The Odd Truth, Oct. 18, 2003

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

One Is The Lonliest Number

CENTERTOWN, Ky. - Hunter York was afraid of snakes, but he couldn't resist the two-headed reptile he found.

The 10-year-old said he picked up the black king snake with a stick, then noticed it grabbed the stick with two heads.

"I ran in the house and said, 'Dad, this snake has two heads.' And he said, 'What?"' Hunter said. It "kind of freaked me out a little bit."

The 8-and-a-half-inch female reptile hasn't eaten since Hunter found it Oct. 4.

Hunter's father, Rodney York, loaned the snake Tuesday to snake hobbyist Scott Petty to see whether he could induce it to eat.

"We couldn't force-feed it, because we don't know which head eats," York said.

York said he jokingly named the snake Mary-Kate and Ashley, after the teenage TV and movie stars, the Olsen twins.

Penny Thief

ELKHART, Ind. - Detective Fred Mock knew exactly where to find a man suspected of stealing $180 worth of pennies.

David Headrick, 19, was caught dumping about 18,000 pennies into a coin-counting machine at a grocery store Wednesday, Mock said.

The pennies and a couple hundred quarters were taken during a robbery in which an 88-year-old man was tied up with a phone cord and punched in the head, Mock said.

"I got to thinking, 'If I was a person who did this, I'd want to convert this to currency as quickly as possible,'" Mock said.

Headrick was held Thursday on preliminary charges of robbery and possessing stolen property.

Police were searching for an accomplice in Monday's attack on the elderly man in which the robbers demanded money to satisfy a $20 debt supposedly owed by one of the victim's relatives. Paramedics said the victim did not need hospital treatment.

Pot-Smoking Juror

CANANDAIGUA, New York - If you get called for jury duty - you might want to leave your stash at home. Breanne Pogue is facing charges after authorities say they found pot in her bag at the Ontario County Courthouse in western New York.

Deputies searched the bag when they saw something suspicious on an X-ray scan. Deputies say they found a small amount of marijuana and a white powder that's being sent to the lab for analysis. She was excused from jury duty, but Pogue now has another date in court.

Junkyard Bordello

COLUMBUS, Ohio - There were more than old starters and crankshafts at a junkyard in the Columbus area. Police charge that hookers were operating out of RC's Auto Salvage. Investigators say owner Russell Coleman and his girlfriend Brenda Brush dispatched prostitutes from the junkyard.

Police say some of the hookers hung out there while waiting for work. The junkyard hookers allegedly charged $150 an hour. Police Sergeant Richard Curry says he's never seen anything quite like the junkyard brothel. He notes such operations are usually run out of a massage parlor or someplace that offers adult entertainment.

You Can't Hide From The BOSS

ALBANY, New York - The BOSS is cutting prison violence in New York State. But the BOSS isn't some tough warden, it's a high-tech chair. BOSS stands for Body Orifice Security Scanner.

The chair is able to detect weapons hidden in what's termed body cavities. Use of the chair spares guards and inmates the need to conduct a manual cavity search. The union that represents prison guards wants more BOSS chairs. Even prison reform advocates favor giving inmates the chair. The security chairs cost about $2,800 each.

Abandoned Baby Rescued In Thailand, Named Apec

BANGKOK, Thailand - A police officer found a newborn boy in a trash can near a conference hall where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is meeting. And he named the baby Apec.

Traffic police Sgt. Maj. Suriyan Sumalee told local television station iTV he found the baby Friday wrapped in two plastic bags about 1 mile from the venue of the APEC meeting.

"The baby's body was beginning to turn green," Suriyan, who was not immediately available for comment, told iTV.

"I took him out of the bag, I felt his hand and found that it was still soft and warm ... I pumped his chest and blew air into him. When I breathed into him, he coughed, so I thought he shouldn't be dead yet."

Suriyan named the boy Apec, the television station said.

The baby was taken to Bangkok's best private hospital, the Bamrungrad Hospital. Doctors resuscitated him.

The baby was later transferred to the government Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, which U.S. First Lady Laura Bush is scheduled to visit on Tuesday. Staff at the hospital confirmed the baby was admitted but said his name was left blank in the registration book.

