If you read this blog and actually like it, first of all why, but more importantly, you owe a bit of a thank you to a fellow by the name of Chuck Shepherd. If not for him and his News of the Weird column, I and to an extent Carin may not have the sorts of fascinations with odd news and other strange things that we do.
I remember being a kid in the early 90’s and people reading me things out of NOTW that would show up in newspapers or get passed around between friends. It made me laugh of course, but it also clued me in to a different side of the world, one you didn’t really hear about on your typical radio or TV newscast. It taught me that not all criminals were people to be feared and that there just might be certain drugs it would be best to be really careful with or not touch altogether. It taught me how ridiculous rules and regulations could be and that sometimes a person who says he’s here to help isn’t talking about anyone but himself. it taught me things about right and wrong, justice and injustice and that sometimes, each can come from a place or in a way you wouldn’t expect. It taught me that sometimes there’s simply no good explanation for something, but maybe that’s ok. And it even taught me to be really careful around guys middle named Wayne.
When I got my own internet, an online version of the weekly columns was one of the first things I tracked down, and I’ve been enjoying it without needing other people to read it to me when they can find it or have time ever since. I even got Carin into it, which is cool. It’s nice to pass on something that brings you so much joy to people you care about, even if that thing is an ever-expanding collection of public masturbation stories and ironically named kids.
This week, News of the Weird turns 25…sort of. Its history actually goes back to the 1970’s and to a hobby zine called View from the Ledge, but it was 25 years ago this week that it was picked up by Universal UClick and syndicated to people like me all over the world.
To Celebrate, Chuck dug up a few classics from the archives. They’re fun and you should read them.
(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. [Orlando Sentinel, 3-8-89]
(1991 and later) Gary Arthur Medrow, 47, was arrested in March in Milwaukee (the latest of his then-30-plus arrests over 23 years) for once again causing mischief by telephoning a woman and trying to persuade her to physically pick up another person and to carry her around a room. In the latest incident, after repeatedly calling, he told her another woman had been impersonating her, had been in an accident, and had been seen carrying someone away (and that Medrow needed evidence that she should could or could not do that). He had previously talked cheerleaders, motel workers, and business executives into lifting and carrying. [Milwaukee Sentinel, 3-18-91]
(1999) From a May police report in The Messenger (Madisonville, Ky.), 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.) [The Messenger, 5-7-99]
There’s also the chronically unwelcomed Marcus Miles and the story of brothers Winner and Loser Lane, among other greatness.
Happy anniversary to both Chuck and his amazing, strangely lifechanging creation. Here’s to as many more as you can handle.