Check back here daily for the latest oddball stories that just may give you a chuckle or leave you scratching your head.
Opossum breaks into liquor store and gets drunk as a skunk
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — An opossum that apparently drank bourbon after breaking into a Florida liquor store sobered up at a wildlife rescue center and was released unharmed.
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge officials say the opossum was brought in by a Fort Walton Beach, Florida, police officer on Nov. 24. A liquor store employee found the animal next to a broken and empty bottle of bourbon.
"A worker there found the opossum up on a shelf next to a cracked open bottle of liquor with nothing in it," said Michelle Pettis, a technician at the refuge. "She definitely wasn't fully acting normal."
Pettis told the Northwest Florida Daily News the female opossum appeared disoriented, was excessively salivating and was pale. The staff pumped the marsupial full of fluids and cared for her as she sobered up.
"We loaded her up with fluids to help flush out any alcohol toxins," Pettis said. "She was good a couple of days later."
Pettis says the opossum did not appear to have a hangover.
The store owner, Cash Moore, says he never had an opossum break in before.
"She came in from the outside and was up in the rafters, and when she came through she knocked a bottle of liquor off the shelf," Moore said. "When she got down on the floor she drank the whole damn bottle."
"But it just goes to show that even the animals are impressed with Cash's," he said.
The animal was released on Thursday.
Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), http://www.nwfdailynews.com
Skiing Santas ho-ho-hold court at ski resort's annual bash
NEWRY, Maine — Santa Claus is known for shimmying down chimneys, but for one day a year, dozens of Santas try to avoid tumbling down a mountain.
The 18th annual Santa event took place at Sunday River ski resort in western Maine on Sunday. The event is highlighted by Santas skiing and snowboarding down the slopes to raise money for the Sunday River Community Fund, which benefits groups in the area.
One of the Santas was Yelena Walsh of Boston, a 50-year-old financial analyst who was once a professional skier in Russia. Walsh said the event is the highlight of her holiday season.
"In Russia, we didn't celebrate Christmas. We celebrated New Year," she said. "This is a very good and very festive way to start the ski season. It's an opportunity to dress up and act like a child."
The skiing Santas participate in full Kringle garb, including, of course, a white beard and red hat. The Santas must all donate a minimum of $15.
Online registration to participate filled up in 10 minutes, said Darcy Lambert, a spokeswoman for Sunday River.
The event has grown in popularity over the years, Lambert said, with 160 Santas raising $2,500 Sunday.
The event took place in the tiny western Maine town of Newry, about 80 miles northwest of Portland.
Astronauts make, fling, float, eat pizzas on space station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first-ever pizza party in space is getting sky-high reviews.
Astronauts at the International Space Station posted pictures and a video over the weekend of their small, made-from-scratch pizza pies. The fixings flew up last month on a commercial supply ship, and the crew wasted little time pulling out the flatbread, tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, olives, olive oil and anchovy paste and pesto.
After making their own individual-size pizzas, the six astronauts tossed and twirled them like floating Frisbees, before heating and devouring them.
Commander Randy Bresnik called the pizzas "flying saucers of the edible kind." The crew, he said in a tweet, "had a blast channeling our inner chef by building tasty pizzas for movie night."
"The IPDS (Intergalactic Pizza Devouring Squad) says 12 thumbs up!" Bresnik added.
NASA's space station manager, Kirk Shireman, took pity on Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli's pizza craving and, in mid-November, shipped up all the ingredients on an Orbital ATK capsule. Nespoli, in orbit since July, declared the pizza "unexpectedly delicious."
Nespoli has just over a week before returning to true Italian cuisine. He will land in Kazakhstan on Dec. 14, along with Bresnik and a Russian.
Woman spots missing puppy in newscast of high-speed chase
SAN DIEGO — A California woman had given up hope she would find her 9-month-old puppy until she spotted the animal in a newscast of a high-speed chase.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Salina Hurtado of Oceanside says her puppy, Catalina, went missing soon after Thanksgiving.
Hurtado says she then watched a local television news anchor detail a pursuit in Valley Center, where a dog was shot when deputies fired at a man accused of trying to run them over in a stolen van.
The dog was a white pit bull with a distinctive brown spot similar to Catalina.
Hurtado called the TV station and found out the puppy had been taken to the County of San Diego Animal Services shelter in Carlsbad.
