Press Clippings From Hell No.1

London, Observatory

An odd article in the New York Times grabs my attention today. A man who runs an online spectacles company has been threatening to rape and murder customers who complain about the poor quality of his sunglasses. The 6′ 5″ Ukranian admits he may have a bad attitude.

An older clipping is sent by a friend about six Belgian nuns, the Poor Sisters of Clara, who sold off their Bruges nunnery to property developers without informing the Vatican and bought a much nicer one in the South of France with a swimming pool. They also flogged off its art treasures and bought a new Mercedes and some racehorses, attracting the attention of Interpol.

For years I kept international press clippings that I intended to add around short stories in order to place them in context, but…I got bored with that. I kept them to help spark ideas, and they eventually ended up in an electronic dump-bin somewhere.

When I was clearing out my old MacBook Air I found the files, so here for your – well, not edification exactly – are some of the clippings I culled from the nineties to the present. A warning, though; after reading them you may come to feel that humanity is overrated…

In Stockton-On-Tees, a poverty-stricken family succumbed to heroin use, and as her son died, the distraught mother went to bingo to try and win money for his gravestone. Ironically, George Bush chose her neighbourhood for a visit at this time, and his security operation cost the British government a million pounds.

Pat Robertson, the US Christian evangelist, appeared on national television suggesting it would be a good idea for American hit squads to murder the president of Venezuela for his oil.

In London, a Big Brother house member simulated masturbation with a beer bottle on a channel subsidised for its contribution to quality television, and garnered more column inches in the national press than the US Republican government’s final refusal to cut CO2 emissions. US presidential advisors announced that they would solve global warming by ‘inventing something’, even though they wouldn’t directly acknowledge it was happening.

In Japan, internet suicide groups were infiltrated by bogus suicidees planning to kill their fellow members for cash, which had the effect of making teenagers think twice about killing themselves in groups. When the suicide business returned to normal in Japan, the new year’s death toll tripled.

In Britain, an 11-year-old girl was rushed to hospital suffering from a heroin overdose, while on the same day another 11-year-old announced she was pregnant and looking forward to becoming a pre-teen mum. It was revealed that half a million UK children belonged to street gangs.

In Plymouth, four mothers filmed themselves goading their toddlers into fighting each other. They did it, they said, to make their children hard and stop them from turning into ‘faggots’.

In America, where an estimated 37 million citizens were living below the poverty line, one Christian Right group decided to improve the world. They began financing trips to locate the remains of Noah’s Ark. Another such group threatened to kill cinema owners for agreeing to book Brokeback Mountain into theatres. So much for Christian kindness.

Endemol, the makers of Big Brother, produced a season casting mentally ill contestants in the hopes that they would humiliate themselves and hurt each other on live television. With racism shown to be endemic on the programme, public opinion mobilised against them, but the producers felt that its export market had been ‘fantastically improved’ by the sight of burning effigies in India. It emerged that the show was most popular with schoolchildren.

Hollywood turned the World Trade Center attacks into an upbeat action movie and Oliver Stone toured with a fireman pulled from the wreckage, thus rendering the film impervious to criticism.

Belize pressed the United Nations World Heritage Sites Committee to acknowledge that climate change was destroying its famous reef, but the US decided to reject the petition because it would ‘damage harmonious relations with the committee’. The Northern hemisphere posted the highest average temperatures in over 2,000 years.

Taxpayer-subsidised Channel 4 announced its latest adventure into the amelioration of the human spirit: ‘Wank Week’.

Surveys were published with some interesting data tucked inside them. Only 60 per cent of women in the UK were now sexually active. Over a million British schoolchildren were experiencing mental health problems. Over a million elderly people went an entire month without seeing someone they knew. London’s most rapidly growing demographic group was deemed to be single people living in apartments full of gadgets.

Experimental drugs tested on six English volunteers placed them at death’s door and inflated their heads ‘like the Elephant Man.’

Chinese cockle pickers returned to Morecambe despite the fact that nineteen employees had drowned in one afternoon while digging for shellfish.

In County Durham, a giant inflatable sculpture designed to create a sense of ‘harmonious calm’ took off with thirty people trapped inside it, killing two and injuring a dozen others.

A Russian spy died after being poisoned by a radioactive spray applied to his sushi. And the dead journalist Alistair Cooke had his legs sawn off and replaced with drainpipes by New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, a modern-day Burke & Hare company prosecuted for trafficking in body parts.

With CCTVs adopting face-recognition and electronic tracers of every kind invading British society, Orwell’s concept of a Big Brother state truly became a reality when a contestant on Big Brother admitted she had no idea what the title of the show meant.

