News of the Weird with Chuck Shepherd

Nov 11 • FEATURE BOTTOM, News, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments on News of the Weird with Chuck Shepherd

Recurring Themes

In September, at the annual 10-day Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand (ostensibly promoting abstinence from eating meat), dozens of men pierced and sliced their mouths, cheeks and arms in religious devotion in a spectacle which, though blood-drenched, was supposedly free of pain (and subsequent scars) because the fanatics were in God-imposed trances. The display supposedly brings “good health, peace of mind and spiritual cleansing,” and includes walking on hot coals and climbing blade-embedded ladders (both barefoot, of course), all to the accompaniment of fireworks and the ear-shattering pounding of drums. [Huffington Post UK, 9-29-2014]

Brad Culpepper played defensive tackle for nine NFL seasons and, not surprisingly, applied for disability when he retired, since his medical folder listed 14 MRIs, head and knee trauma and neurological and vision problems — which resulted in doctors declaring him “89 percent” disabled and the Fairmont Premier insurance company giving him a $175,000 settlement. Fairmont sued recently to get its money back, claiming that Culpepper is, and was, “exquisitely fit,” as evidenced by a September 2013 Tampa Bay Times feature on his gym workouts, and in his having earned a martial-arts Black Belt, and in his participation for 14 days in the grueling TV series “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” in 2013.

Angry taxpayers and retail customers sometimes protest their debt by paying the bill with containers of coins (especially pennies), but what if a company did that to a customer? A court had ruled that Adriana’s Insurance Services in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had unjustifiably ejected (and assaulted) 74-year-old Andres Carrasco from its office when he complained about a canceled policy, and ordered Adriana’s to pay him about $21,000.  Consequently, in August, the still-irritated company dropped off at least 16 buckets full of coins at the customer’s lawyer’s office.

Several News of the Weird stories mentioned Body Dysmorphic Disorder sufferers who sought the ultimate treatment: amputation of healthy body parts on irrationally aesthetic grounds, led by castration-desiring men. Now, 15-year-old Danielle Bradshaw of Tameside, England, also wants a useful leg amputated — but not irrationally. Her “developmental dysplasia” caused the amputation of her useless right leg, but the resultant stress on the left one has weakened it, and besides, having taken up competitive running, she wants Oscar Pistorius-style blades instead of her current prosthesis, which slows her down. However, no hospital has yet agreed to perform the surgery, considering the leg’s continued functionality and Bradshaw’s young age.


The most recent “segregated sidewalks” dispute in a community with a large, strict Orthodox Jewish population occurred in September in the English town of Stamford Hill, when Haredi Jews, trying to remove temptations, placed sidewalk signs (for an upcoming parade) reading, in English and Hebrew, “Women should please walk along this side of the road only” (since sect members are forbidden even to brush against people of the opposite sex except for close relatives). The Hackney council ordered the signs removed because befuddled, sometimes outraged, non-Haredis complained.

Florida is well-known not just for its “stand your ground” defense to the use of deadly force, but to the pro-gun interpretation given it by some judges and juries. On the other extreme, however, the legislature has enacted an unusually severe penalty for any “aggravated assault” that includes gunfire — a “mandatory minimum” of 20 years in prison. Lee Wollard, now 59, faces a 2028 release date because he fired a warning shot into the wall of his home in 2006 to scare off his 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend, who was threatening the girl. Judge Donald Jacobsen said in court that he disagreed with his own sentence, but that his oath required him to impose it. (In a similar 2012 News of the Weird Florida domestic violence “warning shot” case, Marissa Alexander, 31, remains in prison with a release date of 2032.)

Though Americans seem sensitive to the issue of government’s use of “science” in policy-making, some agencies in Iceland believe it irrelevant (as News of the Weird mentioned in a 2009 item in which Alcoa was required to prove it was protecting Iceland’s underground “hidden people” before it was permitted to build a smelting plant). In September 2014, the municipal government of Fljotsdalsherad accepted its own official “truth” commission’s findings that the legendary Icelandic sea monster Lagarfljotsormur actually exists. (The monster, about 100 yards long, has been seen slithering as recently as 2012. Government critics accused the council of pandering for tourism business.)

In the most recent incident in which a driver actually ran over himself, a man in Aurora, Colorado, suffered life-threatening injuries on October 26 when, as he backed out of his driveway, his front driver’s side tire ran over his head. He had jumped out the door to avoid a lit cigarette that had fallen into his jacket, and as he fell, he landed underneath the driver’s door as the van continued slowly in reverse.

Readers’ Choice

(1) Ashley Tull, 30, was arrested in Selbyville, Delaware, in October after her 4-year-old daughter showed up at Hickory Tree Child Care Center with more than 200 baggies of heroin in her backpack, innocently sharing them with classmates. (2) Chula Vista, California, police officers in August rescued a woman and her adult daughter, who had screamed to 911 that they were trapped in the mother’s bedroom, unable to leave because her house cat had turned bad and was “guarding” the door. (Officers repeatedly called “Cuppy” by name, softly, until he finally walked away.)

Thanks This Week to Donovan Weimar, Shannon Russ, Steven Lobejko

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