-- In January, Jack Petelui, 43, claiming to hear God, stripped down to his underwear, climbed the ornate facade of the Ansonia Hotel in New York City, resisted police efforts for more than an hour to talk him down, and finally jumped. Cynical New Yorkers were said to be astonished at the dozens of bystanders who were actually yelling, "Don't jump!" (Petelui was spared serious injury when he landed on a police department rescue airbag.)
-- Life Imitates Crime Movies: In January, six inmates, including two convicted murderers, tunneled out of the maximum security state prison in Pittsburgh, 15 feet below ground, using tools from the prison machine shop. And in January, the Banco Credito Argentino in Buenos Aires was robbed of about $25 million by a gang that had made a 165-foot-long tunnel under a street over the previous several months. It was Buenos Aires' 55th tunnel-related bank robbery since 1990.
-- Police in Allentown, Pa., discovered in September that a man who was recently arrested at the bus station with 280 small bags of heroin in his luggage had chewed off the skin of seven fingertips after being jailed. Said a police sergeant, "It certainly is a strong indication that somebody somewhere is looking for him."
-- Armed and Dangerous: A man robbed a variety store in Guelph, Ontario, in December wielding only a 3-foot-long tree branch. And in Columbia, Mo., in December, Eric O. Criss, 31, fortified only with a socket wrench, failed in his alleged attempt to rob a grocery store. And in Calgary, Alberta, in December, a man brandishing only a bottle of household cleaner robbed a Bank of Nova Scotia.
-- A 21-year-old, allegedly intoxicated man was spotted by police on an Austin, Minn., street in January urinating on a car but was let go with a warning when he persuaded police it was his own car. A few minutes later police returned and arrested the man for DUI, having figured out that he was urinating on the car's door lock to melt the ice so that he could get in and drive away.
-- Roger Augusto Sosa, 23, was charged with burglary early on Christmas morning in Chevy Chase, Md. Scott Kane and his wife had heard a prowler in the house and called 911. Despite the clamor of several squad cars arriving and seven officers rushing into the living room with guns drawn, Sosa by that time reportedly was seated under the tree, blissfully opening the Kanes' presents.
-- In October in Great Falls, Mont., Tina Rae Beavers, 19, was arrested on the lawn separating the jail and the courthouse and charged with indecent exposure. According to a sheriff's deputy, she was energetically complying with her jailed husband's request to remove her clothes, lie down in the grass, and make suggestive movements so that he could see her from his cell window.
-- Slaves to Love: In December in Hong Kong, Yuen Sai-wa, 33, pleaded guilty to bank robbery but said the only reason he did it was that he felt challenged to keep his girlfriend, who was about to leave him. And in San Diego in January, Michael William Smith, 26, and Danny Mayes, 20, were charged with arson for fires they said they set at the behest of Tammy Jo Garcia, 27, who, they said, became sexually aroused by the fires, to their benefit. (She was also charged.)
-- The New York Daily News reported in January that a fire hydrant had recently been installed at the busy intersection of Tremont Avenue and Boston Road in the Bronx but that it was installed in the street, five feet from the curb, requiring all traffic to go around it. A city spokesman said the hydrant was installed properly and that eventually a sidewalk would be built in what is now the curb lane, but because of engineering delays and bad weather, construction has not yet been scheduled.
-- Helen Stanwell, a 23-year-veteran park ranger in Seattle, was suspended for six days in November because she worked after hours without pay to help a historical society member look for a local site. (It is illegal in Washington to work more than 40 hours without claiming overtime.) And in January, Wallingford, Conn., city employee Millie Wood, 72, was suspended for one day because she voluntarily trimmed the town's Christmas tree during Thanksgiving holiday. (It is illegal to be in the building after hours.)
-- In March Amy Howe, 25, was the victim of a hit-and-run driver in Washington, D.C., and suffered a broken leg. Three witnesses immediately supplied police with the car's tag number, and shortly afterward Howe's husband used public records to identify for police the car that was assigned that tag. In September 1996, upon inquiry by the Washington Post, a police spokesman said that despite having the pertinent information virtually handed to it, the department was only then almost ready to begin its investigation.
-- In October, the Associated Press uncovered several military construction projects that continued to be fully funded by the Pentagon long after the facilities on which they are housed had been designated for permanent closing. Included were a $5 million Navy chapel in San Diego, a $3 million Army classroom building near Chicago, a $13 million Navy dining hall in Orlando, and a $5 million Air Force fire station and training facility in Indianapolis. Said a Navy spokesman in San Diego, "(The taxpayers) are going to have to pay for it anyway, so why not complete (it)?"
-- The town of Colma, Calif., just south of San Francisco, has a population of 1,000 in an area of about 2.2 square miles, but three-fourths of the land consists of cemeteries in which a million people are buried. In October, citizen Robert Simcox announced he would gather signatures to secure a ballot referendum for 1997 that would impose a municipal tax on the dead, in the form of a levy on cemetery owners of $5 per grave per year.
In August 1996, News of the Weird reported on a group of New York City police officers who had availed themselves of expensive and hokey tax-resistance kits that would allow them to be regarded as nontaxable aliens while still being law-enforcement officers. Six subsequently pleaded guilty, but in January 1997, in the first case to go to trial, Officer Adalberto Miranda testified that he owed no tax because New York was merely a geographic area, not a government entity, and a short ways into his testimony, Miranda took it upon himself to disqualify Federal Judge Denny Chin because Chin seemed "upset," and then to "arrest" Chin from the witness stand and to give Chin his "Miranda (no relation) warning."
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)