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[This is my collection of news clips on people who do stupid things. -Jeff]
Least Competent Reactions to Winter
* To thaw the frozen pipes in his house in Farmingville, N. Y., in
January, John Porter backed his car up against an open window so the
exhaust could warm up the basement. Shortly afterward, Porter, his
wife, and their three children had to be rushed to the hospital
suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. [San Francisco Examiner-New
York Daily News, 1-17-94]
* George Gibbs, 23, suffered second- and third-degree burns on his head
in Columbus, Ohio, in January. He had diagnosed his car's problem as
a frozen fuel line, which he thought he could correct by running warm
gasoline through it. He then tried to heat a two-gallon can of gasoline
on a gas stove. [Columbus Dispatch, Jan94]
Newswire Item 3/2/94:
A hunter in Uganda is being sought by local authorities for illegally
hunting gorillas. He shoots them with a tranquilizer gun and dresses
them in clown suits. So far six (6) gorillas have been found wandering
around in this condition.
A Ugandan spokesman stated that this was a person with a truly sick
sense of humor. They felt this was a cruel practice, since they had
to tranquilize the gorillas again to take the suits off!
* According to trial testimony in January in Santa Ana, Calif., George
Edgar Lizarralde, 31, was legally blind in 1985 when the Department of
Motor Vehicles issued him a driver's license. He had failed the test
three times, and DMV granted the license on the fourth try even though
he again failed the vision test. In the January trial, DMV's negligence
was found to be the cause of injuries to Deborah Ann Mohr, whom
Lizarralde plowed into in a crosswalk in 1990. [Los Angeles Times,
* In January, an administrative law judge ruled against the claim of
the California Department of Motor Vehicles that the vanity license
plates of Bruce Deam, a federal geology researcher, were offensive.
Deam, who is female, is a serious cat lover and has had the plates "A
PUSSY" since 1973. [San Francisco Examiner, 1-29-94]
Indianapolis Star, February 7th, 1994
Ever Do Anything This Stupid?
M. L. Lyke
Seattle - Roll over, Darwin. We've got proof the unfit do
They may get their tongues stuck to fence posts in the dead of
winter, brush their teeth with spermicide instead of toothpaste,
walk out of public restrooms trailing toilet paper - but they do
"Twenty-five years ago, I was playing with the car door to see
how close I could get to slamming it on my tongue," says Nancy
Foster Wilson, explaining the missing chunk from her tongue.
"I missed on the sixth try."
The 33-year old mother - yes, Mr. Darwin, she lived and somehow
managed to reproduce - is one of the Post-Intelligencer readers
who sent in their "stupid human tricks" after I confessed to
confusing Super Glue with Murine.
"Oh, joy!" wrote Ethel Johnson, who sprayed her hair with
bathroom deodorant. "To know I'm not alone!"
Russ Venables admitted his brain was not fully engaged when he
decided to make caramel apples without a candy thermometer.
The recipe required heating the caramel to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to test it?
"Stick your finger in," said his sister-in-law.
Right. He stuck it in. He screamed. And then he inserted
finger in mouth. "Weeks later, the blisters on my fingers and
in my mouth went away. There was no lasting damage," said
"It's just one of those really stupid things you do."
Hello? Mr. Darwin?
*It's a syndrome*
Further evidence for the survival of the unfittest is what
doctors call the "right-place, wrong-thing" syndrome.
One patient Super-Glued lips (right place) together, thinking
it was lip balm (wrong thing). Another used the miracle stickum
to apply false eyelashes.
Even more painful was the case of a man with a big thirst who
managed to swallow porcupine quills. His kids had been saving
them in a glass of water.
He must have paused to ponder this dictum: What goes in must
That was the incomplete thinking of a man who gulped down three
$50 bills when attacked by a mugger. "He came in because he
wanted them back," says Dr. Ted Johnson, emergency room doctor
at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.
