The Odd Truth, Oct. 23, 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.

Virgin Mary In New Jersey?

PASSAIC, N.J.- Part of the mystery involving a tree stump that some say contains an image of the Virgin Mary has been solved.

Seventeen-year-old Ronald Rosario said yesterday that he and a co-worker had cut down the tree. They were among several teens hired by the Downtown Merchants Corporation to clear dead trees and brush in the area.

Some people had fallen to their knees and prayed upon arrival at the site, say the clearing was an act of God.

"It looks like Mary," Camilo Diaz, 41, told the Herald News of West Paterson for Tuesday's editions. "There's no way it was carved to look like that, no explanation other than it was a miracle."

The image was first noticed Saturday night by Nilma Ruiz as she drove by the site with her daughter. Ruiz initially thought someone had left a ceramic statue at the site, but she saw the image after they stopped to take a closer look.

Meanwhile, some visitors claim a similar image of Mary in a flowing gown can be seen on a nearby bridge after the sun goes down.

Other visitors - including Mayor Sammy Rivera - say they see nothing but a stump.

Richard Sokerka, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, says church officials are aware of the image. But they have not reached a conclusion regarding the matter.

Dog Survives Arrow Through Head

CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. - This wasn't a wild or crazy kind of dog - just lucky.

Luther, a black Labrador, was found on a Jefferson County road with an arrow sticking through his head. He was expected to recover.

Authorities believe a hunter may have intentionally shot the dog with a bow-and-arrow, the tip going in below the right ear and poking out on the left side of the head.

Since the arrow narrowly missed the brain and spine, folks around here have taken to calling the dog "Lucky Luther."

The dog was carried into the Jones Animal Health Clinic in Crystal City the evening of Oct. 9. The county sheriff's department is investigating.

"This was clearly intentional. It would be a pretty far stretch to mistake a black Lab for a deer," said Dr. Thomas Butch Jones, the veterinarian who treated Luther.

The resident who found Luther decided to keep him, Jones said.

Judging by how the arrow was situated, Jones said a hunter may have shot Luther at close range, worried the dog would scare away deer.

He said he treats several pets each year that have been maimed by hunters, often on purpose.

"A lot of hunters take the hunt as seriously as a religion, and anything that gets in their way is going to get blasted to kingdom come," Jones said.

When Toddlers Attack!

ZAGREB, Croatia - Fourteen small children attacked a 1-year-old boy at a nursery in the Croatian port city of Rijeka, biting the toddler at least 30 times, a doctor said Thursday.

The child sustained more than 30 deep bite marks all over his body, including his face, in Monday's incident. It happened after a nanny briefly stepped outside the playroom to change another child's diaper.

"Biting between young children is not uncommon, but I have never seen anything like this," said Dr. Sime Vuckov, the head of pediatrics at the Rijeka municipal hospital, who treated the victim.

A police investigation was under way, but what prompted the children to turn on Frane Simic remained unclear.

Psychologist Bruna Profaca, who has 17 years of experience with toddlers, agreed that it was common for children to get irritable and violent, but not on such a wide and organized scale.

"Still, it could have easily have been a fight over a toy or something," Profaca said. "Children do not have the tools to resolve conflicts and they tend to respond aggressively. The main thing is not to leave them unattended."

The scars were expected to heal, Vuckov said.

The boy's father said he was considering suing the nanny in charge.

Drunken Press Secretary Urinates On Presidential Jet

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government press undersecretary has apologized for urinating while drunk on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's chartered jet last month, newspapers reported Wednesday.

The Philippine Star daily said Heraclio "Rocky" Nazarano relieved himself near the plane's emergency exit, which he apparently mistook for a restroom.

Arroyo was on the other side of the plane en route to Manila from a visit to Paris.

"I deeply apologize about all the shattered expectations," The Star and Business World daily quoted Nazareno as saying in a cell phone text message to fellow reporters. "How I wish I could deny it. But it was one moment of weakness I'm really sorry about.

"The problem is the situation went beyond everybody's control," said Nazareno, a former reporter.

Press Secretary Milton Alingod told reporters that Nazareno submitted a request for transfer, but insisted it was done before the plane incident and was pending Arroyo's approval.

Heart Attack Kills Gambler After Losing Long Shot

HONG KONG - A gambler suffered a fatal heart attack at a race track after betting on a long shot that lost by half a length, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Police spokesman T.K. Ng confirmed 51-year-old Sri Lankan Robert Atapattu died, but had no information on the cause.

Ming Pao Daily News reported Thursday that Atapattu had backed Millennium Legend with odds of 57-1 at Hong Kong's Happy Valley track.

Atapattu was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead, according to the report, which didn't specify how much he had bet.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club did not immediately respond to a reporter's queries.

Baby Snakes Die In Man's Pants

SYDNEY, Australia - A Swedish tourist who tried to smuggle eight baby snakes into Australia in his trousers to fund a vacation will spend the rest of his visit here behind bars, a court ordered Wednesday.

Per Johan Adolfsson, 28, was sentenced in Sydney's Central Local Court to two months' jail for importing an endangered species and making a false and misleading statement.

Adolfsson was searched by customs officers at Sydney Airport on Sept. 22, after arriving from Bangkok on a Thai Airways flight.

They found four venomous baby king cobras and four baby emerald tree boas strapped to his legs in homemade pouches. The cobras had died during the nine-hour flight, but the boas survived.

Adolfsson's lawyer, Michael Priddis, said his client had bought the snakes for $1,000 from a professional breeder. It was not clear whether the snakes were bought in Thailand or Sweden.

"It was a very haphazard, small-scale, and amateurish operation," said Priddis. "He is not part of a smuggling ring."

Priddis said Adolfsson, a glass worker and window fitter, had been suffering depression and alcohol abuse following an injury at work in Sweden.

He had planned to sell the snakes in Australia for $3,500 to
fund an eight-day holiday and lift his spirits.

"It is a bizarre way to have a holiday," Priddis told the court.

As Adolfsson had already spent one month in custody, he will remain in prison until Nov. 21 and then be sent home.

New Record For Continuous Barbering

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Peter Vita was 12 when he administered his first haircut. The customer - his grandfather - wasn't pleased.

"That was the worst haircut ever," admits Vita, now 93 years old.

But he kept cutting hair, he's still at it and he has been informed that he will be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for his 81-year record of continuous barbering, The Journal News reported Wednesday.

The Guinness people sent him a certificate, now mounted next to the mirror in the room of his home that he uses as a barber shop. It has a barber pole, his 1930 porcelain barber chair, fourscore years' worth of mementoes and a mostly elderly clientele.

Vita remembers using olive oil to give shine to a man's hair and a straight razor to administer a shave. His hands are still steady, but he gave up the razor five years ago.

"I figured I'd quit while I was ahead," he said.