The Odd Truth, Oct. 21, 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.

Chimp Commandeers Traffic

STAMFORD, Conn. - Travis, a 170-pound chimpanzee, can do lots of things humans can: He waters flowers, enjoys a glass of wine, brushes his teeth and even watches baseball on TV.

But one thing Travis apparently has not mastered is sensing the best time for play.

He bolted from a sport utility vehicle driven by his owners Sunday night, commandeered an intersection in the heart of this busy Fairfield County city and held police at bay for a few hours.

Despite the efforts of officers, who arrived in more than a dozen cruisers, the chimp continued playing in the middle of the street, rolling on his back and occasionally charging officers.

"He just wanted to play, but it wasn't the time or place," Sandy Herold, who owns Travis with her husband, Jerry, said Monday.

The chimp, when not closing doors on squad cars to prevent being trapped inside, made occasional runs toward the crowd on all fours.

"He's very strong," Sgt. Richard Phelan said.

Officer finally got the chimp into its owners' car. They pressed their hands against the doors of the SUV to hold the chimp inside.

Travis, who is 9 years old, was sleeping it off Monday.

"He got up and had breakfast and went back to bed. He's tired," Sandy Herold said.

Resourceful Assassin

KIEV, Ukraine - Police said Monday that they had detained a man caught with a gun and a head of cabbage he intended to use as a silencer.

Police in the Black Sea resort of Yalta stopped the 48-year-old man who exhibited "suspicious behavior" and arrested him after finding a loaded handgun in his bag with a cabbage he said was "to be used as a silencer," said Iryna Halynska of the city's security service.

The man's motives were not immediately known.

"Our officers just shrugged their shoulders, smiling, as they've never seen cabbage used as a silencer before," the spokeswoman said. She claimed the thick vegetable could effectively muffle the sound of a gunshot.

Imperial Fraud Leaves Cons Royally Screwed

TOKYO - A Japanese man has been arrested for fraud after he duped hundreds into believing he had royal blood and staged an extravagant wedding, collecting $115,000 in gift money, officials said Tuesday.

Yasuyuki Kitano, 41, and his two co-conspirators, Harumi Sakamoto, 45, who pretended to be his bride and 42-year-old Shinya Kusunoki, were arrested Monday, a Tokyo Metropolitan police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

More than 350 guests attended the spectacle that the trio mounted in April at an exclusive Tokyo club with convincing knockoffs of traditional imperial wedding robes.

Celebrities were among those fooled, with some paying as much as $2,700 in gift money to attend the event, Japanese media reported.

About 70 guests also paid $90 to be photographed with the couple. Most never received their pictures, the reports said.

Kitano claimed to be a member of the Arisugawa family, which has died out. It was founded by Prince Yoshihito, son of Emperor Goyozei, in 1625 and lasted for 300 years until the tenth-generation Prince Takehito (1862-1913) failed to produce a male heir, an Imperial Household Agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

Kitano has no connection with the Arisugawa family, the official said.

Naughty Girl Scouts

UNION GROVE, Wis. - The girls of Troop 344 are making money, but they're not selling their cookies door-to-door. They can't, because these Girl Scouts are behind bars. The members of Troop 344 are all incarcerated at the Southern Oaks Girls School. While the name may sound innocent enough, the facility is Wisconsin's maximum security lockup for juvenile girls. This year, the troop sold more than $2,300 worth of cookies. The troop is allowed to sell their Girl Scout cookies to inmates in 12 other state facilities. Officials say without the cookie sales, the troop could not survive.

Witch Gets Government Business Grant

OSLO, Norway - For self-styled witch Lena Skarninga, getting a small business grant was just the potion needed to cook up a little enterprise.

It was her detailed business plan that enchanted the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund, the SND. The Fund awarded her $7,453 so she could spread her magic to residents around the forest of Nord-Odal, 93 miles north of the capital, Oslo.

Skarning, a 33-year-old practicing witch said she plans to make a living mixing elixirs for clients, selling wares door-to-door and making house calls.

"I'll travel to their homes," she told The Associated Press Tuesday. "This is what I always wanted to do."

Her specialty products include night creams for vivid dreams, a day cream to combat indecisiveness and a foot cream to change a user's bad habits.

Skarning said she has always been a witch, but needed seed money for her business to take root. She attended a seminar on entrepreneurship and then applied for the grant.

SND spokesman Ove Gahren said the money was awarded for applications that were "exceptional, very innovative, and very importantly, offered a new service or created a job."

He said the notion of a witch getting a grant may seem out of the ordinary, but her business plan was "pretty reasonable and well thought-out."

Scuba Divers Retrieve Wedding Ring

LINCOLN, Neb. - The depths of Jeff Sohl and Rebecca Fringer's commitment was sorely tested.

Sohl and Fringer were out fishing recently with another couple when Fringer's engagement ring fell into deep water at a lake near Fremont.

But they didn't give up.

Instead, they reached scuba divers Archie Arnt and Chris Pro, who own Midstates Underwater Engineering and Salvage and are accustomed to fishing big things out of water, like bulldozers and boats.

They'd never found an itsy-bitsy ring 17 feet down in pitch black water. But they met with Fringer and Sohl three weeks ago at the lake and found the spot where the ring went down.

Pro and Arnt donned their scuba gear and used a special underwater metal detector. Seventeen feet down, with no light, Arnt and Pro began scouring the area inch by inch.

Then Arnt heard a beep. He dug in the muck. Four inches down, he felt it: like a beer tab. Or an engagement ring.

Up they came, breaking the water, grinning behind their masks, 37 minutes after making the plunge.

The wedding is in April.