Lead Stories

At a July hearing in Akron, Ohio, a judge briefly reopened a 1994 case to take testimony from the victim, who was only seven at the time but who now claims to remember the incident much better. Police said his mother had injured his rectum by ramming him with an object because he had soiled his pants, but the mother said the damage was caused by a sexual attack by the family’s pit bull (dog semen was found in the boy’s rectum). The mother is serving a life sentence, but her son is now positive that the dog did it. A week after the hearing, the judge let the conviction stand, relying on other 1994 testimony.

In August entrepreneur Adam Bilski received a license from the city of Oswiecim, Poland (site of the Auschwitz concentration camp), to open a disco on the spot of a World War II-era tannery that “employed” camp workers and became a gravesite for many of them. And in September, “Stalin’s World,” a tourist attraction devoted to themes of the World War II-era Soviet police state, is scheduled to open near Gruta, Lithuania, which was a gateway through which 200,000 Lithuanians passed en route to Siberian labor camps. The developer said he plans to eventually have visitors enter the park on cattle cars and eat oat gruel and fish broth, just as the prisoners did.

Use Columbus’s Libraries at Your Own Risk

In Columbus, Ohio, on July 12, Lester DeBoard, 36, was sentenced to five years in prison for luring an 11-year-old girl to a far corner of a public library, where he fondled her feet. (He faces a similar charge in a library fondling in nearby Worthington.) Four days later police arrested Dwight D. Pannell, 40, for the assault of a 33-year-old female student in the main library at Ohio State; he allegedly pricked her foot with a syringe containing an unknown substance.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The same engineering firm responsible for the notoriously wobbly Millennium Bridge in London, which has been closed and deemed unsafe, was identified as the consultant for the soon-to-be-released Bioform brassiere, according to an August report in London’s Daily Telegraph. The Ove Arup company found that replacing the bra’s underwire with plastic bands would more comfortably distribute weight and reduce stress; it is also working on shock absorbers for the Millennium Bridge.

In May the Food and Drug Administration approved the Eros Clitoral Therapy Device for prescription; it’s a suction-pump instrument that increases blood flow to the clitoris for the purpose of improving sexual responsiveness. Rudimentary blood-flow suction-pump devices for men, not approved by the FDA, have long been on the market and sell for far less than Eros’s $359 price tag, but are illegal to possess in Alabama, Texas, and Georgia, which ban devices sold for the purpose of stimulating sex organs.

In July engineer Roman Kunikov gave a public demonstration in Ufa, Russia, of his gasoline-powered boots, which he said would enable the wearer to jump around at about 12 feet per stride and run at a pace of about 25 miles per hour. The boots, not yet on the market, weigh about two pounds each, including fuel.

Weird Science

While U.S. sewage plants efficiently screen out bacteria and solid waste, many older facilities cannot break down certain chemicals and hormones in pharmaceuticals, including painkillers, caffeine, antibiotics, and birth control pills, which, as they spread into wastewater, cause environmental harm, including mutations in the reproductive organs of fish. Findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society earlier this year, along with recent studies from Europe’s waterways, suggest that certain species of fish are in danger of becoming extinct.

Latest useful genetic alteration: In June near Plattsburgh, New York, Nexia Biotechnologies began nurturing about 150 goats that had been specially bred with a gene from a spider, with the ultimate goal of creating silk fibers from proteins in the goats’ milk that are strong enough to use in bulletproof clothing and for aerospace and medical applications. Spider silk has long been admired for its lightness, strength, and elasticity.

University of South Florida professor Stuart Wilkinson recently developed a robot that fuels itself with sugar: according to a July BBC News report, E. coli bacteria break down the food and convert it into electricity. The professor hopes he will be able to modify the robot to power itself by eating vegetation (although unlike sugar, which produces only water and carbon dioxide as by-products, vegetation would create waste-disposal problems).

People Who Are Not Like You and Me

Police in Durham, North Carolina, said that three 15-year-old boys rushed to a hospital on the evening of July 28 with gunshot wounds to the leg had actually shot one another voluntarily. Said a police spokesman, “They wanted that status symbol of telling their friends they were shot.”


News of the Weird has reported several times recently on cockfighting, which is still legal only in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana, and is under constant criticism from state legislatures and animal-rights activists. However, according to a June New York Times story, a 33-state industry of breeders and developers of drugs that enhance roosters’ fighting performance is flourishing. According to a July Washington Post story, an anticockfighting bill in Congress, with broad bipartisan support, has been derailed because of the influence of the breeding industry.

Least Competent Criminals

T’Chacka Mshinda Thorpe, 25, was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia, in May and charged with possession of cocaine after a brief chase; police caught up to him after Thorpe tripped on his low-riding baggy pants, fell, and fractured his femur. And in March, Edney Raphael, 39, running from a stabbing in Philadelphia with a bloody knife in his hand, was captured following a foot chase; he had turned his head to see where the officers were and run smack into a parking meter.

In the Last Month

A 49-year-old man in Topeka shot up a bar, wounding five people, on orders from “the Lord,” who said subsequent instructions would come from the TV show Nash Bridges. A 30-year-old Danish soccer fan returning at night from the Copenhagen-Viborg game in a fans’ bus peered out of the sunroof and was decapitated by an overpass. And in separate incidents, two elderly people were rescued after enduring three days of being trapped and hidden in rural isolation without food or water: an 83-year-old woman in her car, which plunged off an overpass and hung in a tree above a swamp in Broward County, Florida, and a 75-year-old man in Carroll County, Virginia, stuck 15 feet down in the pit of his outhouse when the floor collapsed.

Correction: an item that ran two weeks ago about a strip-club owner who had never heard of the Reverend Billy Graham turned out to have been ficticious. I apologize to my readers.

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.