Police say the boy is believed to have been delivered four days ago by a woman staying in a hotel on the street where it was dumped. The woman, identified by the hotel's guest records as Nongnuj Mangdavinee, had checked in with a man and a newborn baby. But the couple checked out without the baby, iTV said.

Police are searching for the couple, it said.

The 21-member APEC forum will climax with a summit of leaders including President George W. Bush, on Tuesday.

Potato Chips More Hazardous Than Thought

SALEM, Oregon - Talk about a surprise.

Employees at a Kettle Foods potato chip plant in Oregon were feeding potatoes into a machine that sorts out stones and other debris this week - when a 300-pound military bomb popped out.

General manager Marc Cramer said the shipment from a farm in Pasco, Washington, also contained a second bomb.

Each bomb was about eight inches long and three inches wide.

Police determined they were dummy military ammunition left over from a time when the military used the farm as a practice bombing range.

Cramer says they talked to the farmer and he said they find them all the time - but they're usually picked out. He says if it's muddy when they're harvesting, things can be missed.

Hitler's Hound

BERLIN - A German man won't be prosecuted for teaching his dog to do the Nazi salute. But he does face other charges. Police say the man taught his dog to raise its right paw, after the owner said "Heil Hitler."

The dog's name is Adolph. Displaying Nazi symbols in public is a crime in Germany. Charges concerning the stupid pet trick have been dropped. But he still faces prosecution on other counts. Police say he was stopped for yelling "Heil Hitler" on a busy street and for walking around in a Hitler T-shirt.

The Raw Truth

LISBON, Portugal - It was a shopping free-for-all for those willing to bare all. A clothing store in Lisbon offered free designer duds to those who would shop in the nude.

About 70 shoppers, mostly young men, lined up to take advantage of the raw deal. They were given white towels to protect their modesty while waiting, but they had to be bare before dashing into the store. The naked shoppers were allowed to keep all the clothes they managed to put on. But there was quite a scramble because only four racks of clothes were available.

Outhouse Outrage

RENO, Nevada - Some activists are raising a stink over an outhouse. The U.S. Forest Service spent $15,000 to hire a helicopter to empty sewage from a remote outhouse. But a group in northeast Nevada called the "Shovel Brigade" had offered to do the work for free.

At issue is a closed road in a national forest. The Shovel Brigade wants it reopened. Members volunteered to clear the road and clean the outhouse, too. But the forest service says the road should remain closed to protect the environment. Officials say emptying the outhouse by helicopter was worth the expense.

Beach Butts Bemoaned

LOS ANGELES — You can't smoke inside — and soon you may not be able to smoke outside, either. At least on the beach in L.A. Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss wants to ban lighting up on some of the best known southern California beaches. The full council could vote on the issue in a matter of weeks. Weiss says cigarette butts are the most common litter on California beaches. He notes volunteers picked up 300,000 of them during the day-long Coastal Clean Up last year.

A Museum To Die For

FLETCHER, Ohio - There soon will be a new museum dying for visitors. Bart and Roxanne Shively plan to open a funeral museum in Fletcher. Two years ago, the couple bought a funeral home.

The place was packed with hundreds of casket handles, burial garments and other items previous owners collected over the past century. The Shivelys plan to display a wicker body basket used to transport corpses and a child's coffin with a viewing window. They hope to have their museum open in time for the summer tourist season. Admission will be free.

He's Baa-ack

NEW YORK - Get ready for another Blair project.

No, not a "Blair Witch Project." But a movie about disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair.

Showtime has given movie producer Jon Maas the go-ahead to make what's being billed as a "dark comedy" about the Blair scandal that rocked the Times.

The movie, with the tentative title "the Jayson Blair Project," is due out on the pay cable channel either next year or early 2005.

Maas sees his movie as something similar to "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," last year's autobiographical film about game show producer Chuck Barris.

Blair resigned as a reporter on May 1 after filing some three dozen phony or plagiarized stories. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of the paper's top editor, Howell Raines.

Gays Hit Wrong Note With Priest

NEW YORK - Two men in New York say a Catholic priest has ordered them out of the church choir because they went public with their gay marriage.

Michael Sabatino says he and his partner were confronted on Sunday by Monsignor Edmund Whalen as they entered the church.

He tells a newspaper that the priest said he couldn't have them in a public ministry, now that they'd publicized their union.

