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The Odd Truth, Jan. 30, 2004

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.



'Pop' Goes The Whale

TAINAN, Taiwan - Folks in Taiwan are wishing that the insides of a whale had stayed there.

People were covering their noses and businesses came a halt after a dead whale burst because of a gas buildup.

The 56-foot long sperm whale was being carried through city streets on a truck - being brought inland after it was found beached during the weekend. Scientists were going to try to find out how it died.

Right in the middle of the street, the carcass exploded - splattering its innards across the street.

Experts believe the explosion happened probably because of gases building up in the dead mammal's stomach.

Shopkeepers closed up, so they could sweep up the stinky mess of blood, blubber and entrails.

Crystal Ball Starts House Fire

SHAWNEE, Okla. - Firefighters in Shawnee knew they had the cause of a small house fire when they peered into a crystal ball.

Fire Prevention Officer Jimmy Gibson found the ball when he reached into a hole burned into a sofa after the flames were doused. Firefighters placed the ball in the grass, and within 30 seconds the ground was smoking.

"I couldn't believe how quickly it burned," Gibson said.

Firefighters believe the ball was taken off a table, where it was usually displayed, and placed on the couch by the homeowner's grandchildren. Gibson said the ball worked like a magnifying glass in sunlight, directing light into a heat beam.

The blaze was confined to the sofa and no one was injured. The homeowner gave Gibson the crystal ball, which he plans to keep on his bookshelf.

'The Schizophrenic Murderer ...'

ATHENS, Greece - The remake of the 1974 cult horror movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" opened Friday in Greece with an introduction demanded by psychiatrists: Schizophrenics aren't always violent.

The distributor of the film - with the Greek title "The Schizophrenic Murderer with the Chainsaw" - said it added the preface prepared by the Research Institute for Psychological Health.

The distributor took the action after Greek psychiatrists demanded that the Greek title be changed because it insulted schizophrenics and stigmatized people with psychological disorders.

The movie is about five stranded youths who become the prey of a deformed lunatic.

In a newspaper ad, the distributor Odeon A.E. said moviegoers also will be offered a leaflet about psychological illnesses.

Who's The Weakling Now?

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A high school freshman who walked out of a weightlifting session after being called a weakling became a hero minutes later when he saved an elderly man who had driven into a pond.

Justin Gregorich, 14, was one of three people who jumped into the water Wednesday to pull Raymond J. Kane from his sinking Lincoln Town Car.

"It's amazing - there are snakes and there are alligators ... all three of them just jumped in right after that guy," said paramedic Mike Eash.

Gregorich had hopes of joining Countryside High School's junior-varsity football team next season, and after school Wednesday he went to the team's conditioning practice.

But at 5-foot-3 inches tall and 130 pounds, he couldn't lift as much weight as the other boys, who teased him. Gregorich said he left early and began walking home.

"I'm thinking, man, I should have stayed at football, the coach is going to be mad at me, why did I leave?" he recalled. "And - WHAM!"

At that moment, the Lincoln veered off the road in front of him and sped toward the pond. Gregorich dove in, along with passers-by Michael McBrayer and Shawn Brady.

One man opened the car door as Gregorich and the other man grabbed Kane by the arms, authorities said. They swam about 50 feet back to the bank.

Kane was in good condition Thursday, issuing a statement through a hospital spokesman thanking his rescuers.

"I owe my life to that young man," Kane said. He also wished him luck in making the football team.

Judge Not ...

SANFORD, Fla. - A Florida judge who said a rape victim "doesn't look like a day at the beach" has apologized and taken himself off the case.

Sanford Circuit Judge Gene Stephenson says he hopes the woman accepts his apology.

Stephenson says he doesn't remember making the comment. But court transcripts showed he said, "Why would he want to rape her? She doesn't look like a day at the beach."

Stephenson made the remark after looking at a photo of the beaten and bruised victim as attorneys were discussing a plea agreement for the 26-year-old suspect, who is charged with raping, beating, kidnapping and robbing the 57-year-old woman.

The woman says she found the comment "appalling" and that she plans to file a complaint with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The Great Underwear Heist

MINEOLA, N.Y. - A civilian employee at the Nassau County jail could find himself behind bars after being charged with stealing more than $13,000 worth of underwear intended for indigent inmates.

John Cofield Jr., 39, of Uniondale, was arrested Thursday on one count of third-degree grand larceny, said Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon.

Cofield, who worked as a laborer at the jail in East Meadow, is accused of regularly stealing packages of underwear and socks over the last two years. The 2,284 packages of underwear was intended for distribution to both male and female indigent inmates, Dillon said.

"We estimate the total value of the clothing he stole at $13,704," the prosecutor said.

Cofield, who pleaded innocent at his arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted. He was released without bail.

Holding Down The Fort

SULLIVAN, Missouri - Joshua Cary heard a noise in the basement, grabbed a sword from his big brother's collection and went downstairs to investigate.

The 14-year-old didn't mince words.

"I'm going to give you until the count of three to come out, or I'm going to stab you," he yelled Thursday, according to his mother, Rebecca Cary.

Soon, a handcuffed man emerged, saying, "I didn't do it."

Joshua led the man upstairs at sword-point. His mother ran outside and found police searching for an escaped prisoner. The man, Mark A. Brown, who had broken free after he was picked up on a parole violation, was taken back into custody.

Joshua's brother is a soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, awaiting deployment to Iraq.

Rebecca Cary said the swords are for decoration, but noted that her older son had told Joshua he "needed to take care of his mom and sister. And he did."

Cary said she was proud of her son, who went out afterward for a celebratory night of bowling in this east-central Missouri town.

"He's always been fearless," Cary said. "I hope he grows out of that soon."

Bronze Yoda Statue Stolen

PASADENA, California - Someone lifted a 170-pound bronze statue of Yoda, the "Star Wars" Jedi master.

The theft from a flatbed truck was reported to police last weekend and artist Lawrence Noble has offered a $1,000 reward for its return. The limited-edition bronze is worth up to $20,000.

"It's a real high-end collectible," Noble said.

The statue was one of four bolted to a flatbed truck parked overnight Jan. 17 at the Westway Inn on Colorado Boulevard. Police said someone grabbed Yoda that night or early the next morning.

"We are treating this as a burglary and we'd appreciate any information the public might have," said police spokeswoman Janet Pope.

Lucasfilm Ltd. commissioned the statues, a part of a planned series featuring other "Star Wars" characters.

The statues were being transported from Artworks Foundry in Berkeley to DKE Enterprises in Los Angeles to be sold, Noble said.

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