Bats in the belfry, or more correctly the attic, have ended up costing some New Yorkers a lot of money.
When retired investment manager and antique dealer Stephen Jablonski bought his sprawling Garrison, N.Y., house for $542,000 in 1993, the previous owners and the real-estate agency told him the white stains on the roof were simply bird droppings.
It wasn't until after the closing that Jablonski learned the attic was infested with bats — hundreds of which had been "summering" there for years.
Jablonski sued the previous owners and the realty company for $9 million, charging that they deceived him by cleaning out the attic and temporarily driving off the bats during his visits and the property inspection.
After the case spent years bouncing around various courts, the trial began in late June.
An expert testified that the mothballs and bright lights Jablonski saw in the attic before the closing could have kept the bats out during the daytime.
Two days after the trial opened, the agency and the estate of the previous owners, now deceased, settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
"Everyone in town knew that house was full of bats when [the real-estate firm] sold it," a rival agent told the New York Post. "I doubt it would have taken long for a jury to find that out."
The amount of settlement was confidential, but experts told the Post it would cost at least $1 million to bat-proof the house.
"There's very little that I can ethically say," Judge Harvey Sklaver told The Journal-News of White Plains, N.Y. "It was a garden-variety dispute that happened to involve bats."
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — To prove his love, a 38-year-old man set himself on fire before getting down on one knee and asking his girlfriend to marry him.
About 100 people gathered to watch Todd Grannis perform the flaming stunt on Monday, which involved wearing a cape soaked in gasoline.
Grannis climbed up a 10-foot scaffold, was set on fire and then plunged into a swimming pool, dousing the blaze.
Emerging unscathed, he got down on one knee and proposed, as a friend standing nearby slipped him the engagement ring.
"Honey, you make me hot," he told his sweetheart, Malissa Kusiek. "I hope I'm getting the point across that I'm on fire for you."
Kusiek, who has been dating Grannis for several years, said "yes," but added that she was a little angry because of the danger.
"At first I was mad, because I thought, 'He's not a stuntman,'" Kusiek said. "Then, of course, the tears started flowing. Of course, I said yes. I was so thrilled."
Grannis said he came up with the stunt through the help of his friend, professional stuntman Eric Barkey (search). Barkey pulled out a photo of himself on fire and said, "You could do that," Grannis said.
Grannis met Kusiek, the owner of a local hair salon, when she cut his hair.
"I kept telling her sometime before I'm 50," said Grannis, who co-owns an Internet wholesale company. "She wasn't expecting it. She had no clue."
— Thanks to Out There readers Trysta S., Bryan D. and Timothy B.
Click in the photo box above to see a hunk o' burning love.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — It didn't take long for deputies to realize they had the right man in a bank robbery. The black dress with red flowers, red straw hat and little black mustache gave him away.
Like his New York counterpart, Booker Boyd, 49, chose to disguise himself in drag to rob a bank in a Columbia suburb Wednesday afternoon, Richland County sheriff's Lt. Chris Cowan said.
Boyd hadn't changed his clothes when he was caught a few minutes later driving a stolen Ford Expedition (search), Cowan said.
He was charged with two counts of entering a bank with intent to steal, Cowan said.
Investigators suspect Boyd in two other bank robberies in the past two weeks, but his disguises were much less flashy, authorities said.
FBI spokesman Tom O'Neill said he doesn't know why Boyd decided to dress up Wednesday.
"We don't speculate on what motivates these people — or their choice of wardrobe," O'Neill said.
— Thanks to Out There reader Sarah H.
KENAI, Alaska (AP) — A window clerk at the Soldotna Post Office (search) is looking a tad bit more conservative these days — and that's upsetting many town residents.
Customers have written letters of protest to Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey after postal clerk Steve Adams was banned from sporting his colorful, sometimes clashing, ties at work because they didn't conform with dress code regulations.
"There's a huge uproar in Soldotna," Adams said. "This is much more than a tie. It's community flavor. What's the big deal?"
Carey, who also is known for his brightly colored, sometimes goofy ties, wrote Adams a letter of support.
"In an age in which many bureaucrats try to make humans into robots, your care for customers is a most pleasant experience," Carey wrote. "Your ties are always uplifting."
Margaret Merrill, postmaster for the Soldotna Post Office, said she is simply enforcing the rules.
"He has been informed that sooner or later he is going to have to conform," Merrill said. She said the decision was not based on customer complaints.
Adams now wears a plain blue tie with the Postal Service logo while he helps customers mail letters and parcels. But he has more than 100 pieces of colorful neckwear on a display rack at home and still has a license plate on his truck that says "TIE GUY."
"Maybe I need to change my license plate to X-TIEGUY," he said.
CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — Inmates who misbehave at the Curry County jail may have to pay with their palates under a new punishment known as "prison loaf."
If inmates throw their food, a common problem at the Curry County Adult Detention Center (search), they could be served a prison loaf, which consists of an entire meal ground up, floured, baked and served in a bread-like form.
Curry County Adult Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said he tasted the prison loaf before agreeing to serve it to prisoners.
"It really wasn't that bad," he said. "It kind of tasted like a carrot loaf with fish in it."
He said it would be "unpleasant" for people who value the texture and appearance of their food.
But the mother of an inmate, Janie Pena, said prison loaf is not an appropriate form of punishment.
"It's OK for them to be punished," Pena said as she waited to visit her son at the jail. "But not with food. They are not dogs. Even dogs deserve better than that."
The prison loaf is derived from the same foods served to inmates in whole form on a daily basis, so it has the same nutritional value as a regular prison meal, Burdine said.
The advantage to the loaf form, he said, is "it can't make as big a mess."
Compiled by FOXNews.com's Paul Wagenseil.
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