News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In May in Santa Fe, New Mexico, schoolteacher Roger Katz, age 50, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for having sex with a fourteen-year-old student. He was convicted despite his compelling explanation that he had fallen in love with her after she saved his neck in a previous life (Tibet, 640 A.D.) -- she had stepped in front of an arrow meant for him. Said Katz's attorney Aaron Wolf, "I hope my daughters find men who love them as much as he loves her."

*In the April British elections, the usual fringe parties (such as the Blackhaired, Medium-Build Caucasian Party) were in evidence, but the longest-standing alternative, the Monster Raving Loony Party, ran the most candidates. Its main platform plank this year was to tow Britain 500 miles into the Mediterranean Sea in order to improve the country's climate. Fifty other MRLP candidates for various offices made proposals such as requiring dogs to eat phosphorescent food so that pedestrians could more easily avoid stepping in their poop.

Seeds of Our Destruction
*The Providence (Rhode Island) Phoenix newspaper reported in February that the latest fad at Providence College is handcuff parties, where men and women are randomly cuffed and must accompany each other the rest of the evening, no matter what. At nearby Brown University, whose legendary concern about gender equality would seem to preclude such symbolic ownership, the fad is "naked" parties, at which there is virtually no sexual activity.

*The New York Times reported in February that despite the troubles in Serbia, business was thriving for a transvestite fortuneteller named Kleo Patra, age 36, who charges about $80 a session (a month's salary for the average Serbian) and whose clientele includes Mrs. Slobodan Milosevic (Patra supports her husband). A week before the great winter flooding in the Ohio Valley and two months before the North Dakota floods, Patra predicted that the future of the United States was rosy -- except for impending floods.

*American William Ping Chen was sentenced to ten years in prison in January in Shanghai, China, for smuggling. Though his intent was not explained, Chen had tried to bring 238 tons of medical waste and ordinary garbage into the country by labeling it as paper.

Cultural Diversity
*In January in Bangkok, Thailand, Wien Sudpleum, eight months pregnant, crawled under the belly of an elephant three times, which was supposed to bring good luck in her delivery. On the third pass, however, she was gored. The owner agreed to pay her about $240 in damages; it was not reported whether the baby survived.

*In February Judge Salamo Injia ruled in Papua New Guinea that a quaint custom among some tribes in the south of the country -- the use of young girls and women as a medium of intertribal currency -- was illegal. Miriam Willingal, age 18, had been sent with another woman, plus cash and some pigs, to a neighboring tribe as compensation for a shooting death.

*In 1995 "News of the Weird" reported that some New York City dermatologists were offering a treatment to reduce facial wrinkles by injections of the bacterium that causes often-fatal botulism; it also deadens the tissue. The New York Observer reported in May 1997 that some of those dermatologists now tout a side effect of the $800 treatment: It prevents furrowing of the brow. Some patients enjoy the benefits of keeping a poker face during business negotiations.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd