-- Life Imitates Monty Python: The Salem (Mass.) Evening News reported in March on an incident in which Ms. Carmen LaBrecque, 51, had to outrun a rabid skunk, which was literally snapping at her heels, for 15 minutes before an animal control officer arrived to shoot it. Unable to slow down enough even to open her front door and get inside, LaBrecque circled her yard 12 times, a foot or two in front of the skunk. On one pass by her front door, LaBrecque's elderly mother handed her a cell phone, which LaBrecque pantingly used to call 911.
-- In March, at the height of the civil unrest in Albania, when the U.S. diplomatic mission was evacuating personnel for safety reasons, The Washington Post reported that the State Department had just sent a cable to the diplomats in Tirana reminding them of the department's "(evacuation) policy for safeguarding of sterling silver flatware (cutlery)."
-- The public-service goal of an advertising campaign by England's Children's Society was to enlighten people that child sex abuse could occur in anyone's town and not just in notorious sex-tourist spots in the Far East. However, its slogan, announced in billboards released in February, came out this way: "Why travel 6,000 miles to have sex with children when you can do it in (the English town of) Bournemouth?" When questioned by a reporter, a society spokesman expressed pride in the campaign and said it would be extended to Manchester and Leeds.
-- In January, motorist John Tanayo, 30, was stopped in New York City and a search of his car turned up 573 pounds of cocaine worth about $5 million. He only drew cops' attention when, in traffic in front of a police cruiser, he failed to signal a right turn.
-- A 38-year-old apartment building manager was arrested in Whitewater, Wis., in January and charged with surreptitiously videotaping a female tenant with a camera hidden in the ceiling of her shower. The 20-year-old tenant had become suspicious because of the fixture the manager had installed in order to disguise the lens: Why, she thought, was a smoke detector placed in the ceiling of a shower?
-- The Robles family placed an ad in a newspaper in the town of Leon, Guanajuato, north of Mexico City, in January, to the attention of robbers who had been breaking into their house and stealing things. In exasperation, but perhaps unwisely, the family begged robbers to stay away, announcing that they had been cleaned out except for the TV, the VCR and the refrigerator.
-- In November, Washington, D.C., inmates Antwan Hudson (drug charges) and Kingsley Ellis (a Texas credit card fraud suspect), in a holding cell, apparently thought they were each in less trouble than the other and thus agreed to a scheme to swap identities for an upcoming court appearance. Ellis was shocked to learn in court that Hudson was also wanted on several more drug charges and for threatening his wife. Hudson was even more shocked to find that Ellis was facing deportation to Jamaica and thus blew the whistle on the scheme.
-- In a Virginia case reported in the December Mental Health Law News, Susanna Van de Castle was awarded $350,000 against her psychiatrist-husband, Robert, for malpractice. According to the lawsuit, after having diagnosed her as suffering from multiple personality disorder, he then married her and continued the therapy but also sought deals for a book and a movie about her, in addition to staging public lectures (charging admission) in which she was showcased as his subject.
-- In November, Brownsville, Texas, insurance agency owner Raquel Cantu Garza was charged with impeding IRS agents who had come to seize her business on a tax matter. According to the prosecutor, Garza instructed the two employees on duty at the time to leave and lock the agents inside. When one agent pounded on the door to get out, a Garza employee allegedly said, "Call a locksmith," and walked away.
-- In Guthrie, Okla., in October, Jason Heck tried to kill a millipede with a shot from his .22-caliber rifle, but the bullet ricocheted off a rock near the insect's hole and hit pal Antonio Martinez in the head, fracturing his skull. And in Elyria, Ohio, in October, Martyn Eskins, attempting to clean out cobwebs in his basement, declined to use a broom in favor of a propane torch and caused a fire that burned the first and second floors of his house.
-- Early New Year's morning, a 16-year-old girl in Kalamazoo, Mich., was arrested for erratic driving in a car she allegedly stole from Patricia Conlon. The girl was unaware that the next day Conlon would begin a term as county juvenile court judge. Also in Kalamazoo on New Year's Eve, Derrick Demones Gunn was sentenced to one to five years in prison for attempting to escape from a halfway house one day before his original sentence was up.
-- In October, Heber C. Frias, 20, on the lam from a first-degree murder charge in Florida, saw his freedom come to an end in an Arlington, Va., 7-Eleven when he tauntingly stole a candy bar right in front of a clerk, provoking a call to the police, who apprehended Frias just outside the store.
North Carolina state Rep. Henry Aldridge made News of the Weird in 1995 when he denounced state funding for abortions for rape victims as unnecessary in that a woman who is "truly raped" doesn't get pregnant because "the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work." In March 1996, North Carolina House Speaker Harold Brubaker appointed Aldridge co-chair of the Committee on Human Resources, which oversees abortion funding.
In March, Shulamit Dezhin, 82, passed her driver's test in Ashdod, Israel, after 35 failures. She said she originally wanted to learn to drive so she could get to Tel Aviv to visit her parents, but it took so long to get her license that now they're dead. And in February, Sue Evans-Jones, 45, of Yate, England, passed her driver's test after only three failures. However, she had taken 1,800 lessons over 27 years with 10 instructors, most of whom had told her she was such a bad driver that she should not even attempt the exam. (Her policeman-husband explained her problem to a reporter: The first thought crossing her mind about crashing, no matter what the circumstances, causes her to flail wildly at the brakes and steering wheel.)
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. 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.)