News of the Weird

  • Article by: Chuck Shepherd
  • October 24, 2007 - 4:58 PM

In the northern Albanian countryside, about 40 women still practice an ancient tradition as "sworn virgins." The young females renounce sex forever in exchange for being treated as men, according to an August Washington Post interview of Elvira Dones, an Albanian native who recently completed a documentary on the subject. The oath is usually taken in front of a town's elders, and the likeliest candidates come from homes in need of a male head of household (because of death or abandonment). Even in such a male-dominated society, according to Dones, men seem to accept the "sworn virgins" as equals.


A News of the Weird story three weeks ago (based on a report in London's Daily Telegraph) declared that a top-of-the-line Oral-B toothbrush employed "navigation technology" to allow the user to guide the brush usefully through the mouth. Contrary to the Daily Telegraph story, no such technology is in use, and the standard digital readout on the toothbrush merely coaxes the user to move from one part of the mouth to another at suggested intervals.

The continuing crisis

Spaniard Manuel Gozalo organizes bus trips of women from Madrid to isolated rural villages, which most of the native females have long since abandoned for cities, leaving lonely single men. His "caravanas de amor" (caravans of love) have made 32 day trips since 1995, promising the ladies some fun and dancing (and possible romance) and the men perhaps a last chance at finding a companion (and Gozalo told London's Independent in July that his caravans have produced at least 40 marriages).

Latest religious messages

A particularly environmentally conscious Catholic priest in Suffolk, England, set up a confessional in August at a Greenpeace festival to permit parishioners to relieve their guilt over despoiling the earth, according to a report in the Times of London. At the festival, however, the priest, Dom Anthony Sutch, also had to deal with the August announcement that the Vatican would begin transporting 150,000 pilgrims a year on chartered, high-carbon-footprint airliners.

Hindu officials persuaded the Indian government in September to withdraw a report on a construction project because it treated a prominent bridge as a natural stone formation instead of (as Hindus say) a bridge created by the god Ram and his army of monkeys. In another victory for Hindu sensibility, the government cracked down on the rustling of "sacred" cattle in August by issuing ID cards with photos of individual cows, to help guards at the Bangladesh border halt the illegal trade.

Questionable judgments

Shoe designer Marc Jacobs recently crossed a frontier in fashion by introducing women's high-heeled shoes with the "heel" in the front. Wrote London's Daily Mail: "A chunky, 4- inch heel nestles horizontally just under the ball of the foot. Where you'd expect a heel, there is nothing but fresh air." Models of the shoe are priced in the $500 to $700 range.

People with issues

Officials of the Miss Ventura County (Calif.) pageant said in September that they are tired of waiting (now, two years) and would seek police help in getting the disqualified 2005 winner Hilary Gushwa to return her crown to them. Gushwa was ousted for being secretly married at the time, a violation of pageant rules. She responded at first that she did not recall her wedding, in Las Vegas, because she was on medication, but subsequent evidence showed her actively planning the ceremony and reception.

Recurring themes

People who decide to urinate in public continue to find the practice dangerous, as News of the Weird has documented many times. A 40-year-old man, somewhat inebriated, attempting to urinate into the River Bulbourne in Hemel Hempstead, England, fell in and drowned (April). A 58-year-old man stood up in his boat to urinate while fishing and fell into a lake near Farmington, N.M., and drowned (August).

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