News of the Weird

Stories from Around the World that Didn't Make the Headlines
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dead reckoning

Ohio: Undertaker William Grobe of Mount Vernon pleaded guilty to misapprehending clients' funds when his cash-flow problems became apparent: his electricity was cut off and three bodies decomposed before they could be prepared for cremation.

Wisconsin: A retired carpenter, Mervin Langve, was rummaging around his basement in Mount Sterling when he found a piece of toast in a wood- burning stove. He reckoned that this was baked by his mother in 1960. He has mounted it on a board, and says: "It's a keepsake. It isn't that it's that great, but it's a keepsake".

shipping forecast

New York: You might have thought that the water around New York would have been safer than its streets during tomorrow's marathon. Any sailor beneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge around 11 o'clock would do well to wear a sou'-wester, for it is a little-publicised fact that thousands of competitors are so struck by nerves soon after leaving the starting post on Staten Island that they urinate over the edge of the bridge, which links it with Brooklyn.

health warnings

California: Richard Passwater, from Salt Lake City, more than lived up to his name on a recent visit to Laverne Golf Course: he spurted blood. As he took a swing on the fourth hole, his club hit a chain-link fence, which ripped off the club-head. As he stumbled, the shaft span round, pierced his lower abdomen and came out through his back. He walked to the cart with the club still in him. From his hospital bed, Passwater told surgeons that he wanted to keep the club: "It still has a few good swings left."

Florida: The War of Jennifer's Ear was one thing, but now comes Jennifer's Scalp. The four-year-old girl, from Darrie, suffered 20-degree burns after her mother - known only as Patty - used an old cure for head-lice on her. As Patty's sister reported: "She thought she was doing the right thing. Our mother used to put kerosene in our hair to get rid of lice when we were little." Alas, Patty had the stove on at the same time and Jennifer's head ignited - but her young brother was canny enough to run from the kitchen with the can of kerosene. A local health official asserted that Patty would have been wiser to wash the hair with medicated shampoo, then apply a mixture of half water and half vinegar, wrap the head in a towel for 20 minutes and use a fine-tooth comb to remove the corpses, rather than almost create another, larger one.

Chicago: Before your next operation, go steady on the potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. Few greengrocers reveal that these contain solanaceous glycoalkaloids (SGAs), which inhibit the two enzymes in the body that break down anaesthetics, says Dr Jonathan Moss, an anaesthesiologist at the University of Chicago. Meanwhile, it is discovered that some 30,000 people a year are not given sufficient anaesthetic, and Jeannie Smith has been awarded $150,000 for waking up during an operation and hearing the surgeon discuss her large breasts rather than the hernia upon which he was operating. She has founded an organisation to alert patients to such lapses.

Australia: The country's second- largest airline, Ansett, is to provide facilities for the disposal of needles. When denounced as encouraging drug addiction, the company said that it has to protect its staff.

North Carolina: Jason Allen was studying in general education development classes at Cateret Community College - but not closely enough. He died after accepting a dare to swallow a 90-pill bottle of caffeine tablets, the equivalent of 250 cups of coffee.

tricks and treats

Washington: Fifteen-year-old Jamie Schoonover has followed family tradition and practises witchcraft, for which she was suspended from Southwestern High School. "Casting a spell isn't something that any novice is going to know how to do," remonstrated Colleen Harper, who was her father but, being a transsexual, now prefers to be known as her mother. It was all a terrible misunderstanding. Some friends at school saw the names of some girls written on a wall. One of them asked for a pen to cross them out, and Jamie lent her a correction-fluid pen, with which the friend wrote "Is life a virtue of death?" beside the names. When Jennifer Rasen saw her name crossed out beside this question she "was hysterical and crying incoherently", and ran to inform the headmaster, who is now satisfied that pins and effigies are not replacing compasses and rulers.

Oregon: Eight-year-old Douglas Mansfield, more than a match for Bart Simpson, has been allowed to return to school in Salem. He was suspended for improvising upon the "Barney the Dinosaur" theme song. His riff on the lines "I love you, you love me" was to sing "I hate you, you hate me... let's kill...", at which point he would name some pupil or other. His mother, Elisha, wishes that something had been done before matters went this far.

Oregon: Attempts continue to rid Portland's Washington Park Station from spirits disturbed at the cemetery above it. Renalt Catalini has already persuaded officials to bring in some Buddhist monks. Next month, Soua Lee Cha, a local Hmong shaman, will try to make a deal by offering "spirit money" to the long-dead. Transit officials, weary of jibes, say that they "just want this story to go away".

horny sons of toil

Ireland: Forget Dilbert and the Spice Girls; when it comes to a 1999 calendar, what about Bachelor Farmers of Ireland? Two women in New York, Patricia Jones and Jennifer Lucas, were fascinated by Father Gerald O'Donnchada's discovery that more and more women are leaving County Kerry. There are only 61 women to every 100 men aged 25 to 29 and, for those in their fifties, the proportion is one in four. They came up with a plan to make good this woeful shortfall. As Ms Lucas explains: "Like Thelma and Louise, we went off the cliff" in a bid to finance a rescue plan - a calendar that, from month to month, depicts "the rugged, natural beauty of both the men and their land". She goes on to say: "It's not beefcake - it's not like we got the men topless and greased". Indeed not. February's man sports a sheep, and May's a cockerel. And January's says that he is participating out of a love of the land but, then again, "I've never turned down a woman in my life."

pets' corner

Oklahoma: Dog treats take on a new dimension with the arrival of canine fortune cookies. The manufacturer, Just Bepaws, includes such cheering predictions as "You'll never meet a fire hydrant you won't like."

South Carolina: Researchers in Charleston have come up with a way of alleviating the spread of suburbs into farming neighbourhoods. Noses sensitive to the tang of the henhouse will be glad to learn that garlic can now be put in chicken-feed. Said Professor Glenn Bivvenkot: "It makes the poultry house smell like a pizzeria instead of manure".

all good scientists do

Florida: The Space Shuttle is carrying not just the elderly John Glenn, but also three adult cockroaches, three juvenile ones and 60 eggs. The veteran astronaut will not have to wield a swatter, however, for these will all be sealed up, the idea being to discover how they deal with weightlessness. Nasa categorically denies that they will be unleashed upon the universe in a bid to dissuade potential invaders from other planets.