Lead Stories

New York City special-effects artist Matt McMullen, 28, has been selling his life-size, authentically detailed, steel-skeletoned silicone dolls under the name “Real Dolls” for several months on the Internet at a price of around $4,000 each plus options. So far Stacy, Natasha, Nina, and Leah are available, with the customer’s choice of hair color, skin color, and height (either “supermodel” or short and voluptuous). His original doll was intended to be a sculpture, but lonely men bombarded him with price inquiries. Said McMullen, “There is no way this can compete with the real thing, but it can fill a deep void in someone’s life.”

“Mommy!”: The Orlando Sentinel reported in August that a man who had enjoyed the sexual services of a woman at a Winter Park, Florida, massage parlor was threatened by the woman’s bodyguard when he couldn’t pay her the $150 price tag. The man telephoned his mother and asked her to bring the money to a nearby restaurant. And in an Atlanta suburb in September, Sherrod Terry, 19, and Akram Muhammad, 20, were charged with armed robbery of a Long John Silver’s restaurant after a short standoff during which police trapped the men inside. Police say one of the robbers telephoned his mother for advice on how to handle the siege.

In an attempted-murder trial in September in Newmarket, Ontario, a jury foreman announced, “We find the accused [here the foreman cleared his throat] guilty,” but the judge and other court personnel thought they heard him say “not guilty.” The defendant, Howard Burke, did not wait around for clarification. However, the error was detected within minutes, and Burke finally gave himself up three days later.

Compelling Explanations

Baptist minister Dr. Henry Lyons of Saint Petersburg, Florida, president of the National Baptist Convention and accused of misspending church funds and falsifying documents, explained in August why, upon applying for the position, he had told an interviewing committee that he was single, when actually he had been married and divorced twice: “I forgot [those marriages].” He said that the marriages had been brief.

Reports surfaced in July from San Francisco social service organizations that poor kids participating in a summer lunch program were being served moldy green bologna in sandwiches (for many of the kids, their main meal of the day). According to Dr. Johnson Ojo, the health department’s principal inspector, what he saw while investigating the complaints was “not that bad,” and he noted that moldy bologna will not cause food poisoning.

John E. Herndon spoke out at his May sentencing in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the crime of taking pornographic photos of two teenage girls he’d given alcoholic beverages. “They were my muffins and my flowers,” he told the judge. “They were earth angels. I renew my promises to the girls as a born-again Christian that I will always love them and protect them.” He got 20 years.

Lee Walter Nance was arrested in Hood River, Oregon, in June on suspicion of public indecency when police found him nude in a parking lot after receiving a complaint from a woman who said Nance had been harassing her. According to police, Nance explained that he was merely working on his tan because he was on a church softball team and was afraid that if he didn’t have a base tan he would get sunburned.

At the June attempted-rape trial of Abel Martinez III, 30, in Saint Joseph, Missouri, the 60-year-old victim described how she fought back, testifying that she missed on her first lunge to bite his penis but succeeded on the second, even though she was not able to bite with full force. “I tried,” she said, “but my false teeth turned on me.”

Weird Science

Two high school chemistry students from Skipwith, Virginia, experimenting in October 1996 with a slime they had created in order to play a joke on their teacher, accidentally produced an edible plastic. In June 1997, a company paid them $100,000 for a one-year option on their invention. Fuisz Technologies Ltd. specializes in fast-dissolving medications and believes the substance might make a better capsule. If it is used, the boys’ work could be worth about $1 million.

The Times of London reported in August that the California firm Interval Research has developed a prototype for a new wristwatch that would be worn not on the wrist but in the wrist. A liquid crystal display, microchip, and battery would be implanted under the skin, close enough to the surface for the time to be readable. Battery recharging and time changes would be done by remote control.

In a 25-hour operation in September, surgeons in Melbourne, Australia, reattached the face of a 28-year-old woman that had been ripped off in a farm machinery accident. And one week earlier in London, surgeon Steve Gill described to a British Society of Neurosurgeons audience how in February 1997 he had reattached a woman’s entire head after removing it (except for the spinal cord, key blood vessels, and skin at the front of her neck) to correct a crippling condition that was causing her face to point downward. It took him only 17 hours to take the head off, remove a wedge at the base of her skull, and reattach the head with a metal plate and two screws.

Family Values

Mentoring: Luiz Carlos Marra, 47, was arrested in Minneapolis in June after his 12-year-old daughter told hospital personnel that she had smoked crack cocaine with him. According to the police report, Marra said he was trying to show the girl the difference between good crack and bad crack. And in July Dennis Dunn, 46, told sheriff’s deputies near Brookings, South Dakota, that he was chasing his stepson’s car at speeds near 85 mph only because he wanted to catch up to the boy so he could teach him not to speed.

The Washington Post reported in May that the D.C. Armory, site of a concert by shock-rock group Marilyn Manson, agreed to provide a waiting room for parents who had to stay around to drive their kids home after the show. The Post wrote that mothers waited patiently, reading and crocheting, while in the arena thousands of teenagers “waved their middle fingers and chanted ‘We love hate! We hate love!'” Some of the kids wore T-shirts that read “Kill Your Parents.”

In April the National Olympic Committee of the Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines suspended Olympic coach Orde Ballantyne for four years after his mother, who had been head of the country’s delegation at the Summer Games in 1996, reported him for violating protocol by refusing to stand for the U.S. national anthem.

In August in Leesburg, Florida, a 28-year-old woman in the midst of a domestic quarrel with her husband, 29, ordered the couple’s two kids, ages 6 and 8, to shoot their father with their BB guns. The kids complied, shooting the man five times in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the cheek. The woman is a dispatcher for the Leesburg police department.

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.