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In his act as Zamora the Torture King, Tim Cridland thrusts skewers through his cheeks and neck, ingests swords and fire, jumps barefoot on broken bottles, and swallows a length of twine, which he removes from his stomach with a scalpel and forceps. In December Cridland told the Riverfront Times of Saint Louis that he left the well-known Jim Rose Circus over "artistic differences."

Since July the Totenko Chinese restaurant in Tokyo has been offering their all-you-can-eat luncheon buffet (regularly about $16) to the first 30 diners a day for about 30 cents a minute, measured by a time clock that diners punch. Other restaurants in Japan that have copied the idea have found that including alcoholic beverages on the menu tends to get people to stay longer, according to a December Wall Street Journal report.

Men in peril: In November, according to police in Lake City, Florida, Felisha Ann Copeland, 31, on learning of her ex-husband's new girlfriend, dumped a pot of boiling grits in his lap while he was seated on the toilet in the home they still share. He suffered severe blistering. And in Middletown, Connecticut, in December, Raquel K. Husman, 41, was charged with assault for allegedly slashing her ex-boyfriend's scrotum with her fingernails when she discovered him with another woman. He needed 24 stitches.

Latest Highway Truck Spills

Among the cargo spilled in truck accidents last year: 25 tons of pudding, in West Virginia in September; 2,000 cases of beer, in Michigan in July; four tons of flour, in Ontario in August; tons of noodles, which expanded in the rain, in Maryland in July; 20 tons of cheese, which caught fire, in Wales in October; $45,000 in quarters, in Illinois in June; 50,000 $1 bills, in Kansas in November; 500,000 honeybees, in Washington in October, and another four million in Wisconsin in November; 12 tons of garbage, in Rhode Island in March; and 20,000 gallons of liquid detergent, in Ohio in May. Among the more disgusting spills: a load of frozen dough that thawed and rotted before it could be scraped up, in Massachusetts in September; 22 tons of mad-cow-tainted blood, in England in September; a load of hog intestines and cow heads, in Ohio in November; and sewage, in Rhode Island in April, in Texas in September, and in New York in July, the last a slow spill that coated five miles of roadway just north of Albany.

Mutant Alert

In September red harvester ants in the soil near the Hanford nuclear complex near Richland, Washington, were found to be radioactive, as were flies and gnats swarming around the garbage at Hanford the next month. Hanford managers fear that additional contamination might be spread by mice and vegetation.

Ceiling Crawling in Albuquerque

In December a 35-year-old man who had been dining in an Albuquerque restaurant climbed into the ceiling of a rest room, crawled around a bit, and fell through into the kitchen. He gave no motive. Six days later another man robbed a Bank of Albuquerque branch on its first day of business by dropping down through the ceiling panels, where he had been hiding. Only a small amount of money was on hand, however, and witnesses said the man shook his head in frustration as he left.

The Weirdo-American Community

Tyrone V. Henry, 26, was arrested in September in Tucson, Arizona, and charged with possession of child pornography. Police said they were led to Henry's home after six female University of Arizona students complained about a man supposedly conducting a test of facial cream, which the women suspected was actually semen. However, police said they did not have enough evidence to charge Henry on the original complaint.

I Don't Think So

In September Moammar Gadhafi broadcast a video that he said caught an assassination attempt against him by British agents in 1996. According to an Associated Press report, the grenade in the video appeared to have been "painted" onto a man's hand and then as an airborne object headed toward Gadhafi. Not surprisingly, the "grenade" did not explode, but Gadhafi said a British agent was arrested and has confessed.

Fareena Jabbar, 37, was arrested in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in October and charged with trying to pass a U.S. $1 million bill, a denomination that does not exist. Jabbar had supplied a "certificate of authenticity" signed by officials of the "International Association of Millionaires."

Canadian author Robert Lannon was arrested in October in Acton, Ontario, and charged with making death threats against his estranged brother, Art. The charge was based on several references to Art's being murdered in Robert's new novel, The Return of the Family Idiot. Robert's lawyer said in December that he expects the case to be dropped because of the standard disclaimer, which states that any resemblance between a character and a real person is "strictly coincidental."

At a city council meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, in October, 23 people spoke against a proposed ordinance restricting ownership of pit bulls, including a representative of the United Kennel Club, who said the bill "has no place in America" because it is "no less than racial prejudice."

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: the customer dismissed at a bar or restaurant or store who expresses his anger by driving his car through the front door, as did Joe Stephens, 48, at a tavern in Lima, Ohio, in December; and the careless error made by home heating-oil delivery drivers who see an old fuel spout on a house next door to the one they are supposed to deliver to and mistakenly pump a couple hundred gallons of oil into the basement, as drivers did to Steve and Christy Barrie of Tacoma, Washington, in December.

Smoking Kills

A 78-year-old woman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, froze to death on her balcony in December when she stepped out for a cigarette and accidentally locked the door behind her, exposing herself to subfreezing temperatures and winds around 40 miles per hour all night. And a high school junior in Livermore, California, was killed in December in a fight with a man who became annoyed after the student gave him one cigarette but refused to give him a second.

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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