Lead Stories

The June issue of New Scientist, citing an annual report from the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry, said that last year in Great Britain, 36 people suffered injuries from teapot covers, about 165 from place mats, about 330 from toilet-paper holders, and about 13,000 from vegetables. However, sponge-related accidents fell from 996 in 1999 to 787 in 2000.

The Associated Press reported last month that Vermont Elaine Beverly, 47, who has served 10 years of a 15-year prison sentence for murder, earns a full salary and benefits as an ordinary state employee. Because of her high score on a state test, the Alabama Vocational Rehabilitation Office was required to hire her. She spends days on the job and returns to her Birmingham cell at night; much of her salary is remitted to the state, but she retains full health insurance and retirement benefits.

In May a 62-year-old woman in Draguignan, France, gave birth to a boy after undergoing in-vitro fertilization. Her doctors weren’t aware that the sperm donor was her own brother; the two siblings stood to inherit the estate of their 80-year-old mother, but only if one of them had a child. The brother’s sperm was also used to impregnate a California woman, and both of his offspring now live with him and his sister.

That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It

Alejandro Toledo, elected president of Peru last month, admitted during the campaign that he had once failed a drug test but explained that he had been kidnapped by intelligence agents and force-fed cocaine….Harvard professor Dirk Greineder, convicted last month of murdering his wife, insisted that they had both come down with nosebleeds the morning of her death, which explained why he was covered in her blood and his own….And in May a 39-year-old motorist in Bismarck, North Dakota, was stopped by police for having tinted windows but claimed that someone had broken into her truck and tinted the glass without her knowledge.


In December 2000, 19-year-old John Christoffel of Dakota County, Minnesota, was charged with a felony for trying to save the life of a neighborhood dog being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer. The dog’s owner had passed away, and after the dog suffered a cut paw, a relative of the late owner decided to get rid of it; Christoffel intervened, imploring the man to stop and ultimately pulling a gun on him, but was too late to save the dog. The dog hammerer received only a misdemeanor charge for animal cruelty, though after community protests the prosecutor reduced Christoffel’s charge to a misdemeanor as well.

In March sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles County arrested 39-year-old Steven Smiley after he allegedly filled plastic trash bags with helium, attached burning flares and explosive powder, and released them into the air. When the flare burned out, the bag would explode like a small bomb. One bag landed on the roof of a sheriff’s substation three miles from Smiley’s home and exploded, but no one was hurt.

Federal law guarantees every child a public education, no matter how costly or extensive his special needs. According to an April story in the Boston Globe, the state of Massachusetts spent ten months searching for a school that would accept 15-year-old Nathan Vincent, who has severe physical and intellectual limitations and who mutilates himself. During that period the state lodged him at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he received no schooling; the $619,000 spent to keep him there would have paid the annual salaries of a dozen teachers.

Prosecutors in Vancouver, British Columbia, allege that Sukhjinder Singh Dhillon, aided by his mother and his sister, severely beat his wife in January because she had given him two daughters but no sons.


In February, News of the Weird reported that Frank Buble of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, had been convicted of attempted murder after beating his son, Phillip, with a crowbar. Phillip, a “zoophile,” had refused to curb his public displays of affection for his canine “wife,” Lady, to whom he considers himself married “in the eyes of God.” The following month Phillip gave a 30-minute presentation to a state legislative committee urging the members to defeat a pending antibestiality bill (Lady had to wait for him in the car because dogs are not allowed in the chamber).

Undignified Deaths

In April a 45-year-old bakery worker in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was killed when his head and shoulders got trapped in a dinner-roll-making machine….In February a 54-year-old factory worker in Chester, Vermont, died after getting caught in a pasta-making machine….And in March a 43-year-old municipal environmental worker in New York City managed to clear some debris from the mouth of a large reservoir drain but could not get out of the way fast enough and was sucked 200 feet down the drain to his death.

In the Last Month

An education official in Malaysia, mindful of the country’s teacher shortage, urged female teachers to plan any pregnancies so that babies could be delivered during school vacations….In Covington, Kentucky, a man notified a convenience store clerk that he would be back in a half hour to rob him, loitered outside the store for 30 minutes, and then held up the store….And five employees at a reform school in Monticello, Missouri, were arrested for forcing troublemaking students to stand in a manure pit.

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.