Killer goldfish, say ‘bye to Angel of Death

A guy calls up The New York Times and says, “My toaster’s talking to me.” The New York Times hangs up on him. And then he calls us up and says, “My toaster’s talking.” We say, “OK. Put the toaster on. We want to talk to him.”

—David Perel, Weekly World News

Dateline: Crossroads, Nev.

Headline: “The Angel of Death Visits Earth—He’s About To Claim Millions.”

The story: A Vietnam vet/rancher encounters a pale horse-riding figure in wide-brimmed hat. With “hollow sockets where his eyes should have been.” The rancher approaches, gun in hand. The creature ominously points a slender finger.

“It wasn’t that he was skinny—it was real bone!”

For regular readers of the Weekly World News, Death Angel sightings, along with super-storms and the coming Ultimate Depression, are “just the beginning” of divine wrath.

“Religious scholars insist that this latest flurry of sightings is God’s word writ large across the face of the nation—a revelation that unless we clean up our act, we are about to face His greatest test!”

The above story ran in a July issue of Weekly World News, “The World’s Only Reliable Newspaper.” Sadly, August marks the latest and last print edition of the tab. The WWN will continue, for now, at its Web site. No more ink-stained fingers while learning that “Global Cooling is an Ecological Disaster—in Pluto!”

Is the sad rumor of WWN’s demise greatly exaggerates—a publicity stunt designed to sell record numbers of the Aug. 27 issue? Its Web site () urges readers to rush out and buy the last print issue: “Save $100s or maybe $1,000s over what you will pay in two weeks on eBay.”

So I’m hopeful.

Unlike boring celebrity gossip tabs, the WWN seduces me with salacious tidbits of improbability. For years, I’d glance at it in the grocery store checkout line. Making sure that no professional journalists lurked nearby, I’d guiltily read the latest escapades of Bat Boy or find out whose bones were found in a Titanic life ring—Adam and Eve? Gay lovers? Gandhi?

One day, I finally bought a copy of WWN. I’d been working at Reno’s Gannett-owned daily newspaper for about a year. Once home, I couldn’t put the yella rag down (the WWN, of course, not the RG-J).

A memorable article “How to Cremate Your Dead Pet on Your Backyard BBQ!” included step-by-step instructions and a note of caution: “Your pet’s body will blacken and begin to smell. This is normal.”

WWN stories disrupt, challenge, offer new perspectives. The recent story “Tired Moms Have Had Enough! They Create a ‘Lazy Home Journal'” riffs on the role of women’s magazines in creating unrealistic self-expectations. An article about the French military replacing its lethal weapons with compressed air guns begins with a fake quote from a French general: “Killing people breeds bad will.”

I once joked with friends of my secret goal to write for the WWN. Turns out the paper employs folks with larger creds. David Perel, quoted above, worked at the Washington Post and ran the National Enquirer before settling in to do the fastidious work of MSU (Make Shit Up) journalism. It’s a time-honored tradition that dates back to the New York Sun, founded in 1833, which fabricated evidence of life on the moon.

As of this writing, I haven’t purchased the last WWN. I read its content ("Honeymoon Couple Attacked By Goldfish!") at the site, which seems to have attracted more advertisers than the paper.

Perhaps it takes an online audience to fully appreciate a publication that features Lester the Typing Chimp dispensing health advice. Or maybe it’s the “Exclusive Video!” of Bigfoot on Staten Island.