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News of the Weird

(c) 1999-2001 , Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

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Most of the Japanese World War II suicide-mission dive-bombers ("kamikazes") were successful, but a few failed pilots are still alive (their missions aborted because of weather or equipment failure), according to a Los Angeles Times dispatch in September. These days, they resent being compared to extremist-Islamic suicide bombers, who, the kamikazes say, act out of hatred rather than love of country and who do not always aim at military-only targets. On the other hand, one of the survivors said that many kamikaze "volunteers" were, contrary to legend, reluctant to die but caught up in patriotic fervor. [Los Angeles Times, 9-25-04]

More Scenes of the Surreal

(1) Joseph Manuel Augusto, 37, and Andres S. Diaz, 52, chased each other around a Burger King in Stratford, Conn., in July after Augusto had become enraged that Diaz had occupied the men's room too long; Augusto was flailing at Diaz with a small pocket knife, and Diaz at Augusto with a straw dispenser. (2) Attorneys for the city of Monte Sereno, Calif. (pop. 3,400), said in October they would proceed with the civil and criminal cases against defiant residents Joe and Darla Padgett over the Padgetts' 2-feet-too-high fence (and illegal chopping down of a tree), which has so far cost the modestly budgeted city $170,000 to prosecute, with no end in sight. [New Haven Register, 7-20-04] [San Jose Mercury News, 10-12-04]

America's Real Gun Problem (continued)

David Toumey, who is the county coroner in Bloomington, Ind., was hospitalized after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in September while demonstrating gun safety at a recreational facility. And a 61-year-old man accidentally, fatally shot himself in September in Rose Bud, Ark., as a result of showing off with his pistol before church. (He had removed the clip, held the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger, thinking it would not fire, but some will fire a bullet thus left in the chamber.) [Indianapolis Star-AP, 9-4-04] [Daily Citizen (Searcy, Ark.), 9-8-04]

New Hampshire Moms Gone Wild

Police in Sandown, N.H., charged Suzanne Viviani, 47, with threatening her daughter (age 22) with a knife held to her head because the daughter had snatched cocaine out of Suzanne's bra during a confrontation in August. (The two women reconciled and were booked into the same jail cell.) And in October, 40 miles away in Belmont, N.H., police charged Jacqueline Weiner, 36, with assault after her husband, Steven, held Jacqueline's 10-year-old son down while she stabbed him repeatedly in the arm with a kitchen knife because the boy and his brother had destroyed Jacqueline's favorite toy animal. [Union Leader (Manchester), 8-17-04] [Laconia Citizen, 10-7-04]

Latest Religious Messages

  • The Arabian Peninsula Women's Information Bureau (which is said to be an al-Qaida affiliate) announced in September that it had published the first issue of an Internet magazine, Al-Khansaa, designed to help women sort out their simultaneous obligations to their family and to the holy jihad. Among the inspirational guidelines: "The blood of our husbands and the body parts of our children are the sacrifice by means of which we draw closer to Allah," and "(The wife and mother) is the soldier who bears (her husband's) pack and weapon on his back in preparation for the military offensive." The first issue admonished the wife-mother to be in "top condition," to "not overindulge in eating and drinking," and to have a vast knowledge of jihad. [Middle East Media Research Institute, 9-7-04]

  • Even though wild monkeys rampage through towns in India, destroying property, eating villagers' food and physically attacking people, they are considered holy to Hindus and are pretty much left alone. However, according to a September dispatch in London's The Independent, as attacks have grown in number and severity recently, police have been finding dozens of monkey carcasses with slashed throats. Police believe that the bodies were the result of contract killings, ordered in the belief that paying someone else to harm monkeys was not quite the sacrilege of doing it directly. [The Independent, 9-2-04]

