News of the Weird 

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The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in February that the Louisville Free Public Library is contesting the will of the late Audrey Jean Knauer over a $290,000 bequest. Knauer died in 1997 and inexplicably willed her money to Charles Bronson, whom she had never met but called a "talented character actor." Knauer's mother and the library both want the money; Bronson has not yet weighed in.

According to a January report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the percentage of gay men who have risky sex without condoms ("barebackers") is growing. There are now gay "Russian roulette" parties publicized on the Internet at which HIV-negative men ("bug chasers") and HIV-positive men ("givers of the gift") engage in anonymous sex. A gay writer said that he has spoken to participants and is certain that the parties are not just another Internet hoax.

In Saint Petersburg, Florida, the Reverend Henry Lyons, head of the National Baptist Convention, was convicted in February of defrauding two firms that thought they were purchasing a mailing list of the convention's purported 8.5 million members. Prosecutors insist the number was wildly inflated, and Lyons's former assistant testified that Lyons instructed her to use a telephone-book software program to create a membership list. Among the people that wound up on the list was an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

First Things First

In December Carol Harter, president of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, moved most of the school's English teachers' offices out of the campus's historic Houssels House and into a group of double-wide trailers to make room for a new consciousness studies program, which will study near-death experiences and other New Age topics. The program was created with a large donation from a prominent real estate developer.

In Fort Worth, Texas, murder defendant Robert William Greer Jr. agreed in January to plead guilty to a 1988 killing if the judge would agree to keep him in the local jail for two more weeks so that he could be certain to catch the Super Bowl on TV.

News From the Animal Community

The New York Times reported in November on the growing competitive sport of "musical canine freestyle" (dancing with dogs), in which owners and their pooches, dressed in matching costumes, dance to such tunes as "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Get Happy." The World Canine Freestyle Organization has a mailing list of 8,000.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in October that LuLu, a Vietnamese potbellied pig, saved the life of her owner, Jo Ann Altsman of Beaver Falls, by alerting a passing driver that Altsman was in trouble. Altsman had suffered a heart attack at home and said later that LuLu squeezed through a small doggy door, pushed open a gate that she had never opened before, ran to the road, and according to a witness, lay down in the middle as soon as a car approached. The driver stopped and then heard Altsman's cries.

In November New York's Westchester County Feline Club gave its Cat of the Year award to Ginny, a dog. Ginny was honored for befriending numerous stray cats, bringing them home, and sharing her food with them.

Recent surgeries: Veterinarians used a dentist's drill on a turtle's shell for a cesarean-section delivery of six eggs in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in June. The vets later patched up the shell with epoxy resin. And in November root canals were performed on several Kodiak bears appearing in the movie Grizzly Falls, shot in Toronto.

The Litigious Society

In August the family of the late Russell U. Shell filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Other Side nightclub in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, charging that Shell had choked to death on a miniature plastic penis that allegedly had been put in his drink as a prank by an employee. The club owner said Shell suffered a seizure and that the charm was found on the floor beside his body.

In January the Minnesota computer-component manufacturer Innovex Inc. agreed to pay former executive Mary E. Curtin $750,000 to settle her sex-discrimination lawsuit. During the time Curtin said she was being discriminated against, her husband, Thomas W. Haley, was Innovex's chairman and CEO.

Least Competent Criminals

In January in Modesto, California, Bernardo Arroyo, 26, was convicted of dealing methamphetamines and faces a minimum of ten years in prison at his sentencing in April. Before the trial Arroyo rejected a plea bargain that would have given him two years in prison, because a psychic had assured him that he would be acquitted.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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