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NEWS OF THE WEIRD


None October 15th, 2013

The family of the great Native American Olympic athlete and Oklahoma native Jim Thorpe (1888- 1953) was so disappointed that the then-governor of Oklahoma would not properly honor Thorpe on his death that one faction of his family moved the body to Pennsylvania, where he had no discernible ties but where municipal officials eagerly offered to name a town after him. Since then, Jim Thorpe, Pa.



Updates — The family of the great Native American Olympic athlete and Oklahoma native Jim Thorpe (1888- 1953) was so disappointed that the then-governor of Oklahoma would not properly honor Thorpe on his death that one faction of his family moved the body to Pennsylvania, where he had no discernible ties but where municipal officials eagerly offered to name a town after him. Since then, Jim Thorpe, Pa. (current population, 4,800), has withstood legal challenges seeking to return the body to Oklahoma, including a recent federal court decision upholding the entire town as a Native American “museum.” One grandson said that Thorpe spoke to him at a sweat lodge in Texas in 2010, telling him to leave the body in Jim Thorpe, with “no more pain created in my name.” — At Hong Kong’s traditional “Hungry Ghost” festival in August, in which people burn fake money on top of ancestors’ graves to support their afterlife styles, a weaker economy and inflation seem to have upped the ante for the gifts. An August Wall Street Journal dispatch noted that the denominations of burnable “currency” sold in stores have appreciated, including one “valued” at one trillion Hong Kong dollars (US$130 billion). (Some festival-goers asked, sensibly, about how the ancestor could expect change from such a bill if he needed to make a small afterlife purchase.) — Anthony Alleyne appeared in News of the Weird in 2003 for turning his Hinckley, England, home into a replica of the command center of Star Trek’s starship Enterprise (including transporter control, warp core drive, infinity mirror, etc.). When he later tried to sell it, he learned that, somehow, potential buyers failed to value the house as much as Alleyne imagined. In September 2013, Alleyne was back in the news as Leicester Crown Court sentenced him to 34 months in prison for viewing child pornography — a diversion that he blamed on years of depression following marital difficulties and, of course, the brutal real estate market.

— The Raelian sect initially made News of the Weird in 1998 when “Bishop” Brigitte Boisselier ran a human-cloning start-up planning to charge $200,000 to make identical twins. Raelian’s core belief is that humanity descended from extraterrestrials arriving on spaceships whose inhabitants explained to Raelian founder Claude Vorilhon that life’s purpose is to experience sexual pleasure. Recently, a Raelian “priestess,” Nadine Gary, has turned the sect’s attention to counseling victims of the anti-pleasure female genital mutilation, which, though horrifyingly painful, remains traditional among some African societies, and enlisted a prominent U.S. surgeon to undo the procedure, pro bono. Wrote London’s The Guardian, in an August dispatch from the surgeon’s San Francisco clinic, “(J)ust 12 minutes of delicate scalpel work (to restore the clitoris) removes a lifetime of discomfort.” — The story of Kopi Luwak coffee is by now a News of the Weird staple, begun in 1993 with the first reports that a super-premium market existed for coffee beans digested by certain Asian civet cats, collected, washed and brewed. In June, news broke that civets were being mistreated — captured from the wild and caged solely for their bean-adulterating usefulness. In August, the American Chemical Society reported that a “gas chromatography and mass spectrometry” test had finally been developed to assure buyers that their $227-a-pound Kopi Luwak beans had, indeed, been excreted by genuine Asian civets. (Thus, Kopi Luwak drinkers, at up to $80 a cup in California, can sip their brews without fear of being ripped off.)

—Chuck Shepherd

 
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