NewsQuirks 636

Curses, Foiled Again

When a Stafford County, Va., sheriff's deputy investigating reports of a disturbance approached two men outside a convenience store, one of them, a 21-year-old man from Alabama, gave a phony name and said he was born in 1926. "It was pretty obvious to the deputy that this was not a 75-year-old man," Sheriff Charles Jett said, noting that besides the discrepancy, the man tried to run away. He was quickly caught, and a check revealed he was wanted on a bu rglary charge in the District of Columbia.

Wrong Arm of the Law

Just after two Seattle police officers pursuing a stolen patrol car lost sight of the vehicle, they spotted another police cruiser and mistook it for the stolen one. When they rammed it, the lone officer inside thought he was being attacked by the stolen vehicle and opened fire. The three officers in the two cars fired more than 20 rounds at each other before they realized who they were. Luckily, police said, every shot missed.

Desperate Measures

The day after Kenya's government announced plans to import 300 million condoms to fight AIDS, President Daniel arap Moi pleaded with Kenyans to refrain from sex "even for only two years."

I Know It Even When I Don't See It

Fred Tarrant, a city councilor in Naples, Fla., demanded that a controversial painting be removed from a city art center, insisting the work is disgusting and salacious. Tarrant happens to be blind, but said he based his objection on reports by his trusted advisers.

Problem Solved

After a judge ordered Paige Morphis, 29, to make good on $1.100 in bad checks, she left the courthouse and robbed a bank in her nearby hometown of Rives, Tenn., then returned to the courthouse and paid off the bad checks. She kept the remaining $7,000 of the bank's money, which was found on her when she was arrested later after a teller recognized her.

After some residents of Peterborough, England, complained that the bells of St. Mary the Virgin church are too loud, the vicar, the Rev. Derek Duncanson, said the church is considering soundproofing its bell tower. The Peterborough Evening Telegraph said the soundproofing work would cost several hundred pounds and be paid for by the Guild of Bellringers.

Runaway Favorite

When Disco Rico, the fastest horse in Maryland, entered the $75,000 Dave's Friend Stakes race at Pimlico, no other horse would enter, forcing the race to be canceled. "We had 13 nominations," Pimlico Stakes Coordinator David Rollinson said. "I've called every one of the 13 this morning, but there's no interest."

No Slackers Allowed

Thomas Lavery, 57, of Akron, Ohio, was sentenced to six months of supervision for bullying his five children into academic excellence. Among his motivational methods were ordering the home-schooled youngsters to butt their heads against a wall and depriving them of sleep for long periods.

The Australian Institute of Sport condemned Mark Davies, the coach of the Casuarina Crocs Swimming Club in Darwin, for putting a live crocodile in the water to improve his squad's performance, but Davies is unrepentant. "The thought of something chasing them down the pool certainly improves the speeds of my swimmers," he said, conceding that the 6-foot crocodile does have its jaws taped shut and its claws clipped.

Slightest Provocation

San Diego authorities said Alan Thomas Dukelow, 48, was hammering on a wall for several hours in the home he shares with his 85-year-old mother when she demanded he stop. Moments later, he burst into her bedroom and set her hair on fire with a blow torch. The woman's daughter put out the flames before she suffered serious injury.

Only Used Once

Authorities in Bowling Green, Ohio, charged Mary Jane Woodland, 46, with obstructing justice and tampering with evidence after she returned a shovel used to dig a grave for a murder victim to Wal-Mart and asked for a refund. Investigators said Woodland cleaned the shovel used to bury a Dayton-area businessman who was beaten to death, then returned it a few days after buying it. Investigators said Woodland's 27-year-old son is a suspect in the murder.

Powers of Suggestion

Scott Boyes told police in Bedfordshire, England, that he was reading the book "Helping Yourself with Self Hypnosis" in a park when he succeeded in putting himself in a trance. When he came to, his phone and two T-shirts had been stolen. "I was closing my eyes because I didn't want to look stupid," he said. "When I opened my eyes, I felt good but my shopping was gone."

Silver Lining

An international affiliate of the Philip Morris Companies commissioned a study that concluded the Czech Republic benefited financially from the premature deaths of smokers. The report said the government saves an average of $1,227 on health care, pensions and housing every time a smoker dies.


Aircraft maker Cirrus recently introduced a revolutionary airframe parachute system, which attaches to its SR20 and SR22 single-engine aircraft. In an emergency, the pilot deploys the chute, and the plane gently descends to the ground. The first crash occurred this April, but three people aboard were killed and the SR20 was destroyed when it flew straight into the side of a mountain. The National Transportation Safety Board reported the SR20's recovery parachute had not been activated, but the firing mechanism had been discharged, apparently by the impact.

Things That Go Kaboom

Some 2,000 ballet-goers at London's Royal Opera House had to be evacuated when a fire alarm went off backstage. Fire fighters trying to locate the source of smoke traced it to a microwave oven, which contained the remains of an exploded baked potato.

Bitter Irony

Patricia Arnstein, 77, who died when she drove her car through a 6-foot chain-link and barbed-wire fence at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport and hit a fuel truck, drank martinis minutes earlier at a nearby restaurant with a friend. The medical examiner's report said Arnstein had planned to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that night, but went to the restaurant after organizers canceled the meeting because of the heat.

Solar-Powered Electric Chair

California's Santa Rita Jail announced plans to install the nation's largest roof-mounted solar power array. Administrators at the Dublin prison said they would more than recoup the $4.4 million spent on the 69,965-square-foot array by selling any excess electricity back to the power grid.

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

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