-- Following a religious experience, Michael Braithwaite of the mountain village of Putney, Ky., recently converted his Love World shop (selling vibrators and other porn paraphernalia) to Mike's Place (selling Bibles and other Christian items). (However, according to a December report in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a 31-year-old government lawyer has developed a side business that may bridge both of Braithwaite's lines: The lawyer manufactures and sells high-quality, silicone sex toys in the shapes of religious icons, such as Moses, Satan and a nun, at prices of $54 to $65 each. One sex shop owner in San Francisco's freewheeling Castro district said he might stock the "Jackhammer Jesus" model, but that his Buddhist customers would be offended at the Buddha model.)
Edward Blaine, 61, who served 20 years in prison for a 1963 bank robbery, apparently is becoming even less competent with age, as he was arrested in January and charged with robbing the Union Bank & Trust branch in Port Royal, Va. Police said Blaine fled with the stash while $100 bills were falling out of his pockets, and then he realized as he arrived at his getaway car that he had locked the keys inside. He grabbed a log to smash the window but tossed it away in frustration, only to have it hit Emmett Lowe's truck, thus angering Lowe, who grabbed a gun and chased Blaine for 150 yards. In a struggle, Blaine shot at Lowe but hit himself in the leg, just before Lowe shot Blaine in the same leg.
If you ever run into these people, here's what to do: (1) If you're playing horseshoes with Fred William Leigh, and he says it's a ringer, it's a ringer (The insistent Leigh, 60, was convicted of shooting his disagreeing opponent in the stomach with a .38; Frederick, Md., December). (2) Don't demand fresh bacon with your eggs from Steven Deere, 50, when the rest of his family is having leftover pork (Deere was charged with shooting his stepson with a 9 mm pistol; Pittsburgh, December). (3) Don't insult Amanda Hicks' baby (The 20-year-old and two girlfriends allegedly punched, kicked, kneed, stripped and burned the man, and raped him with two different objects; Panama City, Fla., December).
-- In January, a judge at London's Old Bailey released 31-time recidivist Mark Patterson, 42, after his 32nd conviction, for burglary, because Patterson claimed that he needed drug rehabilitation so he could fulfill his calling as a poet. (His subsequent ode to the judge, in part: "I've now been set free / in a blaze of publicity / so that everyone can see / my great ability.")
-- Ayub Ali Khan, 36, who was held in a Brooklyn, N.Y., jail for 13 months after being detained as suspicious in the aftermath of Sept. 11, told a Washington Post reporter in January, "I feel I am the real victim of (Sept. 11). Just look at how much my family and I suffered." Khan was deported to Hyderabad, India, after pleading guilty to credit card fraud (using and selling fake credit cards and other bogus documents).
-- Richard Hobbs, who solicits tips in public by making balloon sculptures for children, filed a lawsuit against Westchester County, N.Y., for denying him the right to work the crowd at the county's Playland Amusement Park. In the course of defending the lawsuit, the county discovered that Hobbs had been convicted in 1978 and 1982 of sexual abuse of children. However, Hobbs persisted with the lawsuit, and in December, federal judge John Martin ordered the two parties to settle among themselves the issue of which areas of the park are commercial and which are traditional park space, in that Hobbs apparently has a constitutional right to practice his craft in traditional park spaces.
-- A judge in Monroe County, N.Y., denied Jerold Ponder's application for a handgun permit, but Ponder is appealing that decision, even though he is currently in jail charged with the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend. Ponder's best-case-scenario defense is that it was just an accident, occurring while he and the girlfriend were target-shooting with a rifle, and that that incident is not relevant to whether he is safety-conscious enough to carry a pistol.
-- According to the prosecutor at the Waterloo, Iowa, theft trial of Bradley Steven Bailey, 21, in December, not only did Bailey steal a day's bank deposit for the Hardee's restaurant where he worked and leave town, but after he was arrested and jailed, he wrote a letter to the Hardee's manager saying he was sorry but that he never did get his final paycheck, and could it please be mailed to him.
Margie Schoendinger of the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas, filed a lawsuit in December against George W. Bush for a lengthy series of alleged actions while he was governor, including "watching" her and "having sex" with her and her husband. The rambling and non sequitur-laden complaint, filed in Fort Bend County Court and reported on by the weekly Fort Bend Star, names the Sugar Land (Texas) Police Department as corroborating many of the plaintiff's allegations (example: that "plaintiff had seven dates, which became seven lovers, had told no lies, committed no crimes, gotten two traffic tickets, and dated George W. Bush as a minor"), but a department spokesman said no one had any idea what Schoendinger was talking about.
Ron Landon, 32, was captured by police in Belleville, Ill., in December after he ran through a Lone Oak Farm pasture to avoid arrest for several traffic tickets. Landon tried to hide in a shallow, water-filled ditch, but several horses wandered over to take a closer look at him, drawing officers' attention to the ditch. And at the January trial of alleged mobster Billy Rinick in Philadelphia, a narcotics agent described how he came to arrest Rinick at the home of his boss Joey Merlino. The agent had tracked Rinick to the upstairs part of Merlino's house and then, feigning secrecy, playfully whispered to Merlino's 4-year-old daughter, sitting on a bed, "Where's Billy?" The girl innocently pointed to the room across the hall, where Rinick was hiding under a bed.
Latest person to believe he had been beaten up in a mugging when actually, as his doctor informed him, he had been shot in the head (with the bullet still there): Keishun Scudder, Paterson, N.J., December. Latest annual New Year's Eve death toll in Japan from eating the traditional mochi rice dumplings, which are notoriously difficult to swallow, especially for the elderly: six (with 25 more hospitalized).
The Atlanta firm Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences regularly runs consumers through MRIs while they look at pictures of products so that researchers can see which parts of the brain are stimulated in order to learn consumers' subconscious thoughts about those products. A Brighthouse spokesman tried to say as little as possible about this "neuromarketing" technology, and which companies pay the bills, and told the Canadian public radio program "Marketplace" (which reported on the Institute in December): "Right now (our clients) would rather not be exposed. We have been kind of running under the radar with a lot of the breakthrough technology."
Fairway Middle School (Norwich, England) barred students from throwing snowballs at anyone without permission of the target. State judge Dan Ballou, complaining that the recommended punishment for two teenage speeders was too lenient, ordered them to drop down and give him some pushups (about 40) before he issued the sentence (Lexington, Ky.). A Tacoma, Wash., woman told police that when she was about to be raped on Jan. 17, she began to pray aloud; the rapist asked if she was a Christian, and when she said she was, he apologized, pulled his pants back up and left.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)