The Odd Truth, Oct. 7, 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.

Robber Laughed At

OMAHA, Neb. - Convenience store clerk Jamie Brown laughed in the face of fear - and in the face of a would-be robber.

Brown was behind an inch of bullet-resistant glass when an armed robber entered the store. He laughed at the man and flipped a switch which locked all the doors in the store. Brown also closed the cash register and dialed 911.

Brown says the would-be robber begged to be let out, and kicked at the door. But it wouldn't budge.

The bandit eventually found a door that led to the garage, where he escaped through a window.

Police were still searching for the suspect Tuesday.

Not Exactly A Dog's Life

CULDESAC, Idaho - This dog was having a bad fur day.

The dog, whose coat caught fire when the owner's vehicle backfired, ignited a grass fire just off U.S. Highway 95 in this small northern Idaho town about 190 miles north of Boise.

Firefighters doused the grass fire and reported the dog was unhurt, only smelling of burnt hair.

"I have been in firefighting for many years, but I have never seen anything like this happen," Culdesac Fire Chief Gary Gilliam said.

It happened Saturday when a motorist who ran out of fuel put gas in the tank and then primed the carburetor. On restarting, the van backfired, throwing sparks into the cab and igniting the dog's fur.

A passenger let the dog out, and it rolled in dry grass, putting out the flames on its coat but setting the grass afire.

70-Year-Old Spends A Long Night At Sea

TOKYO - A Japanese man thought he would try something new - snorkeling - for his 70th birthday and ended up in a 19-hour swim for his life after being swept out to sea by a strong tide, a maritime official said Tuesday.

Hideo Murasugi set off on his first snorkeling expedition at noon Sunday at a reef on the southern Japan island of Ishigaki, about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo.

His family reported him missing when he didn't return that evening and authorities sent out a search party, according to Ishigaki Maritime Safety Department spokesman Kazuo Toji.

Murasugi swam ashore unassisted Monday morning after spending the night dog-paddling and floating in the water while he waited for the tide to turn. Nineteen hours after entering the water, he made it to shore, Toji said.

Murasugi told officials he had been swept out to sea but realized he was not far from shore when night fell and he was still able to see lights.

"I'm very sorry to have troubled you," Toji quoted Murasugi as saying. "Having snorkeled for my first time, I've experienced enough marine leisure for a lifetime."

Toji said Monday was Murasugi's 70th birthday.

Parrot Asked To Take The Stand

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A man claims a woman wrongly adopted his lost parrot - and he can prove it if given a chance to question the bird in court.

Loulou, an 11-year-old African gray parrot, flew out of David DeGroff's apartment on April 12 after a guest who wasn't wearing her glasses accidentally walked into the screen door leading to the balcony.

On May 11, Nina Weaver, of Newburg, Pa., adopted an African gray from the D.C. Animal Shelter. DeGroff, convinced the bird is Loulou, filed a lawsuit seeking an opportunity to depose the parrot. He is seeking $15,000 for pain and suffering if the bird turns out to be Loulou.

According to DeGroff, Loulou's vocal repertoire includes whistling the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show" and saying the phrase "Daddy's gotta go to work."

Immediately after Loulou left, DeGroff said, he started calling every animal agency in the area, including the D.C. Animal Shelter.

DeGroff said he again called the shelter in mid-May. A receptionist told him that an African gray had recently been adopted. DeGroff used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the adoption records.

DeGroff said he drove to Weaver's home, but no one answered when he knocked on the front door. He said he saw a bird through the window and felt a connection.

"She seemed like she tried to communicate with me," DeGroff said.

DeGroff was unable to determine if it could whistle the "Andy Griffith" tune. Frustrated, he returned home.

Weaver declined to speak with a Washington Post reporter who visited her house. "We have no comment," she said. "We're not going to fight this in the paper."

Kmart Employee Mistakenly Locked In Safe

WOOSTER, Ohio - Two Kmart employees weren't playing it safe when one of the 18-year-olds got trapped while goofing off at work.

The youths were fooling around Saturday morning when one of them decided to see if he could fit into a 4-foot by 2-foot safe, Fire Department Lt. Joe Linz said. The teen managed to squeeze inside, the door was closed and he was trapped about 10 minutes before being rescued, Linz said.

The teenager emerged short of breath and sweaty, but otherwise unharmed.

Employees had attempted get him out by using a combination, but the safe wouldn't open, Linz said.

After firefighters called a locksmith and attempted to use pry bars to open it, the combination was tried again and it worked.

The teenager refused to go to the hospital.

Jail Visitors Get More Than A Tour

HOPEWELL, N.Y. - Some visitors to a new county jail stayed longer than planned and left feeling extremely confident in the security system.

Big crowds of gawkers showed up for a glimpse of the soon-to-be-opened facility, and a few accidentally locked themselves in a cell. Another group got stuck in a storage room.

"People were impressed with the security," said Sheriff Phil Povero.

The new Ontario County Jail in this western New York town near Rochester was open to the public Saturday, and roughly 1,200 people drifted through during the day.

"Unfortunately, in some areas, if the door closed behind them, they got locked in," Povero said.

Confinement only lasted a short while, and all were freed - without bail.

"As of last night, everyone was out," Povero said.