Lead Stories

A court in Council Bluffs, Iowa, will rule in early December on whether to admit “brain fingerprinting” evidence that might free convicted murderer Terry Harrington, who has been in prison for 22 years. Iowa psychiatrist Lawrence Farwell developed the technique, which he says measures brain activity following attempts to trigger memories; tests on Harrington showed he has no memories of the murder or the crime scene but does remember attending a rock concert with friends on the same night.

High school student Brandi Blackbear filed a federal lawsuit against the school district in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in October after the assistant principal suspended her, claiming a Wiccan “spell” she cast actually caused a teacher to become ill. (Blackbear had been reading about Wiccan beliefs, wearing emblems of the religion, and writing horror stories in her notebooks.) “I, for one,” said the Oklahoma director of the American Civil Liberties Union, “would like to see the [evidence] that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell.”

Election Weirdness

Tom Wesson, an Anglo running for constable in Dallas, lost even after trying to give himself an edge by adopting the name “Tomas Eduardo Wesson.” To comply with residency requirements, a school board candidate in Miami claimed that he lived in a 9-by-11-foot storage shed on his father’s property, but a judge dropped him from the ballot. And “psychic” Jacqueline Stallone, interviewed before election day, said her dogs had told her telepathically that Bush would win the presidency by 200 votes.

Leading Economic Indicators

France’s communist party, once a bastion of anticapitalist and antireligious fervor, is apparently in severe organizational decline: it hosted a glamorous fund-raising party in Paris in October with the fashion house Prada, and then a week later staged an art show featuring 30 works portraying a heroic Jesus Christ.

The Birch K9 Health & Fitness Centre opened earlier this year in Heywood, England, providing dogs with hydrotherapy, magnotherapy, whirlpool baths, and a weight-loss program under the direction of trainer Dave Burdon, according to an August report in the Washington Post. Despite the club’s success, one British newspaper quipped that Birch K9 is the kind of thing that could only happen in America.

So important is the vodka industry to the Russian economy that in August Moscow police forcibly entered the Krystall factory, ostensibly to seek tax documents but actually to install an insurgent board of directors to commandeer profits. So important is the tequila industry to the Mexican economy that earlier this year federal police moved into the western states that grow agave to guard the crops; recent agave thefts have sent tequila prices soaring from about $11 a bottle to about $33–out of range for many Mexicans.

Romanian prostitutes have been forced to expand their services, according to a June Reuters dispatch from Bucharest, by cooking and cleaning up after house calls. And an exclusive Tokyo club has gone even further: for about $1,000, a man can visit a brothel decorated as a traditional Japanese home, where a beautiful young “wife” will wait on him hand and foot, watch the TV shows he wants to watch, listen to him brag about his day, refrain from mentioning her own problems, cook him a meal, and have sex with him.


Latest survived impalings: A 22-year-old pizza delivery driver in Spokane, Washington, was speared in August with a two-foot-long piece of rebar that shot through the windshield and penetrated the front and back of his skull; understandably, he requires extensive rehabilitation. An 18-year-old University of Southern California student fell out of a second-story apartment window in September and skewered her buttocks on two wrought-iron security bars; four USC football players pushed her body upward to relieve the pressure and held her there until paramedics arrived.

Christine incidents: A 1982 Chevrolet Citation in Winter Haven, Florida, and a 1991 Eagle Talon in Milton, Ontario, reportedly started up on their own in August and October, respectively. Firefighters were hosing down the Citation when it mysteriously lurched away from them due to faulty wiring; the Talon ran down a bystander during a car auction when the ignition suddenly came on as the trunk was slammed. The bystander was hospitalized and in serious condition at the time of the report.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported cases of severe motherhood envy–in which pregnant women were killed and their abdomens slashed open so that the fetuses could be stolen–in 1992 in Texas, 1996 in Alabama, and 1998 in Illinois. In September 2000, according to police in Ravenna, Ohio, Michelle Bica killed a pregnant woman and stole her baby but, because police suspected her, shot herself to death several days later. In all four cases, the babies survived.

In Their Own Words

Retiree Neal Terry, 78, profiled in an October Dallas Morning News story, spoke proudly about his “hobby”: “I’ve dedicated my life to irritating people. It’s a special gift that I have…. I tell my grandsons, ‘You’re not going to like everybody you run across, so go ahead and irritate them.'” Terry insisted that no one has ever gotten really angry at him, not even when he sang The Partridge Family theme song, “I Think I Love You,” over and over.

Law of the Jungle

Troy Carlisle, 28, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October after being convicted in Brandon, Mississippi, of forcibly taking the life jacket of a seven-year-old girl and leaving her to drown in Arkabutla Lake; Carlisle told police, “I was thinking I was gonna die or she was gonna die.” In July, Alvin Latham was charged with second-degree murder after he survived the sinking of a shrimp boat in a storm off the Louisiana coast; police said Latham stabbed the captain to get the ship’s only life vest.

In the Last Month

The president of the Caesars Atlantic City casino resigned, seeking treatment for compulsive gambling. In Westminster, California, burglars tied up a family on Halloween night, then diligently paused from loading up the family’s valuables to pass out candy to several trick-or-treaters. Jailers in Peoria, Illinois, confiscated Derrick Echols’s artificial leg after he used it to beat a cell mate.

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.