Lead Stories

Conspicuous getaways: Police quickly made arrests for robberies in Chicago and Oshawa, Ontario, after the thieves failed to blend in with the crowds as they walked away with their loot. When Chicago police caught up to Jude Bradshaw, 41, he was still wearing the green hat and purple pants he wore to rob a bank in August, and the 36-year-old man who robbed the Oshawa Discount Centre in March was easy to spot after he neglected to disguise the metal hook he uses in place of a hand.

Productive lunch hours: In June, Ollie King, 38, was arrested for allegedly trying to buy drugs in a suburb of Atlanta during his lunch-hour break from jury duty. And in July, Li Baolun, 33, was arrested in Beijing for allegedly walking into more than 1,000 government offices during his lunch hours over a four-year period and stealing money from workers’ unattended desks.

Dole mania: Just before the Republican convention in August, a man carrying three suitcases climbed a 400-foot radio tower in Miami and told onlookers he would stay there until he was selected as Bob Dole’s running mate. His political platform: more horses and bicycles, less asphalt and pornography. And in Dallas, after becoming enraged at Dole’s nomination on August 14, Ernest Comegys, 70, went to his bedroom, grabbed a handgun, fired several shots at his cousin and stepdaughter, and then shot himself to death.

New From the Job Market

In June the government of Zimbabwe said it was pessimistic about finding a new hangman to replace its longtime executioner, Tommy Griffiths, 72, an Englishman who’d held the part-time post since the 1950s and recently resigned. Apparently, no local person will take the job because of a national superstition about killing someone without personal motive.

The New York Times reported in April that entomologist P. Kirk Visscher and two colleagues set out to challenge the conventional wisdom that one should only very carefully extract a honeybee stinger. Their thesis is that it’s speed, not style, that’s important, and they tested it the only way they knew how: Visscher took about 50 honeybees, rubbed each against his skin until it stung, extracted the stinger, and measured the welt. Said Visscher, “That’s the price of fame and fortune.”

A San Francisco Chronicle Labor Day story highlighted several jobs that might make its readers appreciate their own. University of California at Davis scientist Francine Bradley trains workers to inseminate turkeys–from drawing the semen to implanting it. (Turkeys genetically bred for massive breast-meat sections cannot comfortably mate on their own.) Said Bradley, “You have to develop a relationship with your tom.” And Martha Huerta works at ABC Diaper Service in Berkeley, where she feeds soiled diapers through an electronic counting machine and on to the washer. Her tools are gloves and an electric fan, though, said her supervisor, “it helps that her sense of smell isn’t very good.”

The weekly Brazilian newsmagazine Veja reported in April that 72 of the nation’s 75 baby-chick gender inspectors are Japanese and that Brazilians cannot seem to master the craft. A “sexer” spends the day in a dark room with a single spotlight as he determines the gender of 16 baby chicks per minute with 99 percent accuracy. Newly hatched chicks have no external sex organs–just tiny appendages concealed by their feathers.


Out fishing in July, Phil Cram, police chief of Medway, Maine, lost part of his hand when an explosive tube he was using illegally to stun fish blew up prematurely.

In Tampa in April, Antonio Valiente Valdez Jr. was on his way to court to answer a traffic citation for driving without his glasses when he hit a car that had already crashed on the side of the road. According to police, he wasn’t wearing his glasses then either.

In April, Christopher J. Kerins, a Trenton, New Jersey, undercover police officer, was arrested for allegedly robbing the Kenwood Savings Bank in Cincinnati during a break in the Middle Atlantic Law Enforcement convention. (Kerins, unfamiliar with the city, reportedly paused after collecting the money from the teller to ask directions to Interstate 71, and he was spotted on his way there by a local police officer.)

In July, according to a fire department official in Pullman, Washington, the cause of a fire in a parked truck was the magnification of the sun–through a plastic prism hanging from the truck’s ceiling–onto a stack of papers. The truck’s owner said the prism was a gift from his insurance company.

The Only Way Out

In May seven losing candidates in state and parliamentary elections in India committed suicide after their party was trounced. And in June in Sweden, Leif Borg, 50, mired in a divorce proceeding, blew himself up with dynamite in the courtroom, injuring four others.

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 Shawm Belshwender.