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Weird Pittsburgh

News of the weird from all over Western Pennsylvania

A photographer snapping shots on the banks of the Stonycreek River in Somerset County came across a discarded T-shirt, pack of cigarettes and pair of shoes and socks. Police found an empty whisky bottle and mysterious pills nearby. This kicked off a frantic search for a drowned person. More than 50 members of local police, fire and EMS departments descended on the area. Police dogs sniffed for cadavers along the river. A water-recreation company from Johnstown provided kayaks to volunteers. After four hours, a police sergeant abruptly ended the search. He announced that the man sought by the legion of rescuers was in the Cambria County jail. The previous day, Ferndale police pulled over 41-year-old Todd Michael Ryan, who nearly drove a pickup truck into a guide rail and veered dangerously close to pedestrians, according to police. Shirtless, shoeless and spouting nonsense, he allegedly tussled with officers before being stuffed in a squad car. Police told the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown they are certain Ryan left the items by the river before his joyride.

When his time comes, Zion A. Scriven might have trouble passing through the Pearly Gates. The Herald of Sharon reports that the 19-year-old Slippery Rock Township man allegedly burglarized two churches, finding little money (maybe because they were churches). Police say Scriven ransacked Tower Presbyterian, in Grove City, knocking over office furniture and damaging walls, doors and even piping. He reportedly made off with $8 and a $25 gift card. His burglary of Galilean Baptist, in Pine Township, was apparently cut short by the unforeseen event of Rev. Joseph Swain showing up for work. Scriven allegedly hid in the basement for 90 minutes and spurred Swain to leave by cutting the building’s electricity. Scriven apparently couldn’t resist leaving a sticky note on Swain’s computer reading, “I was going to kill you, but I shut off the power instead,” adding a smiley face, according to reports. A fingerprint on the note lead police to Scriven.

Across Harrisburg, lawmakers and state agencies received an email, asking them to please not hang up on the governor. “Please advise your switchboard that if they receive a call for anyone in your department, claiming to be Tom Wolf they should not hang up on him,” it read. “It may very well be the governor.” Usually, staffers do the actual dialing and endure holds and transfers when a high-ranking official communicates via phone. But Wolf prefers to make his own calls, and sometimes underlings in Harrisburg think they’re being pranked. According to, a receptionist at the Department of Community and Economic Development hung up on the governor. In another instance, when Wolf dialed a state legislator and announced himself, a staff member allegedly retorted “bullshit.”

Many were stunned last fall when the City Brewing Co. of Latrobe released a “Paterno Legacy Series” of beer, featuring quotes from and images of the late Penn State football coach on cans. Joe Paterno’s legacy had crumbled under revelations he failed to report an assistant coach’s sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. But the beer — dubbed “enabler ale” by some internet commenters — sells wildly in Central Pennsylvania, where reverence for the winning coach lingers. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports City Brewing is adding a light beer to its Paterno line. The company feels a light beer would sell better to its target demographic of Penn State tailgaters. The lower alcohol content also might be better for Paterno diehards, whose judgment is clearly impaired even when sober.

In what seems like a plotline from a ’70s Saturday-morning cartoon, a man pursued by police escaped by leaping a fence and hiding in a zoo. Late at night, police were chasing a car they say had been stolen, when the driver abandoned it and leapt into the grounds of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. KDKA reports that for two hours, zoo staff and police with canines searched the zoo but were not able to find him.

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