News of the Weird

  • Article by: Chuck Shepherd
  • October 11, 2007 - 1:25 AM

Ralph Whittington, 57, retired in 2000 as curator of the main reading room at the Library of Congress, but was better known as the "King of Porn" for his private collection that he recently sold (500 boxes' worth) to the Museum of Sex in New York City.

Whittington's home (which he shares with his mother, after his wife left him) was, before the sale, "packed to the rafters," the museum's buyer told the Washington Post in August. "Downstairs, you had to walk sideways to get through the rooms." Said Mom, "It's something he loves. You see men his age going to bars or on dope. But he [was] home day and night [indexing and cross-referencing]. That [gave] me peace of mind."


Ferruccio Pilenga recently turned out another class of graduates at his Italian Dog Rescue School, which he says is the only one in the world that trains canines (mostly Newfoundlands, with some Labradors) to jump out of helicopters into rough waters for rescues at sea. Pilenga told London's Independent in August that it takes about three (human) years to teach them, and that they are of the most use in treacherous waters near rocks, where a rescue boat would be shredded, but his dogs, on long leashes, can fight through flailing arms and get the victim to hold on while the dog is dragged to the rescue vessel.

Compelling explanations

Stephen Peterson, 42, went back to court in Sydney, Australia, in August to challenge the "not guilty/insanity" decision against him nearly 10 years ago, claiming that he should have been allowed to call as defense witnesses certain "higher beings" who had ordered him to bash the victim. Those entities included the "sun god," Spacedust, and the "plasma being," Kadec. The court turned him down.

British physician Dr. Stuart Brown, 37, was sentenced in August only to a small fine after a conviction for brutally beating his wife. Brown had explained the fight by saying that a "red mist" had descended on the room, causing him to lose control.

Not our fault: Dennis and Betty Hager sued the school system in Wilmington, N.C., in July for causing them emotional pain and suffering by not stopping the affair between their 16-year-old daughter and the school's married, 40-year-old track coach. However, the Hagers have already signed a form (to satisfy state law) to allow the daughter to marry the coach.

Helene de Gier sued the National Postcode Lottery of the Netherlands this year, claiming emotional distress from not winning, even though she never entered. That particular lottery picks a geographic postal code at random and awards prizes to all of its residents who have entered that lottery. Since so many of her neighbors were flaunting prizes, she felt particularly humiliated, she says. (Seven people on her street won the equivalent of about $18 million each, according to a June Associated Press dispatch.)

Latest human rights

"Zero tolerance" is just for the kids: (1) An Alabama teacher, already fired but awaiting trial on a charge of raping a student, has not only received his regular paychecks for nearly two years, and will continue to until the trial is over, but has also been awarded two routine raises, based on a 2004 state law boosting teachers' rights (according to an August Associated Press review of records). (2) The largest school district in Montreal was ordered by an arbitrator to rehire a teacher whom it had fired in 2004 for illegally failing to disclose a conviction for killing his wife. The arbitrator ruled the firing improper, in that homicide is unrelated to the teacher's classroom work.

It's good to be a British prisoner: Britain's chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, included in a recent inspection report of facilities her advice that prison wardens try to improve respect for inmates by having guards address prisoners by their preferred names and knock on cell doors before entering. A guards' association spokesman said the suggestion lacked even a "modicum" of sense.

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