Most popular offbeat stories

Mother and great-grandmother to the same kid


What is it with you people? The top Oddly Enough story on Yahoo! this year was the, frankly disturbing, story of a grandma having a baby with her own grandson. You clicked it, you can’t unclick it.

The story is that 26-year-old Phil Bailey, from Indiana USA, is having a child with his 72-year-old grandma Pearl Carter. But the child will not be the product of incestuous union – after all, the oldest natural mother on record is thought to be Dawn Brooke, a Briton who gave birth at the age of 59, although Spaniard Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara gave birth after an assisted pregnancy at the age of 66.

Instead, the baby’s genetic mother will be a surrogate, Roxanne Campbell, 30, who has reportedly been paid $54,000 to deliver the baby.

The story first surfaced in New Idea, a New Zealand-based glossy weekly magazine, and was reported globally in April this year. But since then, despite the lurid subject matter, not much has been reported about the odd couple. When is the baby actually due? Will smiling Pearl eagerly attend her kid’s high school graduation, at the age of 91? And will she join her child for its first legal drink when she’s 94? It’s hard to say.

We wait with bated breath for the outcome of the story. But will it turn out to be too sick to be true? Pearl gave good quote: “For the first time in years, I felt sexually alive”, as did Phil: “We get laughed and bullied when we go out and kiss in public but we don’t care”. But you can’t help but hope that this whole sick affair is a hoax.

Perhaps she’s just a zombie?


The dead coming back to life is the premise of thousands of horror movies and spine-chillers. So funeral home worker Jaime Aullon got the shock of his life when the corpse he was about to embalm started moving. He was about to administer the formaldehyde when he noticed the deceased’s midriff quivering. The ‘deceased’, Noelia Serna, 45, had been pronounced dead at Cali Hospital in Colombia, after suffering a heart attack.

Dr. Miguel Angel Saavedra of the Cali Hospital had monitored the patient with electronic devices but could find no trace of a heartbeat or arterial tension, and declared Ms Serna dead. Her body was duly dispatched to the undertakers.

Aullon told reporters: “I placed my hand [on her nose] and I felt her breathing. I told my partner that she should go back to hospital because she is alive.”

It’s believed that Ms Serna’s miraculous recovery was an example of ‘Lazarus Syndrome’, a phenomenon that has been recorded in medical literature around 25 times since 1982. So called because of the New Testament tale of Lazarus – who was raised from the dead by Jesus – the syndrome is extremely rare and not greatly understood. Some doctors believe that over-stimulation of the heart during CPR (cardiopulmonary respiration) can cause a build up of pressure that ceases electrical activity. When the pressure is released the heart expands, re-triggering the heartbeat.

That’s the scientific theory, at least. But there’s always the possibility that she’s actually a zombie.

The Atkins Diet is for wimps


An 83-year-old Indian man claims not to have eaten since World War II. For the past seven decades Prahlad Jani, has survived on nothing but air.

Most normal mortals get their energy by metabolising carbohydrates from the food that they eat. But Jani gets his ’energy’ through meditation.

His miraculous fasting led the Indian military to study Jani to see if he could hold the secrets that could help soldiers to survive for longer in hostile environments – or help astronauts survive on long journeys to other planets.

A team of scientists observed the bearded yogi for three weeks in a hospital in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. He was under constant surveillance, and doctors say he didn’t eat or drink anything (or, indeed, go to the toilet) throughout this time. They claimed he was as fit as a 40-year-old man, and had the brain of a 25-year-old.

However the Medical Council of India has criticised the methodology used by Dr G. Ilavazahagan and his team, saying that they published their results too hastily. And the Indian Rationalist Society’s Sanal Edamaruku poured scorn on Jani’s claims in an interview with Indian television, in which he said requests for independent monitoring of the tests on Jani were repeatedly denied.

The study’s findings have yet to be published in any peer-reviewed medical journal.

Jani attributes his magical power to a visitation from a goddess, who blessed him at the age of eight.

