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The Odd Truth: July 13, 2005

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Meredith Stoffel.

Honesty Pays

WEST BEND, Wis. - It really pays to be honest, just ask Larry Hoffman.

The 70-year-old retiree returned $2,000 he found in the pocket of a shirt he bought at a Goodwill store, and police say he will get the money back since the original owner can't be found.

Sgt. Gus Unertl said he told Hoffman that 24 people who had contacted police were not able to correctly describe the details of the shirt and money found on April 1. Claims came from as far away as Maine and Washington state, police said.

Hoffman had turned in 20, $100 bills in the pocket of a military-style, short-sleeved, khaki shirt.

He planned to share the money with family members and various churches he and his wife attend. "I'll probably also take her out to dinner," Hoffman said.

Money wasn't the only reward, though. Many people sent their best wishes and congratulations on Hoffman's random act of kindness.

"That gave me all the reward I needed," he said, adding that "thousands of people would have done the same thing."

Among those he heard from was a Seattle man who wrote to say that honesty should be rewarded, and included $20.

Hoffman wrote back, saying he could not accept the money, but had instead donated it in the man's name to a complex for low-income and elderly residents in West Bend where there had been a fire recently.

Big Water Bill

MASCOUTAH, Ill. - It has been a hot, dry summer in this St. Louis suburb, but Rose Mary Cook knew there was no way she could have used $74,000 worth of water.

The city's utility department claimed Cook used 10 million gallons of water last month, charging her $29,787 for water, $43,581 for sewer, plus $893 for municipal tax.

"Luckily, when I opened the bill, I was sitting down," Cook said. "I could have filled every pool in southern Illinois and still not used that much water."

Cook presented the bill to a public works employee at City Hall. Officials quickly determined the whopping fee was the result of a broken meter and issued a corrected bill for $32.66, waiving Cook's monthly water and sewer charges for her troubles.

"My daughter asked me if I was hoarding water during the drought," Cook said. "I told her I would, but I don't know where I would find 10 million gallon jugs."

Copies Of Harry Potter Sold Early

COQUITLAM, British Columbia - Some readers in Canada have been ordered by a judge to keep their mouths shut after they were sold copies of the latest Harry Potter book, several days before the book is to hit store shelves.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" -- the sixth installment in J.K. Rowling's seven-book fantasy series -- is set for release Saturday and has been shrouded in secrecy. But a grocery store in British Columbia accidentally sold 14 copies of the book before realizing its mistake.

A Canadian judge has ordered customers not to talk about the book, copy it, sell it or even read it before Saturday. They've also been told to return the novel to the publisher, which will return it to them after its official release.

As an added incentive, the publisher will include Rowling's autograph and a gift pack.

Boy Taken Out With Trash

KENOSHA, Wis. - A Wisconsin boy who hid in a bag taken out with the trash was nearly crushed in a garbage truck's compactor before a sanitation worker heard him scream.

Jacob Deates climbed inside the duffel bag as the garbage truck came by the other morning. The bag and other items were tossed into the truck.

A trash collector was starting the compactor when he heard a scream. He stopped the machine and saw the boy reaching out. He calls it "a very frightening moment."

Police say Jacob was uninjured. Once out of the truck, he ran back into his house.

The public works director in Kenosha, where the incident took place, says it's lucky the trash collector wasn't inside the cab, where he might not have heard the scream.

Man Robs Same Bank Multiple Times

OAKLAND, Calif. - Stephen Holloday has a familiar face at least to tellers at one downtown Oakland bank.

Police say he robbed the same bank four times between March 9 and May 23, but on his fifth attempt this month, a teller recognized him and alerted another co-worker who had been robbed previously by Holloday.

The two confronted the man, who panicked and fled, Oakland police Sgt. George Phillips. He was arrested a short time later on a street not far from the Summit Bank, the evidence a demand note still in his pocket.

"He was a creature of habit," Phillips said. "He had a penchant for doing the same bank over and over."

Holloday also is a suspect in at least seven San Francisco bank robberies, including one branch he allegedly hit five times, authorities said.

Bible Golf Balls

Scotland - Many golfers have been known to whisper a prayer before they swing.

Now they also can use golf balls inscribed with Bible verses.

A Scottish firm called Holy Socks sells a box of three Glory Golf Balls, each with a passage of scripture in red letters, for just under 15 dollars.

One ball, quoting from Ezekiel 46:9, says, "Each shall go out straight ahead."

Another quotes Isaiah 40:26: "Lift up your eyes on high and see, not one is missing."

A third ball, quoting Second Timothy 4:7, says, "I have finished the course. I have kept the faith."

On its Web site, Holy Socks suggests that Glory Golf Balls may be good "for a holy in one."