Lead Story

In January in New York a 33-pound, two-foot-long border collie named Apple swallowed a 12-inch carving knife in the course of snacking on devil’s food cake at the home of her owner, Eric Fuchs. According to Fuchs, two days after doctors surgically removed the knife, Apple was back home “ready to play.”


According to trial testimony in January in Santa Ana, California, George Edgar Lizarralde, 31, who was legally blind, failed the department of motor vehicles’ vision test four times in 1985, but the DMV issued him a driver’s license anyway. At the trial the DMV’s negligence was found to be the cause of injuries Deborah Ann Mohr received when Lizarralde plowed into her in a crosswalk in 1990.

Police in Santa Rosa, California, went door-to-door in January to warn residents that a six-foot-long python had escaped from a bathtub down a drain and that they should keep their bathroom doors closed and their toilet lids down.

A pro-nuclear-power video sponsored by a private company seeking to build nuclear reactors in Japan features the cartoon character “Mr. Pluto,” who downplays the risks of plutonium to primarily school-age audiences. Says Mr. Pluto, “If everyone treats me with a peaceful and warm heart, I’ll never be scary or dangerous.” A narrator adds that if a person drank plutonium most of it would pass through his body without causing harm.

In November fire fighters in Canton, Ohio, who rushed to the home of Lisa M. Ash, 24, to extinguish a fire pulled out of her oven a smoldering voodoo doll made of cloth and twigs. Ash said she was trying to cast a spell on someone using advice she’d received from a telephone psychic line.

In January an administrative law judge ruled against the California Department of Motor Vehicles for its claim that the vanity license plates of Bruce Deam, a female federal geology researcher, were offensive. Deam is a serious cat lover and has had the plates “A PUSSY” since 1973.

In October Blue Shield of Idaho and Blue Cross of Idaho demanded the return of payments they’d made to now-suspended psychologist Terry Clapp for treatment of several people with multiple-personality disorder. Testimony at Clapp’s disciplinary hearing made it clear that his preferred treatment was exorcism, which the insurers said they do not cover.

Beijing’s Heilongjiang Legal News reported in January that the wife of Zhang Jingui, following the advice of a fortune-teller on how to improve marital relations, cut off his penis with a pair of scissors. The fortune-teller had concluded that the problem was Zhang’s faulty organ and that the wife’s only hope was to remove it so that a new one could grow.

Compelling Explanations

Donald C. Winston, fired as a tenured instructor of English at Central Maine Technical College for sexually harassing an 18-year-old female student, fought for reinstatement by claiming he was handicapped and deserved protection under the Maine Human Rights Act and the 1973 federal Rehabilitation Act. He said he suffered from “a handicap of sexual addiction.” In September the Maine Supreme Court turned him down.

Last May, according to a note in the Washington Post, the Marriott Corporation told a court that papers very important to a case brought against the company by bondholders couldn’t be handed over because they’d fallen off a delivery truck and were missing.

In January several parents who’d been arrested during a cockfight raid in Dayton, Tennessee, filed a $55 million lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, claiming the raid had traumatized their children. Before the deputies arrived the children watched, along with 400 cheering people, two fights in adjacent rings in which 15 roosters were killed.

In December fashion designer Oribe Canales returned to work at Elizabeth Arden’s studio in New York City, following a week’s stay at a Minnesota drug rehabilitation clinic. He went to the clinic after a fashion show at which he suddenly decided to smear blue paint on models just as they were to walk out on the runway. After returning to work, an unrepentant Canales said, “It was genius. My interpretation was Hiroshima–and that radiation can be beautiful.”

Wayne David Sorg, 29, was arrested in January in Saint Petersburg, Florida, and charged with exposing his genitals to women and girls as young as 13. According to police investigators, Sorg said he did it because he used to be a sex-show dancer and missed the attention he got onstage.

According to prosecutors, Dan Koenigsberg schemed to harass Mel Henderson, the only black member of the Teaneck, New Jersey, city council, during a September meeting that was shown live on local TV. Koenigsberg hired a messenger to dress in a gorilla costume and bring Henderson a bunch of bananas, a toy monkey, and two balloons with drawings of monkeys on them. Koenigsberg later apologized in a letter to a local newspaper: “My intention was not to bring race into the political debate.”

The Weirdo-American Community

A trial began in January near Riverside, California, for former Air Force commando James Pou, 34, who’s accused of escaping from military prison. Pou, a highly trained and decorated rescue fighter, had been serving time for desertion. At the trial he testified that he’d been having suicidal thoughts and uncontrollable rages because of an ongoing feud with a sergeant at an Air Force duty station, and that the last straw in his decision to try to escape was prison officials removing a white teddy bear from his cell.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Shawn Belschwender.