News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*A November Associated Press dispatch described the work of commercial leech and maggot suppliers who sell to hospitals for medical treatments. A Welsh firm, Biopharm Ltd., moves about 20,000 three-inch-long leeches a year at seventeen dollars each to suck blood through delicate, clogged veins to restore circulation. A unit of the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales, produces sterilized maggots to eat the decayed skin from a wound to speed the healing process (price: $90 per 100 maggots). Boasts Dr. Stephen Thomas, who guards his secret technique for sterilizing fly eggs: "Our maggots are cleaner than the patient."

*Los Angeles surgeon Brigitte Boisselier announced in November that her company, Clonaid, might soon accept clients interested in making genetic twins of themselves, at $200,000 each. She plans to use the technique which produced Dolly the sheep, a technique she hopes will be refined for humans by the year 2000. In her spare time Dr. Boisselier is a bishop in the Raelian religion, founded in 1970 by a French former sports reporter whose followers believe that Earth was created 25,000 years ago by alien DNA. Said Dr. Boisselier: "I'm a scientist and very pragmatic even if I do believe in little green men."

Awesome, Dude!
*Window-washer Kerry Burton, age 27, was only slightly injured in November after falling five stories from a building in Calgary, Alberta. Burton landed butt-first in the basin of water that was tethered to his body and bounced two feet in the air after the bucket hit the pavement. And in November Jo'Tan Cooper, age eighteen, escaped from a police station lockup in Natick, Massachusetts, by sliding his five-foot-six, 130-pound body through the nine-by-seventeen-inch food-tray slot. He was recaptured before he made it out of the station.

Jailhouse Juleps: The Beverage of Choice
*The latest episode of inmates acting as winemakers was disclosed in October by the Chattanooga Times, which reported sugar missing from the pantry of Winchester, Tennessee's Franklin County Jail. Authorities traced the sugar to 24 inmates who were concocting a fruit-based wine in, as usual, a jail cell toilet.

Recurring Themes
*News of the Weird has mentioned several natural-cause deaths that had gone unreported for months and even years. In November 1998 a landlord entered the Bonn, Germany, apartment of Wolfgang Dircks when rent invoices to Dircks's bank stopped being paid. The landlord found a skeleton in a chair in front of a television set (with the switch in the "on" position but the set out of order) and beside still-twinkling Christmas lights and a TV program guide dated December 5, 1993. Since no one had seen Dircks in years, authorities declared that to be his date of death.

Thinning the Herd
*In September a 29-year-old man was accidentally run over by a tractor-trailer on Chicago's traffic-jammed Dan Ryan Expressway after he got out of his car to gather debris to throw at the trailer's driver for some alleged highway discourtesy. Apparently he slipped on spilled oil, falling under the wheels. And a 33-year-old man died in a workplace explosion in Ascutney, Vermont, in November when he used a blowtorch to cut a 55-gallon drum into scrap metal and was perhaps surprised to find the drum contained propane. According to fellow workers, the man had done the same thing the week before, but that explosion had merely blown off his gas mask.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd