His own politics were mysterious. Under the pseudonym "Ed Anger", he wrote a News column so vitriolically right-wing that it possibly came from the left. Anger hated foreigners, yoga, whales, speed limits and pineapple on pizza; he liked flogging, electrocutions and beer. No, Mr Clontz would say, he had no idea who Anger really was. But he was "about as close to him as any human being".
Mr Clontz also always denied that his staff made the stories up. It was subtler than that. Many tips came from "freelance correspondents" who called in; their stories were "checked", but never past the point where they might disintegrate. ("We don't know whether stories are true," said Mr Clontz, "and we really don't care.") The staff also read dozens of respectable newspapers and magazines, antennae alert for the daft and the bizarre. When a nugget was found, Mr Clontz would order them to run away with it, urging them to greater imaginative heights by squirting them with a giant water-pistol.
The result of this was that many readers appeared to believe Mr Clontz's stories. Letters poured in, especially from the conservative and rural parts of the country where Ed Anger's columns struck a chord. If a sensible man like Anger kept company with aliens and 20-pound cucumbers, perhaps those stories too were true. When the News reported the discovery of a hive of baby ghosts, more than a thousand readers wrote in to adopt one. But the saddest tale was of the soldier who wrote, in all seriousness, offering marriage to the two-headed woman.