The Odds & Ends Awards 2011
This year in weird news
Another year down, another 52 weeks’ worth of idiotic behavior. Several things can always be counted on when it comes to weird news stories: People will get drunk and do stupid things, stoners love to dial 911, and bank robbers will hand over their IDs at the drop of a hat.
As usual, England led this year’s international appearances in Odds & Ends by a landslide. Merry Olde England cropped up 22 times in this year’s columns. Stateside, Florida pulled in another victory thanks to the inebriated antics of the folks along the Sunshine State’s storied Treasure Coast. The Florida dateline cropped up 23 times over the last 12 months of Odds & Ends.
A few new trends did develop in the annum 2011, however. Tipplers took up the majority of headlines, but users of “synthetic marijuana” started making some memorable appearances. While McDonald’s has long been the hub for weird stories, Taco Bell took the crown this year with no less than three stories about armed inebriates attacking drive-thru employees.
So, without further ado, let’s get on to this year’s “best of” awards. Just remember the Odds & Ends motto: It’s funny because it happened to someone else.
Dateline: New York—A 290-pound stockbroker is suing the White Castle hamburger chain—not because the restaurant made him fat, but because the establishment’s booths aren’t big enough for him. Martin Kessman, 64, is seeking unspecified financial damages, claiming that his local White Castle is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kessman’s disability? He’s too large to fit into the seats at White Castle. Kessman’s claims come from an April 2009 visit to a White Castle location near his home in Nanuet. “I’m not humongous, [but] I’m a big guy,” Kessman told the New York Post. “I could not wedge myself in.” Kessman wrote multiple letters to White Castle’s corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, complaining about the inadequate seating. In the two years since, the company has not redesigned the location, so Kessman is suing. If you think Kessman is boycotting the chain over its fat-person discrimination policy, think again. Kessman told the Post he sends his wife on burger runs to White Castle now because he’s too embarrassed to return.
Dateline: Pennsylvania—A Monroe County parolee ordered by the court to undergo regular drug testing told a judge he wasn’t using a fake penis and bladder to cheat the tests: He was only wearing them because a probation officer kept making fun of his real penis. Raymond Hartley Jr., 28, told a county judge that he strapped on the Whizzinator device to look more manly in front of a probation officer who commented on the size of his penis during drug tests. “It’s very emasculating to hear comments like that,” argued defense attorney Anthony Rybak. Judge Michael Koury Jr. didn’t buy it, though, and sentenced Hartley to one to two years in state prison for violating probation. Hartley admitted using the Whizzinator, which can be bought over the Internet with kits that include synthetic urine and heater packs, at an earlier court appearance. At his most recent court appearance, Hartley insisted the urine he used was his own and that the rubber penis was only employed to impress his probation officer in Monroe County. “Had I known doing something like this would have brought new charges, I would never have done something like this,” Hartley told the judge. Hartley said he pleaded guilty to using the Whizzinator earlier because he was embarrassed to admit the real reason in court. “The courtroom was unbelievably full,” said Hartley. “My mother was there.” Judge Koury gave Hartley a fine and sent him back to state prison anyway.
Dateline: Illinois—Police in Homer Glen responded to a call from Mullets Sports Bar & Restaurant where an angry customer was reportedly causing damage to the facility. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the customer allegedly shattered a framed photo of A.C. Slater, the fictional, mullet-wearing jock played by Mario Lopez on the ’90s teen sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” The photo took pride of place above the urinal in the bar’s men’s room—at least until it was thrashed by the angry customer. What got him so agitated? “I just don’t like Slater,” the man reportedly told the owner after ripping the photo off the wall and smashing it on the floor. According to a Will County sheriff’s report, the unidentified man left the premises after another customer gave the bar owner $11 for the broken picture frame.
