-- On Jan. 1, John Guth, 32, and Jeff Tweiten, 24, set up outside the Cinerama theater in Seattle, where they announced they intended to await the public sale of tickets for "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones," scheduled for release May 16. Tweiten said he was actually engaged in an art project on "waiting for something"; he keeps a log of his experience and originally wanted to await the film for two years. "I'm becoming very aware just how long an hour is," he said, and "what happens in an hour." The film's distributors have not even confirmed that the film will be shown at the Cinerama.
-- In November, prosecutors in Greenbelt, Md., finally indicted Josephine Gray, 55, for her role in the serial murders of her two husbands (in 1974 and 1990) and a boyfriend-cousin (1996), cases that have long been stymied by several relatives' resolute refusal to testify against her out of fear that she would use voodoo on them. (She was not indicted for murder but rather for collecting on the men's life insurance policies after helping arrange their deaths.) One relative of the eventual second victim said Gray could control the man as long as he was eating Gray's cooking but returned to "his old self" when he ate elsewhere. Other relatives said a spell from Gray caused the eventual first victim once to scratch his face to shreds.
Legal fees had risen to about $30,000 as of November in the Golden, Colo., battle between ex-lovers David Rosenthal and Barbara Newman over whether their 2-year-old child is named "Kyleigh Rosenthal-Newman" or "Kyleigh Rosenthal Newman." And Thailand's minister of tourism said a 27-hole golf course would be built at the juncture of his country, Laos and Cambodia, with nine holes in each nation, though the territory is littered with Khmer Rouge land mines; the minister thought golfers would fly in from all over the world for the challenge. And leaders of the notorious right-wing death squad of Colombia's United Self-Defense Forces sent e-mail Christmas cards this season to their soldiers across the countryside, wishing them "peace."
-- A judge acquitted Yvonne Lancaster of drunk-driving charges in October, even though she had been found passed out in her car in Warrington, England, with an empty vodka bottle at her feet, with a blood-alcohol reading four times the legal limit. Because she was barely conscious and had to be propped up at the station for her breath test, the police declined to read her her rights (because she appeared not to understand anything being said to her), and that failure, the judge said, invalidated the arrest.
-- New York City defense lawyer Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg zealously claimed on behalf of her client in a December murder-rape-robbery trial that the 81-year-old victim begged, and paid $20 for, kinky sex from her client, a 37-year-old crackhead with a long rap sheet. The jury convicted Elbert Marcel Mitchell on DNA evidence but not before Van Leer-Greenberg had insinuated in argument and questioning that the victim, a kindly Harlem socialite, had consented to the swollen cheek, the split lip, and the black eye, and that the dog leash Mitchell strangled her with was around her neck as part of an erotic game.
-- Heart surgeon James McClurken of Abington Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia reported in November that his 70-year-old bypass patient was exhibiting an old wound that surely indicated that an object had entered and exited his heart. It turns out that the man had indeed taken a slug, in the Korean War, but thought at the time that it must have missed the heart, but now the surgeon says it passed through so quickly that the wound closed up tight with no ill effects.
-- The Wilmington (N.C.) Morning Star reported in November that a state inspector, using new guidelines from North Carolina's Early Childhood Environmental Rating System, had downgraded the Kids Gym Schoolhouse day-care center in Wilmington only because she had found nine 2-inch-high toy soldiers in a play area and thus concluded that the center was engaged in "stereotyp(ing) violent individuals and promot(ing) violence."
-- The District of Columbia Department of Corrections admitted in August that it had illegally detained a deaf-mute man, who also has a serious mental illness, for 669 days on a minor misdemeanor charge (that ultimately was dropped) because it had lost his file. Jail records showed that the man never had visitors (not even the required public defender). The department director said it was "kind of unbelievable to me" that his agency could have done that.
Brian D. Beaudoin, 42, who was charged in August in Providence, R.I., with embezzling more than $100,000 from his mother in an investment scheme, first aroused suspicions when the mother and her two daughters entered Beaudoin's private bedroom to search for papers and discovered what the Providence Journal called a "stomach-churning, garbage-strewn mess," including "moldy food and soiled clothes" and "bottles and jars of thick liquid with unusual substances floating in them." Beaudoin later admitted that he sometimes urinated in bottles because he was too lazy to go to the toilet, which was in the next room. The sisters told reporters they suspected Beaudoin was storing strange liquids in order to poison their mother for insurance money.
From the Police Blotter column in the Oct. 30 San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News (during the nation's anthrax craze), about a mysterious bag of white powder that had been found in the waiting room of Good Samaritan Hospital the previous week: "The area was evacuated and the bag was secured by hospital staff and security personnel. Before the fire department or police department arrived, a security guard smelled and tasted the powder" and determined that it was not anthrax.
In June 1997, News of the Weird reported on Troy Hurtubise, a scrap-metal dealer from North Bay, Ontario, who had become so obsessed with grizzly bears that he had embarked on a 10-year, $100,000 project (sending him into bankruptcy) to build a suit out of rubber, steel and titanium that would enable him to safely wrestle a grizzly. In a December test at a special facility in British Columbia, Hurtubise hung a version of his long-awaited Ursus Mark VI suit in a cage, where it was promptly ripped up by a 1,200-pound Kodiak bear, forcing Hurtubise to go to plan B, in which he donned another suit and went face-to-face for 10 minutes not with the Kodiak but with a small, female grizzly. He said he would improve the suit and go face-to-face with a Kodiak later this year.
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (49) The hit-and-run driver who, either impaired or incompetent, drives on, oblivious to the victim (or parts of the victim's vehicle) being embedded in the grill or windshield of his car, as did a 25-year-old man in Pueblo, Colo., in November (14 miles with the motorcycle he hit stuck in his grill). And (50) the "man bites dog" stories in which a criminal suspect, cornered by a police dog, manages to get in a bite himself, before the dog subdues him (resulting in an additional battery charge against the suspect), as happened to a 28-year-old man in Virginia Beach, Va., in December.
Ms. Takako Konishi, 28, was found dead, of probable suicide, in Detroit Lakes, Minn., six days after being spotted in Bismarck, N.D., inquiring how to find the money that had been buried by a character in the movie "Fargo." A Tokyo hospital official was ordered by a court to pay about $2,350 to a colleague whom he had verbally assaulted at a board meeting last year by calling him an "idiot" or a "moron" 74 times. Yale Divinity School dean Ralph William Franklin resigned over charges of mismanagement, including using Yale funds to pay for clearly personal expenses, in "flagrant violation" of his contract. An environmental official in Kagoshima, Japan, was arrested for threatening to knife a bar owner if he didn't start separating his garbage according to the country's strict trash laws.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Newsweird@aol.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)