Home / Columns / Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird / Alaskans Like ’Em Hairy
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alaskans Like ’Em Hairy

Google+ Pinterest Print

At the biennial World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, four local heroes defeated the usually dominant German contingent. The 18-category pageant, which took place in May, included overall champ David Traver of Girdwood, Alaska, whose woven chin hair resembles a snowshoe. Traver said of the German competitors, "They were humble, and you have to respect that." One defending champ, California’s Jack Passion, fell short with his navel-length red hair, despite having authored The Facial Hair Handbook after his 2007 victory. Traver acknowledged that no money was at stake—only trophies and "bragging rights"—but added that there are "a lot of ladies" who fawn over men's facial hair. "Seriously, they exist."

 Fun With Prisons

 The head of Florida's Department of Corrections (DOC) admitted in May that at least 43 children (including a 5-year-old) who observed their parents' prison jobs as part of "Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day" in April were playfully zapped by 50,000-volt stun guns. DOC Secretary Walt McNeil said the demonstrations, which occurred in three of the state's 55 prisons, included 14 children who were individually shot (the rest of the kids took part in hand-holding circles to feel a passing current). Twenty-one employees were disciplined.

 People Different From Us

 When Christina Vanderclip dropped by the house of her former boyfriend, Travis Schneller, in Greeley, Colo., in June, she soon began to argue with him. According to police, Travis hit her and pulled her hair, then Travis' mother jumped on Christina's back and pulled her hair, and then Travis' younger brother and father, Robert, jumped on Christina, too, hitting and choking her. Christina managed to escape, and police, after a six-hour standoff, entered the home and arrested the entire Schneller family.

 Least Competent Criminals

 (1) Jose Villarreal, charged in Georgetown, Texas, with assaulting his girlfriend, decided to reject the prosecutor's offer of five years in prison and take his chances at trial. In May, the jury deliberated one minute before finding Villarreal guilty, and he received 16 years in prison. (2) Charles Dumas, 37, insisted that he was innocent of raping a young girl in 1998, even though he had been convicted of the crime and sentenced to 10-years-to-life. After years of Dumas asking for a DNA test, prosecutors finally relented earlier this year. Dumas told a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch: "This test means my life. It's my last chance to prove to my children I didn't do this." In May, the results came back and confirmed that Dumas was guilty.

 Look What I Found

 (1) Rescuers searching for a missing tourist on China's Taishan Mountain in April failed to find him, but they did discover seven corpses. (2) Los Angeles Police detectives, frustrated that a 1980s-era South Los Angeles serial rapist/killer is still at large, set out to painstakingly trawl for DNA from all unregistered sex offenders who have come through the system since then. They came up with nothing to match those crimes, but in late March they matched DNA to a different cold-case serial killer, the "Westside Rapist" from the 1970s, and arrested John Floyd Thomas Jr., now 72.

 Recurring Themes

 Drivers Run Over By Their Own Cars: (1) An allegedly inebriated 21-year-old man in Santa Fe, N.M., shifted into reverse, thinking it was "park," and fell out the driver's door (November). (2) An allegedly inebriated 52-year-old man in Tobyhanna, Pa., ran over himself after falling out of his truck while trying to reach the controls of the access fence at his gated community (May). (3) A 56-year-old woman in Santa Monica, Calif., was killed when she left her stalled car in "drive" while she crawled underneath to determine why it wouldn't start. She accidentally triggered the starter with a screwdriver, and the car drove over her (May).

 A News of the Weird Classic (September 2005)

 On a hot day in July 2005 in Stamford, Conn., firefighters not only had to break a car window to save a young child, but they also had to overcome the car's owner, who couldn't bear to see her Audi A4 damaged. The then-23-month-old son of Susan Guita Silverstein, then 42, had been locked inside the car by accident, along with the key, for at least 20 minutes on a sweltering, 88-degree day. Silverstein, who was later charged with reckless endangerment, begged firefighters to wait for her to go home and retrieve her spare key instead of breaking a window on the car.

c. 2009 Chuck Shepherd