The Odd Truth, April 30, 2003

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

Combo Wedding-Funeral

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Johannes Fransen died two days before his granddaughter's wedding, but his family brought him along anyway — parking his body in an open coffin in the church during the ceremony.

The former gardener and father of 12 died while celebrating his 79th birthday last week, the New Zealand Press Association reported Wednesday.

But the family decided he would still attend granddaughter Rachel James' wedding two days after his death, said Rachel's mother, Nancy James.

"We just went ahead with the wedding and put Opa's coffin at the side of the church," she said, referring to Fransen by the Dutch word for grandfather. Fransen immigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1950.

During the wedding reception, the open casket was placed at the end of the hall.

"He was just there ... and people went up to see him," Nancy James said. "It really helped everybody, including Mum who wanted to be with Dad."

He was survived by his wife, Dora, 12 children, 54 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Prom Prank Fools Parents

CARLISLE, Pa. - The letter turned out to be a prank — but it fooled a lot of parents in a Pennsylvania school district.

Dozens of parents in the Carlisle area got a letter that purportedly came from officials at their kids' high school. It promised that hotel rooms and condoms would be provided to seniors on prom night.

One senior at Boiling Springs High, Sean McDermott, says, "A lot of the parents flipped out about it." And he says he was fooled as well. He says he was "completely in shock that the school was doing this."

The principal says whoever sent out the phony letter was "very creative." The school has now sent out a genuine letter to parents, advising them of the prank.

Some of them weren't fooled. One woman says when she got to the part in which parents were asked to donate condoms and sexual aids, and to drop them off at the school office, she figured, "A kid wrote this."

Cat Hitches 400-Mile Ride Under Rig

SEDALIA, Mo. - A cat was hungry and dirty but otherwise OK after hitching a 400-mile ride from Indianapolis to Sedalia on an 8-inch beam underneath a tractor-trailer.

The male Siamese cat was discovered Sunday after Chris Markley, a truck driver from Springdale, Ark., noticed a woman trying to flag him down. He pulled his rig into a parking lot and the woman pointed out a cat sitting on the fifth wheel frame under the trailer of his truck.

Markley told police the last time he had stopped before reaching Sedalia was at a truck stop off Interstate 65 south of Indianapolis.

The cat was only a little worse for wear with a case of the sniffles and a coating of grease.

"Poor baby. He's a sweetheart," said Marilyn Bogard, animal control officer for the Sedalia Police, as the cat rubbed its head on her cheek, leaving a smear of grease. "He's well fed. He's just hungry because you ride from Indianapolis to here, and you'd be hungry too."

Nothing was holding the cat onto the 8-inch beam or protecting if from falling to the asphalt, according to a police report. The neutered cat is estimated to be six or seven years old.

Robo-Turkey - Have Poachers Met Their Match?

GAYLORD, Mich. - State conservation officials may ruffle a few feathers when they trot out their latest enforcement tool.

A robotic turkey that rotates its body and fans its tail is being used in some northern Michigan counties as an anti-poaching device.

Department of Natural Resources officials are planting the bird — nicknamed Robo Turkey — during turkey hunting season to see if poachers gobble the bait.

Authorities put the lifelike bird into service in response to property owner complaints about roadside hunting, said Sgt. Greg Drogowski, of the DNR's law enforcement division in Gaylord.

Robo Turkey saw duty over the weekend, but wasn't shot at, Drogowski said. The bird attracted more than one curious onlooker, though.

"We've had them stop and start using turkey calls," Drogowski said.

One driver spied the bird, stopped, roared off and came back with a friend. Drogowski expected to see a gun barrel poke out the window; instead, the occupants shot photos.

The bird cost about $1,000 and was donated to the state by the National Wild Turkey Federation. The fake turkey isn't bulletproof, though a replacement head came with it.

Law Traps Deer Hunter

PITTSBURGH - A man who hunted deer on his own property will spend 15 years in federal prison because he was a convicted felon, and therefore not allowed to possess a gun.

Jack C. Altsman, 43, of Beaver Falls, received the mandatory sentence Friday from U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry.

McVerry said he had "great difficulty" in imposing the mandatory sentence after Altsman said he didn't realize hunting was illegal for him.

"I wasn't in a bank with an automatic weapon. I wasn't carjacking someone ... I wasn't in a bar with a gun," Altsman said. "I was hunting."

Prosecutors said Altsman had two felony burglary convictions before he was seen by deputy state game commissioners hunting on property he owned in Hovey Township on Nov. 26, 2001.

Altsman had pleaded guilty in November to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He said he didn't challenge the charges for fear that he would spend more time in prison if he was convicted at trial.

Under the guidelines, a sentence of at least 15 years was mandatory.

The Buzz About Vibrators

MONTGOMERY, Alabama - The buzz in Alabama today is about the sex-toy ban. The Alabama House has voted to keep vibrators illegal. Lawmakers have decided not to remove sexual devices from the state's obscenity law.

The vibrator ban has been challenged in federal court. A judge has ruled twice that the sex-toy prohibition is unconstitutional. The issue is now being considered by a federal appeals court.

According to the Alabama lawmaker who moved to legalize sex toys, their continued ban makes the entire obscenity law unenforceable.

Hey McDonald's, Chew On This!

DETROIT - A man is suing fast-food giant McDonald's after allegedly biting into a piece of already chewed gum in a salad.

In a lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, Joseph Taylor says the Feb. 26 incident has caused him "mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, and pain and suffering and loss of appetite." He has sought medical attention, according to the lawsuit.

Taylor also said he fears he may have contracted AIDS or hepatitis, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

The assistant manager of the restaurant, Amit Kumar, said McDonald's insurance company is handling the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states Taylor was eating a salad at a McDonald's on the Wayne State University campus when he "discovered a foreign object in his mouth that had already been chewed by someone else." He is seeking damages of more than $25,000.

Pricey Brews

NEW YORK - Are you ready for a $300 bottle of brew? Extreme beer is going for cognac prices in specialty stores and on E-Bay.

It's the latest rage on the fringe of the craft-brewing movement. The Wall Street Journal reports the Utopias brand of extreme beer is made by Boston Brewing, the company behind Sam Adams.

At 24 percent alcohol, Utopias is also one of the strongest beers ever brewed. While most beer is best consumed fresh, the extreme brews are meant to be aged.

Jim Koch, Boston Brewing's founder and president, says they've even made a beer they call Millennium Three. It's specially bottled to last until the year 3000.