The Weekly World News (WWN) (www.weeklyworldnews.com) is a news source that has inspired musicals ("Bat Boy: The Musical"), books ("Bat Boy Lives"), feature films ("Men In Black") and televisions shows.
Its longtime editor, Eddie Clontz, a 10th-grade dropout from North Carolina and former copy editor at small newspapers , joined the paper in 1981. In 1999, David Pecker bought American Media Inc., which owned the Weekly World News. Within the next two years, a lot of WWN's longtime writers and editors, including Clontz, Sal Ivone, Joe Berger, Bob Lind, Dick Kulpa and Leskie Pinson, were gone, replaced by young comedy writers. Clontz left the paper in 2001, having been there 20 years, and died in 2004.
In the 1980s, the circulation of WWN peaked at 1.2 million per issue. In a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2007, American Media said that sales of WWN in 2006 were only 83,000 per issue.
Along with a website that is updated daily, the Weekly World News is currently being published as an insert within Sun magazine, with new material being printed alongside articles and columns from older issues.
On occasion, it ran strange-but-true stories, such as "DEVOUT CHRISTIAN ATTACKED -- AND HE'S THE ONE FINED! referring to conservative English street preacher Harry Hammond being fined after he was threatened by "homosexual liberals." Other verifiable stories included, but were not limited to, those of a giant mutant hog monster attacking Georgia. It reported on the discovery of an infant dragon preserved in formaldehyde proving the existence of dragons, although this was later proven to be a hoax . It also quoted Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth on Pope John Paul II's battles with Satan.
However, these stories were the exceptions. When most of the supermarket tabloids were acquired by Fleet Street publishers, they switched to celebrity gossip, but the Weekly World News remained devoted to weirdness. In the introduction to Batboy Lives! Sal Ivone, former managing editor, said, "If someone calls me up and says their toaster is talking to them, I don't refer them to professional help, I say, 'Put the toaster on the phone'." Derrik Lang, a former stringer for the paper, said, "That fat guy with the sunburned belly and that kid abused by his own shadow were living, breathing people with wilder-than-wild stories to tell — in my head. I can't attest to the entire publication, but everything in my stories was fake — you know, depending on how you define fake.
WWN was a journalistic leader in following the progress of Bat Boy, the half-bat, half-boy superhero; and P'lod, an extraterrestrial who became involved in Earth politics and had an affair with Hillary Clinton. Other important issues regularly reported on included the oncoming great depression/apocalypse, and newly found lost prophecies.
WWN was also in the forefront of informing the public about alien abductions, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and time travel. WWN once carried a story about inhabitants of the planet Mercury who had proposed to establish a colony in San Francisco — presumably they sought a more temperate climate, where lead was generally a solid. (In one of the latest, Iraq was revealed to possess a "time tunnel" capable of facilitating time travel.)
Occasionally, stories published in the Weekly World News sent shock waves through the legal and law enforcement communities. For example, in early 1989, WWN published startling photographs on the front page of executed serial killer Ted Bundy on the autopsy table. Electrode burns on Bundy's shaved head with his fixed and dilated pupils staring into space could clearly be seen in the photographs. Angry and surprised officials in Florida vowed to catch the person responsible. Eventually, a low-level employee of the Alachua County, Florida Medical Examiners office was arrested and charged with taking and selling the photographs.
Regular columns included Ed Anger (opinion), Hi Dolly (relationship advice), first Dear Babs and later Dear Dottie (outspoken advice columnists), Horse Sense (medical advice), Monkey Business (financial and business-related advice and information) and Madame Malisa (psychic).
Beginning on May 9, 2005, the Weekly World News went "All New", along with other tabloid papers, such as the National Enquirer which had become "Bigger•Bolder•Better". In the new Weekly World News, Serena and Sonya Sabak's psychic column was replaced by the horoscopes of Madame Malisa and Dotti Primrose's "Dear Dotti" was supplanted by an advice column called "Hi Dolly" written by a middle-aged, blonde woman reared somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The new WWN included a weekly "Weird Picture Search" by famed Mad cartoonist Sergio Aragones. Other features included Trivia, Test Yourself, Jokes and "Miss Adventure", "The Gayest American Hero", who has penetrated the mob, gone to Hollywood, and fought DRAG-U-LA traveling from the depths of the Earth's center to Outer Space.
