News of the Weird December 05 2007

‘Chupacabra’ sightings and more

Lead Story: Update: The man noted in News of the Weird in 1996 for keeping an almost unbelievably detailed personal diary died in October at age 89. For 25 years, the Rev. Robert Shields of Dayton, Wash., had chronicled his life in five-minute segments of banalities, leaving 37 million words on paper filling 91 boxes. His self-described “uninhibited,” “spontaneous” work was astonishing in its mundaneness. Examples: Aug. 13, 1995, 8:40 a.m. “I filled the humidifying basin mounted over the Futura baseboard heater.” 8:45 a.m.: I shaved twice with the Gillette Sensor blade (and) shaved my neck behind both ears, and crossways of my cheeks, too.” July 25, 1993, 7 a.m.: “I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.” 7:05 a.m.: “Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used 5 sheets of paper.”

Ironies: In interviews with reporters from McClatchy Newspapers in October, cemetery workers in Najaf, Iraq, lamented the recent downturn in violence in that city, as they admitted having grown accustomed to the income from the estimated 6,500 caskets a month that they serviced. (The number had fallen to less than 4,000 a month, and others dependent on the death industry around Najaf were said to be similarly suffering.)

In October, following 18 months’ investigation, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission concluded that the state government requires too many reports (a total of more than 1,600). About one-fourth of them either were duplicative of others or were still required even though the receiving agency no longer exists, or are dutifully prepared year after year even though it is evident they go unread. The commission issued its findings in a 668-page report.

Compelling Explanations: Hawaiian Airlines is suing Mesa Air Group on a business matter and believes Mesa’s chief financial officer, Peter Murnane, has, or had, documents relevant to the lawsuit on his office computer but that, recently, conveniently, the documents had been deleted. Mesa acknowledged in a September court filing that Murnane had indeed recently erased a huge number of files from his office computer, but said he was merely deleting his massive collection of pornography.

Anthony Azzapardi, 80, agreed in September in Bridgeport, Conn., to plead guilty in connection with a sexual encounter with a 5-year-old girl. Until recently, his story was that the girl had aggressively led him by the hand into the bedroom, pushed him down on the bed and sexually assaulted him.

The Great Texas Outdoors: 1) In August, entomologists found a spiderweb in a state park about 45 miles east of Dallas, covering trees, shrubs and the ground along a 200-yard stretch. The originally white web had turned brownish because “millions” of mosquitoes had been trapped in it. 2) The latest sighting of the legendary “chupacabra” (the mythical hairless, blood-sucking goat), near Cuero, Texas, in August, was determined in November to be that of a dead coyote.

Creme de la Weird: In Charlottesville, Va., in October, a judge found white-nationalist leader Kevin Strom not guilty of the sexual enticement of an 11-year-old girl, despite humiliating testimony from Strom’s wife. According to prosecutors, she (also a white-nationalist activist) had caught him at home naked, masturbating to photographs of nude women whose faces had been replaced by face shots of two prominent but very young white-nationalist singers. Subsequently, charges were filed over Strom’s obsession with a local girl (to whom he had sent presents and about whom he had described his feelings to his psychotherapist). However, in the end, a federal judge said the obsession did not amount to a crime (though Strom remains in jail on a child pornography charge).

The Poor Dear! A federal magistrate in Tampa, Fla., ordered a doctor’s appointment in October for the incarcerated Brian Wilcox, who is being detained on several child pornography charges, after he complained that he was suffering from a series of medical problems. He said that his back hurt from a four-year-old injury; that he has problems with his eyes; that his feet and groin area are numb as if they are “asleep”; that there is a bulge on the left side of his groin; that he is worried about a mole on his nose because of his family history of cancer; that all of his remaining 16 teeth are either decaying or cracking (keeping him from eating, and he’s lost 40 pounds); and that he has “severe flatulence at all times.”