Lead Story

In February the British Columbia Supreme Court acquitted a 26-year-old man with a sleep disorder of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl because the assault allegedly occurred while he was asleep. In 1995 a man in Calgary was acquitted of sexual assault using the same defense, and in 1987 an Ontario man who stabbed his mother-in-law to death also used the sleep-disorder defense and was acquitted, even though he’d driven 12 miles on a busy highway to get to her house.

Government in Action

A Houston Chronicle investigation published in February revealed that complaints to the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists rarely result in suspension or revocation of a license. A psychologist in Temple, Texas, admitted pointing a gun at his head and threatening suicide, shooting a gun inside his home, seducing a patient, and carving a pentagram into his arm with a knife. He’s still practicing.

The Washington Post reported in March that last year the Department of Agriculture required the Iowa-based company Oink-Oink to begin dyeing green its best-selling dog treat, Pork Tenderloin, which is made from the penises of hogs. Oink-Oink thought the green dye would make the product unappealing and took a $100,000 loss killing the product. The department’s only reason for requiring the dye was so that people wouldn’t mistake the treats as being for human consumption.

In October Pennsylvania representative Alan Butkovitz introduced legislation to end a disparity in state law that enables a drunk driver who causes an accident and fails his blood-alcohol test to be charged with a felony, but enables one who flees the scene before cops arrive, sobers up, and turns himself in later to be charged with a misdemeanor.

Former treasurer of Orange County, California, Robert L. Citron is awaiting sentencing for fraud in mishandling the county’s finances. He said in December that his investment decisions plunged the county into the biggest local-government bankruptcy in history in 1994 because he’d relied on bad advice from a mail-order psychic. According to channeler Barbara Connor, Citron has learned during trances that he will receive community service but no jail time.

Program analysts hired by the CIA to evaluate its $20 million project to use psychics to gather intelligence concluded in November that the psychics were accurate about 15 percent of the time. Among the psychics’ tasks were to track down Moammar Gadhafi so that he could be hit in the 1986 bombing of Libya and to locate plutonium squirreled away in North Korea. According to columnist Jack Anderson, the Pentagon adopted the program in the early 1970s because the Soviet Union was making extensive use of psychics.


Recent highway truck spills: two dozen bags of coins from an armored truck and kegs and bottles from a beer truck in Washington, D.C., in November; a half ton of cat litter in Stafford County, Virginia, in March; dozens of boxes of socks in Decatur, Alabama, in January; and animal blood, which dripped out of a tanker and stained a highway for 20 miles, near Syracuse, Kansas, in February.

In December Eric Dulkin, 19, failed his driver’s test in Chicago when he inadvertently accelerated as he was leaving the parking lot. The car fishtailed, smashing through a window in the licensing building. In Greenville, South Carolina, in November a 15-year-old boy driving a stolen car saw his grandmother driving toward him in traffic. He ducked so she wouldn’t see him and inadvertently hit the gas pedal, which caused his car to smash into hers. (Injuries were minor.)

In February in Winona, Minnesota, firefighters rescued Mary Tyler, 39, after her hand got stuck in her toilet as she tried to retrieve a deodorant container that had fallen in.

Lowell Altvater, 80, was charged with negligent assault in Sandusky, Ohio, in November after he fired his shotgun at what he thought was a rat in his barn. It turned out to be his wife’s hat, which she was wearing. She begged police not to file charges, but they did–in part because Altvater had shot himself in the leg in 1992 in the same barn after thinking then too that he’d spotted a rat.

In January near Branford, Connecticut, Mark Sullivan, 41, was about to bite into a Big Mac while driving on an icy road when his car spun into a concrete divider. The first rescuer on the scene found Sullivan turning blue, the sandwich having been thrust down his throat by the impact. (He’s fine now.)

Judith Kraines, county controller in Reading, Pennsylvania, complained at a commissioners’ meeting in January about having to type letters and do other business on a typewriter because her computer was old and no one had been able to get it to work for two years. “If we had a computer,” she said, “letters would go out faster.” Three days later, she announced that the computer she’d been complaining about had not been plugged into any electrical outlet, and that when the plug was inserted and the computer was turned on, it worked fine.

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.