The Odd Truth: July 26, 2005

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

Highway Sign Mix-Up

EASTHAMPTON, Mass. - The highway signs at the intersection of Routes 10 and 141 might make you think you'd taken a wrong turn and wound up in the Deep South.

Amid the staid Yankee surroundings of this western Massachusetts town, the recently installed signs bear the outline of the state of Alabama, squashed to fit the square shape.

The incorrect signs had been up about a week when Joe Pipczynski, Easthampton's superintendent of public works, was alerted by a state Highway Department worker.

Pipczynski spoke to city officials and consulting engineers and came up with a theory.

He believes the contractor opened the federal manual governing the appearance of highway signs. The example there shows a sign for Route 21 in Alabama, including an outline of the state surrounding the numbers. In Massachusetts, the signs are supposed to be simple black numbers on a white background.

Pipczynski thinks the contractor's staffers sent the example to the sign maker and got exactly what they asked for.

But the contractor, A. Pereira Construction Co. of Ludlow, doesn't know what happened.

"We didn't really question it, because the numbers were correct," company spokesman Roger Remy said.

Mike Superson is co-owner of a Big E's Supermarket, which is right next to the signs.

"I looked at them 100 times since they put them up," he told The Boston Globe. "This is the first I've heard of this."

The signs will be replaced as soon as possible, Remy said.

Mom Admits Hosting Sex Parties

GOLDEN, Colo. - A Colorado woman who told police she wanted to be a "cool mom" has admitted to hosting weekly sex parties for high school boys.

Authorities say Silvia Johnson had sex with five boys at the parties for her daughter's classmates -- and that she provided drugs and alcohol.

She's pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual assault.

She also pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped two charges related to drug distribution.

Authorities say an investigation began after one of the boys told his mother about the encounters. Charging documents say Johnson was never popular in high school and wanted to feel like "one of the group."'

One teen said he did think Johnson was cool, until -- in his words -- he "found out she was a pedophile."

Each sexual assault count carries up to two years in prison, and each count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor carries up to six years.

Man Breaks Own Climbing Record

PARADISE, Wash. - William Painter's record as the oldest man to reach the top of Mount Rainier has been broken by William Painter.

By making it to the 14,411-foot summit at age 82, the retired plutonium worker from the Hanford nuclear reservation beat the mark he set more than a year earlier.

Lost on the way down was his treasured old Army hat laden with memorabilia he began collecting after he started climbing seven years ago. A gust of wind blew the hat into a crevasse as he was descending.

About 10,000 people attempt the summit every year and half make it, a third of those with a trained guide. Rarely are more than one or two a year older than 70 or younger than 10, Mount Rainier National Park officials say.

Painter, whose training includes more than 1,300 ascents of 800-foot Badger Mountain near his home in Richland while carrying 40-pound weights, was eager to get home to finish making apricot nectar and apricot jam and get started on the tomatoes in his garden.

"The most important thing is not getting to the summit, but getting down," he said.

Fake Purple Hearts Anger Vets

DENVER - Some veterans who know all too well the courage it takes to earn a Purple Heart are upset that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson use fake medals to pick up women in "Wedding Crashers."

Not only that, the movie's Web site has a fake Purple Heart you can print out, which the site says "guarantees you attention, admiration and plenty of free booze."

An FBI agent says he challenges the producer of the film to go to a military hospital and "talk to some of these people who don't have legs anymore and see how funny they think that movie is."

Wearing a Purple Heart you haven't earned is illegal.

Big Check Is Big Error

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The check was in the mail -- and Robert Theodorow couldn't believe it. The Indiana businessman opened an envelope and found a $160,000 check inside. He was rich -- for a moment. Theodorow says with that kind of money he could pay off his house, buy a car and go on a long vacation. But Theodorow says he knew he couldn't keep it. He returned the check to Canada-based Cargill, which owns a soybean processing plant near Theodorow's business. Cargill officials say they're investigating the giant goof. But Cargill is sending Theodorow a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant, as a reward for his honesty.

Man Goes For Scuba Record

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. - Like a lot of people, Rich Henry is going for a swim this summer. But he's not coming up, at least not yet. Henry hopes to set a new world's record for the longest underwater dive. He sank to the bottom of Wisconsin's Lake Andrea in Prairie Springs Park Sunday. He plans to stay underwater for a week. He's getting help from a team of 18 scuba divers and about 50 other volunteers for his Guinness record try. Henry will have more to do than just look at the fish swim by. He's got a recliner and a waterproof DVD player to watch movies underwater.