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The Odd Truth, May 11, 2004

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

Bart Simpson Lives

CLEARWATER, Florida - A Florida teen is accused of destroying what thousands believe was a holy image.

Police in Clearwater say Kyle Maskell allegedly used a slingshot to shatter some office windows that many thought bore the image of the Virgin Mary.

The image has drawn an estimated half-million visitors after someone first noticed it six years ago.

Some say it was miraculous.

But experts say the 60-foot-high image was created by the corrosion of metal in a glass coating.

Maskell has been charged with criminal mischief and jailed on $10,000 bail.

Mother's Day Surprise

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia - It was a Mother's Day surprise of the most unpleasant variety. A woman out for an early Mother's Day lunch found a mouse in her vegetable soup. The incident occurred at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Newport News, Virginia, Saturday. The woman had already eaten some of the soup when she scooped up the mouse. Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis says the chain has stopped serving the soup nationwide, while officials investigate. The mouse is being tested to see if it was already in the soup when it was delivered by the supplier. Davis says Cracker Barrel takes the mouse-in-the-soup incident very seriously.

World's Fattest Raccoon Dies

PALMERTON, Pennsylvania - A junk-food crazed critter billed as the world's weightiest raccoon has died, ending a 10-year life marked by more than a few midnight snacks.

Bandit will no longer raid his owner's pantry, hunting down chips and cheese curls, Froot Loops and french fries.

"I haven't been eating, I haven't been sleeping," a bereaved Deborah "Pepper" Klitsch said Monday, two days after health problems forced her to euthanize her favorite pet.

Klitsch - who lives in Palmerton, about 90 miles west of New York City - denied the occasional charge that she overfed the rotund raccoon, whose weight ballooned to nearly 75 pounds, three times the average for his breed.

He was born with a bad thyroid gland, Klitsch said.

When he hit 52.5 pounds in 1999, Bandit's girth garnered him a spot in Guinness World Records.

Klitsch vowed to lock her cabinets, but Bandit continued to plump up, registering 54.4 pounds in late 1999, then 64.9 pounds in 2001 and finally pushing past 70 pounds.

Klitsch, a foster mother, told the tale to various news outlets, including a British radio show, and Bandit snagged a spot on cable TV's Food Network.

Back home, the raccoon was a regular at Ice Cream World, where owner Tim Pitts would watch him sit in Klitsch's sport utility vehicle, holding a cup of blue raspberry Slush with his paws and drinking through a straw.

"He was a good customer," Pitts said. He had sold a birthday cake for Bandit a few days before he died.

He started to decline this spring, following the deaths of two of the puppies he had grown up with. Bandit had also developed a cancer-like growth on his side.

"I could see he was suffering because he stopped eating," Klitsch said. "In the whole entire world, he was my best friend."

Judge Orders Drug Offender To Buy Coffin

CONYERS, Ga. - A man who has been struggling with a drug problem has been ordered by a judge to buy a coffin and keep it in his home.

Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation sentenced Brenton Jay Raffensperger, 24, to serve only the first six months of a seven-year sentence on a cocaine possession charge. But he must keep the coffin in his home during the duration of the sentence.

"Some people may think this is silly, but I don't," Nation told Raffensperger. "I want you to go to a funeral home and buy a casket, put it in your home and see it every day as a reminder of the deadly consequences of your choices. I want you to be reminded every day that if you don't change your ways you are a dead man."

Raffensperger also received a concurrent sentence on a DUI charge.

Nation added the coffin requirement as a condition after attorneys worked out a plea bargain.

Nation has used unusual measures in the past in an effort to emphasize to offenders the need to get off drugs. One man was told to bury his crack pipe in a grave size hole. Another man was required to keep a car he destroyed while driving under the influence in his front yard.

Goliath, The World's Tallest Horse

OGALLALA, Neb. - Goliath certainly lives up to his name.

Goliath, billed as the World's Tallest Horse, made an appearance Saturday in Ogallala. The 12-year-old Percheron horse stands more than 19 hands high, or 6 feet, 5 inches at the withers. He weighs more than 2,400 pounds.

The gelding is 8 feet, 2 inches at the top of his head when he stands with his neck stretched up high. When he tries to eat grass, he has to spread his front legs out to the side, in the same way a giraffe eats.

Goliath eats 18 pounds of Pilgrim's Pride grain, 40 pounds of Coastal Bermuda hay and drinks 20 gallons of water daily.

He was born in Canada, but now is at Mount Pleasant, Texas. His appearance at The Mercantile in Ogallala was through Priefert Manufacturing.

Goliath is the wheel horse for Priefert Manufacturing's promotional wagon team. The team makes about 250 appearances nationwide throughout the year. However, due to his unusual size, Goliath makes an additional 100 appearances.

There are four other Percherons on the wagon team that miss Goliath's height mark by only 1 inch.

The Guinness Book of World Records verified Goliath as the tallest horse in the world when Goliath's regular veterinarian, Bill Howard of Animal Clinic at the Crossings in Longview, Texas, measured the horse during a press conference on July 24. Goliath passed the previous record holder by a quarter of an inch.

The Meter's Running, And Running, And Running

EVERETT, Wash. - What started out as just another early morning fare turned out to be an odyssey stretching about 2,300 miles for taxi driver Mark Forbes.

"When I look back at it, it was one of those cab rides that you think about, but you never realize it's going to come true," Forbes said. "I think every cab driver has a once-in-a-lifetime trip."

The 62-year-old cabbie was nearing the end of a 12-hour shift April 10 when he picked up two men at a Days Inn and one asked to go to a Sikh temple near Seattle, about 25 miles to the south.

After they had gotten a few miles south, the passenger changed his mind and said they wanted to visit his brother in Milwaukee, a Portland suburb.

Once the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic got to Portland, the passengers used Forbes' cellular telephone to call for the brother for directions that didn't line up with the streets.

"Are there two Milwaukees?" the taller passenger asked.

"Yes," Forbes said. "There's another Milwaukee. In Wisconsin."

"How much for you to take us there?"

Figuring it had to be close to 2,000 miles to Milwaukee, the driver asked for $3,000, a discount from his normal rate of $1.60 a mile, and the two agreed.

The trio arrived in Milwaukee the evening of April 12. The bill was paid and Forbes began the long trip home.

But he said his view of the job has changed. Now, he says, when a fare asks to go to the mall or a restaurant, he thinks, "Is that all?"

What Are The Odds?

DEXTER, Mich. - When Russell Tanner picks his next lottery numbers, it might be a good idea to copy him.

The 78-year-old Dexter resident won his second $1 million scratch-off lottery game earlier this month - the only known two-time winner of the game in Michigan.

The retired custodian and factory worker who still lived in a manufactured home following his June 2002 winning ticket, said he was stunned to win again.

"I couldn't believe that I could be so blessed. It just feels great to win," he said.

The odds to win the game just once are one in 623,825.

Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters said odds of winning twice haven't been calculated. No one at the state lottery office can remember someone winning $1 million twice, he said.

"We have so few $1 million winners from instant games as it is, but to have one gentleman win twice is really extraordinary," Peters said.

Tanner said he sent his four grown children, who are scattered across the country, some of his winnings.

"They were pretty happy, but my daughter wouldn't believe me. I had to convince her heavily," he said. "Charity starts at home."