The bitter taste of €10,000


What would you do if you won the lottery? Chances are you wouldn’t eat the winning ticket and forfeit your prize. But that’s exactly what happened on a Ryanair flight from Krakow in Poland to East Midlands Airport.

The no-frills airline sells branded scratchcards on its flights offering a top prize of a luxury car or €40,000 in cash. An unnamed man bought such a ticket on this flight, scratched off the panels, and discovered he’d won €10,000.

He reportedly became annoyed when cabin crew told him they couldn’t give him his prize in cash, there and then, and that he’d have to send the ticket in for verification. In protest, he proceeded to eat the ticket.

A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Yesterday’s events prove that while Ryanair’s scratchcards offer large cash prizes, they clearly taste great too.”

The airline has said that it would donate the unclaimed €10,000 prize to a charity chosen by visitors to its website.

However some bloggers doubt the authenticity of the story. It first broke on a gambling website, and was soon picked up by trusted news sources around the world. But, given that there are no named witnesses – and Ryanair’s love of headline-grabbing publicity, good or bad – many people will find a handful of scratchcards easier to swallow than this story.

White baby born to black parents


All parents fear a mix-up in the maternity ward. But there was no mix-up for Angela and Ben Ihegbro. The black couple, from Woolwich in south London, were amazed when Angela, 35, gave birth to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white baby.

Nmachi Ihegboro was born at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, Kent. It’s not unheard-of for mixed-race couples of West Indian origin to have children of significantly different colour – because of white ancestry – but Angela and Ihegbro are of Nigerian origin, and are not aware of any mixed-race family history.

Furthermore, doctors insist that baby Nmachi is not an albino because she has pigmentation in her eyes and hair. Professor Brian Sykes, head of Human Genetics at Oxford University, believes the unusual condition is the result of an undocumented form of genetic mutation.

Nmachi’s, which means “beauty of God” in Nigerian, joins sisters Chisom, four, and Dunebi, two.

Angela Ihegbro told The Sun newspaper: “Nmachi’s colour doesn’t matter. She’s a miracle baby. But still, what on earth happened here?”

That was surely a question that popped into Ben’s head at the moment of birth. But he doesn’t suspect any wrongdoing. “Of course, she’s mine,” he told the newspaper, “my wife is true to me. Even if she hadn’t been, the baby still wouldn’t look like that.”

Don’t try this at home


Boffin chef Heston Blumenthal cooks snails in porridge. And viewers of ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ have grown used to the sight of creepy-crawlies being gobbled up in the Australian jungle for “bush tucker trials”. But one Australian man will rue the day he tried to follow in their footsteps.

The 21-year old man from Sydney, who has not been named, ate two slugs as a dare. This back garden prank saw him admitted to hospital for a month, including stints in intensive care.

Health experts have warned that not all gastropods are gastronomic delights, after the man contracted the rat lungworm parasite from the slugs. The disease, which is similar to meningitis, is transferred to slugs and snails from rodent faeces, and its symptoms include headaches, fever, a stiff neck, and vomiting. The man has since recovered, but the disease can lead to permanent brain damage, and is sometimes fatal.

The disease is rare and isn’t infectious – but it can also be caught by eating raw fruit and vegetables that haven’t been properly washed. So it isn’t only contracted by idiots. 

It’s a boy! It’s a huge boy!


April saw the birth of a real-life baby who could give George Dawes a run for his money in the “big baby” stakes. Sharon Needham, 35, gave birth to 13lb 8oz (6.3kg) Harry at Doncaster’s Royal Infirmary.

The giant newborn was so big he had to be delivered by caesarean section, and is the largest baby to have been delivered at the hospital since records began. It took three medical staff to lift the baby from his mother’s womb. They joked that the umbilical cord was more like a fireman’s hose. But Harry’s not Britain’s heaviest-ever baby: that record is held by Guy Warwick Carr who weighed 15lb 8oz (7kg) when he was born in Cumbria in 1992.

Harry’s size has meant that parents Sharon Needham and Paul Crossland had to buy clothes meant for three to six-month-old babies.

