Think of him as a cross between Evel Knievel and the nutty professor — with a dash of Neil Armstrong.
An Idaho daredevil spent thousands of dollars on a spaceship in his back yard — all so he can fall 15,000 feet to Earth in it like a stone.
Maximus WillHammer, the superhero alter-ego of mild-mannered inventor George Bradley Lewis, says soon he will lock himself into his homemade rocket and have a helicopter drop it from 15,000 feet above the Earth into 60 feet of water with no engine or parachute, according to The Times-News.
The 35-year-old Twin Falls resident hopes the stunt, which he'll make crowds pay to witness, will be the gateway to performing as the rocket man for spectators around the world — and big bucks.
The starry-eyed tinkerer tested his stunt several months ago, dropping 1/4-size models of the "Dream Weaver" off a bridge with chicken eggs in the cockpits.
"Most people would test this with sensors," Lewis told the Times-News. "I did it with eggs."
The test didn't go off without casualties: One egg shattered as its rocket plunged into a river. Lewis said he jimmied his rocket design to account for the egg-pilot's problems.
Lewis, a self-educated construction worker, said he still needs around $10,000 to finish building his spaceship — the "Dream Weaver" — but is optimistic he'll get it done.
"If you want a lot of money, you have to do something crazy," Lewis told The Times-News. "And I'll bet you in the next 20 years, I'll have more than 300 patents."
The Evel Knievel inventor hopes his rocket man stunt will generate interest in his craft's potential as a military and space travel vessel if the big fall goes off without a hitch. He could endure up to 8 G's during the stunt.
"Basically, in my opinion, I know how to make UFOs. It's static generators," he told The Times-News.
— Thanks to Out There reader Kimberly K.
That's a Lot of Heat
ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Lewis Miller joked with his son as he opened his gas bill that the amount likely would give him a heart attack.
Then, he saw that The Energy Cooperative of Newark had billed him $8,095 for the first nine days of service on his new account for his apartment.
"I thought I was just going to lay down and die," Miller said. He then had an anxious weekend because he received the bill Friday and couldn't reach the gas company until Monday.
When Miller reached the Energy Cooperative, the error was corrected.
Brian Byrd, a spokesman for the utility, said the company apologized to Miller for its mistake.
"These things are very rare, but they can happen," Byrd said.
The company suspects that a contractor mixed up or misread the numbers while taking a reading of Miller's meter. The information is downloaded into a computer that checks for billing errors by looking at what a customer was charged in the past. Since Miller's account was new, there was nothing to compare it to, Byrd said.
— Thanks to Out There reader Amber B.
And Mice Everywhere Sang Out With Joy...
LYNDONVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Bird enthusiasts flocking to catch a glimpse of the rare Northern Hawk Owl are aggravating nearby homeowners.
It seems some of the enthusiastic bird lovers are bringing mice and setting them free in surrounding fields, hoping to see the owl swoop down and hunt.
But while some of the mice have been fortunate enough to escape, homeowners are complaining that some rodents are fleeing right into their houses.
Yates Supervisor Russ Martino is asking bird lovers to stop bringing mice with them on their visits.
The rodent controversy has even reached cyberspace, where bird watchers on the Genesee Birds online message board have been debating the issue. Jim Landau, a birder from the Buffalo-area, said he's "somewhat dismayed."
"It had been there for a month, so obviously there was plenty of prey for the owl," Landau told The Daily News of Batavia.
That'll Do, Great Pyrenees Guard Dog, That'll Do
CARNATION, Wash. (AP) — A Great Pyrenees guard dog herded more than a dozen sheep to safety after a barn caught fire.
Diane Pagel and her husband, Jeff Freeman, initially thought they had lost as many as 20 prized sheep when the blaze broke out last week.
Then they discovered all but six sheep had been herded to safety by Kodiak, their guard dog.
"Sheep will go to where it is safe, and for them that was the barn, but apparently Kodiak got them out," Pagel said. "He was the last one out of the barn because hair has been burned on his back legs and back."
The barn was filled with smoke and flames when firefighters arrived, Eastside Fire and Rescue Chief Lee A. Soptich said. Fire crews had to go more than a mile for water and struggled to cool a 500-gallon propane tank outside the barn and keep it from exploding.
If Only We Had a Few Trillion More Like Her...
FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) — A woman who died at age 98 bequeathed her $1.1 million estate to the federal government, requesting that it be used to help pay down the $8.1 trillion national debt.
The gift from Margaret Elizabeth Taylor, who died Nov. 9, may be the largest ever to the Treasury Department, spokesman Stephen Meyerhardt said Thursday.
"It's the biggest in at least the last 15 years, and most likely the largest," he said. "Needless to say, most donations are much, much smaller."
Attorney Tom Drake, the executor of Taylor's estate, said Taylor made it very clear that her fortune was to be handed over to the government. Her will was filed recently probate court.
"It's not what I would have advised her to do with it, but she really wasn't interested in my opinion," he said.
Taylor, of Findlay, had no living siblings or children and her husband died in 1977. She was a staunch Democrat who believed the national debt should be paid off and she wanted to do her part, Drake said.
Bureau of the Public Debt records show that U.S. citizens donated a total of $1.5 million toward debt reduction last year.
— Thanks to Out There reader Betsi A.
This Garage Party Is a Real Monster!
TROY, Mich. (AP) — Paul Piscopo's garage covers 6,000 square feet and has room for 28 full-sized pickup trucks. But he's got another use for it in mind, now that a judge has taken his side in a monthslong battle with disgruntled neighbors.
"I'm thinking it's a party. I'm going to throw a garage party!" Piscopo said Tuesday after a judge reversed a decision by the Troy Board of Zoning Appeals demanding the garage be reduced in size or torn down.
Several of Piscopo's neighbors contended the 150-foot-long, 60-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall corrugated sheet metal building — which they dubbed the "Monster Garage" — has hurt their property values and ruined the residential feel of their sedate neighborhood.
"We've got to live with it now," one of the neighbors, Tom Krent, said after learning of Warren's ruling. "It's certainly not going to make for a friendly atmosphere."
— Click in the photo box above to see a pic of one monster garage!
Finally, a Reason Secret Handshakes Exist
CLEVELAND (AP) — Busted!
A charter-school principal in Cleveland has resigned, after failing to recognize a secret handshake.
That's what tipped off the head of the school's advisory board that the principal might have lied about his background.
The advisory board leader, Tim Goler, had been a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The principal, Lewis Thomas, claimed to have been a member as well.
But when Goler offered Thomas the fraternity's secret handshake, Thomas didn't recognize it.
Goler now says it turns out that much of Thomas' resume was false. Thomas denies that, and says he resigned for personal reasons.
— Thanks to Out There reader Bryan D.
Compiled by FOXNews.com's Andrew Hard.
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