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The Odd Truth, Sept. 13, 2004

The Odd Truth: Weekend Edition is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.


BEIJING - A boiler at a bathhouse in northern China was propelled into the air after it exploded, flew over a six-story building and killed a 63-year-old pedestrian when it landed, the government said Monday.

Three others were injured in the accident Sunday in Baotou, a city in the Inner Mongolia region, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The man was crushed by the 6.5-foot-tall boiler and died at the scene, Xinhua said.

One of the people injured hurt his leg while trying to flee "when he saw the large object flying toward him," the agency said. The other two, who worked at a restaurant next to the bathhouse, were injured when the explosion caused a wall to collapse, it said.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation, Xinhua said.

Genital Surgery Disaster

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A former church minister and Boy Scout leader who cut off another man's genitals in a makeshift gender reassignment surgery in a hotel room, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree assault and practicing medicine without a license.

Jack Wayne Rogers, 59, of Fulton, Mo., admitted he performed the grisly operation about two years ago.

Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler followed the recommendation of prosecutors, sentencing Rogers to 17 years in prison for assault and seven years for the illegal surgery.

The prison time is to run concurrently with a 30-year sentence handed to Rogers in April after he pleaded guilty to child pornography and obscenity charges.

Rogers promised Michael Abercrombie he'd remove his genitals in a four-hour operation. That time passed, complications developed and bleeding refused to stop.

Abercrombie, now known as Madison, says she didn't feel like a victim at first, but changed her mind after prosecutors presented her Rogers' checkered criminal history, peppered with allegations of cannibalism and a pornography collection that included photographs of severed genitals.

"I didn't know his motivation when I went into it," she said. "I was under a lot of emotional stress, and it seemed like there was no alternative."

Abercrombie, a nursing student, must undergo additional surgeries to complete her gender reassignment.

Valerie Leftwich, Rogers' public defender, said she advised her client to plead guilty to avoid further prison time.

"He is getting concurrent time," she said. "If he had gone to trial, he very well could have gotten consecutive time."

Rogers was sent to prison for four months in 1992 on federal child pornography charges. He is still being investigated in the torture and killing of a Skidmore man.

Branson Kayne Perry, 20, disappeared in April 2001. A police search of Rogers' property turned up a necklace belonging to the man.

Rogers has denied killing Perry and has not been charged.

Meet The Other Mark Guthrie

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - The company that owns the Chicago Cubs and The Hartford Courant are battling a former newspaper carrier to get back the last of $301,000 it accidentally gave to him instead of a baseball player with the same name.

The Tribune Co. money that was meant for Mark Guthrie, the relief pitcher, was sent to the bank account of Mark Guthrie, the Courant deliveryman, in three payments, the final one made last October. Five weeks, later the Cubs realized the error, and the team took back $275,000 before Guthrie froze his account.

The Cubs sued in February but last month filed legal documents offering to drop the suit if he handed over the final $26,000.

"We have no desire to embarrass Mr. Guthrie or bring undue attention to his actions - we just want the money back," said attorney Paul Guggina, who is representing the Cubs.

Guthrie, 43, said the matter is more complicated than that.

"I need them to open the books to me and show me I don't have any tax liabilities," he said. "It's mind-boggling. They never should have made the mistake to begin with."

The carrier said he had waited for the team to call him as his bank account ballooned.

Asked about the case Friday, Tribune Co. Vice President of Corporate Communications Gary Weitman said it is company policy not to comment on litigation issues.

Guthrie the pitcher, 38, is now a free agent.

Hurricane Busters Strike Out

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As Hurricane Ivan churns in the Caribbean - amateur hurricane busters are coming up with some pretty strange ideas on taming giant storms. One person suggests coating the ocean with olive oil, while another recommends building giant fans along Florida's coast to blow hurricanes in the other direction. Hugh Willoughby, of the International Hurricane Center at Florida International University, has heard them all. One amateur hurricane buster suggests towing an iceberg to Florida to cool the ocean. But Willoughby says the most outlandish idea, and one of the most often suggested, is to use a nuclear warhead to blow a hurricane apart. He notes hurricanes are bad enough without being radioactive.

Teacher Rips Up Bible For Censorship Lesson

BURLEY, Idaho - An Idaho English teacher is in trouble for ripping up a Bible in class. Burley High's Karen Christenson says she was trying to illustrate a point about censorship, as her students read Ray Bradbury's novel "Fahrenheit 451." Principal Jeff Harrah says Christenson isn't a Bible hater. He adds the idea behind the controversial lesson was a good one, but with a bad result. Christenson has been disciplined but officials aren't saying what action is being taken against her. Harrah says she's a great teacher.

Highway Child

CINCINNATI - Damon Porter said it was a wonder he didn't crash the car - after all, his wife was giving birth in the passenger seat and the baby's head was beginning to crown.

As things turned out, Morgan Sanaa Porter was born in the emergency lane of Interstate 71: a healthy baby weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

"I apologize to all those drivers out there who I might have cut off in traffic," Damon Porter said.

Morgan's due date was Sept. 16. Her mother, Lashyia, was getting ready for work Friday when her water broke.

Lashyia Porter said she was in labor for less than 45 minutes.

After the birth, the Porters called 911. A paramedic helped deliver the placenta and cut the cord. The mother and child were then taken to local hospital.

Hospital officials said about five of the 3,500 newborns they care for every year are born before the mothers get there.

Millipede Invasion!

LACEY, Wash. - They wiggle through gaps in walls, light sockets and doors, dropping from ceilings onto pillows and stovetops, leaving stains and foul odors as they crunch underfoot.

A millipede invasion is bedeviling residents along an avenue in this Olympia suburb.

"Kids make games of how many millipedes they can kill," Windy Vancil said. "You kill one and a million come to its funeral."

Heather Bittle said her 2-year-old son once refused to eat pizza, insisting that an olive was really one of the arthropods.

"We don't walk around barefoot," she added. "It's just gross."

Donald C. Sauls said he first noticed the nasty little invertebrates about five years ago and now fills buckets trying to get rid of them.

"I had the bug guys come out, and they say they've never seen anything like this," Sauls said.

Public health officials say they can't help because there is no significant risk of disease or infection. State and federal agriculture departments say the critters aren't a threat to crops, so eradication is up to each property owner.

Exterminators so far have been ineffective, said another resident, Matt Reiter.

Officials believe the critters come from a nearby 234-acre lot where weeds were cleared to make room for a 1,500-unit housing and retail development.