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The Associated Press reported in October on Katie's Pet Depot in La Verne, California, believed by its staff to be one of the few pet salons in the area (about 30 miles east of Los Angeles) that grooms rats. For $10 a rat gets an application of waterless shampoo, a nail trim, and a treatment for fleas and mites. Employee Karri Garrison said that clipping the nails is the hardest part: "They have very small feet."

Some Rugged Little Kids

Eight-year-old Sierra Stiles of Kitzmiller, Maryland, was credited with the first kill of the state's bear-hunting season in October after using two rifle shots to bring down a 211-pound black bear from about 50 yards. She'd won a lottery to get one of 200 permits available this year, then breezed through the required safety test. And according to a January profile in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, eight-year-old Aidan Gold of Bothell, Washington, climbed a 20,300-foot Himalayan peak in November with his dad, following lesser climbs in the Cascades and the Swiss Alps.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The East Oregonian of Pendleton, Oregon, reported in December on the local First Church of God and its attempt to finance a missionary trip to Costa Rica in March by selling rolls of two-ply Angel Soft toilet paper. And in November Agence France-Presse reported on Portuguese toilet paper company Renova, which had recently started selling black toilet paper in France and planned to introduce it in North America this year. Renova promotional material described the tissue as "elegant, rebellious, alternative and eternally fashionable." (The word "uninformative" appeared nowhere in the description.)

Cats vs. Drywall

In January home owners in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, traced the disappearance of their cat Mary Poppins to the installation of some new drywall in their basement five days earlier; firefighters located the cat in the remodeled ceiling using thermal-imaging gear, cut a hole, and coaxed it out. And in October an unidentified cat apparently wandered into a house being built in Louisburg, Kansas, got drywalled in, and spent an estimated three weeks trapped in the walls before workers heard it.

Oops!

Mike Bolognue inadvertently opened an alcohol-free sports bar in Plain Township, Ohio, in November. Bolognue had already invested $560,000 in the business before state officials pointed out at the last minute that the site is located in a dry precinct--something no one had noticed when he'd first applied for his liquor license. He said he'd try to keep the place running as a restaurant until township residents can vote on whether to approve alcohol sales in May.

In December a trader for the Japanese bank Mizuho Securities, intending to sell a single share in a telecom company for 610,000 yen (about $5,000), made a typing error that instead sent through an order to sell 610,000 shares--more than 40 times the total number of shares actually issued by the company. After four unsuccessful attempts to cancel the order, Mizuho decided to buy back the shares at a much lower price. The mistake set off about $3.5 billion worth of frenzied trading, and Mizuho admitted that it lost at least $225 million itself.

Chutzpah!

In Brisbane, Australia, in December 38-year-old Lucella Gorman pleaded guilty to (a) stealing a variety of toys, electronics, beauty products, and jewelry from a department store and (b) stealing the digital camera used at the police station to take her mug shot after she was arrested for the department-store thefts. And FEMA subcontractor Frank Tanner, 47, was charged with looting in January after he walked out of a storm-damaged house in Slidell, Louisiana, with a towering armload of stereo equipment, tools, appliances, and other goods. Tanner apparently hadn't realized that one of the people milling around in the front yard wasn't a FEMA worker but the house's owner, Darin LeBlanc, who immediately recognized the items as his own.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Pueblo, Colorado, attempted to question Selina Valdez, 28, and Daniel Marquez, 41, in late December about their possible involvement in a counterfeiting operation. Shortly afterward, investigators said, the pair apparently began to flush huge quantities of counterfeit money down their toilet. When officers came back with a warrant a week and a half later, they found the home's floors covered in standing water and sewage and wads of fake bills clogging the plumbing lines for nearly 100 feet; adding to the stench were the plastic shopping bags into which Valdez and Marquez had evidently been relieving themselves since the toilet stopped working.

Readers' choice: Jessica Booth, 18, was arrested in December in Memphis and charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and soliciting murder. According to police Booth was at an acquaintance's house when she saw what she believed to be a brick of cocaine; she subsequently conceived a plan to hire someone to help her kill the four residents of the house and steal the drugs. Contacting someone she was told was a hit man, she instructed him while plotting the attack that any child at the house old enough to testify would have to be killed as well. Unfortunately for Booth, the hit man turned out to be an undercover police officer and, as it happened, the brick of cocaine turned out to be a large piece of queso fresco, a crumbly white Mexican cheese.

The Classic Middle Name (All New)

Recently charged with murder: Jeremy Wayne Hopkins, 22 (Denton, Texas, November); Reginald Wayne Thomas, 23 (Huntsville, Texas, November); Matthew Wayne Almand, 18 (Brevard County, Florida, November); Curtis Wayne Campbell, 25 (Norman, Oklahoma, January). Recaptured after escaping jail while awaiting trial for murder: John Wayne Surratt Jr., 28 (Daytona Beach, Florida, January). Convicted of murder: Roy Wayne Russell, 45 (Vancouver, Washington, January). Pleaded guilty to murder: Douglas Wayne Pepper, 44 (Greensboro, North Carolina, November). Executed for murder: Melvin Wayne White, 55 (Huntsville, Texas, November). Apparently committed suicide while under investigation for murder: Don Wayne Moody, 26 (Laredo, Texas, December).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Chuck Shepherd.

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