Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Police said Raul Gaucin-Valenzuela, 33, and a friend broke into a home in Evans, Colo., intending to beat up the friend's ex-wife's new boyfriend. The plan failed because the woman living there was baby-sitting Gaucin-Valenzuela's two children, ages 8 and 11, who recognized their dad, even though a bandanna covered his face. Police said Gaucin-Valenzuela didn't realize his kids were at the home. (Greeley Daily Tribune)

Craig Owen David Jr., 32, met his ex-girlfriend at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Uniontown, Pa., to borrow money for prescription medication. State Trooper Ozzie Mills said that when the woman pulled out a $10 bill to give him, David grabbed it and two $20 bills and fled. He was quickly apprehended while making his getaway across the parking lot on a motorized scooter the store owns for the use of disabled shoppers. (Uniontown Herald-Standard)

Respite for print

The Long Island daily newspaper Newsday became one of the first non-business newspapers to charge customers for access to its web site, which it spent $4 million to redesign and relaunch. In the first three months, only 35 people signed up to pay the $5 fee, according to publisher Terry Jiminez, who reportedly told a staff meeting, "That's 35 more than I would have thought it would have been." (The New York Observer)

Pre-slept comfort

Holiday Inn introduced a bed-warming service at three of its English hotels provided by staff members dressed in fleece sleeper suits and nightcaps. The chain said the human bed warmers at one Manchester and two London locations are equipped with thermometers to assure the temperature reaches 68 degrees F and will leave the bed before the guest occupies it. Spokesperson Jane Bednall likened the bed-warmers service to "having a giant hot water bottle in your bed." (Reuters)

Creeping peeper

Seattle police arrested a peeping Tom at a peep show. Officers reported the 27-year-old suspect snuck into the Lusty Lady strip club by walking backwards through the front door and entered one of the viewing stalls. He then climbed through the stall's ceiling panels and tried to reach the strippers' dressing room along a crawl space above the club's glass ceiling. Alerted by one of the strippers, who said she "was startled when (the man's) legs came crashing through the glass panel ceiling above her," officers found the suspect still in the crawl space. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Food fights

Police said that when a customer at a restaurant in Brownsville, Texas, complained he was served beef instead of chicken, owner Maria Del Rayo Cordero told the man to pay for the food anyway and leave. An argument ensued, during which the owner threw a tray of food and tea at the customer, who threw the tea back. Cordero responded by throwing a ceramic plate that hit the customer on the forehead. Paramedics treated him, police arrested her. (KRGV-TV News)

When Ralph Barr, 61, pointed out that a grocery store in Findlay, Ohio, mistakenly priced crab cakes, store manager Monte Erwin, 44, offered to sell him the first pound at the discounted price but the rest at the correct price. Police said Barr responded to the offer by spitting in the manager's face, head-butting him five or six times in the face and breaking the manager's glasses. Police arrested Barr, who claimed Erwin hit him with a price gun, but witnesses said the manager didn't fight back. (Sandusky Register)


Helmut Kichmeier, 27, a performer with Britain's Circus of Horrors whose debut as a sword swallower resulted in his skewering himself in front of the audience, sought the help of British hypnotherapist Ray Roberts to learn to put himself into a trance so he could swallow multiple swords on stage. After his training, Kichmeier was practicing in front of a mirror at his London home when he accidentally hypnotized himself. He remained in a trance for at least five hours, until his wife came home and found him looking like a zombie "just staring at himself in the mirror." Unable to awaken him, Joanna Kichmeier said she noticed an open book called "Hypnosis Medicine of the Mind" on the sofa. She also saw a letter from Roberts next to the book and called him. He talked Kichmeier out of the trance. The performer, whose stage name is Hannibal Helmurto, vowed to practice auto-suggestion only when his wife is present. (Britain's Daily Telegraph)

Fruits of research

Researchers at the University of California Davis said they've identified "clusters" of autism in areas where parents have higher-than-average levels of education. For example, children in neighborhoods where parents finished college were at least four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children of parents who didn't finish high school. "It doesn't necessarily mean that higher education causes autism," cautioned UC Davis MIND Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, one of the study's authors, who explained that the high rates of autism occur where parents are more likely to obtain a diagnosis for their child. (NPR)

More than half of British adults — 25 million — have been injured by cookies, according to a survey by Mindlab International. At least 500 wound up in the hospital. Hidden dangers included flying fragments, burns while dunking cookies in scalding tea, poking themselves in the eye with a cookie, choking on crumbs, breaking a tooth or filling biting a cookie, and falling off a chair reaching for the package. Seven percent of those surveyed said they'd been bitten by a pet or "other wild animal" trying to get their cookie. (Britain's Daily Telegraph)

Frill seeker

Sheriff's deputies in Lee County, Fla., arrested Lawrence Jay Horowitz, 43, for attacking his girlfriend at her home after she made a comment when he walked into the kitchen wearing one of her nightgowns. She said she thought at first he was trying to be funny "but then realized he had a strange look on his face." (Naples Daily News)


Albanian Katerina Munguli, 16, not only became the first girl to compete in a traditionally male-only Orthodox ceremony to retrieve a metal cross from the bottom of the Ionian Sea, but she also won, beating out a dozen men and boys for the $111 prize. "We were all happy a girl got it," said Vladimir Kumi, co-organizer of the event. "She is the youngest of four sisters and behaves a bit like a boy. (Reuters)


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