Lead Stories

In October the New England Journal of Medicine reported the apparent first-ever transfer of a food-poisoning virus from one football team to its opponent. Florida State beat Duke, 62-13, in the 1998 game, but 43 queasy Duke players and assistants got some unintended revenge by making 11 FSU players violently ill during and after the game by passing the virus via their unwashed hands and fresh vomit on their uniforms. Contaminated turkey sandwiches were to blame.

Officials at the Paralympic Games, held in Sydney two weeks after the Olympics, said they were concerned about performance-enhancing drugs but more so about other tactics used by athletes with spinal-cord injuries trying to get an edge: some blocked their catheters to overfill their bladders, which research shows improves athletic performance (by raising blood pressure) by an average of 10 percent. While painless, the technique is dangerous, a Canadian team doctor told the Globe and Mail. “But like every other athlete,” he said, the abusers “feel invincible.”

Latest Exorcism Developments

The September rerelease of the 1973 movie The Exorcist was but one event in a recent flurry of demon-possession news. That month Chicago’s Catholic archdiocese revealed it had for the first time appointed a full-time exorcist. The Vatican revealed that Pope John Paul II had failed in the exorcism of an evil spirit from a 19-year-old woman after the church’s chief exorcist had also failed. And in a July investigative piece, the New York Post reported that the $1 billion in annual donations to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Brazil are made largely due to the church’s threats that donating is the only way to receive an exorcism.

Creme de la Weird

Police in Bismarck, North Dakota, reported in October that a man pretending to be a police officer had recently telephoned two fast-food restaurants and instructed their managers to strip-search employees for contraband. The caller persuaded a female manager to force an adult male to strip and a male manager to force an adult female to disrobe.

An unidentified man was finally caught by police in August in Stafford County, Virginia, after two years of incidents in which he would lie on trails camouflaged with dirt and leaves trying to get run over by an all-terrain vehicle. According to one sighting last October, the man staggered away from such an incident, bloodied. The man was not arrested but was ordered to stay off bike trails.

Toes in the news: A man was reported (but not apprehended) in a Saint Louis suburb in October after he forcibly sucked a woman’s toes in a hotel hallway. And a police officer in Central Point, Oregon, was placed on medical leave in June for forcibly sucking the toes of two women after they had rebuffed his request to submit to the sucking voluntarily.

Government in Action

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now formally considering new regulations that would reduce the minimum size of holes in grade A Swiss cheese from 11/16 of an inch in diameter to 3/8 of an inch. The dairy industry said it could manufacture the cheese more efficiently if the holes were smaller.

Heavy-handed regulatory reform: In June the owner of a sausage factory in San Leandro, California, grew tired of repeated visits by federal food-safety inspectors and, according to police, shot three of them dead. In September a Sacramento man angry at his treatment at a social security office opened fire, killing a guard. Also in September, two city officials in Bunker, Missouri, were shot dead by a homeowner when they tried to cross his property to attend to a sewer problem. So far this year five Miami-area homeowners, fearful they will lose trees on their property, have been charged with brandishing guns at state inspectors checking for an infectious citrus disease.

Creative Lawsuits, Explained

New York University instructor Elizabeth Ayres filed a lawsuit in August against Lord & Taylor in New York City, claiming that when security guards found a bra she hadn’t paid for in her bag, it must have been because they planted it there so that they could accuse her of theft and “torture” her until she confessed to stealing it. Ayres teaches creative writing.

Recurring Themes

Among the latest Muslim fatwas (religious rulings): In Malaysia men and women must use separate checkout counters in supermarkets (April). Turkish husbands may hit their wives “gently,” “as a warning,” but must take care not to hit them in the face (July). In Egypt having a spouse who smokes is a legitimate ground for divorce (July), and shopping at a discount store is forbidden (June). Pakistani women caught working for British-funded aid organizations will be kidnapped and forcibly married in order to keep them at home (August). And an October fatwa by the Egyptian Islamic Group instructed disciples to “kill Jews wherever they are found.”

Thinning the Herd

In September a 34-year-old man drowned in his car after he drove through well-marked barricades and plunged into a 15-foot-deep sinkhole in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In August a 42-year-old man drowned in Lake Erie near Painesville, Ohio, diving in to retrieve his favorite fishing lure. And a 54-year-old man drowned in September after diving into Joe Pool Lake near Dallas to retrieve his hat.

In the Last Month

In Siskiyou County, California, a 36-year-old hunter shot and killed a state-protected mountain lion, but according to witnesses the man had no choice since the lion attacked him while he was squatting with his pants down, answering nature’s call. In a study released in Chicago, 43 percent of doctors said they would have no problem being the one to kill a death-row inmate by lethal injection. Angered by his country’s soccer loss in the Asian Cup games, Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday, imprisoned the team’s three most disappointing players and had them whipped on the soles of their feet. In Bristol Township, Pennsylvania, the mother of a girls’ high school softball player sued a teammate’s father because his daughter hit a foul ball into a parking lot, damaging the roof of the woman’s convertible.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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