in 2003 just so they could publish a first-in-time article about it in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases later that year. Infections of lymphogranuloma venereum went from 14 at the time of initial outbreak to more than 100 now. (The EMC doctors acknowledged not reporting the initial outbreak, but said the disease was not at that time on the list of diseases required to be reported.)

Least Competent People

-- A 24-year-old woman was hospitalized in April in Nassau County, N.Y., after her boyfriend, tossing sticks to his dog, decided to toss his knife, instead, but the knife's handle loop caught on a finger when he flung it, and it snapped back, lodging in the woman's neck. She corroborated the story, and the man was not criminally charged. (An officer asked him, "When you threw the knife, what did you expect the dog to do?")

-- Burglars who fall asleep on the job is a retired News of the Weird category, but Steven Jakaitis, 42, was arrested in Quincy, Mass., in March outside a CVS pharmacy, where police said he fell asleep while preparing to rob the place. His car was idling; a stocking was on his head and a pistol in his pocket; and the piece of paper beside him read, "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors (sic) know Empty the All (sic) the register."

People With Issues

Gasoline-sniffer Brian Taylor, 36, was sentenced to three months in jail in March for violating a UK "anti-social behaviour order" by loitering around the pumps at a gas station in Middlesbrough, England. According to evidence of multiple such incidents, Taylor often dangerously reeks of gasoline fumes and is sometimes aggressive in his pursuit of a fix, including jostling gas-pumping customers. Once, he was filmed on a security camera doing an uninhibited dance after taking a huff. He apparently prefers unleaded but will settle for diesel, and denies that he drinks any of it: "I'm daft but not that daft."


As many as 10 percent of Japanese youths may be living in "epic sulks" as hermits ("hikikomori"), according to a March Taipei Times dispatch from Tokyo, thus representing no improvement in the already alarming problem that was described in a News of the Weird report in 2000. Many of the hikikomori, in fact, still live in their parents' homes and simply never leave their bedrooms. Among the speculation as to cause: school bullying, academic pressure, poor social skills (after obsessively whiling away hours at video games), unaccessible father figures, and an education system that suppresses youths' sense of adventure.


-- John W. Hill of High View, W.Va., was arrested near St. Louis in March after sheriff's deputies had stopped to investigate why he was parked alongside I-70. He was shirtless, wearing an Indian vest, cargo pants and combat boots, had several loaded pistols, an assault rifle, a two-shot Derringer, two long rifles, a serious knife, 400 rounds of ammo and various drugs. He said only that he was headed to South Dakota Indian country to deliver supplies and a sack full of Bibles to children, and that he was armed because the West is "dangerous." He was charged with possessing a loaded weapon while intoxicated.

-- A British farm couple recently handed officials of the East Lindsey District Council a surveillance video of an elderly couple that they said have been driving by from time to time and leaving pairs of new shoes (with price tags still affixed) on their property, with no explanation. The farmers, Jason and Claire Foster, said more than 30 pairs have been dropped off since December, and the council's investigation was continuing, according to a March BBC News report.

Recurring Themes

-- One News of the Weird "No Longer Weird" category was apparently retired prematurely, in that there has rarely been a sighting of it for years now. However, on April 7, a 48-year-old man drove to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Anchorage, Alaska, failed to come to a complete stop, bumped into a wall of the building, backed up, parked, walked inside nonchalantly, and got his driver's license renewed. Although workers in the accounting offices of the building were shaken up (one thought an earthquake had hit), no one inside knew exactly what had happened until police arrived. The driver failed a coordination test and was charged with DUI based on a prescription medication he was taking.

-- Urban Legend Come to Life: A San Diego Union Tribune report of a March 28 attempted robbery seems accurate, though reminiscent of reports that have been hoaxes (including one, from The Dallas Morning News, that News of the Weird fell for in 2002). A 32-year-old woman reported that a robber accosted her and her dog in an upscale San Diego neighborhood that night, demanded her money, grabbed a bag she was holding but quickly threw it down, and in frustration, tried to shoot the dog (but the gun failed to fire). He finally fled. His frustration was because she was carrying no money, and the bag contained nothing but the results of cleaning up after the dog.

Thinning the Herd

According to police in Lake City, Mich., the plan of the 19-year-old man in March was to stab himself lightly in the chest, call 911, and blame the "attack" on a neighbor with whom he had been feuding, but he handled it badly and bled to death. And police in Corpus Christi, Texas, said that the 42-year-old man who died of a brain hemorrhage in March was at the time trying to steal a concrete statue of the Virgin Mary from Turner's Gardenland nursery.

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