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Recent passings of note: In Columbus, Ohio, M.S. Tooill; in Arlington, Virginia, W. M. Croker; in Oklahoma City, William Death. In February in Rhode Island a 44-year-old man was killed on the shoulder of I-95 after being hit by a truck while standing between two other trucks--one was hauling granite slabs for tombstones and the other belonged to the Yates Casket Company. Three weeks earlier a 23-year-old man was killed in Fallston, Maryland, when his car smashed into a truck carrying burial vaults.

The Continuing Crisis

In September the founders of the Norway Losers Rights Union met with King Harald to explain the organization's agenda of offering support for those who feel doomed to failure. Since its inception in 1993 the union has attracted 728 active members and another 7,000 sympathizer losers.

Restaurant grease in the news: In January, after an $85,000 study, officials in Corpus Christi, Texas, attributed a lingering foul odor downtown to years of accumulation of grease from 35 restaurants. And in December thieves stole 8,000 pounds of grease from eight restaurants in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

In November workers at a Chinese coalfield in Xinjiang extinguished a fire that had been burning over a five-square-kilometer area for an estimated 100 years. About 300,000 tons of coal a year was consumed by the fire, and authorities estimate 55 million tons remain.

In a December medical journal University of New Hampshire researchers found that one adolescent boy in ten had been kicked in the testicles by another kid, 40 percent of the time by girls. Boys who wear glasses or have other physical limitations are three times more likely to be kicked, and a year after the kicking one-fourth of the victims still suffer depression from the incident.

An investigative piece in the weekly Moscow News in November listed rates paid to hit men in the growing contract-murder industry in Russia. According to the article, an average citizen without a bodyguard could be killed for about $7,000, while celebrities and politicians could be killed for much more. A hit on President Yeltsin, for example, would be worth $180,000. The leading killers guarantee about a 96 percent probability of success.

According to the Associated Press, the most popular publishing genre in Japan in September--so popular that whole sections of bookstores were being given over to it--was World War II novels in which Japan wins. In one of the biggest-selling novels war-crime tribunals against U.S. officers and politicians are held on the commandeered Queen Elizabeth ocean liner because no large buildings remain standing in Japan.

Last year a court in Wood County, Wisconsin, ruled that the state's parental-responsibility law required the parents of a 15-year-old boy to pay $2,500 to a 10-year-old girl with whom the boy had had consensual, but illegal, sex. In December, however, an appeals court ruled that the law requires the parents to pay $2,500 for each of the 20 encounters the two kids had.

In June in the county jail in Iola, Kansas, Richard Barber, 51, tried to kill himself by wrapping dental floss around his neck and jumping off a ledge, but he received only a deep cut on his neck. Barber had just pleaded guilty to killing a dentist.

In October the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette profiled Dale Miller, a technical-service manager at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who routinely wears stylish women's clothes to work. He said he's partial to silk blouses but often coordinates men's shirts, ties, and jackets with skirts and pumps. He said he has no desire to appear feminine--he just likes women's clothes.

In November the Malaysian government announced a crackdown against restaurants that substitute toilet paper for table napkins, promising fines of up to $80 plus jail sentences for repeat offenders.

In February police in Newton, Massachusetts, were searching for a man--about five-foot-nine and in his 20s--who allegedly propositioned a teenage male as he was leaving a department store. According to the teen, the man offered him $20 to let him smell the teen's socks.

In a November affidavit in Coldwater, Michigan, undersheriff Gary Abbott revealed that for an undercover sting he'd been forced to make five trips to a health spa to be solicited for prostitution. According to Sheriff Ted Gordon, multiple visits were necessary because the department's recording equipment is old: "You couldn't hear the women make the proposition."

In November Sam Walker, a member of the board of education for Currituck County, North Carolina, explained to the Elizabeth City Daily Advance the reason he owes nearly $10,000 in back taxes to the state: "I'm an elected official. I didn't know you had to pay taxes." Asked if he was joking, Walker said, "Hell, no. They owe me for serving."

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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