Lead Stories

Denny Constantine told the San Jose Mercury News in October that he was part of a team that almost got the go-ahead to drop flying-bat bombs on Japan in World War II. The plan: Tiny incendiary devices would be attached to millions of bats, which would be put into egg carton-like trays in a bombshell. When the bats were released, they would roost in Japan’s wood-and-paper buildings, and fires would start all over the country. That would “frighten, demoralize, and excite the prejudices” of the Japanese, according to team member Jack Couffer. President Roosevelt was said to have really liked the idea, but he apparently liked the atom bomb even more.

October was a busy month for Ecuadoran President Abdala Bucaram: he released his first rock ‘n’ roll CD, Madman in Love; lunched with one of his most famous countrywomen, the former Mrs. Lorena Bobbitt (and found it an “extremely high honor”); and endured a public outburst by his Energy minister Alfredo Adum, who said he wanted to live naked and prey on women like a caveman, grabbing them by the hair and “devouring” them.

For the last year, Allen Fahden has operated the READundant bookstore in the Nicollet mall in Minneapolis. Though it’s set up like a traditional bookstore, with sections on sports, religion, history, etc, its 5,000-book inventory consists of only one title–Fahden’s own management book Innovation on Demand. Fahden said his store is based on one of his management principles: the use of opposites to generate creative thoughts. The store’s in-house best-seller list shows Innovation on Demand occupying each of the ten slots.

Can’t Possibly Be True

The Washington Post reported in September that several self-described members of the Moorish Science Temple in Washington, D.C., smuggled in cocaine and prostitutes for inmates at the city’s Lorton Correctional Complex, at one point making a ten-minute video of prisoners and women having sex in the prison chapel. The Temple “members” had taken advantage of Lorton’s lax procedures for religious visitors. And according to a September dispatch from the Canadian Press, convicted murderer Claude Robinson freely operates a pornography vending business inside the Edmonton, Alberta, maximum-security prison, ordering such magazines as Swank and Gallery from the outside and selling them for about $6 each.

A Spanish man who visited Stockholm on business stands to inherit about a million dollars, according to an October article in the German newspaper Bild. Eduardo Perez had stopped off to pray at a Roman Catholic church and signed the guest book of a man whose body lay there in a coffin. Perez was later notified that the deceased, real estate developer Jens Svenson, had died without heirs and had specified that “whoever prays for my soul gets all my belongings.”

In July, after arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the daughter in a family of four was refused boarding on American Airlines. Though the other family members showed driver’s licenses as ID to satisfy new FAA rules, the daughter presented a student ID from the University of Maryland. The American Airlines clerk refused to accept the card, saying that even though it was issued by a state university, it didn’t meet the requirement of being issued by a “government.” The family meekly gave up their already arranged vacation in Las Vegas and drove home.

Not My Fault

Patrick L. Bark, 59, pleaded guilty in September in Kansas City, Missouri, to selling more than 1,300 guns illegally over a two-year period, including many to juveniles and felons. Said Bark at his sentencing, “I blame half of it on the [government] for letting me go as long as they did. How was I to know [the guns] would be used in [crimes]?”

Wesley Shaffer, 57, said in November that he was temporarily insane the night he allegedly burglarized a home in West Palm Beach, Florida, because he had eaten too much cotton candy. And in a Montgomery County, Maryland, court in October, accused hit-man hirer Charles S. Shapiro said that tranquilizers, plus an entire bottle of extra-strength Tums ingested in the days before his guilty plea, caused him to have impaired judgment and therefore he should be allowed to withdraw the plea.

First Things First

In July the New York Post reported that porn-movie company Vivid Video, which had just signed actor Steven St. Croix to an unprecedented 33-picture deal, became so concerned when St. Croix bought a motorcycle that it purchased a $1 million Lloyd’s of London policy insuring St. Croix’s genitals. Said a Vivid spokeswoman, “He’s an incredible talent and we don’t want to lose him–or any part of him.”

In May about 40 eighth-grade students from Hartford, Connecticut, were stranded for a day on a class trip in Washington, D.C., after their charter-bus driver disappeared. The kids said that just before dropping them off at a hotel late in the evening, the driver had picked up a prostitute.

Undignified Deaths

In September and November, two women were accidentally run over by friends and killed after they had gotten out of trucks in order to urinate on the side of the road. Charged with reckless homicide in Saint Louis, Missouri, driver Randy G. Phillips said he was merely moving his pickup truck to try to shield his companion from passing traffic. And in Florida, driver Chad Eric Willis said he was playfully trying to discourage his friend from squatting in front of his tractor-trailer instead of at the side.


Ray Bell of Tallahassee, Florida, said in October that he holds the patent for a condom that belts onto a man’s leg to prevent the condom from unrolling during sex. But in 1992, News of the Weird reported that Merlyn Starley of San Francisco said he had the patent for such a device, which he called “condom suspenders.”

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): Shawn Belschwender.