Chuck Shepherd is on vacation. The following items are reprinted from the News of the Weird archive.

Lead Story

In 1998 police in Wichita, Kansas, removed four children from their parents’ mobile home, which was littered with animal feces, and placed them in foster care. Officers reported that numerous Star Trek posters and magazines were lying around and that the family members were speaking to each other in Klingon. A judge later returned the children to their parents, who promised to clean the home and get rid of their two ferrets and seven of their nine cats.

Penguin Hookers

In 1998 Cambridge University researcher Fiona Hunter, who studied penguins’ mating habits for five years, reported that some females apparently allow single males to mate with them in exchange for a few of the stones the birds use to make nests, providing what Hunter believes is the first observed example of nonhuman prostitution. According to Hunter, all of the acts were done behind the back of the female’s regular mate, and in a few instances penguin johns gave the females additional stones as a sort of tip afterward.

The Litigious Society

In 1999 a federal judge in Syracuse, New York, rejected another in a series of lawsuits filed by Donald Drusky of East McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in his long-running battle against USX Corporation for firing him in 1968. Drusky had sued “God…the sovereign ruler of the universe” for taking “no corrective action” against Drusky’s enemies and had demanded that God compensate him with professional guitar-playing skills and the resurrection of his mother. Drusky argued that he should win a default judgment if God failed to show up in court.

In 1999 a jury in Birmingham, Alabama, ruled in favor of Barbara Carlisle and her parents in their lawsuit against two companies that had charged them 18 more monthly payments for two satellite dishes than the salesman had originally promised, a total overcharge of $1,224. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $581 million. (The defendants appealed the verdict, and the case was ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.)

Why They Go Postal

In White Plains, New York, letter carrier Martha Cherry, 49, was fired in 1997 after 18 years for walking her rounds too slowly. In an explanation to Cherry, a supervisor wrote, “At each step, the heel of your leading foot did not pass the toe of the trailing foot by more than one inch. As a result, you required 13 minutes longer than your demonstrated ability to deliver mail to this section of your route.”

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Fort Smith, Arkansas, arrested James Newsome, 37, in 1999 and charged him with holding up a convenience store. Newsome was filmed by a surveillance camera, and the coat worn during the robbery was found in his car. Also, Newsome’s wife said the family car had a radiator leak, and a puddle of antifreeze was found where the robber had parked. Finally, the robber wore a hard hat with “James Newsome” printed on it.

Leading Economic Indicators

In 1999 Tokyo electrician Akira Hareruya, 36, began supplementing his income by inviting passersby to put on boxing gloves and take swings at him for about $9 a minute. A former boxer, Hareruya promised his customers he would not hit back, though he would try to avoid their punches, and encouraged them to relieve their stress verbally as they swung. He told the Los Angeles Times he was making about $200 a night.

Government in Action

Banker Glen Garrett, 66, of Purdy, Missouri, told a reporter in 1998 that he’d spent about $1 million in legal fees over the previous six years fighting federal regulators who had fined him $25,000 for doing business as his father had taught him, by handshake, rather than using the required paperwork. The FDIC became upset when Garrett hired himself to construct a bank, even though an independent appraiser later said Garrett charged about $300,000 less than market price.

Religious Messages

In 1998 Josh Hempel, 16, of Calgary, Alberta, was struck by lightning shortly after daring God to strike him if He really existed. Hempel recovered after being hospitalized. A few months earlier at the Bathgate Golf Club in West Lothian, Scotland, Father Alex Davie was playing in the Clergy Golfing Society tournament when lightning struck the tip of his umbrella and, a few minutes later, a tree under which he had sought refuge. He suffered a sore arm but continued his round.

Thinning the Herd

One morning in late 1997 in Whitney, Texas, two best friends, ages 27 and 41, drove their pickups directly at each other in a friendly game of chicken, as was their habit when they encountered each other on empty farm roads. On this occasion they collided at about 60 miles an hour. The younger man was saved by his seat belt; the older man wasn’t wearing his and died at the scene.

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