Lead Story

In December a 47-year-old man from Belmont, New Hampshire, succeeded in killing himself but apparently not in the way he’d planned. According to police he had built a guillotine in his living room and rigged the walls with a series of Molotov cocktails controlled by electric timers. But he never turned on the outlet strip powering the incendiary devices, and the guillotine blade made only a deep gash in the back of his neck; investigators said he crawled off to his bedroom to die.

Cultural Diversity

A November Agence France-Presse dispatch from Voss, a small town in western Norway, described the traditional dish called smalahove, or smoked sheep’s head, served whole and intended to be eaten in its entirety. (The hair is singed off before cooking.) The operator of the country’s lone smalahove factory (he estimated sales of about 60,000 heads in 2005) said the eye muscle is the best part: “It just melts on the tongue.”

Questionable Judgments

The University of Florida announced in January that it would provide health benefits to domestic partners of its employees, but the employees must declare in an affidavit that they and their partners “have been in a non-platonic relationship for the preceding 12 months.” A university human resources official said such a pledge is “increasingly standard” in domestic-partner programs; married couples enrolled in the UF health plan, however, are not required to affirm that they actually have sex.

Latest Religious Messages

Marcus Ramshaw, a 34-year-old vicar at Saint Edward King and Martyr Church in Cambridge, England, introduced twice-monthly Anglican services for goths in January; black clothing is compulsory and, of course, there are plenty of candles. Also in January the head Catholic priest for Waco, Texas, 63-year-old Monsignor Isidore Rozycki, blessed the city’s new Hooters restaurant.

Poor Candidates for Rehabilitation

On October 31 and again on November 1 judges in Sangamon County, Illinois, sentenced 27-year-old Jason Holman to fines and court supervision for traffic tickets; according to Springfield’s State Journal-Register, Holman holds the county record for tickets, having accumulated 188 of them over 13 years. And in Jacksonville, Illinois, in September 49-year-old Oscar L. Cushionberry was sentenced to three years in prison for violating probation. Cushionberry has at least 93 arrests and 29 convictions in the past decade; he’d gotten probation in 2004 for causing more than $500 damage to the county jail and he’d been arrested five times since.

The District of Calamity

Prominent urban designer Charles Atherton, 73, was struck by a car and sent flying while crossing a Washington, D.C., street in December. By the time paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital, where he died two days later, D.C. police had been at the scene and issued the badly bleeding but still conscious Atherton a $5 ticket for jaywalking. (A police spokesperson later assured the press that officers wouldn’t have written the ticket if they’d known he was going to die.) Also in December, a special ward committee discussed the possibility of moving D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade this year from January to April–the month in which he was assassinated, and also a warmer time of year–and decided on a new date of April 1. Critics quickly decried the plan to honor King on April Fool’s Day as well as the notion of celebrating King’s murder rather than his birth. And in the same month the Washington Post reported that the D.C. medical examiner’s backlog of incomplete autopsies then stood at 1,037, of which 765 were a year old or more; 84 of the cases were homicides.

Least Competent Criminals

In January Boris Alvarado, 32, was sentenced to six months’ jail time in Bastrop, Texas, for violating probation: he’d been frequenting chat rooms despite having been ordered to stay off the Internet following a 2004 conviction for soliciting sex online. Tracking Alvarado down was made easier by the fact that he kept using the same screen name he’d used before his initial arrest in 2003. And ten people were arrested on counterfeiting charges in Phoenix in November; police caught a break when two of the alleged counterfeiters took a broken printer in to be fixed and repair personnel found that it was jammed with fake bills.


Brendan McMahon, a 36-year-old mortgage broker and financial planner, appeared in News of the Weird in October after his arrest on charges relating to the alleged dumping of mutilated rabbit corpses in Sydney, Australia. In November a court received a forensic psychiatrist’s report stating that McMahon probably genuinely believed he was communing with the rabbits, but his use of meth had “distorted” his mystical leanings and interest in nature. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, prosecutors let multiple counts of aggravated cruelty stand but dropped the single count of bestiality because they were “unable to prove he used his penis to penetrate the rabbits, a requirement of that charge.”

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