Dateline: Russia—An elderly woman’s attempt to reanimate her long-dead sister caused a fire that burned down an apartment and nearly killed the still-living sibling. Prosecutors told the Novy Region news agency that the 69-year-old arsonist’s 73-year-old sister passed away a year ago from natural causes in the town of Ekaterinburg in the Ural mountains. Instead of reporting the death, the woman—who has an extensive mental heath record—took the Dr. Frankenstein option. She preserved her dead sister’s body in gasoline and has allegedly been trying to bring it back to life ever since. Her last experiment happened on Jan. 25 and involved “jump starting” the preserved corpse with two wires running from the body’s hand and neck to the apartment’s main electrical line. Not surprisingly, instead of coming back to life, the gas-soaked body burst into flames. The surviving sister was sent to the hospital to recover from burns and smoke inhalation. The elder sister’s body was destroyed.
Dateline: Connecticut—A Hartford County man was arrested after calling police to ask if he would be arrested for growing pot in his house. “I was just growing some marijuana and I was just wondering what, how much, you know, trouble you can get into for one plant,” asked 21-year-old Robert Michelson. When the police dispatcher asked if there was an active crime in progress, Michelson answered, “Possibly.” Police traced the call to Michelson’s home in the central Connecticut town of Farmington. There, they located drug paraphernalia and a small amount of pot. Michelson admitted he had recently purchased seeds and equipment online for the purpose of growing marijuana. Police say that as he left the police station, Michelson gave dispatchers two middle fingers. “Presumably for doing such a good job,” a police spokesperson said.
Dateline: Florida—An inmate at Sarasota County Jail faces a butt-load of charges after jailers found 30 items hidden in his rectum. According to the Herald-Tribune, 33-year-old Neil Lansing went to court on Friday, Feb. 11, and was sent to jail by a judge. There, corrections deputies conducting a routine search found part of a condom sticking out of Lansing’s rear end. “According to sheriff’s officials, the condom contained: 17 round blue pills, one cigarette, six matches, one flint, one empty syringe with an eraser over the needle, one lip balm container, one additional unused condom, a receipt from CVS pharmacy and a paper coupon.” Clearly Lansing was expecting to go to jail when he showed up in court on Friday and had packed for the occasion. No word on what the coupon was good for. Lansing went on to face charges of drug and tobacco possession.
Dateline: Wisconsin—A small-town politician who engaged police in a 15-hour standoff after shooting out his TV during a broadcast of “Dancing With the Stars” has been given three years probation. Steven Cowan, 68, pleaded no contest on April 11 to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, negligent handling of a weapon and a felony count of failing to comply with a police officer’s orders. Cowan was arrested in November after he drunkenly destroyed his television with a shotgun while watching Bristol Palin on “Dancing With the Stars.” According to a criminal complaint filed at the time, Cowan “was upset that a political figure’s daughter was dancing on this particular show when Steven did not think that she was a good dancer.” In December, Cowan resigned from the town of Vermont’s Board of Supervisors.
Dateline: New Zealand—A man who suffered from repeated bouts of depression has joined the short list of people who have cooked and eaten their own body parts. According to the New Zealand Herald, the incident—which took place in 2009—is the first known case of self-cannibalism in New Zealand and one of only eight reported around the world. The story came to light in mid-April in the professional journal Australasian Psychiatry. The unnamed patient, who was 28 at the time, was described as moderately depressed and had not consumed drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident. The journal says “Mr. X” ruminated for several days about cutting off his own fingers following a personal crisis and “while not being fully compliant with his medication.” Following the deliberation, the patient cut off one of his fingers with a jigsaw and “cooked it in a pan with some vegetables and ate its flesh.” The journal article says the patient planned to amputate two more fingers the next day, but experienced such a relief from the experience that he changed his mind. “Given the instantaneous benefit, he felt that there was no point in cutting off any more fingers.” The article’s authors, South Island forensic psychiatrist Erik Monasterio and clinical psychologist Craig Prince, noted that Mr. X did later regret the self-mutilation “because of its debilitating effect.”
