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The Odd Truth, July 15, 2004

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

Exploding John

BLACKSVILLE, West Virginia - The porta-potty packed a bang. Authorities in Blacksville, West Virginia, report a portable john exploded when a man inside lit a cigarette. Officials blame the explosion on a buildup of methane gas in the portable toilet. Officials say the surprised smoker wasn't too badly hurt and drove himself to a clinic. As one emergency worker puts it, the methane didn't take too kindly to the lit cigarette.

Lawsuit Of Love

BUCHAREST, Romania - Sandu Gurguiatu first sued for money. Then for love.

The love-struck Romanian first took his company to court four years ago for what he said was unfair dismissal. But after setting eyes on Judge Elena Lala, he sued his employers and others dozens of times - only to be able to see her.

"I fell madly in love with her and when I found out she was married, I didn't know how I would manage to see her," he told the daily Libertatea on Thursday. "The only way was to see her in the courtroom, so I looked in the law book and came up with all kinds of excuses."

Sometimes he would approach her in the halls of the courtroom in Focsani, a city some 125 miles northeast of Bucharest, but was too timid to talk to her beyond legal matters, the paper reported.

Eventually, the infatuation subsided and Gurguiatu he decided to go public with his story.

The Focsani court declined to comment on the report in the newspaper. Lala, the object of Gurguiatu's affection told the paper she was "stunned."

"I remember judging his cases, but for me all cases are equal," she was quoted as saying.

Gurguiatu lost his first suit. But he won some subsequent ones against other companies - including the right to have two towels and enough soap to wash up at work.

Woman Charged For Offering Pig As Tiger Bait

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida - A woman who offered to use her 5-month-old pig as bait to lure a tiger that escaped from the home of an actor who once played Tarzan will be cited for animal cruelty, officials said.

Linda Meredith, of Loxahatchee, put the pig in the trunk of her car and drove to the neighborhood where officials were searching for the tiger shortly after she heard of its escape.

Meredith asked officers to grab the hind legs of the pig, named Baby, or twist its ears so it would squeal and attract the tiger. The officers declined her offer.

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control Director Dianne Sauve said Meredith will be cited for transporting the pig in her trunk.

"I was appalled," Sauve said. "Carrying an animal in a trunk in 90-degree heat, where it's probably 140 degrees inside, is not acceptable."

Suave said she planned to meet with county sheriff's officials Thursday to determine specific charges.

Meredith said the trunk of her Cadillac is air conditioned, and she was planning to eat the pig when it is full grown.

"I can't believe they have the gall," she said. "I was just trying to help the tiger find his way back home."

Following a 26-hour search, the tiger, which belonged to actor Steve Sipek, was shot and killed Tuesday after lunging at a wildlife officer.

Wrong Grave Exhumed

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Authorities trying to exhume a body for DNA samples dug up the wrong grave in a Frankfort cemetery.

Steve Clark of the Frankfort Police Department said workers relied on photographs of Katherine Tatman's funeral in 2001 to find her unmarked grave in Greenhill Cemetery. They came within three feet but removed another casket with an unknown occupant on Monday.

"We don't have any way of knowing who it is," Clark said. "There were absolutely no markings at all."

Tatman, 68, was found stabbed to death in a Frankfort apartment in June 2001. No one has been arrested in the killing. Prosecutors want DNA evidence to prove Tatman was sexually assaulted.

The mistake was discovered after the wrong body was taken to the state medical examiner's office. Officials planned to rebury the body Tuesday.

They found Tatman's grave later Monday.

Man Invents Beer Can Shaped Porta-Potty

ST. LOUIS - Sometimes inspiration can strike in the most mundane of places. For Isaac Newton, it was an apple tree. For Mike Mason, it was a portable toilet.

Mason was standing in a long line to use the facilities at a softball tournament when he was struck with a thought: Wouldn't it be more pleasant to stare at a beer can instead of a portable toilet?

The 45-year-old has formed MediaCan Inc. to turn portable toilets into advertising venues.

Mason says he wants to attract the attention of companies like Anheuser-Busch Cos., PepsiCo Inc., and other firms that sell products in cylindrical shapes. Their advertising messages can be put on 8-foot-tall replicas of soda or beer cans, pill bottles, or batteries. So far, Mason hasn't had any takers.

Anheuser Busch, for example, said MediaCan, "is not an idea that fits with the image of our brands."

Still, Mason has patented the structures - two 40-pound plastic panels that fit around portable toilets as a shell. Advertising can be inserted into the panels.

"There's a desperation right now for different types of advertising," Mason said. "We're serving a dual purpose, by hiding an eyesore and providing an advertising venue with a lot of wow factor."

Adam Salacuse, president and chief executive of Boston alternative advertising agency Alt Terrain LLC, says that brands have to be careful about creating a negative connotation.

"Marketing now is all about being relevant and creating a positive experience," Salacuse said. "I'm going to go relieve myself in a Budweiser can? That could be a problem."

Chief Orders Police Cover-Up

SAN DIEGO - The police chief in the nation's seventh-biggest city has ordered a cover-up. He's cracking down on his own officers' tattoos.

Effective Wednesday, San Diego police officers with "excessive" body art must cover it up with long sleeves or turtlenecks while on the job. Hot summer temperatures won't be an excuse.

"For 37 years in this business, I have never worn anything but long-sleeve shirts with a tie. I think it's the way officers ought to look," said Chief William Lansdowne, who announced the policy in a long-sleeve shirt and a tie.

The new policy, outlined in a five-page memo, is expected to affect half a dozen of the department's more than 2,000 officers, police spokesman Dave Cohen said.

Lansdowne, who took over the department last year, said he believes San Diegans deserve a professional, well-groomed force. He said the new policy - which also covers piercings, branding and decorative scarring - will help project that image.

The rules say tattoos covering more than 30 percent of the exposed skin of a uniformed officer must go undercover. So must tattoos that rise above the collarbone and any tattoo depicting nudity, violence, profanity, racism, Nazi insignia, pentagrams and gang symbols.

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