The men had been profiled on the front page of one newspaper, they were featured in an article on gay marriage on a Web site, and were married in a Canadian ceremony that was announced in The New York Times.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York says if there is the possibility of a scandal, then the pastor has not only the right but an obligation to act.

Sabatino had sung in the choir for 32 years.

Stupid Police Dog Tricks

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A police dog trying to take a bite out of crime wound up chomping on the long arm of the law — literally.

Police in Syracuse, New York, say officers responding to a report last weekend of a burglary in process included John Reardon and his dog, Reno. Reardon let the dog loose to search the building early Saturday morning.

The suspect ran out of the building, with undercover investigator Kevin Blair in pursuit.

The dog chased them both, overtook Blair and bit him on his left and arm. Police say the investigator needed several stitches to close the wounds.

Police say the dog did what it was trained to do — stop someone from running, although it was the wrong someone.

The suspect was caught and charged with burglary.

Bears Hooked On Candy

NAGS HEAD, N.C. - Hunters who bait bears with large blocks of candy are creating addicts with health problems ranging from tooth decay to lethargy, wildlife officials say.

Now the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says wildlife officers will cite hunters who use salt, sugar, grain or other products to attract and shoot black bears. Especially under scrutiny are those who use large candy blocks.

Biologists found that addicted bears suffer from tooth decay, hair loss, weight loss and lethargy, said David Cobb, chief of the Wildlife Management Division of the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Though the North Carolina Bear Hunters Association opposes the use of candy blocks, the bait remains popular because of its low-cost effectiveness. The association's secretary, Richard Martin, said a $15 block can be up to four feet square and five feet deep and made of bubble gum, chocolate, licorice and hard candy. Some weigh more than 2,000 pounds.

Martin said many recent blocks have come from Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania. Cobb added that state officials have asked Hershey not to sell to bear hunters.

Martin said some unscrupulous hunters use the blocks to guarantee shots at bears and then guide other hunters to the areas for a price.

Cobb once found a bear lying down in the middle of the road, moaning and unwilling to move out of the vehicle's way. He compared the image to that of humans addicted to cocaine.

A legal and accepted alternative is baiting with corn or peanut butter before the season, Martin said.

Bugged In Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH - Here's something to bug Pennsylvanians. The state's official insect isn't found in Pennsylvania. A Carnegie Museum of Natural History bug expert says 24 firefly species have been documented in the Keystone State. But John Rawlins says the insect - the Photuris Pennsylvanica - isn't among them. The firefly was named the state's official bug in 1987. It was discovered in 1774 when Pennsylvania was still a British colony and borders were vague. Experts now believe the bug was actually found outside the present-day state of Pennsylvania. Rawlins wants nearly $33,000 from the state to see if he can find the bug inside of state lines.

A Cry For Help?

RENO, Nevada - Want to make a cop suspicious? Try giving him $50,000 in cash. Reno, Nevada police say Ernest Dumpti wanted to pay his landlord a year's rent in cash - $50,000. His landlord happens to be a Reno police officer. Authorities say the officer was even in uniform when Dumpti showed him the money. Detectives then obtained a search warrant and found $90,000. Dumpti allegedly stole the money from an elderly woman who didn't know it was missing. Dumpti and an alleged accomplice have been booked into the county jail for investigation of grand larceny.

Fatty, Fatty, Bo-Batty

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida - A study in England suggests that just standing near a fat person can make other people think you look worse.

Researchers had people rate a man shown in two pictures. In one, he was next to a thin woman. In the other, the woman was very large.

When the man was shown with the big woman, he was rated 22 percent more negatively than when he was shown with the thin one. He was more likely to be described as miserable, self-indulgent, passive, shapeless, depressed, weak, insignificant and insecure.

A researcher says this shows the extent of the cultural bias against fat people.

The study was presented at a conference of researchers on obesity.

China Boasts Superior Space Food

BEIJING - Now THAT'S Chinese takeout.

Lt. Col. Yang Liwei, China's first human being in space, is spending some of his time miles above the Earth eating from his choice of 20 Chinese dishes - including one-bite nuggets of spicy shredded pork, diced chicken and fried rice cooked "with nuts, dates and other delicacies."

