The Odd Truth, Feb. 12, 2003

SUV hero
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.

There's No Place Like Tree

STEVENS PASS, Wash. — With a chain saw, a rope and a hatchet, Tony Detmer built his three-story dream house — suspended 20 feet up, in a stand of Douglas fir and cedar.

Detmer, 31, often starts his day with a plunge into the snow below. In the deep chill of a mountain morning, he said, the jolt is better than a cup of coffee.

"There's something about being off of the ground," he said. "I feel lofty. I want to fly. This is the closest I can get."

Detmer began working on the tree house in the fall of 1999. The deck went up first. Then straps were wrapped around trees to hold up parts of the house. The whole thing cost less than $2,000, most of which went for a 3,000-watt generator to run a saw and a television.

"I never used a level, it's all by eyeball," he said.

Detmer's girlfriend, Betsy Delph, 23, and another roommate, Brett Hoisington, 19, also live in the house, which has a wood-burning stove and a rope swing on the deck.

There are no bathrooms, and showers come once a week at a nearby ski area.

Detmer's envisions a worldwide community of tree houses. In the meantime, he wants to build a village in the trees, and have rope swings connecting all the houses.

He Gets An 'A' For Effort

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - A sixth-grader was arrested for allegedly using his teacher's computer to change his grades.

The 11-year-old boy could be expelled and sent to a juvenile detention center.

The boy told a teacher during lunch Monday at St. Lucie West Middle School that he had to go back to her room because he forgot his lunch, the sheriff's department said. Then he allegedly switched his grades.

He was charged with an offense against intellectual property, a felony.

"It's cheating. It's depriving other students of the fairness of the system," prosecutor Ellen Mancini said.

The boy, whose name was not released, was released to his father's custody.

Useless, Cute Valentine's Day Study

NEW YORK - When you kiss your sweetheart this Valentine's Day you may well turn your head to the right, echoing a preference born in the womb, a researcher suggests.

Onur Guentuerkuen of Ruhr-University Bochum in Bochum, Germany, reports that he spied on 124 pairs of adults who turned their heads left or right while kissing on the lips in public places in Germany, Turkey and the United States. Two-thirds of the kissers went to the right, he found.

Prior research has found that babies also tend to turn their heads to the right rather than the left during their final weeks of gestation and for the first six months after birth, Guentuerkuen says in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

So the results on kissing show that early head-turning bias may affect behavior in adulthood, he says. People also prefer to use the right foot, ear and eye by about two-to-one, suggesting those behavioral biases may be related, he said.

But right-handedness dominates the population far more, about eight-to-one, so that's either not related or it's affected by cultural influence, he said.

The researcher watched kissing couples in airports, railroad stations, beaches and parks. He estimated their ages at around 13 to around 70.

Slow-Speed Getaway

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man suspected of robbing a bank was arrested as he tried to make a slow-speed getaway on a city bus, police said.

A bank branch was robbed Monday morning when a man approached a teller, said he had a gun and demanded money. After the teller handed him the cash, he fled on foot.

He was arrested a short time later on a city bus, said Sgt. Malcolm Farmer of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Officers suspected the robber might use a bus because it was the same escape method used in a prior bank robbery, Farmer said.

Dude, This Potato Tastes Like Weed!

LORDSBURG, N.M. - It's a case of spuds and buds. State police in New Mexico report finding more than a ton of pot, loaded in a truck with potatoes and onions. Department of Public Safety officials say the drug bust was made during a random cargo check on U.S. 10 near the border with Mexico. Two men, including the driver, were arrested. They were headed for Cincinnati with their load of weed. Police say all commercial vehicles are subject to inspection because of heightened security concerns.

Dispute Over Women's Belts Spurs Violence

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka - Four male government soldiers and three female Tamil Tiger rebels had a fistfight Wednesday after they disagreed whether the women fighters should be allowed to wear belts to keep their pants up.

Though the government and insurgents agreed to a truce in February last year, a simmering dispute over women's belts has intensified recently and threatens to buckle the road to peace.

The army has banned female guerrilla fighters from wearing belts while inside military-controlled territory, saying that belts identify the women as rebels and can hold small arms such as pistols.

