Outrageous news stories from across the globe

The twin fathers

In March, a single mother in the Brazilian state of Goiás went to court to secure child-support payments from a deadbeat dad. In the end, she got twice what she bargained for. The child’s DNA matched that of a set of identical twins, each of whom denied being the father. The twins’ attempts to shirk responsibility were thwarted, however, when Judge Felipe Luis Peruca ordered that both men pay up and be listed as the youngster’s parent – giving her two dads for the price of one.

The robbery that literally backfired

When committing a robbery, it pays to bring the right tools. That’s what a pair of Florida would-be thieves discovered after they bungled a heist in May. The duo was spotted on CCTV camera trying to use a blowtorch to destroy an ATM and get at the cash inside. Unfortunately, their tactics ended up enhancing security – the heat from the blowtorch welded the hinges shut, making it effectively impossible to open. The two ran off after their trial-and-error-by-fire, presumably to get a head start on their new ATM-security business.

The cowboy who dined and dashed

Calgary restaurant workers launched an online manhunt in June to find a serial dine-and-dasher. The culprit was hardly subtle: he frequently sported a robust moustache and a black cowboy hat. Using the alias Michael McDonald, Michael Gene Roderick Huppie would allegedly chat up the staff, give them roses and tell elaborate stories to earn their sympathy before running off. His charm, and his luck, ran out after victims posted his photo online. On June 28, a customer spotted the lonesome cowboy at a restaurant and tipped off the staff, who contacted the police. Huppie was charged with one count of ‘fraudulently obtaining food’, though many more restaurant workers chimed in on Twitter to accuse him of skipping out on bills at their establishments. Huppie was apprehended in full yee-haw regalia right at his table, his bill yet to be paid.

The great coupon scam

This past February, one Pittsburgh supermarket owner proved that a little saving here and there can really add up. Michael John Mihelic is accused of ordering employees at his Shop ’n Save locations to cut coupons out of unsold newspapers. Employees would then skim a corresponding amount of cash from the registers and hand over the coupons to Mihelic, who submitted them to manufacturers for credit. The pilfered profits eventually amounted to more than $306,500 – a sum worth thinking about before you toss this week’s flyers.

The underground monastery

For some transit riders in Gloucester, England, the commute to work got more interesting in January. The city’s archaeologists confirmed suspicions that something more than dirt was sitting under a bus station: the remains of a 13th-century Carmelite monastery. According to historic maps and evidence from other local digs, the old monastery belonged to the Whitefriars monastic organization, who lived outside the city to avoid its ‘sinful’ influence. Who knows what kind of sinning they might have gotten up to if they ever managed to catch a lift into town.

The trick-or-treat ban

If you’re over the age of 12 and head out door-knocking on Halloween in Chesapeake, Virginia, you could be in for more of a trick than a treat. Since 1970, the town has had a law that penalises teenaged trick-or-treaters. Offenders could receive a fine of between $25 and $100 – or even face jail time. Residents needn’t get too spooked: no one has ever been arrested under this law, which aims to deter teens from crime on Halloween. Still, after a viral parody video earned the policy bad press, the town said in March that it will revise the rule. Meanwhile, the true Halloween crimin­als continue to go free: the people who hand out raisins as candy.

The killer excuse

Fernando Lafuente was playing video games at home after work last November when he first heard reports of his death. The Dublin-­based engineer and recreational soccer player got a call from his boss who was wondering how a dead man had just been at the office. His former team, Ballybrack FC, had been having difficulty recruiting players and decided to fabricate news of his passing to postpone an upcoming game. The tactic worked a little too well: support poured out over social media, and a local newspaper published an obituary. Thankfully, Lafuente prospered in his ‘resurrection’, even snagging a commercial deal with an Irish gambling company.

The last Canadian charged with witchcraft

Timmins, Ontario, resident Tiffany Butch became the final person to be charged under Canada’s anti-witchcraft laws last December – just days before the regu­lations were taken off the books. Butch, who considers herself a psychic, stands accused of accepting payment in exchange for using her spiritual powers to ­protect a client from danger. Butch says she’s innocent – and predicts winning her case.

The time the cops asked people to get drunk

Get drunk for us: this was the unusual request a Pennsylvania police department made to its constituency in January. The Kutztown cops posted the plea online. Participants would drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation, to properly mimic a field sobriety test and train officers. The chosen few were to be between the ages of 25 and 40, sign a liability waiver and provide a sober guardian to care for them afterward. The department was overwhelmed with the enthusiastic response. Not everyone, though, was happy with the cut-off age. “I have been looking to volunteer this year and help the community!” wrote one presumably over-40 Facebook commenter. “I just need a fake ID.”

The free noodle incentive

Early-rising commuters on Tokyo’s Tozai subway line were rewarded earlier this year with a gift: free noodles. Soba noodle shops, a staple in Tokyo’s metro, offered the hot breakfasts to those able to drag themselves to the station before 9 a.m. “We believe it’s not easy to wake up early in the morning when it is really cold outside,” said the metro authority, whose main motivation was to de-crowd rush hour.

The hand grenade that ended up in a chip factory

In February, workers at Calbee chip factory in Hong Kong uncovered an incendiary surprise. Nestled in a shipment of potatoes was a World War One-era hand grenade, caked in dirt. The bomb was believed to have come from a field in France where it had been buried, discharged but undetonated, since the time when the land was full of trenches, not tubers. Police were called to the scene and performed a controlled detonation, which they filmed, then posted to Twitter. Calbee surely hopes that in the future, the only explosive sounds in the factory will come from popped chip bags.

The man who was swallowed by a whale

Marine conservationist Rainer Schimpf was adjusting his camera while snorkelling off the South African shoreline in February when everything went dark. Schimpf felt a tight compression, and realised what had happened: he was sitting in the mouth of a Bryde’s whale. Knowing that a Bryde’s dives after feeding, Schimpf prepared for a descent. As they plunged underwater, Schimpf’s host clocked its mistake and pushed the passenger back out the way he’d come. Schimpf was relieved to be free – and thrilled that his boatmate had caught the whale of a tale on camera.

The best phone prank of all time

The lead-up to Chris Ferry’s 62nd birthday this March was bizarre. Instead of just notes from family and friends, Ferry estimates the New Jersey insurance agent received 250,000 calls and texts from around the world. His sons, Chris and Michael, had bought billboard space near Atlantic City and posted, “WISH MY DAD A HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” along with his phone number. It went viral, and constant calls from as far away as Kenya tied up his phone line for days. Ferry got a new number – no word on if he’s shared it with his sons.