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The Odd Truth, June 30, 2004

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

Too Weird For Words

HONG KONG - A fire extinguisher sprung a leak and shot 12 stories into the air, taking off a construction worker's arm in a freak accident that prompted his co-workers' prayers to appease angry spirits, local media reported Wednesday.

The accident occurred in a building many believe is haunted after a fire eight years ago killed 40 people and injured 81.

Workers were demolishing the Garley Building to make way for a shopping mall when the sudden leak in the fire extinguisher propelled it into the air Monday.

The 36-year-old man who lost his arm, identified only by the surname So, remained hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday, government officials told The Associated Press.

Newspapers and TV footage showed workers in safety helmets praying Tuesday in front of a small altar full of incense and food amid the rubble at the demolition site.

Ghost-appeasing rituals, once common in traditional Chinese society, are rare in modern Hong Kong.

Clothesline Breaks Five-Story Fall

MADRID, Spain - A woman living in a Barcelona nursing home fell from a fifth-story window Wednesday but landed on a clothesline and survived, officials said.

Firefighters extricated her from the clothesline of the nursing home's courtyard and the woman ended up with only a fractured leg, the news agency Efe reported.

Her age was not given.

Chuck E. Cheese Pelted With Pizza

MACON, Georgia - A mother who felt a restaurant mascot was ignoring her child is accused of pelting the character with pizza, and threatening the teen inside the costume with a beating.

The incident allegedly happened at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Macon, Georgia, over the weekend.

A 17-year-old female employee was dressed as the Chuck E. Cheese mascot - a gray cartoon-like rodent with large front teeth.

No charges were filed in the incident.

11-Year-Old Stuck In Chimney

LANCASTER, Calif. - An 11-year-old boy had to be rescued by firefighters after he got stuck in a chimney while trying to get into his friend's locked house.

"I wasn't Santa Claus," said Rance Hill, who spent 1-and-a-half hours in the chimney Tuesday.

The Antelope Valley boy said he was trying to help a friend when he shimmied down the chimney at about 4:30 p.m. and got stuck feet-first. His friend was unable to pull him free and called Los Angeles County firefighters.

They tried to get him out from below and even knocked a hole in the chimney at a point where it narrowed to about 8 inches but that didn't work, fire Inspector Mike McCormick said.

"My foot was stuck," Hill said.

Finally, they were able to haul up the sooty youngster with a rope.

It felt "like I was flying, just going up real fast," he said.

He also had some advice to other kids.

"Never go down a chimney or do something crazy like that," he said. "Not even for a thousand dollars."

Harley Davidson Offers New Hog Hearse

ALUM BANK, Pa. - Harley-Davidson fans can finally take their final ride in style.

Tombstone Hearse Co. two years ago began building hand-crafted Old West-style casket carriers that are pulled by a modified Harley-Davidson Road King.

"We take a regular bike and turn it into a motortrike with special gears to pull a heavier load," said company co-founder Dave Follmar. "We can accommodate most caskets, including oversized units."

Follmar, a retired cabinetmaker, came up with the idea 12 years ago. With the help of construction expert Jack Feather, Follmar has now franchised the idea and has a network of hearses in service stretching from Texas to Michigan and New Jersey.

Rental prices for the hearses range from $500 to $600. Traditional hearses range from $125 to $475.

Tombstone's hearse is designed with the traditional amenities but features a glass-enclosed carriage with curtains and tassels. Four gold lanterns adorn each corner and it's fitted with a black vinyl top.

Tombstone's drivers are dressed in white tuxedo shirts, string ties, black pants and Calvary-style knee-high boots with a single spur.

"For any guy or gal who has sat their butt in a Harley seat all their lives, it doesn't seem fitting to lay them in the back of a Caddy for a farewell ride," Feather said.

BBQ Champ's Grill Stolen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Barbecue champ Paul Kirk is flaming mad over the theft of his custom-made $18,000 grill.

"It was a slap across the face of mankind," said David Klose, the Houston man who built the giant custom-made barbecue cooker. "It's like stealing a man's Corvette; it's a cardinal sin."

Kirk's 15-foot grill and the $8,000 van that pulled it were stolen over the weekend, along with food intended for a catering job - at least 10 pounds of brisket, a few chickens and a tall stack of ribs.

The cooker and the van were recovered Tuesday at an apartment complex in Merriam, Kan. Roeland Park, Kan., Police Chief Rex Taylor said police had no suspects and are investigating the crime as an auto theft.

Kirk is a seven-time barbecue champion who teaches barbecue classes, caters events and is known nationally as the "Baron of Barbecue" to readers of his half-dozen barbecuing books.

The thief struck the Kirk family's quiet cul-de-sac in suburban Roeland Park while they slept after a big day of grilling at the Kansas State Barbeque Championship. The keys to the 1999 Chevrolet van were on the floorboard Saturday night. By 5 a.m. Sunday morning, the van and grill were gone.

Since it was stolen, angry messages have ignited on Web site, one comparing the heist to someone running off with a man's wife. Messages on the competitive barbecue forum served up talk of possible grill alarm-systems or LoJacks.

Let's See: Winning Lottery Ticket, Underwear Model ...

TOKYO - Imagine being able to choose your dreams.

A Japanese toymaker is out with a new gadget that claims to do just that.

Tokyo-based Takara says its "Dream Workshop" can be programmed to help sleepers select their dreams.

The sleepy user mounts a photograph on the device, selects appropriate mood music and records key word prompts.

The company says several hours later, the device is activated during the part of the sleep cycle when dreams most often occur.

The Dream Workshop goes on sale in Japan in late August for about $135.

A Japanese newspaper reports the device had a 22 percent success rate, when tested on a group of men and women, between the ages of 20 and 40.

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