Getting Too Familiar With a Dead Whale

We didn't want to run this story at first, but overwhelming popular demand changed our minds. You might want to think twice about reading what follows over lunch. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Residents of Tainan, Taiwan, may never eat seafood again after a massive, dead, stinking sperm whale (search) spontaneously exploded last week on a crowded city street.

Tons of blood and entrails flew up into the air, only to rain back down upon the citizens of the formerly sweet-smelling city.

"What a stinking mess. This blood and other stuff that blew out on the road is disgusting, and the smell is really awful," one local told the BBC.

Several cars and passers-by were drenched by the guts of the 56-foot, 60-ton whale, which had died on a nearby beach and was being trucked to a research lab.

"Because of the natural decomposing process," Professor Wang Chien-ping of the National Cheng Kung University told the BBC, "a lot of gases accumulated, and when the pressure build-up was too great, the whale's belly exploded."

At least one section of the whale survived intact. The Taipei Times reported that the male whale's private parts measured five feet, which drew an impressed crowd once what was left of the carcass reached its destination.

— Thanks to Out There readers Adam P., John P. and Cindy W.

Wanted Man Meets Inquisitive Woman

A New York woman was too much of a sophisticated lady for one fellow new to town.

Having made a date with LaShawn Pettus-Brown, the unidentified woman, like so many other urbane singletons these days, typed his name into the Google Web-search engine to check his bona fides.

She found out he was a cross-country fugitive wanted for wire fraud, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

When Pettus-Brown went to meet the woman for dinner on Jan. 23, he found FBI agents at the table instead.

The city of Cincinnati suspects Pettus-Brown of making off with about $93,000 it had granted him as part of a failed plan to renovate an historic theater.

The FBI thinks he'd been on the run for the past year and was in Southern California some time before his arrival in the New York area.

Pet Fish Nearly Sacrifices Self to Save School

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Trinity Lone Oak Lutheran School teacher Linda Krienke says fire broke out on a desktop in her classroom around 1 a.m. Saturday, causing enough smoke to set off the school's alarm. But when firefighters arrived, they found only glowing embers on the desk.

The heat had caused a fish bowl on the desk to explode, and the water put out the fire, Krienke said.

One of the firefighters spotted the fish, named Dory, still alive on the floor and hollered for a glass of water.

"She's a Beta, so they're used to breathing air," Krienke said. "They're a Chinese fish and if they're in China they just live in puddles. If one dries up, they flop to the next one."

The children are very excited about their hero fish, she said. "Each of them wrote a story from the fish's point of view, how his Friday night went. 'He saw the fire, and then he got real hot and then his vase broke and he fell on the floor and the fireman came in and saved him.'"

Krienke said the smoke damage destroyed her computers and everything in the room and heavily damaged the seventh and eighth-grade room next door. Both teachers have been relocated while the damage is being repaired.

Dory is swimming around in a new bowl, "happy as can be. I suppose she's thankful to be alive," Krienke said. "She's quite a survivor!"

— Thanks to Out There reader Kim G.

A Lot of Trouble for Nothing

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Police in the St. Louis area are calling it the case of the "Clown Bandit." A man created a comedy of errors as he broke into a liquor store earlier this week.

The crook was seen on surveillance video stealing booze. But just off camera, he slammed face first into a door. Then he lost his balance, slipped and fell.

He also grabbed some cigarettes and a magazine, police said, and bagged his own goods. But he couldn't get out the window where he came in so he threw all of the stolen items out the window. The liquor bottles then broke.

The man went away empty-handed, police say. The stolen goods were valued at $30.

From Zero to Hero in Five Minutes

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A high school freshman who walked out of a weightlifting session after being called a weakling became a hero minutes later when he saved an elderly man who had driven into a pond.

Justin Gregorich, 14, was one of three people who jumped into the water Wednesday to pull Raymond J. Kane from his sinking Lincoln Town Car.

"It's amazing — there are snakes and there are alligators ... all three of them just jumped in right after that guy," said paramedic Mike Eash.

Gregorich had hopes of joining Countryside High School's junior-varsity football team next season, and after school Wednesday he went to the team's conditioning practice.

But at 5-foot-3 inches tall and 130 pounds, he couldn't lift as much weight as the other boys, who teased him. Gregorich said he left early and began walking home.

"I'm thinking, man, I should have stayed at football, the coach is going to be mad at me, why did I leave?" he recalled. "And — WHAM!"

At that moment, the Lincoln veered off the road in front of him and sped toward the pond. Gregorich dove in, along with passers-by Michael McBrayer and Shawn Brady.

One man opened the car door as Gregorich and the other man grabbed Kane by the arms, authorities said. They swam about 50 feet back to the bank.

Kane was in good condition Thursday, issuing a statement through a hospital spokesman thanking his rescuers.

"I owe my life to that young man," Kane said. He also wished him luck in making the football team.

I Foresee Many Problems With Crystal Ball

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — Firefighters in this central Oklahoma town peered into a crystal ball and found the cause for a fire.

It didn't take long for Shawnee Fire Prevention Officer Jimmy Gibson to figure out what caught a homeowner's sofa on fire and brought fire crews to the rescue.

Once the couch was extinguished, Gibson reached into a hole burnt into the sofa and found a glass gazing ball. Soon, sunlight shining through the ball burned two holes in the leg of his pants.

Firefighters then placed the ball in the grass, and within 30 seconds the ground was smoking.

"It has dynamic heat. We were caught off guard," Gibson said. "I couldn't believe how quickly it burned."

Firefighters believe the ball was taken off a table, where it was usually displayed, and placed on the couch by the homeowner's grandchildren. The fire started two days later, when sunshine came through a large set of windows and through the glass ball, igniting the couch.

"It's not something you run across every day," Gibson said. "I'd never seen it."

The fire set off a smoke detector, and the homeowner quickly called the fire department. No one was injured in the fire, which was confined to the sofa.

Gibson said he plans to keep the ball, which the homeowner gave him after the fire a couple weeks ago, on his bookshelf as a conversation piece.

He said the ball worked like a magnifying glass in sunlight, directing light into a heat beam.

Even if the ball was placed on a flat, nonflammable surface, the heat from sunlight could ignite a blaze on a rug or other items, Gibson said, so homeowners should be careful where they place such items.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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