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The Odd Truth, Dec. 19, 2003

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.


Cats Try To Eat Owner

LOS ANGELES - A group of hungry cats began to eat their 86-year-old owner after she suffered an apparent stroke and couldn't get up for nearly a week, officials said Thursday.

Mae Lowrie, who lives with seven cats, was discovered unconscious and riddled with bite marks Wednesday night at her Panorama City apartment, Fire Department and hospital officials said.

She was listed in fair condition at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Lisa Kort.

"The cats were trying to survive in the conditions that they were in, faced with the outcome they had. They did what they had to do to survive," animal control Officer Ernesto Poblano told KABC-TV. "The cats were all emaciated, very, very emaciated."

The cats, apparently without food for that time, also tried to eat Lowrie's small dog, said Jackie David, a spokeswoman for the city Animal Services Department. The terrier showed signs of hypothermic shock, severe dehydration, respiratory illness and was later euthanized, she said. One of the cats, a kitten, was found dead.

The Ghosts Of Hampton Court

LONDON - Are there ghostly goings-on at Henry VIII's palace, or is that hazy image of a fellow in fancy robes just a bit of Christmas cheer?

Closed-circuit security cameras at Hampton Court Palace, the huge Tudor castle outside London, seem to have snagged an ethereal visitor. Could it be a ghost?

"We're baffled too - it's not a joke, we haven't manufactured it," said Vikki Wood, a Hampton Court spokeswoman, when asked if the photo the palace released was a Christmas hoax. "We genuinely don't know who it is or what it is."

Wood said security guards had seen the figure in closed-circuit television footage after checking it to see who kept leaving open one of the palace's fire doors.

In the still photograph, the figure of a man in a robe-like garment is shown stepping from the shadowy doorway, one arm reaching out for the door handle.

The area around the man is somewhat blurred, and his face appears unnaturally white compared with his outstretched hand.

"My first reaction was that someone was having a laugh, so I asked my colleagues to take a look. We spoke to our costumed guides, but they don't own a costume like that worn by the figure. It is actually quite unnerving," said James Faukes, one of the palace security guards.

The palace, built in 1525 on the River Thames 10 miles west of central London, is a popular tourist attraction and some of the guides wear costumes of the Tudor period.

The palace has been the scene of many dramatic royal events, and already is supposed to have a few ghosts.

King Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, died there giving birth to a son, and her ghost is said to walk through one of the cobbled courtyards carrying a candle.

Her son, Edward, had a nurse called Sibell Penn who was buried in the palace grounds in 1562. In 1829 her tomb was disturbed by building work, and around the same time an odd whirring noise began to be heard in the southwest wing of the palace. When workmen traced the strange sounds to a brick wall, they uncovered a small forgotten room containing an old spinning wheel, just like the one Penn used to use.

Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, condemned for adultery, was held at the palace under house arrest before her execution at the Tower of London. An 1897 book about the palace says she was reportedly seen, dressed in white and floating down one of the galleries uttering unearthly shrieks.

The palace was once a prison for King Charles I, who later was beheaded, and then home to his nemesis Oliver Cromwell, who briefly ruled when Britain was for a short time a republic.

Man Gets 90 Days For Spitting In Cop's Burger

CLARION, Pa. - A former fast food chef will spend 90 days in jail for fixing a state trooper's hamburger with one too many ingredients - spittle.

Joshua Arbuckle, 18, of Hawthorn, admitted fouling a burger ordered by Trooper Robert Manno, when Arbuckle worked at the Burger King in Clarion in February.

The trooper discovered that Arbuckle had spit on the burger when Manno tried to remove the pickles from the sandwich.

A sample of the saliva from the burger was then tested against a sample taken from Arbuckle, who pleaded guilty to service of adulterated food and retaliation for past official action. Arbuckle got jail time for the food charge and two years' probation for the retaliation charge, which police say stemmed from Arbuckle's past run-ins with police.

Arbuckle's probation, imposed Wednesday, might be cut short if he's accepted into the military.

Rapist Stripped, Pummeled By Prostitute

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A 140-pound rapist met his match in an angry, 275-pound prostitute, police said.

Adrian Castillo Ramirez allegedly tried to sexually assault a 24-year-old Bakersfield prostitute who was nearly twice his weight.

But she took his knife, stripped him naked and paraded him in front of other prostitutes, after asking how many of them had ever been forced into sex at knifepoint. Then she tried to take him - still naked - to the police station, reports said.

Castillo was charged with failing to register as a sex offender, and with committing forcible sex acts on the 24-year-old and on a 37-year-old woman in a previous incident. He was convicted of four counts of rape in 1988.

Castillo pleaded innocent Wednesday, and is being held on $250,000 bail, police said.

Soccer Mom Sex Ring

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - It sounds like one of those late night made-for-cable movies - the case of the soccer mom hookers. Police in Redondo Beach, California, say they've busted a suburban prostitution ring. Authorities say Jill McGrath and her husband Christopher Davis ran a call-girl service out of their home. Sergeant Jeff Hink says some of the hookers "remind you of soccer moms." Married women and mothers are among the 30-or-so alleged prostitutes. Hink says their husbands had no idea what they were doing. Authorities say the women earned as much as $600 an hour. According police, McGrath and Davis had about a thousand customers and took a 30-percent cut.

McDonald's Mishap

WESTON, Fla. - A mother of three got a lot more than breakfast at a McDonald's drive-thru.

Janice Meissner says she ordered a bagel and a Diet Coke last week, but when she got her bag it seemed "super heavy."

That was because it had hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in a sealed plastic bag - money that turned out to be the restaurant's bank deposit.

McDonald's officials, who wouldn't say how much money was in the bag, said the deposit was placed in a food bag as a security procedure to make it less conspicuous before it was taken to the bank. They said it was accidentally left too close to the drive-thru window.

"Someone didn't check twice before sending it out the window, obviously," said spokeswoman Beth Plotkin.

Meissner, who had just dropped off her 5-year-old daughter at preschool, paused for a moment before backing up her minivan to the pickup window and returning the money to the employee who handed her the bag.

"I said, `Do you want to know what was in this bag?"' Meissner recalled. "She turned white as a ghost. She didn't realize the money was missing yet. She thanked me. And that was that."

McDonald's officials said Thursday they are going to send Meissner a thank-you letter and $50 in gift certificates.

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