Lead Stories

Among the peculiarities uncovered in a November Detroit News investigation of the city’s firehouses is the absence of a central alarm system to notify stations of 911 calls. Rather, each firehouse is equipped with a dot-matrix printer, and a lead weight that rests on the printer’s paper feed is also tied to a switch that activates a bell on the wall; when the 911 operator sends a message to the firehouse computer, the “print” function automatically engages, moving the paper feed up, dislodging the lead weight from the table, and tripping the switch. Detroit fire commissioner Charles Wilson told the News that there are no plans to replace the 15-year-old system, in that it seems to work pretty well.

A December report in New Scientist proposed several feasible “nonlethal” weapons, including a dust that would put everyone in a target area to sleep (or at least mellow them out); bombs dispersing microbes that eat up rubber tires or storehouses of oil and gasoline; and bombs that would suck up oxygen, thereby disabling automobile and aircraft engines.

Barry and Rhonda Conrad filed a formal complaint against Hendricks Community Hospital in Danville, Indiana, in February for mishandling the body of their stillborn son last April. The grieving couple wanted to view the body and have it examined before it went off to the funeral home, but hospital employees mistakenly left it in with the dirty sheets, and by the time the Conrads were able to see the body it had been washed, bleached, and dried.


Brian Boone, 29, on probation since June in Lincoln, Illinois, for attempted child abduction (and written up in News of the Weird last year for his penchant for collecting teenage girls’ socks), was sentenced to 30 days in jail in November after asking two teenage girls to give him the gum they were chewing, saying he needed it to fix a flat tire. (His probation requires that he stay away from minors.)

First, Do No Harm

Testifying in January against Vancouver psychiatrist James Tyhurst, Jill Gorman and four other former patients said Tyhurst had pressured them into sexual master-servant relationships that included spankings. In December, Vermont officials put practice restrictions on surgeon Frederick Lord after 11 instances in which Lord operated on the wrong body part over an 11-year period, one surgery resulting in death and another in a patient’s becoming quadriplegic. And according to January testimony, a 65-year-old man died at a Hong Kong hospital last year after being left poorly attended when the doctor failed to write “acute” angina on the patient’s chart because he did not know how to spell it in English.

Great Art!

According to a September dispatch from Havana, Danza Voluminosa, a troupe of seriously overweight ballerinas, is gearing up for its 12th performance in four years. It will execute the Greek tragedy Phaedra emphasizing arm movements and stretching while avoiding traditional jumps. Said one performer, “The world needs things that break conventions of beauty.”

In an October show in New York, performance artist David Leslie put on headgear and boxing gloves and invited audience members to try to knock him out, offering $1,000 to anyone who suceeded. “I’ll be covering up,” he said, “but people will have, like, 15 uninterrupted shots at me….It’ll be cool.” In 1988, Leslie jumped off a five-story building onto a small cushion, to get “close to that kind of [life-threatening] peril. I just love surviving it.”

Can’t Possibly Be True

New York City writer William Adrian Milton, 59, told reporters in January that to his surprise, a recent CAT scan had revealed a bullet in his head. Milton speculates that he got shot when he wandered too close to a fight on a loading dock in 1976, heard a noise, and was knocked down. He staggered home bloody and went to bed, but failed to seek medical treatment because the bleeding stopped quickly and the remaining lump was consistent with being hit by a brick. Milton said he’ll leave the bullet there.

Japanese businessman Yukio Tatsuka, 50, was charged with the attempted murder of his son in November. Bangkok police say the father planned to kill the 19-year-old because of his aggressive behavior, but brought him on a holiday to Bangkok first to show him “the best time of his life” and alleviate his own guilt. When the son began scolding the father anew during the trip, Tatsuka grabbed his gun and shot the boy in the neck.

Least Competent People

In January 38-year-old Daniel F. Everett was charged with disturbing the peace after he allegedly pulled down his pants in the busy first-floor lobby of the Saint Louis County Courthouse and photocopied his buttocks. From his position atop a machine, he had made two copies and was working on a third when police arrested him. According to witnesses, Everett beseeched the officers: “What did I do? What did I do?”

Undignified Deaths

A 46-year-old woman was killed in September in Molalla, Oregon, when a two-ton concrete wall collapsed onto the portable toilet she was using. In January a 64-year-old man was found dead in Reno, Nevada, underneath several hundred pounds of old newspapers that had been stacked to the ceiling throughout his house. And at the airport near Luanda, Angola, in January, an out-of-control airplane managed to land safely, sparing the lives of all seven on board but colliding fatally with a pedestrian who was relieving himself too close to the runway.

In the Last Month

British pro soccer player Rio Ferdinand went on the disabled list with a strained tendon caused by propping his leg up for too long on a coffee table while watching the Super Bowl. A fistfight broke out in the middle of a highway funeral procession in Florence, Alabama, when a 20-year-old motorist, angry that he had to wait for the line of cars to pass, began yelling vulgarities and tossed a bottle at a car full of mourners. The fire department had to rescue a 67-year-old man in Warwick, New York, when the ground over his septic tank caved in and trapped him inside the rusty container for nearly an hour. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, an eight-year-old boy was suspended for three days under a school’s “zero tolerance” policy for pointing a piece of breaded chicken at a teacher and simulating gunfire.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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