News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M498, October 23, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
As nine states next month ask voters to approve some form of legalization of marijuana, a "new customer base" for the product--pets--was highlighted in an October New York Times
report. Dogs and cats are struck with maladies similar to those that humans report as cannabis success stories: seizures, inflammation, anxiety, arthritis and other pain and subsequent social withdrawals. The "high"-producing THC element cannot be used because it is notoriously toxic to dogs, but other elements in the drug seem to work well not only for dogs and cats but, by anecdotal evidence, pigs, horses, and domesticated wild animals. [New York Times, 10-8-2016
In September, Charles Lawrence III, 60, was sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted sexual assault despite his claim that it was just bad eyesight that caused the problem. He had arrived at a house in Fairfield, Conn., to have sex with a male he had met online, but the event turned out to be a "To Catch a Predator" sting. Lawrence, an accountant, claimed that, in text messages with the "boy," he had seen "18" as his age, when, according to police evidence, the text read "13." (Bonus: Lawrence knew "Predator" newsman Chris Hansen socially and commuted daily on the train with him, according to Lawrence's lawyer.) [Connecticut Post, 9-2-2016
A 23-year-old woman on a bus in Istanbul, Turkey, was attacked by Abdullah Cakiroglu, 35, in September because, as he told police, he had become "aroused" by her wearing shorts. (Initially, he was not arrested, but after a protest on social media, police came to get him--though for "inciting," not assault.) He told police, "I lost myself" because the woman had "disregarded the values of our country," and "my spiritual side took over, and I kicked her in the face." [The Independent (London), 9-22-2016
Government in Action
Kevin and Tammy Jones opened their guns-and-coffee store in an old bank building in Hamilton, Va., in August, but despite the controversies about the ease of gun acquisition in America, their Bullets & Beans shop has had a harder time pleasing government regulators over the coffee than over the firearms. Kevin told Washingtonian
magazine that there were no problems in getting gun-shop and firearms-instruction permits from state and federal agencies, but several local-government roadblocks delayed the coffee-sales permit: the property being zoned for "retail" but not food or drinks; permission to open certain businesses near residences; and a coffee shop's need to have "parking." [Washingtonian, 9-28-2016
Latest Religious Messages
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared October 13th Oilfield Prayer Day to cap a statewide initiative of mass wishing for improved performance of the state's energy industry, which has been in the doldrums recently with the worldwide drop in oil prices. Though the initiative's founders, and the associated Oil Patch Chaplains, were largely Baptist church leaders, the governor emphasized that all religions should be praying for a more prosperous industry. [The Oklahoman, 10-1-2016
In September, a court in Paris upheld France's government ban on people smiling for their passport and identity photos. One official had challenged the required straightforward pose ("neutral," "mouth closed"), lamenting that the French should be encouraged to smile to overcome the perpetual "national depression" that supposedly permeates the country's psyche. [The Guardian (London), 9-29-2016
The baseball-like "pesapallo" might be Finland's national game, reported the New York Times
in September, despite its differences from the American pastime. The ball is pitched to the batter--but vertically, by a pitcher standing next to the batter--and the batter runs the bases after hitting it, though not counterclockwise but zig-zag style, to a base on the left, then one on the right, then back to the left. The game was invented in Finland in 1920 has achieved minor notoriety with teams from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Australia vying for a "world cup" that so far none has been able to wrest from Finland. (Reassuringly, however, "three strikes" is an out in Finland, too.) [New York Times, 9-27-2016
New World Order
Too Much Time on Their Hands: In an October profile of tech developer and start-up savant Sam Altman, The New Yorker
disclosed that "many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis"--that "what we experience as reality" is just some dark force's computer simulation (as in the movie "The Matrix"). "[T]wo tech billionaires," the magazine reported, are "secretly engag[ing] scientists" to break us out of this alternative universe we might be trapped in. (One prominent member of the tech elite remarked to a Vox Media conference in June at how the "simulation hypothesis" seems to dominate all conversation whenever the elites gather.) [The New Yorker, 10-10-2016
Scientists from England's Bath University, publishing in a September issue of Nature Communications
, report success in creating enduring live mice without use of a fertilized egg. The researchers showed it possible that a sperm cell can "trick" an egg into becoming a full-featured embryo without a "fertilization" process (in which distinct genomes from sperm and egg were thought to be required, at least in mammals). The scientists were thus able to "challeng[e] nearly two centuries of conventional wisdom." [Science Daily, 9-13-2016
The War on Drugs: (1) In September, police in Thurmont, Md., announced the culmination of a two-month-long undercover drug operation at the Burger King with two arrests and a total seizure of 5 grams of marijuana and two morphine pills. (2) On September 21st, as part of a six-target raid using "military-type" helicopters by the Massachusetts State Police and the National Guard, drug warriors halted the criminal enterprise of Margaret Holcomb, 81, of Amherst, seizing the one and only marijuana plant in her yard that she had planned to harvest soon for relief of her arthritis and glaucoma. [Frederick News-Post, 9-28-2016
] [Daily Hampshire Gazette, 9-30-2016
Couldn't Stop Myself: (1) Joshua Hunt, 31, was arrested in October inside St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., where he had gone to check on his 9-month-old son, who was being treated for an injury. Police said that while in the ward, he snatched another visitor's purse and took a cell phone and credit cards. (2) Brittany Carulli, 25, was arrested in Harrison Township, N.J., in October, charged with stealing a medic's wallet from inside an ambulance. The medic had allowed Carulli in the ambulance to grieve over her boyfriend's body after he was struck and killed by a car. [KJRH-TV (Tulsa), 10-6-2016
