Joyce and Nolan Holdridge married in San Francisco on March 3, 1947. He was a watchmaker, recently out of the Navy. She was a telephone operator.
At first their marriage was a happy one, but a few months after their wedding Joyce began to grow sick. Her eyes reddened and swelled shut. She broke out in an irritating skin rash that covered her from head to toe.
Joyce sought help from doctors, psychiatrists, and skin specialists, but in vain. Eventually her condition grew so bad that she was hospitalized at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco. And it was here, while she was under constant observation, that the doctors noticed an unusual pattern to Joyce's outbreaks.
While she was at the hospital, her symptoms gradually subsided, but when she visited her husband each weekend they promptly flared up again. Soon the doctors arrived at a startling conclusion. Joyce appeared to be allergic to her husband.
Separation The Only Option
Further observation made it clear that Joyce wasn't reacting to a cologne her husband was wearing, or some other chemical irritant that could easily be removed. She appeared to be allergic to the man himself. His mere presence. In fact, even mentioning her husband's name caused Joyce to break out in hives.
The doctors diagnosed Joyce's allergy as neurodermatitis, and counseled her that all attempts at a cure would be futile as long as she was living with her husband.
So in March 1948, a year after getting married, Joyce and Nolan began living apart. He stayed in San Francisco and she moved to Los Angeles. This cured Joyce's rash, but eventually the couple decided that living separate lives, while still married, didn't make sense. So in July 1949, Joyce filed for divorce from Nolan.
The divorce trial was held in the Los Angeles Superior Court of Judge Ray Brockmann on July 25, 1949. Nolan didn't attend, as he wasn't disputing the facts.
Joyce told the judge that she had no complaint about her husband's behavior. In fact, he was "the finest husband a woman could ask for" and she loved him deeply, but every time they were together she broke out in a rash from head to toe. So at the advice of physicians and psychiatrists, she had to leave him.
To back up this claim she produced a medical report from Dr. Gordon Dayton of the San Francisco Veterans Hospital who wrote, "[Joyce] had been suffering from a severe generalized dermatitis manifested by reddened, swollen, itching and scaling areas most marked over the hands, forearms, chest, neck, face and thighs. It soon became evident that there was something physical in the home or about the person of her husband to which she was sensitive."
Judge Brockmann listened with sympathy to Joyce's presentation of her case. However, there was a problem. In order to grant a divorce, it had to be shown that one of the spouses was at fault, and it wasn't clear that anyone's behavior was to blame in this case.
It used to be a standard requirement in American law that a couple could only get divorced if one of the spouses was at "fault" for causing the breakdown of the marriage. Actions that constituted fault included adultery, abandonment, or cruelty.
Divorce-seekers would regularly stretch facts in order to argue that their spouse was somehow to blame for ruining the marriage. For instance, one man complained that the snores of his wife's dog had made it impossible to sleep in the same room with her. In another case, a wife charged that her husband would cruelly shut off his hearing aid so that he couldn't hear her side of arguments. Similar strange marital complaints were a regular feature in weird news columns of the time.
It was only in 1970 that California made "no-fault" divorces legal, allowing couples to separate simply because they wanted to. All other states eventually followed suit.
But in 1949, demonstrating fault was still the legal requirement to obtain a divorce, and Judge Brockmann didn't think that an allergic reaction was anyone's fault. So he pressed Joyce for details, trying to determine if Nolan was ever cruel to her.
Joyce suggested the allergy was cruelty, but the judge disagreed, and with that he denied her request, ruling that being allergic to your spouse was not grounds for divorce.
Joyce's case caused a popular sensation. Headlines trumpeted the case of the "allergic bride." One widely reprinted photo showed Joyce holding her pet dog "Taffy." The caption noted that although she was allergic to her husband, the dog didn't seem to bother her in the least.
