News of the Weird

* Since July, the Totenko Chinese restaurant in Tokyo has been offering the all- you-can-eat luncheon buffet (regularly about $16) to the first 30 diners a day at the price of about 30 cents a minute, measured by a time clock that diners punch when entering and exiting. Other restaurants have copied the idea in recession-torn Japan, according to a December Wall Street Journal report, and some have found that including alcoholic beverages on the per-minute menu tends to get people to stay longer.

* Tim Cridland, touring as "Zamora the Torture King" in an entertainment show in which he endures massive pain, told The Riverfront Times (St. Louis) in December that he broke from the similar but better-known Jim Rose Circus over "artistic differences." Among Zamora's feats: the traditional skewers through the cheeks and neck; swallowing swords and fire; jumping up and down barefoot on broken bottles; and his occasional piece de resistance: swallowing a length of twine, then removing it from his stomach through onstage surgery with scalpel and forceps.

* According to police in Lake City, Fla., in November, Felisha Ann Copeland, 31, on learning of her ex-husband's new girlfriend, dumped a pot of boiling grits in his lap while he was seated, naked, on the toilet of the home they still share. He suffered severe blistering. And in Middletown, Conn., in December, Raquel K. Husman, 41, was charged with assault for allegedly slashing her ex-boyfriend's scrotum with her fingernails when she discovered him with another woman. He needed 24 stitches.

* Among the cargo spilled in tractor-trailer accidents in 1998: 25 tons of pudding (West Virginia, September); 2,000 cases of beer (Michigan, July); 4 tons of flour (Ontario, August); tons of noodles, which expanded in the rain (Maryland, July); 20 tons of cheese, which caught fire, producing fondue (Wales, October); $45,000 in quarters (Illinois, June); 50,000 $1 bills (Kansas, November); 500,000 honeybees (Washington, October, and another 4 million in Wisconsin in November); 12 tons of garbage (Rhode Island, March); 6,700 gallons of animal fat (Ohio, May, which was cleaned up with liquid detergent); and 20,000 gallons of liquid detergent (elsewhere in Ohio, 10 days later).

* Among the really gross highway truck spills of 1998: a load of frozen dough that thawed and rotted before it could be scraped up (Massachusetts, September); 22 tons of mad-cow-tainted blood (England, September); a load of hog intestines and cow heads (Ohio, November); and sewage (Rhode Island, April; Texas, September; and a slow spill in New York in July that coated five miles of roadway just north of Albany).

* In September, red harvester ants in the soil at the Hanford nuclear complex near Richland, Wash., were found to be radioactive, as were flies and gnats swarming around ordinary garbage at Hanford the next month, and Hanford managers feared that additional contamination might be spread by mice, insects and vegetation such as tumbleweeds. (An Associated Press report on Hanford in October reminded readers of the 1954 movie Them! starring James Arness, in which "huge, marauding ants are spawned by nuclear experiments.")

* On Dec. 1, a 35-year-old man, who had been dining in an Albuquerque restaurant, climbed into the ceiling in a restroom, crawled around a bit and fell through, into the kitchen. The police were not able to determine a motive. Six days later, another man robbed a Bank of Albuquerque branch on its first day of business by dropping down from ceiling panels, where he had been hiding for an undetermined period of time. Only a small amount of money was on hand, however, and witnesses said the man shook his head in frustration as he left.

* Tyrone V. Henry, 26, was arrested in September in Tucson, Ariz., and charged with possession of child pornography. Police said they were led to Henry's home after six female University of Arizona students complained of a man supposedly conducting a test of facial cream, using a substance that (according to the women) tasted like semen. However, police said they do not have enough evidence to charge Henry on the facial-cream tests.

* In September, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi broadcast a video that he said caught a 1996 assassination attempt against him by British agents. However, on frame-by-frame inspection, according to an Associated Press report, the grenade on the video appeared merely to be painted onto the tape in a man's hand and then onto other frames as an airborne object headed toward Gadhafi. Not surprisingly, the "grenade" did not explode and Gadhafi was spared, but he said a British agent was arrested and has confessed.

* Ms. Fareena Jabbar, 37, was arrested in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in October and charged with trying to pass a U.S. $l million bill (a denomination that does not exist). To assist her scheme, Jabbar supplied a "certificate of authenticity" signed by officials of the "International Association of Millionaires."

* Canadian author Robert Lannon was arrested in October in Acton, Ontario, and charged with making death threats against his estranged brother, Art, in the form of several unvarnished references to Art's being murdered in Robert's new novel, The Return of the Family Idiot. Robert's lawyer, however, said in December that he expects the case to be dropped as soon as the authorities focus on the standard disclaimer near the title page: that any resemblance between a character and a real person is "strictly coincidental."

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

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