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The Odd Truth, Nov. 11, 2004

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

Orangutan Hot To Trot

CHICAGO - A middle-aged female orangutan called Maggie is fitter, trimmer and looking for love after undergoing what her keepers call "Maggie's Extreme Makeover."

In addition to healthier-looking skin and fur, Maggie has dropped 90 pounds and no longer snores or suffers from the flatulence, runny nose and constipation that once plagued her until keepers detected a thyroid condition.

Until treatment, keepers had tried unsuccessfully to get the 43-year-old ape to shed some pounds. Male orangutans didn't interest her either.

Maggie was prescribed thyroxin to balance her body chemistry and that increased her metabolism to help her lose weight. The rust-colored animal became more alert after she was put on a high-fiber diet and her keepers put her on an exercise program.

The thyroid treatment also has Maggie looking for love because it regulated her menstrual cycle and jump-started her desire to mate. Maggie, who socialized little when she first arrived at the suburban Chicago zoo in 1995, is now paying more attention to the male orangutans, officials said.

"She's been chasing them around," said zoo keeper Carol Sodaro.

Posing As Retarded, Man Fondles Nurses

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Charleston man is accused of fondling two home health care nurses while posing as a mentally retarded man who needed his diapers changed.

Thirty-eight-year-old William Warren Mucklow was arrested yesterday.

According to criminal complaints filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court, Mucklow allegedly posed as his mother to respond to ads for home health care workers and hire two nurses to care for a man who has the mind of a two- or three-year-old.

Police say Mucklow then posed as a mentally retarded person.

The complaints allege that the nurses, who worked separately in February and March, said Mucklow grabbed their breasts while they cared for him.

Mucklow was charged with two counts of battery. He was released from the South Central Regional Jail on a $10,000 cash bond yesterday.

Lottery Scheme Unravels

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana man is accused of boosting the odds that two friends would win a big lottery prize by telling them the name of the small-town grocery where the winning scratch-off ticket had been sent.

Prosecutors say William Foreman was able to do that because he was a lottery security officer and traced all five winning tickets in the million-dollar game through a list from the ticket manufacturer.

Court documents say one of the men spent $700 to buy the store's entire supply of tickets.

Prosecutors say Foreman has been charged with felony counts of disclosing confidential lottery information and theft. He insists he's innocent.

As for his friends, things fell apart when they went to collect their winnings. The lottery security chief recognized one of them as Foreman's friend, and held up the payment. The men have been charged with theft.

Vote Or Die, Indeed

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. - A Minnesota prosecutor says it's good to see young people excited about politics. But he says it's very disturbing when they resort to violence, as was the case involving three high school students.

Authorities say three students in Apple Valley have been charged with attacking a pro-Bush classmate after he reportedly said only gays would support Democrat John Kerry.

One of the teens allegedly was armed with a baseball bat.

The fight took place in the high school parking lot following a class discussion about the election. The teen who was beat up was treated for cuts and bruises.

Money Burned By Mistake

OSLO, Norway - A Norwegian who felt a bit chilly after a night on the town and decided to stoke his fireplace didn't really have money to burn. It just turned out that way.

What he realized too late was that the paper he used to start the blaze was a stack of bills, worth about $2,400, the regional newspaper Avisa Nordland reported Thursday.

"I came home late at night after a party, and wanted a beer before I went to bed," he told the newspaper. "It was cold in the living room, but there was a glow in the wood stove."

So the man, identified only as being his 50s, grabbed a handful of paper next to the stove and tossed it in.

"I discovered too late that the envelope of money had fallen onto the floor with the kindling paper," he said. He said the cash had been payment for an artwork he had sold earlier in the day.

Had there been anything left of the bills, he might have been able to exchange some of it for undamaged bills at the state Bank of Norway, but the wood stove was too efficient.

The man, who lives on the Arctic Lofoten Islands of northwestern Norway, told the newspaper his tale of woe on the condition that it did not publish his name.

Pot Barter Goes Up In Smoke

SACRAMENTO - A man who unsuccessfully tried to barter with marijuana was arrested for stealing two auto tires after the deal was rejected, Roseville police said.

Joshua Dean Williams, 20, and another man allegedly tried the pot-for-tires swap at a Sears Auto Center, said police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther.

When the sales clerk refused, one of the men swung at the worker with a baseball bat, Gunther said. The worker avoided being struck and threw a rock at the car, shattering a window.

The suspects grabbed two tires and drove off, Gunther said.

The duo returned to the store about an hour later looking for the worker who broke their window, said Tim Thompson, assistant manager of the tire shop.

The two fled after workers recognized them, but police were able to nab Williams and arrest him on suspicion of robbery, Gunther said.

Williams was being held in the Placer County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. The second suspect was still at large.

Eye For An Eye, For An Eye

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - In 1985, Brian Calen claimed he was blinded in the right eye in a cruise ship accident. Seven years later, he said a ship's telescope blinded him again. Then, he said, he was blinded on two more trips - by a champagne bottle and a flying disc.

All in the same eye.

Calen's unlucky streak - which allowed him to collect more than $1 million in travelers' insurance money - finally caught up with him Wednesday, when he was charged with insurance fraud and grand larceny.

"How does a guy get blinded again and again?" District Attorney Jeanine Pirro asked.

Now authorities are trying to piece together how Calen was able to dupe insurance companies for so long without getting caught.

Pirro spokeswoman Anne Marie Corbalis said Calen, 48, took out insurance policies that covered losses while traveling on a ship and did not require a medical examination. The policies were sometimes triggered by charging the trip on a credit card, she said.

In 1992, Calen collected $75,000 after claiming the filter on a cruise ship telescope fell off, resulting in solar burn.

Five years later, he collected $1 million after claiming he was blinded by an exploding champagne bottle on another cruise. Pirro said Calen had deliberately broken a bottle and injured himself with the shards.

In 2002, Calen filed a claim for $500,000, alleging he was blinded by a flying disc on a riverboat cruise with a Civil War theme. Pirro said an alert insurance investigator discovered his prior claims and notified authorities.

Corbalis said prosecutors have not determined if Calen attempted to file an insurance claim following the 1985 accident. Medical records showed that he suffered retinal damage, but the cause was unknown.

A call to Calen's attorney, Peter Goodrich, was not immediately returned. If convicted, Calen could get five to 15 years in prison.