News of the Weird

* According to an April New York Times report, the purchase price in Japan of giant stag beetles has dropped recently to about $300 from a typical price in the early 1990s of about $6,000. The beetles, which resemble 4-inch-long cockroaches, are traditional Japanese pets that, according to insect salesman Katsutoshi Misaki, "have different personalities." Added Misaki, "When I hold it in my hand, I feel real affection for it." One breeder said a rare pet beetle sold in 1993 for about $30,000.

* The school board of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., voted in April to approve in principle a new 600-pupil secondary school that would cater to students of average academic abilities who avoid extracurricular activities. The board believes such students lose motivation when schooled alongside higher achievers. Said a school district official, "This is going to require strong marketing."

* Recently retired Air Force Sgt. Charles O. Hamilton Jr. was arrested in Upper Marlboro, Md., in March allegedly attempting to enter a toddler's bedroom at night. Police believe Hamilton is the serial burglar who sneaks into houses at night, sometimes wearing a diaper under his pants, to observe and photograph young boys sleeping, sometimes after deftly removing their shorts and dressing them in diapers. A storage locker belonging to Hamilton was found to contain photos of his peeping handiwork, along with about 1,000 diapers, some of them soiled, many with boys' names on them with photographs inside showing the named boy wearing the diaper.

* Lucia Kaiser filed a lawsuit in February against the Ohm restaurant in New York City, claiming that her 400-guest birthday party there in December (among the guests, Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones) did not meet her expectations. The restaurant owner said it was a lovely party and that he fully complied with the contract, but Kaiser said she was so unfulfilled that she wants $30 million in damages.

* In Belleville, Ill., Rochelle Chouinard sued booking agent Patricia Neuf for $227 for failing to supply a satisfactory stripper for her husband's 50th-birthday party. Chouinard said she specifically asked for a woman with at least a 40-inch chest who would do a nurselike act but received what she estimated to be a 36A woman who merely did a traditional striptease. In February, a judge tossed out Chouinard's lawsuit.

* In Edwardsville, Ill., in February, Joseph Schrage filed a lawsuit against a local Pizza Hut for the "mental anguish" caused when he got a bad pizza one night in 1997. He said the pizza made him sick, but he offered no proof when he made his initial claim against the company. The Pizza Hut manager said Schrage's experience hasn't driven him away: "He's still a current, regular customer. He comes in about twice a week."

* In February, a jury in New Britain, Conn., awarded convicted rapist/murderer Kevin King, 27, more than $2 million in damages for injuries suffered when he tried to escape from prison in 1996. In that attempt, King had attacked a female guard with a homemade knife, but a little while later, two other guards subdued King, causing some bruises and a cut below one eye, but also, according to his lawyer, causing him "anxiety" and "terror" that he would be further roughed up by the guards. King's lawyer had sought to settle for $20,000, but the six jurors saw fit to award him 100 times that amount.

* In November, inmate Luis Romero, 38, filed a lawsuit against jailers in Farmington, N.M., for injuries he suffered when he fell out of his bunk and hit his head while trying to change a light bulb in his cell. And two months earlier, inmate Guadalupe Mendoya was turned down by a Wisconsin Court of Appeals in his lawsuit against Green Bay jailers for injuries he suffered when he fell out of bed while still inebriated from the 25 drinks he had had earlier that night.

* In November in Lake St. Croix Beach, Minn., firefighters assisted a 13-year-old boy who had gotten his lip stuck in an eggbeater. And in Taipei, Taiwan, in February, doctors removed a chopstick from the eye socket of Japanese tourist Satoshi Kinoshida; it had penetrated more than an inch. And in December, firefighters in Gosport, England, were called to a home to extricate teacher John Gueran, 42, who had become stuck headfirst with, according to London's Daily Telegraph, his "backside in the air," behind a pantry trying to retrieve his son's Christmas gift.

* In January, a jury in Ringgold, Ga., acquitted Alvin Ridley, 56, of murdering his wife. Because most neighbors and relatives of the couple had not seen Virginia Ridley in 25 years, and because Alvin was an eccentric loner living in a dilapidated, roach-infested house in the Appalachian mountains, rumor long had it that Alvin had enslaved Virginia shortly after their wedding and eventually killed her. However, Alvin said Virginia died of an epileptic seizure and persuaded the jury of the couple's love by showing Virginia's prolific diaries, which describe her simple lifestyle, passion for privacy and intense, almost high-school-crush-like obsession with her husband.

* Latest Highway Truck Spills: 36 tons of Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops and other candy, near downtown Nashville, Tenn., January; thousands of surgical scalpels, scattered over a half-mile stretch of Route 10 near Walton, N.Y., January (puncturing the tires of a dozen motorists); and 8 million dimes near Gore, Okla., en route from the Denver Mint to the Federal Reserve Bank in Little Rock, Ark., March.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or [email protected].

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