News of the Weird

* According to an October Wall Street Journal profile, Randall C. Hutchens is one jailbird making a comfortable living behind bars, as he serves out a two-year sentence for tax evasion. He files $5,000 stockholder-fraud lawsuits in California small-claims courts and so far has received settlement checks in various amounts from 17 of his 60 defendant companies. He does a little research on the stock price, then falsely claims stock losses, according to the Journal. California small- claims courts bar lawyers, so companies settle rather than send executives to California to testify.

* Laurita Bledsoe of Detroit was recently granted a patent for her Talking Pottie trainer that fits over a toilet and houses computer sound chips, a cassette player and speakers to give kids applause and verbal feedback for jobs well done.

* In September, a judge in Newmarket, Ontario, found that professional dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, 39, was guilty of running a house of prostitution, despite her claims that she was selling only role-playing for powerful clients who needed a safe place in which to act weak. The judge based his decision on evidence that some customers masturbated during sessions. (The court heard tales of selected customers, including a student who wanted to be a fly chased by Bedford wielding a swatter and a man who wanted to be thought of as a floor tile that Bedford could walk over for hours at a time.)

* In Chicago in September, doctors treated a brain tumor in a 37-year-old man, discovered only because he had been brought for emergency surgery after an anti-gay gang severely beat him up. And in October in Leicester, England, Terry Killeavy, 36, survived major heart surgery; he had become alarmed when he detected an abnormality in his heart when playing with a toy stethoscope he had just won at a bar. And in Otley, England, in June, a car rushing Jennifer Simpson, 3, to a hospital to save her from choking on a coin collided with a van, causing her to cough up the coin.

* In October during the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Maryland, prominent Israeli rabbis David Batsri and his son Yitzhak told the Jerusalem Post that they had just taken a private airplane trip to circle Israel seven times while offering a traditional prayer for the talks' success when the plane developed engine trouble and was forced into an emergency landing. Said Yitzhak, "We changed the subject of prayers from the plight of the Israeli people to our plight."

* In September, schoolteachers in the Altai region of Siberia reluctantly agreed to accept 15 bottles of vodka each as partial back pay from the nearly bankrupt government. And in October, thieves in Volgograd, Russia, stole eight tons of mud, worth about $l,000, from a health spa. And in October, the Russian railway ministry an-nounced it would carry no more mail until the post office pays its overdue bill (about $13 million). And in Thailand, porn star Morakot Maneechai complained in September that the economic downturn is ruining her career, in that her bust measurement has shrunk from 39 inches to 37 because of weight loss and because she is no longer able to afford fancy nourishing creams.

* In San Diego in May, recidivist unlicensed surgeon John Ronald Brown, 75, was arrested and charged with causing the death of an 80-year-old man who had consented to have Brown amputate his healthy leg. According to a friend, the patient suffered from apotemnophilia (sexual gratification from the removal of a limb). Brown's license was revoked in 1977 after botched transsexual operations, but in records recovered from his apartment, prosecutors believe he had dozens of patients after that for transsexual and breast-augmentation surgeries.

* The Animal Rescue Foundation in Mobile, Ala., finally captured a 6-foot-tall, 150-pound emu that had escaped from its owner and apparently selected local resident Ed Stuardi to mate with. Stuardi and his wife cowered inside their home for two days while the emu pranced outside, making guttural mating noises.

* In June, a study released by the Huelsenberg Agricultural Testing Station in Germany concluded that cows that were able to sleep on waterbeds, listen to Mozart and receive machine massages produced more and better-tasting milk. Two months before the waterbed study was in, a tire-recycling plant in Nova Scotia sold rubber crumbs to Promat Ltd. in Ontario to manufacture 45,000 cow mattresses, which would soften cows' standing and sleeping positions, which Promat thinks will improve milk production.

* An unidentified Texas couple struck a deal in August with a Texas A&M cloning laboratory to pay at least $2.3 million for a replica of their collie-husky dog, Missy, "who (sic) is perfect," said the husband. According to Dr. Mark Westhusin, the project will take two years.

* In September, prominently pedigreed thoroughbred racehorse Zippy Chippy not only lost his 85th consecutive race (tying the all-time record) but hurt his chances of breaking the record by again exhibiting a recent habit of dawdling at the starting gate for precious seconds before taking off, thus causing racetracks to shun him for races for fear of angering bettors.

* In September, mischief-making Donald Portner, 18, and two friends placed a homemade pipe bomb in a portable toilet at a construction site in Manchester Township, Pa., and ran off to a safe distance to await the explosion. According to police, when nothing had happened for nearly an hour, Portner returned to check it out and apparently could not resist picking up the device and examining it. All three men were arrested when the subsequent explosion brought police to the scene, and Portner was hospitalized.

* "News of the Weird" has several times reported on construction workers who survived after accidentally shooting themselves in the head with their nail guns, most recently in a 1996 incident in Amarillo, Texas, involving a brad 1 1/4 inches long. In July 1998, a co-worker of Travis Bogumill, 21, in Eau Claire, Wis., accidentally jarred his nail gun and fired a 3 1/4-inch nail into Bogumill's head. He recovered but believes math is more difficult for him than it used to be.

* Within days of each other in October, a 20-year-old college student in Morehead City, N.C., and a 21-year-old college student in Lansing, Mich., died after accepting dares by their friends. The North Carolina man consumed a quantity of caffeine tablets equivalent to about 250 cups of coffee, and the Michigan man consumed 24 shots of an alcoholic beverage in less than two hours.

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


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