Lead Story

At least three Christian wrestling ministries–groups of men in tights and masks spreading the gospel via professional wrestling matches–are active in the southern U.S., according to an Associated Press article in March. Performances by Wrestling for Jesus, a relatively low-budget outfit from Beech Island, South Carolina, regularly include a wrestler being strapped to a cross and beaten bloody by villains until good guys run in and rescue him; later a bad guy in a devil suit gets taken down. At one show in nearby Augusta, Georgia, however, WFJ owner-performer Timothy “T Money” Blackmon apparently lost his temper and got into an actual fight with a 17-year-old serving as referee that day; the ref’s parents and wrestlers in street clothes had to break it up, and Blackmon apologized to a confused crowd for his un-Christian behavior.

Unclear on the Concept of Damage Control

Donovan Brown, a 26-year-old Democratic nominee for a state legislative seat in central Florida, was forced to take some time off the campaign trail earlier this month when he was confined to a mental health facility in New Port Richey. In a phone interview from the facility, Brown explained to the St. Petersburg Times that the run for office had worsened some existing psychological issues–Republicans had deliberately chosen a candidate who would “unnerve” him, he said–and his mother convinced him to go with her to the hospital. Once there, an incident in which he splashed her with water (“I wanted my mom to step in the water. I didn’t hurt her in any way”) led staff to restrain him and admit him for extended evaluation. Brown told the reporter he badly wanted to leave (“I need to be out with my constituents”) and that he remained a viable candidate: “I’m not going to withdraw. I’m a good kid.”

Cultural Diversity

Earlier this month the New York Times reported on the custom of minghun, or “afterlife marriage,” practiced in some remote parts of north central China, in which the family of a man who dies single will try to obtain a female corpse to bury with him as his wife. Because of a low female-male ratio (resulting in part from selective abortion and infanticide) such bodies are at a premium, meaning a woman’s parents can effectively command a significant dowry even if their daughter is no longer alive.

According to a Los Angeles Times report in August, more than 60 percent of the estimated 25,000 homeless children in Kinshasa, Congo, are on the street because their families, typically impoverished, accused them of witchcraft and abandoned them. One girl who was thrown out at age five told the reporter, “They say I ate my father. But I didn’t.”

Advocates of the equestrian sport coleo have lobbied Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez to name it the national sport, calling it “more truly Venezuelan” than pastimes like baseball or cockfighting. As described in the New York Times in September, coleo consists of four riders in a large enclosure trying to make a bull fall down repeatedly by yanking on its tail; to get the bull to stand back up after each fall, participants must often twist (or sometimes bite) the tail some more.

Fetishes on Parade

According to police in Perry, Georgia, an 80-year-old woman shopping at a local Wal-Mart in September stumbled over a man sitting on the floor in the curtains aisle, who then asked for her help with what he said was a religious ritual. He got her to stand on his hands and spit on him, and he’d begun to lick her feet when a security officer showed up and recognized him from a photo circulated following a similar incident 50 miles away at a Wal-Mart in Americus. He repeated that he was performing a religious ritual, then fled.

Go Figure

In August the news service Deutsch Welle reported on transportation engineer Hans Monderman and his seemingly radical system for improving traffic flow, which involves the removal of road signs, traffic signals, and street markings from busy downtown intersections. Monderman’s theory is that without such indicators of right-of-way, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists are forced to make eye contact with one another and adapt to movement around them. The system is already in effect in some small European cities including the Dutch town of Drachten (where a new playground was built in the middle of a road, again requiring drivers to focus), and police statistics suggest it’s working: congestion and accidents are reportedly both down.

Compelling Explanations

At an August hearing in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a sheriff’s investigator testified that the defendant, a woman accused of killing her three-year-old daughter, told him that she herself was the one who was abused when she disciplined her daughter, because she would strike her to the point where her hand was throbbing. She said she didn’t think the punishment was too painful to stop, the investigator told the court, because although the child repeatedly said “no, mommy,” she never said “ouch.”

Recurring Themes

The latest from places where the sun don’t shine: In September, following a series of X-ray exams, officials at El Salvador’s maximum-security Zacatecoluca prison accused four inmates of orchestrating crimes on the outside using cell phones they’d hidden (together with a charger) in their rectums. And in August

25-year-old Melissa Roberge was strip-searched after her arrest for disorderly conduct at a convenience store in North Conway, New Hampshire, but once in a cell at the police station allegedly set her mattress and blanket on fire; authorities said a lighter was discovered during a second, more thorough search conducted at a hospital but wouldn’t specify further.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader,

11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weirdnewstips@yahoo.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belshwender.