A boy named Hal Warden, 16, successfully divorced his wife, who was 13. They had been married a year.
It was actually the boy’s second marriage. His first marriage had been to an “older woman”. He’d been 12, she was 14.
Both marriages produced children. But family life was all too much for Hal.
His first wife complained to the judge about her 12-year-old husband: “He was acting like a 10-year-old.”
That’s a true story from the US state of Tennessee which is remembered with great affection by columnists such as the present writer, who specialise in amazing-but-true tales from around the world.
That’s because it appeared in the very first News of the Weird syndicated newspaper column, in 1988. I was reminded of it by the news that that column’s writer, Chuck Shepherd, has just announced his retirement.
This is bad news for the planet. The less weird news there is, the more people will discuss boring, serious things such as the impending end of civilisation, etc.
Individual odd-but-true news items have always appeared in the media, but some streams ran for decades, such as Chuck’s series, and that of the present writer, who has been writing funny-but-true columns since the 1980s, including the Traveller’s Tales column in the Far Eastern Economic Review.
That column featured funny stuff that travellers had seen — such as the amused Chinese reader who sent in a photo of a German hostelry called The Bad Hotel. (Bad in German means spa-bath.)
And the Western traveller who found a medical practice specialising in sexual diseases in Taiwan called the Happy VD Clinic.
Earlier this year, two of the Internet’s best weird news websites, Nothing To Do With Abroath and The Presurfer, stopped abruptly after the deaths of their respective writers (Kevin Gray and Gerard Vlemmings).
Does all this mean that the world will become less weird?
The opposite seems to be true: Life is getting increasingly bizarre.
Just in recent weeks, readers wrote to me about a mass outbreak of transgenderism in a river’s fish population, the discovery of a tribe which evolved to be immune to poison, and a man who “identifies as an alien”.
People are weird. Life is strange. There’s really nothing quite like it.
But let’s give the last anecdote to Chuck Shepherd. In 1995, he alerted the world to the antics of jailbird Robert Lee Brock, who filed a $5 million lawsuit against Robert Lee Brock.
Yes, Brock sued himself, arguing that his dark side, by committing numerous crimes, had violated the rights of his good side. “I ask the state to pay it on my behalf since I can’t work and am a ward of the state,” he said.
Judges threw out his lawsuit. But at least his cheekiness gave people a smile.
In the meantime, thanks to Google Translate and Autocorrect, the number of funny menu items sent in by readers, particularly in East Asia, continues to grow. From Japan, we have “Roasted Husband”, from China we have “Stir-Fried Wikipedia With Pimientos” and an item on a Taiwanese menu is translated: “I Can’t Find On Google But It’s Delicious.”
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)