News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The London insurance firm of Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson announced in August it would offer policies covering people worried about alien abduction. A premium of $155 a year would pay off $160,000 to an abductee (provided the abductor was not from Earth) and double that if the insured is impregnated during the abduction. Since the extent of alien powers is unknown, men can purchase the impregnation rider also. Said Goodfellow director Simon Burgess: "I personally would not buy [this] policy."

*Contest mania: In July the Pepsi corporation was sued by a Lynnwood, Washington, man who took seriously the company's light-hearted offer to redeem seven million premium points for a Harrier fighter jet in a "Pepsi Stuff" promotion. And in July, David Lee filed a lawsuit against the Cafe Santa Fe in Rogers, Arkansas, after it denied him a Kawasaki Jet Ski because he failed to write on his prize-winning entry form a reason for liking a certain menu item. Lee contends that the required "25 words or less" includes "zero words."

Questionable Judgments
*Amid howls of protest, John Crutchley, age 49, Florida's "vampire rapist" and a beneficiary of the state's early-release prison program, was let out on 50 years' probation in August after serving ten years in prison for a heinous, blood-drinking rape in 1985. Crutchley violated probation by testing positive for marijuana use on the day of his release. He thus lost the benefit of early release, and, for using drugs during probation, he was sent back to prison to serve the 50 years.

*In Ottawa, Ohio, in May, church secretary Linda Siefer was sentenced to two years in prison for a scheme in which she systematically removed all twenty-dollar bills from the collection plates at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Kalida, Ohio, over a four-year period. Siefer and her husband lived well above their combined $32,000 income, but the scheme did not come to light until a bank employee thought it odd that there were never any twenties in the church's deposits.

*In June, after an investigation, Montreal, Quebec, coroner Teresa Sourour criticized employees of Fleury Hospital for their failure to immediately help a 75-year-old man who had suffered a heart attack just outside the building in January. Hospital employees reportedly debated whether to go out in the twenty-below weather to help the man, but finally decided just to call an ambulance. The man died a few minutes later.

The Democratic Process
*In the Republican primary for a state Senate seat in June, Albuquerque, New Mexico, schoolteacher Scott Glasrud lost by two votes (1,170 to 1,168). The next month he realized that his father-in-law's and mother-in-law's votes for him had not been counted; they had delayed mailing their write-in ballots because of a death in the family .

God's Will
*In July 58 worshipers seeking divine protection on an astrologically unlucky day were crushed to death by stampeding devotees at two Hindu shrines in the cities of Haridwar and Ujjain, India. And in August, a nine-year-old boy was crushed to death when a granite tombstone fell on him at Bible school in Summerville, Georgia. Also in August, according to police in New Orleans, Melvin Hitchens, age 66, who had been reading the Bible on his front porch, put it down, fetched his gun, and shot to death a neighbor woman with whom he had been feuding about the cleanliness of their yards.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd