It’s kind of like the Darwin Awards, except no one dies. Usually.
In this week’s feature, our weekly Odds & Ends compendium of weird news is presented as the 2011 Odds & Ends Awards: a compilation of the year’s freakiest foibles. Remember, kids, it’s funny because it happened to someone else.
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.
Dateline: Italy—An unhappy bride has demanded a separation from her brand-new husband after he brought his mother along for the honeymoon. The woman, identified as Marianna C. of Rome, filed the petition in late January stating that the troubles began when her mother-in-law showed up at the airport just as the newlywed couple was about to jet off to Paris. According to Italy’s ANSA news agency, the 36-year-old bride also complained that, after the honeymoon, the mother-in-law spent the Christmas holidays with the couple, making it “impossible to establish a healthy conjugal relationship.”
Another year, another year’s worth of our “Odds & Ends” column down the drain. As usual, citizens wasted the time of 911 operators, stoners called police looking for help finding lost weed, bank robbers volunteered an astonishing amount of personal information and drunk drivers crashed into many, many things. England led the world of weird with an amazing 24 “Odds & Ends” stories in 2010. Stateside, Florida scored 14 mentions, thanks largely to those industrious drunkards along the Sunshine State’s Treasure Coast. So who were the strangest standouts?
Dateline: Russia—In a scene that no doubt rivaled the storied days of the Algonquin Round Table in terms of witty, alcohol-fueled debate, a drunken dispute over the existence of God has left two Russians dead. The disagreement began in the western Siberian city of Tomsk when the female owner of a house, her son, a male roommate and an undisclosed male relative drank a liter of pure alcohol mixed “with snow.” A police investigator told the RIA Novosti news agency, “Soon after the drinking session, the suspect [the son] and the two other men got into a fight about the existence of God.” The son ended up attacking both men with a knife and killing them, thereby providing a clear-cut answer to their questions about God and the afterlife.
Dateline: India—A village council in the northern district of Muzaffarnagar has ordered all unmarried girls to stop carrying or using cell phones. It is believed this move will prevent local girls from running away with their boyfriends and getting married. Spokesperson Rajender Malick told the Indian media that the village council in Lank “imposed a ban on the usage of mobile phones by unmarried girls to prevent them from eloping with young boys against the wishes of their parents.” The Lank village council decided unmarried boys could use mobile phones, but only under parental supervision. According to police, 34 couples in the Muzaffarnagar district eloped last month. Among those who eloped, eight were reported beheaded by their families in “honor” killings. In some cases, it is the village councils themselves who have ordered the punishments. The local women’s rights group Disha said banning cell phones for unmarried females demonstrated the council’s archaic mindset, and warned it could put girls at a disadvantage. “These help in easy communication, which in turn help these youth to get jobs. One cannot discriminate use of these contraptions on basis of sex,” Disha president K.N. Tiwari told reporters.
Dateline: Massachusetts—A former pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill has been charged with stealing $83,147 from the church—most of which was used to pay off his extensive pornography bills. According to Haverhill police reports, Rev. Keith LeBlanc had a credit card he used exclusively for online pornography. By the time he was caught, the credit card had racked up a $25,000 balance. Haverhill’s Eagle Tribune reports that Comcast cable bills from the church rectory show that LeBlanc charged $4,021.14 worth of “adult” movies to the church during his tenure. An Archdiocese of Boston investigation led by attorney Mark Dunderdale led to LeBlanc’s removal from the pulpit in June. “Father LeBlanc admitted to Dunderdale that he has an addiction and needs help,” police Detective Glenn Fogarty wrote in his report. According to Det. Fogarty’s report, LeBlanc has been sent to St. John Vianney Center in Pennsylvania, a church-run retreat that specializes in “behavioral health issues” of clergy. LeBlanc was pastor at St. John’s for six years.
Dateline: India—A group of sacrificial goats turned the tables on the last day of the 10-day, nine-night Navratri festival, triggering a stampede that killed 10 people inside a packed temple. “More than 45,000 devotees had thronged the temple at Tildiha village under Sambhuganj Police Station area for offering prayers and sacrificing goats when the stampede occurred,” the director general of police told the Bangalore Mirror. “As the worshippers lined up before the butcher, a scuffle broke out and some people were trampled,” Banka district spokesperson Gupdeshwar Kumar admitted. “People were vying with each other to get their goats sacrificed first, and they had a verbal duel with the butcher.” Four women and six men died in the ensuing stampede. Another 11 were injured, three of them critically. Despite the deaths, the district spokesperson said that over 40,000 goats were sacrificed at the temple that day in honor of the Goddess Durga.