year in review

These Were the DC Region's Strangest Stories of 2020

It was a strange year, in so many ways

strange 2020
Photo credit: Enoc Landero @Cky182Dude/ Ren Oliver / Dean Aidehn

With all the hard-hitting news this year, some of the more colorful, local stories may have flown under your radar.

Here are the strangest local stories of 2020 that you may have missed – from the head-scratchers to the humorous to the downright shocking.

Mystery Seeds Possibly From China Are Being Mailed to Virginia Residents

An accomplished gardener in D.C. says she's received several packets of mysterious seeds from China. News4's Pat Collins reports on what you should do if you receive them.

Several Virginia residents said they received unsolicited packages of seeds – but they didn't have a clue who sent them or why.

Adding to the intrigue, the seeds, which were sent in the mail, appeared to have "Chinese writing" on them.

Officials believe the seeds could be an invasive species and could be from China, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in late July.

Officials warned that recipients of the mysterious seeds should not plant them or dispose of them on their own. 

Beware the Toxic Toupee: Fuzzy-Looking Caterpillar Found in Virginia Is Venomous, Experts Warn

In October, the Virginia Department of Forestry issued a warning to residents, asking them to keep their social distance from a furry caterpillar.

With fall being the prime season for Megalopyge opercularis, reports of puss caterpillar sightings prompted the department's warning.

Virginia Department of Forestry
A puss caterpillar in Virginia. Also known as asps, entomologists say they grow to about 1.6 inches. (photo: Virginia Department of Forestry)

Although the puss caterpillar resembles a tiny, wriggly toupee, its body is actually covered in venomous spines, the Virginia Department of Forestry says.

The creature typically measures no more than 1.6 inches but can cause a serious, painful reaction to human skin. It can be found in Maryland, Virginia and beyond.

New Owner of Maryland Home Sold at Auction Finds Body of Previous Resident

The new owner of a District Heights, Maryland, home found the body of the previous resident inside. Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports.

The new owner of a Maryland home sold at a foreclosure auction found the body of the woman who used to live there inside.

Records don’t show when the house was sold, and it's unclear how long ago the 39-year-old woman died. Her body was found by the new owner in late January.

A neighbor of the woman who grew up across the street from her in District Heights said the deceased woman had special needs.

Put Your Pants on When You Get Your Mail, Police Remind Residents of Maryland Town

A police department in a northern Maryland town reminded residents that wearing pants is mandatory when they go outside. The issue was raised in mid-April, around the start of the pandemic.

“Please remember to put pants on before leaving the house to check your mailbox. You know who you are. This is your final warning,” the police department's warning said.

A mailbox overflows with mail in this file photo.
Getty Images

Passenger Opened Plane Door at DCA Airport, Slid Down Emergency Slide

In March of 2020, a passenger on board a plane at Reagan Washington National Airport opened a plane door, slid down an emergency slide and made it onto the airfield before being arrested. 

The passenger was on Frontier Airlines Flight 536 when they opened a door and deployed the slide just before noon, airport officials said. 

DCA airport tower
NBC Washington
DCA airport

“The passenger deplaned the aircraft via the slide and was immediately stopped on the airfield and taken into custody by Airports Authority police,” officials said in a statement.

Viral TikTok Video Shows Maryland Woman Escape Home Intruder

A harrowing moment was caught on camera in a Maryland woman's apartment as an intruder broke in. The video is now evidence in a case that has shaken the woman. News4's Pat Collins reports.

A Maryland woman whose encounter with an intruder on Nov. 22 was caught on a video that went viral says the home invasion shocked her.

Hannah Viverette was recording a TikTok video of herself dancing in her second-floor apartment in Hagerstown when a man climbed up to her balcony and entered her apartment through an open door.

"When he first opened the door, I was prepared, for a few moments, to die," Viverette said.

She yelled at the man to leave and quickly escaped out of her apartment to a neighbor’s apartment while recording the incident on her cellphone.

Ocean City Restaurant Rolls Out 'Bumper Tables' to Aid Social Distancing

A restaurant in Ocean City found a new way to make customers keep a social distance. Fish Tales debuted about a dozen “bumper tables."

Diners in Ocean City, Maryland bounced back into eating out amid the coronavirus pandemic with a little help from inflatable inner tubes on wheels.

About a dozen of the so-called “bumper tables” were introduced at Fish Tales, a restaurant in the beach town, in mid-May.

“We wanted to come up with a creative and fun way to keep everyone safe and compliant,” Erin Cermak, the CEO of Revolution Event Design & Production – the company that designed the inflated tube tables – told The Baltimore Sun.

Stafford Deputies Confront Black Man Wearing KKK Robe at Target: Police

A black man seen wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood at a Virginia shopping center in February told sheriff's deputies that he was performing a social experiment.

Enoc Landero/ @Cky182Dude
Photo credit: Enoc Landero/ @Cky182Dude

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office was called to a Target store at the Stafford Marketplace around 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 to investigate reports of someone wearing the costume, authorities said.

Deputies found the person in the robe, identified him as a Black man and determined he didn't live in the area, the sheriff's office said.

Deputies warned him about wearing a mask in public – Virginia law prohibits mask-wearing with the intent to conceal identity in public – and he left the scene.

Dead Birds in Passenger’s Baggage Seized at Dulles Airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a package of tiny dead birds from a passenger’s bag at Dulles International Airport in January of 2020. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The traveler, who said the birds were cat food, arrived to D.C. on a flight from Beijing, China on Jan. 27. During a baggage examination, agriculture specialists discovered the package containing several small birds.

The species of the birds is unknown, but they are banned in the U.S. because of their potential to carry bird flu.

Cyclist Accused of Assaulting Pedestrians, Flashing Butt Arrested: Arlington Police

In November, police in Arlington County arrested a cyclist accused of assaulting people walking on trails and flashing his butt at them. 

David Marlowe, 55, was arrested at his home in Arlington, and charged with multiple counts of assault and indecent exposure, robbery, and felony possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, authorities say.

“Numerous tips” helped police identify Marlowe after the department shared photos of a suspect.

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