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News » News of the Weird


The latest on quirky criminals, strange trends and odd events.



Zen TV painter Bob Ross has been gone for 24 years, but his inspiration lives on—at least at Madison Middle School in Abilene, Texas, where on Feb. 7, students in Brady Sloane's art class donned curly brown wigs, blue shirts and paint palettes for a "Flash Bob Flash Mob." Sloane's pre-Advanced Placement students were stressed about grades and projects, and she "wanted to find a way to reward them," she told the Abilene Reporter News. The students used music stands as makeshift easels, where they painted "happy little trees" and projected an episode of "The Joy of Painting" as parents memorialized the special day with photos and videos.

Asalene Branch, 29, was only defending her spot in a McDonald's drive-thru lane on Feb. 18 when she stabbed another woman in the head. Fox News reported that Branch and the other woman were waiting at a Memphis restaurant when a physical fight broke out over their places in the line; Branch took out a knife and assaulted the alleged victim, resulting in injuries that were not life-threatening. Branch was tracked down by police and charged with aggravated assault.

The Foreign Press
Valentine's Day is complicated in Japan. On Feb. 14, women traditionally give men chocolates: giri choco, or "obligation chocolates," to their male colleagues, and honmei choco, or "true feelings chocolate," to their boyfriends or husbands. (Men return the favor on White Day, March 14.) But according to Japan Today, Japanese women are rebelling against giri choco; 40 percent of workers see the custom as "a form of power harassment," and some companies have banned the practice. Women find giving chocolates to associates stressful: "Before the office ban, we had to worry about things like how much is appropriate to spend on each chocolate and where we draw the line in who we give the chocolates to," said one worker.

People Different From Us
Looking for a new home? A newly listed suburban Philadelphia home offers something a little sideways from your typical basement rumpus room. The five-bedroom, 2 ½-bath brick colonial in Maple Glen has three fireplaces, a gourmet kitchen—and a sex basement. The finished lower level includes a bed in a cage, complete with straps, whips and other accoutrements for any buyer's 50 Shades of Grey fantasies. Realtor Melissa Leonard stresses, however, that the basement "can be converted back to a typical suburban basement." Neighbors are shocked to find out what's been going on in their 'hood, but "I know it's a way of life for people," Leonard told Slate magazine.

Government in Action
You think things are wild in the U.S. Congress? In Albania, Edi Paloka, an opposition lawmaker, was asked to leave the parliament hall on Feb. 14 and suspended for 10 days after throwing ink at Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. It all started when Rama scolded a fellow lawmaker for making accusations of corruption against the leftist government, according to Xinhua. A statement from the center-right Democratic party explained, "The action of ink-throwing is a rejection of the bullying exerted by the PM, which is witnessed by the public opinion." Apparently, Rama had repeatedly mocked Paloka during previous sessions of parliament.

The Weirdo-American Community
A dispute over a box of Cheez-Its provoked a DeKalb County, Ga., man to do the unthinkable on Feb. 12. As Jeremy Lamar Wyatt, 32, his brother and 61-year-old mother argued over the salty snacks, Wyatt went outside, locked his family inside the home, poured gasoline on the front steps and started a fire, according to WGCL-TV. Wyatt's brother was able to lower the mother down from a second-story window, and both escaped without injury. Wyatt, who had reportedly been enjoying some adult beverages with his Cheez-Its, was taken into custody at the scene and charged with arson and criminal damage to property.

News That Sounds Like a Joke
At Towson University in Maryland, an unidentified woman was reported wandering around campus just before Valentine's Day, showing students a photo of her son and asking if they'd like to go on a date with him. Awkward! The woman, thought to be in her 50s, staked out the Cook Library and the Center for the Arts in hopes of securing a love connection for her son, reported The Baltimore Sun. Towson police are hoping to identify her, not to arrest her, but to ask her to stop.

Least Competent Criminals
The moral of the story? If you're going to rob a bank in February, target Florida or Texas. Jason Mackenrodt, 37, was making his getaway after robbing the Bangor Savings Bank in Waterville, Maine, on Feb. 12. He scrambled across four lanes of traffic and into a restaurant parking lot—where he slipped on the ice and sprawled on the ground, right in front of Maine State Police Special Agent Glenn Lang, who was sitting in his parked car. Lang didn't know the bank had been robbed, but he became suspicious when "the money and the gun he had stashed in his jacket pocket spilled onto the parking lot," Police Chief Joseph Massey told the Morning Sentinel. (The weapon turned out to be a BB gun.) Lang tackled Mackenrodt and took him into custody as police were responding at the bank. Mackenrodt was charged with robbery and terrorizing.

• On Jan. 31, Julian R. Mitchell, 20, tried to use a debit card from a wallet he had stolen at a Nashville, Tenn., bar, according to WZTV. But a fraud alert tipped off bar employees that the card had been lost or stolen, so they asked for photo ID. Mitchell fished out the Tennessee driver's license from the wallet, which, according to the Davidson County arrest affidavit, made it "plainly obvious" that the photo was not of him because of the difference in height. Mitchell, who strangely resembles a Ken doll, with blond hair, a red beard and black eyebrows, was charged with identity theft; officers found several other cards belonging to the same victim in the wallet.

The Continuing Crisis
Passengers on a 12-hour Air France flight on Feb. 18 became alarmed when a man seated in the bulkhead row boarded the plane then removed his pants and socks, settling into his seat in just his boxers and a T-shirt. Sitting across the aisle from him, passenger Lizzie Thompson took photos and posted on Twitter throughout the flight, reported The Sun. "Alerted the flight attendant. He offered to move me ... but just shrugged when I suggested he ask the man to put his pants back on," she wrote. Thompson also wrote that six hours into the flight from Paris to Los Angeles, the scantily clad passenger got cold, "so PUT ON HIS PUFFY JACKET." The man put his pants and socks back on after landing, much to Thompson's relief. "Nothing bonds a group of passengers like a man half naked in your section," Thompson wrote.

The Meth Made Me Do It
In Seattle, Douglas Braden Smyser, 21, boarded a plane on Feb. 13 on his way to Los Angeles and a drug rehab center in Malibu, but his behavior during the flight finally caused the pilot to land in Portland and have him removed from the plane. Smyser, from Bonney Lake, Wash., would not stay in his seat, tried to sit in first class and threw his backpack in the aisle. Passengers helped contain him until the plane could land safely. Smyser admitted later that he had eaten meth before boarding, which made him "suspicious and paranoid," reported KIRO TV. He also claimed to have a gun. He was charged with second-degree disorderly conduct and menacing, along with a federal charge of interference with a flight crew.

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