news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd


Newspapers inSweden reported inJanuary that two of thecountry’s most heinousmurderers apparentlyfell in love with each other behind the locked doorsof their psychiatric institution and, following a26-day internet-chat “courtship,” have decided tomarry. Mr. Isakin Jonsson (“the Skara Cannibal”)was convicted of killing, decapitating and eating hisgirlfriend, and Michelle Gustafsson (“the VampireWoman”) was convicted of killing a father of fourand drinking his blood. Said the love-struck Jonsson(certainly truthfully), to the newspaper Expressen,“I have never met anyone like [Michelle].” The pairwill almost certainly remain locked up forever, butGustafsson, on the internet, wrote that she hopesthey will be released, to live together and “havedogs and pursue our hobbies, piercing and tattoos.”

Compelling Explanation s

• In December, music teacher KevinGausepohl, 37, was charged in Tacoma, Wash.Municipal Court with communicating with a minorfor immoral purposes, allegedly convincinga 17-year-old female student that she could singbetter if she tried it naked. Gausepohl later toldan investigator of his excitement about experimentingat the “human participant level” to determinehow sexual arousal affects vocal range.The girl complied with “some of” Gausepohl’srequests, but finally balked and turned him in.

• Thinking outside the box: (1) Rock Dagenais,26, pleaded guilty recently to weapons charges aftercreating a siege by bringing a knife, a sawed-off rifleand 100 rounds of ammunition to a Quebec elementaryschool. He eventually surrendered peacefullyand said he was only trying to send the kids amessage not to disrespect each other by bullying. (2)Daniel Whitaker has been hospitalized in Indianapolisever since, in November, he drove up the stepsof the Indiana War Memorial with a gun, gasolineand an American flag, and set the steps on fire. In aninterview in December, he told WRTV that he wasonly trying to get everyone’s attention so they wouldthink of Jesus Christ and “love each other.”

• Ghosts in the news: (1) Michael West, 41,of Fond du Lac, Wis., at first said his wife hurtherself by falling, but finally acknowledgedthat she was attacked — but by ghosts, not byhim. (He was charged, anyway, in January.) (2)Anthony Spicer, 29, was sentenced in Januaryin Cincinnati after being discovered at an abandonedschool among copper pipes that had beencut. He denied prosecutors’ assertions that hewas collecting scrap metal — because he said hewas actually looking for ghosts, since the school“is supposed to be haunted.”


• The 547-acre FBI Academy on the groundsof Quantico (Va.) Marine Base houses a firingrange on which about a million bullets a monthare shot by agents in training, but it also happensto be a de facto wildlife refuge for the simplefact that the academy is off-limits to Virginiahunters. Thus, according to a December ABCNews dispatch, deer learn that, despite the gunfire(sometimes at astonishingly close range asthey wander by the targets), none of them evergets hit. The academy is also a “sanctuary” forfoxes, wild turkeys and other critters.

• Equity Lifestyle Properties of Chicago firedreceptionist Sharon Smiley after 10 years’ servicebecause she violated company policy by decliningto stop working during her lunch hour. (The company’sstrict policy is apparently based on avoidingliability for overtime pay, but Smiley had in factclocked out for lunch while remaining at her desk.)Smiley subsequently applied for unemploymentbenefits, but the administrator denied them becausethe firing was for insubordination. However, inJanuary, a state appeals court granted the benefits.• A South Carolina circuit court ruled in Decemberthat the sales contract on a former theaterin downtown Laurens, SC was binding and thatthe rightful owner is the African-American-headedNew Beginning Missionary Baptist Church —even though the property’s only current tenant isthe Redneck Shop, which features Confederacyand Ku Klux Klan merchandise. (New Beginningspurchased the church in 1997 from a Klan memberwho was unloading it because of a personal riffwith the head klansman and who wanted it backafter they reconciled.)

Latest Human Rights

• Librarians typically can shush patronswhose conversation disturbs others, but, at leastin Washington state, librarians are powerless toprevent another “disturbance” — when a pornographyuser’s computer screen disgusts otherlibrary patrons who inadvertently glimpse it. Avisitor to the Seattle Public Library complainedin February that the librarian said she was boundby a 2010 state supreme court decision upholdingthe right of consumers of otherwise-legalpornography not to be censored.

• Non-humans’ human rights: (1) Elena Zakharovaof New York City became the most recentlitigant to challenge a state law that regards pets as“property” (and that, thus, the owner of an injuredor disfigured pet is entitled to no more considerationthan for a defective appliance). She sued a petstore that had sold her a dog with allegedly bumknees and hips, claiming that dogs are living creaturesthat feel love and pain, that have souls andthat should be compensated for their pain andsuffering. The case is pending. (2) In February,a federal judge in San Diego, Calif. heard argumentsby People for the Ethical Treatment ofAnimals that SeaWorld was confining its showwhales in violation of the US Constitution’s13th Amendment (the Civil War-era prohibitionof slavery). Two days later, he ruled that theamendment applies only to human slavery.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has long reported ongallery patrons’ inability to distinguish “abstractimpressionist” works by human artists(even by masters) from the scribbles drawn bytoddlers — and even animals. To attempt toadd sophistication to the topic, a museum atUniversity College London recently opened acomparative installation of “works” from anelephant and several kinds of apes, leadingthe museum manager to observe that “artproduced by apes is a lot more creative.”The elephant, with brushes affixed to itstrunk, “is not deliberately doing anything”when it stomps or swirls the paint around onthe canvas, but ape art is “much freer” and“expressive” — “almost indistinguishablefrom abstract art by humans….” But, he addedsheepishly, “Whether this is actually art is thebig question.”

Bright Ideas

• (1) South Korea’s Customs Servicearrested eight men in January for a 2010scheme to smuggle gold into Japan withoutpaying import fees. The smugglers allegedlybroke down gold bars into small beadsand brought them in in their rectums. (2) Inan advertising campaign in December for anew line of extreme push-up bras, the Dutchdepartment store Hema hired as its fashionmodel the androgynous (but flat-chested)superstar Andrej Pejic.• Antidote to Multitasking: The UKhousehold services broker LocalTraders.comannounced in December that it is planning, forcentral England in 2012, a “world watchingpaint-dry championship,” with a short listselected on “mental strength, concentrationand endurance.” Finalists will be asked theirfavorite color, which will be painted on awall, and whoever stares the longest withoutturning away will win. Said a spokesman,“Previous paint-watching experience is notessential.”

© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal PressSyndicate