| Chicago Reader

News of the Weird 

Lead Story

Russell Herman died of cancer at the V.A. hospital in Marion, Illinois, in August 1994 and left a will bequeathing trillions of dollars to various institutions and people who are now demanding to be paid. Herman believed that he was a "deep cover" CIA agent involved in drug smuggling and that his estate was therefore due trillions of dollars in government compensation. His wife and other claimants (many of them right-wing and militia types) have filed charges of a government cover-up. Among the beneficiary causes is the fight for "states' rights" ($189 trillion). Herman's wife has a Peruvian gold certificate, dated 1875, that she says would be worth trillions if the government would let her cash it in.

Cultural Diversity

The Washington Post reported in May that ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem are campaigning against the popular modern practice of wig wearing among married women, who by religious law must cover their hair and have traditionally done so with snoods or cloth coverings like scarves. The ultra-Orthodox say the wigs don't meet religious requirements and that a woman who wears one is "preparing herself for hell." "When the Messiah comes, the first thing he will do is eliminate the wig" is a message that has appeared on walls.

A Tokyo fabrics worker, Keiko Yoshida, 32, announced in April that she'd invented women's underwear that shreds in extremely hot water. She believes it will be a big seller because the government recently required garbage to be packaged in transparent bags, making traditionally modest Japanese women embarrassed to throw out old underwear.

According to a New York Times report, one of the hottest selling Christmas gifts last season in Japan was a child's version of an electronic organizer that contains not only the calendars and phone directories of the adult model, but a "virtual pet" computer program so kids can "play with" dogs and cats in the many apartment buildings that ban pets.

Wild Blue, an indoor beach park in Yokohama, Japan, was reviewed by the Baltimore Sun in June. On a typical weekend day 4,000 people pay about $46 for admission, plus steep prices for renting beach chairs and body boards. The "beach" features 90-degree "weather," 86-degree "waves," 86-degree "sand" on a rubberized floor, and time-controlled sunlight to simulate peak tanning hours as well as sunsets. Said visitor Akihito Nakayama, "It's artificial. That's why we like it."

The visitors' policy at Providence Saint Vincent hospital in Portland, Oregon, is similar to many: no more than two at a time allowed in a patient's room and four in the lobby. In March the hospital ejected 60 Gypsies who had come to help heal a 55-year-old woman. Her nephew said he thought the Gypsies were exercising restraint by not coming with all 200 "family" members.

In March Pakistani stockbrokers led ten goats through the Karachi Stock Exchange out to the parking lot, where they were slaughtered in a sacrifice intended to end the recent slide of the exchange. At the next morning's opening, the exchange's index continued to fall 12.57 points--to a 16-month low of 1,683.

Just Can't Stop Myself

Jerome Sly, 51, was arrested in Findlay, Ohio, in April and charged with stalking a woman he'd met only once, in 1964. He recently sent her roses and a stack of letters he'd written after tracking her down from an obituary of her mother. Though he hadn't seen her for 31 years, he certainly had been thinking about her. In Sly's house, police found 62 gifts for her (for Christmas and her birthday each year), champagne and toasting glasses, and a pair of wedding rings.

Eric P. Wilson, 40, was convicted of burglarizing a home in Roanoke, Virginia, in March. He was done in by his obsession with shining his shoes, which he does several times a day, carrying polish and a personalized cloth with him at all times. Wilson had paused during the burglary to polish his shoes and accidentally left behind the rag and can of polish, which contained his fingerprints.

In April convicted pedophile Norman Bernick, 77, was back in jail in Newport News, Virginia, for violating probation. Bernick was convicted in 1994 of having sex with an inflatable doll in front of children.

Steven R. Shenk, 38, was arrested on drug-possession charges in Tewksbury, New Jersey, in May after a neighbor complained about his odd behavior. Shenk allegedly crawled around his yard eating grass and leaves, approached a small cart the neighbor used for working on his lawn, hugged it, and undulated against it as if having sex.

The district attorney of Rockland County, New York, resigned in May after a former mistress revealed secrets about their three-year affair. According to the woman, Ken Gribetz had made a "contract" with her to be her sex slave, referred to himself on her answering machine as a "bad girl," and stored his cross-dressing wardrobe (including a gold lame miniskirt) in her home.

In August in Leonia, New Jersey, Kevin Simpkin, 27, was arrested for stealing a Snapple beverage delivery truck while dressed in a Snapple T-shirt. A former Snapple employee, he'd recently been fired for allegedly stealing the merchandise. After interviewing him, police lieutenant Arthur Greiner said that Simpkin "just has an uncontrollable appetite for Snapple beverages."

Miscellaneous Eloquence

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune's June roundup of wisdom from the latest session of the Louisiana legislature, representative John Travis of Jackson said when opposing an apparently popular measure: "I can't believe that we are going to let a majority of the people decide what's best for this state."

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

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

More by Chuck Shepherd

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
April 10
Performing Arts
May 29

Popular Stories