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Miss Cellania’s Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2012

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One of the ways we celebrate the end of the work week here at mental_floss is to round up the oddest news stories for The Weird Week in Review. Not every weird news story made it into the weekly column here, because I tend to skip those that are overly prurient or tragic, such as the Florida cannibal (read at your own risk), and stories that are not available in English. But of those strange news items that did, here are the top stories of 2012 that are worth another look, some of them with updated information.

20. Car Lands on Roof

In a scene you would expect from an action movie (or a comedy), a stolen car landed on the roof of a house in Fresno, California. Police say the car was going too fast and hit a rock and a tree stump, which launched it into the air and onto the roof. The driver of the car fled the scene and was arrested soon after at his girlfriend’s home. There were people in the house when the car landed on it, but no one was seriously injured. A towing company had to use a crane to remove the vehicle.

19. Stolen Cash Returned …to Bank Robber

Bank manager Otto Neuman embezzled £150,000 in cash and gold from the Erste Bank in Vienna in 1993. He covered up the theft by having accomplices stage a robbery. Of the total, only £51,000 and some gold was recovered when police arrested Neuman. The gold went to the insurer, and the cash was kept as evidence -for nineteen years. Now, the Austrian Justice Ministry is returning the money to Neuman! The insurer compensated the bank for their loss, the gold had appreciated so much in the intervening years that the insurer suffered no loss in the long run, and the ministry feels it has no claim on the cash.

18. The Fork in the Road is Taken

The headlines just write themselves.

A six-foot-tall fork appeared in Carlsbad, California, in the traffic island at the intersection of Levante Street and Anillo Way on Tuesday [October 16]. The unnamed artist is a 62-year-old retired teacher who said he was impressed by the joke in The Muppet Movie in which the characters encounter a giant silverware fork when they are looking for a fork in the road. Carlsbad residents got a kick out of the sculpture, but a city crew removed it on Wednesday. Another resident erected a sign in its place that says “Why the fork not?” which the city also removed. Then residents then began taping real, normal-sized forks to a nearby sign. A spokesperson for the city said the sculpture is a code violation. Photograph by Jim Grant.

17. How Do You Re-Home Homing Pigeons?

Roy Day of Northfleet, Kent, England, had 20 homing pigeons in his garden shed. Neighbors complained of the noise and smell, and the Gravesham Borough Council notified Day that the pigeons were a health problem and that he would have to sell or give his pigeons away. Day says that if he took the pigeons somewhere else, they would come back, because that is what homing pigeons do.

“They gave me a seven day deadline to get rid of them but even if they went 150-odd miles away, they’d still come back – they are homing pigeons.”

16. Blue Honey Traced to M&Ms

Beekeepers in northeastern France were puzzled to find their hives were full of honey in strange blue and green tints. Although flowers bloom in colors, the nectar from them is usually colorless. The culprit turned out to be candy-coated M&Ms! A biogas plant near Ribeauville in Alsace had contracted with a Mars candy manufacturer to process the plant’s waste products, which included the colored candy and food dye. The biogas company was red-faced when confronted with blue honey, and promised to rectify the situation by immediately covering the waste to prevent bees from eating it, and to process the materials as soon as possible. The blue and green honey will not be sold. Photograph by Vincent Kessler/Reuters.

15. Scottish Village Gets a “Sister City” -on Mars

Many cities and towns around the world have a link to another city or town far away, for friendship and cultural exchanges. The village of Glenelg, on the western coast of Scotland, has announced it will “twin” with another place with the same name. Glenelg, Mars, is the designated name of the spot that the Mars Curiosity rover is headed toward. Officials in Glenelg, the Scottish one, announced that an official “twinning” ceremony will take place on October 20th. Although there will be no Martian natives at the ceremony, American astronaut Bonnie Dunbar will attend.

Update: The ceremony was a smashing success, and pictures are posted at the Glenelg and Arnisdale Community Portal. Pictured are some of the attendees from The Cullin Fools.

14. Why the Tortoise Wouldn’t Eat

People ask why England has so many funny news stories. The reason is that American journalists would skip these kinds of stories in favor of something more earth-shattering. Bless the UK for publishing them.

Margaret Parker of Carlisle, England, found a five-inch-long tortoise in her garden. The miniature tortoise was cute, so she brought it inside and tried to feed it. Parker’s daughter brought some lettuce for it, but it still wouldn’t eat. So the women called Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Centre for advice, and a volunteer was sent out. Pauline Adams picked up the tortoise and figured out the problem.

She said: “At first when I arrived I didn’t have my glasses on and I thought it was a baby tortoise. It was sitting there in the shoe box, on a bed of lettuce and tomato.

“Then I put my specs on, and thought: ‘Oops – what’s this?’

“When I picked it up I saw the CE mark and the words Made in China, and I just cracked up.

“I laughed even more when she told me her daughter had been to the Co-op to buy tomato and lettuce for it. She was very apologetic. Judging by the moss on it, it had been in the garden a long time.

Adams and Knoxwood founder George Scott both said Mrs. Parker did the right thing by calling them.

13. German Civil Servant Did Nothing for 14 Years

An unnamed German man retired at age 65 when his civil service position was eliminated. In an email letter addressed to his colleagues in the city of Menden, he boasted that he had done no actual work since 1998. However, in that time he had gone to his office and collected 745,000 euros ($980,000) in pay from the municipal state surveyor’s office. He blamed the waste on authorities who hired another surveyor to do the same job, leaving him with nothing to do. The man has been in the same job since 1974. Mayor Volker Fleige was upset when he received the email, and said the employee had never once complained before now.

