News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
He Missed “Judgment” Class in Basic Training
• Fort Bragg, North Carolina, declared an emergency on Oct. 30 when one of its soldiers had the bright idea to arrive for a Halloween party on base dressed as a suicide bomber, with realistic-looking canisters in a wired vest. Gates to the post (headquarters of Army special forces and airborne troops) immediately went into extended lockdown, and a bomb-disposal team was called. The soldier’s name was not released.
• The Blackhead Whisperer: Upland, California, dermatologist Sandra Lee is a social media cult figure with a massive audience on YouTube, where her cyst- and pimple-popping videos (charmingly, soothingly narrated) have garnered 170 million views. (The “Popping” community, on the Reddit.com site, has more than 60,000 members.) Dr. Lee admits longing for “the perfect blackhead,” which to her apparently means one that is photogenic and slides out easily from its snug epidermal home. Several “Popping” fanatics told a Washington Post reporter that watching the videos is therapy for anxiety, but one fan (a “Mr. Wilson”) apparently gets his “therapy” by submitting videos of his own—unsoothing—oil-laden bursts.
• While hopeful Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero seeks funding to perform the first ever head “transplant” (with a patient already lined up), Australian doctor Geoff Askin (the country’s “godfather of spinal surgery”) recently successfully “reattached” the head of a 16-month-old boy who was badly injured in a traffic accident. The toddler’s head was described as internally “relocated” and reset onto the vertebra, using wire and rib tissue to graft the head back in place. (Nonetheless, the operation was widely regarded as a “miracle.”)
• “Police Squad!” Lives On: (1) Hugo Castro, 28, wanted for questioning in October in San Jose, California, after his girlfriend was stabbed to death, helpfully presented himself at county jail. The sheriff’s deputy listened—and then suggested Castro go find a San Jose police officer. (Castro did, and the deputy was subsequently reassigned.) (2) New Hampshire state police laid down spiked “stop sticks” in November to slow down a fleeing Joshua Buzza, 37, near Greenland, New Hampshire. Buzza was apprehended, but not before he managed to avoid the sticks while goading the drivers of three squad cars over them (flattening several tires).
• Recent Architectural Triumphs: (1) A 33-year-old Frenchman erected a stone table with benches over his mother’s grave marker, so that he and friends could enjoy munchies and wine as he “talked” to her. (2) For the annual German Ruhrtriennale Festival in September, Atelier Van Lieshout created a temporary hotel structure that appeared from the street (even to the non-aroused) to be a couple having “doggy style” sex (to make a statement, a reviewer said, about “the power of humanity over the natural world”). (3) A homeowners’ association in Winter Haven, Florida, petitioned Steven Chayt to remove the 24-by-12-foot chair he had built in his backyard as an art project—especially because of the hole in the seat—making it, said one neighbor, “essentially a toilet.”
Finer Points of the Law
• Daniel Darrington was spared a murder conviction in October even after admitting intentionally shooting Rocky Matskassy at point-blank range to “relieve his suffering.” The Melbourne, Australia, jury decided that Matskassy, in pain from an earlier accidental shooting, was indeed already dead when Darrington shot him. However, under the law of the state of Victoria, it is still “attempted murder” because Darrington believed that Matskassy was still alive when he pulled the trigger.
Leading Economic Indicators
• Dealt a Lemon, Make Lemonade: Puerto Rico’s murder/voluntary manslaughter rate is four times higher than that in the 50 states, creating a “pool of (organ) donors in the 18-to-30 age range unmatched in the mainland,” according to an October Reuters report. Government officials hope creating a thriving transplant industry will bring Puerto Rico out of its economic doldrums by encouraging economy-conscious patients to spend money on hotels, transportation and food during their stay.
Unclear on the Concept
• A Liberty, Missouri, sheriff’s deputy politely declined to identify the local man who created the sound of rapid gunfire on Oct. 13 when a “controlled” garbage burn escalated. The man decided to try extinguishing the fire by driving back and forth over it in his van, but the tires caught fire, and in addition to the van’s having a gas tank, it also carried an undisclosed amount of firearms ammunition. The van was a total loss, but the sheriff’s department said it doubted there would be an insurance claim filed.
• Wait, What? Even though Darren Paden, 52, confessed almost immediately upon his 2013 arrest for a 10-year, 200-plus-episode pattern of sexual abuse of a girl that began when she was 4, many Dearborn, Missouri, townspeople, astonishingly, turned on her and not him. Paden, volunteer fire chief in the 500-person town, is apparently a beloved neighbor with a lifetime of good deeds, leaving the victim, now 18, largely “ostracized” and called a liar, according to an October Kansas City Star report. Even some who accept that crimes were committed fear excessively punishing a “good man” (who, in one example offered by a neighbor, saved a man from being stomped to death by a cow). Nonetheless, in October, the judge sentenced Paden to 50 years in prison.
Least Competent Criminal
• Recurring Theme: In October, Rezwan Hussain, 29, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the illegal drugs enterprise he ran from his mother’s basement in Rochdale, England. He had apparently avoided detection until March, when the Greater Manchester police arrived to question his brother. Hussain said his brother wasn’t home, and they left, but a frightened Hussain ran upstairs and began tossing 500 pounds of drugs out the window in preparation for his getaway. However, police had not yet driven away, and the first bag of a nearly $5 million stash happened to land right beside their car.
• Members of the New Orleans Vampire Association are not, of course, like Dracula or those “Twilight” characters, but rather people who are convinced that consuming other people’s blood prevents illness or provides energy—and thus seek “donors” to sit for regular or occasional slicings or pin pricks for friendship, or money or sex. Though some members have gone full-gothic in dress and lifestyle (as described in an October Washington Post report), an academic researcher studying the community has concluded that the vampires generally exhibit no signs of mental illness.
• Another human was shot by his dog—this time in October in Kosciusko County, Indiana. Allie Carter’s pooch had wandered over to Carter’s shotgun on the ground and stepped on it, firing one round into Carter’s left foot. (Bonus: Carter’s dog’s name is Trigger.) The next day, a Washington Post reporter, searching news archives, found 12 more “dog shoots human” stories reported just since 2004 (all but two from the gun-intensive United States).
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2011)
• Cliches Come to Life: (1) In December (2010), Mr. Alkis Gerd’son moved out of student housing at Canada’s University of Victoria, which had been his home since 1991 (even though he had not taken a class in 13 years). Gerd’son claims various stress disorders (over, perhaps, finding a job?) and had until then stymied efforts to evict him by filing claims before human rights tribunals. (2) Ricardo West, a professional Michael Jackson impersonator (“Michael Lives! The Michael Jackson Tribute Concert”) was charged in August (2010) in Allen Park, Michigan, with 12 counts of child molestation.
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