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Wide World of Weird

July 17, 1998

A weekly roundup of unusual news stories from around the globe:

A Shot-Glass Wedding: A groom was so drunk just minutes before his wedding that his wife-to-be called in the police and then promptly married someone else, an Indian newspaper reported.

Ancient Skull Found?: As legend has it, a man named Scott Williams was digging around his Newport, R.I., yard when he unearthed a stunning specimen: a partially chewed hominid skull. Williams immediately sent the skull to the Smithsonian Institution, urging it to have the bone carbon-dated and even proposing a scientific name, "Australopithecus spiff-arino."

The Smithsonian wrote back, gently pointing out that the ancient skull appeared to be composed mostly of plastic. Worse, it was probably the head of a Barbie doll--specifically, Malibu Barbie, circa 1956.

The legend, of course, is just that: an Internet hoax. But tell that to the real Scott Williams, a firefighter from Newport. "I had the Wall Street Journal call me last week," he said recently. "When I first heard about it, I thought some guys at work were playing a joke." The Smithsonian, too, has gotten calls off and on since the hoax first made the Internet rounds in 1995.

Looking for Mr. Good Lord, What Is That Smell?: In Nebraska, Mr. Right routinely shows up at your doorstep. He's punctual and hates clutter. Plus, he's only too happy to take out the garbage. Pity about the smell. Cosmopolitan magazine named trash collector Eric Willits, 21, as Nebraska's most eligible bachelor during its national search for Mr. Rights.

Green Acres II: A millionaire who moved to the English countryside to get away from it all sued a local farmer because he was irritated by mud and livestock. Frank Sytner, who made his fortune from a string of car dealerships, went to court over his neighbor's sheep.

Sytner's wife testified that she discovered sheep and mud on the road on a wet January day. She said, "I was in my garden and heard cows making a noise in the field. It was annoying, so I went to see what was happening." When Judge Victor Hall told her it was normal to hear cows in the countryside, she replied: "Yes, it's unfortunate, isn't it?" The judge threw out the case.

Bawwwwwwk!: If it clucks like a chicken and runs like a chicken, it must be . . . Joel Vavra, this year's National Cluck-Off Champion. Vavra, 48, won the Wayne Chicken Show in Wayne, Neb., for the second year in a row with a performance that included jumping off the stage and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. "I flew the coop. That's what chickens do," said the champ, who won $140 for his antics.

Send LeTourneau to the Ukraine?: Authorities in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol have allowed a 13-year-old girl to marry her 35-year-old geography teacher, a newspaper said. After the girl "fell dizzily in love" with her teacher, the relationship was investigated by police because sex with someone under 16 is against Ukrainian law. However, the girl's family appealed to the authorities, saying they approved of the relationship. The newlyweds must live separately until the girl turns 16.

News McNuggets:

* A Dublin man who drove a used car for weeks before realizing the chassis was held together with tightly folded newspapers won $2,760 after suing the dealer.

* A Frenchman who came to Gettysburg for a reenactment of the famous Civil War battle faces assault charges after shooting a fellow reenactor.

* Americans would rather curl up with a good book or watch TV than spend time with their families, according to a new Harris Poll.

* Wide World of Weird is published on Fridays. Off-Kilter appears Monday through Thursday.

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