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The Odd Truth, April 15, 2004

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

9 Donuts In Three Minutes

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. - A patrolman from Wisconsin left his opponents in a cloud of powdered sugar dust by downing 9 1/2 doughnuts in three minutes to win a doughnut-eating contest for police officers in suburban Chicago.

Terry O'Brien of the Town of Geneva Police Department in the Lake Geneva, Wis., area said he was destined to win Wednesday's contest because law enforcement runs in his family.

"Actually, it was my father, who's deceased," O'Brien said. "He was a Chicago cop, a lifer. Today is his birthday."

For the second year in a row, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association held the contest at its annual conference. The Dunkin' Donuts World Cop Donut Eating Championship attracted 40 contestants from the U.S. and Canada.

Master of Ceremonies Ed Nowicki said he was amazed by what it took to win this year.

"I thought they'd do seven (doughnuts), maybe they'd do eight," Nowicki said. "I couldn't believe 10!"

Money raised through the entry fee and T-shirt sales was donated to the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association scholarship fund.

Alas, Rare Hamlet Edition Doesn't Sell

NEW YORK - It wasn't to be.

A rare edition of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" failed to sell at Christie's auction house in New York.

The $1.2 million offer was rejected.

The nearly 400-year-old book is one of only 19 copies of the 1611 printing known to exist. It's the only one remaining in private hands.

Christie's had estimated the Hamlet edition's worth at between $1.5 and $2 million.

It was owned by Mary Hyde, a renowned New Jersey book collector and English literature scholar. She's best known for her extensive Samuel Johnson collection, now at Harvard University. Hyde died last year.

Jailhouse Passion

OWENSBORO, Ky. - A female inmate at the Daviess County Detention Center got pregnant while incarcerated there, apparently after crawling through ductwork to meet with a male inmate, jail officials said.

Melissa Haycraft, 25, of Lewisport, and John Benson, 24, of Owensboro are accused of sneaking into a plumbing crawl space at the jail and returning to Haycraft's cell during the overnight hours of Jan. 10-11, Daviess County Jailer David Osborne said.

Haycraft has since been transferred to the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley, an all-female prison, where her health care needs will be met, said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

Haycraft's cellmates reported the encounter to jail officials.

Both inmates were questioned, but denied any sexual activity, Osborne said. Benson told investigators that Haycraft gave him food and that they kissed, he said.

The investigation resulted in both being charged with administrative violations of attempted escape, lying to a jail deputy and interfering with the safety and security of a facility.

The jail facility has plumbing access doors in four cells that open to a shared crawl space, Osborne said. Two of those doors have since been soldered shut. A security firm is scheduled to do a survey of the jail that includes the crawl space doors, Osborne said.

Having the crawl space doors built inside the jail cells was a poor design, Osborne said. Other jails have crawl space access from the hallways, he said.

"It's embarrassing," he said. "Those doors shouldn't be in there."

Haycraft was serving a five-year sentence for first-degree possession of a controlled substance. Benson, who was serving time for multiple DUI offenses, has since received shock probation.

Lowe's Shopper Bitten By Errant Rattlesnake

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - A man shopping for trees at a Lowe's home improvement store was bitten by an 18-inch eastern diamondback rattler, a snake native to the Southeast.

"The gentleman thought he had hit his hand on a thorn but they discovered it was a snakebite," said Chris Ahearn, a spokeswoman for the Mooresville, N.C.-based chain.

A relative shopping with the man Sunday killed the snake, and they brought it with them when the customer was taken to a hospital, she said.

Ahearn would not identify the customer. A hospital official would not provide information without the man's name.

Ahearn surmises the reptile probably made its way to Broken Arrow with the trees, which were shipped in from Tennessee. The species can grow as long as 7 feet and often gives warning bites that deliver no venom.

After the man was bitten, Ahern said, store employees immediately scoured the trees for other creatures but found none.

"We feel like this is an isolated incident, but we are taking it very seriously," she said. "We continue to watch our garden centers for uninvited guests."

Preacher Dies After Rattler Bite

JONESVILLE, Va. - A preacher bitten by a rattlesnake as he handled it during an Easter service at a rural church died after refusing medical treatment, authorities said.

The Rev. Dwayne Long died a day after being bitten on a finger during a service at his church, where members believe ritual serpent-handling is a form of obedience to God, said Sheriff Gary Parsons.

"We don't anticipate any charges," he said. "That's their belief."

No one attending the service at the Pentecostal church sought medical help, Parsons said. Members believe when people die from a snakebite during a service, it is a sign that it was their time to go.

Veterinarians Treat Depressed Circus Elephant

SANTA FE, Argentina - Veterinarians had to be called in to treat an elephant "depressed" about being separated from her circus troupe.

Mesry was taken from the circus grounds last week after local authorities said her participation in the public shows violated a city ordinance.

The elephant showed signs of distress soon after being transported to El Recreo, a town 300 miles north of Buenos Aires.

Veterinarians from the nearby Santa Fe Zoo were consulted and recommended that Mesry be moved again. Authorities said they were looking for another place for Mesry to stay while the circus tours over the next few days.

Cat Survives Month-Long Sea, Rail Voyage

TAMPA, Fla. - A business owner opening a shipment of 400 bird cages sent from China got an additional order he didn't expect - a severely undernourished cat.

The female cat, named China by animal service staff members, tips the scale at just over 3 pounds after being trapped in the container for the nearly month-long trip.

Norman Goldberg, owner of Quality Discount Cages, said he discovered the cat Friday when he received the shipment at his warehouse. Several cardboard boxes holding cages had been chewed up.

"I opened it up, and out jumped the cat," he said.

The traveling feline apparently began her journey at a factory in China where workers started loading the parrot cages into a 40-foot metal container the first week of March, Goldberg said. The container arrived by boat in Los Angeles on April 1 and then traveled by rail to Tampa.

On Wednesday, China was recovering at Hillsborough County Animal Services, where she was eating on her own and being given intravenous fluids.

Goldberg's brother-in-law e-mailed the factory in China where the cages originated to see whether they knew anything about a missing cat.

"You gave us a very big surprise today," wrote Ms. Ivy of Dayang Co. in China. "We are very happy to know our cat still alive. Would you please tell us more information about our cat? Is it a yellow or gray one? Because we have two cats, but they disappeared one month ago ... Please raise it, or you can give it to the animal asylum."

If the cat is healthy, it will be put up for adoption.

"I hope it gets adopted," Goldberg said. "It has used up most of its nine lives."