"The astronaut will enjoy himself over a rich variety of Chinese food," the government's Xinhua News Agency reported after Yang was safely in orbit. The agency's rather emphatic headline: "Chinese food for Chinese astronauts."

Yang, who was launched in Shenzhou 5 on Wednesday morning, will also drink medicinal herbs and tonics after his meal to assist digestion.

Even more than most cultures, Chinese take their food seriously. So the repeated mentions of it in reports about Yang's trip are not unexpected, especially from a public-relations perspective: It's what the public can identify with.

Xinhua said any Chinese food engineered for space should "be limited in quantity and size but highly nutritious."

Soviet and American space pioneers consumed some of their meals as liquid or semi-solid food that came from tubes. Today, such novelties as "space ice cream" - dry and crispy, in a foil envelope - are for sale in places like the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

That's changed, China says. "Astronauts now can eat roughly the same way as when they are on earth," Xinhua said.

The Web site was more competitive earlier this week. "It will be more tasty than Western food," it said.

Pet Liberation Fails

HONG KONG - Police are looking for a pet owner who allegedly broke into a government office but failed to retrieve his dog that had been seized on suspicion of being a dangerous breed.

The 21-year-old owner, identified only by his surname Wong, was suspected of getting inside an animal management center of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on Tuesday, said police spokeswoman Cherry Yau.

Two friends who were with him were caught and released on bail pending further investigation.

A lock and a chain were missing from the center's main gate, but officials reported no other losses, Yau said. The dog remained in custody.

A spokeswoman for the conservation department, Susanna Ho, said officials seized the dog from Wong on Monday after they suspected it was a pit bull terrier, considered a dangerous breed in Hong Kong and whose ownership is tightly restricted.

Killer Launches Make-Up Battle

MELBOURNE, Australia - One of Australia's most notorious convicted killers is launching a legal battle for the right to wear makeup while he serves his life sentence, enraging the family of one of his victims.

Paul Denyer, 31, was jailed for a minimum 30-year term for murdering three young women in the southern city of Melbourne over seven weeks in 1993.

He is launching an appeal with the Victoria state Civil and Administrative Tribunal against a refusal by Barwon Prison authorities to let him buy and wear makeup.

"The fact that he has demonstrated his hatred of women and now he wants to be one, I find that pretty disgusting," said Victoria state Corrections Minister Andre Haermeyer, who vowed to fight to have Denyer's appeal overturned.

"I think it's a frivolous application and I think it's offensive, terribly offensive, to the families of his victims ... and that's why we're fighting it all the way," he said.

Brian Russell, whose daughter Natalie was strangled by Denyer after slitting her throat, said the case was a "huge shock" and a waste of taxpayers' money and the resources that go into a legal appeal.

"If you kill three people, then you give away all rights and this farce should not be allowed to continue," Russell added. "This has just rubbed salt into our wounds which, after 10 years, are still open."

No date has been set for the hearing.

Bullet Holes: Hot New Fad?

OAK PARK, Michigan - Some Americans are turning to an inexpensive and controversial way of customizing their cars: applying stickers of bullet holes.

"So real-looking you have to touch them with your own finger to tell," says the Web site, which offers vinyl stickers depicting .50-caliber holes and smaller ones that look like they came from a .22.

Doug Rock, 25, buys the stickers from a North Carolina supplier and sells them on the site. He said he's working his way through nursing school and has sold millions since 2001.

"They're a great gag item," Rock said. "Otherwise, I guess it's just for the look, it's like a fad. I honestly don't think it will fade. My business is doing nothing but growing."

Not everyone finds the stickers funny.

"It sends the wrong message to our young people," said Gregory Wims, president of the Victims' Rights Foundation in Maryland. "It's sort of like a badge of honor. It sends a bad message."

Daniel Morton, 21, placed 10 bullet-hole stickers on his 1994 Honda Accord to make it look as if it had been riddled with gunfire.

"A lot of people ask me about them and think my car got shot up," Morton said Monday. "I just try to be different."

Morton, who works for a rubber and plastics manufacturer, said it was cheaper than, say, customized wheel rims.

"I just spent a few dollars instead of $20,000," he said.

Breaking The 'Curse Of The Bambino'

HAWTHORNE, New York - As the Red Sox try to shed 85 years of frustration, fans are doing everything they can to help the Boston team shed the so-called "Curse."

