News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
What’s in a Name
• Vanellope, Rydder, Jceion and Burklee head the latest annual list of the most common baby names on the Social Security Administration register of first-time-appearing names. There were 63 Vanellopes (girls), but only 10 each for Rydder and Jceion, the most popular debut names for boys. Other notables were Hatch (eight times) and Psalms (seven). (In other “name” news, among the finalists in April’s “Name of the Year” contest sponsored by Deadspin.com were the actual monikers Curvaceous Bass, (Dr.) Eve Gruntfest, Chillie Poon and the winner—Shamus Beaglehole.
To celebrate today’s 25th anniversary of the weekly distribution of News of the Weird by Universal Uclick, Chuck Shepherd recalls a few of his favorite stories (among the more than 25,000 covered).
• (1989) In the mid-1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.
• (1991) Dee Dee Jonrowe, leading the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January in northern Minnesota, took a wrong turn and went 300 yards before recognizing her error. The mistake cost her team only a few minutes, but stopping to calculate her location allowed the dogs an unsupervised rest, and by the time she was ready to go, two of her dogs had begun to copulate. She was forced to wait on them for 25 minutes and lost the lead.
• (1991) In March, Florence Schreiber Powers, 44, a Ewing, New Jersey, administrative judge on trial for shoplifting two watches, called her psychiatrist to testify that Powers was under stress at the time of the incidents. The doctor said Powers was unaware of her actions “from one minute to the next,” for the following 20 reasons: a recent auto accident, a traffic ticket, a new-car purchase, overwork, husband’s kidney stones, husband’s asthma (and breathing machine that occupies their bedroom), menopausal hot flashes, an “ungodly” vaginal itch, a bad rash, fear of breast and anal cancer, fear of dental surgery, son’s need for an asthma breathing machine, mother’s and aunt’s illnesses, need to organize her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, need to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 relatives, purchase of 200 gifts for Christmas and Chanukah, attempt to sell her house without a real estate agent, lawsuit against wallpaper cleaners, purchase of furniture that had to be returned, and a toilet in her house that was constantly running. She was convicted anyway.
• (1991 and before) Gary Arthur Medrow, 47, was arrested in March in Milwaukee (the latest of his then-30-plus arrests over 23 years) for once again causing mischief by telephoning a woman and trying to persuade her to physically pick up another person and carry her around a room. In the latest incident, after repeatedly calling, he told her another woman had been impersonating her, had been in an accident, and had been seen carrying someone away (and that Medrow needed evidence that she could or could not do that). He had previously talked cheerleaders, motel workers and business executives into lifting and carrying.
• (1992) A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, West Virginia, in October with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and cleaning his three guns—and had accidentally shot himself with each one. He said the first shot didn’t hurt, the second “stung a little,” and the third “really hurt,” prompting him to call for help.
• (1994) In Toronto in March, Sajid Rhatti, 23, and his 20-year-old wife brawled over whether Katey Sagal, who plays Peg Bundy on “Married With Children,” is prettier than Christina Applegate, who plays her daughter. First, the wife slashed Rhatti in the groin with a wine bottle as they scuffled, but she dressed his wounds and the couple sat down again to watch another episode of the show. Moments later, the brawl erupted again, and Rhatti, who suffered a broken arm and shoulder, stabbed his wife in the chest, back and legs before they begged neighbors to call an ambulance.
• (1995) From the Riley County police blotter in the Kansas State University newspaper, Sept. 2: 1:33 p.m., disturbance involving Marcus Miles; 2:14 p.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” (police jargon for acquaintance who wouldn’t leave) in the home, Marcus Miles told to leave; 4:08 p.m. (different address), Marcus Miles accused of harassment; 6:10 p.m., “unwanted subject” call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 14: 6:47 p.m., “unwanted subject” in the home, Marcus Miles told to leave; 7:36 p.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 20: 2:05 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” charge against Marcus Miles; 2:55 a.m. (different address), disturbance involving Marcus Miles; 3:07 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” charge against Marcus Miles; 4:11 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” report made against Marcus Miles.
• (1996) A pre-trial hearing was scheduled in Lamar, Missouri, on Joyce Lehr’s lawsuit against the county for injuries from a 1993 fall in the icy, unplowed parking lot of the local high school. The Carthage Press reported that Lehr claimed damage to nearly everything in her body. According to her petition: “All the bones, organs, muscles, tendons, tissues, nerves, veins, arteries, ligaments…discs, cartilages, and the joints of her body were fractured, broken, ruptured, punctured, compressed, dislocated, separated, bruised, contused, narrowed, abrased, lacerated, burned, cut, torn, wrenched, swollen, strained, sprained, inflamed and infected.”
• (1999) From a May police report in The Messenger (Madisonville, Kentucky), concerning two trucks being driven curiously on a rural road: A man would drive a truck 100 yards, stop, walk back to a second truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the first truck, stop, walk back to the first truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the second truck, and so on, into the evening. He did it, he told police, because his brother was passed out drunk in one of the trucks, and he was trying to drive both trucks home, at more or less the same time. (Not surprisingly, a blood-alcohol test showed the driver, also, to be impaired.)
• (2002) The Lane brothers of New York, Mr. Winner Lane, 44, and Mr. Loser Lane, 41 (their actual birth names), were profiled in a July Newsday report, made more interesting by the fact that Loser is successful (a police detective in South Bronx) and Winner is not (a history of petty crimes). A sister said she believes her parents selected “Winner” because their late father was a big baseball fan and chose “Loser” just to complete the pairing.
• (2004) The New York Times reported in February on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to meticulously hand-make and hand-paint facsimilie record album covers of his fantasized music, complete with imagined lyric sheets and liner notes (with some “albums” even shrink-wrapped), and even more incredibly, to hand-make cardboard fascimilies of actual grooved discs to put inside them. “Mingering Mike,” whom a reporter and two hobbyists tracked down (but who declined to be identified in print) also made real music, on tapes, using his and friends’ voices to simulate instruments. His 38 imagined “albums” were discovered at a flea market after Mike defaulted on storage-locker fees, and the hobbyists who found them said they were so exactingly done that a major museum would soon feature them.
• (1988) And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, “He was acting like a 10-year-old.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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