12. Wanted Man Turns Himself In for Reward

Taliban commander Mohammad Ashan saw his face on a wanted poster and noted the reward was $100. So he grabbed one and went to a police checkpoint in the district of Sar Howza, Afghanistan, where he demanded the reward. Afghan officials arrested him instead. He was wanted for plotting attacks on Afghan security forces.

When U.S. troops went to confirm that Ashan had in fact come forward to claim the finder’s fee, they were initially incredulous.

“We asked him, ‘Is this you?’ Mohammad Ashan answered with an incredible amount of enthusiasm, ‘Yes, yes, that’s me! Can I get my award now?’” recalled SPC Matthew Baker.

A biometric scan confirmed that the man in Afghan custody was the insurgent they had been looking for.

“This guy is the Taliban equivalent of the ‘Home Alone” burglars,” one U.S. official said.

11. Dead Snake Bites Man

A 41-year-old homeless man in Mobile, Alabama was treated with antivenom after he was bitten by a decapitated cottonmouth. A friend had seen the snake in a creek and cut its head off with a machete. The unnamed victim was playing with the severed head and stuck his finger in the snake’s mouth. By reflex, the snake head bit down on the finger. The man first refused medical treatment, but after he started showing symptoms of venom poisoning, he was taken to USA Medical Center, treated, and released.

10. Police Officer Chased Himself

In a story that was shared with a monthly police magazine, a police officer in Sussex, England, ended up chasing himself around for twenty minutes. A CCTV (closed circuit TV) operator saw a suspicious man on the streets, and called a plainclothes officer for help. The operator gave directions to the areas where the suspicious man was caught on camera, and the officer always seemed to be close, but could not see any evidence of the man. That is, until they realized that the “suspicious character” was actually the plainclothes officer! The date of the misadventure has been lost in the retelling, as all police officers involved were too busy laughing.

9. Bomb Squad Finds Schrodinger’s Cat Alive

A mysterious box appeared in a parking lot at Erie Community College campus in Amherst, New York, last Friday afternoon. The state police bomb squad responded and took an x-ray of the sealed box, which showed a cat inside! Police turned the cat over to the local SPCA. Gina Browning of the Tonawanda SPCA says the cat is okay.

“The cat was not malnourished, not dehydrated, didn’t need any kind of veterinary care. So, it had a happy ending. What concerns me is the people capable of doing this might be capable of doing something worse,” Browning said.

Just who would put a cat in a taped up box and leave it in a parking lot remains a mystery at this point.

Capt. Camilleri said, “Right now it doesn’t appear there’s really much to follow up on. It didn’t have any identification on the box or anything like that.”

The upside to this is that the cat, named “Truffle,” is fine, healthy and back with her owner. Tracking down the person responsible is unlikely, if not impossible.

If found, the persons responsible could be charged with animal cruelty. Even Schrodinger never wanted to try his famous thought experiment on a real cat.

8. Man Accidentally Joins Antarctic Expedition

The planned expedition led by Norwegian Jarle Andhoy was already shady, and now there’s an unwilling member along for the ride. The yacht took off in a hurry as immigration officials arrived to investigate Andhoy at an Auckland harbor, while a local mechanic was on board repairing an anchor on the 52-foot boat Nilaya.

Mr Andhoy and three crew members have embarked on an unpermitted voyage to Antarctica’s Ross Sea, in defiance of both the Norwegian and New Zealand governments.

A previous trip he made to Antarctica almost a year ago ended in disaster when his yacht Berserk sank in a fierce storm and three men died.

Declaring himself “a Viking”, the Norwegian adventurer says he is seeking the wreckage of the Berserk, which was serving as a supply ship for an attempt to reach the South Pole on quad bikes.

Authorities are looking for the Nilaya, which Andhoy said does not have a locator beacon. It is not thought to have adequate supplies for an extra crew member, either.

Update: The mechanic turned out to be Busby Noble, a Maori Mana Party activist, who joined the crew voluntarily. The subterfuge was due to the fact that Noble did not have a legitimate passport. The entire saga of the Nilaya/Berserk voyage is told at South Pole Station.

7. London Mayor Left Hanging From Zipline

London mayor Boris Johnson is enjoying his time in the spotlight and the opportunity to promote his city. However, there’s always the risk of something going wrong. One of those promotional opportunities was at Victoria Park, where Johnson took a ride on the zipline while carrying two British flags. But the wire sagged about 65 feet from the end of the line, and the mayor was left dangling in the wind. It was only a few minutes before help arrived, but the press was there to record the event. Johnson used the time to wave the flags and cheer on the British Olympic team.

6. 30 Squirrels Escape from Zoo, 38 Recaptured

A typhoon wrecked the squirrel enclosure of the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo last week, resulting in the escape of 30 squirrels. Attempts to recover the animals have been quite successful; at one count, 38 squirrels have been “recaptured.” Zoo officials have offered three different explanations for the discrepancy: 1. they miscounted how many squirrels had escaped, 2. the squirrels reproduced while on the loose, and 3. some wild squirrels may have been picked up by mistake. The zoo implants microchips in their animals, so all recovered squirrels will eventually be scanned.

5. Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop Arrested

A 30-year-old man in Madison, Wisconsin found a way to get his 15 minutes of fame. Jeffrey Drew Wilschke had legally changed his name in October to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. That makes a great headline in itself, but Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was arrested last Thursday after neighbors complained of “excessive drug use.” Police recorded quite a few charges, including carrying a concealed weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, and probation violations. When Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was taken into custody, he told police he would “get even with them.”

4. Police Break Up Cat Party

Sometimes the way a news story is presented makes it special. The Reykjavik Grapevine is a a master of that sort of thing.

