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The Odd Truth, Aug. 17, 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 William Vitka.

Post Mortem Pennywise

CHICAGO - Whether you're in the market for a good night's sleep or the eternal kind, there's now a discount store somewhere that has you covered.

On Monday, Costco Wholesale Corp., better known for bulk chicken and cases of soda, started test-marketing caskets along side mattresses at a North Side Chicago store. They're also being sold at a suburban Oak Brook store.

"This is certainly something that can be an easy value," said Gina Bianche, a buyer in Costco's corporate office in Issaquah, Wash. "I don't want to say cheap value, but it just needs to be done."

Each of the six models from the Universal Casket Co., in colors including lilac and Neapolitan blue, is priced at $799.99, made of 18-gauge steel, considered medium weight for caskets, and can be delivered within 48 hours.

Caskets could already be purchased directly from manufacturers, in funeral supply stores and over the Internet, but big general merchandise stores had stayed away from selling caskets until now, said David Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association.

At a Costco on Chicago's North Side, shoppers checking out the new casket kiosk Monday seemed to like the idea that the same store where they buy so many things for this life was branching into the after life.

"A casket at Costco, yeah, I think it's pretty bizarre," said Inga Barth, 53. She wondered about buying a casket with only a kiosk and small samples of the caskets' material to look over, though, saying, "When you go casket shopping, you want to see the whole thing."

That didn't trouble John Neuhaus.

"I want the adjustable bed and mattress for my neck," he joked, pointing to one of the features highlighted at the kiosk. After all, he said, "It says eternal rest."

Open Wide And Say 'Ew'

RALEIGH, N.C. - State regulators have revoked the license of a North Carolina dentist accused of abusing female patients by injecting his semen into their mouths during dental procedures.

The order issued Sunday said Dr. John Hall of Cornelius was to stop practicing dentistry no later than noon Monday.

Six former patients said Hall squirted a foul-tasting substance from a syringe into their mouths during office visits. They say they believe it was his semen.

Former employees testified before a dental board investigative panel they found syringes of Hall's semen in his office. Hall's lawyers counter that the former workers manufactured the stories that were then picked up by patients after heavy media coverage of the police search of his office last November.

His lawyer, Emerson Thompson, said the dentist was storing vials of his semen at his office because he was monitoring the effects of a hair-growth drug. The drug's potential side effects included diminished semen production and low sperm count, Thompson said.

The Tortoise And The Hare-Brained Kidnapping

KOKOMO, Ind. - A pregnant tortoise missing for about a week was returned home unharmed in an Army duffel bag.

David and Brenda Morris said they discovered their 90-pound African Spur Thigh tortoise named Mother on their front porch Sunday in the city about 50 miles north of Indianapolis.

Mother had been missing since someone was seen about a week ago taking her from the couple's backyard. David Morris said the theft brought him to tears, comparing it to "waking up and finding your 13-year-old son or daughter missing from your home."

When she was found Sunday, Mother was hungry but otherwise safe, the owners said. After devouring a banana and an ear of corn, she was released into her backyard home, where she spent the night huddling with her mate, Flash, in a doghouse.

The duffel bag contained several other items, including a letter addressed to "Becky" from "Jeff," a black T-shirt, bubble gum and a certificate of authenticity for a collectible doll, the couple said.

The owners said they do not know who took the animal.

Mother is expected to lay an estimated 60 to 70 eggs in about two months.

Be Still My Bleating Heart

AUSTIN, Minn. - A goat on the lam shrugged off a shot from a stun gun, but couldn't get past the Sandman.

The goat broke away from his handlers when it was being unloaded at the children's farmyard on the opening day of the Mower County Fair last Tuesday.

The goat spent four days roaming neighborhoods on the west side of Austin, prompting a rash of "goat sighting" calls from residents.

At one point a police officer used his Taser to try to subdue the goat. The device knocked the animal to the ground, but when the officer approached, the goat jumped up and ran away.

The goat's freedom came to an end Saturday after someone reported it napping on a front porch in Austin.

Off The Rim

POWELL, Wyo. - Two youths have given new meaning to the term "shirts and skins." Police arrested the two boys after they were found playing one-on-one basketball on a street with a portable hoop — in the buff.

The two were cited for indecent exposure, putting an end to the late-night contest.

According to Sgt. Mike Williams, no alcohol was involved and the reason for the activity Aug. 7 was unexplained.

The two will have to explain it to the judge, he said.