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The Odd Truth, Dec. 7, 2004

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum.

Black Widow, Meatball Queen

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Eighty-nine meatballs and Sonya Thomas says she had room for more. The 105-pound Thomas downed more than seven-dozen meatballs over the weekend, to win the World Meatball Eating Championships in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She proved again why she's known as the Black Widow on the competitive eating circuit. Thomas says she wasn't that full, after leaving her closest competitor nearly a pound behind. She says the hard part was swallowing. Thomas wins $2,500 for her hearty appetite.

Human Skull Found In Purse

NANAIMO, British Columbia - A bus passenger checking an unattended purse for identification found a human skull inside, Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

A woman spotted the purse on a bench at a bus stop a few blocks from the downtown area in this Vancouver Island town and immediately brought it to police, shaken by the discovery, Constable Jack Eubank said Monday.

"She was headed to the ferry, just carrying on normal business, and then found this thing," Eubank said.

After the woman brought it to police Nov. 30, the skull was sent to Simon Fraser University in Burnaby for analysis by a forensic anthropologist. Another couple of weeks of testing is needed to answer such questions as gender and approximate time of death, Eubank said.

The skull is not a new specimen and could have been found and kept by someone, he added.

"In my experience on the West Coast, there's a number of ancient aboriginal burial sites around, and every now and then they get disturbed," he said. "I've seen it many times."

Eubank described the handbag as dark brown with wavy black horizontal lines, somewhat like a tiger skin pattern.

"We want to see if it jogs anybody's memory, or if somebody had a valid reason to be carrying this around and then inadvertently left it," he said. "We don't know."

'Ghost Cane' Sells For $65K On eBay

INDIANAPOLIS - A cane that belonged to a 6-year-old boy's grandfather soon will have a new home - and, Collin Anderson hopes, so will his grandfather's ghost.

GoldenPalace.com will add the "ghost cane" to a collection that already includes a grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary. The Antigua-based casino paid $28,000 last month for the sandwich, which it bought - like the cane - on eBay.

"It's just the new Americana thing," said Monty Kerr, a spokesman for the online casino that on Monday offered Mary Anderson $65,000 for her father's metal walking cane.

Kerr said the cane - which Anderson auctioned to ease her son Collin's fears that his grandfather's ghost was haunting their home in Hobart - likely will go on tour like the famous sandwich.

The cane - and the story behind it - attracted 132 bids, dozens of imitators and landed the Andersons on NBC's "Today" show Monday.

"It becomes a pop culture phenomenon," said Hani Durzy, an eBay spokesman. "It may be just a few days or whatever, but it's all everybody is talking about."

San Jose, Calif.-based eBay Inc. does not allow sellers to offer intangible items such as spirits or souls where delivery cannot be confirmed, said Durzy. He said Anderson's auction made it clear that she was selling her late father's metal walking cane as a ploy to ease her son's fears.

Anderson made one request of the winning bidder: "I would like to ask you to write a letter after you've received the cane (and the ghost) to my son letting him know that he's there with you and you're getting along great."

Kerr said the company would do so.

Twice Bitten, Once Shy?

OSLO, Norway - A Norwegian man with an illegal collection of exotic animals was rushed to the hospital twice in one day after being bitten by two different poisonous snakes, police said.

The man in his 30s was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday night, said police in Asker, near Oslo.

"The man was not in good condition, so he was taken to the hospital," police spokesman Tore Hagen told Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang in its Tuesday edition.

Afterward, police learned the man had been taken to the hospital earlier the same day after being bitten by a Malaysian palm viper, but checked himself out.

Though he survived both bites, his illegal collection of exotic pets, including four snakes, was confiscated and he faces charges of illegally importing wildlife into Norway, police said.

When Bureaucracies Attack!

SANFORD, Fla. - Eleven people directed to the wrong courtroom in the Seminole County Courthouse were arrested and jailed when they didn't appear before the proper judge, who was in an adjoining courtroom less than 100 feet away.

The six men and five women spent eight hours Friday in a Seminole County Jail cell before everything was straightened out.

"I'm hungry, I'm tired and I'm disgusted," said Frantarshia Coleman, after she was released from jail. "This is ridiculous. This is disgusting."

Coleman, 33, of Orlando was in court on a ticket for not having her registration and proof of insurance. She had a wrinkled, yellow traffic ticket indicating her hearing was in Courtroom 1B. She and the others were supposed to be in 1A.

When they didn't show up in 1A, Seminole County Judge John R. Sloop signed warrants for their arrests.

By the time the 11 finally discovered that they had been misdirected by court personnel and asked to appear before the judge to explain what had happened, he would not see them and ordered their arrests.

Later in the day, Sloop signed paperwork allowing them to be released without having to pay bail. It is unclear why Sloop reversed his decision.

About the time that Sloop was reversing himself, Circuit Judge James Perry, chief judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit, took similar action to make sure the 11 would be released.

"When I was made aware of this, I tried to reach Judge Sloop," Perry said. "When I was unable to reach him, I took steps to make sure they were released on their own recognizance."

Perry would not discuss Sloop's handling of the case or whether he planned to speak about it to Sloop. When asked, Perry said he would not have handled the issue the same way as Sloop.

The courthouse was closed Saturday and its phone number did not accept messages.

Vaseline Vandal Fesses Up

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - A 45-year-old Virginia man admits he smeared 14 jars of petroleum jelly all over an upstate New York motel room.

Why is another question.

Robert F. Chamberlain of McLean gave no reason for his actions when he appeared in court yesterday to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.

A judge sentenced Chamberlain to three years of probation and ordered him to pay $3,886 in damages to the Motel Six in Chenango, just outside of Binghamton.

Authorities said Chamberlain coated every object of the motel room with petroleum jelly in May. A cleaning crew discovered the mess after he checked out, and he was arrested at another motel covered in the greasy stuff.

Chamberlain declined comment after the proceedings.

Cat Granted Business Degree Online, School Sued

HARRISBURG, Pa. - An online university that supposedly granted a business degree to a cat has been sued for consumer fraud.

The lawsuit was filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office against Dallas-based Trinity Southern University, a cellular company and the two brothers who run them.

Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for a Colby Nolan - actually a deputy attorney general's six-year-old black cat. They claimed his experience included baby-sitting and retail management.

The school allegedly determined Colby Nolan's resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree, which came embossed with Trinity Southern's gold seal.

A transcript listed course work and a 3.5 grade-point average.