] [WPVI-TV (Philadelphia), 10-3-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) Jeffrey Osella, 50, was arrested in August in Westerly, R.I., after allegedly firing corn cobs at his neighbor's house, using a PVC "potato gun," as part of their long-running feud. When Osella answered the door, officers said he was shirtless, with corn kernels stuck to his chest. (2) On October 1st, Michael Daum, 55, began his year in residence as the town hermit of Solothurn, Switzerland, having been chosen from among 22 self-entertaining applicants. The hermit will be required to maintain the town's isolated hermitage, but also, paradoxically, be called on at times to engage with arriving tourists. [Associated Press via Newark Star-Ledger, 9-2-2016] [The Local (Geneva), 9-27-2016]
A News of the Weird Classic (October 2012)
Eating Well on Death Row: (1) Condemned Ohio inmate Ronald Post, 53, asked a federal court in September  to cancel his upcoming date with destiny on the ground that, after almost 30 years of prison food, he’s too fat to execute. At 480 pounds, “vein access” and other issues would cause his lethal injection to be “torturous.” (Update: He won the sentence-commutation, but he died in prison in 2013.) (2) British murderer-sadist Graham Fisher, 39, is locked up in a high security hospital in Berkshire, England, but he, too, has been eating well (at about 325 pounds). In August , he was approved for gastric-band surgery paid for by Britain’s National Health Service at an estimated cost, including a private room for post-op recovery, of the equivalent of about $25,000). [Associated Press via Google News, 9-17-2012] [Daily Mail (London), 8-19-2012]
Thanks This Week to Larry Neer, Michael Brozyna, and Jack Colldeweih, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
June 9, 1966:
After being buried alive for a week outside of a drive-in theater in Denison, Texas, Lottie Howard married "Country" Bill White. Both of them were "buried alive" practitioners. After she was disinterred, the two left on their honeymoon.
Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram - June 19, 1966
Looks like the marriage didn't last long. Two years later Country Bill got served with divorce papers — while he was buried alive. The papers were dropped down the six-inch pipe he used for air and food.
Wilmington News Journal - Mar 28, 1968
But Bill rebounded pretty quickly from his divorce. Just a few months later he was buried alive with a "34-year-old grandmother" and a go-go dancer. However, they each had individual compartments in the coffin, evidently to prevent any buried-alive hanky panky.
The Indianapolis Star - June 21, 1968
And here's a picture of Bill from 1978, looking a bit rougher around the edges.
The Benton Harbor News-Palladium - May 19, 1978
As far as I can tell, Bill kept doing his buried alive stunt until the late 1980s. In 1981 he set an endurance record for the longest time buried alive (140 consecutive days in a plywood box, 6 feet long by 3 feet wide). This record seems to have been beaten in 1999 by Geoff Smith, who spent 147 days buried in a coffin under the beer garden of his local pub. Though it's hard to know for sure because Guinness doesn't maintain a record for longest time buried alive (because of their policy of not encouraging unhealthy or life-endangering acts).
In 2005, the New Bedford Standard-Times
ran an article about Bill, but that's the last media reference to him I can find. If he's still alive, he'd be around 82.
1984 - Richmond, California:
After 71-year-old Alice Richie's husband died, she began watering her lawn. And she didn't stop. She kept the sprinklers on 24 hours a day, for over a year. Rain or shine. Using over 20,000 gallons of water a day.
Her yard turned into a swamp, breeding mosquitoes. The runoff poured over onto her neighbor's properties, damaging the foundations of their homes and causing algae to grow on driveways. The city had to put up caution signs on the sidewalk in front of her home.
Richie ignored pleas to turn off the water. When asked why she was watering so much, she replied, "It's none of your goddamn business." People speculated that she believed she was washing away evil spirits.
However, she paid all her utility bills on time, so the water company couldn't simply cut her off. Finally, her neighbors took her to court.
Even in court she wouldn't explain why she watered so much. But the court ordered a flow restrictor put on her waterline, limiting her to 500 gallons a day (which still sounds like a lot for a single person). This finally put an end to the non-stop watering, after a year-and-a-half. A utility spokesman said, "She'll have just enough water to do her laundry, dishes and bathe. But she'll have to make some sacrifices if she decides to water her lawn."
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any photos of Richie's front yard, or of Richie herself. Nor, to my knowledge, was her mania for watering ever explained.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 17, 1984
The New London Day - June 10, 1984
As high school football coach Dale Christensen was giving a pep talk to his players in the school cafeteria, hours before a game, a fight broke out between two students and Christensen moved immediately to intercede.
Then shots rang out. Christensen fell to the ground, blood spreading across his shirt. Christensen's son (who was a player on the team) shouted, "My dad's been shot!" Panic erupted, and people started running, seeking cover from the shooter.
But a few seconds later, Christensen jumped back up and announced he was okay. The shooting had been fake — staged as a stunt to motivate the players.
Unfortunately for Christensen, he had a hard time getting anyone to understand why the fake shooting was motivational. He later noted, "people in general outside the football team... do not understand what he was trying to accomplish."
School officials definitely didn't understand. The team lost the game, and a few days later Christensen was forced to resign.
Reminds me of that coach who arranged for his players to view a bull castration before a game
as a "motivational experience." When asked how it was motivational, he replied, "That's everybody's different perception."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Nov 25, 1993