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The Weird Week in Review

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Lost Man Drives 400 Miles to Get Newspaper

Eighty-one-year-old Eric Steward of Yass, New South Wales, Australia went out to get a morning paper on Wednesday. He took a wrong turn onto a highway and drove for nine hours before stopping to ask for directions! Steward ended up in Geelong, Victoria, 400 miles from home. A policeman called Steward's wife, and sent him in the right direction for home.

"I just went out on the road to have a drive, a nice peaceful drive," he told reporters, adding he did not need a satellite navigation device as he'd only been lost once.

The Hamster Hotel

The Hamster Hotel is now open in Nantes, France. No, it's not just a clever name. Frederic Tabary and Yann Falquerho converted a room in an old building to a human-sized hamster cage complete with a running wheel and hay to sleep on. Guests will live like a hamster, to the point of even having grain offered for meals. The price for the room is currently 99 euros for a night, but the price will go up when Wifi and a TV screen are installed.

Dad Spoke Only Klingon to Child for Three Years

Minnesota linguist d'Armond Speers has a doctorate in computational linguistics. He says he isn't much of a Star Trek fan. But he spent the first three years of his son's life speaking to him only in the Klingon language!

"I was interested in the question of whether my son, going through his first language acquisition process, would acquire it like any human language," Speers said. "He was definitely starting to learn it."

Speers helped develop a digital dictionary in Klingon for Mac, Windows, and iPhone for the software company Ultralingua. Speer's son is now 15 years old and doesn't speak a word of Klingon.

Trimming a Hedge with a Crane

120_craneTwo men in Cambridge, in the Waikato region of New Zealand have a different idea of how to trim an unruly hedge. They were spotted mowing the hedge with a riding lawnmower hoisted above the foliage by a crane! The two men, who wished to remain unnamed, joked that they might go into business with their unusual trimming method. After a scheduled hedge-trimming service didn't show up, they came up with the stunt in order to make a video and hoped it would be popular on the internet. The friends managed to get a crane and a lawnmower, but had no video camera. The mower operator broke a hand during the stunt in a fall from the crane. However, passers-found the sight quite entertaining.

North Pole Mail Program Dropped

The 2,100 citizens of North Pole, Alaska take Christmas very seriously. Since 1954, they've volunteered for Operation Santa, a program of the US Postal Service which answers letters to Santa Claus. The program has volunteers all over the country, and many letters are routed through Alaska to get the special North Pole postmark. However, the USPS is discontinuing the practice of sending letters to the town of North Pole. New security restrictions on letter-writer's identities are not feasible in the small Alaskan town. Children can still write letters to Santa Claus and get an answer, but they won't go to North Pole.

Lion Opens Car Door with Teeth

150lionopenLion Safari Park in Johannesburg, South Africa allows cars to drive through the lion enclosure so people can see the animals up close. A family in a white Toyota drove through with the doors closed, but apparently failed to lock at least one back door. A 300-pound lion deftly reached over and opened the back door with his teeth. The family remained still for several seconds, supposedly in shock, before driving off as quickly as possible. The lion chased the car to a gate, where a park attendant held it back by throwing stones. Richard Holden was in a car behind the Toyota took pictures of the incident.

Students Arrested for Not Paying Tip

College students Leslie Pope and John Wagner and four of their friends went to the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The bill came to $73, which Pope and Wagner paid, but they refused to pay the mandatory $16.35 tip, because they said the service was lousy. So they were arrested.

The pub, which was very busy that night, took the $73, but then called the cops, who treated the matter as a theft.

The menu clearly states, "18 percent gratuity added to check of parties of 6 of more," and a similar message is printed on receipts, a pub employee said this morning.

The students will be in court over the matter next month.

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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Restaurant Seeks Donations to Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center
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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever wondered where all those Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish that flew off shelves in the early 2000s have gone, take a look inside a Flying Fish restaurant. Each location of the southern seafood chain is home to its own Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center, and they’re always accepting new additions to the collection.

According to Atlas Obscura, the gimmick was the idea of Dallas-based restaurateur Shannon Wynne. He opened his flagship Flying Fish in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2002 when the Big Mouth Billy Bass craze was just starting to wind down. As people grew tired of hearing the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the thousandth time, he offered them a place to bring their wall ornaments once the novelty wore off. The Flying Fish promises to “house, shelter, love, and protect” each Billy Bass they adopt. On top of that, donors get a free basket of catfish in exchange for the contribution and get their name on the wall. The Little Rock location now displays hundreds of the retired fish.