Newspapers generally treated the case as yet another example of the "silly" reasons that people got divorced. However, Joyce's effort to obtain a divorce received a flood of popular support, particularly from women. Judge Brockmann reported receiving hundreds of letters, mostly from wives, urging him to reconsider his ruling. A number of these letter writers claimed that, like Joyce, they were allergic to their husbands. Wrote one woman, "This is a real cause for divorce. It is a cause made by nature — not by man."
Thankfully Joyce and Nolan were not doomed to remain married forever. Judge Brockmann suggested that there was another legal option available to end their marriage — annulment. Unlike a divorce, an annulment could be granted on the basis of "physical incompatability." There was no need to determine fault.
So in September Nolan filed suit, asking that his marriage be dissolved since Joyce could not perform her "wifely duties." Judge Brockmann again heard the case, but this time he promptly granted an annulment, allowing Joyce and Nolan to go their separate ways. Some years later Nolan remarried, and there was no report that his new wife developed any allergic reaction to him. What became of Joyce is not known.
Joyce and Nolan's case was seen as being a first of its kind, setting a legal precedent. But Judge Brockmann warned others not to try to get out of marriage on "allergy grounds" unless they could produce valid medical evidence that would withstand a "scrutinizing judicial eye."
Inevitably his advice was ignored, and throughout the 1950s a number of wives (Rose Savenick of Los Angeles, Zelam Ansley of Seattle, Virginia Miller of Beverly Hills, etc.) filed for divorce on the grounds that they were allergic to their husbands. All won their cases, perhaps because of the precedent set by Joyce and Nolan. Eventually the adoption of "no-fault" divorce laws made it unnecessary for women to plead allergies to get out of a marriage.
But what about the men? Was spousal allergy a problem that only affected wives? In fact, the media did report about a few husbands who were allergic to their wives, but for whatever reason these husbands didn't seek divorces. For instance, in 1962 Dr. Michael O'Donnell wrote in the British medical magazine Family Doctor about a man who had developed asthma because he was allergic to his wife. However, "It was not until the death of the wife—a formidable and overpowering lady—that the doctors made their discovery," wrote the physician. Because on the day of her death, the man's asthma attacks stopped. "He has never had an attack since," observed O'Donnell.
As our poor abused planet whipsaws between extreme cold and extreme heat on a minute-to-minute schedule, only Coke can help soothe our pain. The "melting glacier" allegory at the end is effective, albeit unsubtle.
Will Atkinson died recently of pancreatitis, at the age of 51. He had gained fame in Oxford, Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, and was known there as "Elvis," or the "Big E." And also as the "Walmart Elvis" because he worked at Walmart and would sing in the aisles as he worked. From the Clarion-Ledger:
By day, he worked at the local Walmart, where he would sing gospel and Elvis classics throughout the store so well that many mistook his voice for the sound system, said Walmart sales associate Suzette Boone...
Atkinson obsessed over getting every Elvis detail correct. He dyed his hair, had four Elvis jumpsuits, and fashioned his voice to sound just like the real thing...
At the local Walmart, employees broke corporate protocol and set up a memorial wreath at the entrance, and had pictures displayed on a table inside, along with a condolence book, which many customers have stopped to sign. The store even played some of Atkinson’s recordings on the sound system. "The aisles are going to be quiet now," said Walmart assistant manager Lavina Woodfin, "No more song."
