NewsQuirks 682

Wide Loads

Chuck West, the coroner of Kane County, Ill., said that his office needs new equipment to handle a recent influx of "larger bodies." He told the Kane County Board Public Safety Committee that over the past 18 months, his office has had to deal with seven deceased persons who each weighed more than 500 pounds. The largest weighed 700 pounds. "Right now, our equipment is rated for 300 pounds," he said, pointing out that the problem is complicated because many obese people die in their homes or under unusual circumstances, requiring more work than if they died in hospitals or nursing homes, whose staffs can assist in lifting and moving the dead weight.

When Guns Are Outlawed

Pennsylvania state police charged Michael Aaron Snow, 19, of Saxonburg with trying to kill his 16-year-old girlfriend with his sport-utility vehicle after she complained that he was driving recklessly. The girl told police that when she made Snow stop the Chevrolet Blazer and let her out, he began chasing and striking her with the vehicle.


Ulf Buck, 39, a blind German psychic, claimed he could tell people's futures by feeling their naked buttocks. Having spent many years training his fingers, he told Reuters news agency that backsides, like palms, reveal a person's character and destiny. "An apple-shaped, muscular bottom indicates someone who is charismatic, dynamic, very confident and often creative. A person who enjoys life," Buck said. "A pear-shaped bottom suggests someone very steadfast, patient and down-to-earth." He said his clients range "from cleaning ladies and secretaries to prominent members of the community."

Near-Fatal Attraction

Several children in Sheffield, England, were hospitalized with holes developing in their noses and genitals as a result of using industrial-strength magnets to simulate body piercings. According to the Emergency Medical Journal, the children held the magnets onto their faces and genitals by placing other magnets inside their mouths, noses or on the other side of their organs. The magnets attracted each other with such force that they cut off the blood supply and allowed the flesh to decay. "I don't know where the magnets came from," Derek Burke, a doctor at Sheffield Children's Hospital, said. "Someone must have dumped them, and the kids got hold of them and started trading them in the playground."

Big-Bang Theory

Cannon balls recovered from ancient shipwrecks have been exploding on the desks of archaeologists. Robert Child of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales told New Scientist magazine that the submerged metal balls react with oxygen when they are retrieved to cause rapid oxidation, which produces massive amounts of heat, causing the balls to explode.

Incendiary Devices

A 92,000-acre wildfire in Alaska's interior was started by state biologists using firecrackers to scare off an aggressive moose. "One of the staff members on the ground saw the firecracker go off, saw some flames, ran over to try to put it out," said Cathie Harms of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "By the time the staff member got there, it was beyond what he could put out, and then it ran up a spruce tree. And then once it was up a spruce tree, there was nothing he could do."

Soprano Susan Chilcott was in the middle of her aria at London's Royal Opera House when a candle used to burn a love letter wasn't blown out and set fire to her dress. Unaware of the danger, Chilcott ignored warnings shouted at her from the audience. The costume continued burning until a staff member and a fire officer ran on stage with a fire extinguisher and doused the blaze.

Second-Amendment Follies

Robert Kleindienst, 47, of Coraopolis, Pa., was seriously injured when the .22-caliber Ruger revolver he had just given to his father as a Father's Day present accidentally fired while it was being unwrapped. "Apparently, the son was having difficulty getting the gun out of the plastic case," Allegheny County Police Superintendent Ken Fulton said. "The father tried to help his son get the gun out of the case, and when he pulled on the gun, it fired." Fulton explained that Kleindienst forgot to unload the gun before wrapping it.

Police in Blanchard, Pa., reported that a 57-year-old man was wounded in the stomach while trying to hold a pig steady so his brother could shoot it. The injury, which wasn't serious, occurred when the .22-caliber bullet exited the pig's head.

Above the Law

Philadelphia's deputy managing director for parking and traffic, Patrick B. Mulligan, 37, was "firmly reprimanded" by his boss, Managing Director Estelle Richman, after she found out that he had driven a city car for nearly two years without a valid driver's license. The reprimand came shortly after Mulligan warned valet parking firms that the city would be checking to see that their employees have drivers' licenses. Mulligan, who moved from Maryland, said he did apply for a Pennsylvania license 16 months after taking his $110,000-year city job, but the license was never valid because his check to the state bounced. "I made a mistake," Mulligan said after he was caught, "and I'm sorry about that."


A retired Navy ship that was supposed to be scuttled with explosives to create a giant artificial reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary unexpectedly sank while workers were making last-minute preparations to blow holes in it. Crews had been pumping water into the 46-year-old Spiegel Grove to make it sit low in the water so it would sink easier after the explosion when it began going down on its own. Because the 510-foot ship sunk upside down with its bow protruding in about 130 feet of water, the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce had to hire a salvage company to roll the ship upright and sink it level.

Shortly after the Bank of England issued new 5-pound notes, which it touted as counterfeit-proof, it recalled the currency. Bank officials explained they had discovered that the serial numbers could be rubbed off.

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

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