News of the Weird

* Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading (England) University told the Times of London in May that "several" firms had approached him about surgically implanting transponder microchips into their workers as a way of keeping track of their hours and whereabouts. Cybernetics expert Warwick last year put a chip into his own forearm to demonstrate the technology, which will be further exhibited in England beginning in 2001 to keep track of pets and might, he said, be used to keep track of people who are granted licenses to carry firearms.

* Jose Lopezes in the operating room: In May, Jose Maria Lopez, 33, had a foot amputated at Whittier (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center. He still has two remaining; what was taken was a 6-inch footlike growth inside his left ankle that has always hampered his walking and limited his shoe selection. And a few days earlier, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, surgeons removed a miniature bottle from the rectum of another Jose Lopez, 43. He said he got drunk and passed out and therefore has no idea how the bottle got there.

* In May, controversial Phoenix tough-guy sheriff Joe Arpaio announced he would institute bedtime stories at the Maricopa County jails, consisting of audiotapes of classic novels (e.g., Little Women) to be read at lights-out every night. The novels replace the previous bedtime fare, which ran for four years: a videotaped lecture series by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

* According to an April Tampa Tribune story, the following fates have befallen young men who in recent years have recovered the submerged, religiously blessed cross in annual diving competitions during the Epiphany festival in Tarpon Springs, Fla.: One died in a car accident, one suffered a severe spinal injury, one was arrested on burglary charges and, this year, according to police, two former winners and a third diver were charged with attempted murder for bashing two people's skulls with shovels because their car was going too slow.

* In Montreal, Quebec, in December, convicted serial killer Allan Legere announced through his lawyer that he had increased the amount of his 1994 lawsuit against the prison for its failure to stop inmates from beating him up. Legere is serving life for five murders, including the rape and torture killings of three women and the beating death of a Catholic priest. One witness against Legere said she once remarked to him, "You like to torture," whereupon Legere allegedly responded, "Yes, I do."

* In the election campaign of 1998, Fred Morgan, the new Republican leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, personally embraced the party's proposal for reforming motor-vehicle regulation, including cracking down on residents who drive with out-of-state license plates; in December, Morgan admitted that the car in his parking space at the Capitol, with the Arkansas tag, was his (but that he would register it in Oklahoma as soon as his late mother's probate got taken care of). And in February, Katrina Clark, the director of housing-code enforcement for the city of Boston, was evicted from her apartment for failure to pay more than $3,500 in rent and for reneging on her repayment plan.

* In a brawl at a recreation-league softball game in Granada Hills, Calif., in March, which started after an umpire changed a call from safe to out, four off-duty Los Angeles police officers on one of the teams were roughed up with softball bats. Things went so badly for the officers that one ran to his car, retrieved his weapon and held the other team at bay until on-duty officers arrived.

* Ester Maria Pena, 58, was convicted and fined $100 in Frederick County, Md., in March for a 1998 traffic incident in which police chased her at high speeds for four miles and arrested her at gunpoint. According to police, Pena had sped off after they tried to pull her over for driving too slow.

* In March, London's second-largest newspaper, the Sun, reported that 70 pages of medical records of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family were found in a folder, lying on the side of a road near the southwest Scotland town of Ayr.

* In January, following his transfer from a maximum-security prison to a minimum-security facility in British Columbia, convicted murderer Colin Thatcher persuaded warden Ron Wiebe to let him ship his horse to the prison so he could get in some riding. Wiebe told reporters the prison has in the past helped inmates prepare for post-release careers in ranching, but Thatcher, 60, is serving a life sentence for killing his ex-wife.

* Prominent New York City chef (and TV cooking-show star) David Ruggerio pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in March for inflating at least 26 credit-card transactions at his Manhattan restaurant. According to the prosecutor, Ruggerio apparently thought he could add tips of $221,000 to credit-card dinner tabs totaling $4,000 (including one $30,000 tip on a $1,000 check) and not have the cardholders notice it.

* The Classic Middle Name (continued, and getting out of hand): Executed for murder, in Florence, Ariz., in May: Robert Wayne Vickers. Convicted of murder, in Frederick, Md., in March: Bruce Wayne Koenig; and in Lenexa, Kan., in May, Rodney Wayne Henry. Confessed to murder, in Fort Worth, Texas, in March: Arthur Wayne Goodman, Jr. Sentenced for murder, in Prattville, Ala., in May: Timothy Wayne Barnett. Charged with murder, in Birmingham, Ala., in May: Percy Wayne Froman; and in Houston in April: Bradley Wayne Cagle.

* According to a report from New York's Newsday in April, the judge in the Abner Louima trial (in which a New York City police officer ultimately pleaded guilty to brutalizing a Haitian immigrant) permitted juror No. 299 to remain on the panel despite an objection by a defense lawyer that she had been seen reading the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News in the jury lounge (main story, "Woman Pregnant with Mummy's Baby"). After questioning the woman on whether she liked "weird stories," the judge let the matter pass.

* In incidents one week apart in April, in Morristown, N.J., and Bloomfield Township, Mich., construction workers became trapped in sand pits, and in both cases, quick-thinking co-workers attempted to pull them out with backhoes. In both cases, the backhoe operators accidentally decapitated the workers.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com.

©1999 Universal Press Syndicate

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