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The Odd Truth, Nov. 27, 2002

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.

Karma Cleared 50 Years Late

SANTA FE, N.M. — A guilty conscience has led to the return of a sandstone ball taken a half-century ago from atop a pillar at the entrance to Santa Fe's Cathedral Park.

The man who took the sphere as a teenager recently gave it to Stuart Ashman, director of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and asked him to return it, Ashman said.

"He wanted to clear his karma," he said.

For the past half-century, the formal entrance to the downtown park has been asymmetrical — one pillar crowned with a 10-inch, 30-pound ball, the other not.

The man, who wants to remain anonymous, recalled sitting atop the pillar to watch a parade in 1952 and noticing the stone was loose. He removed it and took it home, Ashman said.

"He treasured it for many years," he said. "He told me at one point an uncle of his incorporated it into a stone wall and he said, 'No, no, that's mine,' and he took it out."

Ashman said the man, now 64, recently was packing to move and decided he didn't want to take the stone.

But he didn't want to face the priests at St. Francis Cathedral, so he took it to Ashman in a large plastic bucket and asked him to act as an intermediary.

Hunting Knife Saves Hunter's Life

AUGUSTA, Maine — It wasn't a gun that saved hunter Keith Ellis' life — it was his knife.

Ellis, 41, escaped serious injury Monday when a .243-caliber bullet grazed his hip and hit his knife while he was hunting near his home in a rural part of Augusta.

Game wardens believe the bullet came from the gun of a 13-year-old boy who was in a tree stand and was hunting with his father, spokesman Mark Latti of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department said.

The bullet grazed Ellis' hip and deflected off his folding knife, which he was carrying in a leather sheath on his belt. The bullet's impact spun Ellis around.

"It actually felt like a bee sting at first, and then I heard a loud bang," Ellis said. "I looked down and saw a hole through five layers of clothing and my knife split in two."

Ellis, who was wearing blaze orange, said he's certain the knife prevented the bullet from entering his body and possibly killing him.

"I owe it all to someone above," he said.

Crook Nabbed Lifting Plates From Cruiser

ARLINGTON, Va. - Mistake one: stealing license plates. Mistake two: stealing license plates off an unmarked police car -- with an officer still inside. Police in Arlington, Virginia, says that's exactly what one man tried to do. Two plain-clothes officers parked their unmarked cars in a lot while they sat talking the other night. Another car pulled into the lot and parked right next to one of the police cars. Investigators say the driver got out, took a look around, then walked to the front of one of the police cars and began unscrewing the plate. But the would-be plate-napper didn't get far. Fernando Arraya of Washington D.C. was arrested right away.

Sex Shop Owner Finds God, Opens Bible Shop

PUTNEY, Ky. - When an eastern Kentucky man became a devout Christian last month, he decided to convert his business too -- from a sex shop into a Bible bookstore.

The red building that used to be Love World now has a fresh coat of white paint and has reopened as Mike's Place, with shelves full of Bibles and other Christian merchandise.

Michael Braithwaite burned his adult novelty shop's $10,000 worth of merchandise in a bonfire. In his words, "I couldn't sell it any longer. It's something you can't do when you're saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost."

Braithwaite's Christian neighbors couldn't be happier, and are helping to support him and his family until the new business starts making a profit.

Pole Sets New Pole-Sitting Record

BERLIN - A young Pole set a new pole-sitting world record Wednesday, coming down from his perch in a German fun park after 196 days and nights.

Daniel Baraniuk, an out-of-work 27-year-old from Gdansk, collected nearly $23,000 for winning the World Pole-Sitting Championship. Organizers said he also secured a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Ten competitors mounted their 8-foot 21/2-inch poles at Heidepark in the northern town of Soltau on May 15. They were allowed to leave their 24- by 16-inch seats, every two hours for 10 minutes.

Baraniuk, whose closest rival fell off his pole in October, said he gave up because of boredom as the number of visitors to the park dropped with the seasonal temperatures.

Family To Secede From Small Town

OMER, Mich. — A tiny Michigan city may soon get tinier.

Cheryl and Kevin Perry and her parents want to secede from Omer, population 337, and attach to neighboring Arenac Township.

The issue goes to voters in Omer and the township on Dec. 17.

The families say they're tired of paying taxes for water service they don't get. To split from the city, Michigan law requires that voters give their approval.

"We pay city taxes but have absolutely zero benefits from the city," Cheryl Perry said.

"We have no street lights, no sidewalks, no water. Even the city limits sign is posted before you come to our property. Why keep paying for things we don't get?" said Perry, whose lot adjoins her father's.

Omer officials aren't thrilled by the proposed split. But they aren't protesting it.

"What can they say?" said Susan Hegenauer, Omer's clerk. "I think the biggest concern for the city is the election cost."

Prowling Turkey Mysteriously Vanishes

OBERLIN, Ohio — A turkey that spooked children and left telltale droppings on backyard decks in this campus community has mysteriously disappeared — just as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

"As far as we know, it's still out there," Dan Kramer, a wildlife management supervisor for 19 northeast Ohio counties, said Tuesday.

He said there was no reason to believe the turkey was headed to someone's holiday dinner table.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife got at least 20 complaints about the bird. Wildlife officers looked for the turkey but couldn't find it.

A school principal had warned children that the turkey was becoming bolder and had sharp talons. Another resident began carrying a stick after her dog reportedly was attacked.

John H. Scofield, chairman of the physics and astronomy department at Oberlin College, had seen the turkey regularly over the past year but not in the past 1½ weeks.

"I'm guessing somebody got him, but I'm not sure," said Scofield, whose Bronco II had become a favored roosting spot for the turkey during neighborhood visits in Oberlin, about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland.

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