News of the Weird 

Lead Stories

In January North Dakota legislators decided against a proposal to crack down on motorists who relieve themselves into containers while driving and then toss the receptacles filled with urine or feces out the window. Said Representative John Mahoney, "We want to promote tourism, and [such a law] might be offensive."

An article in a February issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on a French study that found one of every nine people admitted to intensive care was there because of infections or mishaps caused elsewhere in the hospital. Also in February Claudia Archer, 52, settled her malpractice lawsuit against an army medical center in Washington, D.C., for about $4 million. Archer entered the hospital to have a benign tumor removed from her neck, but over the next four months, she had to have her legs amputated below the knee and tubes inserted to help her eat and breathe, allegedly because of infections contracted in the hospital and doctors' errors.

Nicaragua's first escalators, installed in a shopping mall in Managua in December, have terrorized many shoppers, according to a February Miami Herald report. One middle-aged woman who was afraid to step off leaped from the escalator onto the floor, lost her balance, and stumbled through the food court, knocking over tables and slamming into a wall.

Koreans Who Want Money Really Badly

In December Chung Kyu-chil, 52, reportedly confessed to a scheme to collect on his disability-insurance policy by having an acquaintance to whom he promised about $40,000 cut off his feet. And in September Kang Chong-ryol, 42, was charged with trying to cheat an insurance company out of about $7,500 by cutting off his ten-year-old son's finger and claiming that a robber did it.

Family Values

In January Ryan Goodhart, 16, was arrested and charged with battery for roughing up his mother in Sarasota, Florida, after she and her boyfriend refused to share their marijuana with him. And in December Nathan Ricketts, 26, was arrested and charged with choking his mother in Glendora, California, because she forgot to buy food for his two seven-inch-long piranhas (which are illegal to own).

After she appeared on MTV in November talking about her sex life, April Divilbiss, 21, of Memphis found herself in a custody fight over her three-year-old daughter. She is married to Shane Divilbiss, 24, but the couple is involved in an ongoing threesome with Chris Littrell, 22, and April told MTV she was thinking of bringing another woman into the arrangement because the two men were wearing her out. Her daughter was fathered by yet another man, whose parents filed the custody petition.

According to a December Denver Post story, Katy Emery, 27, agreed to again serve as a surrogate mother for her sister, Judi Conaghan of Chicago, who has been advised against becoming pregnant because of a heart condition. Emery, the family black sheep, and Conaghan had been estranged, but Emery agreed to the first pregnancy because, she said, she was trying to shed the image of "the bad kid I'd been through my teen years."

Awesome, Dude!

In October in the Dent de Crolles region of France, shepherd Christian Raymond, 23, was rescued from a cliff from which he had been hanging for about 20 minutes. He had called the emergency rescue operator on his cell phone earlier in the day and managed to make another call from the cliff by pressing "redial" with his nose against the phone, which had landed on a ledge beside him.

Shirley Lawson, 59, of Marysville, Tennessee, survived an accident in September, when her Jeep overturned, even though the vehicle came to rest on top of her with the driveshaft stuck through her abdomen and both legs.

Recent episodes of car surfing: in Hampton, Virginia, in November, William Vaughn, 29, jumped onto a car's roof during a dispute to prevent his friend from leaving, but the friend drove off anyway. Vaughn hung on for 25 miles, at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. And in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, in January, gas station attendant Matt Thomas jumped onto the hood of a car to try to prevent a customer from leaving without paying. He hung on for a few minutes at speeds up to 80 miles per hour until she stopped.

Mathematics professor David Liu of the University of Alberta was named Canadian professor of the year in January. Liu received the award mostly because of the math clubs he has established for disadvantaged youth, but also partly because he taught himself to work out equations upside down so that students could follow his explanations from across his desk.

Least Competent Criminals

Steve and Michelle Chambers pleaded guilty in August in Charlotte, North Carolina, to stealing $17 million from an armored-car firm in 1997, a caper that hit the headlines again in February when the goods the couple bought with the money were auctioned off. On the lam, they called attention to themselves when Michelle walked into a bank in Belmont with a suitcase containing $200,000 in currency wrappers printed with the name of the armored-car company and asked the manager, "How much can I deposit without the bank reporting the transaction?" The couple had also moved from a mobile home into a $600,000 mansion. Said one federal marshal, "It was very much The Beverly Hillbillies."

Not Real News

Recent hoaxes that were reported as real news: A story that made the rounds on the Internet late last year, attributed to the Associated Press, described how some Japanese breweries had replaced carbon dioxide in beer with hydrogen, allowing drinkers to sing in very high voices and blow flames from their mouths. As the story goes, stockbroker Toshira Otoma lost a barroom fireball-blowing contest and retaliated by blowing fire at one of the judges, singeing her hair. The episode supposedly got Otoma fired, and he supposedly sued the beer company and the bar. Weird, but not true.

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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