NewsQuirks 600: A Quirky Year in Review

The following are the oddest of the odd-news items compiled during 2000.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police charged Ricky Boice, 24, and Steven Gosnell, 42, with robbing a gas station in East Peoria, Ill., after capturing them two blocks from the scene of the crime. Their car had run out of gas.

Don D. Astorga, 31, was convicted of smuggling a dozen lizards from the Philippines to the United States by concealing them in his underwear. Las Vegas police Detective John Zidzik testified that he approached the defendant at McCarran International Airport because the man had "unusual bulges in his groin area not consistent with male anatomy." Zidzik searched Astorga and found 12 lizards, one a foot long, stuffed into several tube socks in Astorga's underwear.

After robbing passengers on a bus in Rio de Janeiro, Jose Roberto Rocha jumped off to make his getaway in a city square, only to find 410 police officers had gathered there for an official ceremony. The commanding general of the military police left the podium to join the dozens of officers who gave chase and quickly captured Rocha.

Clap Tax

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control declared that raising the tax on a six-pack of beer by 20 cents could reduce the nation's gonorrhea rate by as much as 9 percent.

Number 40

Alpna Patel, 28, was convicted in Baltimore of stabbing her husband to death after he fell asleep while she was presenting a list of 39 demands for improving their marriage.

Litigation Nation Torrence Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Spartanburg, S.C., county jail after he suffered a crushed vertebra and was paralyzed while doing back flips off a desk in his maximum-security cell. According to his lawsuit, jail guards should have stopped him before he hurt himself.

Head Games

Heather Perry, 29, of Gloucester, England, said she cured her chronic fatigue by cutting away a section of her scalp and drilling a two-centimeter hole in her head to allow blood to flow more easily around her brain. Explaining that she suffered from myalgic encephalomyelitis, which causes inflammation of her brain and spinal cord, Perry operated on herself under local anesthetic in front of a mirror. The 20-minute procedure almost went wrong when she drilled too far and penetrated a membrane protecting her brain tissue.

Dueling Doofuses

Leonard Oak and Richard Lavoie were playing a game of chicken at Lavoie's home in Johnsbury, Vt., by shooting at each other to see who could come the closest without actually hitting anyone. According to a witness, when one of Lavoie's shots missed Oak's head by barely 6 inches, Oak retaliated by shooting a clock in the home. Lavoie became angry and threatened Oak, who then shot Lavoie.

Quick Fix

Instead of changing the makeup of its student body to present an image of diversity, the University of Wisconsin at Madison simply retouched a photo used on the cover of an admissions brochure to include an African-American student.

Sticking Points

Darlene Jones, 62, was on her way to a supermarket in Darby, Pa., when she was attacked and struck in the neck. Police said her assailant didn't stop, so she continued to the store, where she bought a newspaper and some cookies, then walked the half-mile home. While Jones was undressing to take a shower, her daughter saw a knife sticking out of her neck. Apparently it had been there since the assault and when she was in the store, where "five or six people walked right past her without even noticing," Darby Police Chief Robert F. Smythe said after Jones was hospitalized in serious condition. He added that surveillance cameras showed the woman strolling through the supermarket aisles with the knife handle clearly visible.

Sex Is Its Own Punishment

Hidden security cameras at a pinata factory in Tijuana, Mexico, taped a man having sex with one of the candy-filled paper dolls. After being confronted with the evidence, the worker said he is considering suing the company because chicken wire inside the doll scratched his genitals.

True Love Finds a Way

When police in Buffalo, N.Y., arrested Kevin Rainey, 41, and his fiancee Dorrell Mainer, 38, for attempted bank robbery, the couple explained they had hoped to finance their wedding with a tax refund, but the Internal Revenue Service denied the refund, leaving them no other choice but to rob the bank to pay the caterer.

Problem Solved

Billion-dollar B-2 stealth bombers were upgraded for the Kosovo conflict by installing $8.88 lounge chairs bought at Wal-Mart. The "lounging lawn chairs" enabled U.S. Air Force pilots to fly 30-hour missions from the United States to Kosovo because the two pilots could take turns napping in the chairs, which were wedged in the cockpit behind the seats and raised the pilot "clear of vibration from the floor."

East Japan Railway Co. announced it was installing mirrors on station platforms to discourage people from jumping in front of oncoming trains. "Specialists say it makes it difficult for a person to jump if they think someone is looking, say from the opposite platforms," a railway spokesperson said. "We hope the mirrors will serve a similar effect."