Ms Needham was unable to walk for a week before the birth. Having had four previous children, she realised that there was something different about this pregnancy. She puts Harry’s extraordinary size down to her massive cravings for roast beef, steak pies, and steak and chips during his gestation.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the heaviest baby ever born was delivered by Anna Bates in Canada, in 1879. Sadly the 23lb (10kg) baby died 11 hours after birth.

On a road to nowhere


Next time you complain about near-stationary traffic on the M25, or the agonies of junctions 9 to 11 on the M6, spare a thought for the poor drivers on the National Highway 110 Beijing-Tibet Expressway in China, who got stuck in a 100km-long traffic jam that lasted for nine days in August.

Drivers reported that at points it took four hours to drive half a kilometre and, at its worst point, the tailback was advancing at a mere two kilometres per day. Enterprising vendors set up food and drink stalls by the side of the road to service the needs of stranded drivers, capitalising on the captive market by selling overpriced noodles. While motorists found ingenious ways to deal with the absence of washrooms.

Traffic jams aren’t unusual in Beijing but have been exacerbated by a growth in road freight and a series of roadworks. “If there was no traffic jam in the city, that would be news,” said Niu Fengru, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Science told China’s Global Times. The academic also blamed poor road planning.

The jam was compounded by abandoned and broken-down cars that had overheated. But, thanks to the booming Chinese economy, there are many more new and reliable cars on the road. Ten years ago the jam could have been even worse.

Although it was predicted that the jam might last a month, traffic started to flow more freely from August 24, ten days after the bottleneck started.

That’s it, I’m off, Byeeee!


Who’d be a flight steward, eh? You know that passengers are statistically more likely to be injured while the plane is taxiing on the ground than in flight. But the passengers see asphalt and ignore the “do not remove your safety belt” signs. You can try to tell them to sit, but will they listen?

Such was the state of affairs when JetBlue airways flight 1052 from Pittsburgh touched down at New York’s JFK airport on August 9, 2010. After telling passengers to remain in their seats, flight attendant Steven Slater was allegedly smacked in the head with a bag being retrieved from an overhead locker by a passenger. Slater demanded the passenger apologise and was told to “flip off” – or words to that effect.

As a result, 38-year old Slater took to the Embraer 190’s PA system. Using some rather fruity language of his own, he went on to say, “I’ve been in this business 20 years. And that’s it, I’m done.”

He then threw off his tie, grabbed a beer, engaged the inflatable emergency slide, and made a dramatic exit from the aircraft. He walked to the staff car park and drove home to Queens, where he was later arrested.

Slater has since become something of a celebrity in the US, where his actions have polarised opinion. A recovering alcoholic, Slater has admitted that he’d had “a sip or two” before the incident. He has escaped jail but has been ordered to pay $10,000 towards the $25,000 cost of repairing the slide.

Newsreader chokes on insect, live


Perhaps as a child you thought the story of the old lady who swallowed a fly was a bit far-fetched? It’s not like swallowing a fly is likely to do major damage. Clearly, by the time she goes as far as swallowing a cat, you think: “Yes, that might cause her to be really unwell”. But “perhaps she’ll die”? After swallowing a fly? You suspect that the song’s writer just found an easy rhyme and stuck with it.

Truth proved stranger than fiction in July, when a humble insect caused a Taiwanese newsreader to spend a day in A&E. The pesky mosquito flew straight into her mouth while she was delivering a live bulletin. A consummate professional, Huang Ching continued to broadcast as if nothing had happened. She later remarked that it would have been “impolite” to spit it out. But when she began to choke, bosses at the China Television Co cut to the ad-break so she could get medical help, and so that they could draft in a replacement presenter.

The flying pest got lodged on her windpipe, causing her to have a major asthma attack.  Fortunately the mosquito didn’t do any major damage, and the newsreader was released from hospital the next day. “I never expected a mosquito to have such a great power. It really gave me a bad day,” Ching told the China Times. But, we suspect, it was a much worse day for the mosquito.


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