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News of the Weird 

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The University of Plymouth in England announced in March that beginning in September it would offer a bachelor's degree in surfing. The degree, formally known as surf science and technology, will offer research opportunities in surfboard, wet-suit, and accessory design.

In March more than a thousand police officers in India completed a ten-day retreat during which they practiced Vipasana meditation as a means to prevent brutality on the job. Said one cop, "Today I bear no malice or ill will to anyone." In addition to 12 hours of meditation and introspection daily, the retreat required total silence, abstinence from sex, and a diet of fruit and cereals.

I'd still rather dine with her than with him: In February a court in London convicted restaurateur Sarah Amin, 42, the ex-wife of former Ugandan dictator (and rumored cannibal) Idi Amin, of several major health-code violations in the eatery that she owns. Authorities cited "heavy and active" cockroach and mouse infestations and filth throughout the kitchen and inside a refrigerator.

Man-Car Relationships in Tennessee

In separate incidents over a 48-hour period in March, a man in Spring Hill, Tennessee, fired about 90 rounds from an AK-47 point-blank into his car after it died on him on a major highway, and a man in Knoxville applied for a marriage license for himself and his 1996 Mustang following a split with his girlfriend. The court rejected the application.

Cook a Turkey, Ruin Your Life

In December in Kirkwood, Missouri, the home of Dennis and Bonnie Miller suffered extensive fire damage when their grill burned a hole in the pot they were deep-frying their Christmas turkey in, igniting a propane cylinder. And in February Canadian fugitive Allen Charles Whitequill, 42, on the lam from murder charges for two years, was captured in Carrizozo, New Mexico, following an attempted burglary during which he cooked a frozen turkey in a microwave oven. Whitequill became sick from the undercooked poultry, and when he went to the rest room he accidentally locked himself in. Police arrived before he could get out.

Not My Fault

In March Anthony M. Rizzo Jr., 62, a former school principal in Fairfax County, Virginia, escaped charges that he had repeatedly raped a ten-year-old girl in the 1980s thanks to a hung jury. The jury had not been allowed to know one fact: last year Rizzo won permanent disability retirement from the state of Virginia for a "psychosexual disorder" that makes him unable to supervise females without trying to force them to have sex with him. At the time Rizzo was applying for the disability status, he was denying the claims of eight female former coworkers who said they were victims of Rizzo's "disorder."

In February Charlie Smith, 45, told authorities in Austin, Texas, that while he might plead guilty to a yearlong series of scams that bilked people out of more than $1 million, he wasn't a bad person. He told the Austin American-Statesman that his criminal impulses date back to a day in 1969 when his car slipped off the jack while he was working on it, cracking his skull.

Recent explanations: Richard Davis, 51, defending his bankruptcy filing in London in March, said a nasal decongestant had made him extravagant and irrational. Gregory DeLozier, 35, explaining the attempted-murder charge against him in Trenton, New Jersey, said in January that the sediment from a bottle of iced tea produced weird side effects that made him stab his wife. And in January in Rochester, New York, inmate (and former gardener) James R. Moore, 64, tried to get a 1962 murder conviction overturned, saying his exposure to an insecticide made him lose his head and commit the murder.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court publicly reprimanded lawyer John F. Pellizzari in March for having a three-month sexual relationship with a divorce client while representing her. Pellizzari blamed the relationship on the client, who he said had a "premeditated plan" to coerce him into sex.

Cultural Diversity

A March Los Angeles Times story reported on the royal Siamese cat family of Thailand, believed to be direct descendants of the cats that belonged to the beloved King Rama V. The cats live in teak-paneled quarters and are served three specially prepared meals a day on gold and silver dishes.

The Washington Post reported in January that Chinese plastic surgeons have seen a rise in the number of patients seeking to westernize their faces by having their noses enlarged. Said one young woman in Beijing about to undergo surgery to make her nose twice as big, "I want to become beautiful." And Wen Biao, 26, said, "If I have a bigger nose, I think I will find a wife. I already have a good job."

Least Justifiable Homicides

A supermarket customer was shot to death in New Orleans in December, allegedly by the boyfriend of a cashier. Police believe he was responding to the cashier's call for help with a rowdy customer in the express line who had more than ten items. And a 22-year-old man in Northfield, New Hampshire, was arrested in January and charged with shooting his 26-year-old brother to death in a fight that began when the older brother objected to the younger's opening a bag of potato chips by cutting it instead of pulling it apart.


Five years ago News of the Weird reported on Max Weisberg, a bookie in Saint Paul, just after he had been released on charges of illegal gambling because the prosecutor was pessimistic about a conviction due to Weisberg's mental capacity: though Weisberg is a genius with numbers, he reportedly has an IQ of 80. A jury in 1990 had acquitted him of a similar charge, finding that he didn't seem to understand that gambling is illegal. In February police raided Weisberg's home again, seizing $127,000 in alleged gambling proceeds, running the total seized from Weisberg over the last ten years to about $600,000.

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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