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According to a report this month in the New York Times, the purchase price in Japan of giant stag beetles--which people buy as pets--has dropped recently to about $300 from about $6,000 in the early 1990s. The beetles, which resemble four-inch-long cockroaches, "have different personalities," according to insect salesman Katsutoshi Misaki. "When I hold it in my hand, I feel real affection for it." One breeder said that in 1993 a rare beetle sold for about $30,000.

The school board of San Juan Capistrano, California, voted in April to approve a new secondary school that would cater to students of average academic ability who avoid extracurricular activities. The board believes such students lose motivation when schooled alongside higher achievers. Said one school official, "This is going to require strong marketing."

Recently retired air force sergeant Charles O. Hamilton Jr. was arrested in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in March while allegedly attempting to enter a toddler's bedroom. Police believe Hamilton is a Peeping Tom who sneaks into houses at night to observe young boys sleeping, sometimes dressing them and himself in diapers. Hamilton's storage locker contained photos of his handiwork, along with about a thousand diapers, some soiled.

The Litigious Society

Lucia Kaiser filed a lawsuit in February against the Ohm restaurant in New York City, claiming that her birthday party there in December (with Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones among the 400 guests) did not meet her expectations. The restaurant owner said he fully complied with the contract, but Kaiser is asking for $30 million in damages.

In Belleville, Illinois, Rochelle Chouinard sued booking agent Patricia Neuf for $227 for failing to supply a satisfactory stripper for her husband's 50th birthday party. Chouinard said she specifically asked for a woman with at least a 40-inch chest dressed as a nurse, but that the stripper was a much smaller-busted woman who did a traditional striptease. In February a judge tossed out Chouinard's lawsuit.

In Edwardsville, Illinois, in February, Joseph Schrage filed a lawsuit against a local Pizza Hut for "mental anguish," claiming he got sick from a bad pizza in 1997. The Pizza Hut manager said Schrage's experience hasn't driven him away: "He's still a current, regular customer. He comes in about twice a week."

In February a jury in New Britain, Connecticut, awarded convicted rapist and murderer Kevin King, 27, more than $2 million in damages for injuries suffered when he tried to escape from prison three years ago. In that attempt King attacked a female guard with a homemade knife, but two other guards subdued him, leaving him with some bruises and a cut below one eye. King's lawyer claims King suffered "anxiety" and "terror" that he would be further roughed up. The lawyer had sought to settle for $20,000.

In November inmate Luis Romero, 38, filed a lawsuit against jailers in Farmington, New Mexico, for injuries he suffered when he fell off his bunk and hit his head while changing a lightbulb in his cell. Two months earlier a Wisconsin court of appeals threw out inmate Guadalupe Mendoya's lawsuit against guards at a Green Bay jail for injuries he suffered when he fell out of bed, inebriated from the 25 drinks he had earlier that night.

Oops!

In November in Lake Saint Croix Beach, Minnesota, firefighters assisted a 13-year-old boy who'd gotten his lip stuck in an eggbeater. In Taipei in February doctors removed a chopstick from the eye socket of Japanese tourist Satoshi Kinoshida; it had penetrated more than an inch. And in December firefighters in Gosport, England, were called to a home to extricate teacher John Gueran, 42, who had become stuck headfirst with, according to London's Daily Telegraph, his "backside in the air" behind a kitchen cupboard trying to retrieve his son's Christmas gift.

Latest highway truck spills: 36 tons of Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops, and other candy near downtown Nashville in January; thousands of surgical scalpels, scattered over a half-mile stretch of Route 10 near Walton, New York (where they punctured the tires of a dozen motorists), also in January; and eight million dimes near Gore, Oklahoma, from a truck en route from the Denver mint to the Federal Reserve bank in Little Rock, Arkansas, in March.

Things Are Not as They Seem

In January a jury in Ringgold, Georgia, acquitted Alvin Ridley, 56, of murdering his wife. Most neighbors and relatives of the couple had not seen Virginia Ridley in 25 years, and a long-standing rumor had it that Alvin, an eccentric loner living in a dilapidated, roach-infested house in the Appalachian Mountains, had enslaved Virginia shortly after their wedding and eventually killed her. However, Alvin said Virginia died of an epileptic seizure and showed the jury Virginia's diaries, which describe her simple lifestyle, passion for privacy, and obsession with her husband.

For decades people have claimed that magnets attached to the body can relieve pain but without any substantial proof. In January New York Medical College researcher Dr. Michael I. Weintraub announced in the American Journal of Pain Management that in a study of 24 patients with diabetes those who used foot pads with magnets embedded in them reported less pain than the subjects whose pads contained simulated magnets. Weintraub theorized that a certain nerve in the foot might be responsive to the electrical field created by the magnet.

Recurring Theme

Last year News of the Weird reported on a Missouri woman who begged a judge not to imprison the man who had shot her in the head (putting her in a coma and causing her to miscarry) because she had married and had a child with him since the incident. In San Francisco in January, Anthony Tyrone Davis, 42, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for beating a woman with a hammer so severely that her skull has an indentation in the shape of the hammerhead. The victim subsequently married Davis and refused to testify against him, but he was convicted on a doctor's testimony and the 911 tape of the incident.

Thinning the Herd

A 54-year-old woman was run over and killed in February by an Amtrak train in San Jose, California; she was walking on the tracks and listening to the radio on headphones. A middle-aged man was killed in Nairobi in March when he was hit by a bus while running from the All Saints Cathedral, where he had stolen money from the collection plates. And a 73-year-old man was killed in a fistfight in Las Vegas in February; he had challenged a 69-year-old man to determine who was tougher.

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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