That includes visits to the Westchester County gravesite of Babe Ruth, located at the Gate of Heaven cemetery in Hawthorne.

Chris Sobotka made a visit to the grave this week, offering-up an unopened can of beer on Ruth's headstone. His rationale: Sobotka says the Babe was a big drinker who may give the Sox a break, thanks to the liquid offering.

Nothing much has worked since 1920, when Ruth was sold by Boston to the Yankees and the "Curse of the Bambino" was launched. He became the game's greatest player as New York won 26 subsequent championships.

Boston has never won since.

Benedict Arnold's Grave Error

NORWICH, Conn. - Benedict Arnold may be best known for treason in the 18th century, but according to his tombstone he wasn't born until after the Revolutionary War, and he lived for 150 years.

Bill Stanley, who has devoted much of his life to Norwich's most famous native and one of America's most infamous traitors, seeks to fix that.

Arnold was born in Norwichtown in 1741 in a house that still stands today. He fled to England in 1779 before he could face charges for treason and died peacefully there in 1801 at age 60.

Despite the treason, Stanley has led a campaign to correct a glaring mistake on Arnold's memorial in London along the Thames River.

After seven visits to England over 25 years, Stanley has received permission to replace the memorial stone at Arnold's grave.

The existing memorial says Arnold was born in 1801 and died in 1951. The new stone will have the correct dates of 1741 and 1801. It also will replace the name of Margaret Arnold with Margaret "Peggy" Shippen-Arnold. Arnold's wife is recognized throughout history as Peggy Shippen.

Arnold shares his grave with his wife and daughter, Sophia Matilda Phipps.

Stanley, president of the Norwich Historical Society, and his wife are assuming all the costs for the stone, including engraving and transportation.

Lawyer Calls Juror Pool 'Illiterate Cave Dwellers'

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - A federal prosecutor in a high-profile vote fraud trial has struck a nerve with eastern Kentucky residents by describing some potential jurors in the mountain region as "illiterate cave dwellers."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor made the remark in his effort to persuade a judge not to move the trial of former state Sen. John Doug Hays and several of his supporters back to Pikeville from London, about 90 miles west.

Pretrial publicity has been so rampant in the region, Taylor said, that many potential jurors in the Pikeville area would have to be disqualified because they have formed opinions. "All that would remain to try the case would be illiterate cave dwellers."

Residents of the mountain region have long been sensitive to anything that smacks of the old hillbilly stereotype. And the furor that erupted last year over the planned CBS reality series "The Real Beverly Hillbillies" has made some even more vigilant.

"When you say something like this among your buddies at the country club, it's one thing. But when you go out in public and make this kind of statement, you've got to be stone-cold stupid," said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, a group that has led the fight against such stereotypes.

Barefoot Bookworm

CINCINNATI - No shirt, no shoes - no books! A federal appeals court has dismissed a suit filed by a man who was kicked out of the Columbus, Ohio, Metropolitan Library for not wearing shoes. Robert Neinast claims he regularly goes barefoot. He contended that getting the boot was a violation of his constitutional right to information. But the appeals court is stomping on the argument. The judges noted that as long as Neinast wears shoes, he can check out books.

Wined And Dined, And Duped

LONDON - Sandra and Colin Mitchell were celebrating their wedding anniversary at a top London restaurant and decided to order a $260 bottle of Chateau Margaux.

That might be a bit too fruity, suggested the assistant sommelier at the Michelin-starred Petrus. He offered an earlier vintage, which they happily accepted.

But after downing their lobster and roast grouse, the couple got a terrible shock - the bottle of 1966 Chateau Margaux the sommelier had suggested cost $1,300.

"Of course we paid the bill and didn't make a stink, but what is up with this?" Mrs. Mitchell asked fellow food-lovers on a gourmet Web site.

"My husband got the wine list, perused for a while, then the sommelier came over. My husband points at one Margaux, 160 pounds. The sommelier points out it may be a bit fruity; he has a much better bin; it is a 1966 Margaux and he highly recommends it.

"It is a fabulous red, definitely the best we have had. Then the bill comes - 800 pounds for wine alone."

Jan Moir, restaurant critic of The Daily Telegraph newspaper, said most top restaurants "don't make money on food. Their profits come from the wine and so the role of the sommelier is really pivotal - they have to sell."

