-- An Airplane "Black Box" for the Home: In July, The Dallas Morning News reported on Arlington, Texas, landscaper Alan Weaver's new in-home, half-inch-thick steel box, called the Safe-N-Side, which is large enough for a person to ride out a tornado in. The largest model is 48 (inches) by 40 by 27, weighs 1,300 pounds, and sells for just under $2,000; Weaver says it will resist most handgun bullets and a 2-by-4 going 100 mph.
-- Who Cares?: A pre-trial hearing was held in March in the $3 million lawsuit by a Lehman Brothers investment banker against a Lehman Brothers bond trader for hitting him between the eyes with his tee shot at the Rockaway Hunting Club in Lawrence, N.Y.
-- In July, the Hanover Park, Ill., Village Board raised everyone's property taxes 5 percent for the next 15 years solely to pay off a $7.2 million judgment against the village for a 1988 traffic accident. Driver Thomas Redlin was injured by an abutment on the road that he said should have carried a warning sign, and he won his lawsuit despite the fact that he did not have a proper license and had been drinking.
-- The owner of MIT Tank Wash Inc. of Savannah, Ga., pleaded guilty in June to willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation in the death of an employee. The company cleans truck-based tanks of their chemical or food cargo residues, and apparently the company's normal procedure for using one poisonous cleaning substance was merely that the employee would enter the tank, swab the insides with the poisonous cleaner while holding his breath, climb a ladder to the top of the tank, and take a gulp of fresh air before descending again for more cleaning.
-- A University of Michigan School of Nursing study, published in June, reported that almost half of fifth-graders at two low-income schools in Milwaukee reported having had sexual intercourse, compared to 6 percent who smoked cigarettes and 3 percent who drank alcoholic beverages.
-- Leonard Ruckman, 40, was arrested in Stotts City, Mo., in June and charged with assault outside a bar following a dispute over car keys. In a fit of pique, Ruckman allegedly slashed open a female acquaintance's breast and removed her implant.
-- Pedophile Rights: In April, inmate John Gay filed a lawsuit against the Oskaloosa County (Fla.) Correctional Institution to recover about 100 sexually explicit photos of young boys confiscated from him; he claims that he needs them to prepare his appeal. And Robert H. Ellison, 65, of Chicago, arrested in the May FBI "Overseas Male" sting, asked a judge for the prompt return of his child sex videos because he feared he would molest more children if he could not relieve his urges through pornography. (The judge accomplished the same goal by jailing Ellison without bond.)
-- In April in Providence, R.I., Anthony "The Saint" St. Laurent Sr. pleaded guilty to an organized-crime charge and took a 10-month prison sentence. He said he pled guilty only because an intestinal illness would have made it impractical for him to sit through a lengthy trial: "How can I go to trial with [the 40 to 50 daily] enemas I got to take?"
-- Kentucky Ku Klux Klan leader and grandmother Velma Seats, asked by a New Yorker writer for a March story why she wasn't wearing her robe that day: "We've had a lot of events lately," she said. "The cleaning bills will kill you."
-- In February, escaped Tennessee inmate James Sean Stuart, 30, was captured on Interstate 65 near Athens, Ala., after leading dozens of police officers at speeds up to 155 mph. Stuart told police he had wanted to turn himself in and was driving fast because he "wanted to get far enough ahead so there wouldn't be any question" that he was giving up on his own.
-- Joan Casavant, 36, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and restitution for a four-year fraud scheme in which she placed, and collected money for, bogus employees on the city of Edmonton, Alberta, payroll. According to her psychologist, Dr. Al Riedieger, Casavant engaged in the scheme "to maintain her dignity in a crumbling social circumstance, asking her employer to demonstrate its affection for her by unconsciously allowing her to take this money."
-- Rosevelt and Linda Matthews of New Bern, N.C., credit their dog, Roc, with awakening them by ringing the doorbell at 4 a.m. after lightning started a fire in their house in June. (Roc had not been trained to do it, but the couple said he had rung the doorbell once before.) And Tipper, a cat belonging to Gail Curtis of Tampa, Fla., was rescued in July while choking on his flea collar when, in the struggle, he knocked a telephone off a table and accidentally hit the speed-dial button for 911.
-- Out of Control: The newspaper feature Earthwatch reported in July that Brazilian angler Nathon do Nascimento choked to death on the Maguari River when a 6-inch-long fish jumped into his mouth while he was yawning. And aircraft were grounded for three hours one day in July at the airport in Vaernes, Norway, because a queen bee had landed there, drawing about 25,000 bees with her. And power outages were reported in Toledo, Ohio, in June (millions of mayflies smothering a power plant), Spotsylvania County, Va., in July (black snake short-circuiting a power line); and Charlottesville, Va., in July (iguana on a power line).
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (3) the robber who, having taken out a piece of identification to distract the clerk, grabs the money but forgets to take back the ID, as an Evansville, Ind., liquor store robber did in July after presenting his driver's license as proof of age. And (4) the mass march or ceremony for peace and brotherhood which erupts into violence, as did a concert for peace, unity and voter registration in New York City in June.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or email@example.com.)