Municipal employee George Pavlovsky stalked through his shop in April, drunk, carrying a loaded, sawed-off shotgun (sending colleagues fleeing in fear), and looking for the two supervisors who had recently passed him up for promotion. As a result, he was fired by the city (Moncton, New Brunswick) and went to jail in November, but he said through his union (Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 51) that he wants his job back when he gets out, and the union has filed a wrongful-firing grievance on his behalf. Several of his colleagues are still on stress leave from witnessing the incident.
Prof. Trevor Cox (University of Salford in England) and fellow acoustics researchers concluded that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, a duck's quack does have an echo (September). And biologist Nette Levermann (Copenhagen's Zoological Museum), whose team monitored 100 walruses near Greenland, concluded that the animals use their right flippers more than their left (October). And an aerodynamics expert at Britain's Open University, aided by an Oxford engineering student, designed and machine-tested a beer coaster to produce the ideal model and conditions for winning at the British pub game of coaster-flipping (November).
-- According to the arresting officer, Devikia Donise Garnett, 20, was calm when he stopped her for speeding in Hampton, Va., in November. However, after accepting the ticket, she quickly developed second thoughts and lit out after the officer, slamming her car into the back of his cruiser, then stopping and accelerating again, smacking the car three more times. After the officer avoided her fifth pass, Garnett spun around and headed straight for him, but he managed to pin her car before it struck his.
-- After Norm and Darlene Scott's Montana farm burned in 1996, they collected $75,000 from Mountain West Farm Bureau insurance but weren't satisfied and demanded more, finally getting another $52,500 in 1999. However, they wanted still more money and sued the company, claiming it was dealing with them in bad faith. In November 2003, a jury in Helena not only rejected the claim for more money but found that it was the Scotts who had started the fire (a finding that probably never would have been made had the Scotts quietly accepted the first $127,500). (The statute of limitations prevents criminal charges against them, but the insurance company will sue to get its money back.)
-- Toni Lynn Lycan, 44, in a shouting war with a downstairs neighbor over his loud music, stomped up and down on the floor, eventually breaking both her legs about four inches below the knee (Vancouver, Wash., October). And deer hunter Jeffrey Souza slipped while building his tree stand and, dangling by his feet, broke both ankles (Lakeville, Mass., November).
-- In September, Rouse Co., a developer and landlord of shopping malls, acknowledged that it had somehow forgotten to renew the lease on its own headquarters in Columbia, Md., a blunder that will probably more than double its rent, perhaps costing as much as $11 million.
-- In October, imprisoned child molester Kevin Kinder, 31, scheduled for a routine court hearing, was temporarily placed in a holding cell in Tampa, Fla., with 60 other prisoners, among them a 22-year-old man who immediately recognized Kinder as the man who had molested him when he was 11. The man started punching Kinder and knocked out a tooth before he was restrained.
-- Recently Arrested on Sex Charges: The vice chairman of a Louisville, Ky., anti-pornography group (for patronizing a prostitute, November); a retired New Jersey Superior Court judge whose job was to administer Megan's Law for Camden County (for possession of child pornography, August); and a politically conservative Richmond, Texas, radio-show host who is regularly critical of lax moral standards (for indecent exposure to a child, November).
Once again in October, panic spread through some African cities about black-magic men who could, with a mere touch, make penises shrink or disappear. In alleged incidents in Khartoum, Sudan, and Banjul, Gambia, these sorcerers would shake men's hands and then extort money in exchange for removing the evil spirits they had just incited. As word spread and fears heightened, vigilantes would chase down the suspected sorcerers and beat them up or kill them. (Academics who study this folklore refer to the communities' hysteria as "genital retraction syndrome.")
James Perry, with four DUI arrests in Florida, feared rejection if he tried to get a driver's license in his new home state of Connecticut and so pretended to be Robert Kowalski (the name of his neighbor in Florida), but a routine computer check revealed "Robert Kowalski" to be a Michigan sex offender, unregistered in Connecticut (Clinton, Conn., September). And Mr. Chance Copp, 15, who was on probation for arson and who feared testing positive for marijuana, submitted the urine of a relative, instead, only to find out later that that urine tested positive for cocaine (Chillicothe, Ohio, November).
The city of Bartow, Fla., amid complaints about stray chickens, repealed a 1922 ordinance that made it illegal to kill, capture or "annoy" birds (August). And the 10th annual cockroach races (and "tractor"-pull) were held at the Indiana State Fair in August, with separate events for American roaches (on an oval track) and the stronger Madagascar hissing cockroaches (on a straightaway). And among the less-publicized charges against the Russian oil giant Yukos (whose chairman, Russia's richest man, was arrested in October) was that a farm it owns in Siberia was illegally allowing rabbits to mate "unsystematically."
About 40 percent of U.S. elementary schools have eliminated recess over the last 20 years (according to a September story in New Times Broward-Palm Beach, Fla.), so that schools could squeeze in more classroom time. In addition to the problem of overweight students, Florida school psychologist Marvin Silverman referred to children's "chemical need" for recess, pointing out that even psychiatric institutions give recess to help with "mood and movement." A complicating factor is that in some schools, playground equipment has already been removed because of safety concerns and fear of lawsuits.
Prominent author and filmmaker Timothy Treadwell, much of whose work was devoted to his love of brown bears and a campaign to make people more tolerant of them, was killed and partially eaten by bears in October near Kaflia Bay, in southern Alaska. Treadwell carried no weapons in the wild, and according to friends, was unmoved by brown bears' ferocity. He told one friend, "I would be honored to end up in bear scat."
"Thousands" rioted in Sierra Leone when a prominent pair of Nigerian dwarf comedians no-showed a performance and promoters tried to substitute two local dwarfs (Freetown, Sierra Leone). A brother and sister who had thrown away a winning, $10.5 million Illinois Lotto ticket recovered it, only because their garbage had remained uncollected due to a nine-day sanitation workers' strike (Chicago). And Dog-Plus K-9 Water went on sale in Australia (for about US$2.10) in flavors like "bacon and beef" because, said the inventor, "dogs get bored with plain water."
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)