Residents of Suðurnes, Iceland, called police on Sunday after they observed several cats going in and out a window of an unoccupied house.

Police arrived at the scene and, entering the house, found no people there. However, two to three cats – the exact number is still unclear – were allegedly occupying the house. According to police reports, the cats were “snuggling” on a couch that had been left behind by the previous residents.

Officers on the scene sprang into action, immediately evicting the cats from the house. They then ensured that all doors and windows into the house were securely closed and locked, in the hopes of preventing an incident of this sort from ever happening again.

Squatters holding parties in abandoned buildings will not be tolerated -even if they are cats.

3. Russian Children Take Found Lion to School

Children playing on the Russian steppe in the Rostov region found a 5-month-old lion cub -and took it to school with them! Their teacher contacted authorities, but the children played with the lion cub while waiting. The cub, named Barsik, had escaped from a car while being transported to a zoo in Dagestan.

Update: While the owner of the lion has not been found, it has found a temporary home at a zoo.

2. Fox Sends Text Message from Stolen Phone

Norwegian teenager Lars Andreas Bjercke downloaded an intriguing app that imitates the sounds of rabbits, in order to attract foxes. It worked very well. After several nights of circling the yard where the phone was left, a fox took the phone and ran off! The theft was captured on video. But the story gets even better.

Lars later called the phone and, surprisingly, the fox answered.

“There was a crackling sound and some noise,” Lars told Verdens Gang.

The next day, Lars’s friend wondered why he had sent him an odd text message. The message was in strange letters and numbers. Lars knew that the sender was the fox.

“I FRY o a0ab 34348tu åaugjoi zølbmosdji jsøg ijio sjiw,” it said in the message.

Read more about the story in Norwegian (with a news video) and in English.

And now… the biggest weird news story of 2012!

1. Amateur Art Restoration Goes All Wrong

A fresco of Christ by artist Elias Garcia Martinez was painted over a hundred years ago in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain. A recent donation from the artist’s granddaughter was intended for the painting’s restoration. However, cultural officials found that an elderly parishioner had already done her own restoration! The woman, who is in her 80s, did an “alarming and unauthorized” touch-up of the original work that completely covered Martinez’s painting, although she claims the priest gave his permission. The woman had eventually realized she was having trouble with the job, and contacted the cultural ministry for guidance -but it may be too late to save any of Martinez’s work. If the painting cannot be recovered, a photograph of the original may be mounted over what now adorns the wall. Which you must see to believe.

The "restored" picture became one of the biggest internet memes of the year. The elderly art restorer, Cecilia Gimenez, became an instant celebrity, so we revisited the story later.

Art “Restorer” Wants Royalties

Remember Ecce Homo, the Spanish fresco of Christ that was made into a cartoon after an amateur restoration effort? The new look of the art has made its home, the chapel at Santuario de Misericordia, such an attraction that the church has started charging an entrance fee of 4 euros. Now Cecilia Gimenez, the octogenarian who painted over the fresco, wants a cut of that. Her lawyers say she is entitled to royalties, which would go to charity. Meanwhile, the family of the original artist is considering suing Gimenez for destroying the art, and the church has retained lawyers in defense from all sides.

Saturday Night Live even got in on the act.

Update: Cecilia Gimenez is selling her own artwork on eBay, for charity.

See also: Miss Cellania’s Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2011

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The Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2015
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Almost every Friday, you can catch The Weird Week in Review here at mental_floss. I have to admit that not every weird news story makes it into the weekly column here, because I tend to skip those that are overly prurient or tragic, and stories that are not available in English. There are probably a few good stories that were skipped because they were covered elsewhere at mental_floss. But of the 300 or so strange news items that appeared in the Friday column, here are the 20 stories of 2015 that are worth remembering at the end of the year.

20. THE EVIDENCE WAS ON FACEBOOK

John Mogan

John Mogan and Ashley Duboe were arrested in September in connection with a bank robbery in Ashville, Ohio. The bank was robbed on August 24 when a man wearing a hoodie demanded cash from a teller. Just a few days later, Mogan and Duboe began posting a series of photographs on Facebook featuring Mogan posing with wads of cash

Mogan is a convicted felon who was just released from prison after serving about five years for robbing a bank in Lancaster, a city 20 miles east of Ashville. A female accomplice was also arrested in connection with Mogan's July 2010 robbery of a Fairfield National Bank branch.

Mogan began serving a three-year parole term immediately following his July 19 release from an Ohio state lockup. The heavily tattooed Mogan has the phrases “Loyalty’s Thin” and “Betrayal’s Thick” on opposite cheeks.

Investigators allege that prior to driving Mogan to the Ashville bank, Duboe applied makeup to his face and neck to cover numerous tattoos.

Mogan and Duboe taken to the Pickaway County jail in lieu of $250,000 bond. You can see a slideshow of the incriminating images at The Smoking Gun. 

19. VEHICLE FLATTENED BETWEEN TWO SEMIS

Sergi Karplyuk

And the driver is fine. Despite his Chevy Silverado being crushed to the size of a smart car, Kaleb Whitby only received a few cuts and bruises in the January I-84 accident near Baker City, Oregon.

More than 100 people were involved in the morning pileup on Interstate 84, about 33 miles east of Baker City. At least three separate collisions involving more than 20 vehicles, most of them semi-trucks, injured a dozen people.

Black ice conditions led to the multiple accidents. In Whitby’s collision, a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the highway. Whitby slid into the truck. Another tractor-trailer saw the first truck and slid sideways into the first truck, crushing Whitby’s pickup. After ascertaining that Whitby was alive and not seriously injured, the second truck driver, Sergi Karplyuk, asked if he could take a picture. Karplyuk helped Whitby free himself of the crushed pickup within a half-hour. He and Karplyuk joined other bystanders to help injured people. Whitby was checked out at a hospital later and came home with two Band-aids on his finger. You can read the details, and see more pictures, at Oregon Live. 

