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In March the New York Times reported on a recent spate of really bad Japanese TV shows, among them one in which bikini-clad young women attempt to crush aluminum cans by squeezing them between their breasts and another in which a young child is brought onstage and told that his mother has just been shot to death--for the purpose of seeing how many seconds will elapse before he starts crying. Said a leading TV critic, "The more nonsensical [the programs] are, the more interesting I find them."

The Los Angeles Times reported in February on astute decisions made by Colombian drug cartels to increase their U.S. heroin sales. The cartels reduced prices and increased quality so that customers could achieve an adequate high by smoking heroin rather than injecting it with potentially dirty needles. The U.S. government estimates the Colombians have now captured two-thirds of the east coast market despite producing only 2 percent of the world's heroin.

Obsessions

In October Larry Bottone, a coach, teacher, and private tutor for children, pleaded guilty in Norwalk, Connecticut, to child pornography. According to police, confiscated videotapes showed Bottone whipping nude, blindfolded boys, sticking objects under their fingernails, and rubbing their bodies with hot olive oil. Bottone explained that he was trying to determine how much punishment someone could endure when asked to do so by an authority figure.

In February 19-year-old Jason Christopher Zepeda, who was in a holding cell after his arrest for graffiti vandalism in Fremont, California, was rearrested when sheriff's deputies noticed that he was writing his name all over the walls of the cell.

Michael Ronson, 23, was sentenced to five months probation in Brantford, Ontario, in October for smearing shaving cream on an unsuspecting woman. By doing so, Ronson had violated a previous probation for the same offense.

Carlton Bradley, 56, was indicted in November in Plattsburgh, New York, for stealing underwear from a neighbor. According to police, Bradley, stealing one item at a time over a three-year period, had amassed 42 bras, 41 pairs of underpants, and 14 negligees.

In a February radio interview a woman in London, England, said her seven-year-old son, who'd been treated at the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, had finally kicked his three-year habit of eating nothing but jam sandwiches on white bread. The sight of other foods used to make him tremble and sweat and become nauseous.

Not My Fault

In February Cathleen Byers, a credit union manager charged with 83 counts for embezzling $630,000, told a Eugene, Oregon, jury through her lawyer that her hands may have taken the money, but her "heart, mind, and spirit" are innocent because some other personality within her had actually committed the crime.

Kurt Irons, 28, was arrested in Wausau, Wisconsin, and charged with vehicular homicide. Irons, who reportedly had been drinking, crashed a stolen truck head-on into another truck, killing a 37-year-old woman. According to the Marathon County sheriff's report, Irons was surprised by his arrest, saying, "Dudes, it's just a girl, man. It's a girl--nothing but a girl."

In November Gallup, New Mexico, high school football player Gilbert Jefferson, 18, was arrested after he overreacted to being thrown out of a game. Allegedly Jefferson had tackled a referee, causing the man to flip over and land on his head, knocking him unconscious. Four days later Jefferson's mother, Darlene, told reporters the incident was the fault of the referees and coaches. "[Gilbert] has no bad temper," she said. "My son has never been that type of boy." She explained that he was "tired and frustrated."

Can't Possibly Be True

According to a recent newspaper advertisement for Walt Disney World, Bill and Vicky Meredith of Ashland, Ohio, have spent ten days of every month at the park since 1974, staying in the same room at the Caribbean Beach Resort.

Undignified Death

According to police in Dahlonega, Georgia, ROTC cadet Nick Berrena, 20, was stabbed to death in January by fellow cadet Jeffrey Hoffman, 23, who was trying to prove that a knife could not penetrate the flak vest Berrena was wearing.

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 by Shawn Belschwender.

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