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The Odd Truth, May 18, 2004

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

Man Sick After Eating Bugs

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - An Indiana man is learning the hard way that eating bugs can be dangerous. Dr. Al Ripani says the man showed up at his Bloomington clinic, after eating nearly 30 cicadas. The man, who wasn't named, suffered a strong allergic reaction to the sauteed insects. He had read a newspaper article about cooking the bugs and tried it with butter, crushed garlic and basil. But the article didn't warn that people with food allergies can also be allergic to cooked insects. The cicadas are causing quite a stir across much of the Eastern U.S., where they emerge once every 17 years.

Student Drinks Chemical On Bet

ODESSA, Texas - A student who drank a chemical from his high school lab on a dare was recovering in a hospital, but not before a scare.

The student drank the unidentified chemical on a bet at the school, said Nancy Smith, a UMC supervisor.

"We need to find out what it was from the toxicologist," Assistant Principal Ray Lascano said. "All of those materials belonged to one of the chemistry labs."

The student was found last Wednesday in a school hallway, bleeding from the nose and mouth.

The unidentified student, a junior at Odessa High School, was upgraded Monday from critical to satisfactory condition at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Lascano, who talked with the youth's mother Monday afternoon, said swelling in his throat had receded enough for him to talk. The student was moved from the Lubbock hospital's intensive-care unit to the pediatric unit, he said.

Lascano said Ector County Independent School District officials were still investigating.

Petroleum Jelly Jam

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Roger Chamberlain may have thought he gave police the slip when he switched motels.

But when authorities found the man slathered head-to-toe in petroleum jelly, they knew they had their man.

Authorities said a Motel 6 cleaning crew discovered a petroleum jelly mess on mattresses, bedding, a TV set, furniture, carpeting and towels in Chamberlain's room after he checked out last week. Damage was put at more than $1,000.

Fourteen empty petroleum jelly jars and numerous pornographic magazines were fished out of the trash can, according to WNBF radio in Binghamton.

Shortly afterward, a sheriff's deputy tracked down Chamberlain to a nearby motel, finding the 44-year-old Virginia man entirely covered in the greasy ointment, authorities said.

Chamberlain was charged with criminal mischief May 9, and was released on his own recognizance. An attempt to reach Chamberlain by telephone Monday was not immediately successful.

Shoplifters 'Foil' Electronic Sensors

HONG KONG - Six Vietnamese shoplifters beat security systems in stores by wrapping items in foil to evade electronic sensors, but they were caught the old-fashioned way by police who followed them.

The four men and two women were sentenced Monday to prison terms ranging from 18 to 23 months for conspiracy to steal and overstaying their visas, defense lawyers said Tuesday.

A court was told the Vietnamese successfully stole 81 items of clothing worth $3,500 from several stores, but were nabbed later by police who had picked up their trail.

Skinny, Hungry Bandit Strikes Again

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The skinny burglar strikes again.

The hungry criminal who police believe is responsible for eight break-ins at businesses on the South Side is now being linked to four new crimes in the Olneyville and West End sections of town, The Providence Journal reported.

Police said the territory is new, but the method is the same.

The thief squeezes down ventilation shafts or kitchen vents, or smashes a small hole through a wall, to get in. He or she normally grabs cash, cigarettes and food. The robber has eaten a watermelon, a mango and even cooked a meal at one restaurant on Cranston Street.

The strange behavior has police baffled. Due to the way the thief is entering the buildings, security alarms aren't being triggered.

Last Wednesday, the burglar tunneled through a ventilation shaft and stole women's hair extensions from B.E.T. Beauty Supplies on Broad Street. On Thursday, the thief slid down a shaft and crashed through a ceiling to enter Mian Garden Chinese Restaurant on Manton Avenue. The criminal then ate a watermelon and stole some cash.

On Sunday, the burglar squeezed down a vent at Heng Express Restaurant, cooked a meal on the stove and left. And Monday, the thief smashed a hole in the cinderblock wall at the International Specialties store on Cranston Street. The individual fled with cash, cigarettes, a few bags of Doritos, a can of soda and some jewelry.

Richard Moravec, owner of the International Specialties store, said he couldn't figure out how the thief entered.

"I looked up in the ceiling, the doors, and everything looked fine," Moravec said. Then he saw the hole in the wall.

"He had to work awful hard to break through that brick," he added.

Man Banned From Zoo After Missing Finger Mystery

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A frequent zoo visitor whose bitten-off finger was found outside a jaguar exhibit has been banned from the Rio Grande Zoo for life.

A groundskeeper spotted the man running into a zoo bathroom last week with blood on his pants, zoo director Ray Darnell said Friday. The groundskeeper followed the man to ask if he was OK, and the man then turned and fled.

The finger was found Wednesday outside the cage of the jaguar, Manchas.

The man, whose name was not released, had a New Mexico Zoological Society pass, which enabled officials to track him down. Darnell said the man was contacted by phone and was asked if he was missing any fingers, but said there was nothing wrong.

But a print lifted from the detached finger told authorities otherwise, Darnell said. Police went to the man's house and visually confirmed he was the right person.

He was banned because "you just can't take the risk," Darnell said.

General curator Tom Silva said it's the only case he knows of in which a zoo visitor has been injured by a zoo animal. A couple of years ago a temporary employee lost the tip of his finger, but claimed a rock fell on it. The fingertip was found, in a glove, in an animal's den. That animal was Manchas, Silva said.