18. SNAKE SWALLOWS SALAD TONGS

Adelaide University

Aaron Rouse of Adelaide, Australia was feeding his python Winston a rat held with a pair of salad tongs when the snake decided he wanted all of it—including the tongs. Rouse tried to pull the tongs out, but Winston would not let go. Before he knew it, the tongs were completely inside the snake! Rouse took Winston to the veterinary department at Adelaide University, where Dr. Oliver Funnell decided to perform surgery. He made a small incision close to the big end of the tongs and pulled them out easily.

17. TRUCK SPILL FREES A MILLION BEES

Taylor_Satine via imgur

A shortage of bees makes it necessary to haul bees to agricultural areas for pollination purposes, so it had to happen sooner or later. A truck carrying bees through Coeur d'Alene, Idaho overturned on I-90 in June and spilled up to a million bees. Traffic was backed up for a couple of hours, and drivers were warned to keep their windows rolled up. To make matters worse, Coeur d'Alene was hosting an Iron Man Triathlon event at the same time. That couldn’t have been pleasant.

16. INTRUDER SPENDS FIVE HOURS CAUGHT UPSIDE-DOWN IN WINDOW

Tom Burdett via Facebook

Two freshmen at Nottingham Trent University in England spied an unusual sight as they walked through the campus early one January morning. A man had tried to enter a building through a window when his legs were caught, leaving him hanging upside-down with his rear end exposed. The students talked to him while taking photographs and video, then called emergency services. Police and firefighters responded, but they also had to take selfies before rescuing the man, who said he’d been in that position for five hours. Rescue workers eventually had to break the window to free him.

15. UNLUCKY THIEF CAUGHT BECAUSE GETAWAY CAR WAS REPOSSESSED

A man in Zion, Illinois, was observed putting electronics into a shopping cart at Walmart and leaving without paying for them. When confronted by store employees, he fled without the merchandise. Police later arrested 25-year-old Che Hearn as he was walking down the road.

When asked why he was walking, he responded that his car had been repossessed while he was at the Wal-Mart, police said.

Investigators determined that the repossession company had followed Hearn to Wal-Mart, police said. The car was towed away when he entered the store, giving Hearn the only option of fleeing the scene on foot, police said.

14. HORSE STUCK IN BATHTUB

It’s not unusual for livestock owners to repurpose an old bathtub as a feeding trough. And so it was for a 30-year-old mare named Phantom in Orangeville, California. In February, Phantom was dancing in her stall when she fell and became wedged in the bathtub. She was stuck there for at least 25 minutes with her feet in the air. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District was called.

Charles Campbell told KTLA sister station KTXL that when his wife called 911 for help, a confused dispatcher called back minutes later to clarify what had occurred.

“She called her back and she said, ‘You’re husband can’t get out of the bathtub?’ And she says, ‘No, it’s my horse,'” Campbell said.

Rescue workers and the family worked together to tip the bathtub on its side and pull Phantom out to freedom.

13. ARTIST LEFT HANGING NAKED

Norwegian artist Hilde Krohn Huse videotaped a piece of performance art that caught more than what was intended. Kruse went into the woods near Aukra in Norway and recorded herself hanging naked from a rope tied to a tree. However, at the end of the performance, she could not free herself from the rope. The video ran out, and she was still hanging, alone, calling for help. A friend finally arrived, after Kruse had been hanging for three and a half hours. The resulting video is not as Kruse had planned, but it was selected to be exhibited in the Bloomberg New Contemporary exhibition. The finished product is on Vimeo. 

In the film ‘Hanging in the Woods’ the viewer can witness the breakdown between performance and reality as the indented performance goes wrong and the performer is stuck hanging from the tree without being able to free herself or any visible means of help or escape.

The video contains nudity.

12. CAT GIVES BIRTH TO KITTENS IN BIRD'S NEST

Ardee Petsupplies via Facebook

In May, Henry McGauley of County Louth, Ireland, found a stray cat in a tree. That’s not unusual, but the cat was curled up in a bird’s nest where she had birthed four kittens! The white cat is familiar to the neighborhood, and McGauley's wife Fiona had fed her before. The nest is about eight feet above the ground.

The couple think the nest may have belonged to a pair of wood pigeons who left it a few days ago and now it has furry, not feathered, squatters. Fiona said she will be moving the happy family onto terra firma as the kittens do not have the required wings to ensure a safe landing if they fall.

Henry chuckled as he said: “I always thought the cat was a bit bird-brained but I never expected her to move into a nest.”

11. CAR RECOVERED FROM TREE

A driver on the M69 in Leicester, UK lost control of her vehicle on May 17 and ended up in a tree. It is estimated that the car was going at about 100 mph. Both the driver and passenger walked away from the accident or, in this case, climbed out of the tree. The woman who was driving was cited for “driving without due care and attention.” The car was later recovered from the tree by a crane.

10. FOUR MASKED BANDITS CAUGHT IN THE ACT

Newport Police Dept, Oregon via Facebook

There was a disturbance at an art gallery in November that led to an investigation. Four intruders were apprehended. A Facebook post by the Newport, Oregon police department takes the burglary report to the next level, by describing the perpetrators as a gang of thieves with colorful nicknames, including “Squeaky Feets.” The gallery owner, Cris Torp, said that the raccoons got in through roof vents, which has happened before. But when they recently sealed the openings around the vents, no one knew that the raccoons were trapped inside! The animals had been in the gallery for hours, but did little damage to the artwork. “Squeaky Feets” has found fame from the caper, and now has his own Facebook page.

