Lead Stories

According to a May Boston Globe report, the town of Sydney, Nova Scotia, which is contaminated with arsenic, naphthalene, lead, PCBs, oil, and raw sewage, is the most polluted place in Canada. City leaders hope to exploit the situation by building a research facility for environmental technicians and possibly a tourist center to demonstrate the hazards of pollution. The local mining industry is opposed to the plan, while continuing to add to what the Globe termed the “mountainous slag heaps” and “rivers of toxic ooze.” Last year the rest of Cape Breton Island, on which Sydney is located, was named by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as the world’s most beautiful island.

Italy’s Padre Pio, who died in 1968, was beatified in a ceremony in Rome in May, the first step toward canonization. According to his followers, he suffered from stigmata to the point where light passed through the wounds, he once had a wrestling match with the devil, and various parishioners (including a boyhood friend of Pope John Paul II) were cured of illnesses after praying through the priest.

Practicing for Yugoslavia: In April an air force pilot training at the Warren Grove Bombing Range in New Jersey missed his target by a mile and a half; the missile landed in a state forest preserve and started a fire that burned more than 18 square miles.

Leading Economic Indicators

The government of Hungary recently agreed to investigate scams in which 30,000 farmers used their life savings (totaling about $42 million) to buy earthworms for breeding after being told that Western entrepreneurs would buy all the worms they could produce, according to an April London Daily Telegraph report. In Malaysia, where men take snake-blood tonics for virility, the bounty on cobras is now about $35 each, compared to 75 cents in the 1970s, according to a February Times of London story. And in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in March, a 60-year-old man was assaulted by a woman after he made a derogatory comment to her while receiving fellatio, for which he had paid $2.

Help Wanted: Hit Man

In October Brandon Lund, 16, was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his father because “he just didn’t like the way [his dad] was running the household,” according to the prosecutor. In March landlord Alvin Weiss, 46, was sentenced to seven years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill two of his tenants so he could rent their apartments for more money. And in Lahore, Pakistan, in April, according to police, a 32-year-old woman was shot to death by a hit man her father hired because she had shamed him by seeking a divorce.

Cliches Come to Life

Two professors reported in March that they had conducted identical polls on ethical questions, one of graduate business students and the other of inmates at three midwestern prisons, with remarkably similar results. In fact, the prisoners were found more likely to be loyal to employers than the MBAs. And the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in April that 25 business-ethics students at San Diego State University flunked the course for cheating on an exam.

In March the Burlington Homes housing development near Bakersfield, California, rejected the application of attorney Timothy Liebaert and his wife for a house, citing the company’s aversion to lawyers. The company believes attorneys are quick to sue, imposing higher legal and administrative costs on the development. When informed Burlington Homes had rejected his application, Liebaert sued.

John Killick, 57, who was being held in a maximum-security prison in Sydney, Australia, on armed-robbery charges, was sprung from the exercise yard by a helicopter, which his girlfriend had hijacked at gunpoint, in March. The couple are still at large.


Two escaped cows cornered by animal-control officers in Ancaster, Ontario, in April leaped over a police cruiser and remained on the lam for two more hours before they were found and tranquilized. And a week later, following a one-truck accident on the Capital Beltway near Alexandria, Virginia, the driver’s dog Tito was found in excellent condition. Investigators said he couldn’t have successfully crossed the four lanes of traffic and theorized he must have been ejected over the highway and onto the grass.

In Brooksville, Florida, Lucy Dover, 79, was knocked to the ground by a 15-pound red fox, breaking her hip. The fox continued to claw and bite Dover until she grabbed its head and tail and held it at bay for 12 hours until her landlord happened by and rescued her.

Patricia Dolinska, 27, was arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store in Ottawa, Ontario, in April. According to police, Dolinska had three whole chickens, a pork roast, a beef roast, and a duck under her long skirt.

Well, Sure

According to a March report in the London Daily Telegraph, Saddam Hussein has delayed deploying his 60-member suicide-pilot task force, saying he does not trust the recruits.

In January Theotis Hall, 51, was arrested in Brunswick, Georgia, and charged with attempted assisted suicide after he allegedly complied with a woman’s wishes and locked her inside her car’s trunk with the engine running for about eight hours. According to police, the woman paid $140 to Hall, whom she had recruited from a local labor pool. Said a police sergeant, “She went to a temporary service because it was a temporary job.” (The woman was rescued by her son.)

In April police in Springfield, Illinois, identified a 27-year-old resident as the “sock man.” They say he approached two women and promised them $100 each if they would go home, get some of their socks, and leave them for him at designated points. One took him up on the offer, but he reneged on the payment. Later the man called the State Journal-Register and promised to cease his activities if the paper would agree not to print his name. Police lieutenant Carl Sprinkel said the man would not be charged: “It’s no crime to be weird.”

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.