The dog is being treated for a gunshot wound.
Information from: The San Diego Union-Tribune, http://www.utsandiego.com
Police: Squirrel blamed for vandalizing Christmas lights
SEA GIRT, N.J. — It was a squirrel that nearly stole Christmas in a New Jersey town.
Sea Girt officials were puzzled when wires to the town's Christmas tree and display were found torn last week. Workers repaired the damage so the tree could be lit on Friday.
Police kept watch over the display and on Saturday posted a photo on Facebook of the culprit — a squirrel.
Police said the squirrel was "charged with criminal mischief and released on bail."
Opera company looks to cyberspace for chorus members
COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio opera company is auditioning singers online for an upcoming production, with plans to create a virtual chorus synced to a live orchestra.
Opera Columbus is looking for singers of all types for next April's performance of Orphee et Eurdice, a 1762 composition by Christoph Willibald Gluck.
Singers have until Jan. 15 to submit audition videos. One hundred entries will be selected to be projected onto the set during performances.
Peggy Kriha Dye, Opera Columbus artistic director, says the company is looking to innovate and transform the way the opera is presented and experienced.
The opera is being produced with Against the Grain Theatre in Toronto, Ontario and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta.
It's the most wonderful time to celebrate earmuffs
PORTLAND, Maine — Earmuffs are all the rage on at least one day of the year.
With the arrival of the holiday season and winter around the corner, the town of Farmington celebrated Chester Greenwood Day with a parade Saturday honoring the folk hero who's credited with the invention that has kept ears warm for more than a century.
Earmuffs festooned floats and cars, and people and pets, too. A flag featuring with supersized earmuffs was hoisted outside the courthouse.
Behind all the silliness, though, there is pride in the famous tinkerer and his creation.
"They're just ubiquitous. People continue to wear them. It's something Mainers can be proud of," said Angela Goebel-Bain from the Maine State Museum.
Greenwood was just 15 when he fashioned his first muffs out of farm wire and his grandmother sewed fur onto them in 1873. He made improvements to his creation, obtained a patent and manufactured hundreds of thousands of Champion Ear Protectors.
During World War I, his factory made earmuffs for the U.S. Army "doughboys" fighting in the frozen trenches on the western front.
Greenwood enjoyed tinkering. He came up with more than 100 contraptions but received patents for only five of them, Goebel-Bain said.
His earmuff design represented improvements by incorporating a spring that conformed to the head and kept muffs in contact with the ears, according to his 1877 patent. Other patents included a rake, a tea kettle and a wood-boring machine. He also ran a bicycle shop, built a plumbing and heating business and created a local telephone company.
His earmuff factory closed a few years after his death in 1937.
Forty years later, the Maine Legislature declared Chester Greenwood Day on the first day of winter. These days, it's celebrated on the first Saturday of December. Festivities include a polar dip, gingerbread house contest, tree lighting and carriage rides.
"People have stepped up to the plate to make it fun," said Nancy Porter of Farmington, who authored the self-published "Chester: More Than Earmuffs."
As the story goes, Greenwood hatched the idea for the earmuff to protect his generous-sized ears after a day of ice skating on a frigid day.
Over time, some elements of the Greenwood story may have been embellished, but not the part about the size of his ears, Porter said.
"He had pretty good-sized ears. There's no question," she said.
Selfie-service: Man cooks Waffle House meal as worker sleeps
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — When a man found the only worker at an empty South Carolina Waffle House asleep, he took his meal into his own hands.
On Facebook , Alex Bowen chronicled with selfies how he made his own double Texas bacon cheese steak melt at the famous Southern 24-7 diner around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Bowen says on Facebook he waited 10 minutes, then cooked his meal and "even scraped the grill when I was done."
Bowen's photos showed him with the sleeping worker, frying bacon and putting the sandwich together.
After good-natured kidding about stealing the sandwich, Bowen even posted a selfie returning to pay for his meal.
Waffle House said in a statement it was impressed with Bowen's cooking skills but customers should never go behind the counter for safety reasons.
Sphinx from 90-year-old movie set unearthed in California
GUADALUPE, Calif. — Archaeologists working in sand dunes on the central California coast have dug up an intact plaster sphinx that was part of an Egyptian movie set built more than 90 years ago for Cecil B. DeMille's epic "The Ten Commandments."
