Check back here daily for the latest oddball stories that just may give you a chuckle or leave you scratching your head.
Mississippi boy dials 911 to say Grinch stealing Christmas
BYRAM, Miss. — A 5-year-old Mississippi boy called 911 to report that the Grinch was trying to steal Christmas.
The Clarion Ledger reports that it happened Saturday in the Jackson suburb of Byram. An officer went to TyLon Pittman's home to assure him that the green creature wouldn't take anyone's gifts.
TyLon had been watching videos online when he became alarmed about the Grinch. He told his mom, Teresa Pittman, that he dialed 911, but she says she didn't quite believe him until an officer knocked on the door.
The officer, Lauren Develle, says she grew up loving the character created by children's author Dr. Seuss.
TyLon says has a plan in case the Grinch does appear: he says he will wrestle him and hold him until the police show up.
Not fake news: 'Whatever' tops annoying word list, literally
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — The shoulder-shrugging reply "whatever" continues to annoy Americans more than other words or phrases, but "fake news" is coming on strong.
The annual Marist College poll of most annoying words and phrases found "whatever" topping the list for the ninth straight year. It was the pick of one third of poll respondents, who were given five choices.
The recent addition "fake news" was slightly ahead of "no offense, but" for second place, 23 percent to 20 percent. About one in 10 found "literally" to be most grating, as did a similar number for "you know what I mean."
The telephone survey of 1,074 adults conducted Nov. 6-9 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Dead, dried-up Christmas tree to be replaced at Statehouse
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A dead Christmas tree at the Statehouse is being replaced.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said on Monday that a new tree is coming after the first one dried up and dropped piles of needles more than a week before Christmas. She told reporters her staff plans the switch as soon as possible.
Raimondo, a Democrat, said she wants people to know, "Don't worry, we'll get a new tree."
The move comes three days after The Associated Press reported Friday on the tree's sorry condition, including bare branches and needles that dropped instantly when touched.
The AP article prompted a local tree farm to offer to donate a new tree. The state fire marshal's office, which over the weekend put out a news release warning of the dangers of dried-out Christmas trees, did not immediately answer a question Monday about whether the fire marshal had seen the tree.
It's not the first time the Rhode Island Statehouse tree has caused trouble. In 2005, it shed its needles after being doused in fire retardant. Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent at the time, refused to call it a Christmas tree and called it a holiday tree instead, leading to angry protests. Last year, the first tree selected was removed after staff decided it was too puny.
Raimondo said she wasn't sure why the tree had made national headlines.
"If it gives people a smile and a laugh, that's a good thing," she said.
End of days comes for Ohio man's 'zombie Nativity' scene
CINCINNATI — A ghoulish holiday tradition outside of Cincinnati will soon come to a close after an Ohio man said he won't put up his "zombie Nativity" scene after this year.
Sycamore Township's Jasen Dixon said he originally wasn't planning to install the display this Christmas season.
"But I get hundreds of emails from people, local fans," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's almost like a cult following."
Dixon installed the display complete with zombie Mary and zombie baby Jesus in early December. He said he'll put it in storage or sell it after it's taken down sometime after Christmas.
When it debuted four years ago, the nativity scene made news worldwide and was met with both scorn and celebration.
Sycamore Township in previous years took Dixon to court for alleged zoning violations because of the structure built over the display but eventually dropped the case.
Dixon's attorney argued the township was trying to suppress his freedoms.
The township didn't issue any fines against Dixon last December and apparently won't go after him this year.
Township zoning administrator Harry Holbert Jr. said it's not worth employee time and effort to fight the display.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com
Massachusetts marijuana aficionados roll 100-foot-long joint
WORCESTER, Mass. — Massachusetts marijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long (30.48-meter) joint.
The effort was led by Boston-based cannabis club and advocacy group Beantown Greentown during an exhibition of pro-marijuana vendors and supporters at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday.
They perfected a secret rolling technique using 1,000 grams (35.27 ounces) of their own pot trimmings.
The Telegram & Gazette reports that people crowded around to take selfies when the final product was displayed Saturday. Thousands of people attended the exhibition.