9. MEERKAT EXPERT SENTENCED OVER ASSAULT ON MONKEY HANDLER

Working at a zoo can be as much of a soap opera as any other workplace. The first sentence from the Associated Press story spells it out:

A former meerkat expert at London Zoo has been ordered to pay compensation to a monkey handler she attacked with a wine glass in a love spat over a llama-keeper.

Caroline Westlake, who worked with meerkats, was sentenced to 12 months of community service and must pay £800 to the victim of her assault, monkey handler Kate Sanders. The assault happened at an employee Christmas party at the zoo last year, when the two women were arguing about a third zoo employee, llama keeper Adam Davies. The designation of “former meerkat expert” does not mean Westlake is no longer an expert, but that she was fired from the zoo over the incident.

8. RACCOON RIDES ALLIGATOR

Richard Jones

Richard Jones of Palatka, Florida, captured a once-in-a-lifetime photograph in June while he was walking along the shore of the Ocklawaha River. He believes his son startled a raccoon, who fled toward the river. The raccoon jumped onto the back of an alligator and stood up long enough to have his picture taken. He immediately jumped away from the alligator as soon as the gator started moving. But the picture looks as if the raccoon planned to ride across the river on his reptilian friend. As the picture was passed around the internet, it attracted all sorts of pun headlines, such as “Florida gator starts Uber-like service.”

7. MAN STUCK IN TOILET TWEETED RAILWAY FOR HELP

In May, Steven Staples of London was on a train and found himself locked in the toilet. No one could hear him, so he sent a tweet to Southeastern Railway.

The company responded immediately, asking for details so they could determine which train he was on. Within about 15 minutes, the engineer arrived just after a young girl managed to open the door. Staples was glad to be free, and tweeted his relief to the railroad company.

6. MAN COMES TO REALIZE HIS PUPPIES AREN'T PUPPIES AFTER ALL

A banana farmer in China bought a couple of “good looking pups” from a Vietnamese man. He played with them, petted them, and groomed them every day. The puppies grew fast and they grew big, and they had voracious appetites, leading them to chase and eat his chickens. Two years later, the farmer had the opportunity to visit a wildlife protection exhibition, and when he saw the bear exhibit, he realized what kind of animals his “dogs” really were. He reported the bears to wildlife authorities, who identified his pets as Asian black bears, a protected species. The bears were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Yunnan.

5. MAN SHOOTS ARMADILLO, HITS MOTHER-IN-LAW NEXT DOOR

A bizarre shooting incident in April in Lee County, Georgia, was determined to be an accident. Larry McElroy fired a 9mm pistol at an armadillo in his yard. He could not foresee what happened next.

The bullet killed the animal, but also ricocheted off of it, hit a fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law's mobile home, through a recliner she was sitting in, and into her back.

According to a report, McElroy was about 100 yards away from the home at the time.

The mother-in-law, 74-year-old Carol Johnson, was taken to a hospital, but her injuries were minor. Authorities in Lee County suggest that a shotgun be used instead of a pistol to “shoot at varmints and whatnot.” Tip: “whatnot” does not include your mother-in-law.

4. MEN PEE ON BEEHIVE, BEES REACT ACCORDINGLY

In March, a bus in Vietnam's Quảng Ngãi province pulled over on the side of the road to allow the men to relieve themselves. There was a beehive nearby, and one man thought it would be funny to urinate on the beehive. He convinced several other men to do the same, all at the same time. The bees were not happy about it, and swarmed out of the hive to attack the first body parts they came to. They also swarmed onto the bus and attacked other riders. Medics attended to 22 people who had been stung on their faces, hands, and penises. One person was taken to a hospital with swelling and a high fever.

3. BABY BORN WITH INTACT AMNIOTIC SAC

Dr. William Binder/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Little Silas Johnson was delivered by Cesarean section three months early at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, still shrouded in the sac of amniotic fluid. Neonatologist William Binder snapped a picture of the unusual sight with his cellphone, then opened the sac so the baby could begin breathing.

The photograph shows the baby just seconds old. Until the bag was broken, the baby was still getting oxygen through the placenta.

“It felt like slow-motion but really realistically probably about 10 seconds that we had to sort of quickly pause and be able to do this, because at the same time, we want to get the baby out of that sac, start helping the baby to begin breathing,” the doctor said.

The photo is a rare opportunity to see what a six-month pregnancy really looks like. And from the baby’s point of view, the trauma of birth didn’t happen until he was outside his mother. Despite his prematurity, Silas went home from the hospital—healthy—10 weeks after his birth.

2. FAN USES WIKIPEDIA FOR BACKSTAGE ACCESS

David Spargo is a fan of the Australian band Peking Duk. On December 2 in Melbourne, he went to the backstage area of a concert, where he was stopped by a security guard. Spargo told him he was band member Reuben Styles’ stepbrother. The guard demanded proof, so Spargo pulled up Peking Duk’s Wikipedia page on his phone and pointed out his name—the name he added only a few minutes before. The security guard let him in.

“It was probably the most genius, mastermind move that I’ve ever witnessed,” said Adam Hyde, Styles’ bandmate. “It’s crazy. He just did it on the spot, in a second on his phone.

“He told the security guard he was our stepbrother or something, and showed them the Wikipedia page and his ID.”

It goes to show, said Hyde, “never trust Wikipedia”.

Spargo introduced himself to the band, who were more impressed by his ingenuity than concerned by the security breach.

The band shared a few beers with Spargo and later told the story on Twitter, using the Anchorman catchphrase “I’m not even mad.”

