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News of the Weird

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News of the Weird

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 28, 2004

LEAD STORY

"Anal-wart researcher" (visual inspection being the only way to detect anal cancer from the human papillomavirus) heads Popular Science magazine's second annual November list of the worst jobs in science. However, "worm parasitologist" can be just as challenging, especially for anyone studying the Dracunculus medinensis (which can settle in humans to a length of 3 feet and then must be removed carefully after its thousands of offspring burst through the skin). Other contenders: "tampon squeezer" for the study of vaginal infections; a Lyme-disease "tick attractor" (who must sing, to keep bears away, while trolling in the woods); and "monitors" at warm-climate landfills (where garbage has been reduced to steamy, liquid condensates). [Popular Science, November 2004]

Majority Rules

Perhaps the strangest election result this year was in Orange County, Calif., where a school board seat went not to the favored establishment candidate but to an unknown, Steve Rocco, who never campaigned or even appeared in public. (He did tell a friend after the election that he would appear at the board meeting on Dec. 9.) Among the little information known about him: His candidate registration included one page of (according to the Los Angeles Times) "densely typed text cut and pasted together, and filled with rambling prose," and several years ago, he hosted a 17-episode interview series on public-access TV while wearing dark glasses. [Los Angeles Times, 11-12-04]

Suspicions Confirmed

In November, four University of Memphis basketball players, who share an apartment on campus, reported a break-in, with items missing (according to the police report obtained by WPTY-TV) including $6,000 worth of shoes, $4,000 of custom-made shirts, $6,000 of trousers and $40,000 of mink coats. [WPTY-TV (Memphis), 11-9-04]

More Scenes of the Surreal

(1) The September nomination of Michael Kostiw as executive director of the CIA was withdrawn almost immediately when The Washington Post revealed that he, while in a previous stint with the agency, had been caught shoplifting a $2.13 package of bacon from a Langley, Va., grocery store. (2) While demonstrations about Iraq usually either support the troops or criticize U.S. involvement, a group of p***-video actresses staged an idiosyncratic protest in August in Los Angeles, denouncing the U.S. military for offering breast implants to female soldiers (as a way to help keep combat surgeons sharp for battle-related plastic surgery). (One sign read, "Honk if you love natural breasts.") [Washington Post, 11-4-04] [Reuters, 8-19-04]

Questionable Judgments

# Asking for Trouble From the Spirits: Kenneth Rabalais, 19, was charged with desecrating a grave in a suburb of New Orleans after he opened the crypt of a young relative, believing that other relatives had buried "tribute" money and drugs to help ease the deceased's transition to the afterworld. (Apparently, the deceased left un-tributed.) And in Hawaii, Wal-Mart opened a store in October despite warnings that it had been built on an ancient grave site (and, indeed, the remains of 44 bodies turned up during construction). (Wal-Mart said it is protecting the remains while it seeks state approval to re-bury them.) [Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 10-2-04] [CNN-AP, 10-14-04]

# Colin Hancock, a convicted drug dealer serving time in Perth Prison in Scotland, filed a lawsuit in October, asking the equivalent of about US$55,000 because of an improper rectal exam (responding to his symptom of urine blockage) given by a prison physician. Dr. Alexander MacFarlane said he was forced to use, as lubricant, milk from a bowl of porridge because that was all the prison had on hand. [scottish Daily Record, 10-11-04]

Oops!

# In August, a pilot, cruising over Forest Grove, Ore., on assignment, reached out the window to scatter the cremated ashes of a man over the Mountain View Memorial Gardens, but the 4-pound bag slipped out of his hand, eventually crashing through the roof of Barbara Vreeland, who lives near the cemetery. The deceased's family paid for the damage, but Vreeland later told a reporter, "I think some of (him) is still in our attic." [seattle Times- AP, 9-1-04]

# The child pornography collections allegedly belonging to two men were inadvertently exposed in separate incidents in October. Robert Medvee was arrested in Frederick, Md., on 96 counts after workers spotted a stash as they were making repairs on his home following recent tornado damage. And part of the collection of the late Todd Darow was spotted by police, who had gone to his home in Livonia, Mich., to inform his widow that Darow's body had been found (at a church where he was a part-time custodian). (A search of the house turned up a more extensive holding, including videotapes of children being molested in the church restroom.) [Frederick News-Post, 10-4-04] [Detroit Free Press, 10-4-04]

Creme de la Weird

In October, Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear research officials evicted Roy M. Moore, 56, who had been living for years, apparently undetected, in a hard-to-access cave on the grounds (though not in a high-security area of the property). Moore had equipped his cave with a wood-burning stove, solar panels, a bed, a glass door and satellite radio. And in Houston in October, police calling at the home of Ronnie Luhn, 37, regarding the theft of a newspaper vending box, arrested him after finding 181 of them crammed floor-to-ceiling in the one-bedroom house he shared with his wife and three children. [Associated Press, 10-29-04] [Houston Chronicle, 10-16-04]

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Frances Lea Shaw, 41, was charged with arson of her home in Greensburg, Pa., in August after police and firefighters discovered that her most valuable household items (clothes, TV set, microwave oven) had already been placed in the yard under a heavy tarp by the time they arrived at her burning home. (2) John DeWitt, 18, fled from a security guard at the Orlando Ale House (Orlando, Fla.) in September after the guard suspected he was about to burglarize the building, but DeWitt's flight ended when he climbed into what he thought was a garbage can in order to hide but which turned out to be discarded restaurant grease. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-AP, 8-19-04] [Orlando Sentinel, 9-6-04]

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 2002 on a rooftop brawl in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre (under joint control of six Christian faiths, whose adherents sometimes get snippy with each other), when a cleric placed a chair in an area reserved for another faith. In September 2004, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clerics had a fistfight (resulting in at least five injuries) after a Catholic left a door open during an Orthodox service. (Coincidentally, on almost the same day in Bedford, Ohio, police said that more than 100 Sikhs were involved in a brawl over proper clerical dress at the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Temple.) [bBC News, 9-27-04] [WEWS-TV (Cleveland)-AP, 9-26-04]

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) A California Highway Patrol officer ticketed the operator of a Jeep off-road vehicle driving on Interstate 5 while tending to two hamburgers cooking on a portable grill. (b) A Texas state representative had his house and yard toilet-papered by a group of adult women who were supporting his opponent. © A Louisiana man arrested for indecent exposure confessed to police his longstanding hobby of photographing himself nude in unusual locations. (d) Police called to a Utah man's house to stop him from slitting his wrists also found the man's mother trying to commit suicide by automobile exhaust in the garage.

Readers' Choice

In October, with the homeowner away on vacation, Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into a house in Douglasville, Ga., and made herself totally at home, commandeering owner Beverly Mitchell's clothes, having the utilities changed to her name, ripping out carpeting, having a new washer and dryer installed, and painting a room, among other changes. When Mitchell returned after 17 days in Greece, she was of course dumbfounded that her key wouldn't work. Valentine has not yet explained, but a former neighbor said she has had some "problems." [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10-22-04]

Answer to Almost All True: (b), © and (d) are true. [American-Statesman (Austin), 11-2-04] [KTRK-TV (Houston)-AP, 11-8-04] [Associated Press, 11-12-04]

Thanks This Week to Kathryn Wood, Bill Lawrence, Chris Atwell, David Bokeno, Mellissa Wright, Mindy Cohen, Matt Riffle, Bea Westrate, Peter Hine, Paul Farr, Michael Learned, Wheat Williams, Todd Dukart, Julie Hagen, Ellen Marsh, Chrissy Pinheiro, and John Pearce, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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