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News of the Weird


At Pennsylvania State University, the Outing Club, founded in 1920, provided students with outdoor recreation opportunities such as hiking and camping. But no more. Penn State has announced that after this semester, the university will no longer allow the club to organize student-led trips because it is too dangerous out in the wilderness, according to the offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management. Two other outdoorsy clubs, the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers Scuba Club, have also been restricted from club activities outdoors. Michael Lacey, president of the Caving Club, told the Centre Daily Times: “Penn State’s just been clamping down really hard on the nature of activities” since the Jerry Sandusky scandal. University spokesperson Lisa Powers said Penn State will offer school-sponsored outdoors trips, but students noted the cost will be much higher. [Centre Daily Times, 4/20/2018]

Unclear on the Concept

In a perhaps unintentional bid for the worst criminal disguise of 2018, Kerry Hammond Jr., 22, broke into a GameStop store in St. Marys, Georgia, at 1:19 a.m. on April 13, where he was captured on camera wearing a clear plastic wrapper (of the sort that holds bundles of bottled water) over his head. Even with the plastic “mask,” WJXT reported, Hammond’s face is clearly visible in surveillance video, and St. Marys police quickly identified him and captured him on April 17. Hammond already had two active felony warrants for his arrest for burglary and second-degree criminal damage to property. [WJXT, 4/16/2018]


In Tokyo, women who have qualms about living alone may soon have a new security option. “Man on the Curtain” is a prototype smartphone app that connects to a projector and throws a moving shadow of a man onto a closed window curtain. The shadow man can be doing any of several different activities, such as boxing, karate, vacuuming, playing guitar or getting dressed. Keiichi Nakamura, advertising manager of Leopalace21 Corp., an apartment management company where the idea originated, told Reuters that eventually his company would like to “commercialize it once we add variety, such as releasing a new video every day.” [Reuters, 4/21/2018]


In Oslo, according to Reuters, tradition calls for recent high school graduates to participate in “Russ,” a several-weeks-long party that includes drinking, nudity and public sex, sometimes resulting in fatal car crashes. So this year, the Public Roads Administration issued a statement on April 18 headlined “No to sex on roundabouts,” warning that students should refrain from running naked and having sex on bridges and roundabouts, because such behavior gives drivers “too much of a surprise.” Terje Moe Gustavsen, head of the administration, said: “Everyone understands that being in and around roundabouts is a traffic hazard. It may not be so dangerous for someone to be without clothes on the bridge, but drivers can … completely forget that they are driving.” [Reuters, 4/18/2018]

Bright Ideas

— Resorting to a low-tech, but possibly offensive strategy, Largo, Florida, detectives visited a dead man at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater and attempted to use his finger to unlock his smartphone. Linus F. Phillip, 30, was shot and killed by Largo police March 23 after he tried to drive away from an officer wanting to search him. As part of their investigation, police said they needed to access and preserve data on Phillip’s phone. Legal experts generally agreed the detectives had not broken any laws, but Phillip’s girlfriend, Victoria Armstrong, 28, was less forgiving: “Nobody even calling us … to let us know detectives were coming there at all is very disturbing,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m very skeptical of all funeral homes now.” [Tampa Bay Times, 4/21/2018]

— United Press International reports that in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the mayor has employed a clever way to keep his finger on the pulse of the city. When he goes out, he wears a fake beard so he’ll blend in and not be recognized as the capital city’s leader. Mayor Albek Ibraimov told Fergana, a Russian news agency: “I dress in old clothes … take off my tie and I go and look, and see how things actually are.” [United Press International, 4/20/2018]

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Over the last two years, Cameron County employee Gilberto Escamilla, 53, of Brownsville, Texas, has been accepting shipments of fajitas worth a total of $1.2 million at the Darrell B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville. The only trouble is, the inmates there aren’t served fajitas. Escamilla had been ordering the meat from Labatt Food Service in Harlingen and intercepting it to resell. “It started small and got bigger and out of control,” Escamilla told the court, according to The Brownsville Herald. On April 20, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to theft by a public servant. [The Brownsville Herald, 4/20/2018]


The Washington State Department of Transportation had to issue a mea culpa on the afternoon of April 17 after an electronic highway sign displayed the message “U SUCK” above Interstate 5 near Jovita. WSDOT called the sign “an inappropriate message” that appeared due to a training error and was “clearly a mistake,” according to KCPQ TV. [Q13 FOX, 4/18/2018]

Bad Attitude

Timothy Hill, 67, of Grassington, North Yorkshire, England, having installed a laser jammer in his Range Rover, thought he was outsmarting law enforcement speed cameras. In fact, he was so sure of his scheme that he repeatedly raised his middle finger to the cameras — sometimes casually, sometimes aggressively — as he passed. What he didn’t realize was that the laser jammer, rather than hiding his identity, was only blocking police from determining his speed, so when they tracked him down, he was charged not with speeding, but with perverting the course of justice. “If you want to attract our attention, repeatedly gesturing at police camera vans with your middle finger while you’re driving a distinctive car fitted with a laser jammer is an excellent way to do it,” Traffic Constable Andrew Forth told Metro News. Hill pleaded guilty on April 23, and was sentenced to eight months in jail and prohibited from driving for a year. [Metro News, 4/23/2018]

Least Competent Criminal

Kiana Wallace, 24, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Belmont County, Ohio, on April 23 following her guilty plea for tampering with evidence. On probation after a drug possession sentence in 2017, Wallace failed a drug urine test when the “borrowed” sample she used tested positive for drugs. “Let me get this straight,” Judge Frank Fregiato said in court, according to WTOV-TV. “To avoid the positive test with your own urine, you used someone else’s urine, which turned out to be positive also. That’s bizarre.” [WTOV, 4/23/2018]


— On April 23, police officers in Warren, Michigan, responded to a home for a welfare check on 68-year-old George Curtis, whose relatives had become concerned because they hadn’t heard from him. Curtis was, indeed, dead — in fact, WJBK-TV reported, he had been deceased for months, maybe even a year. Also in the home: his girlfriend, who had continued living there with his decaying body, which was laid out in a bed. Police transported the unnamed woman to a hospital for a mental evaluation and are awaiting a report on cause of death from the medical examiner. [WJBK, 4/24/2018]

— Meanwhile, on the South Side of Chicago, police responded to reports of an elderly woman pushing a dead body around the Chatham neighborhood in a shopping cart on April 21, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Officers took the woman to a hospital for a mental evaluation and launched an investigation into the female body, whose age and identity had not been determined at press time. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/22/2018]