The Odd Truth, Aug. 7, 2003

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.

Dog Survives Gas Chamber

ST. LOUIS - Cast into a city gas chamber to be euthanized with other unwanted or unclaimed dogs, it appeared the roughly year-old Basenji mix had simply run out of luck - and time.

But this canine had other ideas.

When the death chamber's door swung open Monday, the dog now dubbed Quentin - for California's forbidding San Quentin State Prison - stood very much alive, his tail and tongue wagging.

Animal-control supervisor Rosemary Ficken had never seen such a survivor, and she didn't have the nerve to slam the door shut again.

This 30-pound animal, she believed, beat the odds and should live on.

"She told me, 'Please, take him. I don't have the heart to put him back in there and re-gas him,"' said Randy Grim, founder and head of Stray Rescue of St. Louis, the charitable shelter that took in the dog before taking the animal's story public.

Quentin's ordeal was played and replayed Wednesday on local TV stations, drawing people looking to adopt him.

"To me, it's a miracle or divine intervention," Grim said. "I can't help but think he's here to serve a higher purpose. This case blew me away. This is amazing."

On Wednesday, Quentin was a little malnourished but "in very good condition," Grim said. He was being checked for heartworm and other maladies by a veterinarian.

"You can tell he's really digging it," Grim said. "He has a bed, love, food and water."

Well-Endowed Buck Burgled

KNOX, Pa. - The owners of a monster buck named Goliath with some 50 to 60 tips on its antlers believe they have the male deer back nearly four years after it was stolen.

While a representative of a deer farm where a large buck was found a week ago isn't conceding that the animal is the same one, Goliath's owner, Rodney Miller, says he's sure it's his buck.

Deer experts said some massive bucks have sold for more than $500,000.

Four members of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association who were familiar with Goliath came across a massive deer while on a scouting trip last week. They took a photo and contacted Miller, he said.

"I knew from the face of the animal in the picture that it was my deer without even looking at the antlers," Miller said Tuesday at his Wild Bunch Ranch deer farm about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh.

The deer was found at the White Oak Whitetail Deer Farm, about 30 miles west of Miller's ranch. Miller sued Jeffrey Spence, owner of the farm, and obtained a temporary injunction that gave him possession of the deer last Wednesday until it can be determined whether the animal is Goliath.

"It hasn't been established that that is the Millers' deer, first and foremost, and second, if it is the Millers' deer, then it came into (White Oak's) possession in the proper manner," said Troy Harper, Spence's attorney.

Goliath has a tattoo on his ear and a microchip in his tail. Arrangements were being made to have the microchip read.

Bank Accidentally Writes $48 Million Check

PENSACOLA, Florida - Bank error in your favor - collect $48 million?

A variation on that Monopoly game "Chance" card almost came true for Letha Schmitt of Pensacola, Florida.

Schmitt carried around a certified check for three days before she got a call from the bank pointing out the mistake.

The bank blamed human error. A teller had put the check number where the amount belonged - making an $85 check worth more than $48.7 million.

Schmitt says she wouldn't have cashed the check - she just showed it to co-workers and laughed.

In her words, "I just thought it was a hoot."

The bank says she wouldn't have been able to cash it if she had tried.

Cryptozoologist Seeks Abominable Snowman

TOKYO - A Japanese expedition equipped with sensor-activated cameras and led by an amateur cryptozoologist is heading to the Himalayas hoping to track down the abominable snowman.

Seven climbers will spend six weeks in Nepal trying to capture images of the legendary humanlike creature also known as the yeti, more than 10,000 feet up the world's seventh-tallest mountain, the expedition's leader, Yoshiteru Takahashi, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Takahashi, a 60-year-old construction company employee who climbs as a hobby, is on his second yeti hunt. He says he found humanlike footprints made by a "rather large animal" in a cave about 15,000 feet up Dhaulagiri on a previous expedition in 1994.

"I want to find out what made those footprints." Takahashi said. "They definitely didn't belong to a bear."

