Lead Stories

Weird India: In June, according to Dr. Chittaranjan Maity, medical education director for the state of West Bengal, a 13-year-old boy who’d come to a hospital for pain in his groin began producing quarter-inch winged beetles in his urine; the insects had hatched from eggs laid in his body. And a few days earlier, also in West Bengal, a nine-year-old girl was “married” (in a nonbinding ceremony attended by more than 100 guests) to a stray dog. The girl’s first adult tooth had come in on the upper gum, a bad omen, and local elders believed a marriage would dispel the evil; her father had stalled for years, hoping to save enough money to marry her to a boy, but eventually settled for the dog.

In June the Associated Press reported on Bolivia’s annual Tinku festivals–pre-Columbian ritual celebrations held by the country’s high plains Indians, intended to settle feuds and secure better crops in the coming year. The largest occurs on a midnight in early May in the town of Macha; men from several nearby villages, dressed in native war garb, gather to drink and dance and whip each other with braided leather thongs, and soon the festival turns into a bloody brawl that often results in at least one death. (“If a person dies it is better for the fields,” says a local nurse.) A tour guide to Macha calls Tinku “a friendly meeting to test one’s energy,” but the Bolivian government has nonetheless tried to moderate the violence in recent years.

Our Litigious Society

In April in Riverside, California, 31-year-old motorcycle enthusiast Michael Machetti filed a lawsuit against Bull’s Eye Tattoo, charging that an artist’s needle had infected him with a “flesh-eating virus,” necessitating the removal of large swaths of skin on his neck and under his arms. (Machetti, as a concession to his coworkers at a Hilton hotel, had asked to have one of his neck tattoos–the words “fuck you”–covered with a large “666.”)

Justin Scheidt filed a lawsuit in May against the Showgirl III strip club in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for “serious and permanent injuries” to his genitals, inflicted after his friends paid four pole dancers to take him onstage during his bachelor party. At the women’s request, Scheidt lay on his back with his legs straddling one of the poles, and in turn the dancers climbed about six feet up the pole and slid down squarely onto his groin. Scheidt went ahead with his wedding the next day, but he claims his injuries rendered him unable to consummate the marriage on his honeymoon.

People Different From Us

In May in Santa Ana, California, 32-year-old Trenton Veches was convicted of 22 counts of lewd conduct with a minor–he’d admitted to sucking the toes of several boys between the ages of 8 and 11, and had videotaped some of the encounters. His attorney argued that Veches’s conduct had not been sexual, since he hadn’t been physically aroused, but an expert witness for the prosecution claimed that people can be sexually stimulated without showing visible signs of it.

Our Civilization in Decline

Chicago police arrested six people in June and charged them with insurance fraud in connection with a long-running scam allegedly led by a 39-year-old man nicknamed “Bonecrusher.” Homeless men reportedly allowed Bonecrusher to administer a compound fracture to an arm or leg with a heavy wooden club; then scammers would take the injured man to a staged auto-accident scene, call 911, and pose as relatives in order to arrange a quick insurance settlement of up to $100,000 (though the homeless man would receive at most $1,500).

Recurring Themes

Another PETA tactic: In April the Independent of London reported that the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 53-year-old Ingrid Newkirk, has plans to advocate for her cause even after she dies. Her will stipulates that part of her body be publicly barbecued to protest “fleshfoods”; that pieces of her skin be made into leather to underscore the barbarity of using animals for fashion; that the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency receive her eyes, mounted, as a reminder that PETA will continue to watch the agency until it bans animal experiments; and that the owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus receive one of her fingers, also mounted, to serve as an accusation on behalf of exploited performing animals.

Least Competent People

In June in Foster, Rhode Island, a private road-striping crew on state contract painted a prominent crosswalk on Cucumber Hill Road that connects a tall hedge on one side with an unbroken stone wall on another; locals speculate that turtles, deer, or wild turkeys might make use of it.

In the Last Month

In Macomb, Illinois, a 29-year-old man was hospitalized in fair condition after he playfully dropped a four-inch bluegill into his mouth, not realizing the fish would head for the only escape route–his esophagus. In Santa Clarita, California, the La Mesa Junior High School yearbook ran a half-page ad for the National Rifle Association–though students at the school can be expelled just for carrying squirt guns. And in Ottawa, Illinois, the 48-year-old owner of a skydiving center whose fatality rate is eight times the national average was killed while skydiving at his own facility.

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