Dateline: England—A Yorkshire man was left with a stump on his left hand and a suspended 16-week prison sentence after attempting to rid himself of a troublesome wart with a 12-gauge shotgun. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph, 38-year-old Sean Murphy decided to remove the growth with a Beretta shotgun “after fortifying himself with several pints of beer.” Murphy stuck his left hand out over the gun’s barrel, used his other hand to hold the stock steady and pulled the trigger. The wart went away, along with most of his finger. Murphy denied the alcohol affected his aim, blaming instead the recoil of the weapon. “I didn’t expect to lose my finger as well when I shot it, but the gun recoiled and that was it,” he told the newspaper. In court, Murphy pleaded guilty to “theft by finding” for the shotgun and a second charge of possessing a firearm without a valid certificate. In Doncaster Magistrates’ Court, Murphy’s solicitor called his client “a victim of his own stupidity.” In addition to his suspended sentence, Murphy was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and pay court costs of £100. “I’m happy with that,” said Murphy, expressing no regrets over his decision. “The best thing is that the wart has gone. It was giving me a lot of trouble.”
Dateline: Italy—Archaeologists near Mt. Vesuvius have located what is described as the largest deposit of human excrement ever found in the Roman world. In an 86-meter-long tunnel under the ancient town of Herculaneum, a team of experts unearthed 750 sacks full of petrified human waste. Specialists for the Herculaneum Conservation Project discovered the 3.6-meter-high sewer running under an entire block of the town’s well-preserved ruins. Archaeologists had used high-pressure water hoses to clean out the town’s smaller sewer tunnels, but as project manager Jane Thompson told Italy’s ANSA news agency, “The sewer we found under the Cardo V road in the lower stage of the city is so large and spectacular we could use human beings instead of pressure hoses. This was crucial because it has never been completely excavated, and we found a half-meter deposit of organic waste along its entirety.” The ancient poop is said to be a treasure trove of information about the diet and general health of the Roman people. Early analysis has confirmed the plentiful human feces was rich in vegetable fibers. Herculaneum, along with neighboring Pompeii, was destroyed in 79 A.D. when the Vesuvius volcano exploded in a cloud of ash.
Dateline: Colorado—A woman called 911 in Greeley to report that her television remote control was missing. Amazingly, police actually came to her home and helped her look for the missing device. The woman, who did not wish to be identified by local press, called emergency services on July 27 to tell police she had been burglarized. According to her, the only item taken was her television remote. Since it was reported as a burglary, police showed up at the woman’s house. They searched for the remote, but did not find it. According to follow-up reports, the woman eventually located the remote in a drawer in her kitchen, but insists it was still the work of a burglar. “I just would never have put it there,” the woman told KUSA-TV in Denver.
Dateline: The Netherlands—A 42-year-old woman has been charged with stalking after she called her ex-boyfriend 65,000 times in the last year, according to police. The 62-year-old victim, who lives in The Hague, filed a complaint with police in August. The suspected speed-dialer was arrested on Monday, Sept. 5, when authorities seized several cell phones and computers at her home in Rotterdam. A spokesperson for the Dutch prosecutors said the woman told judges at a preliminary hearing she had a relationship with the man. The woman also argued the number of phone calls she made was not excessive—
Dateline: Connecticut—A Shelton man got his wish after repeatedly harassing local police over their inability to enforce parking regulations. According to the Hartford Courant, 29-year-old Michael Andes called 911 on Thursday, Aug. 25, at around 2 a.m. and told the dispatcher that he’d just parked illegally in a handicapped spot because police don’t enforce parking laws. Unsatisfied by that interaction, Andes called police 15 more times over the next several minutes and started yelling at the dispatcher about the lack of enforcement. Police eventually located Andes’ vehicle parked, as he had reported, in a handicapped spot. Police say Andes approached the responding officers and started screaming at them. Officers tried to calm Andes, but he kept yelling and then took what police described as “an aggressive stance toward officers.” So they shot him with a Taser and arrested him. Andes was charged with second-degree breach of peace and interfering with an officer. He was also issued a ticket for parking in a handicapped space without a permit.
Dateline: England—In September, explosives experts were called to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent to remove 26 bombs, including two submarine depth charges and at least six 10-pound mortar bombs, that washed up on a nude beach. Then, earlier this month, the British Navy located another 61 bombs along the small stretch of sand known as Leysdown Beach. Some of the 87 pieces of ordnance unearthed—ranging from depth charges to bullets—date back to the late 19th century. North Kent coast guard manager Colin Irwin, who oversaw the Navy’s controlled explosions, told the U.K.’s Telegraph, “It was quite a find.” According to Irwin, “A lot of shooting and plane exercises happened around Leysdown. Sometimes the shells wouldn’t go off when dropped from a plane or shot from a rifle, but be cushioned by the mud and not explode.” Leysdown Beach is a longtime English tourist attraction. In addition, according to the U.K. Naturist Fact File, the East side of Leysdown is a popular nudist beach in daily “regular use by 20-30 naturists, with up to 100 on busy weekends.”
Dateline: Washington—Joshua Monson, a 28-year-old felony drug charge suspect, made a reputation for himself by stabbing his lawyer in the neck with a pencil ... and then doing the same with his replacement. Following the first two stabbings, the judge in Monson’s case ordered him restrained for future court appearances. Monson’s third lawyer, Jesse Cantor, argued that Monson wouldn’t get a fair trial if juries saw him shackled to a restraint chair. The judge agreed, which was bad luck for Cantor. In early November, Monson reportedly reached across a table, grabbed a pen and stabbed his new attorney in the head while jurors were listening to opening statements. Monson, who was fitted with an electric stun cuff at the time, was quickly subdued following the attack. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz refused to declare a mistrial, however, and ordered Monson to represent himself in court. That went about as well as you might expect. On Nov. 3, Monson was convicted of drug possession. Monson still faces a second-degree murder charge in the Jan. 2 shooting of 30-year-old Brian Jones. No word on who his attorney in that case might be.
Dateline: Arizona—Two residents at an eastern Arizona apartment complex were attacked and bitten by a man claiming to be a zombie. The White Mountain Independent reports that Jack Ray Murphy, 19, was arrested on Oct. 24 and charged with felony aggravated assault. According to the police report, Murphy bit two people at The Pines apartment complex in Show Low. Police believe Murphy was high on a synthetic marijuana substitute called Spice when he was arrested. According to witnesses, Murphy stumbled into the parking lot of The Pines, bleeding from his left hand. The female victim, who is a nurse, and the complex’s maintenance man went to ask Murphy if he needed help. After it was determined that Murphy’s hand was broken, the maintenance man went back to his apartment to call police. It was then that Murphy allegedly attacked the nurse, grabbing her forearm and biting a chunk of flesh and muscle out of it. Hearing the woman screaming, the maintenance man ran back and tried to stop Murphy from chewing on her arm. Murphy responded by biting the maintenance man’s arm. The maintenance man slammed Murphy’s head into a metal railing, breaking it off from the stairs. Undeterred, Murphy began advancing on and “hissing” at the maintenance man. The maintenance man pulled a 24-inch pipe from a cart and told Murphy he would hit him in the head if he did not stop. Murphy then informed the maintenance man that he was a zombie and was going to “eat his brains.” Murphy lunged at the victim and was struck in the head with the metal pipe. Seemingly unaffected by the blow, the would-be zombie pressed his attack and was struck a second time on the head. According to the White Mountain Independent, “The second blow had the desired effect.” Murphy ran away and was later arrested at his older sister’s house. He was released from jail two days later after his felony aggravated assault charges were reduced to misdemeanor assault by the county attorney’s office.
Dateline: Florida—A homeless senior citizen in a wheelchair was attacked by a 22-year-old woman claiming to be a vampire at a vacant Hooters restaurant in St. Petersburg. Milton Ellis, 69, told police he met Josephine Smith on the street where she said she was waiting for a relative from Pensacola to come pick her up. Ellis invited Smith onto the porch of the empty restaurant to get out of the rain. “He was staying near an overhang near the vacant Hooters restaurant, so he thought it might be a good place for her to stay,” spokesperson Mike Puetz of the St. Petersburg Police Department told the St. Petersburg Times. According to Ellis, he fell asleep in his motorized wheelchair and awoke to find Smith on top of him. “I’m a vampire. I am going to eat you,” Smith reportedly said and then bit Ellis on his face, arm and lip. The bloodied Ellis was able to escape and call 911. He was given stitches to close his wounds at a hospital and later released. Officers located Smith, bloody and half-naked, near the scene of the attack. Smith told authorities she had no recollection of the attack and could not explain why she was naked and covered in blood. She has been charged with aggravated battery on an elderly person and is being held in Pinellas County Jail on $50,000 bond.