The expedition, which leaves Sunday, plans to "ambush" the elusive creature - which Takahashi believes is some kind of primate - by setting up about 15 cameras that are automatically activated by infrared sensors.

Takahashi described his expedition, which has no backing from Japan's academic community, as "just bunch of climbers" who had all seen unfamiliar footprints on past ascents of the Dhaulagiri range.

"I don't consider this a mystery," he said. "The yeti exists - I just want to figure out what kind of animal it is."

Rats Overrun New York Firehouse

NEW YORK - A blazing building? Not a problem for New York City firefighters. A firehouse infested with vermin? Well, that's a rat of a different color.

Horrified members of New York's bravest have temporarily abandoned a firehouse because of massive rat infestation, and fire officials say the building must be gutted to eliminate the pervasive rodent population.

"It was like that movie `Willard,"' Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said Wednesday, referring to the film about a social outcast who goes on a rampage and uses his rats to attack colleagues who had been tormenting him.

"I had goosebumps for a long, long time after that movie."

The firefighters at the 43-year-old house in Queens felt the same way after hearing rats scurrying through walls and spotting their beady eyes peering out from beneath the kitchen sink. Some of the rats were 10 inches long.

One night, firefighters captured seven rats in their kitchen and found several more dead ones behind a radiator, said Stephen Humensky, Queens trustee for the firefighters union.

Dead rats in the walls and ceilings caused the stench that finally led to Tuesday's evacuation.

"When you take out your pots and pans to cook and they're loaded with rat droppings, it makes for a very unappetizing situation," Humensky said, holding up a dead rat outside the firehouse Tuesday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said exterminators visited the firehouse 26 times since March, to no avail.

Naked British Walker 'Celebrating Myself'

LONDON - Wearing little more than sun screen, socks and boots, Steve Gough is walking the length of Britain to celebrate the joys of nudity. Efficiency isn't one of them.

His 847-mile trek has been hampered by eight arrests, an examination at a psychiatric hospital and several nights in jail. This week, he's starting over after Scottish police shipped him back to his starting point in Cornwall for a court appearance.

But the 44-year-old father of two is undaunted and spent Thursday hitchhiking his way back to Scotland - though he did wear clothes to increase his chances of getting a lift.

"I am celebrating myself as a human being," said Gough. "We have all been brought up and conditioned to think our body is something to be ashamed of. We are made to feel bad about ourselves and that is damaging society. I am determined to carry on."

Gough left Land's End in southwest England on June 16 bound for John O'Groats in the far north of Scotland, hoping to cover around 20 miles a day on foot.

One day and 15 miles later, he was arrested in St. Ives and charged with breach of the peace. The case was later abandoned after magistrates found he had not committed a criminal offense.

Three days later he was arrested in the Cornish coastal resort of Newquay and charged with offending public decency. He appeared - stark naked - in court Monday, having been returned from Scotland. The court forced him to wear a blanket but did not impose a fine.

"It has taken a week out of my walk," said Gough, whose bare backside graced the pages of The Independent newspaper Thursday. "But I have had a bit of publicity."

Woman Attends Her Own Wake

BURLINGTON, Iowa - Peggy McCormally didn't want her family to throw her an 80th birthday bash. But she did request a major celebration in her honor: a traditional Irish wake.

"When my husband died, I thought it was such a shame he couldn't enjoy the great party we had to celebrate his life," she said.

McCormally's oldest son, Sean, said his mother wouldn't accept any celebration but the wake.

"Who are we to argue?" he said.

McCormally joked that by attending her own wake, she also would be able to decide if her will should be changed.

"Anyone who didn't come is in big trouble," she laughed.

Only two of her 11 grandchildren didn't make the Saturday wake, and they were forgiven because one couldn't get out of work and the other had just gotten married.

McCormally received a quilt made by her children and grandchildren and an hour-long prayer service in which family and friends said all the nice things about her they otherwise might have waited to share at her funeral.

Her husband, John, the editor and publisher of The Hawk Eye from 1965 to 1979, died in 1993.