Purge the Urge

To keep the sexes from mingling in Malaysia's Kelantan state, the governing Islamic party began requiring supermarkets to have separate checkout counters for men and women. Also, movie theaters were ordered to keep lights on during screenings to prevent couples from kissing.

No. 1 Medium

The Swedish furniture chain Ikea launched a campaign to recruit copywriters and project managers using handwritten job advertisements on restroom walls in Malmo's trendy restaurants. Ikea spokesperson Jimmy Ostholm explained the ads cost one-tenth the amount newspapers charge and produce better results.


A year after a 25-year-old Iranian man had a sex-change operation to become a woman, she declared she wants to return to being a man because a woman's life in Iran's conservative Islamic society is too restrictive.

Double Duty

Romanian prostitutes began trying to lure clients by offering to do household chores for them after having sex. "We had to invent something because people don't have money and clients are rare. After solving the (sexual) problem, the girls clean and cook, for free," a "sexual agent" in Bucharest said. "Men are happy because many of them live alone, and the girls help them get rid of the three things which torment their lives: sex, cleaning and cooking."

Slightest Provocations

Philadelphia police charged unemployed attorney Kenneth Robert Vennera, 32, with attacking his aunt, a 62-year-old nun, because he thought she was using a dirty mop.

Police in Dover Township, N.J., charged 10-year-old Christopher Harms with stabbing his father to death with a kitchen knife following a dispute over a missing container of chocolate frosting.

Joe Blume, 43, was arrested after he walked into the Carmel, Ind., office of Matchmaker International, pulled a .357-caliber Magnum and demanded a $1,200 refund because the only woman the service had referred to him for a date was 47 years old. Blume said he wanted a woman of childbearing age.

Ups and Downs

A panel of medical advisers to the federal Food and Drug Administration recommended that Uprima, a new pill to help men get erections, be permitted on the market, even though during tests one in 30 men fainted or suffered seriously low blood pressure and one crashed his car into a fence.

Two-Legged Tale

When a gunman fired a shot at a Philadelphia police officer, the bullet missed the officer but hit bystander Willie Marbury, 53, who was waiting for a bus. "Luckily, he was not injured," Detective Capt. Tom Nestel said, "because he was wearing three pairs of jeans. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the bullet. It had gone through the first pair of his pants but not the second or third."


When German traffic police stopped a 45-year-old man north of Frankfurt for going 80 miles per hour in a 63-mph zone, the driver approached the police car on foot and fired once, killing one officer and wounding a second officer in the arm. The driver, who was arrested the following month, explained he fired because he was afraid that he would lose his license if he accumulated any more penalty points for speeding.


A council for eastern Oslo announced it was taking a step toward religious freedom in Christian-dominated Norway by allowing a Muslim mosque to use a loudspeaker to broadcast a prayer call into the streets for three minutes every Friday, the Muslim holy day. The council also ruled that atheists could use a megaphone to shout from a rooftop once a week that God does not exist.

Teeny Wienies

After the European Union established a standard size for condoms, a study concluded that it is often too big for German men. Focus magazine reported the study by the German condom maker Condomi found that standard-sized condoms fell off half the men surveyed, noting, "The average German penis is about 3.5 to 4 millimeters (0.13 to 0.15 inches) too narrow."

Beauty's in the Ears of the Beholder

Organizers of Canada's Miss Alberta and Miss Teen Alberta pageants showed they were serious about stressing talent over appearance by hiring a blind man to judge the competition. Harold Grace, 51, who was one of seven judges on the panel, said he was able to sense personalities from the way contestants spoke.

Gentlemen, Be Seated

Landlords of an apartment complex in Radeburg, Germany, issued a ban on men urinating while standing. The landlords insist that misdirected urine is causing their radiators to rust.

T & A

A New York jury awarded $30,000 to former exotic dancer Mary Gale, 43, who sued Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr. Elliot Jacobs for using breast implants to bolster her buttocks.

Odd Endings

Samuel Strickson, 39, was using his feet to stuff more clothes into his top-loading washing machine when he accidentally kicked the on button. Trapped, the Nebraska man died during the spin cycle.

Syrian police said Najib Saddi, 35, killed himself because he was "perfectly happy," according to his suicide note, but feared facing the prospect of "future unhappiness."

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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