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Earlier this year Mayor Dan Gibson of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, decided to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. With the support of his wife and son, he resigned his office and liquidated his assets, including the couple's five-bedroom antebellum home, antique furniture, and two Cadillacs, to finance the campaign. He finished fourth, and the Gibsons now live in a cramped one-bedroom apartment and own a used car. Gibson told the Associated Press in August that he has no regrets and agrees with the voters: "I need more maturity [before holding office]."

In September Italy's highest appeals court ruled that a wife's obsession with another man was grounds for divorce even though she had never had a sexual or romantic relationship with him. A lower court had ruled that the wife was not at fault because there had been no "carnal betrayal"; however, the appeals court wrote that her constant thoughts about a bus driver she knew had destroyed her marriage's "trust and intimacy" as surely as if the two had had sex.

Eclipse Madness

During the August 11 solar eclipse: A baby born in Romania during the eclipse was killed by its 31-year-old mother, who feared it was cursed. In Cairo, Abdel-Nasser Nuredeen was charged with killing his wife because she was too fascinated by the eclipse to make him a cup of tea. Bulgarian TV apologized for missing the eclipse because its camera crew was delayed at an erotic-film shoot. A police superintendent in Picui, Brazil, released three prisoners because he thought the world was ending.

Oops!

Latest highway truck spills: 20 tons of dog and cat food on I-70 near Denver in March; 1,800 liters of caramel in Calgary, Alberta, in April; thousands of cases of beer on I-55 in Saint Louis in August; bottles of vodka, tequila, and scotch on Candora Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee, in June; 60 toilets on I-25 in Albuquerque in June.

Two Canadian astronomers admitted in June that they had made a serious error in their 23-page message to extraterrestrials beamed into outer space the month before. One section was intended to show that humans have mastered mathematics, but two different "equal" symbols were used. The Dutch researcher who found the error is afraid that aliens will believe we are "a sloppy species."

In June, during a British Airways flight from London to Los Angeles, a prerecorded emergency-warning message was accidentally transmitted to the cabin, horrifying the 400 passengers. This was the third time in three months that such an emergency tape had come on during a British Airways flight; in the first glitch, in April, the message had warned that the plane was about to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

In April a 34-year-old Filipino seaman had to be flown to a hospital in Port Lincoln, Australia, after he accidentally swallowed his four-tooth dental plate. In June, during an operation to correct a bowel obstruction, surgeons recovered a set of false teeth that David Flanders of Mopeth, England, had accidentally swallowed as a teenager. And in July, a bronchoscopy revealed that the asthmalike condition of Mike Russell, 60, of Bath, England, was caused by his four-tooth dental plate, which was lodged just above his right lung. It had been missing since a car accident eight years before.

In Warminster, Pennsylvania, in September, inmate David Marshall Brown, 54, was freed after serving 34 years for murder. He was supposed to have been released in 1980 on a plea bargain, but no one had been able to find the paperwork. Brown remained in prison long after his partner in the crime, who accepted the same plea bargain, had been released. Brown's paperwork was misfiled by his lawyer in the other man's records.

Chutzpah!

In August, Sheriff Ron Webb of Independence County, Arkansas, newly convicted on a federal charge of sexually assaulting a female prisoner, billed the county about $140 for car mileage and meals during his two-day trial in Little Rock, claiming the trial had been official business. A few days later he withdrew some of the claims.

In June in North Knoxville, Tennessee, as Sharon Gilbert was delivering an order from a sandwich shop to a jewelry store, a well-dressed man snatched her money bag and knocked her down. Gilbert jumped on the man, pried the bag loose, and chased him for a while until he got in a car and drove away. Minutes later, according to a manager of the jewelry store, the man called to complain that Gilbert had roughed him up.

Latest Economic Indicators

According to a July San Jose Mercury News report from Zimbabwe, the number of people claiming to have seen demons and tiny "tokoloshi" gremlins has greatly increased as the country enters the third year of its recession. The black-market demand for human body parts (for making potions) is up, and "traditional medicine" practitioners say business is good, as struggling Zimbabweans purchase evil spirits to humble their enemies.

Recurring Themes

In February News of the Weird first reported on "crush videos," in which scantily clad women in stiletto heels stomp insects and tiny animals to death for the viewing pleasure of foot fetishists. Two producers were arrested for animal cruelty in May in Los Angeles, another company is under investigation, and federal legislation has been introduced. Jeff Vilencia, whose Squish Productions was put out of business, told USA Today in August that while he agrees on the immorality of squishing pets, "mice and rats might be a gray area."

Undignified Deaths

In Campeche, Mexico, in May, lovers Jose Agustin Noh and Ana Maria Camara Suarez succumbed to carbon-monoxide poisoning as they slept after having sex in a hearse; they'd left the engine running to keep the air-conditioning on. And in April truck driver Ling Yiu-hung's 1997 death was officially ruled carbon-monoxide poisoning by a Hong Kong coroner; Ling had passed out and died after being stuck for hours in a traffic jam.

In the Last Month

Jealous boyfriend Rafus Garrett Jr. was charged with assaulting rival John Garrett (no relation) in a fight on Willie Garrett Road in Folsom, Louisiana. The U.S. Forest Service apologized for charging two New Hampshire men with the crime of "maintaining [White Mountain National Forest] without a permit" because they had spent two days cleaning up a lake. Cocaine smuggler Nicole Bos, 18, won a televised beauty pageant inside a women's prison in Lima, Peru. The National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., opened an exhibit honoring the five clerks who died trying to lug the mail to a higher deck on the Titanic. And a bank robber in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was arrested at a bar down the street after he attracted attention by buying a round with $100 bills.

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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