Panicked patients who've swallowed their contact lenses have
asked the same thing.
Johnson has even discovered a Bic pen stuck in a bladder. "It
still wrote afterward," he said.
Patients are often mortified by their flum-bubbery. A portly
handyman showed up at Seattle's Group Health Cooperative
complaining he'd taken a fall - out the back door.
The back door?
Pressed for data, Mr. Fix-It finally 'fessed up. He had
forgotten he'd torn off his back porch.
"And that was two years ago," announced his wife.
Such cosmic oopsies can be as dangerous as they are humiliating.
Dr. Judy Street, at Group Health emergency room, remembers treating
a man who fell from a tree and broke his ankle. "He was sitting on
a limb, using his chain saw, and he cut the limb he was sitting on,"
says Street. "He just didn't think."
Life imitating a Hanna-Barbera cartoon? "You wonder sometimes
how people manage to do these things to themselves," says
*Doctors not immune*
She has a few questions for herself, too. Putting up Christmas
lights outside her house, Street slipped off the ladder and gasped
- with a mouthful of nails. Two ended up in her stomach.
"I didn't want to come into the emergency room," she says. "I
felt so stupid."
Nancy Hogan's a survivor - and she's still laughing.
She was eating dinner. It wasn't her dinner.
"Greedily remembering the scalloped oysters from the night
before, I grabbed a bowl from the fridge shelf and heated the
contents. I couldn't help noticing, as I ate, how deadly flat
the food tasted. No matter how much salt, pepper, and ketchup
I poured on, it was blah! blah!. It had all the gusto of damp
papier-mache," she wrote to the Post-Intelligencer.
"Being a member of the Clean Plate Club, I polished off every
That's when she discovered she had eaten Rainier's food.
Rainier is her dog, a 94-pound Great Pyrenees.
"As I fell asleep that night, my feet were twitching under the
covers and I was whimpering a lot," said Hogan.
She signed her letter, "Certifiably yours."
RULES FOR BANK ROBBERS
According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are
"unsophisticated and unprofessional crimes," comitted by young male
repeat offenders who apparently don't know the first thing about their
business. This information was included in an interesting, amusing
article titles "How Not to Rob a Bank," by Tim Clark, which appeared in
the 1987 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac.
Clark reported that in spite of the widespread use of surveillance
cameras, 76 percent of bank robbers use no disquise, 86 percent never
study the bank before robbing it, and 95 percent make no long-range
plans for concealing the loot. Thus, he offered this advice to would-be
bank robbers, along with examples of what can happen if the rules aren't
1. Pick the right bank. Clark advises that you don't follow the lead
of the fellow in Anaheim, Cal., who tried to hold up a bank that was no
longer in business and had no money. On the other hand, you don't want
to be too familiar with the bank. A California robber ran into his
mother while making his getaway. She turned him in.
2. Approach the right teller. Granted, Clark says, this is harder to
plan. One teller in Springfield, Mass., followed the holdup man out of
the bank and down the street until she saw him go into a restaurant.
She hailed a passing police car, and the police picked him up. Another
teller was given a holdup note by a robber, and her father, who was next
in line, wrestled the man to the ground and sat on him until authorities
3. Don't sign your demand note. Demand notes have been written on the
back of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh, on
an envelope bearing the name and address of another in Detroit, and in
East Hartford, Conn., on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the
robber's signature and account number.
4. Beware of dangerous vegetables. A man in White Plains, N.Y., tried
to hold up a bank with a zucchini. The police captured him at his
house, where he showed them his "weapon."
5. Avoid being fussy. A robber in Panorama City, Cal., gave a teller a
note saying, "I have a gun. Give me all your twenties in this
envelope." The teller said, "All I've got is two twenties." The robber
took them and left.
6. Don't advertise. A holdup man thought that if he smeared mercury
ointment on his face, it would make him invisible to the cameras.
