The Odd Truth, April 8, 2003

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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.

Laughed Out Of The Bank

PINE BLUFF, Ark. - Police say they aren't sure what charge is appropriate for a man arrested after tellers laughed him out of a bank he apparently tried to rob.

The man entered a branch of the Bank of America about 10 a.m. Monday, with a trash bag in one hand and the other in a pocket, authorities said.

"Put the money in the bag," he demanded.

Instead, one of the two tellers told him the bank was out of money, and the other teller laughed and offered the man deposit slips. She told police that made the intruder angry, and he left without any money in his bag.

Minutes after tellers alerted authorities, a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy picked up Julius Kearney, 23, of Little Rock, as he walked nearby.

No weapon was found, and the man at the bank never threatened anybody, so police are unsure how the case will be handled.

"Technically, it could be robbery, and since it is in a bank, the FBI might also have some regulations about what we can charge him with," said police spokesman Robert Rawlinson.

"Either he'll be (in jail) or we will put him in for mental evaluation," Rawlinson said. "He's not just going to be released."

One Dead, 80 Million Bees Loose, After Truck Crash

TITUSVILLE - A Spacecoast truck driver is dead after his vehicle rolled, spilling its cargo of 80 million live bees on the Interstate 95 median.

Authorities say Conrad Cramer of Cocoa died at the scene of the midday wreck yesterday. But a swarm of bees that circled frantically around the overturned truck made recovery of the body impossible for a few hours.

Cramer had owned Cramer's Honey in Cocoa for more than 50 years. Family members say he was most likely heading to Orlando with a cargo of bees he'd recently collected from hives in Fort Pierce.

Beekeepers from Cramer's business worked to safely remove the bees by nightfall. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed, and traffic was rerouted around the accident scene for about five hours.

What A Load Of Crap

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. - Police said two people used dog poop to settle a grudge.

Cheboygan County prosecutors authorized littering charges against Frank Scott, 51, and Sharyn Ostroske, 55. State police from the Cheboygan post say they threw 40 plastic bags filled with dog feces and toilet paper on the roadway in front of another person's house.

Troopers said the campaign began last November and extended through January. The suspects each face a $150 fine.

Wrongway Highway

TOKYO - An elderly Japanese man taking the freeway for the first time made it a trip to remember when he drove his pickup into oncoming traffic for 15 miles, ignoring patrol cars in pursuit and sideswiping a vehicle, police said Tuesday.

The incident Monday was first reported by a motorist who said he saw the pickup truck heading the wrong way down the three-lane Kanetsu Expressway north of Tokyo.

The driver, 76, didn't respond to patrol cars signaling him to pull over and brushed the corner of one oncoming vehicle as he drove at about 60 miles per hour, said a spokesman for the Gunma prefectural (state) highway police on condition of anonymity.

The driver told police he had been driving for 40 years but was taking the freeway for the first time, to visit relatives. He said he made a u-turn after missing his turnoff and didn't initially realize his mistake or notice the police cars following him.

He was fined $75.

Stolen Pompeii Frescoes Recovered

POMPEII, Italy - Police have recovered two Roman frescoes stolen from the ancient city of Pompeii last week, officials said Tuesday. There were no immediate arrests.

The frescoes were located Monday night in an abandoned building less than half a mile from the ruins. They were reportedly lightly damaged.

Police said the frescoes were found covered in protective packaging, perhaps destined for shipment out of the country.

One of the frescoes is a round depiction of Cupid, the winged god of love, with a diameter of 13 inches. The second is a 17-inch-by-19-inch depiction of a rooster pecking at a pomegranate.

"Even if they are not too damaged, the thieves destroyed the murals around them to get what they wanted," said Raffaella Leveque, spokeswoman for Pompeii's archaeological authority.

The pieces of art had been stolen from the ground floor of an "insula," a Roman apartment building, and were made just a few decades before the city was buried under layers of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

A Little Taste Of Prison

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's Cabinet ministers got a taste of prison life Tuesday when they sat down for a lunch prepared by convicts being trained with new job skills.

The lunch, all Thai cuisine, was the first catered for the Cabinet by prisoners, said Corrections Department Director-General Kwanchai Wassuwas. It was cooked by female inmates from Bangkok's Lard Yao prison, he said.

"It's very delicious," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said during the meal, which was served after the weekly Cabinet meeting. Usually, different restaurants in Bangkok supply lunch each week.

Thailand's prisons are grossly overcrowded, and the Corrections Department has promoted various activities in the past year to ease tensions and try to rehabilitate prisoners.

In addition to occupational training, it has staged beauty contests and soccer tournaments and established a choir, which has performed outside prison for the general public.

Rhino's Dogs Are Barking

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A 2-ton Indian rhinoceros at the Buffalo Zoo will be treading a little more lightly with the donation of a few truckloads of topsoil to cushion his aching feet.

The rare rhino's foot problems have forced the zoo to halt attempts at breeding him until he is able to endure pressure on his hind feet.

Dr. Frank Ridgley, a zoo veterinarian, said the problem is common with rhinos in U.S. and European zoos. The rocky soil Henry is now exposed to has caused cracks in his skin, which widen with each step. He is being treated with oral antibiotics and daily footbaths.

In their natural habitat, rhinos spend a lot of time wallowing in mud and water, and walk on much softer soil.

The zoo also is working with a tire maker that has offered to produce custom-made Kevlar boots for Henry.

Zoo officials have been seeking high-quality topsoil to counter the erosion of the limestone beds on which the zoo was built. Amherst agreed to donate 60 cubic yards from the town's compost facility, worth about $5,300.

Zoo President Donna Fernandez said the zoo would try to raise private funds to buy some more.

Heinz To Introduce Blue Ketchup

PITTSBURGH - Blue cheese, blueberries and chicken cordon bleu, but blue ketchup?

The H.J. Heinz Co., which has sold the condiment in red, green, purple, pink, orange and teal, is adding blue to its palette of crazy-colored ketchup. The Pittsburgh company unveiled Heinz EZ Squirt "Stellar Blue" on Monday, just in time for spring and summer - hot seasons for condiments.

Based on the success of the other colors, the food giant expects the new color to provide a boost to all ketchup sales, not just the oddly tinted ones, said Heinz spokesman Robin Teets.

Since Heinz introduced its first shade, "Blastin' Green," in October 2000, the company sold more than 25 million bottles of colored ketchup. Last year, Heinz controlled 60 percent of the American ketchup market, an all-time high for the company, Teets said.

Every time the company introduces a color, its share of the market bumps up a bit, Teets said.

"It's the time of year when overall sales goes up. There's a nice bump in volume from EZ Squirt products, but we tend to have a halo over ketchup, overall," Teets said.