The Odd Truth, Feb. 2, 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. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.


Camel Wanders Sweden

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - It took some convincing before police would respond to reports of a camel on a southern Sweden road in the middle of a snowstorm.

"We were somewhat doubtful at first," said police spokesman Sten-Ove Fransson in Skoevde, 162 miles south of Stockholm, of Friday's incident. "But then more people called, so we were finally convinced that there really was a camel gone astray on the road."

Before police arrived, friends of the camel's owner came and led it back to a stable, where it has been kept while awaiting a home in a new barn.

Owner Anneli Arvidsson said in a telephone interview that the 22-year-old Siberian camel, Emat, might have wandered off because of the absence of his usual companion, a horse.

"On Friday, the horse had been taken inside the stable and the camel was left alone in the pasture, which probably made him feel lonely," she said.

The Wrong Jack

PRINCETON, W.Va. - Jack Whittaker has heard a lot of hard luck tales in the past year from people seeking help from the winner of the largest individual Powerball jackpot in history.

But he can't help them. He's not that Jack.

Ever since the other Jack Whittaker, a millionaire businessman from Scott Depot, won the record $314.9 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas 2002, the Princeton man has been inundated with calls and letters from people across the country asking for money.

"When he first won the money, I was getting thousands of calls and letters," Whittaker said. "They all told me their hard luck stories."

"A lot of people would even cry on the phone," he said.

The calls and letters tapered off for awhile, but they resume every time the Powerball winner makes the news, such as when he was recently arrested on a drunken drive charge.

When Whittaker tells callers they have reached the wrong Jack, some become irate.

"We had one guy call and my daughter answered the phone," he said. "My daughter told him I wasn't that Jack Whittaker and he got pretty wild and started cussing her."

Lost Wallet Returned 40 Years Later

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A wallet lost by a Swedish teenager more than 40 years ago has been returned, complete with the cash its owner once considered a small fortune.

Gulli Wihlborg was 18 in 1963 when she lost the red wallet while riding her bicycle in the southern Sweden town of Trelleborg, the Trelleborg Allehanda newspaper reported Monday.

Last week, someone anonymously sent her the long forgotten wallet - along with the 45 kronor and 54 oere ($6.17) she was using to pay half her rent.

"That was a lot of money for me then," she said. "I was renting a furnished room for 90 kronor, so that was half my rent."

Adjusted for inflation, the cash would now be worth about 412 kronor ($55.80).

The sender did not provide any clues about their identity, just a note:

"Dear Gulli, you should never give up hope. Here's your wallet that was found on (the street) Oestersjoegatan many years ago. Greetings from Trelleborg!"

Angel Eck's Wild Ride

DENVER - A woman was shaken but unhurt after a wild, 75-mile ride at speeds over 100 mph that began when her brakes failed and her car accelerated out of control.

Police finally stopped the car on a highway west Denver by getting a cruiser in front of it, slowing gently till their bumpers touched, then bringing both vehicles to a stop.

"It had a mind of its own," 20-year-old Angel Eck said Sunday. The car "kept accelerating, and my foot wasn't even down on the gas."

Eck was westbound on Interstate 70 in Limon Friday night when her 1997 Pontiac Sunfire began racing out of control. Nothing she tried would slow the car down.

She flipped on her hazard lights and dodged traffic while trying her cell phone, but she was out of her service area.

She nearly slammed into the back of a semitrailer and swerved off the highway three times to avoid hitting other vehicles, including one packed with kids, she said.

After about 45 frantic minutes, she was able to reach a friend on her cell phone. He called 911.

Police cleared the highway as Eck made her way across Denver. When it appeared they had no other options, officers Gary Ayers and Troy Bisgard decided to slow Eck's car with their cruiser.

"It's a dangerous maneuver. Had they misjudged, one or both cars would have sped out of control. It worked like clockwork," said officer Kim Lovato, who worked with six other officers to stop the runaway car.

Fighting Fish Saves School

EAGAN, Minn. - A smoke alarm summoned firefighters to a school in the middle of the night, but when they arrived the flames already had been put out. A fish named Dory took care of it.

Dory is a Betta kept in a vase on a desk in a classroom at Trinity Lone Oak Lutheran School.

A forgotten candle started a small fire on the desk on Jan. 24, setting off the smoke alarm and shattering the fish bowl, spilling enough water to put out the flames.

Firefighters found a few embers still glowing on the desk - and Dory still alive in a puddle.

"It was certainly looking distinctly unhappy," firefighter Al Taylor said of the little fish.

Firefighters put Dory in a new container, and now the children in the primary school class are excited about their little hero, said teacher Linda Krienke.

"Each of them wrote a story from the fish's point of view, how his Friday night went. He saw the fire, and then he got real hot and then his vase broke and he fell on the floor and the fireman came in and saved him."

The room was heavily damaged by smoke, so the students and their little mascot were moved to the school music room.

Dory, named for the sidekick who helps find a kidnapped fish in the movie "Finding Nemo," is "quite a survivor," Krienke said.

Man Releases Deadly Snakes In Bank

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Bail was set at $700 Monday for a man who released deadly puff adder snakes in the lobby of a bank that had repossessed his car.

Abel Manamela, 52, was charged with attempted murder after a bank cleaner was bitten on the finger Thursday while trying to contain the snakes at the downtown Johannesburg branch of the ABSA Bank.

The snakebite victim underwent surgery and was out of danger Monday.

The case continues Feb. 24.

'Black Widow' Wins Wing Bowl

NEW YORK - Sonya Thomas, a 99-pound woman known as 'The Black Widow,' won Philadelphia's annual Wing Bowl chicken-wing eating contest in a dramatic overtime on Friday.

Thomas, from Alexandria, Va., consumed 167 wings, beating Ed 'Cookie' Jarvis by two wings in a two-minute overtime round, the first in 10 years.

In December, Thomas was crowned the Fruitcake Champion after downing nearly five pounds of the treat in 10 minutes, beating her closest rival — 405-pound Eric Booker_ by a single bite.

Despite her size, Thomas is no lightweight on the professional eating circuit. She's eaten 43 tacos in 11 minutes to claim victory in the World Champion Chicken Taco Eating Contest. She also holds the female world record for eating 24 hot dogs in 12 minutes and for eating 68 hard-boiled eggs in 8 minutes.

Introducing Jon Blake Cusack, 2.0

HOLLAND, Michigan - Tacking Jr. or II onto a boy's name is too common, a new father decided, so the self-described engineering geek took a software approach to naming his newborn son.

Jon Blake Cusack talked his wife, Jamie, into naming their son Jon Blake Cusack 2.0.

Version 2.0 was born Tuesday at Holland Community Hospital, and the proud parents took him home Friday.

"I wanted to find something different to name him besides Jon Blake," Cusack, who is self-employed with Westshore Design and Cusack Music, told The Holland Sentinel.

He said he had the idea for a few months, and spent the better part of that time persuading his wife to go along.

Jamie Cusack said she didn't concede until the week before the birth. She said she had "picked out the theme of the baby's room and done other things. I decided to let Jon have this."

After 2.0's birth, the Cusacks sent out an electronic birth announcement.

"I wrote in the birth announcement email stuff, like there's a lot of features from version 1.0 with additional features from Jamie," Jon Cusack said.
  • Brian Bernbaum

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