Two pages of comic strips became a popular feature, many spun off from feature stories. "SpyCat", created by Dick Siegel, was drawn by Ernie Colon. SpyCat spoke nine different languages ranging from Persian to "dog" and was armed with "Adamwestium" claws and deadly cat-of-nine-tails. He wrote free-form poetry when not waging war on America's enemies -- at home and abroad. "Matthew Daemon", also created by Dick Siegel, was written and illustrated by Mike Collins and was a spin off from the "SOS Matthew Daemon (Seeker of Obscure Supernaturals)" feature. Daemon's lair was located beneath Grant's Tomb. Daemon specialized in B-List Monster hunting. "Alien Baby" by Craig Boldman chronicles the adventures of Moogera the dead beat alien dad, alien baby Ethan, and Stacy, his Earth-born mother. "Bat Boy" is written and drawn by Danielle Corsetto and is a fictional creature that made several appearances in the tabloid.
Possibly the best known of all the stories to come out of WWN, Bat Boy was first featured in a 1992 issue after being found in a cave in West Virginia (Lost World Caverns). He has since led police on a high speed chase, fought in the war on terror, led the troops to capture Saddam Hussein, bitten Santa Claus, and traveled into Outer Space. In 2000, he gave his endorsement to Al Gore. It was foretold that Bat Boy would become president in 2028. The story of Bat Boy was the basis for an acclaimed off-Broadway musical, Bat Boy: The Musical, though the play ended tragically and ignores the continuity of the original stories. In addition to articles, Bat Boy has been featured in a comic strip since 2004, though it's said that only the articles are the "true" story of Bat Boy.
One of the other many recurring subjects was the occasional "ALIVE!" cover story. Most often the story pertained to some sort of human or creature, such as a mummy, prehistoric creature and occasionally a human who had been frozen in a block of ice (ex. Santa Claus.)
Another subject often tackled by WWN is the reemergence of many prominent figures believed by most to be deceased, including Hank Williams, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, and Adolf Hitler. Among the most frequently printed reports were those asserting that "Elvis is alive."
The WWN frequently reported Elvis sightings with a series of articles claiming that Elvis Presley had faked his death and had recently emerged from years of seclusion to prepare for a comeback. Obviously altered photos purported to show a gray-haired balding Elvis sneaking into a movie theater and coming out of a Burger King restaurant. When the US Postal Service conducted a poll to determine the design of the Elvis commemorative postage stamp, the WWN conducted its own poll pitting the USPS' 1950s Elvis and 1970s Elvis versus their own 1990s Elvis. The WWN's Elvis won.
In 1994, the newspaper broke the news about the death of a popular rock musician long presumed deceased, running a front cover that said "Elvis Presley Dead!", revealing that he had been living a secret life since 1977, but was now "really dead" from heart failure after slipping into a diabetic coma. In a 2004 Washington Post article on Clontz's death, humorist Gene Weingarten claimed that he and Dave Barry were the sources of the story. According to Weingarten, the WWN later reported that claims of Elvis' death had been a hoax. In an earlier telling of his story, Weingarten varied some details.
WWN covered stories that featured analysis of a coming Great Depression in the immediate future, in which many prominent celebrities, politicians, and icons of business would become penniless. The cover story of the June 6, 2005 issue warned that the second Great Depression was "just weeks away." Because of this, Texas Oil Tycoons were planning to flee to Luxembourg, the only country to survive this economic crash. The consequences of this depression would include:
A follow up in the August 15, 2005 issue reveals plans by China to buy a controlling interest in all of America's banks, effectively buying out the nation's economy. According to the article, China currently owns more than 100 US banks totaling roughly 17 trillion dollars, making them the majority shareholder in America.
Following the terrorist attack on September 11 2001 WWN featured articles exposing plans for possible future terrorist attacks on the United States of America. A 2004 cover story leaked plans by Kim Jong-il to eventually invade and conquer the United States. Other stories featured profiles on the location and nature of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, including the news that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of giant slingshots and Dinosaurs. In 2003, a series of articles profiled the ongoing relationship, and eventual marriage of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Other stories have made claims that Bin Laden is actually a dwarf, that he recruited a cloned Adolf Hitler to join Al Qaeda or that he is in fact dead and that the CIA is keeping it a secret. Since being captured by Batboy, Saddam has been humiliated by female prison guards, won the United States lottery, and even demanded that the government pay for his sex change operation.
Throughout 2003, just prior to the capture of Saddam Hussein, and persisting after his capture, WWN ran a series of articles on an alleged romance between him and Osama bin Laden. The setup of the plot alleged Saddam Hussein once starred in gay porn films.
The "couple" apparently had a steamy, sensual affair, before a wedding was performed, with Hussein as the bride and bin Laden as the groom. Later, they traveled the globe, ending up in France. They adopted a shaved ape baby (Robert) that posed as a human child. After an argument, Hussein left for Iraq to be comforted in his home town of Tikrit by family and friends, and hid in the spider hole until Bat Boy discovered him.
