News of the Weird

Jan. 13, 2010
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Appetite for Education

Natives of the Erromango section of Vanuatu, an island nation in the Pacific, recently held a formal "reconciliation ceremony" with the great-great-grandson of a British missionary. When the missionary, Rev. John Williams—regarded as one of the most famous Christian missionaries of the era—came ashore in 1839, islanders killed and ate him. Vanuatan legislator Ralph Regenvanu told BBC News that cannibalism was traditionally a sacred warrior practice for "vanquishing a threat, absorbing the power of the enemy." Nonetheless, he said, the island has long felt "guilt" about killing and eating Williams. In penitence, Vanuatu symbolically gave the Williams family a 7-year-old girl. The girl will not be eaten; instead, Williams’ great-great-grandson, Charles Milner-Williams, promised to underwrite her education.

People With Issues

Kevin Derks, 53, of Kenosha, Wis., swears that he has never touched an underage girl, though he admits to a fixation on their “tenderness” and innocence. According to a detective, Derks' apartment appears to be a shrine to little girls. The walls of his apartment were covered with posters and photos, including snapshots of celebrity kids and local children, according to a Kenosha News report. Allegedly, Derks also kept a bed full of stuffed toys and two adolescent-sized mannequins posed in sexual positions with adult mannequins. Derks was arrested in November and charged with 20 counts of child pornography based on some of his photos and videos. Derks allegedly said to detectives: "This was my own world. I knew what I was doing. I took a gamble. It's like going to Vegas, except I lost everything. Now my ass is gonna fry."

Alcohol Was Involved

(1) While investigating a separate complaint about an assault in November, the Seattle Police Department found a 25-year-old man screaming in pain while impaled on a metal fence. He said he had run away from a barroom fight and thought he was a "ninja warrior" capable of leaping the fence. (2) Sean McDowell, 24, was arrested in Ashland, Ore., after attempting to steal a 4-foot-tall stuffed giraffe from the front of a children's store. A police officer had witnessed an inebriated McDowell grab the giraffe and make simulated sexual movements, and then walk away, only to return 90 minutes later to try to snatch the animal for good.


While reporting on Britain's oldest newlyweds in November (the husband was age 94, the wife 87), the Daily Telegraph also noted that, in 2008, Bertie Wood and her husband, Jessie, of Falmouth, had decided to end their 36-year marriage. Apparently, the couple had reached a point where they felt they needed a fresh start. Both were 98 years old at the time. Jessie has since died, and Bertie lives in a nursing home.

Unclear on the Concept

  • Michael Yavorski, 52, who drew a three-month sentence in October for having twice fondled a 12-year-old girl and given her a beer, complained through his lawyer that the sentence was too long. "The collateral consequences for Mr. Yavorski here are tremendous," said the lawyer, in that the negative publicity about the case might force Yavorski to close his business in Lower Nazareth Township, Pa.—Yavorski runs an ice cream parlor.
  • Almost every Thursday night, Jack Knowler, 61, and his girlfriend, Bev Rogers, enjoy themselves at Hanc’s Bar in Bowmanville, Ontario, and then, knowing their limitations, leave their vehicles parked and call A Ryde Home, a local service that provides designated drivers. But on a recent Thursday night, according to a December report in the Toronto Sun, police ticketed Knowler and Rogers as they waited outside Hanc’s for their ride—the tickets, with a penalty of $65 each, were handed out for being intoxicated in public. "It's not a mixed message,” a police supervisor said. “You can't be intoxicated in a public place.”

We Have Rules!

(1) Shawnee Mission Northwest outscored the competition at the Kansas Girls State Gymnastics Championship in November, but finished in third place because of a one-point penalty for a rule violation. The rule violation took place when the school's coach inquired about a balance-beam score outside of the five-minute "window" for inquiries. The two schools that were tied for second place were declared co-champions. (2) Environmentally conscious David and Katie France live 400 yards from their recycling center in Blandford, England. In October, they decided to carry their recyclables by hand instead of driving their car the short distance. However, they were refused entry, based on a "safety" rule requiring that items be brought in vehicles.

A News of the Weird Classic (July 1991)

In May 1991, Maxcy Dean Filer of Compton, Calif., finally passed the California Bar exam. He had graduated from law school in 1966 but had failed the exam 47 straight times. (After opening a practice in Compton, he was suspended in 2007 for failing to pass the California Bar's Professional Responsibility exam. He remains suspended.)

© 2010 Chuck Shepherd


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