The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.
Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Jenzen tells Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV that it's unlike other items found on previous digs because most of it is preserved with the original paint intact.
The set of the 1923 movie included more than 20 sphinxes. After filming, DeMille ordered everything buried in the dunes 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
They lay undisturbed for decades before recovery efforts began. The newly recovered sphinx is expected to go on display at the dunes museum next summer.
Information from: KEYT-TV, http://www.keyt.com/
Cat banned from library develops social media following
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A tabby named Max has been playing a game of cat and mouse with some Minnesota college librarians.
The furtive feline has been sneaking into the Macalester College library in St. Paul when people open the door and has been seen scampering around the bookshelves.
The library put up a wanted-type poster asking patrons, "Please do not let in the cat."
The Star Tribune reports that the conundrum has caused a stir on Twitter and Reddit, where people have been posting Max-inspired artwork. Someone even made a library card for Max, who has been grounded by his owner over his naughty behavior.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
Beagle breakout: Pup caught on video scaling shelter cage
WINDSOR, Va. — A video of a beagle at a Virginia animal shelter scaling her cage in an escape attempt has generated calls of interest from across the country.
Emily Glickman, a caretaker at the shelter in Windsor, said by phone Thursday that its new owner plans to take her home Friday.
The adopter claimed the dog, named Buttermilk, long before the video went viral.
The Isle of Wight County Animal Shelter posted a Facebook video of the escape attempt Tuesday, generating more than 70,000 views. It shows Buttermilk gingerly climbing a 4-foot cage's wall before perching atop it.
The shelter often rescues hunting dogs, particularly after the season. Glickman said Buttermilk was rescued three weeks ago.
The shelter's animals are often named after food brought in by volunteers. In Buttermilk's case, it was pancakes.
Builders race to save football's Eagles from Billy Penn jinx
PHILADELPHIA — Superstitious construction workers have placed a small statue of Philadelphia's founder atop the city's newest skyscraper in an effort to save the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles from a fabled jinx.
Believers in the Curse of Billy Penn say it doomed the city's sports teams for decades after the city's first skyscraper broke tradition and rose higher than the William Penn statue topping City Hall.
In 2007, the situation was rectified with a statuette placed atop a taller skyscraper. The next year, the Phillies won the World Series.
When construction of the new 1,121-foot-tall tower broke the height record, workers were eager to restore Penn to his rightful perch.
Oh, deer: Startled doe scrambles through Mississippi school
ENTERPRISE, Miss. — A deer darted through two hallways of a Mississippi school, startling students as they were arriving for the day.
People jumped out of the way and no one was injured.
Enterprise Middle School is in a rural, wooded area about 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Jackson. Principal Marlon Brannan says it's unusual to see deer on campus, but this doe was grazing on a playground Wednesday morning.
He says the doe bloodied its nose by jumping and hitting a window three times; it then ran through an open door.
Brannan says "that deer was moving full-throttle" as it scrambled down two tile hallways, going about 200 feet (61 meters) before sliding out another open door. It ran between two vehicles in the carpool line and escaped to the woods.
Anonymous driver sends police $1,000 30 years after crash
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. — A person who apparently sped off after hitting a parked car in a Minneapolis suburb more than 30 years ago anonymously sent $1,000 to local police this month and asked them to pass it on to the car's owner, if possible.
The sender also sent a letter to the South St. Paul police department asking for forgiveness, The Pioneer Press reported .
"I was quite shocked," police Chief Bill Messerich said. "It's not something you see every day."
The note says the anonymous driver hit a parked car one evening in 1985 or 1986. The sender expressed remorse and requested police try to track down the vehicle's owner. The note says the money could be donated to a police charity if the victim isn't located.
"I am sorry for any inconvenience that I have caused and I ask for your forgiveness," the letter says.
Police records don't go that far back so the money was put into the department's general account, Messerich said. It will be used to buy new equipment or technology.
"I guess this was just weighing on this person's conscience for over 30 years and they came to a certain point in their life where they wanted to try to make things right if they could," Messerich said.
City Administrator Steve Kind has been in city government for 35 years. He said he hasn't seen a similar donation.
"It's a pleasant surprise," he said. "It's nice to be the recipient, so there's that part of it. But it's also good to see there's redemption after all those years."
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com