In Britain 1 in 10 children lives in a mixed-race family, with mixed-race relationships so common that traditionally distinct ethnic groups have started to disappear. Not in the royal family, however, after Prince Harry was rebuked for using the term ‘Paki’ and Prince Charles admitted to calling an Asian friend ‘Sooty’. Hating to miss out on any publicity, Margaret Thatcher’s daughter Carol publicly called the handsome and talented French-Congolese tennis champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a ‘golliwog’.

More recently, councillors in Penzance, Cornwall acknowledged that they had voted to leave Europe, but promised their constituents that they would ‘petition the EU to exempt Cornwall from losing EU funding.’

Time to give our planet over to the ants, I feel.

36 comments on “Press Clippings From Hell No.1”

  1. Jo W says:

    As the paper in public conveniences used to advise-‘ Now wash your hands’. I’m off to do just that.

  2. Liz+Thompson says:

    I’m deeply disturbed about Alistair Cooke’s corpse. Was it exhumed for the procedure, or did they bribe the funeral parlour?

  3. Peter+T says:

    Allegedly, the case of the Poor Sisters of Clara was a power play between the nuns and the Bishop. Allegedly, the Bishop had stopped new recruits joining the order so that it would be closed and the diocese could sell the convent and pocket the cash, which would then be at the disposal of the aforementioned bish. Allegedly, the sisters’ actions were aimed at blocking the Bishop and his dastardly (allegedly) plans and living a slightly better life.

  4. Paul+C says:

    I like clipping bizarre newspaper stories. A favourite is the cheeky blackbird at the railway station of Berne-Stoeckacker in Switzerland where guards have to use hand signals to send off the trains because the bird mimics the guard’s whistle so perfectly that trains kept leaving suddenly at the wrong times with all the passengers struggling to get on. It was many months before they figured out why………

  5. SteveB says:

    There was a Saint short story about giving the world over to ants.

    That’s an incredibly depressing collection. Are you going to post something happier tomorrow (please…)

  6. Helen+Martin says:

    Regarding the Alistair Cooke story: When did it happen? How was the matter discovered? What happened to the legs? and are we sure that this actually happened?
    Who sprayed the Russian spy’s sushi with radioactive poison? Was he a defector or did a British or American agency have a hand in it?
    Perhaps ask Bellingcat?
    The No.1 in today’s heading makes me think the next column will be like this one, deeply depressing. I prefer my persoonal clipping service which informs me with news of geographical and archaeological discoveries, train news, and all forms of literary stuff, especially about Elizabeth Bishop. Much cheerier than this.

  7. Roger says:

    Ants taking over is an SF trope. I think Wells was the first to come up with it in the 1890s.

  8. joel d ivins says:

    we had some nuns over here in hollywood who are suing kary perry for buying their convent…whoever sold it to her supposedly didn’t have proper permission…so here is poor katy, just wanting to live in a cool house, and the catholic church is fighting amongst themselves, while obviously not wanting her, in particular, living in an old convent…she is just not the right type of girl…weird stories are entertaining in small doses, too much publicizing of the horrid behaviour of people is too much of a downer.

  9. Jonah says:

    Is Hell No. 1 only the first circle of Hell? The Belgian nuns, though, don’t seem so bad; well, they don’t seem to have physically hurt anyone. They may have defrauded the Vatican, which some might excuse as turnabout is fair play. The (not so) Poor Sisters of Clare remind me a little of the amoral nuns of the Humiliated Redeemers in Pedro Almodovar’s “Dark Habits (Entre Tinieblas)”.
    Compelled to search the Internet for more on the nuns. Turns out back in 1990 there were 2 sets of notorious Belgian Poor Sisters of Clare. The sisters in Nieuwport were converting their convent into a “luxury hotel, complete with gourmet restaurant and fitness center”. The sisters from Bruges, aged mid-50s to 93 at the time, left town after refusing a Church investation, leaving in a Mercedes, a limo, and an ambulance carrying the oldest sister, for the old castle they had bought in the south of France. They certainly went out in style, although they did leave behind the racehorses. The bishop of Bruges ex-communicated the mother superior and the youngest nun. I wonder what happened to them.

