To celebrate today’s 25th anniversary of the weekly distribution of News of the Weird, Chuck Shepherd recalls a few of his favorite stories (among the more than 25,000 covered).
1989: In the mid-1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.
1991: Dee Dee Jonrowe, leading the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January in northern Minnesota, took a wrong turn and went 300 yards before recognizing her error. The mistake cost her team only a few minutes, but stopping to calculate her location allowed the dogs an unsupervised rest, and by the time she was ready to go, two of her dogs had begun to copulate. She was forced to wait on them for 25 minutes and lost the lead.
1991 and before: Gary Arthur Medrow, 47, was arrested in March in Milwaukee (the latest of his then-30-plus arrests over 23 years) for once again causing mischief by telephoning a woman and trying to persuade her to physically pick up another person and carry her around a room. In the latest incident, after repeatedly calling, he told her another woman had been impersonating her, had been in an accident, and had been seen carrying someone away (and that Medrow needed evidence that she could or could not do that). He had previously talked cheerleaders, motel workers and business executives into lifting and carrying.
1992: A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, W.Va., in October with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and cleaning his three guns — and had accidentally shot himself with each one. He said the first shot didn’t hurt, the second “stung a little,” and the third “really hurt,” prompting him to call for help.
1999: From a May police report in the Messenger (Madisonville, Ky.), concerning two trucks being driven curiously on a rural road: A man would drive a truck 100 yards, stop, walk back to a second truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the first truck, stop, walk back to the first truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the second truck, and so on, into the evening. He did it, he told police, because his brother was passed out drunk in one of the trucks, and he was trying to drive both trucks home, at more or less the same time. (Not surprisingly, a blood-alcohol test showed the driver, also, to be impaired.)
2002: Winner Lane, 44, and Loser Lane, 41 (their actual birth names), brothers from New York, were profiled in a July Newsday report, made more interesting by the fact that Loser is successful (a police detective in South Bronx) and Winner is not (a history of petty crimes). A sister said she believes her parents selected “Winner” because their late father was a big baseball fan and chose “Loser” just to complete the pairing.
2004: The New York Times reported in February on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to meticulously hand-make and hand-paint facsimile record album covers of his fantasized music, complete with imagined lyric sheets and liner notes (with some “albums” even shrink-wrapped), and even more incredibly, to hand-make cardboard fascimilies of actual grooved discs to put inside them. “Mingering Mike,” whom a reporter and two hobbyists tracked down (but who declined to be identified in print) also made real music, on tapes, using his and friends’ voices to simulate instruments. His 38 imagined “albums” were discovered at a flea market after Mike defaulted on storage-locker fees, and the hobbyists who found them said they were so exactingly done that a major museum would soon feature them.
1988: And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, “He was acting like a 10-year-old.”
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