-- A New York Daily News investigation revealed in March that the Postal Service has spent at least $3.6 million of stamp buyers' money in recent years sending its Inspector General staff through a series of executive conferences that featured exercises in wrapping each other in toilet paper and aluminum foil, building sand castles in freezing weather at the beach, and freely making animal noises, all because the conference sponsors convinced Inspector General Karla Corcoran that those exercises would improve job performance and make the staff work together better. Other therapeutic tasks included dressing in cat costumes and asking make-believe wizards for advice.
-- A 36-year-old man from Arcadia, Fla., checked himself into a counseling clinic in March after being identified as the one who had been pretending in public to be choking on food and persuading women to grasp him in the Heimlich maneuver, after which he would hug them lavishly and attempt clumsily to develop a relationship. A sheriff's spokesman in Charlotte County, site of the most recent reports, said the man probably had done nothing illegal. (Novelist Chuck Palahniuk, author of "Fight Club," recently published "Choke," whose storyline roughly matches the man's actions, but apparently some Florida incidents predated the book's publication.)
Three men fell to their deaths into a 40-foot latrine pit in Mombasa, Kenya, in March, all because the first man chivalrously climbed down a ladder into the pit to retrieve a woman's cell phone but fell off and suffocated. The other two men then climbed down, but also fell off, attempting to rescue the one before him. A search crew finally brought up the three bodies four hours later, but no cell phone.
Belgian actor Benjamin Verdonck lived nearly naked in a cage with a pig in Ghent for three days in November hoping the pig would "teach" him why there is such strife in the world (results not reported). And James Albert Ernest Togo, 20, of Brisbane, arrested for mooning a policeman, claimed in December that Australia's Constitution gave him the right to stick out his bare buttocks in political protest, which he said was part of his Aboriginal tradition. And in October, in the midst of a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals anti-milk demonstration at an Aberdeen, Scotland, high school, about 100 milk-loving students spent 10 minutes angrily drenching PETA's cow-costumed spokesman with milk.
-- Gerald F. Berg gave police a false name when stopped, saying he had left his wallet at home, but when police spotted the wallet in Berg's pants pocket, along with methamphetamine, Berg quickly professed confusion, telling police that the pants he was wearing weren't his (Spokane, Wash., October). And when Marcus J. Thomas, 20, who was being discharged from jail, was discovered to have eight rocks of crack cocaine in his rectum, he quickly told police that the drugs weren't his (La Crosse, Wis., February).
-- Police in Warren, Ohio, arrested Roger A. Hunt, 41, on New Year's Day and charged him with kidnapping his girlfriend, despite his story that the couple were just blissfully headed out to dinner in his truck. Police said their suspicions were aroused when they noticed that the woman was barefoot and Hunt tried to explain that by saying, "She's from Virginia. She doesn't wear shoes (when she goes out to dinner)."
-- Robert Paul Rice, serving 1 to 15 years in Utah State Prison, had filed a lawsuit demanding that the prison accommodate him as a vampire by providing special "vampire" meals and conjugal visits that would allow him to partake "in the vampiric sacrament" ("drinking blood"), but an appeals court turned him down in October. A prison spokesman said that no one gets conjugal visits in Utah, blood-drinking or otherwise.
In March, after someone reported a brick thrown through his window, authorities went to the neighboring home of Phillip and Jerry Logan in Wyandotte, Okla., to question them. The Logans put out the word for other family members to come by and help them, and there soon broke out a series of fights that eventually involved 30 law enforcement officers from eight agencies. Six Logans (including the 61-year-old patriarch and the 55-year-old mother) were taken into custody. According to the Ottawa County sheriff, the immediate members of the Logan family have been charged with 250 crimes in the last five years.
The Transportation Security Administration revealed in March that, in the last 12 months, airline passengers at U.S. airports had been found by screeners to have tried to board with 4.8 million prohibited items, including 1.4 million knives, 1,100 guns, 125,000 incendiary items and 40,000 box-cutters. And in February, a 45-year-old Japanese tourist attempted to board a flight at Miami International Airport carrying a canister of gasoline, two boxes of matches and a barbecue grill, and he was taken into custody when he refused to give them up.
University of Manitoba professor Rod Yellon's appeal of his 1998 traffic ticket for running a stop sign (reported in News of the Weird last year) was rejected in February, and it appears he will now have to pay the fine, equal to about US$35. Yellon's strategy alternated between complaining of being oppressed and boycotting court proceedings, and in fact he was convicted in absentia. He refuses to pay the ticket because he thinks the word "stop" on a stop sign is too vague and that the government should set precisely calibrated standards of what it means to "stop."
(1) $2,000 (Virginia C. Ramsey pleaded guilty in January in Seattle of selling hers, using the money to buy two Sony PlayStations and pay a traffic ticket, among other things). (2) $1,150 each for twins, plus a used car and other considerations (Kelly Lutz gave up the kids for adoption to a subsequently suspended Medina, Ohio, lawyer, revealed in December court papers). (3) $500 (Kenneth Parnell, who served time for kidnapping, admitted in a January newspaper interview from his Dublin, Calif., cell that he had recently tried to buy a young boy after he got out). (Despite the interview, Parnell pleaded not guilty.) (4) $250 (Judith Ann Garland was accused by Baltimore police in December of selling hers and using the money to pay her bail on drug charges).
Top Pentagon and CIA officials met with the author of "The Bible Code," who said Osama bin Laden's whereabouts can be detected by connecting letters from ancient Hebrew (February). And eight hours before the U.S.'s "Orange" alert on Feb. 7, four heavily armed Cuban military men wandered through downtown Key West, Fla., unknown to anyone in Washington. (Turned out they had arrived by boat to defect and were looking for someone to surrender to.) And Jake Greenwald announced he would offer "terror tours" in Israel for $5,000 each to visitors wanting helicopter and simulated-games tours of West Bank bomb and battle sites (but has suspended the venture because of the war in Iraq) (March).
A 90-year-old woman was fatally crushed when a clumsy, 485-pound circus bear performing at a retirement home tripped over her wheelchair and fell on her (Hanover, Germany, August). A 52-year-old woman delivering newspapers before dawn on her motorcycle was killed when she accidentally ran head first into the rear end of a racehorse being walked along a road to a nearby stable (Utsunomiya, Japan, January). And, from a New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary that contains no explanation: "Eric D. 'Big Head' Vicks, a laborer, died Jan. 20 of a head injury."
A 43-year-old woman, wanting some fruit, was arrested at around 5 a.m., angrily throwing bricks through the front window of a grocery store just because it wasn't open yet (Hot Springs, Ark.). Hillside Cemetery received a bill in the mail from the phone company addressed to one of its "residents" (buried, 1997) for a call he supposedly made early this year (Auburn, Mass.). A first-grader became the latest kid suspended from school for having a nonweapon "weapon" (a plastic school cafeteria knife), but his parents threatened criminal charges against the school (for arming 6-year-olds with weapons) if the suspension stood.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)