Lead Stories

New York doctors, proposing an unconventional remedy for diarrhea in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in November, surmised that sufferers might lack certain predator bacteria in the colon as a result of antibiotics use, and thus might benefit from a transfusion from a person with a normal amount of such bacteria. A stool donation by a healthy person, the doctors wrote, homogenized in a blender and introduced into the patient via colonoscope, might kill the organisms causing the diarrhea.

The Los Angeles Times reported in December that a scam artist had rented out as many as 20 rooms in an abandoned inner-city hospital as apartments, for $300 to $400 a month. Among the amenities of the complex, according to a tenant, was a children’s recreation area that had been an operating room, complete with old equipment (including syringes) and blood caked on the floor.

Latest Herculean Self-Litigators

Linda Wallace, a former resident of Rocky River, Ohio, who during two years there was the object of a dozen neighborhood noise complaints, filed a second trillion-dollar lawsuit against the city in September, this time because she says officials insulted her son; two weeks earlier she had sued a town police officer for a trillion dollars charging false arrest.

Several Los Angeles contractors petitioned a court in July to restrict lawyer Robert W. Hirsh from filing lawsuits because of the 82 personal lawsuits he has initiated in 18 years against his home contractors, his clients, his brokers, the hotels and restaurants he frequents, his synagogue, his insurance companies, and his former employers. Said Hirsh, “I’m not going to be a patsy.”

Least Competent People

Luis A. Chavarria, released from prison in 1999 after serving ten years for murder, was charged in Bonita Springs, Florida, in October with possessing a firearm. Chavarria was arrested at a hospital, where he was being treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot, received when he accidentally engaged the family-heirloom double-barreled shotgun he said he sleeps with every night.

A 43-year-old man was hospitalized in Richmond, Virginia, in October after being blown off the top of a van going about 50 miles per hour. Police said the man was trying to hold down some wooden fencing by hand because he and the driver didn’t have any rope.

Good Sports

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported in October that a recent University of Tennessee Medical Center memo directs UT athletes to be treated ahead of all other patients in the emergency room, except those with trauma or chest pain. According to the protocol, if the athletic department calls ahead, the caller will not be put on hold, the athlete’s medical records will be pulled immediately, and upon arrival the athlete will be escorted to a private room and treated promptly. Apparently the medical center was embarrassed that until recently, UT athletes preferred to take their business to the competition, Saint Mary’s Medical Center.

In October a Detroit judge allowed four high school rape suspects to return to school pending trial, and the River Rouge school board permitted them back on the football team just in time for the team’s final game in a thus-far perfect season. (River Rouge lost, but still made the play-offs.) In the same month, a star high school football player in Lowndes, Georgia, was permitted back on the team despite his guilty plea in a sexual molestation case; two less fortunate players in adjacent Cobb County were kicked off their team for vandalizing mailboxes.


According to calculations by the Albuquerque Journal in October, all 18 of the city’s public schools cited by the state for high improvement–an honor based in part on math scores–actually performed worse than the year before. The state school superintendent, when asked about his poor arithmetic, blamed the errors on a traditional bane of test takers: “working too quickly.”

Too clever for their own good: In Akron, Ohio, a ten-year-old boy hiding from his mother in a pile of leaves he had just raked was hospitalized in October with minor injuries after his mother drove over the leaves in the family’s minivan. Four days earlier, near Ashby, Minnesota, a teenage boy playing a prank put some logs across a road just to make a relative have to stop and remove them in order to drive on; however, the driver chose instead to go around the logs, accidentally running over the boy, who was hiding in the grass. He also had to be hospitalized.

Recurring Themes

In 1999, News of the Weird reported on the rare Sumatran titan arum plant, which blooms for one day after 13 years’ cultivation and is thought by many to be the world’s most putrid flower because it smells like rotting flesh. In August 2000, another of the plants blossomed before hundreds of disgusted visitors in the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, where botanists have dubbed it the “penis plant” because of its six-foot-long pod.

In 1990, News of the Weird reported on a man playfully testing a bulletproof vest by having a friend stab him with a knife, which was not supposed to penetrate the lining but did, sending him to the hospital. In October 2000, a 20-year-old man in Swan River, Manitoba, tested his bulletproof vest by having his roommate shoot him. The vest stopped the first shot, made with a .22-caliber rifle. But even with a telephone book inserted underneath the vest, a second shot from a 12-gauge shotgun cracked the man’s ribs, sending him to the hospital.

Thinning the Herd

A 41-year-old Air Force Reserve pilot was killed near Tulia, Texas, in August; he lost control of his F-16 when, while showing off for his in-laws, he accidentally clipped his father-in-law’s barn. A 32-year-old man riding atop a tractor-trailer was killed on Interstate 26 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in September when he was wiped out by an overpass. And a 29-year-old man driving in a Ventura County, California, recreation area in his off-road vehicle was killed in October; he was using a flashlight to substitute for his failed headlights when he accidentally drove over a cliff.

In the Last Month

The Australian research company Autogen purchased the exclusive right to study the genes of all 107,000 citizens of the South Pacific island of Tonga. To substitute for a broken fire alarm at a courthouse in Phoenix, the government hired 20 people at $8.90 an hour to roam the building daily from 7 AM until 6 PM, doing nothing except look for fires. Officials finally mailed $8 million in settlement checks to 502 former inmates who were brutalized by corrections officers during New York’s Attica prison riots, which occurred in 1971. A woman purchasing chicken wings at a McDonald’s in Newport News, Virginia, discovered that one of her “wings” was actually a fried chicken head, with a clearly visible beak, eyeballs, and red comb.

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): Shawn Belschwender.