Lead Stories

In the British elections in April the usual fringe parties were in evidence, such as the Black-Haired, Medium-Build Caucasian Party, but the longest-standing alternative, the Monster Raving Loony Party, ran the most candidates. Its main platform plank this year was a proposal to tow Britain 500 miles into the Mediterranean Sea in order to improve the country’s climate. MRLP candidates also suggested such innovations as requiring dogs to eat phosphorescent food so that pedestrians could more easily avoid stepping in their poop.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, schoolteacher Roger Katz, 50, was sentenced in May to 18 months in prison for having sex with a 14-year-old female student. He was convicted despite his explanation that he had fallen in love with her in a previous life in seventh-century Tibet when she, then older than he, stepped in front of an arrow meant for him and saved his life. Said Katz’s attorney Aaron Wolf, “I hope my daughters find men who love them as much as he loves her.”

Unclear on the concept: In January Bamrer Pong-insee, a spokesman for the Professional Comedians Association of Thailand, said its members will soon be prohibited by rule from being impolite onstage. Especially frowned upon are obscene language, physical humor in which pain is implied, and being disrespectful to a colleague’s parents.

Seeds of Our Destruction

The New York Times reported in February on the extraordinary worthlessness of Zairean currency (denominated in “zaires”), noting that the new 100,000-zaire notes, worth about 66 cents at that time, were so undesirable that they were called “prostates,” after the type of cancer with which the widely disliked President Mobutu had been stricken.

The Rhode Island Providence Phoenix reported in February that the latest fad at Providence College is handcuff parties, where men and women are randomly cuffed together and must accompany each other the rest of the evening, even for rest room breaks. At nearby Brown University the fad is “naked” parties, at which there is virtually no sexual activity.

In Mill Valley, California, tenth-grader Ari Hoffman, who had just won first place in the Marin County science fair for his study finding that exposure to radiation decreased the number of offspring borne by fruit flies, was disqualified in March for cruelty when it was learned that about 35 of his 200 flies died during the three-month experiment. Hoffman was disappointed because he had made extraordinary efforts to keep the flies alive, including maintaining a tropical temperature for them during the entire experiment.

In February the New York Times reported that despite the troubles in Serbia, business was thriving for a transvestite fortune-teller named Kleo Patra, 36, who charges about $80 a session (a month’s salary for the average Serbian) and counts among his clients Mrs. Slobodan Milosevic, whose husband Patra supports. A week before the great winter flooding in the Ohio Valley and two months before the North Dakota floods, Patra predicted the United States’s future was rosy except for impending floods.

As of February about 1,500 prisoners in four Bolivian jails were participating in hunger strikes to protest delays in their trial dates on drug-trafficking charges. To improve their chances of sticking to the strike, several prisoners in a jail in La Paz sutured their lips together.

In Shanghai, China, American William Ping Chen was sentenced to 10 years in prison in January for smuggling. Chen had tried to bring 238 tons of medical waste and ordinary garbage into the country by labeling it “paper.”

Cultural Diversity

A crime waiting to happen: In February thieves in the region of Sirnak, Turkey, stole 210 pairs of shoes left by worshipers outside the Vali Kamil Acun mosque.

In January in Bangkok, Thailand, Wien Sudpleum, eight months pregnant, attempted to crawl under the belly of an elephant three times, which is supposed to bring good luck to a delivery. On her third pass, however, she was gored. The owner agreed to pay her about $240 compensation; it was not reported whether the baby survived.

In January American long-distance hot-air balloonist Steve Fossett had to set down in the village of Nunkhar, India, well short of his around-the-world goal. According to media reports, the villagers were very helpful and friendly despite their first awestruck impression of him. They thought the descending figure was the second coming of the monkey god Hanuman, arriving in a space-station temple.

In Papua New Guinea Judge Salamo Injia ruled in February that a custom among some tribes in the south of the country–the use of young girls and women as a medium of currency between tribes–was illegal. Miriam Willingal, 18, and another woman, along with cash and a few pigs, had been sent to compensate a neighboring tribe for a shooting death.

Bottom of the Gene Pool

In Minneapolis Derrick L. Richardson, 28, was charged in April with third-degree murder in the death of his beloved cousin, Ken E. Richardson. According to police, Derrick suggested a game of Russian roulette and put a semiautomatic pistol to Ken’s head instead of a revolver. In a semiautomatic, a bullet automatically goes into the firing chamber.


In 1995 News of the Weird reported that some New York City dermatologists were offering a treatment to reduce facial wrinkles by injecting botulism-causing bacteria to deaden the tissue. The New York Observer reported in May of this year that some of those dermatologists now tout a side effect of the $800 treatment: it so deadens the forehead that it prevents scowling, which some patients say helps them keep a poker face during business negotiations.

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 by Shawn Belshwender.