Actually, it accentuated his features, giving authorities a much clearer
picture. Bank robbers in Minnesota and California tried to create a
diversion by throwing stolen money out of the windows of their cars.
They succeeded only in drawing attention to themselves.
7. Know your escape route. Avoid the sad fate of the thieves in
Florida who took a wrong turn and ended up on the Homestead Air Force
Base. They drove up to a military police guardhouse and, thinking it
was a tollbooth, offered the security men money.
8. Provide your own transportation. It is not clever to borrow the
teller's car, which she carefully described to police. This resulted in
the most quickly solved bank robbery in the history of Pittsfield, Mass.
9. Don't be too sensitive. In these days of exploding dye packs,
stuffing the cash into your pants can lead to embarrassing staings,
Clark points out,not to mention severe burns in sensitive places--as
bandits in San Diego andBoston painfully discovered.
10. Consider another line of work. One nervous Newport, R.I., robber,
while trying to stuff his ill-gotten gains into his shirt pocket, shot
himself inthe head and died instantly. Then there was the case of the
hopeful criminalin Swansea, Mass., who, when the teller told him she had
no money, fainted.He was still unconscious when the police arrived.
In view of such ineptitude, it is not surprising that in 1978 and 1979,
for example, federal and state officers made arrests in 69 percent of
the bankholdups reported.
A D.C. radio station, WAVA with Don Geronimo and Mike O'Mera (105.1 on your
F.M. dial) used to run a bit called "Crooks are Stupid!". They read a few
questionable stories that were very funny such as...
...A couple of men go to rob a bank. They back their car up to the doors of
the bank, tie a chain around the door handles, then around their fender,
then hit the gas. The fender rips off the car and they panic and speed
away. The police recovered the fender AND THE LICENSE PLATE and tracked
down the puzzled crooks.
My favorite is about a man who tried to hijack a plane. It was a
charter filght, sitting on the ground. The guy runs across the tarmac,
forces his way into the plane, pulls a gun on the stewardess, who starts
Turns out this is a flight of FBI agents going to a convention, and
there are now a plane full of guns aimed at him.
** SMART THIEVES **
In a departure from your usual stupid crooks stories...
* Last spring, New Jersey officials stopped a rash of purse-
snatchings in restrooms along the Garden State Parkway by removing
hooks from ladies' room stall doors. (Thieves would reach over
the stall doors and remove purses, which women had hung on hooks
while they used the toilet.) According to a Philadelphia Inquirer
story in June, the thieves then reinstalled the hooks at their own
expense, facilitating the theft rate to rise once again.
[Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-14-94]
-- from WEIRDNUZ.368 (News of the Weird, February 24, 1995)
by Chuck Shepherd
from Paul Harvey (a while back):
A witness is testifying before the court, and the prosecuting attorney is
asking him questions.
"You witnessed the robbery, sir?"
"What was stolen?"
"Did you see the thiefs?"
"Could you identify them?"
"Are the two men who stole the televisions in this courtroom?"
At this point, the two defendants raised their hands. What's a defense
attorney to do?
A husband and wife team robbed a grocery store. On the way out, she notices
a a clear plastic bin ( empty ) for a grand prize drawing. She
filled out an entry blank and dropped it in. They were quickly
A pair of burglars broke into a house that was bagged for termite spraying,
and were overcome by the gas. Stupidity _was_ a capital offense.
from WEIRDNUZ.371 (News of the Weird, March 17, 1995)
by Chuck Shepherd
LEAST COMPETENT PERSON
* In December a student at Georgia Tech was hospitalized in
serious condition after he ran down a long dormitory hallway at
full speed and jumped through a window. According to campus
police, the man might have panicked when a very small fire broke
out among papers in his room at 3 p.m. [Atlanta Journal-
LEAST JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE
* William Patrick Ford III, 15, was charged with the murder of a
liquor store owner in Dundalk, Md., in February. According to the
police, Ford shot the man after being rebuffed in his request for
change of a dollar. The victim's last words were, "What do I look
like, a bank?" [Baltimore Sun, 2-22-95]
Copyright 1995, Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.
