Lead Stories

Eight farmers in the town of Nemaha, Iowa (population 112), have taught themselves to perform various square-dancing routines on their tractors, according to a June San Francisco Chronicle story. However, all of the farmers are male, while square dancing is a couples activity; therefore four of the “dancers” don calico skirts.

In June the New Meat Theater in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district opened an Internet cafe in an upstairs room, the first such facility specifically designed for surfing pornography, sort of “a kinky version of Kinko’s,” according to owner Terrance Alan. In fact, said Alan, the theater’s nude male dancers might roam the computer room, “enhancing the Internet” with a “fourth dimension: the ability to touch.”

Suspended for Being Effective Artists

In April high school junior Charles Carithers was suspended from Boston’s prestigious Latin Academy after complying with a class assignment to write a horror story. In Carithers’s tale, a student cuts off the teacher’s hand with a chain saw, which the real teacher interpreted as a threat. Said Carithers in his defense, “If I wrote a student killed his taxi driver, that doesn’t have the same effect.” And in January senior Sarah Boman was suspended from Bluestem High School in Leon, Kansas, for the rest of the year after complying with an assignment to create art that emphasizes an idea, rather than an object. She drew a large mural of jumbled words representing, she said, the rantings of an “obsessive, compulsive, paranoid” madman, but that too was interpreted by her teacher as a threat. After appeals, both suspensions were lifted.


In Clacton, England, in March, a freak gust of wind propelled Chris Grimes, 17, who was holding an oversize kite, for a half mile at a height of 25 feet, until he touched down in a mud bog. And in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, in May, a 65-year-old woman was hit by lightning and lifted from the ground into the back of a pickup truck, reaching a height of 12 feet, according to witnesses; she was taken to a hospital but was not seriously injured.

Not My Fault

In February in East Providence, Rhode Island, the family of the late boater William J. Hussey, 55, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, arguing that Hussey’s fatal heart attack was caused by assistant harbormaster Paul J. Williams during a 1998 incident. However, according to police reports, Williams only yelled at Hussey, who was maneuvering his boat without the required navigation lights. Hussey’s nearly last words were, “Mind your own [expletive deleted] business.”

In March a representative of a private prisoner-transportation service in North Dakota told the legislature that the reason convicted murderer and child molester Kyle Bell escaped from the company’s bus in October was that prison officials failed to inform the company that Bell was an escape risk. The company says the paperwork on his transfer showed only that he was serving a life sentence.

Mark Merrill, 38, filed a lawsuit in February in Gary, Indiana, against Donald Trump, alleging that the reason Merrill turned to bank robbery (in Peotone, Illinois, in 1998 and Mokena, Illinois, in 1999) was excessive debt caused by the floating Trump Casino in Gary. Merrill says the casino fed his gambling addiction by enticing him to wager, even offering him free trips to Las Vegas.

In Tampa in March, Ed O’Rourke filed a lawsuit against Tampa Electric Co. (and several taverns) because he was hit with 13,000 volts after he climbed up one of the company’s transformers in what he called a “drunken stupor.” The voltage knocked O’Rourke from the transformer, burned 60 percent of his body, and left him unable to use his right arm. O’Rourke told a Tampa Tribune reporter that he is “unable to control his urge to drink alcoholic beverages.”

In Their Own Words

Zamora the Torture King (mentioned in News of the Weird in 1999 for his circus act of swallowing a length of twine and then removing it onstage via self-surgery on his stomach), to a New York Post reviewer in May on what his parents think about his job: “I told [mom] a while ago that I was a fire-eater, and it got her upset, so I haven’t told her much more. My dad’s just happy I’m successful doing something.”

Recurring Themes

The classic middle name: Charged in April with murdering a college student he met on the Internet, in San Antonio–Kenny Wayne Lockwood. Arrested in December for the murder of two Canadian tourists in Mexico–Donald Wayne Rainey. Arrested in Corpus Christi, Texas, in June for the murder of a high school student during a shooting spree inside an apartment building–Louis Wayne Watters Jr.

Least Justifiable Homicides

In June a 37-year-old man in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, was charged with beating another to death in a dispute over the ownership of a Planet of the Apes video. A 41-year-old man in Wealdstone, England, was charged in March with smashing his landlord’s skull with a sledgehammer after the landlord told him to lift the seat when he uses the toilet. Near Frankfurt, Germany, a 45-year-old motorist was charged in February with shooting a police officer to death during a traffic stop because he feared additional points on his driver’s license.

In the Last Month

In Mobile, Alabama, a dog got his head stuck in a discarded pickled pigs’ feet jar and ran in fear from people who tried to help; a man finally freed him 12 days later. Republican Steve Nass of Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Democrat Steve Nass (no relation) of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, 20 miles away, officially filed for election to the state legislature. In Parma, Ohio, a 27-year-old man, upset when a judge set a high bond for him on a charge that he beat his mother, rammed his head into a courthouse wall and is now paralyzed. In Westport, Connecticut, a 35-year-old grocery customer was arrested after he beat up a man who was behind him in line but who had tried to jump ahead when an adjacent register opened.

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.