Lead Story

At the Minnesota State Fair in August, people on a ride called the “Enterprise” (a flat board holding standing passengers that starts parallel to the ground and then spins for four minutes until it is perpendicular to the ground) became violently nauseated when operators were not able to bring it down from the perpendicular position for 15 minutes.

Seeds of Our Destruction

London, Ontario, resident Tim Moss, who stutters, complained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission in July about a bill collection agency, All Canada Collect. A few weeks earlier, he had talked to an All Canada employee about an overdue bill and had subsequently received the following note from the employee: “Whaaat isss yourr prrr-obbblemm? Pay this (deleted) acccounntt. Thank you.”

Dolphin-protection activists Richard O’Barry and Russ Rector claimed in August that they had been run over repeatedly by Navy boats near the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. The two had been maneuvering small watercraft around a Navy site to try to prevent underwater bomb testing.

Civil defense officials in Poland proposed in July to distribute 100,000 gas masks to citizens in the southern region of Katowice, a population-dense area that contains more than one-fifth of Poland’s worst pollution sites.

A Coast Guard report issued in June revealed that personnel on duty at the Exxon pipeline that ruptured in January near Linden, New Jersey, spilling 567,000 gallons of heating oil, manually overrode the automatic warning system ten times over a six-hour period before checking to see if oil was actually spilling. Workers pushed the “reset” button each time, assuming the signals were false alarms.

In an April medical journal article doctors reported that of the more than 1,000 people they studied who had undergone surgery for skin cancer between 1983 and 1987, 24 percent were back to sun tanning and 38 percent still did not use sunscreen. Most of the recidivists were females whose reasoning, said a doctor, “was that skin cancer was not enough of a problem to give up a tan.”


In July, for the fifth time, someone stole the microwave oven out of a jury room in a courthouse in San Antonio, Texas.

The Yellow Ribbon Coalition, an Oregon timber-industry organization, complained to the U.S. Forest Service in August that an environmental group’s scheduled retreat in the Cascade Mountains should be canceled because it posed a fire hazard and because the group’s annual owl-hooting contest would “constitute harassment of area owls.”

Anna Vincenza, 26, charged with helping her boyfriend murder her husband by bombing his car last November in Detroit, demanded that the funeral home that handled her husband’s body give her custody of the ashes.

Boxer Jerry Quarry’s latest comeback attempt ended in June when his license to fight in Wisconsin was revoked because of fear for his health. (The 45-year-old Quarry had previously been denied licenses in several states because he couldn’t pass the physicals.) His handlers then said Quarry couldn’t have fought anyway, claiming he had banged his eye on a kitchen cabinet, but in fact he had been beaten up by one of his own handlers, John Ellis, a former boxer of little note.

Johnnie Lee Jones, 27, in prison since 1985–when he stole a truck in Fort Lauderdale (even though he’d never learned to drive) and smashed it into several cars, killing a young mother–is on the verge of a large financial settlement from Broward County Prison, which wants to save the expense of a lawsuit. In his getaway from the collisions, Jones ran in front of a car and got one of his legs chopped off; he later filed a lawsuit charging that the prison had caused him “pain and suffering” because it lacked the proper facilities for his recuperation. (The prison claimed that Jones had urinated on a fellow prisoner and had beaten another with his artificial leg.)

In September a New Jersey judge rejected Manuel Antonio Mauricio’s defense to murder. Mauricio, whose weapon was a sawed-off rifle, had claimed a “machismo” defense–that his Dominican Republic upbringing had made him easily offended by insults to his manhood.

In June, U.S. senator Strom Thurmond requested a $25 refund from Lexington, South Carolina, for a water deposit he paid in 1938. (He was eligible for the refund because he had recently sold the property.) Asked the mayor, “How in the hell can anyone save a receipt for 52 years?”

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