News of the weird: Voyeurism, melted tires in Alaska and fake hymens just some of the weird news topics this week
Hard Times for Science
1. A tractor-trailer driver with a load of bottled water tried to make it over a historic bridge in Paoli, Indiana, on Christmas Day, with the obvious outcome. The drive tool 35 tons of water across a limit-6-tons span. The driver told police she saw the 6-ton sign but did not know how that “translated” to pounds.
2. Among the activists denouncing a proposed solar-panel farm at a December Woodland, North Carolina, Town Council meeting were a husband and wife certain that vegetation near the panels would die because the panels would (the husband said) “suck up all the energy from the sun.” His wife (described as a “retired science teacher”) explained that the solar panels prevent “photosynthesis” (and also, of course, cause cancer). The council voted a moratorium on the panels.
Recent Recurring Themes
1. Paul Stenstrom of Tarpon Springs, Florida, is among the most recent Americans to have discovered the brightest side of federal bankruptcy law, having lived in his mortgaged home basically free of charge from 2002 until 2013 by using the law to stave off foreclosure. Even though none of his 15 petitions were ever approved, he followed each one immediately with another petition, and it was not until 2013 that one judge finally declared Stenstrom a “serially abusive filer,” barring further petitions for two years — at which point his bank was able to conclude the foreclosure. Upon expiration of the two-year period in September 2015, Stenstrom quickly filed another bankruptcy petition — to keep from being evicted from the townhouse on whose rent he is four months behind.
1. In October, once again, police (this time in Liyang in eastern China) arrested a man whom they accused of stealing women’s underwear, prolifically, with a device likened to a fishing rod, enabling him to reach into windows and extract goodies. The suspect, 32, admitted to a three-year scheme, and in his van police found 285 bras and 185 panties.
2. In December, Carlos Aguilera, 27, became the most recent brain-surgery patient to assist doctors by remaining conscious during the 12-hour operation — and playing his saxophone to help assure surgeons that their removal of a tumor was not affecting his speech, hearing or movement. The operation, at Spain’s Malaga Regional Hospital, was supposedly Europe’s first, but News of the Weird has reported two in the United States, including one on a guitar-strumming man in 2013 at UCLA Medical Center.
Least Competent Criminals
1. Nurse’s aide Candace McCray, 36, is the most recent theft suspect to have worn some of the purloined jewelry when meeting police detectives investigating the theft. An assisted-living resident in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, had described her missing gems, and McCray was questioned as someone with access to the woman’s room.
2. Joshua Jording, 26, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, became the most recent burglary suspect caught on surveillance video during the crime wearing a shirt with his name on it (which was later found in Jording’s home, along with a stash from the Dec. 2 burglary).
More Core Failings of Carjackers
1. Albert Luna, 19, was arrested in Coachella, California, in December and charged with swiping the keys while a Federal Express driver was unloading a package. The driver reported that Luna later walked away when he could not figure out how to drive the truck.
Bonus: The arrest report noted that during the entire episode, Luna was naked.
2. Kyle Blair, 25, was arrested in Surrey, British Columbia, in November when he approached a car at an intersection and attempted to pull the driver out. For one thing, the two men in the car were later described as “big, burly” guys, but more important, they were plain clothes police officers on a stakeout.
Almost No Longer Weird
1. When a woman leaped to her death on Dec. 12 from an apartment building in New York City, she of course landed on top of another woman, 71, who was left in critical condition.
2. In December, Russia’s independent RT news site, culling a story from the country’s rural far eastern coast, reported the most recent case of a “declared dead” man awakening in a morgue. After a harrowing few hours, the man returned to the site of the party — to find his friends “still drinking but (by) this time commemorating him.”
Syrian refugees (mostly, Muslims) may pose a humanitarian and political crisis for Germany, but the Virginia Care company of Recklinghausen, Germany, said they are good for its business: sales of fake hymens, for women to convince Muslim grooms to believe they were wedding-night virgins. The non-chaste Virginia Care buyer inserts a packet of two membranes (about $54) that will burst by penetrative sex, releasing blood coloring. (The “blood” is available either in “original” dark brownish red, which parents are said to expect, or “advanced” brighter red, thought to be more satisfying to husbands.)
Mendel Epstein (Lakewood, New Jersey) is not the only rabbi suspected of being overaggressive as he helps desperate wives obtain religiously proper divorces, but he will be headed to prison for 10 years after a federal court found that he used beatings, stun guns and, once, an electric cattle prod to convince reluctant husbands they should sign the papers. Orthodox Jewish wives cannot remarry properly without obtaining a “get,” and Rabbi Epstein was apparently very “convincing.” (According to trial evidence, he used the services of four thugs.) “Over the years,” Epstein confessed in court, “I guess I got caught up in my tough-guy image.”
Another way to tell if you’re really, really drunk: Her passengers had run away, leaving Elena Bartman-Wallman, 23, behind the wheel but oblivious on a December afternoon in Aleknagik, Alaska, and her car’s tires had started to smoke. She had lodged her foot against the accelerator, facing the wrong way on the road, with her wheels spinning continuously, and by the time police arrived (to discover Bartman-Wallman passed out), the front tires had melted down to the rims.
Though New York City’s waiting list for subsidized housing stands at over 300,000, the agency still has only nominal ability to evict a tenant who once qualified but subsequently became wealthier, and the latest “beneficiary” of those rules, according to a November WPIX-TV report, is a household that reported earning $497,911 in a recent year. Initially, one housing authority official declared it beneficial that such a mixture of income levels occupy subsidized housing — so that struggling families would not have only other struggling families for neighbors — but public pressure has made the authority reconsider.
London’s Metropolitan Police called it the biggest case of voyeurism they had ever seen after a judge sent George Thomas, 38, to prison for four years in December for his six-year spree of furtively photographing women. Thomas, a former manager for the Ernst & Young accounting firm, filmed more than 3,500 people, including children and even babies, with cameras in his and others’ homes and the restrooms of coffee shops and workplaces. (And, of course, sooner or later, amidst the recovered stash, police found at least one shot of Thomas’ face, inadvertently captured as he was setting up one of the cameras.
A News of the Weird Classic (November 2011)
Enterprising reporters get stories by earning the trust of their sources, which Simon Eroro of the Post-Courier (Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea) obviously did. At a banquet in November (2011), the News Corporation (Rupert Murdoch’s empire) awarded Eroro its “Scoop of the Year” honor for reporting on militant tribal fighters of the Free West Papua movement — a scoop he had to earn by (to prove his sincerity) undergoing a ritual circumcision, with bamboo sticks. (Some of the rebels still wear penis gourds whose size varies with the status of the wearer.)
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