-- According to a Chicago Tribune dispatch from Rome, it is a well-known August ritual that animal shelters are flooded with abandoned dogs and cats, exactly coinciding with the peak time for Italian vacation departures. What's worse, wrote the Tribune, citing press reports in Rome, is the uptick in the number of disabled parents who are dropped off at hospital emergency rooms by the same departing vacationers.
In June, according to police, former master bank robber Stephen Reid, 49, who had gone straight since 1987 (having written a best-selling novel and married an acclaimed poet), unexpectedly returned to his craft by robbing a Royal Bank branch in Victoria, British Columbia; however, he and his partner were arrested after a brief chase and shootout. And in April, Forrest Silva Tucker, 78, who was so brilliant that he once escaped from California's San Quentin Prison on a jerry-built river float, was arrested and charged with robbing a Republic Security Bank in Jupiter, Fla.; however, his car crashed into a tree after a brief chase.
-- Recent Rages: Donovan Moore, 43, was cited for disorderly conduct in April in Janesville, Wis., after he impatiently cut into a line of cars in a funeral procession and then made obscene gestures at the mourners. And from the Barberton (Ohio) Herald police blotter, May 27: "A 33-year-old West Virginia man drove his vehicle into a 30-year-old Barberton woman's fence, then tore her gate off its hinges. He had driven to town to try to have sex with her, but she refused, so he drove back to West Virginia."
-- Victoria Smith, 58, was arrested in March after pulling a gun on Pastor Chester Miller of the Saddle (Ark.) Baptist Church during the closing prayer because he hadn't preached from Revelations, which was important to Smith for her feud with another church member. And Wesley Free, 44, was arrested in February after firing on the congregation at the Church of the First Born in Oklahoma City, allegedly because the pastor wouldn't remove his name from the membership rolls.
-- In July, four men won $7,500 each from the city of Livermore, Calif., to settle a lawsuit over alleged police misconduct during a sting operation at the Not Too Naughty adult bookstore. According to the men's lawyer, Bruce Nickerson, police violated the privacy of his clients by spying on them while they were masturbating inside a booth in a video arcade.
-- Last year, Susan Bauer claimed she couldn't cut her grass (and thus violated an ordinance of DeForest, Wis.) because she was protecting exotic prairie plants. However, when that excuse was rejected, she filed a lawsuit in July 1999 claiming that she has a bad back and that making her mow her lawn violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.
-- In June, state regulators threatened to pull the license of Monique Dostie's home for retarded people in Lewiston, Maine, over her prohibition on residents' sexual activity and sexual materials. Dostie refused, citing her Catholic beliefs, her residents' limited abilities, and the absence of complaints from their families. The state stood firm on the sexual rights of the retarded, and in August, Dostie shut down her home and left the state.
-- In July, the Arkansas Supreme Court tossed out the DUI conviction of Michael Norris because police had administered a field sobriety test in his bedroom. Police had gone to his home on a tip just after Norris had arrived somewhat inebriated and were let into the house by Norris' mother-in-law. The court ruled that warrantless searches for DUI offenses were illegal and that the mother-in-law couldn't legally give permission for anyone to enter Norris' bedroom.
Introducing a new category, to acknowledge that if people didn't drink, there wouldn't be enough News of the Weird for a weekly column: In a June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors affirmed that decapitated rattlesnake heads are still capable of injecting venom and that research shows that "young men," "particularly while intoxicated," disproportionately receive such bites by "voluntarily" engaging the snake's head.
In May, officials at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, canceled a course on shamanism after learning that instructor Lennart Aastrup had convinced his 23 students to take off their clothes in class so they could better identify their bodies' energy patterns. Two weeks earlier, Los Angeles police had arrested elementary school teacher Wendell Smith, 46, after his fourth-grade students turned him in for stripping during class and making obscene gestures.
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (35) The dog that steps on his master's gun, on the trigger, causing the gun to fire and hit the master, sometimes fatally, as happened to a 51-year-old man in the town of Bad Urach, Germany, in August. And (36) the pack of animals that breaks into a liquor storage area, drinks up, and then goes on a drunken rampage, as happened in March and April with rats (moonshine at a police station) and monkeys (liquor samples in a government testing lab) in New Delhi, India. (Authorities could tell the rats were drunk because they were attacking cats.)
Criminals Imitate the 3 Stooges: Donnell Taylor, 35, was arrested in June and charged with burglary of a Pasadena, Calif., nursing home; Taylor had opened a sliding glass door for a quick getaway, but an employee later closed it, and Taylor's subsequent crash through the door left a blood trail, which police followed to make the arrest. And a man in a ski mask and with gun drawn rushed the front door of the formerly 24-hour (but now 6 to 11) E-Z Serve store near Tallahassee, Fla., in July at 11:15 p.m.; the man slammed into the locked door, stunning himself and knocking two packets of marijuana out of his pocket before he escaped.
A 210-pound, 30-year-old honeycomb was removed from inside the walls of a home (Tucson, Ariz.). A 14-year-old disclosed he is the father of a pregnant 12-year-old girl's child (she was his 11th sex partner) and told reporters, "I think I will make a good dad" (South Yorkshire, England). Volunteer firefighters doused a blaze inside their station that did $50,000 damage to a fire truck (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Air New Zealand agreed to offer compensation to a business-class traveler from Los Angeles who looked down to find a rat nibbling at her knee. A burglar lowered himself through a restaurant's grease vent, then changed his mind but couldn't get back out because it was too slippery, and had to wait 11 hours to be rescued (Snellville, Ga.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or Weird@compuserve.com.)