Today there are nine Flying Fish restaurants in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee, each with its own Adoption Center. There’s still space for new members of the family, so now may be the time to break out any Billy Basses that have been collecting dust in your attic since 2004.

And if you’re interested in stopping into Flying Fish for a bite to eat, don’t let the wall of rubber nostalgia scare you off: The batteries from all the fish have been removed, so you can enjoy your meal in peace.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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The Long, Strange Story of Buffalo Bill's Corpse
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You probably know William Frederick Cody, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill, as the long-haired Wild West icon who turned the frontier experience into rip-roarin’ entertainment. But the story of Buffalo Bill’s body and its many burials is almost as outrageous as the man himself.

When Cody died of kidney failure in January 1917, his body ended up on a mountain outside of Denver, Colorado—a counterintuitive choice given his close ties to the town in Wyoming that bore his last name. Cody, Wyoming was founded in the 1890s with help from Buffalo Bill, who employed many of its residents and was responsible for its tourism business. It might seem natural that he’d be buried in the place he’d invested so much in, but he wasn’t. And that’s where the controversy began.

Though Cody spent much of his time in the town named after him, he also loved Colorado. After leaving his family in Kansas when he was just 11 to work with wagon trains throughout the West, he headed to Colorado for the first time as a 13-year-old wannabe gold prospector. During his short time in the area, he chased the glittery fortunes promised by Colorado’s 1859 gold rush. Even after leaving the territory, his traveling vaudeville show, which brought a glamorous taste of Wild West life to people all over the United States, took him back often. Later in life, he frequently visited Denver, where his sister lived. He died there, too—after telling his wife he wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain.

The mountain, located in Golden, Colorado, has a commanding view of the Great Plains, where Buffalo Bill experienced many of his Wild West adventures. It was also a place to contemplate the giant herds of buffalo that once roamed the West, and from whom Cody took his nickname. (Denver still maintains a small herd of buffalo—direct descendants of original American bison—near the mountain.)

But weather almost thwarted Cody’s burial plans. Since he died in January, the road to Lookout Mountain was impassable and his preferred burial site frozen solid. For a while, his body lay in state in the Colorado Capitol building. Governors and famous friends eulogized Cody in an elaborate funeral service. Then his body was placed in a carriage that moved solemnly through the streets of Denver, where thousands showed up to say goodbye. Afterwards, his body was kept in cold storage at a Denver mortuary while his family waited for the weather to change.

Meanwhile, Colorado and Wyoming started a heated feud over one of America’s most famous men. Wyoming claimed that Cody should be buried there, citing an early draft of his will that said he intended to be buried near Cody. Colorado cried foul, since Cody’s last will left the burial location up to his widow, who chose Lookout Mountain. Rumors even began to circulate that a delegation from Wyoming had stolen Cody’s body from the mortuary and replaced it with that of a local vagrant.

In part to stop the rumor mill, Cody was finally buried in an open casket on Lookout Mountain in June 1917. Twenty-five thousand people went to the mountaintop to bid him farewell before he was interred. To prevent theft, the bronze casket was sealed in another, tamper-proof case, then enclosed in concrete and iron.

Pennies on Buffalo Bill's grave
V.T. Polywoda, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Yet his rocky grave was anything but safe. In the 1920s, Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, began to claim that Denver had conspired to tamper with Cody’s will. In response, Cody’s foster son, Johnny Baker, disinterred the body and had it reburied at the same site under tons of concrete to prevent potential theft [PDF]. (Allen also founded a museum in Wyoming to compete with a Colorado-based museum founded by Baker.)

The saga wasn’t over yet. In 1948, the Cody, Wyoming American Legion offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could disinter the body and return it to Wyoming. In response, the Colorado National Guard stationed officers to keep watch over the grave.

Since then, the tussle over the remains has calmed down. Despite a few ripples—like a jokey debate in the Wyoming legislature about stealing the body in 2006—Buffalo Bill still remains in the grave. If you believe the official story, that is. In Cody, Wyoming, rumor has it that he never made it into that cement-covered tomb after all—proponents claim he was buried on Cedar Mountain, where he originally asked to be interred.

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