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News of the Weird 6/5/14

by Chuck Shepherd

What’s in a Name Vanellope, Rydder, Jceion and Burklee head the latest annual list of the most common baby names on the Social Security Administration register of first-time-appearing names. There were 63 Vanellopes (girls), but only 10 each for Rydder and Jceion, the most popular debut names for boys. Other notables were Hatch (eight times) and Psalms (seven). (In other “name” news, among the finalists in April’s “Name of the Year” contest sponsored by Deadspin.com were the actual monikers Curvaceous Bass, (Dr.) Eve Gruntfest, Chillie Poon and the winner — Shamus Beaglehole.

Editorial Privilege To celebrate today’s 25th anniversary of the weekly distribution of News of the Weird by Universal Uclick, Chuck Shepherd recalls a few of his favorite stories (among the more than 25,000 covered).

• (1989) In the mid-1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.

• (1991) Dee Dee Jonrowe, leading the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January in northern Minnesota, took a wrong turn and went 300 yards before recognizing her error. The mistake cost her team only a few minutes, but stopping to calculate her location allowed the dogs an unsupervised rest, and by the time she was ready to go, two of her dogs had begun to copulate. She was forced to wait on them for 25 minutes and lost the lead.

• (1992) A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, West Virginia, in October with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and cleaning his three guns — and had accidentally shot himself with each one. He said the first shot didn’t hurt, the second “stung a little,” and the third “really hurt,” prompting him to call for help.

• (1994) In Toronto in March, Sajid Rhatti, 23, and his 20-year-old wife brawled over whether Katey Sagal, who plays Peg Bundy on “Married With Children,” is prettier than Christina Applegate, who plays her daughter. First, the wife slashed Rhatti in the groin with a wine bottle as they scuffled, but she dressed his wounds and the couple sat down again to watch another episode of the show. Moments later, the brawl erupted again, and Rhatti, who suffered a broken arm and shoulder, stabbed his wife in the chest, back and legs before they begged neighbors to call an ambulance.

• (1996) A pre-trial hearing was scheduled in Lamar, Missouri, on Joyce Lehr’s lawsuit against the county for injuries from a 1993 fall in the icy, unplowed parking lot of the local high school. The Carthage Press reported that Lehr claimed damage to nearly everything in her body. According to her petition: “All the bones, organs, muscles, tendons, tissues, nerves, veins, arteries, ligaments … discs, cartilages, and the joints of her body were fractured, broken, ruptured, punctured, compressed, dislocated, separated, bruised, contused, narrowed, abrased, lacerated, burned, cut, torn, wrenched, swollen, strained, sprained, inflamed and infected.”

• (1999) From a May police report in The Messenger (Madisonville, Kentucky), concerning two trucks being driven curiously on a rural road: A man would drive a truck 100 yards, stop, walk back to a second truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the first truck, stop, walk back to the first truck, drive it 100 yards beyond the second truck, and so on, into the evening. He did it, he told police, because his brother was passed out drunk in one of the trucks, and he was trying to drive both trucks home, at more or less the same time. (Not surprisingly, a blood-alcohol test showed the driver, also, to be impaired.)

• (2002) The Lane brothers of New York, Mr. Winner Lane, 44, and Mr. Loser Lane, 41 (their actual birth names), were profiled in a July Newsday report, made more interesting by the fact that Loser is successful (a police detective in South Bronx) and Winner is not (a history of petty crimes). A sister said she believes her parents selected “Winner” because their late father was a big baseball fan and chose “Loser” just to complete the pairing.

• (2004) The New York Times reported in February on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to meticulously hand-make and hand-paint facsimilie record album covers of his fantasized music, complete with imagined lyric sheets and liner notes (with some “albums” even shrink-wrapped), and even more incredibly, to hand-make cardboard fascimilies of actual grooved discs to put inside them. “Mingering Mike,” whom a reporter and two hobbyists tracked down (but who declined to be identified in print) also made real music, on tapes, using his and friends’ voices to simulate instruments. His 38 imagined “albums” were discovered at a flea market after Mike defaulted on storage-locker fees, and the hobbyists who found them said they were so exactingly done that a major museum would soon feature them.

• (1988) And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, “He was acting like a 10-year-old.”

Thanks, as usual, to the past and present members of the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.