Lead Story

In June the director of Thailand’s corrections system, in search of a way to discourage inmates from betting on the European soccer championships, scheduled a match against outsiders: trained elephants from Ayuthaya Elephant Palace. “They are not the best players because they are quite slow,” one of the elephants’ trainers said. “But they try their best.” The inmates managed a 5-5 tie.

The Learned Profession of Law

In July police were summoned to an upscale office building in Saint Louis by a report of a man roaming the halls with a gun. When officers arrived some workers were hiding under desks and in closets; others had fled the scene. As it turned out, lawyers Gary Burger and Mark Cantor had been stalking each other through the hallways with BB guns, firing occasionally. One worker, Melinda Hageman, told police not to worry–it was just a game the two men sometimes played. “Boys will be boys,” she said. But she added that when she’d taken shots to her finger and shoulder after getting caught in their cross fire the month before, “I was mad. I grabbed one of their guns and shot back at them.”

Preemptive War

In August ice cream truck driver Markus Miller, 29, was arrested in Enid, Oklahoma, after he wrapped up an altercation with an 18-year-old customer by allegedly pulling out his handgun and firing two shots at the woman’s feet, one of which fragmented and hit her collarbone. And in July police in Grahamstown, South Africa, were looking for a soccer referee after he ended a confrontation with a coach whose player he’d yellow-carded by pulling out a gun and shooting him dead.

Bon Appetit!

Among the ice cream flavors offered at Ice Cream City in Tokyo’s Namco Nanja Town indoor theme park, as reported on the Web site of the English-language Mainichi Daily News, are spinach, garlic, tomato, seaweed, oyster, silk, goat, chicken, whale, seawater, lettuce and potato, wheat, shark fin, and raw horseflesh.

Things People Believe

As many as 400 Cambodian pilgrims a day are flocking to the northern village of Phum Trapeang Chum to be licked by a mystical cow that was born in a sacred commune, according to a July Agence France-Presse report. Word got out after the wife of the cow’s owner said she was cured of a chronic illness; other success stories followed, and now the owner is charging the equivalent of about 13 U.S. cents for four licks. But, warned the owner, Puch Pich, “the cow won’t lick people who won’t put in their money, and if he doesn’t think you believe in his powers, he won’t lick you either.”…In August two reporters from South Africa’s largest online news operation, News24, profiled Miyi Shongi’s efforts to escape a curse that has rafts of stones falling on her. She was kicked out of the village of Lombani after her family’s house was pounded by a hail of rocks. “We were there for nearly the whole night and saw stones falling from the sky like rain,” said a police spokesman who was at the scene. Shongi fled to the home of relatives in nearby Nhombelani but was forced to leave there too after a second rock storm hit. A spiritualist she consulted concluded that the problem was a spell cast by a Zimbabwean trader she owes money.

Suffer the Clerics

Catholic priest Zivko Kustic told a newspaper in Zagreb, Croatia, in July that his church would lobby the Croatian Parliament for an exemption to a tough drunk-driving law being debated, on the ground that priests have to drink wine at as many as three masses in three different villages a day and thus might exceed the proposed blood-alcohol limit of .05.

People With Issues

In August the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners revoked the license of John Hall of Cornelius, North Carolina, after finding that he had been squirting his semen into the mouths of patients during office visits. Hall tearfully denied the charges, but his semen–along with DNA from his patients’ saliva–was found on syringes turned in by two of his assistants, and several patients testified that he had injected an “awful-tasting” substance into their mouths. Hall told the examiners that he had semen in his office because he was monitoring the effects of a hair-growth drug with the potential to diminish his sperm count. He masturbated at the office, he said, only because he respected his family too much to do so at home.


News of the Weird has reported several times on kopi luwak, the ultraexpensive coffee–up to $50 a cup–derived from beans that have been eaten and excreted by the Indonesian palm civet. In July, Massimo Marcone of the University of Guelph, Ontario, published an analysis of how the coffee’s taste is affected by the beans’ journey through the civet in the journal Food Research International. The civet instinctively chooses only the ripest beans to begin with, Marcone says. Then digestive enzymes that penetrate the outer layer of the beans as they pass through the civet’s GI tract and ferment give the coffee its unique flavor, which he describes as “earthy, musty, smooth and rich with jungle and chocolate undertones.”

Readers’ Choice

In July landscape contractor Blair Davis, who lives in a Houston suburb, was the subject of a raid by the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force. A neighbor mistook the Texas Star hibiscus in his front yard for marijuana and reported him to the unit. After bursting through his door, guns drawn, and ordering him to hit the floor, the narcotics officers searched his home for about an hour, at one point discussing whether the bamboo growing in his windows could be marijuana. They also asked what he did with the watermelons and cantaloupes growing in his garden. “What would I do with them?” he replied.

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