The Weekly World News existed because the owner of the National Enquirer switched to color printing, but he didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good black and white press. Eddie Clontz was the managing editor for the Weekly World News during much of its run. He had a philosophy for his newsroom: “Don’t fact check yourself out of a good story.” The WWN took each ridiculous claim it was presented with as unshakable truth (you can still get your bizarre "news" fix at WWN's website). And every now and then, amid Bat Boy’s wild antics and Grandma’s trips to heaven to play bingo with Jesus, there were truths. Eight Weekly World News headlines that turned out to be true are listed below.
1. June 7, 1988 — "WOMAN BURSTS INTO FLAMES DURING OPERATION!"
Suffering a serious spider bite, Kathy Williams underwent an emergency tracheotomy at the Welborn Hospital in Indiana. The sterilizing solution swabbed over the upper part of her body and face caught fire when, according to the News, a spark from a cauterizing device lit her into “a ball of fire.”
Twenty-one years later, Kathy’s ordeal would again be mentioned in The Southern Illinoisan, when another woman died from what is termed “a surgical flash fire.” The article confirms that “Kathy Williams of Harrisburg… suffered second- and third-degree burn from a 1988 flash fire over the top half of her body, including her face, in what was to have been a common surgery.” The article mentions that Kathy settled out of court.
2. June 7, 1988 — "BIRTH DEFECT NEARLY RUINED HIS LIFE!! BOY WAS RAISED AS A GIRL—BY MISTAKE!"
Genitals start neutrally, the same for both boys and girls. As the pregnancy progresses, the chromosomes of the fetus begin to shape the same basic flesh into vulvas or scrotums, penises or clitorises. Ambiguous genitalia occur when this development is not finished. Steve Hammond was born with XY chromosomes, making him male. But his testicles were recessed and his penis was what the doctors of his day deemed too small to allow him a happy male existence. So they did what was fashionable. They told his parents to raise him female. (For a truly devastating tale of how bad of an idea this is, read about the life of David Reimer.)
“Linda” Hammond knew she was different. She never grew breasts or menstruated and she was the strongest woman at the shipyard she worked at. Linda thought she was a hermaphrodite and was deeply ashamed, never seeking medical help until age 25. When a doctor revealed to Steve that he was a man, Steve set about making himself a life, which can be read about both here and in his book, Looking Beyond the Mountains.
3. June 17, 2004 — "HOG-ZILLA! MUTANT 12 FOOT PIG KILLED IN GEORGIA! AND THERE ARE OTHERS OUT THERE!!"
Now, be savvy. This is NOT Hog-zilla, though many will try to pixelate you into thinking it is. But Hog-zilla was real. He was a crossbreed of a domestic Hampshire pig and a wild boar, and he was killed in 2004 by a Georgian man named Chris Griffin. Hog-zilla wasn’t edible and was too expensive (and horrid) to have stuffed, so his killers gave him a proper burial. And it was a good thing, because that allowed Dr. Oz Katz and his father, Dr. Eliahu Katz, to exhume the remains and prove the monster of myth had truly existed. He was, however, only 8 feet long, not 12. Still utter nightmare fodder. One of the rare times all those exclamation points the WWN uses are justified.
4. May 3, 1988 — "SKYDIVER LEARNS IN MIDAIR—HE FORGOT HIS PARACHUTE! 'OH MY GOD, NO!'"
Ivan Lester McGuire was 35 years old and a veteran of over 800 skydiving jumps when he fell to his death in April 1988. He was hoping to launch a career as a skydiving photographer, and jumped hooked into a special camera to film another team of jumpers. His co-workers, like Ivan, did not notice he had not put on his parachute. ''We are all preoccupied with doing our own job,'' said Paul Fayard, owner of the Franklin County Sport Parachute Center who flew the plane Ivan jumped from. It was likely the excitement of suiting up with the complicated photography gear that distracted Ivan. The police recounted that he at one point reaches for his rip cord and comes up empty handed. The rest of the video is just the ground approaching at 150 miles per hour.
5. May 17, 1988— "DOCTORS REMOVE 126-POUND TUMOR FROM 124 POUND WOMAN!"
The photo does not go with the article, though it somehow makes it better to think it does. 55 year old Barbara Louise Jones knew something was wrong with her, but she was too scared to go to a doctor. Her mother had died a difficult death from cancer, and Barbara’s fear was more powerful than her logic. She hoped avoiding a diagnosis meant avoiding cancer. But when she was forced to retire early due to exhaustion, and was unable to drive a car over her own distended abdomen, she went. And she did have cancer. A 130-pound malignant ovarian tumor adhering to the walls of her abdomen, stretching her skin “paper thin.” The incision to remove it was 4½ feet. The tumor was fully removed, and Barbara was expected to have a full recovery. A later obituary for a Barbara Louise Jones of the same age and location lists her death date as July 2010.
6. October 6, 1990 — "NEW! BIRTH CONTROL GIZMO IS A 5-YEAR WONDER!!"
Hormonal IUD’s were, not so long ago, a crazy futuristic fever dream thought up by Finnish doctors. Doctors had been experimenting with copper IUD’s for some time, but Jouni Valtteri Tapani Luukkainen’s original T-shaped Levanova-R was the first to use progesterone to such success. The progesterone thickens the mucus inside the uterus so sperm can’t get through to do their job, and the device can safely remain inside a woman for up to five years. Levanova-R is now called Mirena, is owned by Bayer, and is one of the most popular and reliable forms of birth control available.
7. Oct 8, 1985 — "LESBIAN JUDGE GIVES BIRTH!"
Mary Carolyn Morgan did, in fact, give birth. To a human. She is also an honest to goodness lesbian. In 1981 she became the first openly gay woman in America to be appointed as a judge. She now sits on the San Francisco County Superior Court.
8. October 8, 1985 — "DAD - 14 - LOSES CHILD CUSTODY FIGHT: YOUNG LOVE ON THE ROCKS!"
Honestly, Hal tried to do it right. He got his 15-year-old girlfriend, Wendy, pregnant when he was 13, so he married her. They moved into the trailer behind his parent’s house. Wendy left him a year later and took their baby, Heather, with her. So Hal fought for custody, and lost. Hal’s dad Herbert defended his son. “The judge here simply did not consider the merit of the case,” he said. "He would not separate the tradition of always granting custody to the mother from today's reality that I have a responsible son.” And Hal did have a point when he told reporters, "It seems there is just no justice in this world, because I have done absolutely nothing to lose my baby girl."
Hal was ordered to pay $30 a week in child support, which he could not afford as state law forbade children his age from working. Love was still in the cards for Hal, though. The following year he married his second wife, 14-year-old Catherine, who soon gave birth to baby Ashley. Hal was surprised at the pregnancy, and said he’d been too shy to procure condoms. As of 1986, he vowed to keep fighting for full custody of Heather.