1. WINNER OF FRENCH SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP DOES NOT SPEAK FRENCH

Nigel Richards of New Zealand entered the French-language Scrabble tournament in Louvain, Belgium, in July, and took first place. But he doesn’t speak a word of French.

"He won't know what [the words] mean, wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn't think," Liz Fagerlund, former president of the New Zealand Scrabble Association and a friend of Richards, told the New Zealand Herald. He just memorized a French dictionary.  

The dictionary Richards memorized includes all French words made up of two to 10 letters.

"To him words are just combinations of letters," Yves Brenez, the competition's organizer, told FranceTV. "I’m perhaps exaggerating a bit, but he comes up with scrabbled (words of seven or more letters) that others take 10 years to know.”

Richards knows his Scrabble, though, and how to win. He’s held several English-language U.S. and world championships.

See also: The weirdest stories of 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

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The 20 Weirdest News Stories of 2014
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Almost every Friday, you can catch The Weird Week in Review here at mental_floss. The time has come to go back through those weekly columns and select the most memorable so we can take another look at year’s end. There were probably some weirder things that happened in the world that never made the list, because I tend to skip stories that are overly prurient or tragic, and stories that are not available in English. That leaves about 300 news items to select from. So let’s check out the 20 weirdest of the weird news stories of 2014.

20. Smelly Cat Finds a Home

Lenny the cat has a story that most cats can’t match -he suffered a failed adoption because he farts too much. Lenny was found at a park in Rochester, New York, in February and taken in to Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions in Scottsville. He was adopted out, but was returned two days later. His Facebook update said,

Hello! I was returned today because I fart too much. I am hoping I can find a person who can love me even with my stinky farts. I am a 19 month old neutered male and would love to be your smelly cuddle cat. I am very friendly and love to be petted and held. I even am wearing a tuxedo so I'll look snazzy if you come to see me.

The veterinary clinic could find no problem with Lenny, and did not notice him to be overly gassy. But the story has a happy ending. Lenny has since found a new home.

19. Pilot’s Arm Falls Off While Landing Plane

A UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch report revealed an incident in February in which a pilot was landing a small commuter jet in Belfast when his arm fell off.

The 46-year-old pilot, described byFlybe as among is “most experienced and trusted” pilots, wears a prosthetic limb and said that he believed he had securely fixed the arm in place earlier, but with heavy winds, once he deactivated the Dash 8 aircraft’s autopilot as he prepared to land the plane that’s when the arm troubles began.

Asked why a pilot with only one arm was flying a plane in the first place, Flybe’s safety director, Captain Ian Baston, said that the budget airline had a policy of equal opportunity employment and therefore “in common with most airlines, we do employ staff with reduced physical abilities.”

The pilot lost control of the plane only briefly and still guided it to a safe and bumpy landing using one arm. He promised to secure his arm better in the future.

18. Reservoir to be Drained Due to Urination (Again)

The Mount Tabor Reservoir in Portland, Oregon, was taken offline in April because a man was seen on security video urinating into it one Wednesday morning about 1AM. Two other men tried to scale the fence, one successfully. As a result, 38 million gallons of clean water were flushed from the reservoir. This is not the first time the Mount Tabor reservoir has been drained because a man peed in it. An incident in 2011 caused 7.8 million gallons to be replaced. Federal regulations now say that water reservoirs must be covered, a project that Portland plans to complete in 2015.

17. Dog Coughs Up Missing Wedding Ring Lost 6 Years Ago

Lois Matykowski of Wisconsin lost her diamond wedding ring six years ago. She searched everywhere, as the ring was fairly new and not insured, but never found it. This past June, her ten-year-old dog Tucker swallowed a popsicle stick. Tucker is famous for stealing food and eating anything that isn’t nailed down. A veterinarian advised her to feed the dog a Vaseline sandwich, which she did, and he threw up the popsicle stick. Two days later, the dog threw up again, and this time, Matykowski’s wedding ring came up! It had apparently been inside the dog all those years. The veterinarian says the popsicle stick must have dislodged it. Now Matykowski is getting jokes from friends who are jealous that she has a dog that pukes up diamonds.

16. Don't Use Fire to Remove TP from Tree

Photograph by Linda Spears.

Cheryl Crausewell of Dora, Alabama, found that someone had TPed the trees in her yard one night in January. The family tried to clean up the mess, but some of the toilet paper in a magnolia tree was out of their reach. What to do? Maybe they should have tried a ladder, but instead they set it on fire. A small piece of paper drifted out to the yard and ignited the grass.

"It just popped out into a little patch and we tried to put it out and it just kept going, so I was trying to keep it from going down the front porch and came down the bank and around the back of the house," she said.

Within seconds, Crausewell said the fire spread to the backyard where the propane gas tank from a grill may have added fuel to the fire.

Crausewell, her son, her elderly aunt, her mother and her aunt's caregiver were all at home when the fire started around 2 p.m. Everyone was able to get out safely.

The video at WBRC shows the scorched yard and toilet paper still in the trees, as well as the house, which is a total loss.

15. Drunk Driver Busted by Parrot

Guillermo Reyes was driving home from a bar in Mexico City when he encountered a DUI traffic stop. When police talked to him, they heard a voice from inside the car saying, "He's drunk! He's drunk!" They shone a light into the car, but there were no other passengers, just Reyes' parrot. Apparently he'd heard people say that phrase enough to learn it. The cops gave Reyes a Breathalyzer test, and concluded that he was, indeed, driving while impaired. Reyes was sent to the drunk tank overnight, and the parrot was allowed to accompany him. The original story is in Spanish at El Universal. Google translation.