The newspaper says 55-year-old Denise Fournier, of Gardner, Massachusetts, asked the question on everybody's mind: "When are you going to light it up?"
Massachusetts last year voted to legalize the possession and consumption of marijuana. A Cannabis Control Commission is writing regulations to govern the sale of cannabis.
Georgia theme park offers free tickets for eating crickets
VALDOSTA, Ga. — A Georgia theme park is offering guests a free ticket if they eat a cricket.
The giveaway may bug some people. But Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta was giving away T-shirts and free admission Saturday to the first 100 guests to gobble up a roasted cricket.
The challenge was meant to promote the park's upcoming attraction called MEGABUGS! The Valdosta Daily Times reports the interactive insect attraction will open in March.
Exhibits will include giant replicas of insects including a 15-foot (4.5-meter) dragonfly, a 26-foot (8-meter) hissing cockroach and a 50-foot (15-meter) millipede.
Wild Adventures officials said in a news release the exhibits will showcase the unique sounds and movements that insects make.
A bird, a plane, a polar bear? Wild guests at Alaska airport
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Scott Babcock was wrapping up an early morning runway inspection at America's farthest north airport when he saw what he thought were a couple of wolves.
He took a closer look through his headlights Thursday and saw something bigger and badder.
Two young polar bears ran away when they saw the Alaska airport worker's truck approach. He made sure to videotape their departure.
"Well, it's just another day at the Will Rogers-Wiley Post Memorial Airport," Babcock says as the bears scamper off.
Most airports only worry about wildlife when dealing with bird strikes, but state officials at the airport in the city of Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, have to prepare for marine mammals that wander in from the Chukchi Sea and around a fence.
A bearded seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds (204 kilograms) plunked itself down on a runway in October after a storm. The state Department of Transportation warned pilots of "low sealings."
But polar bears are another story. They come with claws, teeth and sometimes lethal attitudes. And at this time of year, when the sun is down all day for the next few months, polar bears can be hard to see.
"Those bears could be 40 yards away from you and you wouldn't know it," said Babcock, an equipment operator foreman.
If someone walked out of building and was trapped between a polar bear and a fence, "things could get real ugly real fast," he said.
Complicating Babcock's job is that polar bears are protected marine mammals. Airport workers are not authorized to chase or harass them. If bears linger, they call in the wildlife management department of the North Slope Borough, Alaska's version of counties.
The bears got themselves out of harm's way Thursday. They entered the airport before scheduled flights, and 30 mph winds had grounded some local traffic.
When the bears saw Babcock's headlights, they ran to an infield area and eventually a snow dump. The bears hung out for a few hours, disappeared and showed up again Thursday night.
An animal control officer may have chased them off, Babcock said. He figures they were hungry.
"They're looking for food. They're looking for whatever they can find, like any bear," Babcock said. "If they can find some scrap lying around, it's easier to pick a scrap up than it is to kill a seal."
Calls to the North Slope Borough and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages American polar bears, were not immediately returned.
Oil change turns into owl sighting, bird named 'Shazam'
SALEM, N.H. — A routine oil change has turned into an unusual owl sighting for one car owner.
The police department in Salem, New Hampshire, said Friday a mechanic popped the hood of a car and found an Eastern Screech owl sitting on the engine. The department said the car owner had no idea how the owl got there. Police guessed he was either seeking warmth or chasing a mouse.
Police posted photos of the owl on Facebook. They named him "Shazam" and said he was very friendly.
Shazam was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for evaluation.
Oldest polar bear in US celebrates 37th birthday
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Zoo has thrown a birthday party for 37-year-old Coldilocks, the oldest polar bear in captivity in the United States.
The zoo says they celebrated her birthday Thursday with a peanut butter, honey, raisin and fish cake. Guests at the party braved a cold, icy day to sing "Happy Birthday" to the bear.
Zoo officials say the average lifespan for polar bears in captivity is 23 years. They credit Coldilocks' long life to the care she receives from her keepers and veterinary staff.
Coldilocks lived with her partner Klondike for more than three decades before the bear died in 2015 at age 34.
Polar bears as a species are listed as vulnerable. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in January that about 26,000 specimens remain in the wild.