Weekly World News blamed these creatures for holes in the ozone. A Roswell crash survivor, "Altair Bob", made contact with "WWN" via telepathic e-mail. Several factions of extraterrestrials have been using the moon to dump garbage. Martians have been monitoring the Mid-East crisis. Warrior aliens have been resurrecting the dead, fighting Big Foot and training in a mock US town hidden in Antarctica. San Franciscans have opened their hearts to immigrants from Mercury.
One such alien who made several appearances in WWN named P'Lod, has been known to fraternize with known women of politics. It was reported that he and Hillary Rodham Clinton once had a close relationship, which ended up in a brawl between him and Bill Clinton who went on a jealous rage. After P'Lodd left Hillary, he expressed a lot of interest for Condoleezza Rice.
In the June 7, 1994 edition, WWN reported that 12 U.S. Senators were aliens from other planets. The piece quoted several Senators or their spokespersons humorously "confirming" the story. The Associated Press ran a follow-up piece which confirmed the tongue-in-cheek participation of Senate offices in the story. WWN quoted Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) as saying he was "amazed it took you this long to find out." Senator Alan Simpson's (R-WY) then-spokesman Charles Pelkey told the AP: "We've got only one thing to say: Klaatu barada nikto.
The most detailed account from the Weekly World News, recorded a mermaid being caught in a fishing net off of the coast of Florida on April 17, 2004. She was at least half-human, very sociable, and extremely intelligent. The mermaid measured five feet from the tip of her upturned nose to the end of her spiny, translucent tail. Experts which talked with WWN reporters say she was able to talk in a sophisticated "three dimensional language" that depends heavily on noises that could possibly be connected to the "click languages" prevalent in parts of Africa and on hand movements that look like sign language instructed to deaf people around the globe. A linguist who had spent several hours with the mermaid at an undisclosed marine study facility in Florida declared that once they are able to establish communication, everything known about human evolution, the specialness of human intelligence, everything thought about fish - "It's all going out the door". Four government agencies (at least) were reported as if involved in the care and study of the mermaid, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Institutes of Health. An unexpected discovery, the only definite goals at the point of her capture were:
The location of the research facility where the mermaid was being studied was never released to the public, but some 'sources' have led to an abandoned seafood-processing plant as an assumed location. DNA testing taking shortly after her capture proved that the mermaid's genes are split between both humans and fish; specifically, Homo Sapiens and a sea bass species that has been extinct for over forty thousand years. The pictures confirm the fishermen's verbal description — "Up top, the mermaid has human breasts and arms, a pretty face and long, dark brown hair. Down below, she looks like any other fish, with silvery-blue scales, a sleek, tapered body and broad, powerful fins". U.S. Customs agents labeled the creature "an exotic fish not cleared for importation into the United States". Within hours of the exotic find, she was airlifted to the unknown marine research facility where the government scientists are said to be giving a complete medical check-up to see how closely connected to man is to the bizarre creature. One expert was quoted thusly: "If it can be recognized that humans share a substantial amount of genetic coding with the mermaid, the understanding of our origins may change. Instead of looking for missing links between man and monkeys in the jungles of Africa, we'll have to start searching for the missing link between humans and fish, and between humans and merpeople — the mermaids and the mermen." Since she was so strong, two crewmen had to pin down the mermaid to the deck by putting their knees on her shoulders while a third blew marijuana smoke in her face to sedate her. She was placed in an aerated tank that is normally used to keep lobsters and bait fish alive, once she calmed down. President George W. Bush took a keen interest in the mermaid and her well-being. He felt so deeply about the mermaid that he ordered two personal chefs to help with the creature's dietary needs. The dishes which he believed would benefit the half-human, half-fish were "two of his favorite comfort foods — Texas catfish and hush puppies with jalapeño bits. Details were released claiming the mermaid had a hearty appetite, thoroughly enjoying the food. At the paper's demise, it was working on a story that she had engaged in sexual relations with both Bat Boy and Elvis. In latest reports, she seems happy, broods when she's left alone, and perks up when she sees a human.
Similar to their female counterparts, mermen are found within the pages of the Weekly World News. On June 17 2003, a merman was reported to have been caught in the South Pacific. The bizarre creature measured 28 inches, significantly shorter than a mermaid caught the following year in a fishing net (which measured five feet from the tip of her upturned nose to the end of her translucent tail). Though this most likely points to the fact that they might have been two separate merpeople species. Another contributing factor might have been the different area of the world in which it was caught. See also: Fiji Mermaid
Headlines on the website are refreshed daily. Samples:
Tabloid uncovers government secret?; Weekly World News: Since the paper reports 'real stories,' is the cover photo proof that we have manufactured people?
Jul 12, 2001; In the checkout line of the grocery store a few weeks back, I noticed the cover story of the Weekly World News: "Dead McVeigh on...