Lead Stories

Construction worker Thomas W. Passmore, 32, filed a lawsuit in April for $3.35 million against four doctors and a hospital in Virginia over the loss of his hand. Passmore admits to having cut off his hand because he believed it to be possessed by the devil and to having refused twice to allow doctors to reattach it. He claims the hospital was negligent, however, in failing to ask his family to overrule his decision.

In May near Stigtomta, Sweden, about 2,000 environmentalists protested the dying ecosystem of Hallbo Lake by staging a mass outdoor urination. And cutbacks in government funding forced the UPPU Club to cancel its meeting this year in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The club consists of soldiers who were exposed to plutonium in the 1940s and who continue to have their bodily functions studied by researchers. The name of the club tells what one must do to be a member (“Pu” being the symbol for plutonium).

In May Valentin Grimaldo, 40, who was bitten by a poisonous coral snake near Encino, Texas, survived by biting off the snake’s head, slitting its body lengthwise, and using the skin for a tourniquet until help arrived.

New Rights

Carol Wan, the treasurer of Tufts University’s Chinese Culture Club, called the student senate’s decision to cut $600 from the club’s budget racist. Because part of the cut affected take-out food that had been ordered for the club’s Chinese New Year observance, Wan said the cut “questioned the authenticity of take-out food as part of our culture.”

In Ogden, Utah, Lynn Romer, a self-described “ugly” person, recently formed the Pinocchio Plot, a support group to combat “looksism.”

In May a court in Sweden rejected an appeal by Elisabeth Hallin and her husband, who had been fined about $1,000 for giving their son an unauthorized name. Although the boy is called Albin, his formal name consists of 38 consonants followed by five numbers, a name Hallin said is “a pregnant, expressionistic development that we see as an artistic creation.”

In February the Disability Rights Center in Concord, New Hampshire, found an unlikely ally in Joel Frost, who was convicted of raping a mentally retarded woman. At his trial Frost tried to prove the woman was capable of consenting to sex. The center filed a legal brief supporting Frost’s appeal, which claims that the law discriminates against the mentally retarded by assuming they lack the ability to decide whether to have sex.

Latest Religious Messages

Carlos Santiago was arrested in San Francisco in May and charged with assault. Police said he stabbed his wife more than a dozen times because she refused his orders to read the Bible.

Members of the First Congregational Church in Akron, Ohio, voted in May to eject squatter Jim Dunn, who’d been living in a cardboard tent in the church’s front yard since April 1995. Bathing sporadically and claiming that God had told him to live there, Dunn rejected offers of better conditions and a clean sleeping bag because the offers didn’t come from God. “I’ve talked to Him,” said Dunn, “but He hasn’t told me yet to move.”

In a May Reuters news service feature author Neale Donald Walsch described how he created his best-seller Conversations With God. Walsch said he wrote questions on a legal pad, heard God’s answers, then wrote them down. “It felt like someone was just whispering in my ear,” he said. Asked why God had chosen to give the answers to him, Walsch said, “If someone such as me can receive this kind of information…then all of us are worthy.”

In May Jim Dillon started the Church of Kurt Cobain in Portland, Oregon, honoring the late singer-songwriter and challenging parishioners, MTV, and rock radio stations to fight drug abuse and suicide. Dillon said his sermons are based on Nirvana songs; for example, “Rape Me” (with the lyrics “Rape me,” “Waste me,” and “I’ll kiss your open sores”) is actually about brotherly love, he said. In April Mort Farndu and Karl Edwards, who founded the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine in 1988, posted the King’s 31 commandments at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as part of the school’s Elvis Week. (Among the church’s tenets: Eat six meals a day, face Las Vegas once a day, and make a pilgrimage to Graceland.)

Least Competent Person

Police in Guilford, Vermont, said in May that they would probably file criminal charges against Stephen Kodash of Waterbury, Connecticut. They said that Kodash got a flat tire on Interstate 91 and instead of pulling onto the shoulder left his car parked in the passing lane while he walked to a nearby rest area to call for help. Another vehicle smashed into Kodash’s, destroying them both (the driver wasn’t seriously hurt).

The Weirdo-American Community

In April judicial candidate Robert Litchfield in Nevada County, California, attempted to rectify his low standing among local lawyers by offering to wash the feet of any lawyer in the county as a gesture of his desire to serve him/her. Said Litchfield, “What I [offered] was an act of faith, and I don’t think that’s something a news reporter can understand.” At the scheduled washing Litchfield showed up with a basin and towel, but no lawyer came forth.

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 Belschwender.