News of the Weird 

Lead Stories

In May Sunday school teacher Rob Vaughn debuted his Christian Wrestling Federation in Mesquite, Texas, with 12 grapplers (including "Apocalypse" vs. "Jesus Freak") entertaining about 400 fans. Vaughn said the action is similar to that of mainstream pro wrestling, but without the profanity and sexual content. Another difference, according to the Dallas Morning News, is that the wrestlers work for free and return to the ring after the final match for an altar call and prayer. Said Vaughn, "We are a ministry first."

Dutch researchers writing in an April British Medical Journal advocated that Viagra be dispensed for free in the Netherlands because it enhances the quality of its users' lives even more than, for example, kidney transplants. In fact, according to the researchers' "quality-adjusted life year" measure, a dollar spent on Viagra brings twice as much benefit as a dollar spent on breast-cancer screening.

Modern Religious Idols

Residents of Kien Svay, Cambodia, pray to a live 14-foot-long python, according to a January Deutsche Presse-Agentur story. For 29 years parishioners at Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco have venerated the jazz saxophonist, according to a February report in the Independent of London. According to a December USA Today report, parishioners in Chimayo, New Mexico, worship dirt; in New Delhi, perfumed dirt (the result of dumping by a cosmetics company) has attracted huge crowds of pilgrims, according to a December Associated Press story.

Government in Action

In January, Boston police officials investigating allegations of corruption in cabdriver licensing released the test paper of applicant Pierre Edouard, who was granted a passing grade and a license even though he answered only 7 of 60 questions correctly and had left 45 of them blank.

In February, Canada's Reform Party denounced $60 million (all figures U.S.) worth of art grants given by the Canada Council, including $3,000 for a piece on the history and culture of chewing gum, $4,000 for a video on the rubber stamp "as a low-tech marking device," and $900 to a Native Canadian poet to write a pamphlet on one of his race's anatomical traits, entitled "Where Did My Ass Go?"

In December three lawyers working cases as court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants in the District of Columbia superior court filed a federal lawsuit against the court for constantly missing deadlines for paying them, sometimes even by months. By federal court rules, the court was obligated to answer the lawsuit within 20 days but, according to the lawyers, the court missed that deadline as well and the lawyers won by default.

People With Issues

In March a judge in Dedham, Massachusetts, sentenced Thomas Flanagan, 47, to nine years in prison for the longtime physical abuse of his wife and three kids. Included were three counts of attempted murder and 39 counts of assault and battery; the kids also told investigators that Flanagan made them endure a daily plucking ritual, in which he lined them up and yanked out their nose hair with tweezers.

In January suspected serial killer Hadden Clark, 47, led police officers from several New England states to sites around the region in search of bodies of his alleged victims. Massachusetts state police obtained Clark's cooperation by acceding to his one request, which was that they provide him with some women's panties to wear during the trip.

Jason Samuel Lee, 30, was charged in March with improperly disposing of his wife's corpse. Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canmore, Alberta, said Eda Lee, 26, starved to death while fasting with her husband on a remote mountain. Jason, according to the RCMP, is a prophet who believes that food is an "instrument of Satan" and was trying to form a cult, but he was having difficulty attracting followers.

In Milton, New York, in March, Thomas Prussen, 42, was charged with endangering the life of a 38-year-old woman he had met through a magazine ad. According to police, the woman was infatuated with a certain Civil War soldier and wanted to join him in the afterlife. The woman asked Prussen, who claimed to have also communed with the soldier, to kill her. Asked about the possibility that Prussen was simply in love with the woman, a police investigator admitted, "It's tough to say what their mind-set was."

Recent Moons

In Prunedale, California, in April, minivan passenger Rick Hanson, 27, was mooning motorists when he was thrown from the vehicle during a crash; he suffered a broken pelvis.

In Belleville, Illinois, in March, Chris Bailey, 19, was jailed briefly after mooning a police officer, but within an hour of his release he mooned several more and was put back in jail. In Little Rock in March, Robert White, 49, became angry that his trial for disorderly conduct was not going well and mooned the judge, increasing his total jail time from 10 days to 40.

Recurring Themes

In 1994 News of the Weird reported on the trend of judges ignoring DNA results when they are used to disprove fatherhood among men who have mistakenly accepted legal paternity; courts put the interests of the child first and order support payments to continue unless the actual father steps up. In April of this year Dennis Caron, 43, went to jail for 30 days in Columbus, Ohio, protesting a court order to continue supporting a ten-year-old boy despite DNA evidence that proved he wasn't the father. The same month in Saint Louis, Bill Neal lost his lawsuit to extricate himself via DNA evidence from supporting a boy who his girlfriend had convinced him was his 11 years earlier.

God's Will

An 11,000-volt cable broke during a Hindu ceremony in Daltenganj, India, in April, electrocuting 28. Police in Baghdad arrested four vigilantes in January and charged them with killing at least 19 men who were alone with their girlfriends in a downtown lovers' lane. And following deadly meningitis outbreaks in four countries introduced by worshipers returning from pilgrimages to Mecca, French officials announced in April that traces of cholera were found in ten barrels of holy water brought back to the Alsace region by a group of pilgrims.

In the Last Month

An eighth-grade teacher in Boise, Idaho, apologized for assigning his kids a math problem in which they had to calculate how much gas Nazis needed to fill a gas chamber. In San Francisco, a save-the-whales activist had to call off a trans-Pacific protest sail after his 60-foot boat was damaged by two passing whales. National Archives researchers in College Park, Maryland, seeking to reclassify 50-year-old nuclear-weapons documents discovered uranium dust in some files. A 16-year-old boy under house arrest in Anderson, Indiana, allegedly broke into a neighbor's place and beat two girls, one fatally, but authorities weren't alerted because the neighbor's house was inside the 150-foot range of his ankle monitor.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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

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