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Stranger Than Fiction

Weekend at Bernie's


A 77-year-old man and his son-in-law took a tour bus from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, to watch a rugby match. The two returned to their hotel in Glasgow, where the older man died in his sleep. The next morning, according to a Glasgow police spokesperson, the son-in-law "decided to dress the man -- I believe in a shirt and tie and a suit and also a baseball cap -- and he got him onto the bus. Apparently, he pulled the cap down over the man's eyes, and the rest of the coach were unaware that the man was dead."

While on the bus, the man phoned his wife to tell her that her father had died. She notified police, who stopped the bus and removed the body. The son-in-law was not charged.

Scientists have discovered why candy wrappers make so much noise when opened in a quiet theater. Physicist Eric Kramer told an Acoustical Society meeting in Atlanta the sound is caused by pops and clicks as creases in the packaging material are pulled apart. Opening the wrapper slowly won't lessen the noise, Kramer said; it merely spreads out the pops and clicks.

A judge in Lake County, Illinois, fined Thomas LaBarbera, 40, $100 for disturbing the peace after neighbors complained that an American flag waving outside his home was too noisy. "I'm shocked, LaBarbera told the Chicago Sun-Times. This is the American flag."

A 45-year-old man was sitting on railroad tracks outside Trevor, Wisconsin, after a night of drinking when a freight train approached going about 50 mph. The man turned around and made an obscene gesture. "He apparently was mad because the engineer was repeatedly blowing the train's horn," Sgt. Gill Benn of the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department said.

Moments later, crew members said they heard a "thud" and knew the man had been hit. The man's wife, who was with him, told deputies she saved him "from having his head cut off" by pulling him away just as the train hit him, causing only a small cut on his back.

After a rare Italian viola belonging to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which one of the musicians accidentally left on the sidewalk, turned up at a flea market, junk dealer Boisie Watson bought it for $90 and stashed it under his bed. Watson's common-law wife, Quintella Benson, 35, then stole it and gave it to Robert Heiss, 73, a cookie maker and building owner with money trouble. Heiss took the 274-year-old instrument to be appraised, but the dealer recognized it and called police. Meanwhile, Benson and Heiss tried to hire someone to kill Watson, but the hit man turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Benson and Watson reconciled and were married just before Benson pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy charges and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

After convicted murderer Ponchai Wilkerson, 28, was strapped onto a gurney in the Huntsville, Texas, death chamber and given a lethal injection, he spit out a key that fits prison handcuffs and leg restraints. Prison officials had no idea where he got the key or how he managed to keep it in his mouth until the last minute. "The guy that had the knowledge is no longer with us," a Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson said.

When police in Dublin, Ohio, arrested Rudolf Nyari, 64, on suspicion of stealing a $17,000 tennis bracelet, they suspected he had concealed the jewelry by swallowing it. After officers obtained a search warrant of his body, an X-ray showed the bracelet was lodged in his throat, Nyari "drank several glasses of water and smoked cigarettes to build up enough phlegm to cough it up," a police spokesperson said. "It took about an hour."

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, said Joshua Medina, 18, killed his longtime friend Edward Garza, 19, by shooting him in the face with a 9mm gun that both men thought was a BB gun. According to Sgt. Skeeter Anderson, the men were attending a gathering and earlier in the day had passed around a BB gun. Later they were wrestling around the living room when they both ran for what they believed was the BB gun on the mantel. "One grabbed the gun first, thinking it was a BB gun," Anderson said. "But it was not the BB gun; it was a 9 millimeter."

After a couple of beers in Ocean City. Md., Joshua Thomas Burchette, 23, complained of hiccups and asked his friend to punch him in the chest to try to get rid of them. The friend declined, but Burchette insisted. When the friend finally obliged, witnesses said, Burchette collapsed face down on the sidewalk and died.

Debra Coulson, 46, died when the riding lawn mower she was driving hit a muskrat hole and flipped into a trout pond a few feet from her house, pinning the woman underwater.

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