14. Car Enters Garage Through the Roof

Photograph by George Strother.

George Strother and his wife, of Escondido, California, thought they felt an earthquake early on December 10th. It was only when an Escondido police officer knocked on their door that they found out a car had crashed through the roof of their garage! A BMW had broken through the roof and landed on Strother’s Nissan Pathfinder. His Mazda Miata was also damaged by the falling roof. The driver of the BMW, which was loaned out from a car dealer, didn’t stick around to face the damage. The Strothers' home sits around twenty feet below a roadway, and police estimate that the driver of the BMW took a turnoff too fast. The garage can be repaired, but the two cars were totaled.

13. Man Fights Off Shark, Stitches Up Leg, Goes to Pub

James Grant of Colac Bay, New Zealand, was spear fishing with friends when he was attacked by a shark. He stabbed the shark with a knife, which caused it to leave. When he got out of the water, he saw a deep gash in his leg where the shark bit him. Grant, a junior doctor, removed his wetsuit and stitched up the wound, using supplies from a first aid kit. Then he and his friends went to the Colac Bay Tavern. The bar staff gave him a towel because his wound was bleeding onto the floor. Sometime afterward, he went to a hospital for a proper re-stitching. Grant planned to return to the water as soon as the stitches are out.

12. Epic Spelling Bee Ends

In March, the Jackson County, Missouri, Spelling Bee finally came to an end -after two weeks and more than 90 rounds of elimination. Or actually, attempts at elimination. The final two contenders, fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman and seventh-grader Kush Sharma, went 66 rounds and spelled their way through the entire list of available words during the initial spelling bee in February. Officials called a delay while they gathered more words. Two weeks later, the two students went another 30 rounds to decide a winner.

"It took us an hour to find more words," head judge Kaite Stover, a librarian at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch, told Carter of the competition's first day, on Feb. 22. "And we were looking for words that were not completely archaic and uncommon."

But Hoffman, 11, and Sharma, 13, answered the challenge each time, relying on their knowledge of word origins and prefixes to see them through. After more than five hours, organizers threw up their hands to set up today's event.

The judges brought a fresh batch of 200 words to bear Saturday, from a list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. They also had around 60 backup words just in case they're needed, the library says.

In the end, Hoffman was eliminated by the word “stifling,” and Sharma correctly spelled “definition” and will advance to the national bee. But officials should start preparing now because both students will still be eligible to compete next year.

11. A Visit to the Collision Repair Shop

Photograph by Jennifer Lapier.

Jennifer Lapier of Colleyville, Texas, was contacted by police New Year's night and was told that someone had entered her business, Lone Star Collision Repair. That someone was driving a GMC Yukon. The SUV had crashed into a sedan and then into the building, right under the sign.

A grandfather who was driving the sedan that was hit was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries along with his granddaughter, who was in the passenger seat.

"Had somebody been in the backseat, they would not have survived," said Captain Robert Hinton with the Colleyville Police. "There was very little left of the car."

The shop was open the next day, and Lapier said no cars were damaged, but the storage room had a big hole in the wall. The unnamed driver of the SUV was taken into custody. Police believed that alcohol may have been a factor.

10. Snake Eats Golf Balls, Undergoes Surgery

A gray rat snake was found in a chicken coop in north Georgia. The snake had two large round objects in its stomach, which, from the fact that it was in a chicken coop, you’d think would be chicken eggs. The snake apparently thought so, too, but they were golf balls. Now here’s the really weird part: the chicken owner took the snake to get help for its problem! A team of veterinarians at the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island performed surgery and removed the golf balls from the snake. The reptile recovered, and was to be returned to the wild when deemed healthy. No doubt it headed straight to the nearest chicken coop- or a golf course.

9. Two Dogs Take Truck on Joyride

A pickup truck came very close to plunging into the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma in February. The truck, belonging to a man identified only as Scott, was parked on a hill. While Scott was inside a house, his two dogs Luna and Roscoe were left in the truck.

"I got around to the front of the house where the truck was, and it's like not there," he said. "And I was like 'did I get towed?' and I just thought no it didn't."

One of the dogs put the car into gear and they took off.

"Approximately three blocks down a hill," Tulsa firefighter Clay Ayers said.

The dogs missed drivers on Riverside Drive, runners on the trail and narrowly missed landing in the Arkansas River.

The truck was stopped by the brush along the river. The vehicle was badly damaged. Roscoe and Luna were uninjured, and were let go with a warning.

8. Virginia Man Claims African Country to Make Daughter a Princess

Photograph by Jeremiah Heaton.

Bir Tawil is a stretch of land between Egypt and Sudan that neither country wants. Jeremiah Heaton of Abingdon, Virginia, now claims it as his own. Last winter, Heaton’s six-year-old daughter Emily asked him if she could be a princess. He said yes, and has worked since then to make it so. To that end, Heaton has claimed the 800-square-mile territory of Bir Tawil, renaming it the Kingdom of North Sudan. He planted a flag there on June 16, Emily’s seventh birthday. That makes him the king, and Emily a princess.

Sheila Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, told the Bristol Herald Courier last week that Heaton would need legal recognition from neighboring countries, the United Nations or other groups to have actual political control of the land.

Heaton, who ran for Congress out of Virginia’s 9th district in 2012 and lost, plans to reach out to the African Union for assistance in formally establishing the Kingdom of North Sudan and said that he is confident they will welcome him. Representatives from the Egyptian and Sudanese embassies in Washington did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

The area is desert, but Heaton plans to turn it into an agricultural area, which should please both Egypt and Sudan. Read about Heaton’s journey to his new kingdom at the Washington Post.