As far as I know, the terminology that compulsory education is a "right" continues to be used by international organizations, although it does sound vaguely Orwellian. The wikipedia page on Compulsory Education notes that the idea that children should be forced to go to school has a long history of controversy and has been criticized on the grounds that "it violates freedom and liberty" and that "it is slavery." However, pretty much every country in the world has some form of compulsory education.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M439, September 6, 2015
Copyright 2015 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Muslim clerics complain of the commercialization of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimages, but for Pope Francis’s visits to New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia in mid-September, shameless street vendors and entrepreneurs already appear to be eclipsing Mecca’s experience. Merchants said they’d be selling, among other tacky items, mozzarella cheese statuettes of the Pope ($20), a Pope Toaster to burnish Francis’s image on bread, a Philly-themed bobblehead associating the Pope with the boxer “Rocky,” local beers Papal Pleasure and YOPO (You Only Pope Once), and T-shirts (“Yo Pontiff!” and “The Pope Is My Homeboy”). The Wall Street Journal quoted a Philadelphia archdiocese spokesman admitting that “you kind of have to take it in stride.” [Wall Street Journal, 8-26-2015; Washington Post, 8-24-2015]
Florida’s Best Courtroom
In May, suspect David Riffle, charged with trespassing (after shouting “religious proverbs” at patrons of the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla.), greeted Broward County judge John “Jay” Hurley at his bail hearing by inquiring, “How you doin’, asshole?” Unfazed, Hurley responded, “I’m doing fine. How are you sir?” After listening to Riffle on religion a bit longer, Hurley set bond at $100. In August, talking to Judge Hurley from jail via closed circuit TV, arrestee Susan Surrette, 54, “flashed” him as she tried to prove an alleged recent assault. The self-described “escort” and “porn star” (“Kayla Kupcakes”) had lifted her shirt to reveal bruises. (Her bond, also, was $100.) [WPLG-TV (Miami), 5-13-2015] [WPTV (West Palm Beach), 8-21-2015]
A Chinese woman identified only as Zeng was detained and stabilized at Beijing Capital International Airport in August after being found dazed on the floor at a boarding gate. She had attempted to fly with a bottle of expensive cognac (Remy Martin XO Excellence) in her carry-on--a violation of Chinese regulations barring liquids over 100 ml (the cognac was 700 ml, selling for about $200 in the U.S.) and was presented with the ultimatum to give up the bottle or miss the flight. She decided to drink the contents on the spot (but was subsequently declared too drunk to board). [South China Morning Post, 8-24-2015]
“And Another Thing, Dad”: Michael May, 44, was arrested in Lincoln County, Ky., in August after the Pilot Baptist Cemetery near Stanford, Ky., reported that he had tried to dig up the grave of his dead father “in order to argue with him,” according to Lexington’s WLEX-TV. May told officers his dad had died about 30 years ago. (Alcohol was involved in the decision to dig.) [WAVE-TV, 8-18-2015]
More Things to Worry About
Under a 1981 treaty, at least 50 countries, including the United States, have banned their militaries from employing flamethrowers (as “inhumane”), but entrepreneurs have begun to market the devices domestically for $900-$1,600 each (based on the distance of the flame, at 25 feet or 50 feet). Federal regulators appear uninterested (as the contraptions are technically neither “firearms” nor “explosives”), and only two states prohibit them outright, though a few jurisdictions believe flamethrowers are illegal under fire codes. The Ohio startup Throwflame has sensed the need for marketing savvy and describes flamethrowers as primarily for “entertainment.” (Recent news reports indicate a slight run on sales under the suspicion that authorities will soon realize the danger and outlaw them.) [ArsTechnica.com, 8-25-2015; CNN via WTKR-TV (Norfolk, Va.), 8-14-2015]
After two women accused Sheffield Village, Ohio, attorney Michael Fine of “hypnotizing” and sex-talking to them during office consultations, police and the county bar association opened an investigation in November 2014. Though Fine was being consulted on a custody matter, he was secretly audio-recorded (according to one woman’s lawsuit) touting “powerful body orgasms” and suggesting that he was “the world’s greatest lover”--among details the client recalls only vaguely if at all. The bar association later said as many as 25 women may have been victimized. Though no criminal charges have been filed, Fine’s lawyer said in August that his client had voluntarily given up his law license and was seeking “medical” help. [Associated Press via Columbus Dispatch, 8-19-2015] [WEWS-TV (Cleveland), 2-3-2015]
Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology lecturer Joseph Gibbons was sentenced in July to a year in prison for robbing a New York City Capital One bank in December (while operating a video camera) in a heist that he had insisted all along was merely “performance art.” (He said he had done a similar robbery in Rhode Island in November.) His biography on the MIT website described him as “blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, self and persona . . . with a contradictory impulse to confabulate and dissimulate.” The Queens Museum in New York City has offered to screen the footage of the robbery as an art piece. [New York Times, 7-13-2015]
Artist Anish Kapoor initially denied that his 400-500 tons of stones, called “Dirty Corner,” was “problematic,” but later conceded that it might have “multiple interpretive possibilities.” The installation, which ran through the summer at France’s Palace of Versailles with five other large sculptures, was arranged in the form of a huge vulva, and represented, he said, “the vagina of a queen who is taking power.” [Washington Post, 6-8-2015]
New World Order
(1) A Pig Flies: On August 20th, a 250-pound pig was knocked free of a trailer traveling at 65 mph on Interstate 25 near Fort Collins, Colo.--thus briefly at least sailing. It was not badly hurt. (2) In July, Mexican customs officers detained an American and a Mexican on the bridge between El Paso, Tex., and Juarez, with 13 pounds of marijuana the two allegedly were smuggling into Mexico to sell. (The month before, Juarez officials arrested another El Paso woman with a kilo of crystal meth allegedly destined for Mexican sale.) [Coloradoan (Fort Collins), 8-20-2015] [El Paso Times, 7-23-2015]
Short-Term Rehab: Heath Franklin, 44, was arrested on August 20th at the Walmart in Dalton, Ga., charged with taking “upskirt” photos of female shoppers. Franklin, a registered sex offender, had been released on August 19th from Central State Prison, where he was serving a term for sexual offenses (including taking unlawful photos). [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8-21-2015]
“Excessive” (I): Three weeks ago, News of the Weird mentioned that a federal judge had officially declared 29 years as an excessive amount of time for the Bureau of Land Management to have sat on a natural-gas permit, but 4 years’ waiting is apparently an acceptable period for a judge to sit on a decision whether to fire New York City school teacher. Edward Morrissey, charged with pushing and shoving a student at PS 109 in Brooklyn in 2009, had his administrative hearing in 2011 and since then has been drawing full pay and benefits (including seniority raises) while reporting to a no-duties “job” (termed a “rubber room”) every school day. In May 2015, he was finally found guilty. [New York Post, 8-23-2015]
“Excessive” (II): In August the independent Police Foundation declared it “excessive” that cops in Stockton, Calif., had fired 600 gunshots trying to apprehend robbers of a Bank of the West branch in July 2014. None of the robbers was hit, but one hostage was--fatally, hit by 10 police bullets. According to the report, “a few” of the officers engaged in “sympathetic fire,” shooting merely because their colleagues were shooting (and since the sequence was chaotic, sympathetic fire occurred even though other colleagues were actually positioned in front of shooters). [Los Angeles Times, 8-17-2015]
News of the Weird Classic (November 2009)
In Ogden, Utah, in October, Adam Manning, 30, accompanied his pregnant girlfriend to the McKay-Dee Hospital emergency room as she was going into labor. According to witnesses, as a nurse attended to the woman, Manning began flirting with her, complimenting the nurse's looks and giving her neck rubs. When Manning then allegedly groped the nurse's breast, she called for security, and Manning was eventually arrested and taken to jail, thus missing the birth of his child. [Salt Lake Tribune, 10-10-2009]
Thanks This Week to Rosie Martinez and Paul Peterson, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
Spiritual healer Dorina Rosin and her partner Maika Suneagle plan to have a "dolphin-assisted" water birth in the ocean, even though experts are warning that this poses many risks. For instance, there's the chance that a great white shark may show up. Also, dolphins in the wild aren't exactly the most docile creatures. They've been known to "toss, beat, and kill other mammals for no apparent reason despite enjoyment."
Nevertheless, Rosin and Suneagle feel these risks are worth it. After all, as long as they don't wind up dead, they believe their ocean-born baby will be able to speak dolphin. More info: CBS Atlanta
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.