Special All-Updates Edition

The Moscow Cats Theatre, described in News of the Weird in 1998, is still going strong in Russia, and now founder Yuri Kuklachev has brought 26 of the troupe’s 120 trained house cats to New York City for weekend performances through October at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center. Their tricks include front-pawstands and traveling the length of a horizontal pole, both by walking along it tightrope style and hanging below it sloth style. Kuklachev says each show is different because cats “do what they want. Sometimes a cat doesn’t want one trick, so he does another.”

Florida artist Maria Alquilar returned to Livermore, California, in August to make some requested changes to a 16-foot circular mosaic–containing the names and likenesses of various cultural and historical figures–she’d created for the city’s public library in 2004. Livermore paid Alquilar $40,000 for the work as originally installed, plus another $6,000 to come back and spell “Shakespere,” “Eistein,” “Van Gough,” and eight other names correctly.

In 2002 News of the Weird reported on the increasing numbers of Chinese men and women who, wishing to be several inches taller, were opting to undergo the often painful Ilizarov procedure, in which bones in the patient’s legs are broken, then lengthened over several months by adjusting a set of braces to repeatedly pull the pieces of bone slightly apart as they knit together. According to a report seen this June on Orlando’s WKMG, commercials on Chinese televison now advertise a less expensive alternative: a racklike stretching machine, resembling an exercise bench with restraints at each end for the head and feet and a crank in the middle.

In July a Utah appellate court granted Kaziah Hancock and Cindy Stewart a new trial in their attempt to recover money from a breakaway polygamous Mormon sect headed by Jim Harmston. The two women gave their life savings to Harmston’s church in return for promises of land, financial support, and a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, but were excommunicated from the church before the promises could be redeemed. At a 2002 trial, the defense argued that it was God’s responsibility, not Harmston’s, to make good; the jury awarded Hancock and Stewart $300,000, but the judge threw out the verdict.

In September 2004, John Hall of Cornelius, North Carolina, had his dentist’s license revoked after state examiners reviewed evidence that he’d squirted his semen via syringe into the mouths of female patients. This July, Hall pleaded guilty to seven counts of misdemeanor assault for such incidents; he entered what’s known as an Alford plea, meaning he made no admission of guilt but acknowledged there was enough of a case against him to convict. Hall’s lawyer said his client planned to move to Jacksonville, Florida, and go into the flooring and tile business, adding, “That shows you how far he’s fallen. He has hit rock bottom.”

In August Congress passed a $286 billion dollar transportation bill containing about $23 billion in “special projects,” or pork, for influential legislators. Among these was House transportation chair Don Young’s infamous “bridge to nowhere” (described here last year): a massive $253 million bridge to connect Ketchikan, Alaska (population 7,845), with a sparsely populated island and the modest Ketchikan airport, currently accessed by a five-minute ferry ride. In an Associated Press story this month, town officials defended the bridge plans as necessary to continued development, but saw no problem with deferring the federal money for a year to free up funds for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

It was reported here only last month that 644 people in Kimberly, British Columbia, set a record in July for largest group accordion performance. As it turns out the new mark had already been surpassed, when 989 accordionists convened at an August folk festival in Saint John’s, Newfoundland.

News of the Weird has reported several times on Robert Norton of Pekin, Illinois, and his numerous arrests (more than 20 over the years) for doing his yardwork naked. (When in 1999 a judge finally told him that he’d go to jail if he did it again, Norton said, “I can’t [promise] anything.”) Norton died in July at age 82; in defiance of his wishes, his family had him buried with his clothes on. A former neighbor told the press, “We didn’t really know him. We just had him arrested.”

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