This, the authorities say, contravenes the terms of their cease-fire which allows insurgents into government areas but prohibits them from wearing uniforms or carry weapons.

Initially, the army banned the use of black belts, the color most female rebels use, but have since extended the ban to belts of all colors.

Two women rebels were injured in Tuesday's fight at a military check point just south of the town of Jaffna, a military official said on condition of anonymity. Witnesses said it was not clear who punched first.

The Tamil rebels fought for an independent homeland for 19 years until agreeing to the truce last year. About 65,000 people were killed in that time.

How Romantic

NORWOOD, N.J. - A New Jersey man is promising a free sports car to the woman who marries him.

Sandy Grossman is serious about finding a bride by Valentine's Day, and drives around in a 1959 Cadillac ambulance topped with a billboard advertisement for a bride.

The electric sign promises "Free Sports Car With Marriage" and lists his email address, photo and vital stats: "43, 5'11, 175 pounds and NEVER MARRIED."

"It sure beats trying to come up with a snappy one-liner in a Jersey nightclub," Grossman told The Record of Bergen County for Wednesday's editions.

So far, he's gotten only five email responses (and no "I do's") since his campaign began earlier this month. But he's confident that the Mazda convertible will seal the deal with someone.

"I'm a romantic," he said. "I think this is the ideal way to find somebody."

Poor Spelling Foils Counterfeiting Ring

HICKORY, N.C. - It's a case where spellcheck would have come in handy.

Police are looking for two men who tried to pass a $498 counterfeit payroll check bearing the name "Boryhill Furmiture" on Monday afternoon. The company's name is Broyhill Furniture.

The men took off after the clerk rejected the check because of the misspellings. Police did arrest two women who were seen following the men in a car.

Kathy Elaine Gillman, 39, and her daughter Amanda Kaye Gillman, 18, both of Ohio, were charged with aiding and abetting the obtaining of property by false pretense and possession of counterfeit checks.

Police found 42 bogus checks for $200 to $400 each inside the women's car, along with a software program used to print checks, pages torn from a phone book and a handgun. The checks purportedly were from businesses in Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Hickory Police Capt. Steve Wright said the checks' quality was impressive.

"There's a good possibility that if the name on the check had been spelled correctly, they would have gotten away with it," Wright said.

Man Sues Over Booze

TRENTON, N.J. - A recovering alcoholic who was mistakenly served liquor while gambling at an Atlantic City casino has rolled snake-eyes in his bid to sue.

The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the request made by Lawrence Lemming, 65, of Long Branch. He was playing a slot machine at Harrah's Atlantic City resort when he asked the waitress for a diet cola but instead was given a rum and cola.

Lemming, who said he had not consumed alcohol for 32 years, quickly realized what had happened and spit out the drink. He then passed out, but quickly regained consciousness and was not injured.

Lemming then filed his lawsuit in state Superior Court, but it was dismissed because state law says servers are only liable if they provide alcohol to minors or those who are noticeably drunk. Lemming appealed the ruling, but the decision was upheld.

Lost And Found In Tokyo

TOKYO - If it's lost, it can be found on the bustling streets of Tokyo — where police collected nearly 1.72 million left-behind items last year, from mobile phones to wayward tortoises and nearly $20.33 million in stray cash.

Umbrellas, however, topped most lost-and-found boxes across the nation's capital, with police reporting 332,579 left behind in 2002 — an average of about 3,200 each rainy day.

Lost wallets were another big find in the city of 12 million people, according to figures released Wednesday by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

The $20.33 million in dropped or misplaced money included a single find of $79,000 last December, which has yet to be claimed.

But about 72 percent of the rest was returned to the rightful owners, with an additional 19 percent going to finders, according to a police spokesman. The remainder went to city coffers.

Lost-and-found items, including cash, are kept at a city lost-and-found center for six months and two weeks.

Items are returned to the original owners if claimed during that period. If not, the finder can claim the items within the next two months. If that period elapses, items automatically go to the city government.

Among other lost-and-found items were 84 pets, including 12 ferrets and an unspecified number of tortoises.