7. China Performs Cavity Searches on 10,000 Pigeons

Photograph from People's Daily via Twitter.

October first is National Day in China, commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. As part of the celebration in Beijing, 10,000 pigeons were released over Tiananmen Square. But first, each pigeon had to undergo a security check, which included an anal probe. The process was videotaped by authorities. The procedure drew widespread derision on social media.

“I have not heard of pigeons released at National Day requiring security checks, but it is possible for them to carry things such as explosives,” Mr Yang of website China Pigeon Net, told the New York Times.

“They could carry something on their legs, under a wing, or in their anus. If they carried out security checks they would find them, just like on a person when they get on an airplane,” Mr Yang said.

That last sentence should make anyone wary of booking a flight out of a Chinese airport.

6. Risque Ads Cause 517 Auto Accidents in Moscow

The Russian firm ADVtruck sells advertising on large trucks. As a promotional stunt intended to show how noticeable the ads are, 30 trucks were decorated with a picture of a woman’s breasts. In the first day that the trucks were deployed in Moscow, 517 traffic accidents were blamed on the distracting image. Moscow police were dispatched to impound all the trucks until the pictures were removed. The ad agency says that the company will compensate drivers for any damages that their insurance does not cover.

5. Hearse with Deceased Inside Stolen from Funeral

Prominent Sydney human rights lawyer Seth Richardson died at age 52 and the funeral was held a couple of days later in November, but not without incident. During funeral preparations, a man jumped into the hearse and drove off- with Richardson in a coffin in the back! Richardson’s brother Tobias called police, who at first thought he was reporting a murder when he said a man drove off with his dead brother.

Tobias Richardson took matters into his own hands, jumping into his car and giving chase. Fortunately the hearse had turned into a cul-de-sac and Tobias Richardson blocked the only way out with his own car.

The police arrived moments later and detained the driver.

The driver turned out to be a man with dementia who had walked away from his nursing home. He was taken to a hospital and no charges were filed. The incident was resolved in 20 minutes, and the funeral proceeded on time.

"Seth would have thought this was so funny, he had a wicked sense of humour," Ms West said.

Read the rest of the story at the Sydney Morning Herald.

4. Sinkhole Swallows Eight Corvettes

Of all the places a sinkhole can open up and swallow cars, would you believe it had to be in the National Corvette Museum? Western Kentucky is full of underground holes, the most famous of which is Mammoth Cave. On February 12th, another one was born, right under six rare 'Vettes owned by the museum and two on loan from General Motors.

"It's devastating to look at these beautiful cars. They're covered in dirt and rocks but it's incredible though looking at it and seeing how this happened," said WKU mechanical engineering student Darren Tinker.

No one was injured. The Corvettes were pullled from the hole in March. 

3. Teenager Gets 232 Teeth Pulled

Seventeen-year-old Ashiq Gavai of Buldhana, India, suffered a growth and pain in his jaw, but local doctors could not diagnose the problem. Fearing cancer, his father took him to J J Hospital in Mumbai, where doctors diagnosed Gavai with composite odontoma, a tumor in the part of the jaw that produces teeth.

Ashiq was diagnosed with a condition called composite odontoma or a benign tumour of the tooth, which can cause difficulties in eating, swallowing, and lead to a grotesque swelling of the face, though it is not life-threatening.

"The condition has been known to affect the upper jaw and a maximum of 25 teeth have been extracted from the tumour. But in Ashiq's case, the tumour was found deep in the lower jaw and we removed more than 232 teeth," Dr Sunanda Dhiware, head of the J J Dental Department, said.

A team of two main surgeons and two assisting surgeons performed an intra-oral procedure as they tried to remove every bit of the tumour. "While a few teeth were loose, others were in clumps which made it difficult to count. The tumour was an abnormal growth of the second molar which did not come out. It was also pressing on the wisdom tooth which we had to remove," Dhiware said.

Gavai was left with only 28 normal teeth, but will require followup surgery to repair the hole in his jaw. The hospital is going to forward the case to the Guinness Book of World Records for the most teeth extracted from one person. See more pictures here.

2. Sewer Blocked by Big Pooh

Photograph by Scottish Water.

Scottish Water, a national public utility, has found some unusual objects blocking the sewers underneath Scotland over the past year. That includes a huge plush Winnie-the-Pooh bear in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire. But they say the list also contains a fax machine, a bike, a snake, and blue jeans. How does anyone get such items down the drain? But the most common objects that block a sewer are grease, diapers, and baby wipes. A new public awareness campaign hopes to discourage people from putting anything into the sewer system that will cause blockages. Unstopping the pipes costs the utility more than £7 million every year.

1. Surgery for Pet Goldfish

In September, Dr. Tristan Rich at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in North Melbourne, Australia, performed surgery to remove a tumor from a goldfish. The hospital explained the procedure in a Facebook post

Dr Tristan Rich, head of Lort Smith’s exotic and wildlife vet team, set up three buckets – one with a knock out dose of anaesthetic, one with a maintenance level of anaesthetic, and one with clean water as the recovery unit.

Once George was asleep, Dr Tristan ran a tube from the maintenance bucket which was being oxygenated, into George’s mouth, so that the water with the maintenance dose of anaesthetic washed over his gills.

Dr Tristan worked quickly to remove the large tumour, although the size of it meant that he had to use a gelatine sponge to control the bleeding during surgery. The size of the wound meant it was difficult to seal, so Dr Tristan put in four sutures then sealed the rest of the wound with tissue glue.

The goldfish, named George, is ten years old. The surgery to remove the tumor from the fish’s head is the first of its kind for Lort Smith, and possibly anywhere.

See also: Miss Cellania’s Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2013, 2012, and 2011

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