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Chastity belts for pets, pastel parking lots and more 

LEAD STORY: When Dexter Blanch's dog nearly died from complications during spay surgery, he decided to use the event as inspiration and recently brought to market a chastity belt to give pet owners more control of their animals' animal instincts. The Pet Anti-Breeding System harness is especially valuable to professional breeders who may want to keep a female out of one or more "heat cycles" without resorting to sterilization. So far, said Blanch, the belts have proven effective, but he admitted to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in February that horndog males pose severe tests by gnawing relentlessly at the leather straps that are crimping their style.

The Continuing Crisis: The Importance of the Dictionary: 1) When Donald Williams was publicly sworn in as a judge in Ulster County, N.Y., on Jan. 2, offices were closed, and no one could find a Bible. Since holy books are not legally required, Williams took the oath with his hand on a dictionary. 2) Merriam Webster's 10th edition dictionary is so influential that the Menifee Union School District in Southern California removed all copies from its elementary schools' shelves in January in response to a parent's complaint that the book contains a reference to "oral sex."

"Texting" While Driving Is Not the Problem: 1) Briton Rachel Curtis, 23, was sentenced to 12 months in prison by Bristol Crown Court in October for leading police on a high-speed chase while injecting heroin. 2) Authorities in Scottsboro, Ala., in December arrested a man after a high-speed chase during which he allegedly had methamphetamine cooking in the front seat. 3) Long-haul trucker Thomas Wallace was charged with manslaughter in Buffalo, N.Y., in January after his rig struck a parked car, killing the occupant, while Wallace was distracted watching pornography on his laptop computer.

Too-Swift Justice: It is not unheard of for someone to commit a crime and then immediately surrender, usually for safety or for the comfort of a warm jail cell (such as Timmy Porter, 41, did in Anchorage, Alaska, in October immediately after robbing the First National Bank Alaska). However, Gerard Cellette Jr., 44, tried to be even more helpful. Knowing that he would soon be arrested (and probably convicted) for running a $53 million Ponzi scheme in the Minneapolis area, he walked into a county judge's chambers in December and offered to begin serving time. The judge explained that Cellette would have to wait until charges were filed and a plea recorded.

Timing Is Everything: Guido Boldini (and his mother Constance Boldini) pleaded guilty last April to soliciting a hit man to take out Guido's ex-wife, Michelle Hudon, after a contentious child-custody battle in Keene, N.H. The "hit man" was, of course, an undercover cop, and the son and mother are now serving a combined 12 to 35 years in prison. However, unknown to the Boldinis, Hudon had been diagnosed with cancer, and in September, she died.

Bright Ideas: An official in Shijiazhuang, China, told Agence France-Presse in December that the city's new "women only" parking lot was designed to meet females' "strong sense of color and different sense of distance." That is, the spaces are 3 feet wider than regular spaces and painted pink and purple. Also, attendants have been "trained" to "guide" women into parking spaces.

Lenoir County, N.C., sheriff's deputies raided a suspected marijuana farm in January and learned that the grow operation was all underground. The 60 live plants were being cultivated inside an abandoned school bus, which had been completely buried, using several backhoes, accessible by a tunnel and with a garage built on top of it.

The Fragrance of Love: First, farmer Dick Kleis of Zwingle in eastern Iowa, composing a birthday note to his wife, arranged more than 60 tons of manure in a pasture to spell out "Happy Birthday, Love You" in shorthand. Then, for Valentine's Day, farmer Bruce Andersland created a half-mile-wide, arrow-pierced heart from plowed manure at his farm near the town of Albert Lea, Minn. "Now I've got my valentine!" shouted wife Beth, when she first viewed the aerial image.

Oops!: Helmut Kichmeier, 27, a hypnotist "trainee" who appears as Hannibal Helmurto in Britain's Circus of Horrors, accidentally hypnotized himself in January as he was practicing in front of a mirror. (Being in such a trance helps him swallow swords on stage.) His wife called Kichmeier's mentor, Dr. Ray Roberts, who, as a "voice of authority," was able to snap Kichmeier out of it over the phone.

Fine Points of the Law: 1) A death-row inmate has a right to question the fairness of the sentencing jurors if they appear to be so friendly with the judge that they give him (and the bailiff) post-trial gag chocolates shaped like breasts and penises. The U.S. Supreme Court in January ordered a lower court to consider a rehearing request from convicted killer Marcus Wellons of Georgia. 2) Seattle-area resident Patricia Sylvester, on trial for vehicular assault in October, was declared not guilty by the jury, but her sense of relief quickly faded. Polling the jurors individually, the judge learned that the verdict was not unanimous, as required by law. He sent them back to deliberate further, and Sylvester was this time unanimously found guilty (although of a lesser charge).

Least Competent Criminals: Didn't Think Ahead: 1) Two men tied up employees at a recycling company in Chicago in December, intending to take away the ATM on the premises, which is normally used to pay people who bring in scrap metal. However, the two men fled empty-handed after realizing that they were not strong enough to carry the 250-pound machine out to their truck. 2) Lloyd Norris, 57, was arrested in Gwinnett County in February and charged with mortgage fraud, after he tried to buy a house with "cash" consisting of a nonsensical $225,000 "U.S. Treasury" promissory note, supposedly "certified" by Secretary Timothy Geithner. Norris had prepared $1 billion worth of the documents on his computer and apparently assumed that banks would not look too closely at them.

Sometimes, Men Just Have to Prove Theirs Is Bigger: 1) A 31-year-old man was stabbed in St. Cloud, Minn., in January. He told police that he and another man were approaching each other on a sidewalk, and when neither man gave way, the other man stabbed him. 2) Scott Elder, 22, was charged with shooting a 24-year-old man in Savannah, Ga., in October after an escalating argument that started when one of the two strangers sent a text message to a wrong number. One comment led to another, and the men agreed to meet in a downtown parking lot to settle things. 3) Lankward Harrington, 25, was walking past a gardener working on lawns in Washington, D.C., in October 2006 when grass clippings blew onto his clothes. At his trial in October 2009, Harrington was convicted of murder for shooting the gardener four times in the face. Said Harrington, on the witness stand: "He got grass on me. [I] take pride in my appearance."

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2005): Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University Medical School, told a conference in Brisbane, Australia, in March 2005 that he donates blood regularly, largely because he believes it will prolong his life. Women outlive males, Perls believes, mainly because they menstruate. Perls said iron loss inhibits the growth of free radicals that age cells. "I menstruate," he said, "every eight weeks."

© 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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