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News of the Weird


Feed the beast: Motorist Catherine Donkers got a ticket in Portage County, Ohio, on May 8 for not having her baby strapped in, mainly because she was breastfeeding it while she drove. Rather than pay the $100 fine, Donkers' husband, Brad Barnhill, demanded a trial with himself as the defendant, in that his First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty teaches that the husband must take responsibility for all of his wife's public actions. (That religion's principal focus, according to founder Christopher Hansen, is keeping "God-given rights" free of "encroachment of the Beast," which is defined as the government.) Barnhill said that at his next court appearance, he will make a citizen's arrest of the prosecutor.

Chick chic: Increasingly, chickens are being kept as pets in suburban homes, according to an Associated Press writer in June (though reporting with scant evidence). A Bala Cynwyd, Pa., family has nine chickens, which are "aesthetically pleasing," said the owner, even "cool." A Cedar Hill, Mo., woman recalled the 38 chickens she has had over the years and said "the best part" was "knowing them as individuals." Another Bala Cynwyd woman said her chickens are faithful in the way they follow her around the yard and are "very sweet. They give back."

Horse whisperer: In June, the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiled counselors Lynn Baskfield and Ann Romberg, who use the technique of "equine-assisted coaching" to help clients like Mari Harris, who wants to boost her singing career. In a typical session at a Stillwater, Minn., farm, Harris would ride and walk a horse until struck with some dramatic insight on how to achieve show-business success. Said Romberg, "It's much less difficult to accept feedback from a horse than a human." Another client said that when his usually passive horse suddenly sped up in a frenzy, "It got me thinking." "I [had] let [my] business lead me," he realized, apparently for the first time, and thus started drawing a better balance between work and family.

Just Can't Stop Myself: Investigatory work by a scorned woman turned up more than 50 others who were victims of the same man, 29-year veteran U.S. Army Col. Kassem Saleh (most recently stationed in Afghanistan), who struck up e-mail romances with the women and wrote "the most intoxicating love letters" one woman had ever read while assuring her (and others) that they would soon marry. The 5-foot-10-inch Saleh made at least one woman skeptical, though: Saleh had claimed to be 6-foot-5, but when a first-meeting date with the woman neared, he wrote that he had shrunk about 5 inches due to repeated parachute jumps. Saleh issued a public apology to the women after The New York Times outed him.

Feminine mystique: Anthony Perks, an endocrinologist and professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia, reporting in the July issue of Discover magazine, set out his unique theory of the symbolic meaning of the prehistoric Stonehenge monument in England: The paired, capped stones (one smooth, one rough) represent the female's smooth skin as against the male's rough skin, and the smooth stones match the locations of the vulva's labia minora and labia majora, with an altar stone in the position of the clitoris. "Stonehenge," he said, "could represent the opening by which the earth mother gave birth to the plants and animals on which ancient people so depended."

Least Competent Criminals: A suspected burglar in Albany, Ore., apparently escaped in June after failing in his quest to break into a warehouse, but he left behind his bolt cutters, some burned clothing and part of his scalp. Police said the man had attempted to cut through a 480-volt line and probably had "severe" burns. The burglar who was captured because his tracks lead away from a crime scene in the mud or snow is a story category previously identified as No Longer Weird. However, in May, Albert Jackson Dowdy, 22, in Grants Pass, Ore., took incompetence to a new level. According to police, he tried to smash a glass door with a paint can, but the can broke open. Dowdy eventually got into the home, said police (total take: a can of tuna fish and a box of oatmeal), but on his way out stepped in the spilled paint and created tracks to a nearby motel, where police eventually arrested him.

Also, in the Last Month: A couple said the reason why their 18-month-old son survived a five-story fall out of an unscreened window, with only a broken leg, was because he landed on his loaded diaper (Ottawa, Ontario). Taxpayers in Manchester, England, learned they were paying for an Urdu-speaking translator because a newly elected city councilman from a Pakistani neighborhood barely speaks English.


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