  10. Jonah says:

    A happy ending for the Poor Sisters of Clare. They got the goods after all, not the diocese.
    But first, some exposition: According to a UPI article, “‘The nuns wanted the proceeds from the convent to go to their families rather than the church after they all died, so they changed the statutes of the convent,’ lawyer Clive Van Aerden said.
    Under the old bylaws, the diocese of Bruges would have received the property and goods of the convent after the death of all the sisters, ages 62 to 93.
    The nuns changed the bylaws several months ago and sold the convent to textile firms, said the lawyer, who spoke for [Ronny] Crab [the nuns’ financial “advisor”] at a news conference outside the jail in Ghent [from which Crab had just been released].
    The convent has the status of a non-profit association, so it is governed by its own bylaws.”

    Now for the finish – From the 18th January 1991 issue of The Catholic Herald:
    “Run-away nuns win in court
    The saga of a group of elderly Belgian nuns who sold their 600-year-old Bruges convent for a chateau in the south of France amid legal wranglings over the funds involved and tales of great extravagance ended in court this week.
    The eight Poor Sisters of Clare, whose average age is 77, were said to have upped and left their home in a new £60,000 Mercedes equipped with a travelling bar last March. Their new chateau in the foothills of the Pyrenees had been fitted with swimming pool, tennis courts and stables for race horses.
    But questions were quickly raised about the nuns’ finances and the role of their handyman Ronny Crab in the affair. Their assets were frozen by the Belgian courts. By December they had decided to return to Bruges, their life in the chateau at an end.
    Victorious at the hearing over their belongings this week, including valuable works of art from their old convent building, the nuns were handed back everything they owned.
    The nuns had told a tribunal last month they believed their chateau had been sold too cheaply by their financial administrator and that they wanted control over their resources to start up a new convent in Bruges.
    Since the escapade began their oldest member, 93-year-old Sr Agnes, who was taken down to France in an ambulance, has died and another is in hospital. Charges against Ronny Crab for fraud and exploitation are still outstanding.”

  11. Peter+Dixon says:

    Biomedical Tissue Services were a result of the US medical system and muscular capitalism coming together like something out of a dodgy shlock horror story. Working on the basis that more people wanted body parts than were available they harvested corpses from hospitals and mortuaries using a ‘front’ company and selling the bits to decidedly dodgy surgeons – “Amazing luck Mr. Huxtable, we’ve got an unexpected pair of legs that are just the right match for you, just sign the cheque and we’ll have ’em fitted in no time”. Usually with spare parts you get some sort of guarantee or warranty, but imagine your surprise when you wake up to find you have the legs of an octogenarian radio broadcaster with well past it arteries. No chance of taking up ballroom dancing with those babies.

    The drainpipes were substituted so that the coffin wouldn’t be top heavy and spotted during the funeral.

    Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter From America’ was one of my favourite radio shows, pointing out the weekly foibles and unfathomable idiosyncrasies of our American cousins. I would have enjoyed hearing him describe his own tragic circumstances in his inimitable style.

  12. admin says:

    I have plenty more of these but maybe they should wait for a later date, when we’re all feeling happier.

  13. Roger says:

    The whole point about convents is surely that they inherit bequests from earlier donors as convents – that it is the institution, not its members that own their grounds and property and as these convents exist by the RC church’s authority and were given bequests because they are authorised by the church, it finally goes back to the church – the church as an institution, not an individual bishop.
    For more wicked nuns, see Muriel Spark’s The Abbess of Crewe.

  14. Brooke says:

    Hence agnotology.

  15. Woodsy says:

    Wow ! I don’t know which to do Laugh or Cry ?

  16. Peter+T says:

    Is that the state of not knowing that you’ve been sold a load of porkies?

  17. Stu-I-Am says:

    My current favorite is out of Poland, where the mystery tree “creature” reported to animal services in Kraków, after spooking local residents, ultimately turned out to be a croissant. One wonders if this was an ill-fated attempt to attract French tourists or in fact, the extremely rare Caméléon pâtissier or “pastry” chameleon, previously seen only as an éclair ?
     

  18. Ian Luck says:

    News clippings of batshit crazy stuff can be found in my favourite magazine, the ‘Fortean Times’ – it never fails to surprise me, and I’ve enjoyed reading it for the best part of 30 years now. A spin off from the Fortean Times, was a magazine called ‘Bizarre’, whose first issue had several pages torn out for legal reasons. Good start. It didn’t take long for it to become a soft core porn mag, though, and stopped publishing several years ago. FT, still goes. And is worth a read, if only to prove two things: (1) Everything you know is wrong, (2) You are being lied to.*

    *Possibly.

  19. Paul+C says:

    Fortean Times comes from the strange works of Charles Fort whose amazing life is worth a look – try the biography by Jim Steinmeyer called ‘Charles Fort – The Man Who Invented the Supernatural’.