A spokesman for Petrus said the incident had been a mistake by the assistant sommelier, who was "rather embarrassed." The restaurant offered a free meal, which the couple accepted.

Top Speed Toilets

VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. - With such names as "Pee II" and the "Urinator," they rolled down the main drag of this old western town before cheering fans and awe-struck visitors.

Welcome to Virginia City's annual Outhouse Races. To the winner goes the Royal Flush Trophy.

"It's bizarre," said Brett Coleman, 30, of Seattle, who was visiting a friend in nearby Carson City. "But it combines two popular things: restrooms and racing."

The races began in 1999 and are inspired from the time, decades ago, when Storey County banned outhouses and citizens protested by putting their outhouses on wheels and parading them down Main Street, organizers said.

Twenty-two outhouses and portable toilets competed over the weekend.

The outhouses must be at least 6 feet tall and weight 200 pounds, contain a toilet and toilet paper and have a maximum of three people pushing. Those who fail to meet the weight requirement suffer the ultimate penalty - walking two blocks through town carrying a 50-pound sack of manure.

Motors, sails, dog teams and gas-assisted propulsion are prohibited.

The Royal Flush Trophy is a glass outhouse, but other prizes include a toilet seat and bedpan.

Surf's Up?

SAO PAULO, Brazil - The pale complexion of a man who tried to check two surf boards on an international flight aroused the suspicion of Brazilian airport security officials, who said they found nearly 15.5 pounds of cocaine hidden in a package between the boards.

Luis Alberto Faria Cafiero, 27, was arrested Friday in Sao Paulo before boarding a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, with a connection to Bali, Indonesia.

"He did not look like a person who's always out on the beach," said federal police officer Isaias Santos Vilela. "He did not have a surfer's typical tan."

Want To Beat This Guy? Don't Hold Your Breath

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - You don't want to get in a breath-holding contest with Francisco "Pipin" Ferreras.

Ferreras broke his world record for no-limits free diving Sunday, descending 558 feet in Los Cabos Bay on just one breath.

The dive took about 2 minutes, 40 seconds. Ferreras plummeted to record depth using a weighted sled, then rocketed to the surface when his air tanks inflated.

Ferreras, who was born in Cuba but lives in Miami, founded the International Association of Free Divers. He set the mark of 531 1/2 feet in January 2000.

But it's dangerous business.

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of his wife, Audrey Mestre. She died after plunging into waters off the Dominican Republic with a target depth of 561 feet.

After Ferreras' record dive, fans presented him with a bouquet. He threw the white flowers into the ocean one by one in tribute to his wife.

Heart Attack On A Stick

PHOENIX - Call it a heart attack on a stick. Visitors to the Arizona State Fair can climb the Mount Everest of cholesterol with a fried cheeseburger. It's ground beef wrapped around a stick, then wrapped in cheese, coated in batter and deep-fried. The final product looks like an oversized corn dog. If that's not enough, fair-goers also have the Kaktus Kutter. It's a chunk of hot pepper cheese stuffed inside a green chili, then wrapped in roast beef, turkey or ham. The whole thing is batter-dipped and deep-fried. For desert, there's always fried Twinkies.

Real Estate That's Out Of This World

MELBOURNE, Australia - Now here's a gift that's really out of this world.

A new real estate agency, Lunar Realty, based in the southern Australian city of Melbourne, opens its doors Tuesday selling one-acre blocks on the moon for $40 and 10-acre "lifestyle" blocks for about $200.

Businessman Paul Jackson, 33, announced Monday he had bought the Australian rights to sell the land from Nevada-based entrepreneur Dennis Hope.

Hope, of Gardnerville, Nev., has been cashing in since 1980 on what he said was an apparent loophole in the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty barring nations from laying claim to the moon but saying nothing about individuals.

Hope registered a claim for the moon and planets with the United States, the Soviet government and the United Nations and, operating as Lunar Embassy, has been selling plots of extraterrestrial real estate ever since.

Jackson said two million people from 180 countries have bought a slice of the moon since 1980.

"I would be extremely happy if one day we got the chance to live on the moon," said Jackson, who has bought an acre of land for himself. "I look at the world around us and think stranger things have happened."