Gary Medrow, 68, has periodically surfaced in News of the Weird since 1991 for his behavior of using a false identity to persuade Milwaukee-area strangers over the phone to lift other strangers off the ground — behavior for which he has occasionally been jailed and ordered to psychiatric care. After a recent period of calm, Medrow slipped in November and was charged with impersonating a photojournalist to convince two Cedarburg (Wis.) High School students to hoist each other on their shoulders (and four similar incidents were under investigation). At an earlier hearing, Medrow said that his “addiction” helps him to relieve tension and anxiety.
The continuing crisis
n Floyd Johnson pleaded guilty to attempted murder in an odd scene in a New York City courtroom in November. Johnson has only one leg, and had been charged with stabbing a fellow homeless shelter resident who has no legs. Johnson’s public-defender lawyer (who caught the case at random) has only one leg, also. Johnson said he was taking the plea in part because of excruciating leg pain — in the leg he doesn’t have (“phantom leg” syndrome), and Johnson’s lawyer said he suffers from the same thing. (The lawyer subsequently filed to withdraw the guilty plea because the pain had clouded his client’s judgment.)
n Amber Roberts, 30, a resident of the unit for the criminally insane at Eastern State Hospital in Spokane, Wash., informed officials in November that “I (just now) murdered someone, but you’re going to have to find him.” As staff members searched the facility, Roberts offered to help by shouting “hot,” “cold,” “you’re getting warmer,” and so forth. Roberts yelled “Hot!” as they closed in on the room containing the body of a 56-year-old patient that Roberts then admitted strangling. (A few days later in court, she pleaded not guilty.)
n Tunisia’s Ministry for Women and Family Affairs demanded in October that the government prosecute the publisher of the children’s magazine Qaws Quzah (“Rainbow”), aimed at ages 5 to 15, for an article on how to construct a gasoline bomb (aka the “Molotov cocktail” in America). The country has been rocked by the same kind of upheaval experienced in other Arab countries, except less so since its longtime president stepped down rather quickly in January 2011.
n Notwithstanding its nuclear submarines, ballistic missiles and spy satellites, France maintains Europe’s last “squadron” of military carrier pigeons. Legislator Jean-Pierre Decool lauds the pigeons and campaigns for their upgrade, warning that in the event of war or other catastrophe, the birds would be a valuable messaging network. (Pigeons have been used at times in the current Syrian civil war.) Until very recently, according to a November Wall Street Journal dispatch, pigeons wearing harnesses had been used by a hospital in Normandy to ferry blood samples to a testing lab (a 25-minute flight).
Jason Schall, 38, who has retired as a financial planner and now devotes his energy to fishing, had a spectacular week in September when he won a catch-and-release tournament in Charleston, S.C., came within 11⁄2 inches of a world record on another catch, and was notified of recently setting two Nevada state records for largest fish caught. Schall’s coup de grace, he said, came a few days later when he caught a redfish while sitting on his living room sofa in Daniel Island, S.C., watching a Clemson football game with a pal. He had run a line with bait through a crack in the door, through his yard into the lake behind his home.
Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found recently in tests that 10th-grade students who play video games (especially shooting and sports games) regularly score just as high in robotic surgery dexterity as resident doctors. The lead researcher said that surgery simulations (for example, suturing) have built-in unpredictability, for training purposes, but since complex video games are laden with unpredictability, players logging at least two hours a day with the joystick in fact may even slightly outperform the residents.
n College student Courtney Malloy, 22, was rescued in November after getting stuck about 1 a.m. trying to cut between two buildings in Providence, R.I. The space between City Sports and FedEx Kinko’s was 8 to 9 inches, said firefighters, who found Malloy horizontal and about 2 feet off the ground and “unable” to explain how she got there.
n Leslie Newton, 68, was pulled over by Florida Highway Patrol officers near St. Augustine in December while driving erratically. He also had a portion of a traffic sign embedded in his skull after colliding with it. (In both cases, officers said they believed the victims to be intoxicated.)
n Helen Springthorpe, 58, with only three months on the job as the bell-ringer at St. Nicholas Church in Bathampton, England, was knocked unconscious in November when she became entangled in the bells’ ropes and was jerked too-and-fro around the belfry, her head smashing against a wall. Fire and ambulance crews eventually lowered her about 20 feet to the ground.