News Quirks | News Quirks | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published December 26, 2007 at 12:51 p.m.

Bad News, Good News, Bad News

After British doctors told John Brandrick, 62, he had pancreatic cancer and would probably die within a year, he quit his job, sold or gave away everything he owned, stopped paying his mortgage and went on a spending spree. Two years later, completely broke, he learned that the suspected tumor was merely a benign inflammation of the pancreas. Brandrick told Sky television that he is pleased to have "a second chance in life" and admitted that spending all his money was his own fault but said the hospital that misdiagnosed him "should pay something back."

Democracy in Action

Seeking official status for the watermelon, Oklahoma lawmakers weren't discouraged that the state already has an official fruit. They voted it the state vegetable. "The controversy on whether watermelon is a fruit or vegetable has been officially decided by the Oklahoma Legislature," said Sen. Don Barrington, who sponsored the Senate bill. Rep. Joe Dorman, who represents Rush Springs, site of an annual watermelon festival, introduced the House version.

The Not-So-Last Goodbye

Alison Matera, 28, confessed to faking sickness and her own death but was not arrested because the sheriff's office in Pasco County, Fla., said she had committed no crime. She told her closest friends in her church choir that she had cancer, then, after giving updates on her treatment, said she was going to a hospice. Choir members started getting updates from a hospice nurse they agree sounded just like Matera. This winter, the same person called choir director Timothy Paquin and told him Matera had died and that her body was being shipped to her family. Deputies became involved after several choir members reported that a woman showed up at a memorial service for Matera who looked and sounded just like Matera but insisted she was her stepsister.

Sheriff's official Doug Tobin said Matera told deputies she has attachment problems and made up the cancer story to drive her friends away. When it brought them closer instead, she said she faked her death to spare everyone's feelings.

Why They Call It Dope

Jonathan Zaletel, 19, was cooking methamphetamine in a toaster, when the appliance started a small fire in his condo in Chandler, Ariz. After water and window cleaner failed to put out the blaze, he drove to a Wal-Mart to buy a fire extinguisher. When he returned, the flames had activated the sprinkler system, which doused the blaze but summoned firefighters and Maricopa County sheriff's deputies, who found the meth lab and arrested Zaletel.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

When police arrested Joseph Thomas Mulkerin, 46, for robbing a bank in Fayetteville, N.C., of $2179, the suspect led officers to his motel room to turn over the money, only to discover that some was missing. Police later charged motel maintenance man David Mims, 49, with breaking into the room and stealing some of the stolen cash.

Irony Illustrated

A Philadelphia fire station was closed after a fire set two emergency vehicles ablaze. Officials said the incident occurred while firefighters were using a 20-year-old pumper because their regular pumper was being repaired. Apparently, a gear slipped and the pumper lurched forward, striking a front wall. The rear wheels kept spinning, overheated and burst into flames, igniting the pumper's undercarriage. The fire spread to the medic unit parked beside it. Another engine company responded to bring the blaze under control, but both vehicles are likely "totaled," Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayres said. Three firefighters were injured.

Instant Karma

Sheriff Mike Rutherford of Kanawha County, W.Va., reported that a 1997 Mercury station wagon began tailgating his unmarked Jeep Laredo on Interstate 64, coming "right on my bumper" at least three times. When the two vehicles came to an exit, the station wagon moved onto the ramp, and the driver made an obscene gesture. "He was looking directly at me, giving me the finger," Rutherford said, "and just ran into the guardrail." After crashing, the car continued to a nearby motel, where deputies arrested Glenn Harold Vickers, 53, for driving under the influence.

Mensa Reject of the Week

An 18-year-old man started a blaze that destroyed a house in Bucksport, Maine, when he tried to stoke a wood stove fire by throwing gasoline on it. Fire investigators said flames instantly "exploded" from the stove and in just seconds were burning through the roof. Efforts to fight the blaze were hampered by exploding oxygen tanks bursting through the outside walls, shooting through the air and landing more than 100 feet away, narrowly missing firefighters. The man tending the stove suffered minor burns.

Felonious Food

Scott Renzenbrink, 45, the manager of a grocery store in Liberty, Ohio, told police that a customer hit him in the head with a 10-pound bag of potatoes because she was angry about having to wait in line.

Faux Pas

The Food and Drug Administration decided to allow Alaska surimi producers to drop the word "imitation" from their labels. Surimi is heavily processed white fish, such as pollock and hake, which is formed to imitate crab, lobster and other high-priced seafood. Explaining "consumers are confused by the word 'imitation,'" the FDA said surimi producers could use the term "flavored" seafood instead.

Using One's Head

Human hair from barber and beauty shops can be recycled into an array of products, according to a British researcher at London South Bank University. Ronald Thompson, a former hairdresser who fashioned a chair from 4.5 pounds of hair clippings, told Discovery News that hair could also be turned into structural beams, shoes, clothing, mascara and boat parts. Thompson got the idea to recycle hair while working on the set of the film Batman Begins. He stretched a piece of fiberglass, which snapped, but when he did the same thing with a strand of hair, it withstood far more stretching. Noting that millions of tons of hair cuttings are produced worldwide each year, he declared, "This free, sustainable and abundant resource can be molded into any shape and mixed with any matrix."