    Questionable Judgments

  • In October, the school board in Puyallup, Wash., canceled Halloween activities because of complaints from local Wiccans that the pointy-nose, broomstick-riding "witch" icon of the holiday was offensive to their religion, which refers to its priestesses as witches. (In several other cities, in response to complaints from Christians, officials moved trick-or-treating day to Oct. 30 because Oct. 31 fell on a Sunday, which might be inappropriate to celebrate what to some is "The Devil's Night.") [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10-24-04]

  • In September, the Oakland (Calif.) police suspended their successful traffic safety program of random drunk-driving checkpoints because they had received too many complaints from illegal aliens, who were being arrested not because they were driving drunk but because, as illegals, they lack driver's licenses. [Oakland Tribune, 9-26-04]

  • People Who Shouldn't Have Access to Matches: David Mason, on a Braathens airline flight home to England from Norway in February, set fire to some pornographic magazines he had brought aboard, saying he had been offended by the pictures; he was convicted in August of endangering a flight (although cabin attendants had quickly extinguished the fire). And in Pine Bluff, Ark., in September, Leroy Brown, 19, set fire to a pair of his wife's pants (because those were what she was wearing when she had a tryst with another man), but was not able to put the fire out before it destroyed the couple's home. [USA Today, 8-24-04] [Associated Press, 9-29-04]

    People With Issues

    Kenji Hishida, 39, was arrested in September in Kobe, Japan, and charged with stealing several pairs of uniform trousers from a West Japan Railway office. He was later revealed by authorities to have been stealing clothes from that and other public transportation offices for 15 years and to have more than 10,000 uniforms. And Joseph Rizza, 56, was charged recently with two counts of vandalism to neighbors' property in Brighton, Mass.; according to a psychiatric evaluation submitted to his judge, Rizza believes he has "a responsibility to keep trees from producing pine cones." [Mainichi Daily News, 9-26-04] [Boston Herald, 9-29-04]


    Gary Arthur Medrow, 60, first made News of the Weird in our inaugural year, 1988, but his criminal record (mostly for impersonating police officers) goes back at least 10 years before that. Medrow's preferred scene is to call someone (usually a woman) on the telephone, pretend to be a police officer on an investigation, and ask her to try to lift up another person in the room and carry him or her into another room. He was charged again in New Berlin, Wis., in September. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9-20-04]

    Almost All True

    Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) Two men removed the ATM from a Milwaukee gas station, chained it to their bumper, and drove away, dragging it through the streets, as if no one might notice. (b) A lawyer cost the European Commission the equivalent of $1.2 million when a document was not "delivered" on time because the lawyer had mistakenly faxed the blank sides of each page. (c) University of Nebraska researchers, on a grant from Monsanto Corp., began a six-week study, living in an unsanitary, 40-pet home to test an odor-displacement spray. (d) A local woman was ticketed (and later fined the equivalent of $200) at Rome's Trevi Fountain as she was explaining its history to her out-of-town guests but did not have a tour guide's license.

    Readers' Choice

    In October, Crystal, Minn., police Sgt. Robin Erkenbrack, summoned to the local VFW hall by a report of a medical emergency, arrived to find an Elvis impersonator, who worked a show at the hall that night, ostensibly in the middle of a seizure, just as another impersonator (portraying the late comedian John Belushi) jumped into a car that did not belong to him and sped off. As Elvis' "seizures" stopped, and frightened onlookers gathered, Elvis suddenly leaped to his feet and broke into "Viva Las Vegas!" while Erkenbrack chased "Belushi" to a nearby airfield, where he stopped him. Said Erkenbrack later, "Every time you think you've seen it all, there's something else." [Star Tribune, 10-13-04]

    Answer to Almost All True: (a), (c) and (d) are true. [Milwaukee Police Dept. Press Release, 10-15-04] [The Scotsman, 10-16-04] [Reuters, 10-20-04]

    Thanks This Week to Roger Katz, Tim Hayes, Josh Glauner, Dave Browning, Dave Crowley, Brandee Moncrief, Ronald Kiesling, and Andrew Bailey, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

    (Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or or go to


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