News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*According to an April New York Times report, the purchase price in Japan of giant stag beetles has dropped recently to about $300 from a typical price in the early 1990s of about $6,000. The beetles, which resemble four-inch-long cockroaches, are traditional Japanese pets that, according to insect salesman Katsutoshi Misaki, "have different personalities." Added Misaki, "When I hold it in my hand, I feel real affection for it." One breeder said a rare pet beetle sold in 1993 for about $30,000.

*The school board of San Juan Capistrano, California, voted in April to approve in principle a new 600-pupil secondary school that would cater to students of average academic abilities and who avoid extracurricular activities. The board believes such students lose motivation when schooled alongside higher achievers. Said a school district official, "This is going to require strong marketing."

*In November in Lake St. Croix Beach, Minnesota, firefighters assisted a 13-year-old boy who had gotten his lip stuck in an eggbeater. And in Taipei, Taiwan, in February, doctors removed a chopstick from the eye socket of Japanese tourist Satoshi Kinoshida; it had penetrated more than an inch. And in December, firefighters in Gosport, England, were called to a home to extricate teacher John Gueran, 42, who had become stuck headfirst with, according to London's Daily Telegraph, his "backside in the air," behind a pantry trying to retrieve his son's Christmas gift.

*Latest Highway Truck Spills: 36 tons of Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops and other candy, near downtown Nashville, Tennessee, in January; thousands of surgical scalpels, scattered over a half-mile stretch of Route 10 near Walton, New York, in January (puncturing the tires of a dozen cars); and eight million dimes near Gore, Oklahoma, en route from the Denver Mint to the Federal Reserve Bank in Little Rock, Arkansas, in March.

Things Are Not As They Seem
*In January, a jury in Ringgold, Georgia, acquitted Alvin Ridley, 56, of murdering his wife. Because most neighbors and relatives of the couple had not seen Virginia Ridley in 25 years, and because Alvin was an eccentric loner living in a dilapidated, roach-infested house in the Appalachian mountains, rumors long had it that Alvin had enslaved Virginia shortly after their wedding and eventually killed her. However, Alvin said Virginia died of an epileptic seizure and persuaded the jury of the couple's love by showing Virginia's prolific diaries, which describe her simple lifestyle, passion for privacy and intense, almost high school crush-like obsession with her husband.

Thinning the Herd
*A 54-year-old woman was struck and killed in February by an Amtrak train in San Jose, California, while walking on the tracks wearing headphones, listening to the radio. And an unidentified middle-aged man was killed in Nairobi, Kenya, in March when he accidentally ran in front of a bus while escaping from the All Saints Cathedral, where he had just stolen the contents of collection plates.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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