The Odd Truth, Oct. 27, 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.

The Naked City

NEW YORK - Once again, New York has become the naked city for artist Spencer Tunick.

Some 450 women bared all inside Grand Central Terminal early yesterday in Tunick's latest human art installation. After stripping off their clothes, they composed their bodies into sculptural shapes and formations meant to imitate streets, buildings and cityscapes. And they tried to keep warm.

Tunick took photographs from a stairway while shouting instructions through a megaphone.

He has staged these massive nude photo shoots at cities around the world and has also been arrested several times in New York for previous projects.

For this one, he says he first sought permission to pose his models in the buff inside the New York Public Library and the Museum of Natural History - but was rebuffed by both.

Underwater Pumpkin Carving

MAQUOKETA, Iowa - A scuba diver who also owns a pumpkin patch said he hopes he broke the world record for underwater pumpkin carving with a stunt he successfully completed Sunday.

Mike Frantz wrestled underwater with 1,028-pound pumpkin near this eastern Iowa town in an attempt to break a Guinness World Records title.

The 28-year-old Walcott man squeezed into scuba gear and carved the mammoth pumpkin under 17 feet of water at a rock quarry. Frantz thinks he broke the current record, which he said was set when a 955-pound pumpkin was carved underwater last year.

There was one glitch, however. The pumpkin's newly carved jack-o'-lantern face caved in when it emerged from the water.

"It's kinda ugly looking," Frantz said. "The pumpkin was so far destroyed it went back in the water for the fish to eat."

But he still thinks he made the record.

"As far as I'm concerned it was completed and completely carved underwater," he said.

Frantz, who owns Mike's Giant Pumpkin Patch, got the idea from the Internet.

"I kind of heard through the pumpkin vine there that someone had attempted this last year," he said. "Being a scuba diver, I thought that if I could get a hold of a bigger pumpkin I would try it myself."

Swimming Pool Sabotage

GRAZ, Austria - A vandal apparently bent on revenge used Superglue to seal shut the doors of a public sauna and then fouled the facility's swimming pool with a large amount of motor oil, police said Monday.

The attack happened over the weekend at the sauna in the southern Austrian city of Graz, and investigators said revenge was the probable motive. It was unclear what prompted the act, officials told the
Austria Press Agency.

The sauna's owner had to chisel the glued locks off the door and replace them as well as completely drain the pool to clean up the oil, which caused an estimated $2,350 in damage, police said.

Russian Jailbirds Sing To Freedom

MOSCOW - This was truly music that freed the body. Six prisoners competing in a national song contest for convicts pleased the judges enough to win pardons, the Interfax news agency reported Friday.

The six were among 23 finalists chosen from more than 800 prisoners who submitted tapes of self-composed songs for the contest, which was held at a Moscow theater.

The report did not give the names of the six winners, the terms they were serving or what crimes they were convicted of, but said two of the six were women. Officials at the Justice Ministry, which controls the prison system, could not be reached for comment.

Interfax said the pardons must be approved by courts in the regions where the convicts were incarcerated and it was not clear when the winners would their chance to walk away with songs in their hearts.

Pit Bulls Attacked With Samurai Sword

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - A 70-year-old man attacked his son's two pit bulls with a samurai sword because one of the dogs made a mess in the house, police said.

Vernon Garner chased the 3-year-old dog and her puppy into his son's bedroom on Wednesday. When the dogs hid under the bed, Garner grabbed the sword and jabbed it under the bed, cutting both dogs, Detective Carlos Negron said.

"Apparently the suspect got very upset because the puppy went to the bathroom in the house," Negron said.

The dogs lay bleeding in the room until his 21-year-old son, Michael Garner, got home several hours later, police said.

The younger Garner rushed both dogs to an animal hospital. They were expected to survive, but detectives still charged Vernon Garner with two felony counts of animal cruelty.

"He said that the female, the mother, tried to bite him and bite his pants," Negron said, "but there was nothing on the pants."

Garner was released Friday on $5,000 bond, jail officials said Saturday.

A woman who answered the phone at the Garner house Friday evening declined comment. The dogs were turned over to the city's animal control division, which was trying to locate a new home for the dogs.

The Man With 440 Left Shoes

TOKYO - Police in southern Japan arrested a man for stealing shoes at a local hospital, then later stumbled upon a collection in his home of 440 women's shoes - all for the left foot, an official said Sunday.

The private hospital in Usu city began receiving complaints two years ago from patients and employees that shoes removed at the entrance hall were going missing. In Japan, it is customary to take off one's shoes before entering homes and some public facilities.

The missing footwear was always women's shoes and for the left foot, a local police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

Police arrested Ichiro Irie, 45, Saturday on suspicion of stealing two shoes at the hospital.

In a subsequent search of his home, police found a box overflowing with the left side to 440 pairs of women's shoes, including high heels, patent leather pumps, sandals and nurses' shoes.

When questioned, Irie told police he had "a penchant for women's feet," the major daily Yomiuri newspaper said. It wasn't clear why he seemed to prefer the left foot.

Irie was charged with theft. It wasn't immediately clear what punishment he faces.

Given the number of shoes he allegedly swiped, police are investigating whether Irie may have been stealing from other locations. Usu lies about 500 miles south of Tokyo.

Papa Strube's Booze

BALTIMORE - After 60 years, the maestro's secret has been uncovered.

Workers remodeling a 19th-century rehearsal hall at the Peabody Institute have found 10 dusty jugs of moonshine in an unlocked closet. Faded labels on the bottles suggest the liquor was brewed by Gustav Strube, the first conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Strube, who came to Baltimore in 1913 and lived here until his death 40 years later at age 85, was a composer, conductor and music professor known as "Papa Strube" to his students at the conservatory.

He also was renowned for his home-brewed beer, wine and liquor - "a fearsome brewmeister," Peabody archivist Elizabeth Schaaf told The Baltimore Sun. She says she recognized Strube's handwriting on several labeled vintages, such as "Wild Cherry 1934" and "Big Blue Grape 1946."

Home-brewed whiskey and beer were commonplace in Germany's Harz Mountains, where Strube was born in 1867, said Wolfgang Justen, dean of the Peabody Conservatory.

Workers found about 8 1/2 gallons of colorless liquid sealed in eight one-gallon glass jugs and a pair of quart bottles inside a paneled closet.

The bottles haven't been opened. But Peabody Institute spokeswoman Anne Garside said she hopes there will be a tasting. "We must find out if the stuff is drinkable," Garside said.

Strube was a friend of H.L. Mencken, editor, writer, classical music fan and amateur pianist. Mencken was a founder of the Saturday Night Club, whose members met once a week for nearly 50 years to play music and drink beer. Mencken, Strube and others brewed beer for those get-togethers, according to club members.

Some of the cache will be stored in the archives, Schaaf said. "After all, this gives us a deeper understanding of all of Maestro Strube's works," she said.

Pint Of Blood For A Pint Of Beer

DURANGO, Colo. - Sounds like a fair trade - blood for beer. United Blood Services of Durango, Colorado, held an unusual blood drive this weekend. Donors got a free pint of beer for a pint of blood. Four area breweries took part in the promotion. People from the blood bank got into the spirit of the season, by dressing in Halloween costumes including vampires. There was a little more at stake for the brewers than just civic pride. The owner of the brewery that collected the least amount of blood will get a makeover today - hair dyed blood red.