    There used to be a show on Channel 4 entitled ‘Fortean TV’ presented by the wonderful weirdo (and author of hundreds of books) Lionel Fanthorpe – time for a revival.

  20. Brooke says:

    @ Peter T. Agnotology is the study of why people want to buy a load of porkies, even when presented with data and information that tells them it’s not in their best interest to do so.

  21. Frances says:

    My favourite clipping was about a man in rural Argentina who had an ingrown toenail. He was so afraid of the necessary procedure that he asked for general anaesthetic.They put him under but his heart stopped and they pounded on his chest to revive him, thus breaking a rib or two, and had to finally resort to cutting his chest open and massaging the heart. It worked. They decided to take him back to his room and try again another day but the electricity had gone off, apparently quite common in the area. They had to carry him up a flight of stairs on the gurney but managed to drop him on the way up. He fell quite heavily onto his arm, breaking it. When he finally came to, he had a line of stitches down the middle of his chest, pain from the ribs, and an arm in plaster. He still had the ingrown toenail.

    Second favourite is about the smoke alarm factory which burned down.

  22. Jo W says:

    Frances,
    When interviewed,did the man say “well,have you ever had one of those days?”

  23. Peter+T says:

    Wasn’t there a fellow who was afraid of the dentist. He removed his bad tooth by carefully lining up his hunting rifle and pulling the trigger.

  24. Rob+Lloyd says:

    Oh no! I can’t believe I missed Wank Week!

  25. John+Griffin says:

    Agnotology – thanks for that one!
    LBC last week, apparently, and repeated several times on social media – a resident/voter of Hartlepool voted Tory “because they gave us 9 food banks, Labour gave us none.”
    May be an urban myth, like Hangus the Monkey

  26. Stu-I-Am says:

    A Japanese man has been arrested after reportedly dating more than 35 women at the same time. Takashi Miyagawa, a part-time worker, is being investigated for allegedly defrauding dozens of women by pretending he was serious about each of their relationships and receiving hundreds of pounds worth of gifts from them. Two observations: (1) Not surprising he is working only part-time and (2) he should probably receive an award for stellar time management.

  27. Paul+C says:

    (3) 35 mothers – in – law

  28. Helen+Martin says:

    Paul, as my husband says, that’s why he was only dating but not marrying them.

  29. Stu-I-Am says:

    When I first saw only the headline about the Japanese man being arrested for dating 35 women at the same time, I immediately thought he had exceeded the legal limit for passengers in a minibus. Something along the lines of the “statistic” about someone being struck by a car every ten minutes.

  30. Stu-I-Am says:

    An Australian woman, 27 year old Brisbane dentist, An Gie Yen, woke up from surgery on her tonsils, speaking in what appears to be an Irish accent. Experts recognized that Yen – who has never been to Ireland – is suffering from the very rare condition, known as “foreign accent syndrome”. About 100 cases of foreign accent syndrome have been reported worldwide, and it has been found to be more common in women than men.

    In 2013, the BBC showed a documentary about a woman from Devon whose “Chinese” accent resulted from a severe migraine. In 2016, a Texan woman was diagnosed with foreign accent syndrome when she spoke in an English accent following jaw surgery.

    I wonder if Ms.Yen now finds herself cheering “Aussie,Aussie, Aussie, Oggy, Oggy, Oggy !” instead of “Oi,Oi, Oi.”

  31. Helen+Martin says:

    Are women more likely to be aware of speech rhythms than men? More sensitive to form than content? Is there some sort of reversion to the more comfortable form going on? I’ve wondered about this ever since I heard of these strange events.

  32. Stu-I-Am says:

    Since the condition is so rare, and the sample size of the known affected so small, at this point it appears that the matter of gender (75 of the 100 or so affected were women) may have primarily to do with differences in the areas of the brain responsible for speech. Although research indicates there may also be a genetic factor. But, the scientific jury is still out on an actual cause and in fact, there could very likely be shown to be more than one.

  33. Helen+Martin says:

    I see an article on Mapping the Human Brain on the bathroom stand. I’ll take a look and see if it has anything to say on the subject.

  34. Brooke says:

    For Fowler Files https://apnews.com/article/arizona-election-recount-b38a9205c306796f914d62bbad601587.
    You can always count on a few select states for such news.

  35. admin says:

    Thanks Brooke. I now believe there is no bottom to the human talent for self-delusion.

  36. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Brooke. What next, subjecting the ballots to ultraviolet light and bleach to expose secret messages from Hugo Chavez ?

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