Lead Stories

According to police in West Vancouver, British Columbia, 64-year-old multimillionaire Eugene Mah and his 32-year-old son, Avery, are responsible for stealing hundreds of petty items from their upscale neighbors over the past three years, including garbage cans, lawn decorations, and even government recycling boxes. Mah’s real estate holdings have been valued at about $13 million (U.S.), but among the items he allegedly stole were one family’s doormat and each of the 14 doormats they purchased as replacements.

In April the Humane Society of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to having violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when it euthanized three mockingbirds, part of an effort to stop birds from dive-bombing pedestrians near the State Department headquarters. A prosecutor said that during the previous four years more than 800 protected birds had been euthanized by the society, which claimed it never realized it needed a permit to treat them.

According to an April story in the New York Daily News, a former assistant to Dr. Thomas Fahey has accused the prominent cancer surgeon of loaning out blood samples from the late Terrence Cardinal Cooke of New York City, who died in 1983 of leukemia, so that Catholic parishioners could pray over them as saintly relics. The assistant, who had been dismissed by Fahey, was being deposed in a lawsuit when he made the allegation. The New York archdiocese said it had not authorized the surgeon to dispense the cardinal’s blood.

People Different From Us

Scott Hanko of Central Islip, New York, was arrested in April and charged with purchasing lingerie over the phone using other people’s credit card numbers. Police say that Hanko is “an introvert and very shy,” and that he made the calls so he could converse with female catalog operators, sometimes contacting as many as 15 before he found one whose voice was sufficiently engaging. Allegedly he ordered merchandise to legitimize his calls and had it delivered to the homes of the cardholders.

Crimes of Passion

In February, 19-year-old Raymond Garbaldon was charged with breaking into a stranger’s home in Albuquerque, apparently for the sole purpose of turning on an outside light so that he could see clearly enough on the porch to shave his friend’s head with electric clippers….And in March, 49-year-old Ms. Dale A. Sunday was discovered in her car on the right-field warning track of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ new PNC Park, then under construction. The ballpark was accessible from the street only through a construction tunnel that was described as being very complicated to navigate.

Great Art!

“Body Worlds,” an exhibit by anatomist Gunther von Hagens, opened in Berlin this past February, featuring about 200 unatrophied body parts and skinless dismembered corpses that had been arranged in various designs and gaudily displayed with superpreservatives to highlight every vein and sinew. The process, which von Hagens calls “plastination,” is supposed to reveal “the beautiful interior of the body.” Among the more startling pieces is the corpse of a woman five months pregnant, whose cross-sectioned abdomen reveals a curled-up fetus and dark smoker’s lungs.

In March the Custard Factory arts center in Birmingham, England, devoted 2,500 square feet of exhibition space to a show that consisted of whitewashed walls, a few scattered captions, and a sign reading “Exhibition to Be Constructed in Your Head.”

A deputy coroner in Cincinnati and 29-year-old Thomas Condon were indicted in February after a film-processing firm revealed that Condon had photographed corpses from the morgue in odd poses, holding such items as sheet music, a syringe, and an apple.

The Continuing Crisis

A California consumer group, analyzing information from the Federal Trade Commission, reported in March that under federal “lemon” laws auto companies buy back about 100,000 of their cars every year (95 percent of which have one or more safety defects). Though the cars could not be repaired when the original consumers owned them, the auto companies supposedly repair all but a few thousand of them after the buyback and then resell them. According to Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, most of them are sold at auction in states where it’s easier to conceal their status.

International ice-golf champion Annika Oestberg of Denmark successfully defended her title in April at the annual tournament on Uummannaq Fjord, Greenland. She defeated 35 challengers and beat her runner-up, Tom Ferrell of the U.S., by ten strokes.

Least Competent People

In March, vandals spray-painted white-power slogans on eight cars near Williamsburg, Virginia; among the sentiments expressed was “High Hitler.”

Undignified Deaths

A man in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was driving to court in March to be tried for reckless driving when he lost control of his car and was killed….Confrontations between good Samaritans and drivers who’d had too much to drink have claimed three lives in the past year: in January a woman in Fairfax County, Virginia, tried without success to keep an intoxicated friend from driving and was struck and killed by his car; in October, a man in Carrollton, Texas, was accidentally suffocated to death by seven friends as they held him down; and in December 2000 an intoxicated man was struck and killed in Morgan Hill, California, while walking across a busy highway after a friend had taken away his car keys.

In the Last Month

In Sprowston, England, Marlene Lincoln passed her driver’s test after failing it 12 times and taking 200 lessons, which cost her about $6,800….In Edwardsville a forgery suspect was released from jail after his wife presented a certificate showing that she had posted bail, but the certificate turned out to be a forgery….A federal appeals court ruled that a state university in Pennsylvania had the right to fire a professor who refused to issue a passing grade to a student, even though the student had skipped most assignments and 12 of 15 class sessions….And in Berlin, 56-year-old German singer Christian Anders said he and his girlfriend accepted an “indecent proposal” to lend her to millionaire Michael Leicher because Anders needs the money for a liver transplant.

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.