Released for the entertainment of readers. No commercial use may
be made of the material or of the name News of the Weird.
A 31-year-old woman was arrested in Antioch, Calif., in February
after she walked into the police station carrying a bag of
methamphetamine she said she wanted tested because she thought her
boyfriend had added hallucinogens to it. [Contra Costa Times,
Who says Germans have no sense of humour? The following is from the Big
"One of the primary reasons cat doors are called cat doors is that
they're doors specifically designed for cats, as opposed to dogs, or
giraffes, or humans. All of this became abundantly clear to teenager
Jason Evans, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, when he recently spent six hours
stuck in one after using it in an attempt to get into his house. He was
eventually cut free by firemen. In Germany, meanwhile, Gunther Burpus
remained wedged in the cat door in his front-door for two days because
passers-by thought he was a piece of installation art. Mr Burpus, 41, of
Bremen, was using the door because he had mislaid his keys. Unfortunately
he was spotted by a group of student pranksters who removed his trousers
and pants, painted his bottom bright blue, stuck a daffodil between his
buttocks and erected a sign saying 'Germany Resurgent, an Essay in
Street Art. Please give Generously'. Passers-by assumed Mr Burpus'
screams were part of the act and it was only when an old woman
complained to the police that he was finally freed. "I kept calling for
help," he said, "but people just said 'Very good! Very clever!' and
threw coins at me." "
Two U.S. Navy enlisted men were charged with theft of Paula Thistle's car
phone in April near Annapolis, Md. After she discovered the phone missing,
she called the phone's number, told the man who answered that she was
"lonely," made a date with him, and arranged for police to make the arrest
when the man showed up for the date.
Federal agents arrested Gary and David Gross of Alpharetta, Ga., in April for
attempting to counterfeit $4.5 million with a printing job described by
agents as "poor," done on an offset press. The agents were tipped off by a
store owner, who said the two had bought the linen paper used in currency and
then asked the owner if he had any green ink that "matched the ink on a
Wealthy Brazilians, exasperated by a phenomenal increase in crime, have taken
to keeping lions to guard their homes. In one Sao Paulo condominium
development, crime dropped from 15 incidents a month to none - after a lion
almost ate a burglar alive in April.
* Inmate Frederick McGowan, 26, who had walked away from
the Blue Ridge Community work-release facility in Taylors,
S. Car., on March 10, was recaptured a week later when he
returned to the center to pick up his paycheck. (Officials, aware
of the way Mr. McGowan's mind works, were waiting for him.)
[Augusta Chronicle, 3-18-95]
* James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Mich., was killed in March as he
was trying to repair what police described as a "farm-type dump
truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while
Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a
troubling noise. Burns's clothes caught on something, however,
and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft."
[Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-1-95]
* In February in Wesley Chapel, Fla., Joseph C. Aaron, 20, was
hit in the leg with pieces of the bullet he fired at the exhaust pipe
of his car. While repairing the car, he had needed to bore a hole
in the pipe and, when he could not find a drill, tried to shoot a
hole in it. [Tampa Tribune, 2-17-95]
* Bowling Green, Ohio, student Robert Ricketts, 19, had his
head bloodied in May when he was struck by a Conrail train. He
told police he was trying to see how close to the moving train he
could place his head without getting hit. [[Bowling Green
* In May, police in Halifax, Mass., charged Robert Brinson, 28,
with assembling an Oklahoma City-style fertilizer bomb to blow
up his ex-girlfriend and her family. Police said one bomb was
found in the woman's bathroom and another in a doghouse
outside, both consisting of turpentine and nails in cans with a
battery and timer. However, police said the bombs were not
explosive--since Brinson had mistakenly used potting soil instead
of fertilizer. [Boston Herald, 5-23-95]